Let me start by professing my love for Judd Apatow. In this new era of on-demand humor and Dane Cook, Apatow is funnier than all of them without seeming too ubiquitous. (Nor do I ever have a desire to punch him in the face—see Dane Cook.) If Apatow lived down the street from me, I'd have him over for dinner. My wife might even put out the "good china." In short, he's an awesome dude, immensely talented and culturally important.
Now, that we have all that established… Fuck that guy. Fuck him right in the ear. Here's why: His last real movie, This Is 40, is ruining my marriage. It doesn't help that it's running on HBO, 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Its omnipresence is like a constant session of marriage counseling. And not one of those good sessions that results in Mrs. Maynard and I having a breakthrough—and ultimately, therapy sex. No, This Is 40 starts a fight that ends in an argument involving sobbing, pillow throwing and zero sex for the foreseeable future.
Pick a scene, any scene. Almost all of them cut so close to home that it makes watching the movie akin to the torture scene of ultra-violence in Clockwork Orange. (Translation—You stand no chance of not fighting.) There's the secret binge eating, the secret smoking, the secret financial issues, the secret bathroom hideout. (Paul Rudd's character furtively sits atop his porcelain throne to play Scrabble on his iPad; I sit atop mine to read the New Yorker.)
Let's see, what else? Oh yeah, kids. As the movie brilliantly captures, children are the biggest whammy. They suck all of the energy and joy out of your day, no matter how cute and wonderful they are. Kids make your genitals shrivel. Seriously—your desire to have sex goes down precipitously with each child. This is one thing the movie gets wrong. Rudd and his on-screen wife, played by Leslie Mann, get it in often. Granted he's on Viagra; but still, with no discernible household help and all of their other issues, they seem to find plenty of time to do the nasty—i.e., when was the last time you got an impromptu blowjob?
But I digress. Back to the core issues—secret binge eating et al. I deal with each of them constantly. Unbeknownst to Mrs. Maynard, I pay for my parents' mortgage every month. All the while, they rent a vacation home in the desert and find time to play golf three times a week. Then there are my spending habits, which are equally egregious. After all, I'm the guy who went on eBay and bought a full-sized taxidermic bear from the American Museum of Natural History. I also totally forgot about said purchase—I might have taken an Ambien or maybe a Klonopin shortly beforehand. And so, this seven-foot tall bear with giant claws and a massive head was delivered to the house with no advance warning, leaking arsenic. (Did I mention we have small children?) Needless to say, I was quickly encouraged by Mrs. Maynard to donate the bear to the local public school—only after it was cleaned and re-stuffed by a guy in a hazmat suit. At least I was able to hide the $7,000 price tag from her.
Well, correction, I was able to keep the $7,000 price tag from her until the other night when we were watching This Is Mother-Fucking 40 on mother-fucking HBO which won't stop mother-fucking playing it. The scene where Mann finds out that Rudd has been keeping their dire financial straits from her inspired Mrs. Maynard to go through our bank statements. She found everything—how much I spent on the bear, the wire transfers to my parents and numerous other questionable purchases.
Understandably, she went ape shit. My defense was that what I did was indefensible. It didn't work. It turns out that a furious wife is exactly what a giant taxidermic bear, Norwegian throwing axe, Aquatic diorama and stuffed pheasant will buy you.
And maybe I missed the last three mortgage payments.
And maybe I paid the kids' school tuition six month late.
The point is none of this would have happened if I hadn't mistakenly turned on This Is 40 while Mrs. Maynard and I ate Quinoa salad with over-priced organic vegetables. I am, of course, eating Quinoa salad with over-priced organic vegetables because of my nasty Chicago-style hot dog addiction, which I devour as stealthily as Rudd devours cupcakes in the film—another clandestine habit Mrs. Maynard dragged out of me while watching This Is 40.
I know what you're thinking: Why didn't you lie—at least about the hotdogs? Because I can't. And because I'm afraid of Mrs. Maynard. (Remember not telling her something and telling her a lie are two different things.) I'm so afraid of her, in fact, that I'd rather stay at work and write this crap than go home and stumble upon This Is 40 again, which will only lead to me confessing more sins to her. (And a man must keep some things to himself.) Plus, the kids are waiting, and they've already internalized the family dynamic, which largely revolves around, "Let's take a big shit on daddy, and watch him eat it."
In Apatow's defense, he made the movie because there are universal truths to the white, yuppie, 40-year-old male experience. That's my defense to my wife—i.e., we're not alone. "So many people go through this shit that a great filmmaker made a movie about the whole dynamic," I assure her, mostly when she's not going ape shit.
Not that she buys it. For her, This Is 40 is a scared-straight film about teen pregnancy. It turns me into the lying, balding, binge-eating, money-wasting sack of shit she thought she'd never marry. ("We're in a drought, turn on and off the shower like this," she scolds whenever I attempt to clean myself.)
But I think she just watches the movie to back up her anger for all the shit I've pulled over the years—and for the fact that I can really only barbecue and sit on my ass. Besides, she's never even made it to the end of the movie. You know, the part where Rudd and Mann decide to embrace their flaws and fucked-up lives and not change a thing. Granted, it's a Hollywood film so a happy ending is a requirement. In such a fantasy world, Rudd and Mann can't get divorced—or allow their festering passive aggression to result in a shooting spree. Still, there's something to be said about accepting your spouse's imperfections and allowing them to stay true to themselves.
So tonight, when This Is 40 is airing for the 109th time, I'm going to force Mrs. Maynard to stay up for all 2 hours and 15 minutes of it.
Then all will be forgiven, right?
Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection