Elena Bowes

New York-London design & culture writer of a certain vintage looking for meaning and wholeness in life

Q&A with Holly Gramazio – The Husbands

May 26th, 2024
Books & Authors

I loved this book, and not because I want to swap husbands. I don’t, not even when he clips his toe nails into the toilet. That’s called true love.  Holly Gramazio’s entertaining debut novel The Husbands is a delight to read.  The protagonist Lauren comes home from a hen party to find her husband waiting for her. Only problem, Lauren is single. She’s tipsy but not that tipsy. All the evidence from the photo on her screen saver to an electricity bill seem to suggest that this man (whose name is Michael) is indeed her hubbie. When Michael goes upstairs to the attic to change a lightbulb, another man, or rather, another husband descends. It seems the attic can provide an endless supply of husbands.

There’s the one who pretends to play music on her toes.                                      

The one who’s too hot (there must be a catch)                                                    

The one who makes a great breakfast sandwich                                                     

The one who turns everything into double entendres (I’ll weed your garden)     

And the one who can calm her unruly thoughts with a single touch

Holly and I had an insightful conversation about husband swapping (pros and cons), when too much choice is not a good thing, and sometimes how you just have to bite the bullet and choose one. (Stretch, for the record, I was not biting any bullet when I chose you).

You can read the rest of the interview here on 26. Or listen to the full chat on my podcast Elena Meets the Author.

Elena: Choosing amongst an endless supply of husbands can be as hard work and soul destroying as online dating. Sending him back to the attic is a bit like swiping right. Can you tell us about the paradox of choice?

Holly:  I think it is very, very overwhelming. I’m terrible at making decisions. When I went on my U. S. tour, the very first night I got in, I checked into my hotel in New York. I thought, okay, this is great. I should go out and get some dinner. It’s about 7. 30, 8 o’clock. And there’s a burger place on one side of the hotel and a ramen place on the other side. They opened the menus. I thought, Oh, I can order to pick up. That’s great.’ I filled in all of the criteria for the burger and then was like, Oh, maybe I don’t want a burger. Maybe I want ramen.

I took a break, made a decaf coffee, had a sit, looked out of the window, tried to sense within me what choice I wanted. I do want ramen. (But) they had both closed. I had spent so long dithering between just two choices that I had to go around the corner, get a carton of cardboard tasting strawberries and have that for my dinner.

Elena: And it was only between two.

Holly: I was talking to someone about this who was saying that even when you’re literally on a date, you feel like there’s probably someone better in your phone, in your pocket.  I think the sense of abundance certainly makes me, and I think a lot of other people, feel like there must be one correct choice, and you just have to figure out what that correct choice is.

But the truth is with potential partners, or with restaurants to get your dinner out before they close, or places to live or jobs to do, there are some that would be terrible for you, right? It’s not that anything will do. There’d be some that would be fine, you could probably make them work. And there’d be some that would be great. Everything will have its little annoyances Everything will have its strengths and joys.

Elena: not deal breakers.

Holly: Yeah, and feeling like you need to pick the exact correct one is what ends up with me eating some cardboard strawberries because the restaurants have all closed,

Elena: Exactly. And at some point, you have to decide. At some point, Lauren has to decide.

Holly: And it might be that you decide on a thing that doesn’t work out, and that’s fine. It’s better to have given it a go and gone, ah, this didn’t work out, rather than perpetually suspending the attempt until you’re totally convinced that this is the right meal, this is the right job to apply for, whatever it might be.

Elena: You might not have met your husband had you only read his dating profile. Can you tell us that story?

Holly: Yes. Oh, my goodness. So, after we’d been dating for a couple of months, he suddenly sat up and looked at his phone and was like, Oh no, I forgot to delete my dating profile. I made him let me read it before he, he deleted it.

It wasn’t red flaggy or anything. It was just really, really dull. It was mostly about his work. It was written in this sort of very perky tone where everything had an exclamation mark, and it didn’t really speak to a personality. It was just this kind of splurging of indiscriminate enthusiasm.

I thought, there’s nothing wrong with this. If a friend told me she was dating this man, I’d be like, yeah, okay, fine. Hope that works out for you. But I would never have sent a message to it. I would have just scrolled right through and gone, Well, that seems a little bit dull. But because we met in the real world and had a conversation, long before I ever saw the profile, it went a very different way.

Elena; Is there a solution to how you could improve online sites so you really see the real honest person?

Holly: It’s very difficult, isn’t it? Everyone wants to put their best foot forward and people don’t necessarily have a good sense of what about them will be appealing to the people scrolling through. Maybe there’s a twist on it, maybe you only get shown five faces a day, or maybe women have to send the message first or whatever it is, but the fundamental interaction in most dating apps is still this same look at the profile. Swipe yes or no, see if there’s a match.

I think it’s a shame. There are some people that it works really well for, but I think an ecology where there’s a greater variety of different types of interaction is really healthy. I was on Ok Cupid, the dating app for giant nerds who want to answer 800 questions and get weird percentage matches. I thought it was fun to be able to see which deal breaker questions people had answered in different ways. Seeing the way people had responded to the different prompts was amusing. It’s not like there’s one methodology that’s the solution for everyone.

I used to love writing profiles for friends. My favourite was I put out the offer to anyone I’d met saying, I will write your dating profile if you want me to this week. And the one that I enjoyed most was for a guy that I’d only met a couple of times. So, I just guessed a lot of things. I gave him opinions about types of cookies that perhaps he didn’t really have. Made up a lot of stuff and at the end just said this profile was written for me by someone who met me twice. If we go on three dates you will know me better than she does, and you can then rewrite one of these answers at your will.

And apparently that went quite well for him. I met him again a few months later and he was like, “Yeah, yeah, I’m dating someone now.’

May, 2024

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