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- Publishers Weekly
"Not since Bridget Jones's Diary has anyone so perfectly captured the current state of modern romance."
- W. Bruce Cameron, author of 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter
"I started smiling when I read the introduction and didn't stop until I read the last page...I loved this book!"
- Carl Reiner, author of The 2000 Year Old Man In the Year 2000
"This is a molten chocolate cake of a novel—warm, delicious, and just a little bit decadent...However unlike a slice of cake it's so funny it hurts."
- Claire Scovell LaZebnik, author of Same As It Never Was
"Cathryn Michon is Jane Austen with a cannister of Mace."
- Charlie Hauck, writer-producer of "Frasier" and author of Artistic Differences
GRRL GENIUS GUIDE TO SEX (WITH OTHER PEOPLE)
A Grrl Genius Declares Herself to Be a Genius of Sex and Relationships, Regardless of Her (Dismal) Track Record
It's the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter.
LEAVING MY husband was easy. Leaving my dog broke my heart.
Most people know that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. (I suppose the other 50 percent end in death, and there was a time I would have considered this to be the better option, but it's not as easy as you might think.) I have a lot of friends who have gotten divorced, and normally, when the couple first separates, it's the man who moves out of the marital house, gets an apartment, a sports car, and a blond girlfriend, while the soon-to-be-ex-wife stays in the home and takes sleeping pills and loses weight.
But my separation wasn't normal at all, although the blond (with long dark roots) girlfriend did show up in pretty short order. My Napoleonically short, German,1 soon-to-be ex (let's call him Kurt, because in another one of those "so strange it must be fiction" coincidences, that's his name) had refused to leave the house, even though I was the one paying for it. This had perplexed me at the time because everything I knew about divorce I had learned fromthe TV show The Odd Couple which began with a woman handing Felix Unger a frying pan and telling him to go, so naturally I thought that once you handed them their pan, they would leave.
Instead, within two months of my leaving, his towering, freakishly large-boned Hawaiian (with bleached-blond hair)2 girlfriend whose name I didn't even know (let's call her the Triceratops) moved in.3 Even worse, I didn't manage to lose a single pound!
"No, you leave," Kurt sneered at me after a record-breaking six-hour fight during which I accused him of never really listening to me, to which he replied, no lie, "I don't have to listen to this!" No trace of irony crossed his cruelly handsome face as he marched dramatically around the living room I had bought and paid for during his ten-year, chronic, terminal unemployment. "I'm the only one who does any work around here!" he proclaimed joblessly. "You think you can live without me, fine, go ahead and try, but I'm not going to let you ruin my house," he announced with a flip of the pretentious long blond ponytail he wore to somehow compensate for his ever-expanding bald spot. "If you stay here, you'd let the place fall apart, and we'd be bankrupt in a month."
What you need to know about Kurt is that he considered himself to be an expert on managing money, of course by "managing" he means "hoarding, confiscating, and refusing to spend a nickel" unless it was on golf. The mere earning of money is something he leaves to lesser little worker bees like me.
Yes, I was one of the thirty-five percent of American women who earned more money than her husband. In my case, when I say "more," I, of course, mean some.
And I had to wonder what our maid and gardener would say about the "I'm the only one who does any work around here" crack.
I was numb as I packed, numb when I woke up my best friend, Kim (at 4 a.m.), and told her I was leaving Kurt. She'd never said a bad word about him, but on hearing the news she barked, "It's about time you left that loser!" and offered me the keys to her guesthouse, because she's that kind of friend. I was completely numb as I loaded my car with the handful of items that Kurt let me take.
But when I threw my arms around Thor, our giant, goofily affectionate Doberman pinscher, I wasn't numb at all. I sobbed.
"I'll come back and walk you every day, I promise," I choked, while Thor licked my face in what was his usual desperate attempt to cheer me up. I whispered into the dog's velvety ear, "It's better for you here in your big yard, Thor. But when we sell this place, I'll get a house for just the two of us, okay?"
