Straight Up and Dirty: A Memoir
relationship so desperately.” Why was I paying her again? Wasn’t that her job? Holy shit, all I wanted to do was cry and eat hamburgers.

    As for variety, I had it all wrong. The real cowards aren’t the ones who enjoy the variety pack. Cowards pogo jump from one relationship to the next out of a fear of being alone. Cereal monogamists. They eat out of their safe pantries because they’re too terrified of walking beyond the perimeter of what they already know, exposing themselves to new “styles.”

    That’s what Phone Therapist called them, “styles.” She argued in addition to coaxing me out from behind my preferred comfort zone of “serious relationship,” an assortment of men would expose me to new ways of thinking. “New styles,” she advised, as if they were overcoats. “There’s more to life than Jewish doctors who believe the planets orbit around their pants. You need to realize there are men out there who don’t even like golf. Sure, go ahead and date Max, but you can’t stop there.”

    So, I didn’t. I dated a variety of men hoping to find “attentive,” “thoughtful,” and “selfless.” I didn’t know, at least not from experience, if they existed in men other than my father.

    But of course, it all came down one day to a postcoital talk when Max questioned, “You’re not seeing anyone else, are you?” I didn’t need to answer. We stopped talking.

    Days later, I tried to rescind it all. “I only want you. I don’t care what Phone Therapist says.” I felt needy and hungry for what I knew. I wasn’t that different from Lower Least Side Greg, unaware of just what I had until it was too late, until it was “better off as friends.”

    “No, sweetie,” Max said. “I knew something wasn’t right. You’re too fancy for me, anyway.” Fancy meant I didn’t own my own dartboard and preferred bars without sawdust.

    “Can we still,” I wondered how I’d redeem this, how I’d not have to lose him completely, “be friends?”

    “Of course we can. But some time needs to go by. Let’s give it a few months.”

    So, just three months out of my marriage, anxious as a fly trapped in a jar, I needed to move beyond the Max and, at a minimum, pluck a few other fresh fish out of the water and do some examining. Leave my apartment and check out their colorful scales and slick gills. I had to see what all these fish in this enormous sea everyone kept mentioning were like. I just wasn’t permitted to engage in any deep-sea fishing yet. Well, thank God for argyle-print waders. Now all I needed were some fishing buddies. “Ew, do I have to touch his worm?” Oh, for the love of God.

four
P ACK ANIMALS

    IT WAS TIME TO GO OUTSIDE AND REALIZE LIFE DOES ACTUALLY go on beyond the walls of my very small, so this is what it’s like to live alone apartment. Linus crawled onto my chest and pawed at my forehead. Okay, so I wasn’t alone alone. It was worse. I was one of those women who thought she wasn’t alone because she picked up shit and fed something. “Wanna go for a walk?” I needn’t ask twice. The runt was ready to go.
     
    It was the Thursday before Fourth of July weekend, which meant I had to air out Linus. On Mondays and Wednesdays, he attended Camp Canine, a doggie day-care facility—resembling my father’s basement—which enables New Yorkers’ guilt to dissolve like the sugar in their A.M . lattes. For the rest of the week, though, he sulked alone all day—curled into himself like a small black-eyed pea. So I exercised him at the Seventy-second Street dog run where he chased a ball, sniffed some ass, and basically drooled like an adolescent boy upon his first glimpse of bush.

    My overprotective soccer-mom instincts extended beyond wanting to make Linus wear shin guards and a helmet. Linus on the streets of Manhattan, even while I was gripping his leash, was a lawsuit waiting to happen. As we walked to the run, strangers leaned toward him and made nice nice. His tail

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