Most of the stories in THE CHEAT SHEET are quick reads, a few thousand words at most. But, one story is bordering on novella length at some 13,000 words. I thought I'd include the first part of that story, called...
THE BOYFRIEND TRIALS
It seems the older I get, the pickier I get about my boyfriends.
Back when I was seventeen, I'd date a guy if he simply had a car to drive me around in. It didn't even matter if he was a pothead burnout with no greater ambition than getting to see Phish perform at Bonnaroo.
When I was twenty-one, I'd date a guy if he could simply make me laugh til I nearly peed my pants. It didn't even matter if he had dropped out of college to pursue a career in burrito construction.
When I was twenty-five, I'd date a guy if he simply had the ability to make me have an orgasm so powerful I nearly passed out. It didn't even matter if he was currently getting his law degree after having already gotten his MBA after having already gone to med school, now entering his second decade of perpetual higher education.
But now I'm thirty. And I've become incredibly picky. Look, I know that's atypical. I know most girls become less picky as they age. Take my friend Stacy for example. She is easily my most attractive friend. I would kill to look like her! Long, flowing blond hair she doesn't color. She doesn't even rubber band it into a ponytail when she works out like all of us other girls have to do to keep it out of our faces. Her hair, like, just knows to become windswept and sexily flow behind her, out of her way when she does yoga and Pilates and spinning. She looks better after a two-hour workout than the rest of us do before it's begun. She's got these great eyes, too. They seem to change colors to suit whatever outfit she's wearing for the day. A fashion chameleon, you might say. She makes me so jealous! Or, at least she used to. Til she married Danny.
You oughta see this guy. Stacy totally broke all her rules to date him.
She'd always said she could never date a guy who went by a name that ended in -ie or -y. Joey, Bobby, Robbie, Ricky, Mickey, Danny. She just thought it sounded too childish. She wanted to date a man, not a little boy. Me? I kinda like guys with names that end in -ie or -y. Makes them seem hip and playful but, hey, I totally understand Stacy's point. I refuse to date any man whose name begins with a K. Kyle, Kevin, Keith, Kirby. I just hate that hard ka K sound and refuse to spend the next thirty to seventy years of my life saying, “I love you ka-____.” Yuck.
If I meet a nice man when I'm out, at a party or the bar or something, and he says, “Hi, I'm Kit,” I ask him if that's a nickname or maybe he goes by another name and if he says, “No, it's just Kit,” I have no choice but to say, “Sorry, Kit, you seem nice and all, but I just can't possibly date you. My ears are already bleeding from having heard your name pronounced just twice.”
Stacy used to be the same way. That's why I was so stunned that day back in 2007 when I arrived late to happy hour to find her canoodling with some guy in a suit with his tie loosened after a kinda hard day's work. Stacy was so excited to introduce this new suited suitor to me.
“Bex, I want you to meet this charming gentleman who has been keeping me company while I waited for your lolly-gagging ass.”
Stacy playfully elbowed the “charming gentleman” in the ribs as he extended his sweaty palm to me.
“Nice to meet you, Bex. I'm Danny.”
I looked at Stacy confused. She smiled at me, then at Danny. I looked at Danny. I looked at his hand.
“Danny? Don't you mean 'Dan?' Your name is Dan?”
“No. It's Danny.”
“Well, Daniel is what it says on my license but I prefer to go by Danny. Makes me feel like a big kid.”
Two years later, just this July, they were married. Now my beautiful friend Stacy is married to a balding CPA with a most unfortunate soul patch and a closet full of Dockers who goes by the childish and totally unhip name of Danny.
I so can't believe Stacy sold out her own convictions!
It's like, I mean, what are they gonna name the son they're gonna have in six months? “Danny-y?” Danny is already a child's name, how can you make your child have a more childish name than that? Man, she frustrates me.
Or, what about our mutual friend Sarabeth? You should have seen her back when she was a sorority sister of ours at Miami. Back then she had a very strict “one strike and you're out” policy with her beaus. Go a full twenty-four hour period without calling her? She'd dump you. Forget to say “I love you” before bidding her adieu? She'd lose your phone number. Get so drunk at a frat mixer that you couldn't get a boner that night? You'd wake up from your stupor on the front porch with your Superman boxers stuffed into your mouth. She was one cold-blooded boyfriend assassin, I tell ya.