I knew that my husband wouldn't want our pet. Kurt, who was defensively diminutive at five feet six (an inch taller than I, as he constantly reminded me) had always longed to be physically intimidating and wanted Thor to be a menacing guard dog, willing to attack on command. Instead, Thor was a clumsy affable drooler who adored me and whose only attack behavior would have consisted of driving intruders mad by relentlessly demanding they "play fetch." In fact, the only "trick" that Thor had ever learned was that whenever he sat, he would pass gas. So I trained him to sit by shouting the command, "Thor! Fart!" and he would obediently both sit and fart simultaneously. My friends and I found this hilarious. (Kurt thought it was "immature," which was technically true, but in my opinion missed the point entirely.)
Kim was waiting up for me in her giant kitchen when I arrived. She was a successful TV executive who had been my boss for a number of years and remained bossy around me thereafter. She lived on a large country estate, with many outbuildings, raising her three boys with her husband, Barnaby. Kim had wavy, shoulder-length dark hair, and the same long, coltish, lean legs as the thoroughbred horses on which she spent a fortune and kept in a largebarn at her giant cozy suburban home in Hidden Hills. She also had a brittle and sarcastic personality which wasn't helped by the fact that she'd been trying (unsuccessfully) to quit smoking for the past three years. But the look on her face as she stood there in her doorway—before sunrise—was only kind and loving and understanding, and the hug she gave me let me know I was welcome to stay as long as I needed.
I don't know if other people do this, but I always think about which famous TV or movie star would be best to play the major players in the (blockbuster) movie of my own life. For example, my friend Kim would be played to sardonic perfection by Barbara Stanwyck, just as she was in the Preston Sturges classic The Lady Eve.
After a few months spent metaphorically licking my wounds (while physically licking my Hershey bars) I moved out of Kim's guesthouse and got an apartment in the hot and hideous San Fernando Valley, Studio City to be exact.
I kept my promise to Thor and still went back to the starkly modern, Bauhaus inspired Beverly Hills home (that I paid for!) daily, to walk him.
On a sunny California Friday, I was driving in my old neighborhood and saw a giant fluorescent sign proclaiming SATURDAY! YARD SALE! EVERYTHING MUST GO! Like any normal urban vulture, I eagerly looked for the details on the address and time of the sale, knowing fully that the domestic failures of others often resulted in absurdly low-priced barely used Cuisinarts, or delicate little cashmere twin sets whose only crime was having been purchased by some castrating mother-in-law with a big Neiman's credit limit and no sense of emotional boundaries.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the yard sale in question was to be held in my very own yard. The EVERYTHING that MUST GO! was EVERYTHING I HAD PAID FOR!
This called for an emergency meeting of the Grrl Genius Club.
My Grrl Genius Club consists of four strong-minded women who understand the importance of wine, chocolate, and talking a thing to death. The one rule of the club was this: We called ourselvesgeniuses no matter what. Our genius status was irrevocable, even when we ended up situations like the one I currently was in—contemplating having the emotional detritus of my marriage, in the form of old toaster ovens and used lawn chairs, laid out on the manicured lawn I worked fourteen-hour days to buy and have lovingly groomed by Guillermo, who in his disaster-plagued home country of El Salvador was a medical doctor, but here in L.A. was a gardener.
In thinking about the yard sale that was going to be held on the yard I had paid for, to sell things I had paid for, I contemplated the difference between my gardener Guillermo and my soon-to-be-ex-husband. Kurt was a man for whom no job was good enough, a man who believed the only reason he wasn't a show-biz millionaire was because people were out to get him. He once tried to tell me that people in Hollywood were prejudiced against him because he was Lutheran. He theorized that Hollywood was a town run by Jewish men, and they all hated Lutherans.
I should have learned (from little things like World War II) that when bossy Aryan guys start blaming Jews for their problems, logic goes out the window. Kurt truly believed that the reason he hadn't made a success of a career in show business was due to this horrifying prejudice. As the only child of a cloyingly doting mother, he simply couldn't believe that Hollywood had failed to hand him a brilliant career that required no effort beyond his mere existence. I would occasionally make the crazy suggestion that the reason he didn't have a successful career was because he didn't have, well, a job. I thought, foolishly, that a "job" would be a good place to start something like a "career."
On the other hand, Guillermo, my gardener, was grateful to work at any job, no matter how lowly, in order to care for his family. I never heard Guillermo say that the reason he wasn't a doctor in America was because he wasn't Jewish. He said he wasn't a doctor in America because he needed to pass his medical boards, which he eventually did. This leads me to my first relationship tip.
