"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way," Tolstoy wrote in Anna Karenina. In Ada, Nabokov reversed the dictum of his great predecessor, suggesting that "All happy families are more or less dissimilar; all unhappy ones are more or less alike." Which is right? In 2018, one man arguably tipped the scales in favor of the author of Pale Fire.
There is, after all, no evidence to suggest that during the two decades which passed without his uttering so much as a word to his wife, either Okou Katayama or his spouse was unhappy. The only person who seems to have found himself uncomfortable with the situation is their son, a typical, entitled millennial who probably live-streams himself playing Fornite and makes YouTube beanie raps for the Japanese version of Beto O'Rourke in between parentally financed self-care vacations. Kids these days think they deserve everything, including free and unlimited access to their father's voices, as if his vocal cords were some kind of digital content platform that you log into from your dorm room with your parents' password.
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Is a man really unable to express himself adequately simply because he does not address his wife with actual words? Consider the following no-doubt ordinary domestic situations:
"What color do you want to paint the bathroom?" Thoughtful groan. "I really like the yellow." Agreeable grunt. "But I think it would look tacky with that light." Analytical grumble. "So I'm thinking maybe the blue." Approving barely audible rasp. "We should just go with the yellow." Relieved silence.
"Do you want another beer?" Nod.
"My mother is going to be here this weekend." The brooding glacial quiet of ages.
"There's something wrong with the garbage disposal." Uncomprehending grumble.
"Can I buy these new shoes, which are absolutely on sale and a great deal and really comfortable and look great and the only shoes I'm going to want this month?" Noncommittal sigh. "By the way, I saw this lingerie set too." Warm grunt. "So the shoes?" Resigned nod.
"Do you think Junior should get a job and stop playing Nintendo and get a girlfriend who is not a digital clone of a giant robot from an X-rated anime cartoon?" Solemn nod.
"The tuition bill will be here next month. What do you think about maybe putting the boat up for sale?" Warlike grunt.
"Do I look fat to you?" Glance at the score of Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters game.
We wish we could report that Katayama has continued his manful silence, but, like the novel we quoted at the beginning of this notice, this story has a bittersweet ending. Earlier this year, after his son contacted local media, Katayama and his wife were ambushed in a park by television cameras.
"Somehow it's been a while since we talked," he finally said.
While we recognize that some couples may not be well suited to two decades of strictly nonverbal communication, the editorial staff of the Washington Free Beacon refuses to condemn their lifestyle, in keeping with our commitment to diversity, value pluralism, and alternative domestic situations and our opposition to heteronormativity. Which is why we are pleased to announce that Katayama is a 2018 Man of the Year.