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1

Part One: Fleishman Is in Trouble

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Brodesser-Akner, T. (2019). Part One: Fleishman Is in Trouble. In Brodesser-Akner, T. Fleishman Is in Trouble: A Novel. Random House, pp. 1-164

4

He hadn’t looked at another woman once during his marriage, so in love with Rachel was he—so in love was he with any kind of institution or system. He made solemn, dutiful work of trying to save the relationship even after it would have been clear to any reasonable person that their misery was not a phase. There was nobility in the work, he believed. There was nobility in the suffering. And even after he realized that it was over, he still had to spend years, plural, trying to convince her that this wasn’t right, that they were too unhappy, that they were still young and could have good lives without each other—even then he didn’t let one millimeter of his eye wander. Mostly, he said, because he was too busy being sad. Mostly because he felt like garbage all the time, and a person shouldn’t feel like garbage all the time. More than that, a person shouldn’t be made horny when he felt like garbage. The intersection of horniness and low self-esteem seemed reserved squarely for porn consumption.

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—p.4 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

He hadn’t looked at another woman once during his marriage, so in love with Rachel was he—so in love was he with any kind of institution or system. He made solemn, dutiful work of trying to save the relationship even after it would have been clear to any reasonable person that their misery was not a phase. There was nobility in the work, he believed. There was nobility in the suffering. And even after he realized that it was over, he still had to spend years, plural, trying to convince her that this wasn’t right, that they were too unhappy, that they were still young and could have good lives without each other—even then he didn’t let one millimeter of his eye wander. Mostly, he said, because he was too busy being sad. Mostly because he felt like garbage all the time, and a person shouldn’t feel like garbage all the time. More than that, a person shouldn’t be made horny when he felt like garbage. The intersection of horniness and low self-esteem seemed reserved squarely for porn consumption.

You must be logged in to see this comment.

—p.4 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
5

[...] She was in a completely other home, the one that used to be his, too. Every single morning this thought overwhelmed him momentarily; it panicked him, so that the first thing he thought when he awoke was this: Something is wrong. There is trouble. I am in trouble. It had been he who asked for the divorce, and still: Something is wrong. There is trouble. I am in trouble. Each morning, he shook this off. He reminded himself that this was what was healthy and appropriate and the natural order. She wasn’t supposed to be next to him anymore. She was supposed to be in her separate, nicer home.

—p.5 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

[...] She was in a completely other home, the one that used to be his, too. Every single morning this thought overwhelmed him momentarily; it panicked him, so that the first thing he thought when he awoke was this: Something is wrong. There is trouble. I am in trouble. It had been he who asked for the divorce, and still: Something is wrong. There is trouble. I am in trouble. Each morning, he shook this off. He reminded himself that this was what was healthy and appropriate and the natural order. She wasn’t supposed to be next to him anymore. She was supposed to be in her separate, nicer home.

—p.5 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
13

These questions weren’t really about him; no, they were questions about how perceptive people were and what they missed and who else was about to announce their divorce and whether the undercurrent of tension in their own marriages would eventually lead to their demise. Did the fight I had with my wife on our actual anniversary that was particularly vicious mean we’re going to get divorced? Do we argue too much? Do we have enough sex? Is everyone else having more sex? Can you get divorced within six months of an absentminded hand-kiss at a bat mitzvah? How miserable is too miserable?

How miserable is too miserable?

One day he would not be recently divorced, but he would never forget those questions, the way people pretended to care for him while they were really asking after themselves.

—p.13 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

These questions weren’t really about him; no, they were questions about how perceptive people were and what they missed and who else was about to announce their divorce and whether the undercurrent of tension in their own marriages would eventually lead to their demise. Did the fight I had with my wife on our actual anniversary that was particularly vicious mean we’re going to get divorced? Do we argue too much? Do we have enough sex? Is everyone else having more sex? Can you get divorced within six months of an absentminded hand-kiss at a bat mitzvah? How miserable is too miserable?

