My Wife Wants You to Know I'm Happily Married

My Wife Wants You to Know I'm Happily Married

by Joey Franklin

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Modern manhood is confusing and complicated, but Joey Franklin, a thirtysomething father of three, is determined to make the best of it. In My Wife Wants You to Know I’m Happily Married, he offers frank, self-deprecating meditations on everything from male-pattern baldness and the balm of blues harmonica to grand theft auto and the staying power of first kisses. He riffs on cockroaches, hockey, romance novels, Boy Scout hikes, and the challenge of parenting a child through high-stakes Texas T-ball. With honesty and wit, Franklin explores what it takes to raise three boys, succeed in a relationship, and survive as a modern man. My Wife Wants You to Know I’m Happily Married is an uplifting rumination on learning from the past and living for the present, a hopeful take on being a man without being a menace to society.   Access free teaching resources.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780803284821
Publisher: Nebraska
Publication date: 11/01/2015
Series: American Lives
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 192
File size: 680 KB

About the Author

Joey Franklin is an assistant professor of English at Brigham Young University. His writing has appeared in the Writer’s Chronicle, Poets and Writers magazine, the Norton Reader, and Gettysburg Review. His piece “Working at Wendy’s” won the 2006 Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers contest.

Read an Excerpt

My Wife Wants You to Know I'm Happily Married

By Joey Franklin


Copyright © 2015 Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8032-8482-1


The Lifespan of a Kiss

I regard it in the light of a duty to caution my readers emphatically, and at the very outset, as to the danger of even reading about kisses. — Christopher Nyrop, The Kiss and Its History

1. Getting to First Base

It's nearly impossible to tell for sure when the baseball game first appeared in the American conversation as a metaphor for sex, but it's not difficult to guess why it did. How better to describe the frustrations, risks, and rewards of sexual pursuit than to call on the image of a game where going three for ten makes you an all-star? Then there is the game's association with summertime and youthful conquest. The very language and imagery of the game — with its bases, bats, and balls, and its sliding, stealing, and striking out — make it a flexible, if decidedly misogynistic, metaphor. Consider the unintended sexual undertones of this commentary about baserunning in an 1895 issue of Spalding's Baseball Guide: "Any soft-brained heavy-weight can occasionally hit a ball for a home run, but it requires a shrewd, intelligent player, with his wits about him, to make a successful base runner." And so, let's forget for a moment the glory of a home run, the distance a ball must fly to turn a triple, the hustle and nerve involved in landing a double — forget all of that and instead contemplate briefly the combination of patience, speed, and luck necessary to even make it to first base.

One evening in the thirteenth century, in the secluded study of an Italian castle, Lady Francesca da Rimini found herself sitting alone with her brother-in-law and sometimes-tutor, Paolo. Holding the story of Lancelot and Guinevere open between them, their minds filled with ancient visions of chivalric knights, fair maidens, and rapturous kissing. As such stories go, their "eyes were drawn together, and the hue / Fled from [their] alter'd cheek," and the young Paolo leaned forward and stole a kiss. And, as such stories go, the unhappily married Francesca returned the gesture with gusto. And then as they sat together, lips locked, their book all but forgotten, the jealous husband stormed into the room and dispatched them both with a twitch of his sword.

Such was the lifespan of a kiss for Italian royalty, whose sordid romances involved arranged marriages, drafty castles, and clandestine study sessions. At least that's the storyline Dante wants us to remember. And he should know. He met the couple in the second circle of hell, bound together in a blustering gale of lost souls, eternally damned for one weak moment: an ill-fated kiss.

I hope it was a good one.

What constitutes a "good" kiss, anyway? According to Princess Bride author, William Goldman, who claims to have recorded the greatest kiss in history, "the precise rating of kisses" is a "terribly difficult thing, often leading to great controversy, because although everyone agrees with the formula of affection times purity times intensity times duration, no one has ever been completely satisfied with how much weight each element should receive." But let's just say that each element is worth ten points — simple and democratic. Then we get possible individual scores of affection (10) x purity (10) x intensity (10) x duration (10), which gives us 10,000 points — a perfect kiss.

