Some are shocking. Others are heartbreaking or hilarious. They’re those seemingly unbelievable stories e-mailed to you by a friend, posted on Facebook or on a blog. And most of the time, they’re just not true.
“MARRIAGE — A MUST READ” is the latest one I’ve been tracking. It’s the soppy tale of a cheating husband who wants a divorce from his wife. After carrying her to the front door each morning for a week at her request (who does this?) he decides he’s madly in love with her and doesn’t want a divorce [sigh].
One of the questions often posted in response to this story is “Is it true?” Well, of course not!
David Emery debunks urban legends and online stories for About.com. He said he actually hadn’t heard this one before, but that “frankly, it reads like fiction.”
Really bad fiction, I would add.
I’d love to do a point-by-point destruction of this story, but I’m not sure I could outdo Katie Mullaly at The Buzz Media, who rabidly shreds this tale into the fine bits that comprise it. You can usually sniff out these “nary tales” pretty easily just by the fact that the people in them act much like people would act if a love-sick 12-year-old girl wrote the script of our lives — over the top heartbreak, drama-laden redemption and, oh, let’s just all have a bowl of strawberry ice cream.
In the latest version of the story (more on that in a second), the husband begrudgenly accepts his wife’s request that he give her “a month’s notice” before getting a divorce, that they not tell their son and that he carry her from the bedroom to the front door every day like he carried her into their “bridal room” on their wedding day. I’m not sure if he’s just plucking her up from bed and tossing her on the curb in her nightgown or what, but apparently this is supposed to be romantic. He obliges and as he’s forced to hold his wife each day he grows increasingly connected to her until he tells his mistress it’s over and tells his wife he’s been a schmuck and wants her back. Oh, and then she dies. Turns out she had cancer. Somehow he didn’t know and she died — on cue — in bed, just as he realized he was in love.
The latest iteration of the story ends with a message about how a Christ-centered marriage is sure to last a lifetime. God save the queen, live free or die, where’s the beef? OK, I threw in the last three as they seem to as little to do with this story as the story does with reality.
Interestingly enough, the earliest post of this story I can locate (it has evolved over the years) is on a web site called Fact of Arabs — not surprisingly there’s no plug for Christianity at the end. Oh, and put those tissues away, folks, the woman doesn’t have cancer and she doesn’t die in the original tale. It seems once the story got to Christian circles we had to change a few things. Because what good is a story if it doesn’t involve guilt and someone dying, right?
OK, so what’s my problem with these passed-around-the-web phony tales? Keeping physical contact with your spouse helps your marriage — I get it. Maybe I just don’t like the manipulation of a piece of fiction (even bad fiction) being passed around as true. But these web stories aren’t limited to soppy tales. A year ago someone e-mailed me the story of an 11-year-old girl in Montana who blew away a couple of illegal allien home invaders with her daddy’s shotgun (take that gun-control advocates! Take that immigration supporters! Blam! Blam!). Didn’t happen. How about the story about President Barack Obama’s alleged non-U.S. birth? Now we’re talking some serious stuff (here’s the birth certificate, by the way). Using stories to back your point has always been a good debate tactic. But if you have to resort to just making them up it’s kind of like pulling a gun at a boxing match — you’re breaking the rules and in this case the rule is “stay within the realm of reality.”