Investigative journalist looks to own family for ‘Husbandry’

BY MORTON I. TEICHER, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

Stephen Fried is an investigative journalist who has written three previous books: Thing of Beauty, Inside the Hazardous World of Legal Drugs, and The New Rabbi. His first book, Thing of Beauty, described the model, Gia Carangi, whose career ended when she died of AIDS and heroin addiction at the age of 26. An Emmy-winning HBO film, Gia, was based on the book in which Fried coined the word, “fashionista.” The book about drugs was stimulated by his wife’s severely adverse reaction to a prescription drug. It raised serious questions about drug safety. The New Rabbi examined the search for a rabbi by a Philadelphia suburban synagogue.

Fried utterly failed to observe confidentiality in this book, thus producing an embarrassing story that showed no respect for privacy.

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His new book, Husbandry, has as its sub-title: “Sex, Love, and Dirty Laundry: Inside the Minds of Married Men.” It presents thirty-one brief essays that originally appeared in the Ladies Home Journal. Fried substitutes for the usual meanings of “husbandry” as the scientific practice of farming or frugality and thrift, his re-definition — “musings on being a husband.”

Fried’s insights are based primarily on his twenty years of marriage to Diane Ayres, a fiction writer, whose debut novel, Other Girls, appeared in 2002. Occasionally, to buttress his viewpoints, Fried briefly mentions a study or a so-called authoritative source. However, he gives no information about these citations so that readers are left to wonder about their authenticity.

At one point in the book, in discussing holiday observance, Fried says that he and his wife are Jewish. Later, he says that “our parents grew up in different faiths.” Presumably, he means that his wife converted to Judaism but readers have to figure this out for themselves. Aside from a brief discussion of differences in the way the families observed Hanukkah and Christmas, the subject of religion is surprisingly absent.

The book explores what some writers have called “the battle of the sexes” by referring initially to the marital problem created by the husband’s dropping the socks he has worn near but not in the laundry basket and by his leaving dirty dishes in the sink. These are apparently important issues in the Fried family because Fried not only begins with them but comes back to them in a later essay on the subject of “yes, dear,” in which the use of this retort is analyzed.

Many other concerns of married couples are discussed. These range from diets, to bathroom use, to frequency of sex, to snoring, to TV watching, to divorce, to husbands looking at other women, to clothes, to driving, to presents, to money, etc. Mixed into this recital are several discussions that are peripherally related to husband-wife relationships such as locker room conversations among men and three times a week basketball games.

Fried presents his thoughts lightheartedly and humorously. This easy-to-read collection has some clever insights to the problems of married couples. Fried works hard to be funny and some readers may find the book to be amusing.

It is an open question, however, as to whether or not Fried has actually fulfilled his objective of writing a manual on how to be happy, though married.

Dr. Morton I. Teicher is the Founding Dean of the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University and Dean Emeritus, School of Social Work, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Stephen Fried and Laurie Rozakis: Fried, the author of “Husbandry,” published by Bantam Books and Laurie Rozakis, author of “The Portable Jewish Mother,” published by Adams Media, will speak during the “He Said/She Said” program, which will be moderated by KMOX/1120 News Talk Radio’s Paul Harris at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Admission: $15 or free with series ticket.

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