Fried Green Tomatoes and The Husband Problem

Kristin Devine

Kristin has humbly retired as Ordinary Times' friendly neighborhood political whipping girl to focus on culture and gender issues. She lives in a wildlife refuge in rural Washington state with too many children and way too many animals. There's also a blog which most people would very much disapprove of

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35 Responses

  1. J_A says:


    This is one of the very best posts I’ve seen in this site in a very long time.

    There’s nothing I can add, and any comment of mine would surely be superfluous. Except the following:

    Thanks, thanks, thanks!!Report

  2. Doctor Jay says:

    Fannie Flagg was on game shows a lot when I was young, and she was always funny. I had no idea what she did outside of being a celebrity on game shows (Hollywood Squares I think, in addition to Match Game?).

    The core idea of Match Game was turned into Family Feud with Richard Dawson (seen briefly on your clip). I think I was able to watch MG in residence hall lounges while I was in college. But anyway, Fanny Flagg was always funny. With that name, how could it be otherwise?

    I had no idea she wrote novels. Thanks for fixing that.Report

  3. Mark says:

    Girl, preach!Report

  4. Jaybird says:

    The Bridges of Madison County kinda dealt with the Husband Problem by taking a “The Only Way Out Is Through” approach.

    Francesca Johnson has a great marriage to a great guy and she has great kids and a great family. Sure, she’s a little lonely, but hey. That’s Life, right? Anyway, the great guy and the great kids go off to the State Fair and she has a whirlwind affair with a guy who wears tight jeans. A short visualization of the four days in the sack:

    After the four days, he says “wanna come along?” and she says “Yes! Maybe… Nah… I have a great husband and great kids and a great family!”

    Big sigh. She enjoyed her time with him just like we could. Thanks, Oprah.

    The movie knew that this might be a bit of a tough sell to sell as a straight story so they went meta and made it that Francesca died and wanted her ashes scattered from a particular bridge. Why this bridge? So the kids read her journals and found out that, 40 years prior, this happened:

    And then she got asked if she wanted to run off and she decided that, no, she wanted to say with her husband and her kids and her family. Which, may I point out, were great.

    Dump the ashes off the bridge. Be glad that she could have experienced something like that. Be glad that, hey, *WE* aren’t like that! Big sigh.

    Problem solved.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

      So here it is: The Formula You’ve Been Looking For:

      Young Woman. 22. Bookish. Invisible. Researcher type. She’s working in a library or museum or something like that. Works with a handful of people. Reaches out a handful of times to the ones she thinks are single and gets rebuffed. This one is engaged. That one is gay and in a serious relationship with a delightful guy. That other one is weird. Like, really weird. Body-pillow waifu weird. Ah, well. The only guy she hasn’t asked out is the really burly quiet one who we see with his shirt off because he’s painting the drywall he just put up and, holy crap, he might have a six-pack, we dunno, because he’s so damn hairy.

      Anyway. she’s doing research. And she researches this document from a different era. And this era has a female protagonist! And, by God, this female protagonist had suitors. Multiple suitors. Each one an archetype. A soldier, a butcher, a hunter, an artist. Stories about getting to 2nd Base ensue. She gets to 2nd with each one of them. And writes about it. Holy cow. It’s a good thing that mono didn’t exist back then because everybody that she meets would get mono. She narrows it down to two and gets to 3rd with each.

      Our protagonist finishes her research and says “but what happened next?”

      And either hits on or gets hit on by the painter guy who is not engaged and not gay and not weird.

      They get to 2nd.

      The sequel’s name? THE LOST TEXTS.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        Okay, I realize that it doesn’t involve the middle-aged thing.

        Middle-aged woman in a good, if routine, marriage with a good, if routine, husband and good, if routine, children finds herself… crap. You can’t kill the guy. You can’t kill the kids. If you don’t want an affair to happen, you’re stuck with a story about how they rekindle.

