Confession: I slept with my work husband…
by Dara Resnik Creasey
… who’s also my husband. But how that happened requires a flashback of sorts:
It’s August of 2001, I crash my brand-new Jetta on my way across the country in Yellowstone Park. I guess that’s what happens when you give a 20-something native Manhattanite a driver’s license. I fly into LAX from Idaho Falls, rent a bright-red Ford Focus, move into a crappy apartment with wall-to-wall white carpeting crawling with fleas, and attempt to begin my new life as a grad student at USC’s Peter Stark Producing Program.
The car accident is a harbinger of how that first semester will go. I immediately get pleurodynia, to which particularly young women in temperate regions are susceptible. (Scorecard — NY: 3, LA: 0). I get rear ended in a second car accident. (NY: 4, LA: 0). I have problems with my roommate and my roommate has problems with me (NY: 5, LA: 0). I hate Los Angeles. I hate my new life.
And then 9/11 happens.
I’m lucky. I know many people whose loved ones die that day. However, my friends, my family, everyone I knew down there, they are all fine. But that day changes everything for me. Once I start to see my way out of a long drinking-a-whole-bottle-of-wine-every-night haze, I feel like Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption. “It comes down to a simple choice: get busy living, or get busy dying.”
There’s this boy in my class. I say “boy” because this is a flashback and we are so young. He’s a former Bible-beater from the plains of Colorado. Also, he’s hot, but I digress. He wants to work on some “projects” together. In the weeks before, I’d demurred, but now I finally say yes. We start spending many hours discussing ideas for screenplays and short films. He thinks the person leaving a message on my answering machine (See? This really was a bazillion years ago) is someone imitating Linda Richmond (Mike Myers from SNL), when it’s my actual grandmother. I think speaking in tongues is only a device in creepy movies, but he knows lots of folks back home who believe they experienced the Holy Spirit in that way.
Over many weeks, we keep trying to focus on our work. But we are hooked on learning about one another. There’s so much more than our disparate religions. He grew up without much cash, I grew up flush with it. He’d been a good boy, I’d been comparatively rebellious. Our world views are fascinatingly, tantalizingly different. This is going to make a world-changing horrific event sound trite, and please understand that I don’t mean to trivialize 9/11, but if it had never happened, I don’t know that this New York Jewish girl would have had a heart open enough to let this Colorado (formerly) Christian boy so deep inside.
I don’t exactly remember how the last part happens (mostly because of the chilled Goldschlager involved in our first hook up), but the partnership that eventually became my marriage is a little like art imitates life imitates art imitates… The boy and I win a grant to write/direct a short film about a high school girl who breaks up with her boyfriend because he’s a slacker, but she says it’s because he’s not Jewish. He goes on a quest to convert, but when he finds out he has to get circumcised, it puts his determination to the test. It’s called Great Lengths (spoiler alert: she winds up loving him just the way he is – unedited). And somewhere between winning the grant, making the movie, and going to the TriBeCa Film Fest, we fall in love, move in, get a dog, sell our first screenplay, and get engaged.
That’s how my husband becomes my work husband. We get married and get staffed on a TV show and get another dog and have a kid. Before we know it, we’ve built a little career for ourselves out here, without exception as a package deal. And because of that, we frequently get the same breathless and wide-eyed questions: “Ohmygod, how do you spend that much time with your spouse?” “All day? You’re with each other all day?” Plus my favorite, “And you don’t kill each other?” (Answer: No, but that doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes want to.)
Our habit as screenwriters is to look for the note behind the note. The real question being posed is: “How do you make it work?” And the easy answer is: “We do the work.” For all of us fortunate enough to have a functioning one, we know relationships are work. Really. Hard. Work. And doing the work takes one thing: Communication.
I know that’s not remotely a revelation, but what makes my marriage/partnership/life function is that we are forced to talk about the things many couples are more apt to glide over. When we are writing, we have to discuss our feelings. Our best writing has come from discovering uncomfortable truths about one another. All those hours of getting to know each other back in film school laid the groundwork for a lifetime spent dissecting our lives. It not only keeps us interesting and surprising to each another (“As a [insert gender here], you seriously think that?”), it means we reveal more of our innermost secrets, our darkness, our shame, and our desires than most. It might sound like TMI to some, but to us, it’s true intimacy.
Whereas non-married writing partners might dance around whether one another’s pages are up to snuff, we never do. There’s nobody on Earth who’s going to more honestly and passionately say, “I know you can do better. So do better.” And there’s nobody on Earth who’s going to more honestly and passionately say, “These pages are so good they made me fall in love with you all over again.” (Truthfully what we say is far more X-rated, but I’ll leave that to your imagination.) And we’ve taught each other, too. When we started writing together, he was stronger with story and I was stronger with characters and dialogue. We’ve since caught up to one another, and there is nobody I’d rather learn from.
There’s a shared job vernacular as well. When we are working on a project, or when we staff on a show, we each know all the other players and personalities involved. Whereas other couples go home to one another and have to rehash every little thing that happened at work that day, all it takes for my husband/work husband and me is a little glance across the room. When we leave a weird meeting, it’s a beautiful feeling to be able to look at the person who’s on your team in every part of your life, and say, “It’s not just me, right? That was crazy.” There’s nothing like the high of landing a gig together, or the low of not landing a project you both loved. And we never run out of things to talk about.
It’s not always perfect. In fact, it almost never is. When one of us is unemployed, we’re both unemployed, and that sucks. There’s inevitable competition that crops up sometimes of the who-wrote-what variety. There are whole weeks that go by when all we talk about is our work and our kid. And sometimes, hearing the same story he’s heard me tell for the 1000th time makes him want to blow his brains out. And sometimes, when he’s a jackass for the 1000th time that week, I also want to blow his brains out. Mostly we both want to kill him. (Just kidding, babe, I love you.)
And despite all that, you know what’s phenomenal? We don’t have to hide that from each other. We don’t have to hide anything from each other. And that raw honesty (more than his sharp wit… or his still-hot bod) makes me love him more now than I did the day I first let him listen to my grandmother on the answering machine. So when anyone asks me why on Earth I would want to write with my husband, my first response is always: “Why wouldn’t I?”
This life, this crazy, awesome, intertwined, I-don’t-know-where-he-ends-and-I-begin life of writing and kid and dogs and love… has wiped the scorecard clean.
(NY: ?, LA: infinity)Tags: Chad Creasey, Dara Resnik Creasey, Hollywood, Hollywood family, Husband-wife partnership, Los Angeles v New York, Love, Love and romance in Hollywood, Making marriage work, Screenwriter, Television, USC Peter Stark Program, Work-life balance, Writing partners