If you haven’t seen Catastrophe, a British sitcom available on Amazon, consider this article a cautious encouragement to check it out. Fair warning, though: if you are generally opposed to bawdy body humor, unambiguous adult content, and recurring sexual situations, you should probably stay away. (So Mom, if you’re reading this, don’t watch Catastrophe.)
Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan write and star in the series, which is unapologetically and often crudely about sex. It’s sex that brought the two strangers together while Rob, an American, spends a week on business in London and meets Sharon, from Ireland, at a bar. They spend six days together, assuming they’ll never see each other again. But the affair leads to an unplanned pregnancy. What happens next is where the show progresses from gratuitous to gratifying. Sharon wants to keep the baby. Rob wants to keep the baby and marry Sharon. From this point forward, they manage to tell a contemporary story about the ancient idea of married love between one man and one woman with a lot of humor, a lot of suffering, and a lot of ridiculously ordinary affection.
I first heard about Catastrophe, curiously enough, from Eloise Blondiau’s positive review in a Jesuit publication. Blondiau describes an important scene in the final episode of the first season. It’s the honeymoon night, where Rob’s romantic overture toward the eight-months-pregnant Sharon involves—wait for it—an offer to trim the toenails on her exhausted feet. The review had me at “toenails.” This is a scenario I find far more relatable in my 27 years of married love than almost any other televised intimacy between a husband and a wife I can recall. The fact that the scene ends not in an embrace but an argument only added to its credibility.
I’ve been sleeping with one man for the past 27 years and despite what some evangelical slogans might have you believe, sex with my husband hasn’t always been a thrill a minute, let alone a reenactment of the Spirit-inspired eros found in Song of Solomon. For all its crudity, Catastrophe does a better job than any rom-com I’ve ever seen evoking my laughs of recognition. In sickness and health, for richer or poorer, through arguments, dysfunctional extended families, parenting chaos, and various crisis in their community of friends, Rob and Sharon fight to be together in every way possible, especially in bed.
This mutual desire fuels my new, all-time favorite romantic line...
Believe it or not, I've written about married sex on this blog before. Most notably, this post: Flying a kite in a hurricane (aka, Our Family Tradition of Honeymoon Babies)
Recently Natalie and I were talking about the implications of young, long marriage. She asked if I ever thought about what it would be like to marry somebody other than my husband, her father. Without any pause, I said, “I have thought about that and you know what? If I had limitless opportunities to start over again, to choose anyone else to marry, I’d still pick your Dad. Every single time.”
Now that I’m thinking about it, that was my paraphrase of Rob & Sharon's pledge: “I fancy you. I very fancy you.”
Do you have a favorite television or film depiction of marriage? I'd love to know!