But what's it like to be the real man behind OITNB's least favorite character? Larry Smith, the real-life husband of Piper Kerman, upon whose memoir the Emmy-nominated Netflix show was based, has less in common with his fictional counterpart than you might think. They're both writers, and they're both in love with a blonde who served time in prison for a decade-old drug offense, but that's where the story diverges. The Larry Bloom of the show is an overgrown, entitled man-child who is constantly sulking about how Piper's sentence affects his life more than hers, stealing bits of her life story to make himself more interesting and failing to support her in the moments she needs it most.
Here's why we're glad Piper ended up with the real Larry instead of the fictional one.
1. He didn't guilt her for her past behavior.
Larry Bloom lost it a little bit when Piper explained not only that her ex-lover was a woman, but that she'd been suckered into helping out by smuggling money for her drug-trafficking ring. Larry Smith, on the other hand, had no hang-ups about the fact that Piper spent a significant part of her life dating women, and when she confessed that the police had come calling, he handled it without falling apart. "I didn't say, "Are you f***ing kidding me?" Clearly she wasn't. The blood did not drain out of my body leaving me lifeless, nor did I lose my mind and start screaming. I didn't, like Larry Bloom, exclaim, 'Who are you? I feel like I'm in a Bourne movie! Have you killed?' But I wish I had — it's a great line," he writes in a piece for Medium.com.
2. He understands that it's not about him.
It's understandable that your girlfriend going to prison for more than a year will definitely affect your life, but to the Larry of the show, it may as well only be happening to him, with not enough thought given to what it's like for Piper. "To be mad while she was freaking out before her departure or trying to navigate her new world didn't seem like a fair fight. I may have become an angrier person during Piper's time in prison, but I also became a more patient one," Smith wrote, displaying that he understands what is and isn't OK to be angry with her about.
3. He kept her non-prison life together for her.
"I had a part-time job keeping Piper's life in order while she did her time. I paid her bills, kept her email inbox from overflowing, and signed for her packages, wondering exactly when she had stopped bidding for vintage clothes on eBay. I began my own weekly visitation routine and managed her visitation list so that she wouldn't have three visitors one weekend and none the next," Smith wrote, and he made sure he could visit her as much as possible, emphasizing how important it is for prison inmates to have outside contact. "I visited nearly every week, once in a while crashing at a nearby motel so I could come back the next day," he wrote, but whenever the Larry of the show got petulant or angry, he punished Piper by failing to accept her calls or show up to visit.
4. He found the positive side.
Instead of dwelling on everything in their lives that had gone wrong, Smith and the real-life Piper committed themselves to making the best of it. "We had long, sometimes weird conversations about what was going on in her life and mine. She was making the best of her time: Friends filled her mailbox with books from her Amazon Wish List that she devoured; she wrote tons of letters (which were invaluable primary sources when she decided to write the book); she cranked out mile after mile on the prison track and picked up new skills in her job in the electrical shop. Above all, Piper was making friends on the inside who helped her survive in a way I simply could not. We didn't fight about random daily bulls***. We just hung out and enjoyed each other in a way we never had before, and in some ways haven't since," he wrote.
5. He told his version of their story without devaluing Piper's.
One of Larry Bloom's worst moments on the show was his NPR interview, spewing personal details about Piper's life that not only wreaked havoc on the professional life she hoped to return to outside of prison, but put her in very real danger on the inside... while simultaneously complaining about how hard her sentence was on him. Larry Smith, however, is happy to take the passenger seat. "The reality is that I probably enjoy this wild ride more than Piper does. She cares little about whatever level of celebrity she has and cares a lot about having a chance to speak out against the many problems of the U.S. criminal justice system that fly in the face of common sense," he writes. "And now, here's my version of the story. If you ever meet me, I hope you'll discover I am neither the saint of Piper's book, nor the schmuck of a hit show."
Larry Smith is exactly the kind of partner we'd want to have facing a prison sentence. Unless, of course, we're operating in the fictional world. If that happens, we're definitely picking Alex Vause.
Orange Is the New Black Season 2 is now available on Netflix.