I kissed my wife, Melissa, for the first time while we sat in a small armchair near the front door of the apartment she shared with five other girls during college. We'd just come home from a date, and the room was dark, the apartment quiet, and the chair a little snug for the two of us. The kiss was simple, lingering, electric, and overdue. Five months we'd been dating, and I hadn't kissed her yet (and yes, I know how this will sound to some readers — prudish, old-fashioned, quaint), but I knew when I met her that I might marry her, had an "uh-oh" moment the first time I saw her, actually felt something inside me whisper, "There is the girl you are going to marry." Such romantic notions are fine for the heart, but my brain thought the entire arrangement quite absurd, and so I resolved to pay as little attention to passion as I could so it wouldn't cloud my judgment. Her friends thought we were crazy, and after a while, I'm pretty sure Melissa thought I was crazy. Still, I managed to hold out long enough for my brain to almost completely reconcile itself to my heart, and on that spring night, in the dark quiet of her apartment, I hit a solid single to center field, and the crowd went wild.

2. Seven Minutes in Heaven

Sam wanted to kiss me. Well, okay, not just me, everyone, really. "Greet one another with an holy kiss," admonishes the New Testament four different times, and in Brazil, Sam's home country, they apparently mean it. Sam grew up Catholic and had, at every Mass since he could remember, shared "an holy kiss" with his neighbors as part of the service. So when he met a pair of Mormon missionaries on the street in Japan and agreed to attend a Sunday service, he was disappointed when nobody puckered up. After the service, he pulled me aside and said, with a look of genuine pain in his eyes, "Why no kissing?"

I once attended a Catholic Mass in Beaverton, Oregon, for a friend's First Communion, and at the end of the service, after the torn bread and red wine had passed from lip to lip down the rows of the small congregation, the priest invited all of us to "extend a hand of fellowship" to our neighbors — a firm handshake and the words "peace be with you" — a puritan version of the holy kiss that keeps our friends and neighbors at a safe, sterile distance.

In the Old Testament, God bemoans those who "draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me." What is this but the description of an empty, soulless kiss with all the trappings of passion and none of its substance?

I remember in elementary school how preoccupied I was with the idea of kissing — a preoccupation born, in part, of Disney movies, prime-time television, and the kisses my parents shared in front of us kids. A kiss meant acceptance, affection, and commitment. But I also remember the girls at school brandishing them like weapons, striking at random, and leaving us boys dizzy with the attention, overestimating the meaning of those kisses as much as the girls underestimated their effect.

Rodin's famous sculpture The Kiss began life on a main panel of the 1881 version of The Gates of Hell, a nineteen-foot-tall, thirteen-foot-wide set of bronze double doors covered in the writhing bodies of the damned — a tribute to Dante's Inferno. The embracing figures of The Kiss were meant to depict Francesca and Paolo in the consummate moment of their lustful betrayal, and they were meant to feature prominently in the themes of agony and suffering that so dominated The Gates. But something wasn't right about the couple, and in subsequent versions of The Gates, Rodin relegated them to a minor position on one of the pilasters and eventually removed them from the portal altogether. What was the problem? Their embrace was too pure, their bodies too full of life, the man's hands too hesitant and graceful, the woman's feet all but leaving the ground, the intensity of the kiss lifting her heavenward, ecstatic, rapturous.

3. A Better Fate Than Wisdom

Ryabovitch, the hapless protagonist in Anton Chekhov's 1887 short story, "The Kiss," is an unsociable military officer with rounded shoulders, a long waist, and "lynx-like side whiskers" who finds himself a wallflower at a dinner party full of beautiful people dancing, making small talk, and playing billiards. Looking for an escape from the uncomfortable crowds, Ryabovitch enters what he thinks is an empty, unlit chamber, only to be accosted by a strange woman who mistakes him for someone else in the darkness. "At last," she sighs, flinging her arms around Ryabovitch's neck and kissing him, only to recoil in horror as she realizes her mistake. The accidental couple flees from the room in opposite directions, but the damage is already done. Poor Ryabovitch is smitten.

