I first heard about Jo Piazza’s book on marriage via the Lit Up Show podcast (I’m a little obsessed). I was intrigued to hear about a woman’s adventures and what she learned about how a “successful” marriage is interpreted throughout the world.
Piazza had the advantage, as a journalist, to take breaks from her international writing assignments to ask strangers and marriage gurus what they think about marriage. This book is the summary of her adventures.
Each chapter is separated by the country visited (or wherever she was in the United States, based on their domestic travels, life, etc.), and summarizes key points learned from that country.
Here are some of the takeaways I learned:
- Denmark, where hygge is practically a form of government! I was already interested in this way of life when this book came out January 2017. The idea of coziness, mixed with practical minimalism, came to light even more in Piazza’s descriptions of how she applied it in her own home. When I do hygge I just overeat pastries; when Piazza does it, it’s intentional home decor. You want your home to be something you are excited to come home to!
- France: “Be your husband’s mistress” sounds a bit cliché, n’est-ce pas? But perhaps it makes sense. French women in the book commented on how American women don’t leave as much mystery in the relationship, which I can appreciate. A little space and a little mystery can help any relationship! I took French for four glorious years in high school, and I have always been fascinated with the culture. I think besides French beauty and fashion, Americans are equally fascinated with the culture around infidelity and marriage (as explored in the film, Le Divorce). I came away with a totally different perspective on the so-called “acceptance” of infidelity in French culture (along with a revived appreciation for good underwear).
- Sweden: What is it like to have a culture that embraces stay-at-home-fatherhood? I mean seriously, Piazza interviewed the author of this book, and it sounded amazing. Just look at the photos! I have always wondered why men’s bathrooms don’t even have diaper changing stations (dudes can at least change diapers in 2018, right?!), but this gave me some food for thought about what we’ll want to do once we have children.
- For the non-Westernized countries mentioned, I found myself having to re-assess my white privilege (and so does the author!). I am ashamed to say that I made many assumptions about certain cultures, where my feminist ideals clouded my judgment for atypical practices in other worlds. “Seeing” these cultures through Piazza’s lens, I am more eager than ever to reserve judgment, and listen first.
Sidenote: those seeking a strict sociological text with no personal editorializing should read another book. I loved that Piazza was honest about her (perceived) shortcomings as a wife, friend, daughter, etc. Her first year of marriage came with some ups and downs, and she was refreshingly honest about how those ups and downs were impacted by the insights she gathered from the people she met on her journey.
Highly recommend this for folks interested in starting the conversation about marriage. More to come, I hope!
Rating: 4 stars