Back in the good ol' days of course. Since 2005, she's been with this guy Jake that is such a loser! He's this graphic designer or something and he has a big scraggly beard that oozes all over his face and down his neck and pretty much into the collar of his shirt. It's disgusting. I have no clue what Sarabeth sees in him!
“I mean, I can't cite a specific rule of hers that he's breaking, and I know all her rules, but he surely must be breaking some, right? I know for a fact she hates flannel.”
“Love is a powerful thing that transcends rationalities.”
“No, it's not, Kris!”
My best friend Kris—he's a he, not a she—and I were on the train headed north to Poughkeepsie for our friend Allie's wedding to Jonathan.
“Only stupid people think love is irrational. Love is very rational, in fact. You desire things in a partner, you locate a partner with those things, you fall in love.”
“You callin' me stupid, Bex?”
“Of course not. You're the smartest best friend I could ever imagine having. You're always helping me out. Who I am calling stupid are all our friends for pretending they've fallen in love with men that totally don't have what they're looking for.”
“Maybe they didn't know what they were looking for?”
“Of course they did! They just decided to give up on looking. How desperate!”
Take Allie for example. A Southern girl from Oxford, Mississippi, Allie had always desired a quote-unquote perfect gentleman. The kind of guy that said “sir” and “ma'am,” who held open doors for her, even revolving ones, stood up at the dinner table when she returned from the ladies' room, who wanted to support his wife financially and turn her into a homemaker to raise their many, many well-behaved children.
To me, at best, the kind of man Allie wanted sounded like a real Leave it to Beaver-type with all the sir-ing and ma'am-ing. At worst, like a disgusting misogynist. I would have never allowed a man to stifle me so much.
“That's how we do it down South,” Allie would tell us. “Specific gender roles. It's chivalrous.”
You aren't down South any more, we'd tell her. This is Manhattan. Where could you possibly meet that kind of man up here? But Allie insisted she one day would and, you know, she was totally...wrong. She never met her dream man but instead met Jonathan, the complete antithesis of her desires. Jonathan was from a well-to-do Upper West Side family of theatrical producers and he himself was an experimental artist. He would have been a starving artist as his “showings” were nothing more than an excuse to gather his friends together to get loaded on hipster ironic boxed wine—maybe one friend would get so smashed they'd make an impetuous purchase of one of Jonathan's beer cap dioramas—but Jonathan's wealthy parents subsidized his lifestyle. Bought him art supplies, paid his rent in Soho, allowed him to take Allie to nice dinners at restaurants owned by celebrity chefs.
At these dinners, Jonathan never held open the doors, he never elegantly slid Allie's chair into the table after she sat, he never waited for Allie to receive her entree before he dug into his, and he called the servers “hey!” and “yo!” as opposed to “sir” and “ma'am.”
He even encouraged Allie to continue working at her marketing agency as opposed to quitting to be his wife and the mother of their children. It just made no sense to me what Allie saw in Jonathan or why she had so subverted her romantic dreams to be with him.
“Has it ever occurred to you that sometimes we as humans don't know what we want?”
“Don't give me that, Kris. I always know what I want.”
“I wouldn't be so certain of that.”
“I am. What do I feel like eating tonight? Hmmm...something spicy yet creamy would be nice. How about some massaman curry in coconut milk from Charm Thai? What do I want to watch on TV? Something mindless and despicable would be divine. Hmmm...how about that new reality show The Oedipus Complex? In what position do I feel like getting...?”
“—all right, all right. I gotcha. Don't need to hear any more. But has it ever occurred to you, dear Bex, that maybe all your other friends aren't quite as decisive as you? Are more open-minded?”
“I think they are. But, I also think they are very scared.”
“Let's be honest, it's a numbers game and the older we get the less chance we have of finding love. That's purely statistical. At age seventeen, everyone we know is still unmarried. At age twenty-one, that might still be at 95%. By twenty-five, that might be down to 75%. And the percentage unmarried precipitously drops from then on.”