Grrl Genius Relationship Tip
When you have more respect for the man you pay to mow your lawn than you have for the man you married,. it's time to end the relationship.
Grrl Genius Relationship Tip Corollary
(With the husband, not the gardener.)
Besides Kim and me, the Grrl Genius Club consisted of Vonnie and Amelia. Like many Grrl Genius Club meetings, this one was held in Vonnie's incense-infused cozy Hollywood Hills cottage. Over pinot grigio and homemade chocolate cupcakes, this matter of the Divorce Yard Sale was discussed with the grave attention it deserved.
Vonnie lounged on a pillow-strewn divan, casually running her finger through the thick, deep, dark icing on the top of her cupcake, allowing it to make furrows and ridges not unlike those that marked the acreage of her family farm back in Iowa. "Go know," she said. "That ex of yours doesn't have the good sense God gave a squirrel."
Vonnie was a widow and a TV actress in her fifties who played a plain-talkin' secretary on a famous 1970s sitcom and now made her living lending her folksy, "vaguely familiar but I can't place it," voice to ads for everything from floor wax to dessert topping. Vonnie was sassy, frighteningly honest, and enormously tall, with flame-red hair that she wore in a short, defiantly spiky hairdo. She was like an Amazonian Lucille Ball, but the kind of Lucille Ball who wouldhave told Ricky she didn't care what he said, she was going to be in the show! Vonnie never lost her Iowa good sense, which she coupled with the fatalistic detachment she learned in her chosen religion of Buddhism. She was an inspiration to all of us, because after a long time searching, she found her true love, Eldon, when she turned forty-three. Ten years later, Eldon had the temerity to "up and die on her." Three years after his death, she still grieved his loss on a daily basis.
"I just can't believe he moved his frigging girlfriend into your house that you bought and paid for," said Kim, nervously fiddling with a cigarette as she manically chewed on both cupcake and a double dose of Nicorette gum.
"Well, I'm going to that yard sale," Amelia announced.
"I think we should all go," agreed Vonnie with typical loyalty.
"No, that's a bad idea. He'll recognize you and Kim," Amelia said. "He doesn't know me—I can be a more effective spy if I go alone."
Amelia was an exotic-looking black woman with dreadlocks, who favored starkly stylish clothing. She was a very high-end interior designer to the stars, specializing in the postmodern houses of Richard Lautner, who was the most favored architect among the wealthiest people in L.A. She had dramatic features and impeccable posture and always carried herself like deposed African royalty. In the movie of my life, she could be played by none other than Angela Bassett, who is so beautiful and interesting that she just makes everyone else (me) embarrassed to be white and dull and Midwestern. Amelia was Texas-raised, and had been for ten years the domestic partner of one of America's top female performers, the stand-up comedienne and talk-show host Clarissa McDaniels. Amelia's relationship with Clarissa had broken up over a year ago, in a flurry of tabloid coverage. I learned from Amelia a critical piece of Grrl Genius relationship advice I am going to pass along to you, gentle readers.
Grrl Genius Relationship Tip
If you must get a divorce, try to get divorced from a woman.
Grrl Genius Relationship Tip Corollary
This may not be practical for everybody.
I took another hit of frosting. I swallowed the chocolate and looked at my Grrl Genius friends. Their love and support for me was overwhelming and almost, but not quite, as comforting as the opiate of Valrona 70 percent cocoa solids cocoa mixed with sugar, butter, and pure cream. I was a rich woman to have friends and frostings like these.
"I can't believe you would do that for me, Amelia. I can't believe that you would be willing to infiltrate my yard sale," I gushed tearfully, feeling very emotional because there were only two cupcakes left.
"Well, of course. It's the least I can do. Besides, you have good stuff. If he's unloading those gorgeous wicker chairs, I want to get my bid in."
"I can't believe I am such a loser, I can't believe I'm such an idiot to have married him," I wailed pathetically.
"Sweetie, you've got to buck up, I can't hear this from you. You're supposed to be a Grrl Genius, and to me that means having the genius to admit when you've been an idiot and then learning from your mistakes," Vonnie insisted. "Now eat your cupcakes and stop blubbering."