How miserable is too miserable?

One day he would not be recently divorced, but he would never forget those questions, the way people pretended to care for him while they were really asking after themselves.

—p.13 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
15

[...] He didn’t want to undermine Rachel’s status at school out of an old sense of protectiveness that he couldn’t quite shake. She was a monster, yes, but she had always been a monster, and she was still his monster, for she had not yet been claimed by another, for he was still not legally done with her, for she still haunted him.

—p.15 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

[...] He didn’t want to undermine Rachel’s status at school out of an old sense of protectiveness that he couldn’t quite shake. She was a monster, yes, but she had always been a monster, and she was still his monster, for she had not yet been claimed by another, for he was still not legally done with her, for she still haunted him.

—p.15 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
20

Hr, which was what his preferred dating app was called, was now his first-thing-in-the-morning check. It had replaced Facebook, since when he looked at Facebook, he became despondent and overwhelmed by the number of people he hadn’t yet told about his divorce. But Facebook was also a landscape of roads not taken and moments of bliss, real or staged, that he couldn’t bear. The marriages that seemed plain and the posts that seemed incidental and not pointed, because they telegraphed not an aggressively great status in life but a just-fine one, those were the ones that left him clutching his heart. Toby hadn’t dreamed of great and transcendent things for his marriage. He had parents. He wasn’t an idiot. He just wanted regular, silly things in life, like stability and emotional support and a low-grade contentedness. Why couldn’t he just have regular, silly things? His former intern Sari posted a picture of herself bowling at a school fundraiser with her husband. She’d apparently gotten three strikes. “What a night,” she’d written. Toby had stared at it with the overwhelming desire to write “Enjoy this for now” or “All desire is death.” It was best to stay off Facebook.

lol

—p.20 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

Hr, which was what his preferred dating app was called, was now his first-thing-in-the-morning check. It had replaced Facebook, since when he looked at Facebook, he became despondent and overwhelmed by the number of people he hadn’t yet told about his divorce. But Facebook was also a landscape of roads not taken and moments of bliss, real or staged, that he couldn’t bear. The marriages that seemed plain and the posts that seemed incidental and not pointed, because they telegraphed not an aggressively great status in life but a just-fine one, those were the ones that left him clutching his heart. Toby hadn’t dreamed of great and transcendent things for his marriage. He had parents. He wasn’t an idiot. He just wanted regular, silly things in life, like stability and emotional support and a low-grade contentedness. Why couldn’t he just have regular, silly things? His former intern Sari posted a picture of herself bowling at a school fundraiser with her husband. She’d apparently gotten three strikes. “What a night,” she’d written. Toby had stared at it with the overwhelming desire to write “Enjoy this for now” or “All desire is death.” It was best to stay off Facebook.

lol

—p.20 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
21

He tried not to smile while she spoke. He tried to squint seriously like he was consulting on a patient, but he couldn’t help it. It hadn’t occurred to him that his news could ever be received as anything but tragic. He thought he’d have to look at his shoes in sadness every time it came up, out of some kind of respect or decorum. But he had suffered enough. He had suffered for years in the limbo of failure and self-immolation that was the end of his marriage—that was the end of any marriage. Yes! This will be fun! He looked out the window just then and saw that it was summer. It was summer!

—p.21 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

He tried not to smile while she spoke. He tried to squint seriously like he was consulting on a patient, but he couldn’t help it. It hadn’t occurred to him that his news could ever be received as anything but tragic. He thought he’d have to look at his shoes in sadness every time it came up, out of some kind of respect or decorum. But he had suffered enough. He had suffered for years in the limbo of failure and self-immolation that was the end of his marriage—that was the end of any marriage. Yes! This will be fun! He looked out the window just then and saw that it was summer. It was summer!