        Do you want a Swiss Family Robinson? Drop the kids off at gramma and grampa’s and get on a chartered boat to have a vacation! Uh-oh, are those storm clouds? Shipwrecked! The captain’s dead! So is the first mate! The Professor and Mary Ann and the Movie Star too! Well, it’s time to make it work until you can get rescued. Huh. The husband is actually competent at stuff. “How did you do that?”, she asks at one point. “I do this at my job”, he says sheepishly. She’s good at stuff too. “Wow!”, he says after she solves a problem. “You’re really good at this. I never noticed.”

        He loses his gut. Not that she needs to lose her gut, but she loses her gut. They get tanned and muscular and they’re like teenagers again. He spears fish and starts fires. She collects berries and weaves palm fronds into usable containers. Right when she realizes that they’re pregnant again, hurray! Discovered by the Coast Guard! The kids are on the boat! “We were so worried but gramma and grampa took care of us and we were never in any peril whatsoever and your absence inspired us to study harder and do better in school.”

        That’s the best I got without a plague or The Joker killing people.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        Wait, I can save this. The lady in the different era is from the desired demographic. Easy peasy.

        So we can have her engage in all kinds of acrobatics (she’s a baroness! The baron is unsympathetic! Or sympathetic but absent! Anyway, it’s a permission slip!) and when stuff gets a little too intense, we shift focus back to the researcher.

        When the researcher is too uptight and stuffy or unlucky (how did yet another date go wrong!) we can jump back to the baroness and see how her date went right. Better than right! Two dudes! At the same time! How scandalous! How torrid! I don’t approve of that at all! Better switch back to the modern day again!

        And so on.

        Hrm, is this one of those things where it should, instead, be swapped around?

        Have the researcher be happily married with kids and reading a story about a scandalous baroness and we can see how her research is having her hit on her husband in new and interesting ways and that rekindles between them?Report

        • J_A in reply to Jaybird says:

          Actually, this last one version could be very good.

          (Apologies if by any chance this is exactly Outlander’s plot. I haven’t watched the series.)

          (I hope it isn’t Outlander’s plot since I watched the first episode and found it trite and annoying, so as much as I like historical fiction, this one was a very hard pass)

          (The reason I find it annoying is because I immediately identified with the Husband, who, AFAICT, was a decent bloke that really loved her. I’m a sucker for decent blokes. In rom coms I mostly root for the other guy, you know, the one that gets dumped through not fault of his own)

          (Hey, perhaps Kristin would be kind enough to write a post from the POV of the dumped guy or gal who is decent and loves the protagonist but can’t sweep her/him off her/his feet. That’s a novel I would read.)Report

        • veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

          I once wrote a story where the protag was a romance fan, so I moved back and forth between her life and the life she was reading about. At the climax of the tale, in a stunning turn, the novel inspired her to step up, take a chance, and go for the girl she belongs with.

          It was fun.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

            That sounds awesome and like it would sell.

            (But it’d be yet another story about two young beautiful people starting out.)Report

          • Mysstix in reply to veronica d says:

            I’d read it! Did you post it somewhere or publish it? The plot kind of reminds me of Romancing the Stone. My mom, who devours romance novels and Fannie Flagg, introduced me to that movie as a youngin’ and I feel like it was successful for its time. It’s very Fannie Flagg-esque to have stories within stories too.Report

        • Kristin Devine in reply to Jaybird says:

          Jay, I would happily read any of them. I am honestly not that hard to please, it’s just that there’s really a stunning lack of anything that isn’t Twilight out there.Report

    • Kristin Devine in reply to Jaybird says:

      I had very seriously considering doing a two-fer on this and had BOMC in my stack of books to read, but the thing was, I just didn’t LIKE the book. I didn’t like it when I read it in the first place and I didn’t want to read it again. And as it was, this came out plenty long anyway LOL. But great minds did think alike on that!Report

  5. About Vacation Bible School:

    My memory is hazy, but my mother enrolled me in something like that at a local Baptist church when I was a child. The thing is, she was Catholic and as I later learned, didn’t particularly want me to become protestant. She probably just, as David Attenborough said, wanted a break from me. Entirely understandable. And as I recall, it wasn’t that bad, either, for my post-toddler, pre-Kindergartener (or pre-1st grader?) self.

