WASHINGTON -- Did you see the recent "Modern Love" column in The New York Times by a woman who sits down with her boyfriend once a year to update their four-page, single-spaced "relationship contract"? The story made for fairly painful reading, particularly for the romantically inclined, inasmuch as it contained negotiated details such as who cleans the kitchen counters and who cleans the bathtub, as well as rules for the proper disposal of sweaty socks.
But it was so much more than boring. It also was irritating ("We each have desires that deserve to be named and recognized ... ") and monumentally pretentious ("We agree to be monogamous because, right now, monogamy suits us.")
I instantly conspired with my friend Gina Barreca, the feminist scholar, to come up with a more realistic and down-to-earth contract. The key was intense negotiation.
We will not be one of those couples who, at a party, sits next to each other as if sharing one femur; this, however, in no way condones infidelity. Should a flirtation result, both parties agree that it will be frankly evaluated and deconstructed afterward by the concerned party at whatever length necessary, probably a length so great that this offense will likely never happen again.
We will read at least two of the same books per month so that we can discuss them. In one of these books, much of the dialogue will be interior, involving long-repressed emotions, wistfulness and yearning. In the other, there will be punching of faces. In neither book will there be even a single vampire, inasmuch as we solemnly agree we are not adolescents.
Commercial breaks are not occasions to change TV channels without the consent of the other party. Such actions are therefore prohibited. This rule will be suspended on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays during the month of October, when the baseball playoffs unhappily coincide with the football season. In exchange for this generously offered kindness, both parties will agree to watch "Say Yes to the Dress" together twice a year, with no snide commentary.
While we agree in principle (with some reservations on the part of one party) that joke-telling is a skill that benefits from rehearsal, we stipulate that there will be no tedious telling of the same joke in exactly the same way (including pauses, facial expressions and hand gestures) more than twice a year. No exceptions will be made for out-of-town guests.
In bed, we will not move abruptly and vindictively in order to awaken the other person who has the temerity to be asleep when we are not, or to be snoring, snorting or farting. Moreover, we acknowledge mutually, if with extreme reservations on the part of one party, that the snorer, snorter or farter might possibly be female, because it happens sometimes, even if it must not ever be referred to outside of this document.
We will agree to robustly celebrate designated holidays of which we mutually approve, such as Halloween and Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve, and pointedly ignore others, such as New Year's Day, whose purpose is sullenly recuperative and is traditionally filled with unnecessarily guilt-inducing pledges of self-improvement, often disproportionately involving weight loss. Moreover, we agree that inasmuch as Valentine's Day is generally celebrated in one direction only, in compensation the male in this relationship can choose whatever idiot holiday for which he wishes to be feted, such as National Fried Chicken Day, which is July 6, and for which the male spouse will be gastronomically rewarded, as revolting as that is.
Both parties acknowledge that it is a scientific fact that they will age at exactly the same rate -- that despite certain long-standing, heinous societal assumptions, women do not age at seven times the rate of men, the way dogs do, or at 3,600 times the rate of men, as butterflies do. This final item was written by one party in the hope the other party stops secretly obsessing about this thing. Because he loves her.
Gene Weingarten can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @geneweingarten. Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon Eastern at www.washingtonpost.com.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post Writers Group