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|Publisher:||Grand Central Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.81(d)|
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How to Sleep with a Movie Star
By Kristin Harmel
5 SPOTCopyright © 2006 Kristin Harmel
All right reserved.
Chapter One10 Reasons to Have a One-Night Stand
Surely nothing good had ever come out of a one-night stand.
Except in a one-night stand, you actually got to have sex. Which was more than I could say for myself right now. It had been twenty-nine-days. Twenty-nine days.
Which would be okay if I were single. But I had a boyfriend. A live-in, sleep-in-my-bed boyfriend. That made the twenty-nine-days figure rather pathetic.
It wasn't helping that the headline "10 Reasons to Have a One-Night Stand" was splashed across the top of my computer screen. I stared at the words blankly, wondering if they were purposely taunting me. I didn't necessarily agree that there were ten or even five reasons that anyone should consider such a thing, but that wasn't the biggest problem.
It would be bad enough to be reading a self-esteem-stomping, flaky article about going out and getting laid by a random guy. It was worse when I was the one who had to actually write the article.
Besides, in my past experience, there was no reason in the world anyone should encourage that kind of thing. You always woke up the next morning with a hangover, dark circles under your eyes, and a strange guy in your bed who was bound to mumble something like, "You were great last night,Candi, baby," when your name was clearly Claire.
I must have been mumbling my protests audibly, for Wendy, Mod magazine's assistant features editor, popped up over the wall of my cubicle, an eyebrow arched. The first time I'd laid eyes on her a year and a half ago on my first day at Mod, she had looked somewhat nondescript to me. Then she'd smiled at me for the first time, and I was nearly blinded by a seemingly endless display of pearly whites. I'd been powerless to keep from grinning back. If you put Julia Roberts's smile on a younger Kathy Bates's face, you'd come pretty close to approximating Wendy, who had quickly developed into my closest friend.
Since she had dyed her hair red, the latest in a bimonthly series of shades that had little to do with her natural color, she'd looked suspiciously like she was beginning to channel the hamburger queen who shared her name. Today I was momentarily distracted by the neon-green scarf she had tied around her neck, which seemed to have nothing to do with her fitted black tee from Nobu, one of New York's trendiest restaurants, or her pleated red schoolgirl skirt. But I'd long since given up trying to figure out Wendy's style.
"Problem?" she asked wickedly. I couldn't resist responding to her mile-wide smile. I grinned back.
She knew I was having a problem all right. I'd unleashed a flood of complaints this morning about Mod's editor-in-chief, Margaret Weatherbourne, as the elevator whisked us silently up to the forty-sixth floor. Beneath her seemingly flawless Upper East Side exterior, Margaret had been a bit off-kilter since the release of the recent circulation figures that had put our biggest competitor, Cosmopolitan, at 3 million while Mod stayed steady at 2.6 Million. (This was still a notch ahead of Glamour's 2.4 million. Thank goodness, or Margaret probably would have tossed all of us out her forty-sixth-floor wall of windows.) She had been spotted more than once mumbling words that wouldn't befit her classy persona in the general direction of Cosmo's offices eleven blocks up Broadway.
At our weekly editorial meeting on Monday, she had announced that this was war. If it was the last thing she did, we would beat Cosmopolitan in circulation next quarter.
So I suppose it shouldn't have completely blindsided me when she called me into her office at 6 p.m. last night to tell me she'd had a brilliant idea and wanted to crash the August issue with a story about how wonderful one-night stands were for a twenty-first-century girl's self-esteem. Apparently this would be a circulation-raising feat that would restore Margaret to the status of Supreme Fashion Goddess of New York.
"But they're not good for self-esteem," I said flatly. The magazine was going to press on Monday morning, which meant that I'd have to turn around her latest ridiculous idea in less than forty-eight hours if I had any hope of having a weekend free from work.
Besides, I was just about the last person on the Mod staff who should be writing the article. Sure, I'd had my share of wickedly fun one-night stands in college (not that I'd admit it to just anyone) but I'd like to think that at twenty-six, I was past that. Besides, there was the fact that I'd been dating my boyfriend, Tom, for over a year now. (Even if he didn't technically appear to be sleeping with me at the moment. I was convinced it was just a fluke, or maybe a phase.)
So what did I know about one-night stands?
It wasn't even my department. As Mod's entertainment editor, I was responsible for all of the magazine's celebrity profiles. I just happened to be the only editor still in the building, and my reputation as the "nice girl" had seemingly convinced Margaret that I would take on impossible projects without putting up a fight.
Note to self: Plan to reconsider reputation as the nice girl.
