A Marriage Contract

Andrew Sullivan —  Sep 4 2012 @ 9:49am

From a comprehensive agreement between Vonnegut and his wife dated January 26, 1947:

I, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., that is, do hereby swear that I will be faithful to the commitments hereunder listed:

I. With the agreement that my wife will not nag, heckle, or otherwise disturb me on the subject, I promise to scrub the bathroom and kitchen floors once a week, on a day and hour of my own choosing.

Not only that, but I will do a good and thorough job, and by that she means that I will get under the bathtub, behind the toilet, under the sink, under the icebox, into the corners; and I will pick up and put in some other location whatever movable objects happen to be on said floors at the time so as to get under them too, and not just around them. Furthermore, while I am undertaking these tasks I will refrain from indulging in such remarks as "Shit," "Goddamn sonofabitch," and similar vulgarities, as such language is nerve-wracking to have around the house when nothing more drastic is taking place than the facing of Necessity.

Update from a reader:

Before imagining that Mr. Vonnegut was a husband ahead of his time, dutifully sharing household obligations in the age of Ozzie and Harriet, we should note that it was not a "marriage contract" that he signed – the agrement lasted only "until that time after the arrival of our child when my wife will once again be in full possession of all her faculties." Once Ms. Vonnegut had a screaming infant on her hands, it was back to scrubbing her own kitchen floor, thank you.