The Awful Truth | Grading the Hall Pass

A week off your relationship? A celebrity one-night stand? A mutually agreed upon hall pass may sound like an easy A, but columnist Paul Nakayama reminds us why that’s just cheating.

ISSUE: Winter 2011-12

DEPT: The Awful Truth

STORY: Paul Nakayama

Recently, I chatted with my editor at Audrey’s Fashion Night Out. It was nothing too cerebral, since I can’t speak intelligently about politics, the economy, science, literature or really anything besides video games or comic books. (How is a geek like me the relationship columnist, you ask? A steady delivery of cupcakes to a certain office in Gardena helps.) Nonchalantly, she turned to me and asked, “What do you think about hall passes?”

“Do they still use them in school?” I asked.

“No, you know, where you get a week off from marriage and live the single life,” she said.

My jaw dropped. “Your husband is right there!” I gasped. I mean, flattered, but I still gasped.

“What?! No, not with me! I mean as your next topic for the column!” She exclaimed, wide-eyed and likely offended.

I nodded understandingly. Oh. Right. Yes, that’s exactly what I was thinking, too. I took the awkward silence as an agreement on our new topic. And so here I am, the single guy talking about the troubles that married couples face.

In the 2011 movie, Hall Pass, by the Farrelly brothers, Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis are unhappy with their married lives, so their frustrated wives give them a guilt-free week to party like single men. Essentially, they’re authorized to bang anyone if they can pull it off. I don’t know about you, but the premise alone sounds like entrapment. They might as well answer their wives when asked if they look fat. But that’s how the movie goes and, like any predictable comedy, they learn the error of their ways and learn to appreciate their marriages. Of course, in the real world, a story like that can only end in UFC- style beatdowns, dismemberment and the splitting of assets.

But for the sake of adding a few hundred words to the column, let’s explore why a Hall Pass might come to be. I know a lot of married couples and, while they shall remain nameless, the number one complaint I get from the husbands is that sex is all but gone. They say they masturbate more now than when they were single, which means you should never shake hands with a married man. Either you’re too tired, she’s too tired, the kids won’t leave you alone or whatever the reason, sex is rarely as passionate or spontaneous or even available as it used to be. For some men, that’s like being the benchwarmer on a Super Bowl-winning team … they’ll eventually ask themselves, “Why am I wearing this ring?”

That’s not to say that the lack of sex is the biggest issue leading to a Hall Pass-destined marriage – it’s just the most common complaint I’ve heard. I’ve heard it so much that I’m starting to doubt the reasons why married men want man-caves. I’d assumed it was used as a mecca for video games and beer, but the truth might be closer to it being a den of rampant, desperate masturbation.

Part of the draw of the Hall Pass is the fantasy of it all (while the other part is having sex with other people). The grass is greener and all that. Isn’t that why every couple eventually has a what-if talk about their celebrity hall passes? You know, where you each choose five celebrities that you’re allowed to sleep with if the opportunity ever presents itself. But, of course, it’s never supposed to happen. If anything, the celebrity hall pass is a device by which a couple can gauge how much they love each other. For example, let’s just say that Anne Hathaway was all like, “Take me, Paul. I know I’m on your celebrity hall pass list because I read Audrey.” I would have to politely decline and say, “I’m far too happy with my girlfriend to recreate my favorite scenes from Love and Other Drugs with you, Anne.” Because I choose my partner and because I value living.

And vice versa, how would I feel if my girlfriend met Ryan Gosling at a party and he saved a puppy from a burning tent and then asked her, “I need to work on my incredible abs that even men can’t resist. You in?” I mean, at first, yeah, I’d be flattered that Ryan Gosling had the same taste in women as me, but then, I’d be like, “Wait a second ….”

The celebrity hall pass is supposed to be a hypothetical that never comes to be. It’s a game. Otherwise, Hollywood celebs would have celebrity hall passes, too, right? Actually, I just checked TMZ, and I suppose it kind of seems like they do. They call it “dating.” All right, new rule. I’m only talking about us regular folks.

Here’s the thing, though. I know married couples secretly do want a Hall Pass, of some kind anyway. How do I know this? Easy. I’ve been to a little place known as Las Vegas, the Hall Pass Capital of the World. At bachelor and bachelorette parties, do you know the craziest, rowdiest bunch? It ain’t the bride or the groom or the strippers, I’ll tell you that much. It’s the married folks. This is their vacation from marriage. Even if their lives are perfect with a giant home, perfect job, darling little kids, there’s something that becomes pent up inside of every good husband, wife, father and mother. Behind every puking bachelor/ette is a married person that wanted to get their drink on and party like they were single again. I’ve seen it. It’s terrifying.

Now, I’ve given you the reasons why I think Hall Passes could happen, but I should be fair and also give my reasons why, even as a single bachelor trying to live the life, they’re a bad idea. It’s not often that I allow myself to be cheesy in print, but I’m skeptical of Hall Passes because marriage is about building a life together with the things that matter most, and that’s got to be more important than one week of sex with Anne Hathaway. (Maybe … still thinking … no, marriage is more important.) Marriage is one of those promises that take so long to find and so much work to make that breaking it just doesn’t make sense to me. You break the rules once, and you’ll probably break them again. It’s kind of like quitting cigarettes — every now and then you’ll want a stick when drinking. And I want marriage, should I ever find myself in one, to transcend that sort of thing. Unlike comedies, I’m certain that most people can’t recover from a Hall Pass.

I think most married people forget how much it sucks to be single. They’ll say it every now and then, but it’s not a true recollection of the loneliness and desperation. Masturbating a lot as a married man? Please. That’s because you’re keeping count. Being single means always trying to find someone to share things with, and yes, those things include your penis or vagina. Ironically, despite the complaints about the lack of sex in marriages, the strikingly lonesome thing about being single is not the quest for sex; it’s the hunt for companionship. And that hunt can take years, so why ruin it for a week of fun?