She was absolutely right. About the cupcakes anyway.
I have a brain and a uterus, and I use both.
On the morning of the yard sale, I was on a breakfast date with a man named Ben. If my life were a movie, I imagine that Ben would be played by the pasty-faced and weasely but nonetheless brilliantly talented Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Now, I wasn't a relationship expert at the time, but my instinct to make a breakfast date with Ben was excellent. Now that I am a fully credentialed (by me!) relationship expert, I can tell you that breakfast dates are the easiest way to dispense with a man who insists on asking you out, even though you know for a stone-cold fact that he is gay.
Ben was a TV sitcom writer I'd known for years who would insist on greeting me every time he saw me at the bar in the Hollywood Improv with an enormous hug, an unwelcome smack on the lips, and the following phrases: "This woman is the most amazing woman in L.A.! If she weren't married, I'd marry her, whether she wanted to or not!"
"Yeah, Cathryn is totally pretty and smart," agreed Tyler, the adorable twenty-four-year-old bouncer at the club, "but she's totally married, so, you know, back off."
Tyler was one of those people who just loved his job. He loved being a bouncer, whether it was for the club or for people's failing marriages. It was very endearing. In the movie of my life, he could be played only by Ashton Kutcher.
Ben's ridiculous "I'd marry her whether she wanted to or not" statement would normally arouse my post-feminist ire. What was he thinking, that if I was unwilling, perhaps he could clinch the deal by giving my father a goat or some shiny trinkets? I didn't take offense, though, because Ben was so totally, completely, still-in-the-closet, obviously gay.
The last time he made his proclamation, we were standing in a large clot of people and my childhood friend and surrogate bigbrother Tommy boomed out, "Well, Ben, it's your lucky day! Cathryn just filed for divorce!"
The look of mute horror that filled Ben's face was truly pitiable. Now he would have to make good on his boast and marry me, whether I wanted to or not. Or at least ask me out. When he did ask me out later in the evening, with all the verve and enthusiasm of a second grader who has wet his pants and must tell the teacher, I decided to let him off the hook and suggested the (much less threatening) breakfast.
Because Ben is gay.
You might be wondering how can I so surely and swiftly decide the sexual orientation of others without any empirical evidence whatsoever? It is easy, and you can do it, too! All it takes is my patented (pending):
Grrl Genius Male Sexual Preference Determinator SystemTM
1. Face the subject in question; look him directly in the eyes.
2. Ask him whom he thought was more attractive on Gilligan's Island. Ginger or Mary Ann?
3. . If he says Ginger, he's gay.
Ben answered "Ginger"—hence, he is gay. The reasons for this are both psychologically intricate and totally made up, but the fact is, it works, and it can save you a lot of time. (If he answers, "Gilligan," it's even faster.)
Now, if you are me (or sadly, someone like me), you need to ask yourself one more question: Do I find him sexually attractive?
If the answer is yes, he may also be gay.
Why is this? In my case, it is because when I was a mere slip of a girl, I met the man I always introduce people to as, "My bestfriend since second grade, Tommy." Tommy is the proverbial tall, dark, and handsome man. He's stylish, he's funny, he's kind, he's a great dancer—he is the perfect man and has always been the friend I could count on, no matter what. Of course, Tommy should be played by Rock Hudson. (Some would argue that Tommy should be played by Richard Chamberlain, but I always knew that Richard Chamberlain was gay: Tommy's gayness came as a horrifying, life-altering shock.)
I loved Tommy all my life, and when the hormones of adolescence struck like a force-five hurricane, I fell in love with him. He did not fall in love with me, because he is (and always has been) gay. Hence, I blame him for the fact that my brain has been prewired to fall in love with gay men.
He says he refuses to accept the responsibility for this.
So, it was while having breakfast with (gay) Ben, that I got the call from Amelia, at the yard sale. I excused myself from the table, leaving Ben with his pumpkin pancakes and the paperback David Sedaris book I brought, hoping he'd leaf through it and realize that he could still be a comedy writer if he finally and joyously declared his homosexuality and stopped torturing straight women everywhere with his appalling lack of sexual interest in them.
Amelia was in a full-blown snit. "Oh, my God, Cathryn, you aren't going to believe this! I just left the sale. You are so not going to be happy about this—I mean, it's unbelievable! You won't believe it!" she shrieked.
