Q and A with Ada Calhoun about Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give
1. Tell us a little about Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give.
Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give is a memoir structured as seven “toasts” about marriage that I wouldn’t actually give at a wedding because they’re too much information about what it’s really like. I write, for instance, about how marriage can be boring, how too much or too little change can feel like a threat, how soul mates aren’t real, and how it’s still likely that at some point one of you may want other people.
2. Three of the chapters in this book were also published as New York Times Modern Love columns and were extremely popular with readers. Which one was the catalyst for this book's eventual writing and publication?
The second one, “The Wedding Toast I’ll Never Give,” which I wrote while going to a lot of weddings while fighting with my husband, was the one that really took off and made my editor want me to do this book. My Modern Love from 2012, from which I just took a little bit for the book, was about how to navigate lust for other people while you’re married. And the one from a couple weeks back was an excerpt from the book called “To Stay Married, Embrace Change.”
3. You interviewed so many people about marriage while writing and researching this book. What was something that you surprised in one or more of these interviews?
So many of these adorable couples married 30, 40, 50 years talked about what they’d survived as a couple and the lists were harrowing. Many had almost divorced at various points. It put the lie to the fairytale idea that if it’s a good marriage, or a good match, you won’t still suffer along the way.
4. Did your feelings about marriage change at all as you wrote Wedding Toasts?
It made me feel more warmly about the institution. Here’s this thing that we’ve been doing as human beings for thousands of years. While specifics have changed — in biblical times, plural marriage was allowed, for instance; and just in the last century in this country the freedom to marry was extended to interracial and then to gay couples. I found myself marveling that marriage is still something that most people do at some point, that there has been this consistency over very different cultures and through millennia.
5. This book is both tremendously smart and entertaining. Is domesticity one of your favored topics as a writer? Your first book, St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America's Hippest Street, for example, is much different topically from Wedding Toasts, but equally engrossing. What are some of the other topics you enjoy writing about?
Why, thank you! I get bored easily, so I like writing about a lot of different stuff. I was thinking about NYC a lot a few years ago and felt pulled to write St. Marks Is Dead about the street I grew up on. And then I felt sort of IN IT with my marriage and felt like I wanted to write about that. When it comes to writing, I pretty much just follow whims.
6. What are you working on now if you don't mind sharing a few details?
I’m working on a book tour and on a bunch of random freelance stories. Nothing I’ve been thinking about lately seems book-worthy, but I am open to suggestions!
Bio Ada Calhoun is a journalist and book author based in New York City. You can learn more about her at www.adacalhoun.com