For better or worse, in quarantine
Samantha Bee and Jason Jones are both known for their comedy, but it turns out they're especially good at improvising. Their weekly program on TBS, "Full Frontal," usually tapes in New York City, but when coronavirus shut it down, they headed upstate, taking their three kids, and their show, with them.
And now, after 19 years of marriage, it's togetherness like never before.
Correspondent Tracy Smith asked, "I mean, you guys are old pros that kind of, being in each other's business, you've worked together for a long time now. So, is it different now that you are locked down?"
"I think the biggest thing I realized is that she chews too loudly," Jones replied.
"That's true," said Bee. "And Jason sleeps too loudly.
"I do! I'm a loud sleeper. I don't snore. I'm just a loud sleeper. I make sounds."
Kidding aside, For Bee and Jones, and the other 60 million or so married couples in America, the past eight weeks have been a real eye-opener.
The vows might say "'Til death do us part," but they don't say anything about being together all day, every day.
Smith asked psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb, "This is a time when people are losing their lives, there are people risking their lives going to work every day. Is it a little indulgent for us to be talking about romance?"
"Not at all," Gottlieb replied. "There's no hierarchy of pain. Pain is pain, and suffering is suffering. So, for some people, they're suffering loss of life. Other people are losing out on things, like they're not gonna go to their child's graduation. And those are real losses. And so, I think it's important that this isn't the grief Olympics. We don't need to measure it on some kind of scale of whose [pain] is higher on this hierarchy."
Gottlieb is the author of "Maybe You Should Talk to Someone," and right now, a lot of married folks are talking to her.
What is she hearing from couples? "What's interesting is we talk so much about isolation. And I'm hearing a lot from couples about not having enough space."
Jason jones said, "I used to make fun of George W. Bush when he used to go down to the ranch and clear brush. That was his thing, right? I get it now. Yeah, totally get it."
"Yeah, Jason's, like, a hole digger," said Bee.
There are no holes a thousand miles away in Memphis, Tennessee, in the backyard of DeVonté and Alyssa Payton, but they have some of the same issues. And with three kids, and another due in August, privacy is nearly impossible.
"My tub is my sanctuary," said Alyssa. "The bathtub and, yes, sometimes the toilet. I just lock the door and just be quiet, and it's the only door that locks in our room."
And having a door that locks might be important for other reasons. Gotlieb notes, "Touch is so important. What we're experiencing right now is 'skin hunger.' It's a phenomenon where our nervous systems get activated when we don't have physical touch. Because we're not getting that out in the world with the normal sort of hugs and handshakes in the ways that we would normally get that, it's really important that we're getting that from the people that we're social distancing with in our own households."
Smith asked the Paytons, "There's actually something called skin hunger that we all as humans need touch."
"Physical touch is my love language," said Devonté.
"And mine, not so much," said Alyssa. "How we made it to four children, I don't know!"
Of course, not every marriage is quite as strong as the Paytons': The most recent government figures say the divorce rate actually dropped in the past ten years, but now there's speculation that the quarantine could make those divorce numbers jump.
Laura Wasser, a family law attorney in Los Angeles, described the meaning of "corona divorce": "We're getting a lot of calls from people at their wits' end with their spouses or live-ins and, you know, we try to kind of talk them off the ledge."
Wasser knows her way around a divorce court. Among her past clients: Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, and Maria Shriver. What's more, two of the stars of "Marriage Story" – Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson – both hired Wasser for their real-life break-ups.
"There have been situations where I have seen how people behave and I think, 'They're not gonna, there's no amount of counseling that they will make this through,'" Wasser said.
Smith asked, "Is there one particular attitude or something that you could pinpoint?"
"Yeah, but I would have to use profanity."
"It's somebody being a real a*****e," said Wasser.
So, if you just have to get away, and can't afford her $950-per-hour fee, she has a website called It's Over Easy that'll take you through the divorce process for around $1,500.
But Wasser also told us that, even when the quarantine is lifted, she's not expecting a big stampede for the divorce court.
"Without sounding too Pollyann-ish about it, I really do think that if people are about to communicate and use tools and get, you know, more intimate with each other, both intellectually and physically during this time, they might come out of the quarantine stronger," she said.
"You say that as a divorce lawyer?" asked Smith.
"I do. I've been doing this for a long time, and I see human nature and human relationships, and I do think that if people can make it through a situation like this – like they say, 'If it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger'? The same goes for a relationship."
And she may be on to something.
Smith asked Bee and Jones, "I'm trying to think of a word that isn't corny; are there 'gifts' of this lockdown?"
"It is a gift," Bee replied. Turning to Jones, she said, "Don't even look at me when I say this, but I'm enjoying … I feel very close to you. I love you. It's fun working with you. Sorry! This is where I married you because I enjoy you, right? I apologize for being real!"
Smith asked Gottlieb, "Are you hopeful about relationships and how everybody's gonna end up when we're finally allowed outside again?"
"I feel like people are now looking at what is really important to me, and who matters to me, and what can I do to nurture those relationships," she replied.
"We're treasuring it a little more?"
"We're not taking each other for granted any more," Gottlieb said.
For more info:
- "Full Frontal With Samantha Bee" (TBS)
- "Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed" by Lori Gottlieb (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), in Hardcover and eBook formats, available via Amazon
- Laura Wasser, Wasser, Cooperman & Mandles, P.C.
- It's Over Easy
Story produced by John D'Amelio. Editor: Steve Tyler.
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