So begins the funny and heart-wrenching tale of Jim Rosso, a 38-year-old suburban, divorcé, who finds himself alone, uncoupled and dating for the first time since college.
The only woman who appeals to him is Rita Dine, but she’s married to his best friend, Charles. Charles reminds Rosso that he met the beautiful, brainy and compassionate Rita through Smartheart, a dating service for Ivy League graduates. After a series of dates-from-hell, the gun-shy Rosso seeks love in earnest. If Smartheart can produce a single woman of Rita's caliber, Rosso decides it’s worth a shot. Every month, Smartheart sends him a new crop of women’s bios—some fetching and romantic, others certifiably insane, but always entertaining. To email or to chat on-line? To meet or simply phone? Tentative at first, Rosso signs on for this dizzying ride through the underworld of dating. When things get complicated, the secret lives of those he thinks he knows best unravel before him.
The perfect novel for anyone who has ever spent Saturday nights howling at the moon, looking for a mate.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.49(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Jim Rosso was anticipating a lonely millennium.
On the advice of his best friend, he requested an application for Smartheart, a dating network limited to Ivy League graduates. Charles Dine, his former roommate from Dartmouth, insisted it was an entertaining and efficient way to meet women. Besides, that’s how Charles had met his wife, Rita; and, if Smartheart could produce a single woman of Rita’s caliber, Rosso agreed it was worth a shot.
Aside from Charles’s tip, Rosso was sick of advice. In the two years since his divorce, everyone he had ever met, especially those miserable in their own affairs, had become the self-appointed expert on his love life. Club Med, Sierra Club, the Hamptons, the Appalachian Trail, cycling though Tuscany, White River rafting, riding the Metroliner, and cruising elevators during rush hourall these, along with his fifteenth college reunion, were held forth as Biospheres for dating. Rosso had only to show up; the environment would do the rest.
Most of the tips were hearsay, since, with the exception of Rosso’s tax attorney, who had met his bride in the elevator, no one had actually tested them. Yet all this liberally dispensed advice was capped with the breezy and infuriatingly winking phrase, "You never know."
Rosso wrestled with his bio, which would appear on the monthly list sent out to members and, simultaneously, on the Net. Most people aren’t good at describing themselves. Rosso was no exception. He had met Doris, his first wife, in college and, now, resisted taking this impersonal dating method seriously. His first attempt was a shameful form of toe-dipping to test new waters. After reading countless earnest examples of bios provided by Smartheart, all of which contained the words, sincere, attractive, nurturing, good communicator and mutual respect, he tossed off the following:
Ex-marine. Womanizer. Detests children and cats. Perfect Sunday: Beer and ballgames. Likes to fuck. Millionaire.In a fit of vicarious bachelorhood, Charles insisted that Rosso translate his bio into French and run it through Smartheart International. That way, it wouldn’t really count, Charles explained, since Smartheart’s international chapter was separate, chaotic, and mostly comprising female celebrities looking for Arthur Miller types.
To his horror, Rosso received five replies. "How could any self-respecting woman possibly answer such an asshole!?," he asked Charles, who was terrifically curious, himself. Rosso’s favorite responseand by far the most intelligentwas one from a French woman: "To say that you are a pig is an insult to pigs." In French, it was a magnificent put-down, making Rosso wish he had introduced himself in a less offensive manner.
At times like these, a man dusted off his education. Tristan seeks Isolde; Rodolfo seeks Mimi; Paolo seeks Beatrice; or the more direct approach: Come Live With Me and Be My Love. All of these, Rosso considered as leads for his bio, then rejected, when it became obvious that, with the exception of the passionate shepherd, most of the plots hinged on consumption or death.
The truth about Rosso read more like this: He possessed the quiet confidence of a man who had seen and done just about everything. At five feet eleven inches, with a solid build, he was ruggedly handsome and his brown eyes, in a certain light, looked more like navy blue. His thick brown hair was wavy, with a stubborn cowlick on the back of his head. Rosso’s mother claimed he had inherited the cowlick from his father, who had died of a heart attack when Rosso was nine, leaving the book they had been reading together, The Spirit of St. Louis, unfinished.
In the end, this is the bio Rosso submitted. He wanted women to know that he was no smoothie. Rusty Romeo or Cave Man Seeks Wife were honest leads. Since he was running over the thirty-five word limit, he cut out the fact that he had been a military pilot, because, along with his computer work, women might conclude he was a geek.
Tall, dark, and passionate first-generation (normal) Italian (38). Accomplished hunter-gatherer with undergraduate degree in comparative literature. First marriage ended after a dispute over my passion for both Labs and golf. Seeking feisty, comely, brainy woman with civilizing influence to settle down and raise a family.Rosso rejected the conventional wisdom about menthat they have a Y chromosome marked egotist; that they are looking to marry their mothers; that they would rather be coddled than challenged; and that, of all the elements in a woman, they are attracted to fire but will eventually settle for water (at room temperature). He would have conceded the Frenchwoman’s point about men being pigs. And most men will admit that they don’t grow up dreaming of marriage and children. "You held out as long as you could," accompanied by a pat on the back is the tribal response to a man’s engagement. But this doesn’t mean that men don’t take the job seriously once they’re hired. Rosso did.
Doris was a painter, a Hampshire College graduate who had won the 1985 Prix de Rome by rendering Carcassonne’s medieval fortress in hot pink. At the time, Christo was in vogue and Doris’s depiction of Carcassonne’s ninth century structure resembled Christo’s plan for the wrapping of the Pont Neuf.
