This week’s issue of the New Yorker features a humor piece in its regular “Shouts & Murmurs” column about what would have happened if God had been dating a somewhat ditzy woman in the fashion industry when he created the universe. “Center of the Universe” is hilarious. But, as the fashion site Refinery 29 asked yesterday, is it also a tiny bit sexist?
The piece was written by the terrifyingly young and privileged Simon Rich, son of former New York Times columnist Frank Rich and brother of novelist Nathaniel Rich. Hired by SNL at 22, he became youngest SNL writer in the show’s history. Last year he paid $1.2 million for beautiful brownstone in Brooklyn. He is now just 27. All these things make me want to hate Simon Rich, but the truth is that he is consistently so funny that all is forgiven. Read “The Wisdom of Children,” from his amazing collection Ant Farm, published when he was a senior at Harvard (argh!), if you don’t believe me.
The opening of Rich’s latest piece echoes the book of Genesis, with God creating the heavens and the earth, and then separating the oceans from the sky. Enter God’s girlfriend, Kate, who, um, does not appear in the Bible’s version of the story. She complains that God has been so distant. The next day:
He finished the star He was working on and cabbed it back to the apartment.
“Sorry I’m late!” He said.
And lo: she did not even respond.
“Are you hungry?” He asked. “Let there be yogurt!” And there was that weird lo-cal yogurt that she liked.
“That’s not going to work this time,” she said.
“Look,” God said, “I know we’re going through a hard time right now. But this job is only temporary. As soon as I pay off my student loans, I’m going to switch to something with better hours.”
And she said unto Him, “I work a full-time job and I still make time for you.”
And He said unto her, “Yeah, but your job’s different.”
And lo: He knew immediately that He had made a terrible mistake.
“You think my job’s less important than yours?” she said.
“No!” God said. “Of course not! I know how difficult it is to work in retail—I’m totally impressed by what you do!”
“Today I had to talk to fourteen buyers, because it’s Fashion Week. And I didn’t even have time to eat lunch.”
As Neha Gandhi at Refinery 29 points out, “it’s hard not to prickle at the fact that the man in this relationship is God. And the woman is vapid, manipulative, and kind of whiny, in a profession that is literally diametrically opposed to the Creation of the World.”
Later in the piece, God gets stuck in a tedious phone conversation with Kate, who is a bit of a chatterbox:
“Caitlin is throwing this party next week for Jenny, but Jenny is, like, being so weird about it that I’m not even sure that it’s going to happen.”
“That’s crazy,” God said.
And she continued to tell Him about her friends, who had all said hurtful things to one another, each according to her kind. And while she was repeating something that Jenny had said to Caitlin God came up with an idea for creatures that roam the earth. He couldn’t get off the phone, though, because Kate was still talking.
So we have God, who is working on the most important project in the history of time, and Kate, who is a ditz who works retail and bores God with her stupid stories about her back-biting friends. Kate is not a terribly sympathetic character here. She’s a caricature.
But readers who stick through to the end are rewarded with something much more complicated: God actually likes Kate so much he’s willing to sacrifice his own career. Hell [heaven?], he even loves her. So as long we’re overthinking this thing to death already, I’m going to rule that this is more sweet than sexist. Read the whole thing and let us know what you think.