The Conversation



Liza Mundy’s June cover story, which laid out what straight couples can learn from same-sex ones, drew responses from both sides of the gay-marriage debate.

On one hand Mundy argues that these partnerships are more egalitarian and spouses therefore treat each other more fairly; some go to extremes to ensure nobody is being taken advantage of …

On the other hand Mundy tells us how some gay couples have accepted that when it comes to parenting, it can [be] much easier to have one spouse be fully in charge, while the other one is the primary breadwinner. Mundy quotes a 1981 book that explained that allowing one spouse to specialize in their profession while the other specializes in taking care of the homestead ultimately allows the working spouse to make more money [for] the household … A few paragraphs later she quotes a study that showed that the process of deciding who gets to work and who gets to stay home is often a fraught one, because neither partner is too keen on being the caretaker …

Mundy presents these almost utopian partnerships, in which the absence of a legacy of gendered expectations allows them to not just rewrite, but actually write the rules for their marriage and their lives …

If you read between the lines of the piece, you will see that while gays aren’t undermining marriage in any which way (and no sane person thought they would), they don’t exactly have it all figured out. And this is where the beauty lies. Marriage, when done right, isn’t a puzzle to solve. Instead, it is [a] complex and malleable system that twists and turns as [we] and our circumstances shift and change.

The couples in the story seem to be engaged in the same maddening and delightful task of figuring out how to make their partnership work as the straight couples I know who strive for egalitarian marriages … Perhaps a “Gay married people, they’re just like us!” approach wouldn’t have had a big enough hook to catch the cover of The Atlantic, but that is what I discovered reading it, and that is the story I liked.

Elissa Strauss
Excerpt from a Jewish Daily Forward blog post

Interesting article. An update every few years, along the lines of the old Seven Up documentary, is in order, to determine whether these differences of same-gender relationships are due to the novelty of legal marriage for gays and lesbians, as well as increased numbers of the committed long-term cohabiting, or actually are a litmus test for quality partnering, even groundbreaking models of relationship navigation and interpersonal problem-solving. Doubtless, gay/lesbian divorce is just as painful and even predatory, if not more so, especially when the age-old heterosexual bugaboos of property, money, and/or children are involved.

sammybaker comment

On the same cover are two titles: one about gay marriage and another about how the GOP can save itself (Molly Ball’s “How to Save the GOP”). On the surface, you would not think these could possibly be related. For me, the cover is very personal and connected. I am a lesbian with a partner of 20-plus years (no children, though), and my father has supported the Republican Party for just as long. My dad has paid my annual subscription for even longer—30-plus years, since I was in college. The Atlantic has provided topics of challenging discussions for many years. We both have appreciated the depth and range of articles. I’m sure I’ll have a debate with Dad over this issue, too—just a little more personalized.

Leslie [last name withheld]
Pensacola, Fla.

The cover photograph on your June 2013 issue—the guys holding hands—was so revolting that I ripped it off immediately. I tossed it right into the trash, trying as hard as I could not to defile my hands with it. I’ll think twice before renewing my subscription.

George Pollack
New York, N.Y.

The reason gay couples are so happy is that no one ever has a problem with the toilet seat being left up or down.

Cooper Ward comment


In June, Joseph S. Nye Jr. asked, “Do Presidents Matter?” In reaching an answer (essentially: “it depends”), Nye evaluated several of our past presidents. George W. Bush received the lowest grade, a D+.

It is ironic that Mr. Nye vilifies President George W. Bush in the same issue that describes the vilification of arguably our greatest president (Mark Bowden’s “Abraham Lincoln Is an Idiot,” about contemporary criticism of our leaders). It is all about the press’s hatred of the personality or the politics of the man in the office. Only after the hatred is gone, and the haters are dead, will President Bush rise in popularity. As with President Lincoln, cooler heads will then prevail, and the unbiased will realize that President Clinton left Bush with a terrible situation regarding Muslim terrorism. When the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993, Clinton prosecuted only the truck driver. When an FBI agent reported that Muslims were being trained to fly planes but were not interested in learning how to take off or land, even that was ignored. Like President Obama, Clinton saw no Muslim terrorism, only simple crimes.

Bush inherited a situation that called for serious and very expensive anti-terrorism action; the successful WTC attack was the final straw. Now the lefty press accuses him of lying to get us into war, even though Congress voted in favor almost unanimously. It’s called revisionist history; it helps with certain agendas.

Dan Landis
Broomall, Pa.

Joseph S. Nye Jr. Replies:

Despite Dan Landis’s conspiracy theories, my judgments were not partisan. Although I campaigned for his opponent in 1988, I gave George H. W. Bush my highest grade. In Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era (from which my article was drawn), I compare George W. Bush with a Democrat, Woodrow Wilson. I wrote that “while it is still too early for a definitive historical judgment on the Iraq War, what is clear at this point is that the twenty-first century opened with a crisis that led to failed transformational leadership. The leader lost his followers.” From what we now know, Iraq was a costly strategic blunder. On other issues (such as AIDS in Africa) George W. Bush did well.


In June, Carl Zimmer wrote about fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, a rare disease that locks its victims in cages of superfluous bone. He profiled a patient, Jeannie Peeper, as well as two physicians—Frederick Kaplan and Michael Zasloff—who have dedicated all or part of their careers, respectively, to finding the cause of, and a cure for, FOP. Presented here: an exchange between an online reader and Dr. Zasloff.

What a fantastic article. I’m so glad to hear how Kaplan persisted and worked with the network of people affected by FOP, to be at the point where human trials are in sight.

One thing I was curious about by the end of the article is whether Zasloff is still around, and if so, what his thoughts are on where this is going.

Exolon comment

Yes, Exolon, I am quite around, and very excited about the progress being made in the field by Fred Kaplan and his colleagues. I am very hopeful that we will see a therapy emerge in the near future, since several appear to be promising in animal models of FOP. One of our hopes is that we might be able to surgically remove ectopic bone on an individual, free up a joint, and not fear recurrent growth of bone at the site of surgery. That alone would be miraculous. And I think we are getting very close to making that happen.(And thank you, Carl Zimmer, for writing such a wonderful, and accurate, piece.)

Michael Zasloff comment

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