    (I’m pretty sure it was VBS because a few years later I got involved, through a friend, with that same church, and they did have VBS. I served as one of the “middle schoolers who help out with things but don’t get paid” part of the program and helped put on the pageant, which was a puppet show.)

    Great post, by the way. I don’t have any real comment on the argument because I’m so unfamiliar with the literature. But it makes sense to me.Report

    • veronica d in reply to gabriel conroy says:

      I went to vacation bible school pretty much every year growing up. My most vivid memory was an assistant pastor, who was very obviously a closeted lesbian, teaching me to fight back when I got bullied.

      “Some you just have to hit them,” she said. “You’ll get in trouble, but it’s still the right thing to do.”

      I’m not sure if Jesus would entirely approve of her message, but on the other hand, he trashed the money lenders, so maybe “turn the other cheek” is right sometimes, but not others.

      In any case, vacation bible school is a thing.Report

    • Yep, and I think the VBSers go out of their way to make the lessons very generic and nondenominational for that very reason. Thanks for reading!Report

  6. LeeEsq says:

    I guess the reason that I find the husband problem really infuriating is that the paranoid parts of my mind make me believe that women put in the horrible men category for some reason. My relationship to women in the real world tends to be widely variable. Many of them seem I get along with just fine on a platonic level and have decently close friendships or even brother-sister types relationship. I have one friend where I jokingly refer to as my lesbian wife, she finds this hilarious.

    There are other women that I just seem to set off in.a bad way despite not really having any interactions with them. They just find me uneasy to be around and there is a since that they would kick me out of the hobby scene we are in together if they could. And sometimes they react in a way that is inappropriate. Like at a fundraising dance I was at least night, where one of those woman thought I took a bit too big of slice of cake and exploded at me. “Excuse me, are you going to eat all of that.” I just ignored her but I’m at the end of status enforcement policing somewhat frequently, so I really don’t like it.

    So with the husband problem, even though I’m not a husband and boyfriend, I just end up getting rather annoyed because I have the experience of irrational hatred directed at me and the feeling that there would be people that would like to an Athenian style ostracizing exile if they could.Report

    • Kristin Devine in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I’m not sure you are following what I’m saying when I talk about The Husband Problem. I’m sorry that you encountered a-holes, but what I was driving at had nothing to do with horrible men (because hey, I love my husband and would actually be very sad if he was murdered and turned into barbeque) and more of a desire for writers to simply come up with other approaches to romance novels other than having a 17 year old pretty pretty princess getting swept off her feet. It’s boring and does not take me out of my real life, not at all.Report

  7. Mark says:

    Are the classics, i.e. Bovary, Karenina, or Effie Briest, relevant to the Husband Problem?Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Mark says:

      All of those were written by men and passionate romance weren’t the point. Many were on how passionate romance can be quite superficial or even deadly and that real deep love is something else like Tolstoy’s Christian love for all humankind. The husbands in each of those novels were bad in ways similar to the husband problem but the lovers weren’t that great either because romance wasn’t the point.Report

  8. Jay L Gischer says:

    Hummm, well if the Husband Problem can be described as “he’s a great guy, but I’m kind of bored with him after 20 years together” then everyone – male, female, other, gay, straight, whatever – has a Husband Problem, and we can all kind of relate to that.

    But maybe it’s something else, it’s kind of hard to tell.Report

  9. Brandon Berg says:

    If anyone decides to now argue “if a male singer made a song like Goodbye Earl about killing his wife all the feminists would be OUTRAGED” kindly STFU. In 2017 which is like only three years ago or something, 137 women a day were killed by their domestic partners.

    To be clear, that’s globally. The US only had 47 murders total per day in 2017, and about 37 of the victims were men. For murders of intimate partners the numbers skew the other way, but now we’re looking at about three women per day in the US being murdered by intimate partners, and one man. That’s a big difference, but not so big that it makes sense to act like it’s an ever-present threat for women and a non-issue for men. This also doesn’t account for the fact that women sometimes get the guy they’re cheating with to kill their husbands, though I couldn’t find solid statistics on that.

