Engaging Men
  • Engaging Men
  • Engaging Men

Engaging Men

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by Lynda Curnyn

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When one ex-boyfriend gets married, a girl can laugh it off. With two, she begins to get nervous. But three? Three?

Angie DiFranco is starting to take it personally. What is it about her that doesn't incite men to plunk down large sums of money in the name of eternal love?

According to her one successfully married friend, men

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When one ex-boyfriend gets married, a girl can laugh it off. With two, she begins to get nervous. But three? Three?

Angie DiFranco is starting to take it personally. What is it about her that doesn't incite men to plunk down large sums of money in the name of eternal love?

According to her one successfully married friend, men are like tight lids. One woman comes along, loosens him up, leaving him for the next woman to pop off the lid, no problem. After all, would Jennifer have landed Brad so easily without the Gwyneth factor?

Suddenly Angie looks at Kirk, her current boyfriend, with new eyes. Kirk, whose last girlfriend loosened his lid by giving him The Ultimatum. Kirk, who suddenly seems primed to be popped right open.

If the tight-lid theory is true, Angie could be married within a year—with a little effort. And a little help from her friends….

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
The author of Confessions of an Ex-Girlfriend perfectly captures the ups and downs of contemporary single life in Engaging Men. Actress Angie Di Franco is tired of auditioning for the real-life role of wife, only to watch other women land star billing and walk down the aisle with her ex-lovers. A friend of hers is convinced that men are like jars with tight lids: When you give up trying to open them up to commitment, the next person who comes along gets to take advantage of all your hard work. With her third ex-boyfriend about to tie the knot with another woman, Angie decides its time for her own big break. But although she's enjoyed a nearly two-year run with her most recent boyfriend, his last girlfriend made him so commitment-shy that he doesn't even let Angie keep a toothbrush at his place, and he's deftly avoided introducing her to his family. If the lid theory is true, Kirk's previous girlfriend loosened things up enough that Angie should finally have her happy ending…whether or not they have the right chemistry to make it work forever. That's when life tosses Angie some unexpected lines, and she discovers the joys of romantic improvisation with a truly engaging man. Sue Stone

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Engaging Men

By Lynda Curnyn

Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.

Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-373-25028-2

Chapter One

It started with a message on my answering machine.

"Guess who's getting married?" came a voice I knew all too well.

It was Josh. My ex-boyfriend. Turned someone else's fiancé. Not that I'd ever wanted to marry Josh, who suffered from an aversion to dental floss. "Did prehistoric man floss?" he would argue. "Is prehistoric man still around?" I argued back. We lasted only six months, then I told him I couldn't see myself at sixty-five, making sure he took his teeth out at bedtime every night. "Okay, okay. I'll floss," he'd replied. But it was too late. The romance was gone.

Now he was getting married. To someone he'd met not three months after we had broken up four years ago. And he wasn't the first ex-boyfriend to go this route. Randy, the boyfriend before Josh, was whistling "The Wedding March" a mere six weeks after we had tearfully said our goodbyes. Then there was Vincent, my first love - he'd been married for nearly a decade. According to my mother - who lived within shouting distance of his mother in Marine Park, Brooklyn, and never failed to keep me updated - Vincent and his wife were already on their third kid.

One ex gets married, a girl can laugh it off. Two begins a nervous twitter. But three? Three?

A girl starts to take it personally. I mean, what was it about me that didn't incite men to plunk down large sums of money in the name of eternal love?

"It's the tight-lid dilemma," my friend Michelle said when I expressed my despair at sending another man to the altar without me.

"Tight lid?" I asked, awaiting some pearl of wisdom that might turn my world upright again. After all, in the time it had taken me to get a four-year degree in business administration that I no longer made use of, Michelle, who'd grown up three blocks away from me in Marine Park, had gotten a husband, a house and a diamond the size of New Jersey.

"You know the scenario," she continued. "You struggle for a good while trying to open a jar and the lid won't budge. But sure enough, the next person you hand that jar to pops the lid off, no problem. I mean, you don't really think Jennifer Aniston, cute haircut aside, would have landed Brad Pitt without the Gwyneth factor, do you? Then there's me and Frankie, of course," she continued, referring to her husband of seven years, whom she had snagged soon after his devastating breakup with Rosanna Cuzio, the prom queen of our high school.

I couldn't deny the pattern, once Michelle had laid it out so neatly before me. Clearly I had been instrumental in warming Josh, Randy and Vincent up for the next girl to come along and slap with a wedding vow. Gosh, I should have at least been maid of honor for my efforts.

Instead, I was nothing but the ex-girlfriend who might or might not get invited to the wedding, depending on how secure the bride felt about her future husband.

Suddenly I looked at Kirk, my current boyfriend, with new eyes. We had been together a year and eight months, by far the record for me since my three-year stint with Randy. We had become quite a cozy little couple, Kirk and I. I even got party invitations addressed to both of us - that's how serious everyone thought we were. The question was: Would Kirk be inviting me to his wedding someday or ...?

"Kirk ... sweetie," I said, as we lay in bed together that night, a flickering blue screen before us and the prospect of sex lingering like an unasked question in the air.