“I'm in the same boat as you and I'm not scared.”
“But you're not. You're nowhere close to my boat. A thirty-year-old unmarried lady is in a canoe that just sprung a leak. A thirty-year-old unmarried man is on a gorgeous yacht with a vaguely double entendre name like...”
“Exactly. It doesn't matter how awesome I am. The only men that would consider dating me are essentially those in my age range. Meanwhile, men can date anyone from their age range on down to girls merely one day older than the age of consent. Please consult your locality's statutes for the legalities.”
We arrived at the Poughkeepsie train station and hailed what must have been the only cab in town, a late model sedan. We were running late—Kris claimed my indecisiveness as to what shoes to wear had caused us to miss a necessary, earlier train—and we were unable to make it to First Congregational to see the actual ceremony. Kris was a little peeved, but I was fine with that because organ music always makes me gag. About as much as it does to see my beautiful friends marry such losers. Any how, I always like to be the first to the reception so I can get properly lubricated up before all the other dressed-up dullards start clogging the bar area.
“This Kris, that Kris, is why our friends snapped these men up. They were scared. No woman wants to be thirty and single. A man who is thirty and single still has a life full of opportunity. Decades full. Make some money, get some power, some dashing salt 'n' pepper flecked hair, and all the little pop tarts still desire him. But me, the older I get, just makes me closer to being a part of some young buck's sexual checklist. 'Bro, I totally banged a chick last night who was born in the Seventies!'”
Kris couldn't help himself and started laughing. Eventually I joined him.
“I think I'm gonna need to get one of those sexual checklists myself. Eh 'bro?'”
“Yeah? What 'to-dos' would you put on it, champ?”
“Oh, I don't know,” he cocked his right eyebrow at me. “Your best platonic friend of over a decade?”
“Stop it, Kris. That's gross. Then again, we are all that's left. With Allie wed to Jonathan, we now have no single friends left. None whatsoever.”
“You sound sad.”
“I think you're scared too, Bex.”
“Maybe I am. How can I not be? But even scared, I refuse to break my rules in finding my man.”
“I suppose that's admirable. But what are these rules you hold so steadfastly to?”
“After twelve years of friendship, I think it's time for you to finally share the specifics with me.”
“Oh, I couldn't! You'd think me petty.”
“I dig your pettiness almost as much as your prettiness.”
I scanned the room. A 175 person wedding divided by 2 equals 87.5. Since there was at least two singles in Kris and I, there had to be one more single to make the numbers match. I wondered who that single could be. A man? A woman? Some bratty little child who would ruin the toast? I kept scanning. Couple after couple after couple after couple. Where was that single? And was he my destiny? It had to be my turn for happiness.
*CONTINUES ON "THE CHEAT SHEET"...*
© 2010 Goldfarb
I think you'll love the rest of the collection too, all stories about the sexes, sex, and sexiness in New York, which features these ten other tales:
"The References" -- The final few lines of one's resume are usually devoted to references that can tell a would-be employer you're the right person for the job. One's life references are a little different, but even more important.
"The Ambiguous Woman" -- A man struggles to figure out exactly what a woman is thinking while on a date with her.
"Health" -- Arthur Lampkin is the sex-ed teacher at a Staten Island high school whose life is a living hell of comical sex-ed tools, oversexed teenagers, and an undersexed home life.
"The Feminist" -- Kelly Meyers is the only male professor at an all-girls college.
"Comedic Romance" -- Love in real life never happens like it does in Hollywood rom-coms.
"He Proposed" -- The day a woman gets proposed to is the most exciting day of her life. And, she can't wait to tell you all about it.
"Born. Again" -- What happens when a sexually promiscuous New York atheist spends a weekend with a chaste Midwestern Christian?
"Gross Humans" -- If you knew what most couples did behind closed doors, you'd be repulsed.
"Ain't Nothing Like a New York Romance" -- There can't possibly be a better place to fall in love than New York City. Can there?
"The Cheat Sheet" - [plot redacted]
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