When Rosso married Doris, she was making a meager living as a bookbinder in New York City. He was 27; she was 25. At the time, her rabid hatred of any man, woman or everyday slob who made a decent wage was amusing. Painters, poets, Buddhists, and Rosso were, of course, exempt. Many of her friends lunched every day at Dean and Deluca in Soho. The one time Rosso was invited, he ended up feeling like Simon in the Lord of the Fliesunwelcome, and about to be sacrificed. It occurred to Rosso, after scanning the bored, hostile faces of trustfunders dressed in black, that Dean and Deluca’s bottom line rested squarely on the very people Doris and her friends reviled. Their savage antipathy towards any profession that required a suit made him an instant outcast, for Rosso was a Brooks Brothers man down to his very boxers.
Rosso knew everything about what his ex-wife’s work.
Each night Rosso listened to Doris’s withering doubts about her talent as a bookbinder. He agonized over every glue that was too weak and every spine that had broken.
It was he who took the call from an irate librarian when a first edition of Calvino’s Il Barone Rampante buckled its spine. Finally, it was he who was left with a fifteen-thousand dollar bill for more botched spines when Doris ran off with an outfielder for the Boston Red Sox. Like Doris, the Red Sox are losersor, at the very least, they have a pathological fear of success. But Rosso loved them both. He couldn’t tell you why.
As a divorced man, with no children, living in Connecticut, Rosso, like all departures from the norm, excited even the dullest imagination. His neighbors watched him mow his lawn, shovel his driveway, wash his storm windows, pick up his mail, and head for New York City in his Ford Explorer, leaving the house too dark for the comfort of New Canaan’s Neighborhood Crime Watch. They suspected that Rosso was looking for companionship. Which was true because, in the course of his ten-year marriage, Doris had fleeced him of what she called his "non-essential" friendships.
The first casualty had been David Vimer, Rosso’s first grade buddy who had complimented Doris one-too-many-times on her breasts. Over the years, the list had grown to include Artie, who only had sex with prostitutes, and Bill, who in the fourteen sniffly years Rosso had known him, still preferred the back of his hand to a Kleenex.
Rosso told Doris that everyone had "non-essentials," those stray cats of humanity, requiring a bowl of milk every now and then. He reminded her that even she had 1-800 Mia, who had convinced Doris of her essentialness by somehow managing to dial their home number in the course of multiple and botched suicide attempts. She also had Alan Potter, a Yale dropout, whom Rosso was revolted to learn made a comfortable living as a sperm donor.
Without knowing a thing about James Adams Rosso, everyone on his block had plans for his future. At 4 Hillside, Mrs. Selby was determined to introduce him to her twenty-nine year-old daughter. Two doors down, at 6 Hillside, Mrs. Morris suspected he was a child molester and wanted him locked up. Across the street, at 7 Hillside, Mr. Williams, a retired oil company manager, hoped to turn him into a golf buddy and Mrs. Becker, the local real estate saleswoman, wanted his house.
"I can get you seven-fifty," she would say, arriving, uninvited, for her monthly visit.
"Thanks. I’m not selling." Rosso would reply.
"Everybody needs three-quarters of a mill."
And, despite Rosso’s fantasy about a life free of expensive house repairs, Rosso would tell Mrs. Becker the truth; that he had nowhere else to go.
On the September list, Rosso circled the bios of women living in New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut. It was an eclectic group and, given Rosso’s relatively sedate life in the suburbs, Smartheart’s list, restocked monthly, held the promise of a new beginning for a gun-shy divorcé.
Belle of Amherst with a mind for business (33). Avid hiker and biker seeks mountain man with the soul of Emerson (Connecticut).
Woman who runs with wolves (39). Seeks sensitive, successful man for romantic walks, candlelight dinners and long-term commitment (New York).
California girl (26) transplanted to New England for advanced degree in graphic design. Van Morrison fan. Sexy, Spiritual (Connecticut).
Barnard graduate (28) and medical doctor in search of Ivy-league Lancelot (New York).
Freelance writer (34). Young Elizabeth Taylor look-alike seeks boxer-poet. Intense, yet soft spot for Elvis (Boston).
Belle of Amherst struck Rosso as either wholesome and employed, or a thinly-veiled Type A. Woman Who Runs with Wolves was sentimental and the wolf stuff left him clueless. California Girl’s self-promotion was oddespecially since the sexiest (not to mention the holiest) people Rosso knew didn’t go around proclaiming it. The Barnard doctor was probably a dermatologist or an ER doctor, both of whom Charles would forbid him to date. Like all surgeons, he regarded them as the bottom-feeders of medicine.
Only Elizabeth Taylor sounded worth the trip.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
¿Single, White, Cave Man¿ is sassy, stylish, and full of wisdom about men and women, and overall just a pleasure to read! Few writers ever ¿get it¿ from both the male and female vantage points. Fabienne Marsh¿s wry vision remarkably fuses both profiles into a beautiful three-dimensional balance. Each paragraph flows thoughtfully with wit, growing drama, and grace; each sentence is chosen and honed with the insight and uncompromising spareness of a poem that begs your return. There is so much to relish in this enticing story: smarts, intrigue and the unpredictable physics of cause and effect that explodes ever mischievously between the sexes. Each of Marsh¿s works has successively produced a growing and lingering joy, beginning with ¿Long Distances,¿ followed by ¿The Moralist of the Alphabet Streets¿ and now culminating with the immeasurable delight of ¿Single, White, Cave Man.¿