—p.21 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
25

He’d initially been democratic in his search parameters on the subject of age. Anyone over twenty-five who wasn’t yet dead was fair game, he’d figured, though he quickly began to tire of looking at the young ones. It wasn’t how it ached to see their youth, how their skin still showed glow and bounce, how they delighted in the seam of their buttock folding over the top of their thigh like it was on springs—though it absolutely did ache to see those things. It wasn’t how they so clearly believed it would always be like this, or perhaps how they knew it wouldn’t and so decided to enjoy it; that would be worse, if they were enjoying their youth because they knew it wouldn’t last, because who had the sense to do that? It was that he couldn’t bear to be with anyone who didn’t yet truly understand consequences, how the world would have its way with you despite all your careful life planning. There was no way to learn that until you lived it. There was no way for any of us to learn that until we lived it.

—p.25 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

He’d initially been democratic in his search parameters on the subject of age. Anyone over twenty-five who wasn’t yet dead was fair game, he’d figured, though he quickly began to tire of looking at the young ones. It wasn’t how it ached to see their youth, how their skin still showed glow and bounce, how they delighted in the seam of their buttock folding over the top of their thigh like it was on springs—though it absolutely did ache to see those things. It wasn’t how they so clearly believed it would always be like this, or perhaps how they knew it wouldn’t and so decided to enjoy it; that would be worse, if they were enjoying their youth because they knew it wouldn’t last, because who had the sense to do that? It was that he couldn’t bear to be with anyone who didn’t yet truly understand consequences, how the world would have its way with you despite all your careful life planning. There was no way to learn that until you lived it. There was no way for any of us to learn that until we lived it.

—p.25 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
35

It’s not like I wasn’t busy. I was an officer in good standing of my kids’ PTA. I owned a car that put my comfort ahead of the health and future of the planet. I had an IRA and a 401(k) and I went on vacations and swam with dolphins and taught my kids to ski. I contributed to the school’s annual fund. I flossed twice a day; I saw a dentist twice a year. I got Pap smears and had my moles checked. I read books about oppressed minorities with my book club. I did physical therapy for an old knee injury, forgoing the other things I’d like to do to ensure I didn’t end up with a repeat injury. I made breakfast. I went on endless moms’ nights out, where I put on tight jeans and trendy blouses and high heels like it mattered and went to the restaurant that was right next to the restaurant we went to with our families. (There were no dads’ nights out for my husband, because the supposition was that the men got to live life all the time, whereas we were caged animals who were sometimes allowed to prowl our local town bar and drink the blood of the free people.) I took polls on whether the Y or the JCC had better swimming lessons. I signed up for soccer leagues in time for the season cutoff, which was months before you’d even think of enrolling a child in soccer, and then organized their attendant carpools. I planned playdates and barbecues and pediatric dental checkups and adult dental checkups and plain old internists and plain old pediatricians and hair salon treatments and educational testing and cleats-buying and art class attendance and pediatric ophthalmologist and adult ophthalmologist and now, suddenly, mammograms. I made lunch. I made dinner. I made breakfast. I made lunch. I made dinner. I made breakfast. I made lunch. I made dinner.

—p.35 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

It’s not like I wasn’t busy. I was an officer in good standing of my kids’ PTA. I owned a car that put my comfort ahead of the health and future of the planet. I had an IRA and a 401(k) and I went on vacations and swam with dolphins and taught my kids to ski. I contributed to the school’s annual fund. I flossed twice a day; I saw a dentist twice a year. I got Pap smears and had my moles checked. I read books about oppressed minorities with my book club. I did physical therapy for an old knee injury, forgoing the other things I’d like to do to ensure I didn’t end up with a repeat injury. I made breakfast. I went on endless moms’ nights out, where I put on tight jeans and trendy blouses and high heels like it mattered and went to the restaurant that was right next to the restaurant we went to with our families. (There were no dads’ nights out for my husband, because the supposition was that the men got to live life all the time, whereas we were caged animals who were sometimes allowed to prowl our local town bar and drink the blood of the free people.) I took polls on whether the Y or the JCC had better swimming lessons. I signed up for soccer leagues in time for the season cutoff, which was months before you’d even think of enrolling a child in soccer, and then organized their attendant carpools. I planned playdates and barbecues and pediatric dental checkups and adult dental checkups and plain old internists and plain old pediatricians and hair salon treatments and educational testing and cleats-buying and art class attendance and pediatric ophthalmologist and adult ophthalmologist and now, suddenly, mammograms. I made lunch. I made dinner. I made breakfast. I made lunch. I made dinner. I made breakfast. I made lunch. I made dinner.