"Yes they are," Margaret said, of course offering no examples or proof to support her point that one-night stands were suddenly chic and "in." Her green eyes blazed, and for a moment I thought I would see fire shoot from her nostrils.
"One-night stands?" I asked finally.
"One-night stands," she echoed cheerfully. She waved a slender hand in the air with a dramatic flourish. "They're so in. They give the woman the power." I grimaced. Like she'd know. The only thing that had given her "the power" was that her mother's fourth husband (whom she still called "Daddy"-despite the fact that she was in her forties) owned Smith-Baker Media, Mod's parent company.
"Power?" I repeated. I tried to think back to a time when one of my college one-night stands had made me feel powerful, but I was at a bit of a loss. Margaret glared at me over the top of her custom rimless Prada glasses, complete with diamond-studded arms, that had no doubt cost more than I was spending each month on rent.
"Just do it, Claire," she said firmly. "The magazine is closing in four days, and I want this article in there. And you'll write it." Before I could open my mouth to ask the obvious, she said with unmistakable finality, "Because I said so."
That's how I'd landed at my desk on a Thursday morning with a headache and a seemingly impossible task before me. The fact that I seemed to have no recent experience in the field of sex or anything sex related was only making matters worse.
"That screen still looks pretty blank to me," Wendy said over the cubicle, winking at me as I slumped over my keyboard and banged my head against my desk. Wendy had wrapped August earlier in the week-we all had-and was already working on September. Other than the layout people, who were rushing at the last minute to include room for the one-night-stand article and splash a teaser for it across the cover, I was the only Mod staffer scrambling to finish up for August on such a tight deadline.
"What can you say about a one-night stand?" I moaned, rolling my eyes at Wendy. It was pretty much common knowledge that I was the least sexually advanced of anyone in Mod's offices, due to an inexplicable dating drought B.T. (Before Tom.) Wendy, on the other hand, was to sexual liberation what Manolo Blahnik was to shoes-a fearless leader and trendsetter, not to mention a face for a movement.
"Oh, I could say plenty," Wendy said, tossing her red curls over her shoulder and readjusting her Day-Glo scarf. "I mean, I could go out and do field research. Think Mod would pick up the tab?" She winked again at me. "In fact, I have a hot date tonight. Maybe I can test your theory then."
"A date? With a waiter?" I asked innocently. Wendy nodded excitedly, and I rolled my eyes.
"Pablo," she said, putting her right hand over her heart and doing a little twirl. "From Caffe Linda on Forty-ninth Street. He's so sexy."
"You think anyone in an apron who takes your order and brings you food is sexy," I muttered, trying not to smile. Wendy laughed. Around the office, we called her a "serial waiter dater," a title she wore as proudly as Miss America wore her crown. Wendy was an aspiring chef who was convinced that culinary greatness would one day be magically bestowed upon her if she ate out every night at Manhattan's top restaurants, sampling the creations of the city's best chefs.
As a result, she barely had enough money for rent and was in massive credit card debt, but she had an endless supply of waiters whom she somehow managed to seduce somewhere between her salad course and dessert. I still couldn't figure out how she did it. I was thinking of asking her for lessons.
"See, I'd be the perfect one to write this article," Wendy said. Well, I couldn't argue there. "Hey, you can write me off if you want, but my first piece of advice would be to drop Tom and go out and do some field research." Wendy raised an eyebrow at me. "How often do you get to explain a one-night stand to yourself by saying that you just had to do it for work?"
"You just want me to drop Tom," I said, wrinkling my nose at her. Wendy had never liked him. I trusted her-she was my best friend-but that didn't mean she was always right. And even if she was getting laid a lot more than I was, I didn't necessarily want to live like her, hopping from one man's bed to the next in a dizzying array that read like a Zagat's guide.
Although on day 29 of my inadvertent reborn-virgin status, I had to admit, there was a certain appeal to her dating philosophy.
My friends back home in suburban Atlanta, where I had spent my entire childhood, were marrying off left and right, and at almost twenty-seven, I was experiencing the first symptoms of feeling like an old maid. With a closetful of useless taffeta in all the colors of the matrimonial rainbow, I was beginning to give new meaning to the saying "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride." Of course by New York standards, I was years too young to worry about marriage. But by the standards of the South I was already over the hill, matrimonially speaking. At friends' weddings (which now seemed to take place on a bimonthly basis), I was already hearing the sad whispers and standing on the receiving end of the pitying glances reserved for the eternally unmarriageable.
I had confided last month to the most recent of my newlywed friends that I thought Tom might be "The One." And I really did feel that way, don't get me wrong. After all, we were both writers, he made me laugh, we had lots of fun together.... It seemed so logical.
Of course, this was mere hours after my mother had taken me aside and reminded me, "Claire, you can't be too picky, you know. You're not getting any younger."
