psychological thrillers and all things fucked up

He had a crush on one of the silhouettes in an iPod commercial.  He ‘d watch it online and pause it at the parts that featured her.  "I’m in lust with her," he said.  "I can’t help it.  She’s got my number."  I didn’t know anyone my age said that.  She’s got my number.  It was like hearing my Grandfather say, "Yeah, that Steven, he’s a card."  But he wasn’t my age.  He was 43, never married.  Lawyer.  Ivy-grad.  Eyes that were ringed with both green and blue.  "Full head of hair" was his favorite selling point. 

We dated via telephone.  Met online, then took it to the next level, back when I believed you needed a connection over the phone before meeting in person.  There were a lot of phone calls, the kind that you’d need to switch ears for, the kind that lasted through brushing your teeth.  The let’s fall asleep on the phone kind. 

He’d go to the movies sometimes just to get popcorn.  Though he was very particular about his theaters.  He’d only go to the AMC 25 on 42nd Street because every single movie played there, and the ticket buying machines worked.  He took pleasure in walking right through, watching "in amazement as the masses lined up to buy from the humans."  He said things that way.  Unlike me though, he wouldn’t go to the movies merely to fill time.  Chick flicks, he said, were out.  Well, what he actually said was, "Thus, chick flicks, which usually provide sappy, age-old, cliche-ridden, obvious messages, are not high on my list."  But when I mentioned Beautiful Girls as one of my favorites, he protested.   That movie, he said, is NOT a chick flick.  "My brother and I always use that movie as a model of our high school experience."  Besides, he admitted, the title track to the film was awesome. 

He liked psychological thrillers.  Well, that’s too easy.  Who doesn’t like a film that makes you say, "What the fuck is up with that????"  Memento.  Usual Suspects.  Primal Fear.  I thought things were going well.  But then he admitted he’d seen Notting Hill,in Notting Hill, and thought it was one of the worst movies he’d ever seen.  "Julia Roberts," he said, "has gots ta go already."  But then he redeemed himself.  "Albert Brooks is awesome." 

He liked Elton John’s b-sides from his early days.  Honky Chateau, Tumbleweed Connection, Captain Fantastic.  And he thought Sandra Bullock was masculine and "should join Julia wherever she hopefully goes."  He used air-conditioning year-round yet believed that being forced to drive on a highway come summer without the windows all the way down, was akin to being stuck with a smoker.  He liked David Mamet.  And I thought he liked me.  He thought so too.

And then we met.  He was good-looking, the kind no one would ever argue with.  He told me my photos didn’t do me justice, and just as he’d said it, I suspected he’d said it before, to rounds of women he’d meet in coffee shops.  Then he went for it.  "I’m feeling the chemistry, but there’s no point in sitting here telling our stories if you don’t feel it too."  Then he waited.  He wanted an answer, some confirmation, and it teetered on "What the fuck is up with that???"  He was impatient.  I didn’t tell him to calm down.  I smiled and said I felt the feeling was mutual.  He didn’t seem convinced.  "Let’s leave here and go have dinner," he suggested, taking my hand, already leading me out of Fourbucks.   We ate at Atlantic Grill.  Sushi.  "You have to try this.  I know you.  You’ll love this."  And in a way, I guess he did know me.  All that talk.  All our common quirks. 

And then he asked about my divorce.  And I unapologetically told the story he’d asked for, answering each question.  And then, I never heard from him again.  Well, not never.  For a while.  I resisted the urge to email or call.  It didn’t matter what happened; we weren’t going to.  But why?  I wanted to know!  And truth be told, I wouldn’t even have mentioned our "divorce chat" in the retelling of this story, except when I learned it was my "red flag." 

Weeks later, I heard from him via email.  He said he missed talking to me.  That I was "cool."  A cool girl, I think it was.  So I asked.  "What the fuck was up with that???"
"Just the way you got married, and then divorced.  Too much drama," he said.  "It’s never a good sign.  Usually means you’re a head case."
"Yeah, I’m betting your friends and family think you’re too picky."
"I can afford to be."