"Okay, I get I won't believe it, but just tell me anyway!" I said.
"Well, first of all, he is selling the most embarrassing stuff. I mean, he's selling good stuff, I got that crepe maker you told me about, but also, and I am not even kidding about this, he is selling, well, like one of the things he is selling is your dead cat's used litter box. Like, for a dollar."
I felt a rush of shame that had gone unequaled since the time I strode confidently across the stage at a high school assembly back in Minnesota, unaware of the fact that Lars Benequist had taped asign to my back saying FAT BUTT! The idea that my fancy Beverly Hills neighbors, by whom I had always felt outclassed, were gathered around my front lawn scrutinizing a used, scratched, cat urine— stained poo receptacle was excruciating to me.
Amelia's voice continued to screech in my ear, "So this guy tried to give him fifty cents for the cat box, but Kurt said he wouldn't take less than seventy-five cents. For a used cat box! Can you believe it?"
Unfortunately, I could. I could believe it. I could hear every last word of the haggling over the German-made cat box, all of Kurt's stubborn justifications for why it was worth a whopping seventy-five cents: the durability of the plastic, the inconsequential nature of the stains and scratches. I could see him squinting his oddly pale blue eyes and hear him bragging that after all it wasn't a used cat box, it was a "vintage" cat box!
"But it gets worse!" Amelia shouted. I could hardly wait. "That big galumphing bleach-blond Hawaiian girlfriend of his is helping him. She's sitting in a lawn chair, with a ciggy butt hanging out of her mouth, surrounded by—and I don't really understand this—a lot of your lingerie. I know it must be yours, because it's all tiny and it can't possibly be hers. Why does she have your lingerie, Cathryn?"
The Salvation Army. I had gone back to the house and packed up bags of lingerie for the Salvation Army. I didn't want to keep lingerie in which I had made love to my husband, so I gave away ten years of perfect little La Perla nightgowns and Cosabella camisoles to the Salvation Army.
I had forgotten to call for a pickup.
Amelia was still ranting on. "Well she's sitting there, arguing with people about your lingerie. Some little Vietnamese woman just offered her five dollars for a silk robe. The woman was all, 'Fie dollar, I give you fie dollar!' and she was all, 'That's a hundred percent silk Cacharel robe. That robe goes for a hundred and fifty at Saks, I could go sell that at a high-end resale shop for at least fifty dollars, so I'm not taking less than ten!' Can you believe it? The Triceratops is all uppity about your lingerie!"
"At least my underwear is going for more than the cat box," I said, dully.
"What kind of woman is she?" Amelia continued. "I mean, so was he all, 'Hey, wanna come spend Saturday selling my ex's underwear that she used to wear to have sex with me?' and then was she all, 'Oh, my God, I would so totally love to sit in a lawn chair and haggle with poor immigrants about the price of my boyfriend's wife's underwear—honestly, what could be more frigging delightful!'"
As Amelia yammered on about the Jerry Springer-esque bacchanal taking place on my front lawn, I was frozen in horror. Sometimes people use the expression "like a deer caught in headlights" to describe a person who is struck immobile. I felt more like the deer after the headlights had hit it. I was that stunned.
"Amelia, thanks, thanks a ton," I said, "but I've got to go." I hung up and shut off the phone.
My gay date came over from our table to see if the fact that my face was flushed, my eyes were wild, and that I was punching the wall meant there was something wrong.
"Are you okay?" Ben asked tentatively.
"My soon-to-be-ex-husband's girlfriend is selling my old underwear on my front lawn. Apparently, she's getting good prices for it."
He shuffled uncomfortably. "Um, oh, I should probably go," he stated hopefully.
I decided to let him off the hook. "Yeah, that's probably a good idea," I agreed. "You know, I know you didn't really want to go out with me, but it was nice of you to ask me, seriously."
He suddenly radiated the kind of relief you see only in freed hostages. He quickly leaned in for another of his unwelcome mouth kisses, but I deftly turned my cheek, and that's where his rubbery, insincere, not-even-close-to-being-heterosexual lips landed.
"I hope you find a nice guy," he said. "Really I do."
