Redux: Marriage On A Leash

What would it be like to spend a full 24 hours within 15 feet of your spouse? David Plotz and his wife Hanna Rosin gave it a try. They learned quite a bit about each other, drove one another a little nuts and found a few moments of transcendental mindfulness. This story originally aired June 19, 2008.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand. Last summer, we read about a Buddhist couple who truly defines the concept of togetherness - when they eat, they share a plate; when they read, they share a book. Well, last summer, my old radio soul mate, Alex Chadwick, and I talked with another couple that tried something like that. Slate's David Plotz and his wife, Hanna Rosin, spent 24 hours never separated by more than 15 feet. Hanna realized from the start it wasn't going to be easy.

(Soundbite of NPR's Day to Day, June 19, 2008)

Ms. HANNA ROSIN: Well, you know, I had stuff that I do that I don't even think about doing, namely, I've put little things away. It's like the thing the wife does at night. It's like, you know, some - the child's shoe here on my bed and a gong, in this case, like my son's gong. So, I just run around frantically and put them away, while David sits in bed and reads whatever he's reading. And so, David …

Mr. DAVID PLOTZ: While David takes care of other things that maybe Hanna doesn't take care of.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. ROSIN: No, no. David is very, very super helpful, highly helpful, excellent domestic.

Mr. PLOTZ: I would put the gong away.

Ms. ROSIN: You would not put the - you wouldn't even see the gong. And so, I make David, who's already, like, snuggled in the bed, you know, doing his nighttime snuggleness, say, get up and follow me around. And so, which he says, this is annoying, this is annoying, this is annoying the whole time. So, that's how the experiment began. It was not auspicious.

BRAND: So, yes. (Laughing) So much for, you know, Buddhist mindfulness.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

David, I get this, when you're describing your morning starting off, where Hanna, to your complete surprise, actually goes through a routine of hair and makeup and selecting and - you know, you all have married for quite some time. You had no idea that she does this every single day.

Mr. PLOTZ: Yes, there's a period in the morning when Hanna's upstairs, you know, I assume getting dressed. And so, I was just sitting around in the bedroom waiting for her. And I discovered that, for example, she doesn't get dressed once, she gets dressed several times and tries on many different outfits. And then, there's a whole series of creams and emollients and powders and so forth, which I didn't even know existed, that are in our bathroom that she uses to enhance her natural beauty.

Ms. ROSIN: Well, this is why you wouldn't see the gong. Can I jump in there? I mean, routine and many is extremely exaggerated. It's hardly a routine - like, that's what ladies do. I don't have like a dressing room in which I, you know, luxuriously go through my clothes like Tyra Banks and like, shoes, you know.

Mr. PLOTZ: But - OK. No, but it was - no, but I - I'm not - sorry - I'm not really criticizing you, Hanna. I'm just saying it was a surprise, even after we've been married for 11 years, to discover your morning routine, because I've just never tune into it. There was no need to pay attention to it.

Ms. ROSIN: Right, right.

BRAND: So, then after you guys - you get dressed and go through all your morning rituals, you then go to David's office at Slate and, Hanna, you discover a little secret of your own about David.

Ms. ROSIN: Yes, the minute we get - the first thing David does when he gets to the office is head for the refrigerator and make sure that there's a cold Fresca in the refrigerator. Now, there are so many levels on which this (Laughing) was surprising to me, like, A, David's like a food snob, you know, he's - you know, food - the natural and the farmer's market. So, the idea that's not even 10 a.m., and he's having a cold soda is sort of a surprise to me. So, I'm happy to learn that. And B, David, like, has a prima donna fit because somebody's forgotten to put the col - and he's like - he's like heat coming off of his body. He's so angry about the fact that nobody put a Fresca.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PLOTZ: But it's not …

Ms. ROSIN: First of all, who drinks Fresca? I mean, to go back even further - Fresca? Isn't that like a 1991…

Mr. PLOTZ: Fresca - it's a delicious citric soda. It's a office courtesy, when you finish the soda to replace the soda, and no one had replaced the Fresca. So, I was upset about the Fresca.