And just then I decided I didn’t like him anymore.   "I can afford to be" was suddenly obnoxious.  But was there truth in what he was saying?  Was I a head case because of my past and the things I’d allowed to happen?  Hell yes.  And I’m still a head case, though now I’m with someone who doesn’t mind so much.  And I guess that’s what we all want, someone who’ll love us through all our "What the fuck is up with that???" parts.   



  1. I have never posted to you before, but this one really struck me, so thought I should tell you, I loved your book, have bought it for several of my friends, and read your blog way too much. At least he did "email you weeks later"! What about those ones who send the unsolicited "you're so great" "I'm making changes in my personal life so that we can spend more time together" e-mails, then for NO reason completely drop off the planet? Clearly from what you said you had no idea it was the divorce story that was his hang-up – but it really does suck. Why can't people just be real, adults, and have the courtesy to say, hey, it's just not going to work? How do you go from one extreme to the complete other? Clearly I wasn't that into him either because I left it in his court to make contact – but he gets no excuses. It's just lame and disrepectful. I'll stop venting now. Hope you like Texas. I grew up there – didn't much care for all the bad hair days – live in California now – like goldlocks, where it's "just right". :)

  2. I have read your blog ever since I saw you on 20/20. You are now part of my everyday.
    How does it feel to know that.

    I hate cocky guys like that. They would never make good partners.

  3. Great post. Contrary to predecessors, my boyfriend doesn't mind me being slightly messed up either. Which is very liberating. That's how I know I've got a keeper :)

  4. really enjoyed this post…and several of the past ones, too. you're on a roll! i love how you can write so poignantly and then have that little "zinger" inserted in there, too. cracks me up.

  5. As a soon to be lawyer and sometimes headcase myself, I have been on the receiving end of similar questioning from the breed you describe and what I can say is this: lawyers need to leave the lawyering at the office. His "analysis" of you – interrogating you on the most obvious point of weakness in your history, discovering facts, reaching a conclusion – left out a pretty important part of social interaction – how he was feeling. Maybe he waits to feel anything prior to judgment about whether someone is worthy of that level of personal interaction, but at 43 and single, it seems like it may be time to change tack. Thank god you didn't get more mixed up with him.

  6. Then, would this be Between the Sheets story? I like the closing lines

  7. Great post.. love your writing, voice and point of view. I read all the time b/c quite frankly it's the best writing I read in awhile. Anyway.. this totally changes topics but I am looking for ideas of what to get a friend for her engagement party.. My friends already took care of the champagne flutes, nice wine glasses..etc. And I am not a cheesy person either is my friend. So candles with their name engraved or vases aren't my style, so if anyone has any good ideas, can you pass on?? I hope this is not rude to ask,, just figuring people many have some ideas. If it is rude, I apologize.

  8. for me it would have been over with the sandra bullock comment. i love her too much.

    i think your 'red flag' to yourself was the notting hill comment.

    stuff like that matters I think.

    good luck with the book!!!!!

  9. Loved these two lines:

    Eyes that were ringed with both green and blue.

    There were a lot of phone calls, the kind that you'd need to switch ears for, the kind that lasted through brushing your teeth.

    That guy sounded like a dick. Let me guess it was his intelligence, his high-handed, i-know-what-i-want, cheeky ways that drew you to him?
    I was attracted to men like that for a while then I realized for all their worth in intelligence and ingenuity they were severly, SEVERLY lacking in sensitivity and the ability to love.

    I bet he pisses sitting down. :)

    Such a good read. I hope to be half the fantastic writer you are one of these days.

  10. i love the last lines. you're a genius.

    love your book also…and this blog way too much. thanks for your insight on everything.

  11. "I can afford to be"? Yick. Hopefully he gets clued in to the fact that overconfidence makes one just as much a headcase as a divorce supposedly does. (eyeroll) Great post.

  12. He sounds like the headcase. I guess you might have been the headcase if you'd stayed in that marriage…part of what makes you great is that you said "I'm better than this" and left wasband. Based on this post, this guys sounds like he's probably insecure. Because no one can really be THAT cocky and arrogant….to me, that's just a way to cover up who you really are.