"I hope the same for you," I countered. Either he didn't get it, or he had just joyously embraced his obvious homosexuality, because he merely nodded his head and picked up the check like it was a pardon from the governor and left to pay the cashier.
I'm just a person trapped inside a woman's body.
It was at this very moment in my life, as I sat in an outdoor café, listlessly cramming cold pumpkin pancakes into my mouth, that I had a life-altering revelation.
Not enough chocolate is served at breakfast.
A Grrl Genius "Love Is Important But Chocolate Is Essential" Handy Chocolate Fun fact
To the Aztecs who first discovered it, chocolate was a source of spiritual wisdom, energy, and enhanced sexual powers. The drink was thought to be a pre-Viagra-era aid to sexual pleasure and potency for both men and women. Montezuma, who is sadly best remembered for a virulent strain of tourist diarrhea, reportedly always drank flagons of chocolate before entering his harem in order to fortify his libido for lovemaking.
After ordering a large hot chocolate, I had another, even bigger life-altering revelation.
I was a complete failure at sex and relationships. My life was a relationship disaster area. Too bad FEMA didn't provide emergency funding for failed relationships, because nobody qualified more than me. I had married the kind of man who pimps out his girlfriend to sell his wife's used lingerie. I was a failure at sex and relationships, an idiot, a loser.
A Grrl Genius "People Who've Made Worse Relationship Mistakes Than You" Moment
A jury in Nashville, Tennessee, convicted Raymond Mitchell III, forty-five, of tricking women into blindfolding themselves and having sex with him byclaiming to be their boyfriends. Prosecutors said that most of the hundreds of women that Mitchell called hung up, but of the thirty who reported the encounters to police, eight said they had sex with the caller.
"Admit when you've been an idiot, and learn from your mistakes," Vonnie's voice admonished in my head.
She was right. I had made so many mistakes with men that I was qualified to be an undisputable expert, a Grrl Genius of Sex and Relationships. Now, as a fully credentialed (by me!) expert, I made the executive decision that I needed ten laws, the Grrl Genius Laws of Sex and Relationships. I decided on ten laws because I vaguely remembered that in Girl Scouts there had been ten laws (Girl Scouts being the only endeavor in my life I ever signed up for knowing from the outset that it would involve terrible outfits) and I figured that if ten laws were good for the Girl Scouts, well it was good for the Grrl Geniuses, too. Each of these laws, which were made up exclusively by me, conveniently makes up a chapter in this "Self-Help Novel."4
Right there in the café, I spoke the first law out loud: "A Grrl Genius declares herself to be a genius of sex and relationships, regardless of her (dismal) track record."
Then I ordered a big slice of their very excellent chocolate cake—for breakfast!
Test Your Grrl Genius Relationship IQ
When meeting a man for the first time, you know he is a potential date if he
a. Actually listens to what you say and gives thoughtful responses.
b. Seems sullen and moody, like he is waiting for the right Grrl to draw him out.
c. Breathes oxygen and exhales carbon dioxide.
Your ideal relationship with a man can best be described as something that includes
a. A passionate but intellectually stimulating friendship.
b. Verbal interplay that causes you to question the obviously artificial value system of your parents and the false gods of your hypocritical religion.
c. No restraining orders.
The best time to meet your boyfriend's family is
a. After the first time you sleep together, secure in the knowledge that although you don't know his middle name yet, you are obviously soul mates who made an agreement on an astral plane to run into each other getting smoothies at the Jamba Juice.
b. After he breaks up with you and you decide to "drop in" on his family on Christmas Eve, just because you had an "errand to run" in central Ohio.
c. As soon as his dad is up for parole.
The best way to know if the man you are dating is the man you should marry is
a. If you are sure that you are sexually, emotionally, financially, and spiritually compatible.
b. If you can honestly answer yes to the question, "Would I risk my own life for this person's safety?"
c. If there was that one time that he saved a baby bunny that had fallen in your parents' swimming pool and he was so nice to the bunny and it made you think hey, if he was nice to a baby bunny, he'd probably be nice to a baby person.
For Each a Answer: Score 10 points
For Each b Answer: Score 5 points
For Each c Answer: Score 1 point
20 to 40 points: You're a Grrl Genius of relationships and should probably be writing this book instead of me.