Ms. ROSIN: You know, this is like - this is where knowledge - I just say the word Fresca and David's still…

Mr. PLOTZ: I'm still - I'm sweating, Madeleine. If you could see me …

Ms. ROSIN: (Laughing) Goes through the whole routine again like it's, you know - this is not knowledge and Buddhism. I think you're supposed to sort of learn and have self-knowledge, but I bet in 10 years if I just say Fresca, David will launch into this tirade.

Mr. PLOTZ: Well, there was one moment I thought of shared consciousness, which was that Hanna - when we came into the office at Slate, Hanna got into conversation with a colleague of mine who has children at the same school as our daughter. And I had had exactly the same conversation with this colleague a day earlier, and so, it was actually really very tedious to me, especially because all I wanted to do was get started on the work day. As I stood there tapping my feet, as an act of will, I said, you know what, this is - the experiment is try to be with Hanna and feel how she's thinking and take the pleasure in the conversation that she was having. And I found that it was a moderately successful venture.

BRAND: Hanna, were you thinking, I need to have this conversation, or were you thinking about David standing there kind of tapping his foot and wanting to get away?

Ms. ROSIN: You know, I'm going to sound really mean here. I think that there was a part of me that was doing it a little bit on purpose. I mean, he could clearly tell that he really wanted to get to his cubicle and do his thing, and so, I was doing it a little bit on purpose, just a little bit.

CHADWICK: David, there actually comes a moment - she kind of goes behind a cubicle and you're - there's a wall between you. You're both working away there, but it's the first moment in the day when she's actually disappeared for some period of time, and suddenly, what?

Mr. PLOTZ: It was very disconcerting. We were very close. We were only, you know, eight feet apart, say, but there was a barrier between us, and I found it bizarre. I was anxious.

BRAND: Hanna, did you notice?

Ms. ROSIN: I didn't, I'm sorry to say, but you know, the more I hear David talk, I think, you know, he really was fixated on the 15 feet. It's like, anxious? No, I knew David was right there. I saw him out of the corner of my eye, like, I had no reason to be anxious. I think David was anxious because we were (Laughing) violating the rules of the experiment.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PLOTZ: No, we weren't. You're - that's so uncharitable of you. We weren't, that's what I was saying. You were eight feet away. We weren't violating it. It was like…

Ms. ROSIN: Right, but you just couldn't see me for a minute. Right.

Mr. PLOTZ: I couldn't see you. We were inhabiting different worlds, physically and psychologically.

BRAND: Well, speaking of minds and consciousness and all that, do you feel like you got a little step closer to this Buddhist notion of mindfulness or not?

Ms. ROSIN: I only felt that way at the very end of the day. There is this thing that couples do at the end of the day which is the "what did you do today" ritual. You might be bragging. You might be sad. I mean, it's just - it's like a narrative you're saying to your spouse. And it's not a bad thing, but it's a bit of an artificial thing, and David and I did not have to do that because we spent the whole day together. And so, there was just kind of a peace descending at the end of the day. We didn't have to have that conversation, except sort of psychically or spiritually. You know, we were connected in that way without the presentation.

BRAND: Would you do it again?

Ms .ROSIN: I would. David wouldn't, I bet?

BRAND: Really?

Mr. PLOTZ: I began this totally as a stunt, and, you know, it was very fun to do. But it was also - I really did feel like I'd learned something about how Hanna and I spend time together and, you know, what I value and what I don't. And I thought it was incredibly enlightening.

Mr. ROSIN: Nine out of 10 emails I've gotten have been people saying, you know, ugh, yuck - like, not ugh, yuck, you guys but ugh, yuck about their own relationship, like, no ways we could get through 24 hours of this. And I don't believe it. I mean, really, it seems to me any couple could get through 24 hours, even if they don't believe about themselves.

CHADWICK: Hanna Rosin and David Plotz write about a day no more than 15 feet apart from each other. It's at Slate.com and Slate V. Hanna, David, thank you.

Ms. ROSIN: Thank you guys.

Mr. PLOTZ: Thank you.

BRAND: Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: NPR's Day to Day continues.

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