  13. Obnoxious yes, perhaps judgmental and polarizes everything- sees it all black and white. The funny thing is, I would see that as a red flag in a guy. Haha!

  14. My grandmother told my mother once: Don´t marry a man who´s past forty and has never been married or even close — there´s generally a reason why. And she would know; she married one and then my mom did. At a certain point "I can afford to be" really just means "I'll never be satisfied" or possibly "All in all I´m probably happier alone, in what I´m used to, without compromises" — at least from my perspective. (yes, blatant generalisations.)

  15. "now I'm with someone who doesn't mind so much. And I guess that's what we all want"

    I think it's completely true.
    It's what I've always wanted and it's what I have now.


  16. This reminded me of exactly how much I hated dating in New York. I think it's because there are just soooooo many people, guys (and women) dated like they were conducting job interviews. I didn't date much while I lived there precisely because of guys like this. And it felt like they were all like this. Blech. In the normal world, people date people, not factsheets and summaries of red flags. In New York, it's a totally different ball game. Love it though I do, I've always wondered how anyone manages to get together in that City.

    FROM STEPHANIE: You're right. There are a lot like that. But mostly that type hang at certain places, it places, in their it clothes looking all suave. They belong to Reebok Club. Have expensive apartments, the kind you see in movies and say, "who the hell lives like that in NY?" And they're charming. They take you to nice restaurants and know quite a bit about the museum exhibits. They seem worldly, and their homes are strewn with photos from their trips. Camping even, which throws you off.

    And then there are men with the same amount of travels, money, and education who hang out in dive bars, who really can't dress (but think they can). And they have big hearts and become smitten, falling fast, doing anything to get the girl. Most women are just looking in the wrong places for "a quality man." I know. I was one of them. And I have quite a few single friends left there… and some of them are still going to the bar at Tao hoping to meet the love of their life.

  17. Great writing lately! You're always good – but lately it's been great! How grateful you must be to be a "headcase" – you aren't with him and you have a wonderful husband and two precious babies. I bet all he has is a membership to an online dating service.

  18. This brought back memories. The divorcee interviews, my well crafted replies.
    I spent two years trying to help others get over the fact that I was in my twenties and already divorced. Sad thing was I didn't realize all that time I was the one who needed to "get over it." It took a self-righteous jackass to show me that. At least they are good for something…

  19. Great post, what a tool…thanks for being so strong, motivated, and seeing past the weaknesses in others.

  20. Ahh, Beautiful Girls…one of my favourite movies..EVER. Really takes me back to 'a certain time in my life'.

    And the retard sandwich line….i blogged and reblogged on that one. Because, it's deep…ya know.

    Seriously. And the Soundtrack. Groove Me Baby.

  21. your writing is improving–less reliance on made-up cutsy words and phrases that signal youth and more thoughful setnence structure. perhaps your writing is maturing as you settle more into marriage and motherhood?

  22. He was so not worthy. Sometimes the universe is kind and lets us find these things out without heartache. Just think, if you'd never met him, you wouldn't have this story to tell to make someone, such as myself, give a big 'Thank you' to all the guys who thought I was a 'head case'. I get a little bit of anxiety every time I think of what my life would be had I ended up with anyone other than my husband.

  23. I'll toast to that.

    Sometimes human beings forget that half of asking a question is being the kind of person who can handle answers.

    No one is perfect.

    And that "I can afford to be" line – gots ta go more than Julia.

  24. "He had a crush on one of the silhouettes in an iPod commercial. He 'd watch it online and pause it at the parts that featured her. "I'm in lust with her," he said. "I can't help it. She's got my number."

    And he thought you were the "head case?!?"

    You should have told his silly ass: Pot. Kettle. Black.

  25. He's an idiot. Look at what he's missing. And look at what you've gained!
    I am still pretty obsessed about a guy giving good phone. Hmm. I guess it doesn't mean everything. Clearly!