"His neck seemed anointed with oil," says the narrator. "And on his left cheek, just by his moustache, there was a faint, pleasant, cold tingling sensation, the kind you get from peppermint drops." Throughout the night, he is "gripped by an inexplicable, overwhelming feeling of joy," and the effect lingers for months, distracting him from his duties, filling his mind with irrational fantasies about the girl, about meeting her again, about her perfections, and about the beautiful life they could have together. But as you read on, you realize that Ryabovitch is not so much enamored of the girl but of the kiss itself, the dark room of its genesis, the way it made him feel normal and right and ordinary, and you realize the man has been bamboozled by his own loneliness, deceived into believing that the whole of the world could be found on the soft pout of a woman's lips.

"If you kissed a pretty face, would you not that very instant lose your freedom and become a slave?" warned Socrates. "Would you not have to spend much money on harmful amusements, and would you not do much which you would despise, if your understanding were not clouded?"

A big part of why I waited so long to kiss Melissa had to do with the number of girls I'd kissed before I met her. Growing up, I chased female approval like a starved puppy after a bowl of kibble, and I measured that approval in a girl's willingness to pucker up. For several months in middle school, I chose to forgo the bus in favor of a two-mile walk home beside a girl who would occasionally kiss me before saying good-bye and turning down her street. For half a year in high school, I dated a girl with whom I had little in common because one day she walked up to me in the hall and kissed me on the cheek. And once, I skipped out on work and drove three hours from Portland to Seattle to see an old girlfriend on the off-chance that she might have a few kisses left to give. By the time I'd entered my twenties, I'd kissed so many girls in my search for self-affirmation that I'd come to mistrust the gesture altogether.

"Since feeling is first," wrote E. E. Cummings, "who pays any attention / to the syntax of things / will never wholly kiss you."

4. In a Darkened Theater

I've always sort of known movie theaters were a place that couples went to make out, but I'd never actually seen it until one day in the sixth grade, when I went to a local second-run cinema with some friends. We entered the dark, cramped theater just after the previews had begun and ascended the stairs toward our seats, and that's when we saw them, illuminated by the bright light of the screen — a man and a woman, maybe in their midthirties, embracing across an armrest. One of the man's legs protruded into the aisle as he leaned toward the woman, who leaned in just as aggressively, the popcorn almost falling out of her lap. "The film's barely started," I remember thinking as I took in the image of the couple — their heads rotating comically, their lips crawling all over each other — and I remember feeling in the air something like desperation emanating from their sprawled feet, their pawing hands, and their roving lips, as if at any moment the floor might give way beneath them.

"The real lover," said Marilyn Monroe, "is the man who can thrill you by kissing your forehead."

The 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice has two endings — one for the British market and one for the American market. In the British version, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth find themselves standing in the misty morning fields outside Longbourn Estate, finally confessing their love for one another. Elizabeth kisses Darcy's hand, and then the couple touches foreheads and embraces in a way that even Queen Victoria could have tolerated. Then we cut to Elizabeth standing in the library before her bewildered father as she explains that she actually does love Mr. Darcy. The film ends with happy Elizabeth leaving her father to ponder over the peculiar nature of romance. "If any young men come for Mary or Kitty," he says, "send them in, for I am quite at my leisure."

The American version adds one more scene, set at some point in the near future, ostensibly on some evening after the wedding. We find the couple in an intimate moment, all the trappings of Victorian propriety removed, with a barefoot Mr. Darcy kneeling beside Elizabeth as she sits on the open-air porch in her nightgown. Torches illuminate the scene as the couple exchanges sweet nothings.

"How are you this evening, my dear?" says Mr. Darcy.

"Very well," says Elizabeth, taking his hand. "Only, I wish you would not call me 'my dear.'"