"He doesn't even have a job," Wendy said simply, snapping me out of the beginnings of a daydream about my own nuptials.
"He's writing a novel," I said, shrugging with what I hoped looked like nonchalance. I knew I sounded like a broken record, but I pressed on. "He needs the time to work on it. He's a really great writer, you know. He's always working really hard on it at home."
"And it's totally normal that he doesn't want to sleep with you?" she asked gently. As my best friend, Wendy had, of course, heard the full and unfortunate details of my dry spell.
"It's just a phase," I muttered. Okay, so I didn't entirely believe the words myself, but they sounded good. "Anyhow, I think maybe he has a sleeping disorder or something. I mean, he sleeps all the time. Maybe it has nothing to do with me. Maybe I should suggest that he see a doctor."
"Maybe," Wendy said after a moment. She smiled at me mischievously. "Or maybe you should just go out and test this one-night-stand theory."
I rolled my eyes and turned resignedly back to the computer, trying to ignore her giggles. I gritted my teeth and tried to think about sex, which wasn't too hard, considering it had absorbed just about every one of my waking thoughts for the past few weeks.
By the end of the day, I had managed to dash off two thousand words I didn't really believe in and that didn't sound much different from any of the nearly identical "How to Please Your Man" articles we pushed on readers each month. Not that I didn't think you could find useful information within the pages of Mod-in fact, I'd read it religiously every month even before I worked here-but let's face it: We weren't solving any real problems here. At the end of the day, there would still be tensions in the Middle East, civil strife in Colombia, and kids dying of hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa. But at least our readers were wearing the right shades of lipstick, buying skirts with the right hemlines, and learning things like how one-night stands could raise their self-esteem.
In other words, all the important things.
This isn't exactly what I visualized doing when I graduated from college. I'd been the kind of English-lit dork who preferred a night with Joan Didion or Tom Wolfe to a day lounging by the pool with the latest issue of Vogue. And despite the crash course in the merits of Michael Kors, Chloe, and Manolo Blahnik that I'd received during my first week at Mod, I was, to the chagrin of many of my coworkers, still mostly a Gap girl. With the notable exceptions of the two pairs of Seven jeans I'd fallen in love with and the six Amy Tangerine designer tees I'd developed an obsession for in the last year, most of my clothes were from the sale racks of the Gap, Banana Republic, Macy's juniors department, or the ever-popular cheap chic of Forever 21 or H&M. The fifteen dollars max I usually spent on a T-shirt was a far cry from the $180 some of my coworkers spent on a white tee that could just as easily have come from Fruit of the Loom.
Thankfully, the atmosphere wasn't anything like that of the high fashion magazines where a few of my classmates from college worked. They had all been promptly assimilated and now had matching haircuts, matching Fendi and Louis Vuitton bags for every season, and wardrobes that consisted only of the most expensive and trendy designer clothes. Margaret just asked that we look presentable, polished, and stylish, which I usually didn't have a problem with, even on my admittedly meager salary.
After all, I had to look the part if I was going to interact with the fabulously wealthy A-list set. I'd made the mistake my first year at People of dressing professionally but without much of a stylish edge, and I'd quickly learned my lesson. Spending a bit more on designer items-even if I could afford just a scarf to pair with less impressive non-designer threads-would go a long way. When you were an actress decked out in tens-of-thousands-of-dollars of diamonds, strutting down the red carpet, there was just something about a reporter wearing a Gucci scarf that made you just a bit more likely to stop and chat. Sad, right? But those were the rules of the game.
And the articles. Sheesh, the articles. Don't get me wrong-I love what I do. I love getting inside people's heads (even if those heads often belong to vacuous celebrities) and finding out what they're thinking, what they're worrying about, what makes them tick. So the job as senior celebrity editor of Mod fits me with a perfection that might surprise you, considering I originally had my sights set on the lofty literary world of The New Yorker.
But it's the other articles, the in-between assignments that a Prada-clad Margaret dumps on my desk at the last minute, that drive me crazy. I mean, there are only so many ways you can address your readers' "Most Intimate Sex Questions" (clue: they're not so intimate anymore when 2.6 million women are reading about them); the truth behind "How to Drop Those Last Five Pounds" (um, exercise and eat less-duh); and the ever-popular "How to Know If He Likes You" (well, men who like a woman usually want to sleep with that woman-wait, should I be taking notes here?).
Even the celeb interviews have their moments, when I wish I could just bury my head in Jane Austen and slink back to my college English class with my tail between my legs.
Excerpted from How to Sleep with a Movie Star by Kristin Harmel Copyright © 2006 by Kristin Harmel. Excerpted by permission.
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