    I don’t see anything to support the 70% claim on the page you linked, but it does say, “1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence (e.g. beating, burning, strangling) by an intimate partner in their lifetime.” Again, a significant difference, but not enough to justify the kind of double standard you’re using it to justify here.

    Mind you, I have no objection to a song celebrating a woman killing her abusive husband and wouldn’t have said anything if you’d just thrown the song in there without comment. I’m pretty pro-dead-criminals in general. I just don’t think a double standard is warranted.Report

    • Sigh. It’s literally the most Ordinary Times thing ever for me to throw in stats because I didn’t want to be accused of making a straw man argument regarding something that is absolutely 1100000000% obvious (men hurt women more than women hurt men) only to have someone come along and pick at the stats.

      Of course there IS a double standard when it comes to domestic violence and it is an ever present threat for women. There are at least two of us gals on this site, not exactly a massive sample size, who have encountered abusive situations personally, not to mention having seen it in other couples as well. Can you come up with instances of “but men tho”, sure, but I think most people would agree that the trend very much goes the other way and all throughout history, has gone the other way.

      This is one of those posts where I’m just going to have to walk away now because I literally cannot even with this. Thanks for reading.Report

  10. Jaybird says:

    Okay. This is a cross-promotional thing. You’re no longer thinking about selling one book. You’re now thinking about selling three.

    In the novel: We have a happily, if routinely, married couple. Good husband, good wife, good kids. They might be in a rut. But it’s a good rut. But they’re, seriously, overly familiar. She’s working in his office. He brings her a bowl of popcorn to snack on, because he loves her, and as he gives it to her, his thumb brushes a piece of popcorn and it falls on the floor. He bends over to pick it up which puts pressure on the area below the waist which makes some gas escape him. It’s not on purpose! It just happened!

    And it’s not a good one. It’s a bad one. She no longer wants the popcorn. She no longer wants to be in the room. Maybe they should sell the house? But who will want to buy a house that smells like poop?

    The wife reads a romance novel. This romance novel is the most cliche’d crap you’ve ever heard of. Fabio Lanzoni on the cover. Open the cover and it’s a picture of Jason Baca! Or vice-versa! And the story has horses and costumes and bodices and all sorts of torrid crap.

    Note: Companion Book: The book that she is reading in the story. Available as a downloadable novel from for $1.99.

    Anyway, this romance novel inspires her to hit on her husband. “Hey, instead of doing whatever tonight, can we watch a movie together?” They sit on the couch. She scoots next to him. He puts his arm around her. It’s a good movie.

    She continues reading the novel. There are descriptions of nipples.

    “Hey, wanna watch another movie together?” It’s a less good movie. Kinda bland. Kinda bad. She turns to him and asks “Hey, wanna make out?” And they start smooching on the couch! And *POW*! THERE’S TONGUE!

    One of the kids walk in. “EW! GROSS!”

    The romance novel continues. There’s now stuff that isn’t appropriate to even allude to.

    The wife gets a book like “Do One Thing Every Day Together”. They start doing one thing every day together.

    Note: Companion book: Do One Thing Every Day Together. Available from Amazon for ten bucks.

    The romance novel concludes, the husband and wife get a room at a B&B, they watch a movie that is downright *AWFUL* and he turns to her and says “Wanna make out?” and they make out and then stuff progresses and it’s even better than in the book that you can download for $1.99.

    I think that this overcomes the Husband Problem and, on top of that, moves additional product.Report

  11. Mysstix says:

    I loved reading this. It made me laugh, but more notably, I’m persuaded, which doesn’t happen often. I followed the writer here from Twitter, because she has quality tweets, I wanted to checkout her writing, and I loved FGTAWSC. Now, I feel like I need to write stories for middle aged, lesbian women. Thanks Kristin.Report

  1. January 29, 2020

    […] Fried Green Tomatoes and The Husband Problem: Since Valentine’s Day is looming on the horizon yet again, I decided to reread several of my fave romance novels just like I did last year. But this time, I’m reading literary books… […]Report