After teaching a writing class one summer, Diana and one of her students started dating. Soon enough Diana was in love. The only problem: He had signed a contract to star on a reality show called “Arranged Marriage.”
As part of a new monthly series, NewsWorks presents this story from the First Person Arts Podcast. The story was told in front of a live audience at a First Person Arts story slam, where folks tell true-life stories around a theme, no notes allowed. The theme that night was “daily grind.”
Diana Spechler was teaching a writing class one summer. Andrew was one of her students, working on a novel about aliens involved in a bank heist. After the class ended, they started dating and soon enough Diana was in love. The only problem was that Andrew had signed a contract to star on a CBS reality show called “Arranged Marriage.”
You can listen to Diana’s story with the audio player above. [Audio production by Kimberly Haas.] Read her story here:
Women all over the world were going to apply to be his wife. Eventually, he’d choose one to marry, and his wedding and the first year of his marriage would be broadcast on TV.
Well that fall, Andrew and I stay up nights talking, drinking, cooking, and everything’s perfect — except the CBS people keep calling. And I listen to Andrew describe for them his perfect woman, who doesn’t sound much like me. She sounds like a porn star … who’s also a genius.But, I have an advantage over all the wife applicants. I know Andrew. I’m his girlfriend. All I have to do is keep making him happy until he tells CBS that he’s sorry, but that he’s found true love in real life. So my daily grind becomes doing Andrew’s laundry, making him lasagna, editing his alien novel — but I worry if I become too much like his wife he’ll want someone else. Because, to quote Andrew, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”Well, one night in late January, he’s looking at pictures of potential wives, and I’m pretending not to notice, and he says, “You should apply to be my wife.”And I say, “Really?”And he says, “No.”And I say, “Good, because I wasn’t going to anyway.”And he stands, puts his hands on my shoulders and says, “I hate it that I’m hurting you.”And I say, “Then stop hurting me.” And he just hugs me and doesn’t answer.But a couple weeks later, it’s the day before Valentine’s Day, and he says, “I’m taking you to dinner.” I know he doesn’t want to take me out on Valentine’s Day, because Valentine’s Day is a Hallmark holiday. He thought that himself. And I think, “Finally, tonight he’ll tell me, ‘I choose you.'”So we’re at dinner, and I’m all dressed up, and I’m waiting for the big declaration. And he sets his fork down, looks at me, and says, “I don’t love you.” Then he says, “But you’re a beautiful person inside and out.”I don’t know if you’ve ever lost your boyfriend to a woman he’s never met, but it’s kind of like losing your best friend … to an imaginary friend. But some months later, when you get perspective, it’s kind of like you didn’t lose anything. It’s kind of like you won.
We caught up with Diana to see where she is today.
1. Looks like the show was canceled before it aired. Did they actually tape any episodes?
I did hear from a shaky source that before CBS canceled “Arranged Marriage,” an episode was filmed (although never aired) in which one couple got married. A real, legal marriage.
I’m probably spreading rumors, but I like to imagine that somewhere out there, a man and a woman with crushed reality-television dreams are doing yard work together and shopping for throw pillows at Pier One Imports.
Maybe they’re in marriage counseling. Maybe they’re in love. Maybe they’re one of those couples that says things like, “We’re not really dessert people,” and “Our cat is basically our child.”
2. What is your relationship with Andrew like now?
Nonexistent. We never spoke after we broke up. We’re not even Facebook friends. To clarify my criteria for Facebook friends, I recently accepted a friend request from a stranger in Pakistan, the girl who bullied me in sixth grade, and a person I thought was dead.
3. What is your current favorite reality TV show and why?
The only television shows I watch are “Girls” and “Louie.” I also love the web series “Misadventures of An Awkward Black Girl.” Reality television doesn’t appeal to me.
But about a decade ago, my friends and I obtained an entire season of a show called “Sorority Life” and watched it all in a day until our eyes burned and our backs hurt and we felt like we might throw up — and also like we were dumber. It was amazing. But awful. But addictive. But so wrong.
Soon after, we had “Sorority Life” T-shirts made. We were kind of being ironic, but mostly we couldn’t stop thinking about those sorority girls. I wore my T-shirt for years.
Diana Spechler is the author of the novels “Who By Fire” and “Skinny.” She teaches writing in New York City and for Stanford University’s Online Writer’s Studio.
First Person Arts is a Philadelphia nonprofit dedicated to transforming the drama of real life into memoir and documentary art. You can find Diana’s full story and others on the First Person Arts free weekly podcast, which premiers on iTunes on June 25th.