  26. Some guys are so full of shit. Reminds me of this guy "friend" of mine in college. We had great chemistry, I really liked him and I know he liked me. We had lots of drunk, groping nights in college. Lots of late night heart to hearts. Spent a lot of time together studying, hanging out in the student center or at his frat house, etc. but for whatever reason, I felt like he resisted taking it to the next level and I was too proud to call him out on it. Then one night at his apt, he was on the phone with a friend and I heard him say, 'yeah D****** is over here. You know that girl in our economics class with the cute face.' With the cute FACE!! Definatley What The Fuck Is Up With That??? That is how you describe FAT girls. At the time I was 5'4 around 140lbs and while not super model skinnny – – I was not a fat girl!! At that moment it all rang clear why our relationship was what it was. I'll be damned – I was too fat for him! and I wasn't even fat, talk about giving someone a complex! From then on I was never truly comfortable around him and I slowly drifted apart from him. But I always wonder if I had been 112 lbs, what might have been….

  27. He's 43 and never been married? In my book if you are 40 you pretty much need to have a divorce under your belt…he defintily can't afford to be picky.

    He'll probably end up with some 22 year old model/actress/barista who can't string a spoken sentence together.

    I'm going out with a guy who sounds like him this weekend, I already know that he is probably a jerk…but hey, you never know. My guard was up already and I'm prepared but I'm glad I read this post beforehand so my guard will be even more up :)

  28. this post made me smile. i would've pumped my arm in the air and yelled "hell yeah" had i not been in an airport when i read it! loved the last part. sooo true! can't wait for the new book!!!!

  29. If he couldn't handle hearing about your divorce then he shouldn't have asked you about it in the first place. Sounds like he's the real head case. I HATE the "I can afford to be" line. Ew.

  30. Amanda B – I just got an e-mail from my friend who lives in NYC, and it reminded me of your post. She went through a divorce last yr, and she hates dating. She said that first dates are like job interviews, and she never wants the job.

  31. 43 is kind of old to be being picky. Obviously doesn't want children then or he's going to be a real old father. Can imagine him to be the type who leaves it to the woman to rear the children anyway – probably alone whilst he does the late night working away up the career ladder, or even just to meet the deadlines of that job.

  32. amanda b you are right! dating in nyc was the freakin' worst. and the "i can afford to be" attitude in this post is the motto of many, many nyc guys. i lived there from age 24 'til 31 and ooh! ooh! it was tough finding suitable bed partners let alone someone to be emotionally intimate with. most of the men i met were interesting, like, they had lots of interests and could talk art, movies and books, etc. but to find one that was actually kind, considerate and thoughtful…well, THAT was the challenge. emotionally cultured–now THOSE are the rarest nyc guys.

    i used to say that for every nyc guy who's not even that cool there's at least five smart, pretty ladies just waiting to go out with him. in nyc the guys have the upper hand and they know it. and i lived in the east village and williamsburg, so it's not like i hung out in the fancy parts. anyway. i live in london now, and i have to say, it's a whole different kind of hard to find a good one here. but like woody's last line in ANNIE HALL "i need the eggs…"

  33. He's probably divorced now. Or will be in the future.

    Staying in an unhappy relationship/marriage just to be in one is the sign of a 'head case' to me.

  34. I loved that story! I'm so grateful to be sitting next to the person who loves me even though I can definitely be a head case at times… and who I know will love me through all my "What the fucks"… Thanks for the reminder!

  35. He´d have lost my sympathy the moment he made the comment about Sandra Bullock.

    I think the people who´re trying to avoid head cases are afraid of their own mental status. What a chauvinist pig!

  36. Thank you for this post, Stephanie. I've run into entirely too many guys the past few years that have taken the fun out of dating, something I previously enjoyed doing in my 20's. Now it's a chore that I find myself avoiding. I'd rather go out with my friends who love me good, bad and ugly every day of the week. God willing I'll get a "referral" from one of them to a great guy but it hasn't even come close to happening yet. 'Cuz they sure ain't at Tao, let me tell you..

  37. No wonder he is/was 43 and still single. "I can afford to be" just means he dumps women before they catch on to what he's really like.

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