by Rachel Pomerance Berl)
Through countless cosmos, breakups, musings and pinings, we felt we knew her – well, the characters she helped craft anyway. As the Golden Globe and Emmy-award winning writer and producer of “Sex and the City,” Cindy Chupack was the poster single girl for the highs and lows on the quest for Mr. Right. So, now that she's married him, what does that mean for the rest of us ... No more comedy? Not a chance.
In her latest book, “The Longest Date: Life as a Wife,” Chupack chronicles the vicissitudes of happily-ever-after-hood with the same brand of hysterical grit, love and heartache she brought to “Sex and the City.” In the show and elsewhere in her writing (she's also written for “Modern Family” and “Everybody Loves Raymond,” along with authoring a sex column for O, The Oprah Magazine), Chupack puts on display subjects that are rarely said, let alone celebrated. For example, in her previous book, “The Between Boyfriends Book,” she coins phrases like “sexual sorbet,” a palate-cleansing fling to remove the taste of the last relationship, and “premature ‘we’jaculation” — when one member of the couple uses the ‘we’ word too soon. In tackling taboo with humor, she's spawned a collective sigh of relief among those who recognize themselves in her stories.
The same philosophy is deeply embedded in her new book, which is the basis for a forthcoming Fox TV pilot by the same name, though the characters have been renamed to provide a platform for fiction.
Thanks, in part, to shows like “Sex and the City,” cultural taboos have been steadily removed from lots of topics. And yet, signing up for marriage, she's found, still comes with a gag clause.
“All the girls that I used to talk to about everything — everyone kind of closed ranks when they got married,” Chupack told U.S. News. “There's a lot of reasons not to talk about your marriage honestly with everyone else,” she concedes, noting the fear of seeming ungrateful to your single friends or aggrandizing a conflict. Still, “I think there's a lot of reasons to ... which is to make you understand that everyone has these issues.”
For all its rewards, becoming a couple, and ultimately a family, involved plenty of struggle. For starters, Chupack's “great guy” – an attorney named Ian Wallach with an avocation for storytelling (she met him at a storytelling event in New York) – is a mostly reformed “bad boy.” So, although Wallach traded his motorcycle for a Vespa and fully chose her as his (he actually proposed in a knight costume on a horse) – she had to make peace with his sexually adventurous past, which required her to know details – sometimes, in excruciating detail – of his former flings.
An example from the book: “After a long international flight, on the shuttle bus to the parking lot, Ian will say, ‘Oh my God, ACookie??’ (yes, her real name), and then from what they say – or don't say – about how they know each other, I can tell she's someone he slept with before we met,” Chupack writes. “But knowing makes me feel like these ghosts of his sexual past do not have the upper hand. He does not share a secret with them. He shares their secret with me.”
With time, Chupack stopped having nightmares, literally, about her husband straying. “Not only was it unfair to Ian, it was unfair to me,” she writes. “If anyone was going to have extramarital sex in my dreams, it should be me. And monogamy is no small undertaking. Men are not the only ones who have trouble adjusting to the idea of sex with the same person day after day, night after night (well, at first; then it's more like month after month).”
She delves into the adjustment of “life as wife” with humor, even and maybe especially, in the couple's darkest period – their struggle to have a baby, or as she dubs it, “babyquest.” Despite getting pregnant on their honeymoon – after a made-for-TV tossing of her birth control pills into the ocean – the complications that ended that pregnancy would continue to batter the couple in a sequence of torturous events.
At 40 when she married, Chupack grappled with some of the fertility struggles that can come with age, enduring hormone injections, acupuncture and even a doctor who told her to imagine her husband's face “on a cartoon sperm with arms welcoming my egg to him.” The troubles seemed to finally be over when she became pregnant with an egg donor; after making it past the critical first trimester, the couple emailed their closest friends that Baby was on the way. But the attempt ended in a painful miscarriage, the anguish and aftermath of which is detailed by Chupack's husband in her book: “On more than one occasion, I slept for 17 hours straight. The doctor said that was normal. My wife and I tried to make love, but, in her words, it was the ‘scene of the crime,’” he writes.
Finally, the couple found their beloved baby, Olivia, through adoption. But the experience of creating their family gave Chupack a new understanding and empathy about the process. “The longer you're trying, the more trying it is,” she tells U.S. News.
In large part, she says the book is meant to help men and women going through that struggle “to feel less alone with that and to just feel understood and be able to laugh a little bit.”
With honesty about what you want and need – whether in marriage or family – you can achieve it, she says.
And once you get there, you've arrived not so much at a happy ending as a new beginning, Chupack says. After all, she and Wallach – who have now been together for eight years – craft new vows to each other on each anniversary, some of which are included in her book. On year five, after the miscarriage and its consequent grief, she wrote: “You were losing everything – again – and you cared only that I be okay. That is love. If I had to define love for myself, I would look to that moment and say I married exactly the right man, and he is the best man I know.”
The experience of marriage, and family, has not only changed but also expanded her sense of self. Chupack calls herself a "citizen of the world," more conscious of children and parents – as well as their pets (she reluctantly grew to love Tink, her husband's St. Bernard). And in newly appreciating so much, she also has realized how much more there is to lose.
“I feel, quite often, like life was easier when it was just me, just one person, safely grounded, but it's too late," she writes. "We're all in this thing – the neighborhood, our families, our friends, our dogs and cats, and you ... You people just falling in love, just moving in together, just getting married, just having a baby, just reading this sentence .... We're all in this together.”
For all the stories she's crafted about her own experiences, it's as if, for the first time, Chupack sees herself, so clearly, in everyone else.