ANDOVER, Mass. It’s 9:45 p.m. in this northern suburb of Boston, and two pastimes of the evening are about to come to simultaneous conclusions. In her living room, Myra Florin has just finished reading “Love’s Tender Dew Drops,” a 240-page middle-brow work that has left her in tears and slightly sloshed from the $9-a-bottle chardonnay she’s been slurping down as she raced through the final three chapters.
Out on Interstate 495, her husband Phil is returning from a night out with his friends “candlepin” bowling, a variation of the ancient game that persists in this region despite its higher degree of difficulty.
As he turns the key in the lock Phil has a big smile on his face, a manifestation of the positive effects that light exercise and fermented malt beverages have on the human male. His happy mood is dispelled when his wife sees him and explodes in an unfocused rage against his sex, however, even though he’s returned home sober and only briefly glanced at the Lycra yoga pants of the female bowlers one lane over.
“Hi, honey!” he says in a pleasant tone, facetiously adding “Did you miss me?”
“Miss you? I don’t think so,” she snaps, then storms off to their bedroom, poking her head out the door to say “Men are such jerks!” before slamming it shut.
Phil is left puzzled and speechless, but begins to understand when he sees the cover of the novel his wife was reading. “I should have known,” he says as he picks it up and throws the paperback in a recycling bin in the kitchen. “I guess I’m sleeping on the couch,” he says to this reporter, as he plumps up a decorative pillow that he would ordinarily disdain and places it behind his head in the hope of making his night a bit more comfortable.
Myra Florin suffers from Chick-Lit Munchausen Syndrome, an ailment whose onset is triggered by white wine and exposure to one-sided works of literature in which all males are bad and all females are good. “CLMS is a variation of Munchausen Syndrome, a disorder that manifests itself by false claims to be ill,” according to Dr. Norman Ortwein of the Center for the Study of Diseases Named After Fictional Characters. “In the chick-lit strain of the disease, women read books with mean male characters and experience symptoms of oppression by their husbands and boyfriends that have no basis in reality.”
*sniff* Suffering is so . . . noble!”
Munchausen Syndrome is named after a fictional German nobleman created by Rudolf Erich Raspe in a 1785 novel “Baron Munchausen’s Narrative of his Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia.” Chick Lit Munchausen’s is an airborne disease that is spread by talking at so-called “book groups,” where members meet to praise each other’s decorating tastes, drink white wine, and forget which character is which in the work assigned for the week.
But Phil Florin doesn’t need an M.D. degree to know from past experience that it is best to let the disease run its course and not self-medicate. “She’s got to get it out of her system,” he says as he lays back and turns on the TV to watch Australian rules football on ESPN 22. “I can’t apologize when I don’t know what I did, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to read that crap to find out.”