10 to 20 points: You're a Grrl Genius of relationships, but really need this book.
4 to 10 points: You're a Grrl Genius of relationships because I say anybody can be a Grrl Genius of whatever she wants, as long as she declares herself accordingly; but seriously, read this book, live it, or your life will be an endless vale of tears, and I'm not just saying that to sell books, although I do have a lot of debt. The point is, don't let yourself be trapped in a series of bad relationships—declare your genius, so that you, too, can find an adorable, Enlightened Male of your very own!
I can't mate in captivity.
The Grrl Genius Wild Sexual Kingdom
The diminutive and graceful male sea horse (Hippocampus breviceps) is the greatest Enlightened Male of the animal kingdom. Often referred to as the "Alan Alda of the Ocean" (as opposed to the pansexual and hedonistic bonobo chimp which is often referred to as the "Andrew Dice Clay of the Jungle") the male sea horse is the only male on earth known to gestate and birth live young.
The transfer of the sea horse fetuses from the Grrl Genius sea horse to the Enlightened Male sea horse occurs during a delicate and beautiful mating dance, in which the female deposits the fetuses into the male's gestation pouch through a small throat opening, the male "swallows" the young, and then, after they have reached maturity, "gags" them back up again.
Oftentimes, in human relationships, a human Grrl Genius has to "swallow" more than she'd care to, as well. When your own emotional gag reflex just isn't enough, that's where the rock-solid emotional backing of the Grrl Genius Sex and Relationship Laws comes in, providing you with a sound plan for navigating the treacherous waters oflove, and helping you to find an Enlightened Male who really does do half the work.
Sex is never an emergency.
The abject humiliation of the panty yard sale provided the metaphorical kick in the panties I needed to finally go see Bob Burns, the attorney that Kim had recommended, and formally file for divorce. Since leaving the house in Beverly Hills, I had continued to pay all the bills, and I was looking forward to having the court step in and force Kurt to get serious about finding a job so he could take care of his share of the expenses. It was bad enough to be supporting him, but supporting the lingerie-selling Triceratops as well was really more than I could take.
As always, the most difficult part of getting into action was deciding what to wear. As I stepped into the hushed reception area of the law firm, I was feeling very good about how I was dressed. I always draw strength in difficult situations by choosing a famous movie star fashion icon. Naturally, on the day I filed for divorce, I chose brainy and feisty Katharine Hepburn from Adam's Rib. My tweed checked Anna Sui suit with a flirty short skirt and a cunning little back belt evoked the perfect Hepburn-esque combination of seriousness and insouciance, reflecting exactly the impeccably tailored yet whimsically chic fashion sense you'd expect from a woman like me who is both a dismal failure at relationships and yet a self-proclaimed expert of same.
The reception area of the law office was designed so that every visible surface was either marble or wood or glass or leather. I started to wonder if this was meant to represent something metaphorical about the law. Like, how the law is smooth and shiny. Like, how the law resists stains and spills.
The artwork in the lawyer's office was that handmade paper stuff that looks as if someone took an entire roll of toilet paper,shoved it into his bathtub with water and a lot of grass clippings until the thing was completely paper soup, then scooped up the whole mess, laid it out on his back deck until it dried up real nice and crispy, then cut it into pieces, put those pieces into five-hundred-dollar aluminum-and-glass frames, and sold them for a fortune to some lawyer.
I started to wonder if the artwork was supposed to represent something metaphorical about the law. Like, how you can pay a ridiculous amount of money and in the end wind up with nothing more than a huge dried-up spit wad.
When my strangely large and disheveled attorney came to fetch me from the waiting room I began to lose confidence, mostly because he didn't look very much like Spencer Tracy in Adam's Rib, as I had hoped. He looked more like that Barry Sheck guy who defended O. J., the one with a nose shaped like a penis. Not that my attorney's nose was shaped like a penis. Although when I started thinking about this, I started to wonder about the idea that if you have a nose that is shaped like a penis, is the converse true, and must you therefore have a penis that is shaped like a nose and if so, would a sneeze be a ...
I realized that I had been spacing out on this whole penis-nose dilemma as my attorney had been politely waiting for me to follow him into his even shinier and more stain-proof inner office.