"Uh-huh," he said, not removing his gaze from the cop show that apparently had him enraptured.

"Your last girlfriend ... Susan?"

"Yeah?" he said, glancing at me with trepidation. Clearly he saw in the making one of those "relationship talks" men dread.

"You guys went out a long time, right? What was it, two years?"

"Three and a half," he said with a shudder that made me swallow with fear. Apparently I was heading for rough waters.

Still I plunged on. "And you guys never talked, um, about ... marriage?"

He laughed. "Are you kidding me? That's what broke us up. She gave me the old ultimatum - we get married or we're through." He snorted. "Needless to say, I chose door number two."

Aha. Relief filled me and I snuggled closer to Kirk, allowing him to sink back into his vegetative state as the cops on TV slapped cuffs on some unsuspecting first offender.

If Susan was the lid loosener, that could mean only one thing: I could pop this guy wide open. Hell, I could be married within the year.

The next day, I met my best friend, Grace, for a celebratory lunch, which was always an event as Grace, with her high-powered career and high-maintenance boyfriend, barely had time to get together at all anymore. As a concession to her hectic lifestyle, we met at a restaurant two blocks from her office on E. 54th Street and Park Avenue. Of course, Grace didn't know I was celebrating until I clinked my water glass into hers and said, "Congratulate me. I'm getting married."

"What?" Grace said, her blue-gray eyes bulging in disbelief. Her gaze immediately fell to the ring finger of my left hand, which, naturally, was bare.

"Not now. But someday."

She rolled her eyes, sniffed and said with her usual irony, "Congratulations."

Leave it to Grace to laugh in the face of being thirty-three without a wedding band on her finger. She is the strongest, most independent person I know. Not only does she always manage to keep a killer boyfriend on hand, she has a killer job as a product manager for Roxanne Dubrow Cosmetics. Yes, that Roxanne Dubrow. The one you have to hike all the way to Saks Fifth Avenue for.

Grace briefly dated my brother Sonny when we were in junior high, but we didn't really bond until she saved my life on the playground of Marine Park Junior High. I was about to get my head slammed into the concrete by some giant bully of a girl named Nancy, who seemed determined to hurt me just because I was a good fifty pounds lighter than she was. Grace stepped in, tall and blond and strong, and told Nancy to take a hike. Everyone, even Nancy, was afraid of Grace. I was in awe of her. Even more so when she adopted me as her new best friend, despite the fact that I was in eighth grade and she in ninth. Her posse of ninth-grade girlfriends was not happy to have me tagging along. But Grace wouldn't have it otherwise.

And here we were, still friends. The only two from the old neighborhood who had escaped unscathed, without marrying some thick-necked thug named Sal and popping out babies on an annual basis. Of course, Grace's parents had dragged her away from the neighborhood to Long Island when she turned sixteen, hoping suburbia would save her from the cigarettes and boys and bad behavior to which she had taken and in which I couldn't wait to indulge, myself. But we still spent our summers together. In fact, I felt a bit like a Fresh Air Fund kid, the way my parents shipped me off come June. Then Grace moved into the city right after college, and I followed a year later. She was the sister I'd never had, and my mother had even dubbed her an honorary member of our family.

"Don't you ever worry, Grace? That you'll wind up alone?" I asked now, searching her face for some sign of vulnerability.

She shrugged. "A woman in this city can have everything she wants. If she plays her cards right."

Easy for Grace to say. Tall, voluptuous, with chin-length, tousled blond hair and perfectly sculpted features, she was beautiful. While I ... I had always been "little Angie DiFranco" - and still was - five foot four with a head of wavy black hair that defied all styling products, and thighs that threatened to turn into my mother's any day now. I sighed. It suddenly occurred to me that if I didn't marry Kirk, I didn't know what would become of me.

"What about you and Drew?" I asked now, wondering if Grace had been contemplating her current beau as a future husband. "Do you ever think about ... you know?"

"Of course," Grace said. "Every girl thinks about it."

I felt relieved. At least I wasn't the only thirtysomething unmarried hysteric. And Grace and Drew had been dating barely a year - at least eight months less than Kirk and I.

"But it's not everything," she said with a shrug.

Grace was right, I realized the next day as I headed for work. Marriage wasn't everything. I had so much going on right now, it was practically a nonissue. I was an actor, and at the moment a working actor, which was really something. Granted my steady gig was Rise and Shine, a children's exercise program on cable access, but it was good experience in front of a camera, at least according to an agent I had spoken to, who refused to take me on until I had experience outside of the numerous off-off-Broadway shows I'd done.

But as I slid into the yellow leotard and baby-blue tights that were my lot as the show's co-host, I wondered, for about the hundredth time, what, exactly, my résumé would say about me, now that I had spent six months leaping and stretching with a group of six-year-olds.

"Hey, Colin," I called out to my co-host once I entered the studio, cup of coffee firmly in grasp. One downside of this job was that it meant getting up at five in the morning to make the show's six o'clock taping. Apparently, it was the only time the station had allotted studio space for the program, which had a solid, albeit small, audience of upper-middle-class parents and the children they hoped to mold, literally.


Excerpted from Engaging Men by Lynda Curnyn Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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