"'Cause it's what my father always calls my mother when he's cross about something."

"What endearments am I allowed?" he asks.

"Well, let me think," she says. "'Lizzy' for every day, 'my pearl' for Sundays, and 'goddess divine,' but only on very special occasions."

"And —" he pauses for dramatic effect (Mr. Darcy knows what he's doing), "what shall I call you when I'm cross? Mrs. Darcy?"

"No. No," she scoffs in mock disgust. "You may only call me 'Mrs. Darcy' when you are completely and perfectly and incandescently happy." And this is what the Americans in the theater have been waiting for. The couple has been leaning closer and closer together during the entire conversation, and now there's only one thing left to do.

"And how are you this evening, Mrs. Darcy?" he asks, and kisses her on the forehead. He then repeats "Mrs. Darcy" four more times, kissing her on the nose and on both cheeks and, finally, with the firelight reflecting on their faces and the orchestra reaching a crescendo in the background, their lips meet, and they hold their kiss until the scene fades to black.

The only bit missing is the Barry White album and the bearskin rug.

I think we have Lord Byron to thank for the overwrought Hollywood kiss:

They look'd up to the sky, whose floating glow
Spread like a rosy ocean, vast and bright;
They gazed upon the glittering sea below,
Whence the broad moon rose circling into sight;
They heard the wave's splash, and the wind so low,
And saw each other's dark eyes darting light
Into each other — and, beholding this,
Their lips drew near, and clung into a kiss;

Though our first kiss has meant so much to us, if there were annals dedicated to kissing history, I'm fairly certain that ours would not demand more than a line or two: "April 4, 2002: angst-ridden, abstinent couple finally reaches first base in foyer of small Provo, Utah, apartment much to the relief of patient girlfriend. Kiss effectively seals the marriage deal months before actual proposal. Standard Kiss Rating (SKR) based on accepted formula of affection (9) x purity (9) x intensity (8) x duration (7) = 4536 points." A perfectly average, middle-of-the-pack, everyday kiss, much too tame for Hollywood.

5. And They Shall Be One Flesh

There's an unfortunate YouTube video of an unfortunate couple from Portland, Oregon, who made a big deal of waiting until the altar to share their first kiss and then invited a reality TV crew to come to the wedding. What's captured on camera is the entire wedding party looking on as the couple shares a kiss or, rather, a quick series of kisses that make them look a little like two people trying to chew the same piece of gum, or two gerbils trying to drink out of the same water bottle, or, as one YouTube viewer put it, "like a mother penguin feeding her baby." Watching the video, one does not question the couple's sincerity — nor their affection — but their imaginations. So wrapped up in the idea of what they thought a first kiss should be, neither of them appears to have thought about what they wanted it to be, and as a result, they come together like robots, soulless automatons whose fumbling embrace is as embarrassing for everyone watching as it is for them. The camera jumps around the audience, showing what must be siblings, cousins, and parents laughing nervously, averting their eyes, and, one imagines, trying to hold back a gag. The most painful shot shows one of the fathers lowering his head into his hand. "You know it was a bad kiss," wrote one viewer, "when even your dad facepalm'd."

Rodin believed that creativity and sexuality were intrinsically connected and was always trying to close the gap between clay and flesh. He had what one biographer called "the need to touch," and that need manifested itself as much in his romantic relationships as in the "kneading, fidgeting, feeling" way he approached his work.


Excerpted from My Wife Wants You to Know I'm Happily Married by Joey Franklin. Copyright © 2015 Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


The Lifespan of a Kiss,
Working at Wendy's,
Grand Theft Auto: Athens, Ohio, Edition,
In Their Ears and on Their Tongues,
Climbing Shingle Mill Peak,
How to Be a T-Ball Parent,
The Swing Is Gone,
On Haptics, Hyperrealism, and My Father's Year in Prison,
Call Me Joey,
Little More Than Strangers,
My Hair Piece,
Language Lust,
My Wife Wants You to Know I'm Happily Married,

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