At this point I began to regain my senses, and exactly as Katharine Hepburn would have done, I began to crisply outline the essential facts of my very good case. I explained, with all the professionalism my Anna Sui suit implied, the basic fact that my ex-husband had been chronically unemployed for the ten years of our marriage. "Obviously," I stated rationally, "this indicates that the money that was earned would obviously belong to the person who earned it, which would obviously be me. We have no children, but I would be willing to consider sharing custody of our dog, though, to be honest, I am quite sure that Kurt is not interested in the dogat all. Obviously this is more than fair and should be relatively simple."
Having so clearly outlined the facts, I felt that we should be able to resolve this matter in one, maybe two hours of his insanely expensive attorney time.
When my (did I mention quite unattractive?) mammoth of an attorney stopped laughing, he wiped the tears from his rodent red eyes and the spittle from the corners of his mouth where it clung like fake cobwebs in a church basement Halloween spook house.
Suddenly the famous person my attorney reminded me of was Jabba the Hutt from Star Wars.
Jabba the Attorney turned his red puffy face toward me, where I could watch the capillaries on his nose breaking in real time, and began a ridiculous wheezing recitation of "facts" about divorce in California, based on "the law."
"California is a Community-Property State," he intoned eerily, as though it were the title of a real crummy horror movie, which later I learned it really should be. "That means that any money earned during the marriage belongs to both of you equally. Furthermore, because your husband made less money than you, and because you were married for ten years, that means he will be entitled to maintenance for life."
"Maintenance," I repeated, honestly thinking he must be talking about the car or something.
"Support payments, alimony."
"Alimony?" I sputtered, wondering why, if it's a good lifesaving idea to have heart defibrillators on airplanes to revive passengers, why then it isn't an equally good idea to have convenient squirt bottles of Hershey's chocolate syrup on lawyers' desks to revive female divorce clients? "For life?" I asked. "Like, whose life?"
"Yours, of course." The dancing capillaries on his obviously alcoholic nose began forming into little red fingers that seemed tobe pointing at me and echoing "Yours! Yours! Yours!" Well, that's how it seemed to me, although I could have been hallucinating from the lack of chocolate.
"I get women like you in here every day. Completely clueless. You know, these laws were put in place to protect women. By feminists. So how do you like your feminism now?" he inquired with what seemed to me to be undue relish.
I recovered, seeing his obvious mistake. "I think you've misunderstood me," I corrected, somewhat patronizingly. "You see, we don't have children, so, you know, he could have worked. He wasn't a, you know, housewife, or househusband, or whatever. He was just a guy who refused to get a job. So obviously, he wouldn't be entitled to alimony."
"Doesn't matter," said Jabba the Attorney.
"But I'm wearing a really cute Anna Sui suit!" I screeched. "And how come there's no chocolate here!"
After that highly reasoned retort, the conversation devolved into an endless screed from the attorney as to how much everything was going to cost me, including how much it was going to cost me for him to tell me how much it was going to cost me.
As he droned on and on, I remembered that there was, I was pretty sure, half an M&M in the bottom of my purse. After burrowing through the lipsticks, perfume samples, tampons, and receipts for lipsticks, perfume, and tampons, I found the grit-covered, red, candy-coated half orb of rotten chocolate. I popped it the way a double agent pops a cyanide capsule, and it revived me to the extent that I could hear his last question to me.
"I just gotta ask you, I mean, the guy didn't work at any regular job for a decade, so, you know, what were you thinking?" Jabba asked.
In a rare and regrettable burst of honesty I said, "I thought I could fix him with my good loving."
As a newly anointed Sex and Relationship Expert I had begun to learn my (very expensive) lesson.
Grrl Genius Relationship Tip
You can't fix anyone! You'll be lucky if you fix yourself!
Grrl Genius Relationship Tip Corollary
Never go to a divorce attorney without chocolate.
THE GRRL GENIUS GUIDE TO SEX (WITH OTHER PEOPLE). Copyright © 2004 by Cathryn Michon. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
Posted March 4, 2013
The all-time most entertaining book of non-fiction (no wait -fiction) I've read in forever. I am known to my pals as a voracious reader ~ and it is very unusual for a book to impress me to the point of being as vocal as I have been about GG. Cathryn you rock!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 21, 2012
Posted September 8, 2007