—p.35 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
36

That first night, on the phone, Toby was so grateful that I wasn’t going to make him pay for his abandonment of me or treat him like an injured kitten that he became giddy, and he laughed more and so I laughed more. And in our laughter we heard our youth, and it is not not a dangerous thing to be at the doorstep to middle age and at an impasse in your life and to suddenly be hearing sounds from your youth.

—p.36 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

That first night, on the phone, Toby was so grateful that I wasn’t going to make him pay for his abandonment of me or treat him like an injured kitten that he became giddy, and he laughed more and so I laughed more. And in our laughter we heard our youth, and it is not not a dangerous thing to be at the doorstep to middle age and at an impasse in your life and to suddenly be hearing sounds from your youth.

—p.36 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
37

I asked him the questions he hated: So then what happened? It’s so drastic and hard to end a marriage. Something had to have happened. Did she cheat on you? Did you cheat on her? Did you hate her friends? Did the kids kill her libido? But marriage is vast and mysterious and private. You could not scientifically compare two marriages for all of the variance of factors, most particularly what two specific people can tolerate. I made my face placid and curious, the way I did during my old magazine interviews, pretending the stakes were just regular when really everything hung on the answers.

—p.37 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

I asked him the questions he hated: So then what happened? It’s so drastic and hard to end a marriage. Something had to have happened. Did she cheat on you? Did you cheat on her? Did you hate her friends? Did the kids kill her libido? But marriage is vast and mysterious and private. You could not scientifically compare two marriages for all of the variance of factors, most particularly what two specific people can tolerate. I made my face placid and curious, the way I did during my old magazine interviews, pretending the stakes were just regular when really everything hung on the answers.

—p.37 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
49

I told him I’d left the magazine two years before, that I was trying to work on a coming-of-age novel about my youth. What I didn’t say was that it never held my attention long enough for there to be progress. I kept the document up on my computer, but minimized, and I only turned to it every few weeks before feeling overwhelmed about what it was that I was trying to do with it. A book should convey your suffering; a book should speak to what is roiling within you. I thought maybe I could do this through a good young-adult novel, but YA novels were all fantastical things these days, with werewolves and sea creatures and half-bloods and hybrids. My story was small and dumb. Nothing even really happened in it.

—p.49 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

I told him I’d left the magazine two years before, that I was trying to work on a coming-of-age novel about my youth. What I didn’t say was that it never held my attention long enough for there to be progress. I kept the document up on my computer, but minimized, and I only turned to it every few weeks before feeling overwhelmed about what it was that I was trying to do with it. A book should convey your suffering; a book should speak to what is roiling within you. I thought maybe I could do this through a good young-adult novel, but YA novels were all fantastical things these days, with werewolves and sea creatures and half-bloods and hybrids. My story was small and dumb. Nothing even really happened in it.

—p.49 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
49

[...] The waitress came to our table. Toby ordered a chicken Caesar salad with no cheese and no dressing.

“So like a piece of chicken and lettuce?” she asked.

“I guess so, yes.”

“Do you maybe have any diet lettuce for him?” Seth asked. The waitress looked confused and Seth laughed, which made her even more confused, so she gave up and walked away.

i like this running gag

—p.49 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

[...] The waitress came to our table. Toby ordered a chicken Caesar salad with no cheese and no dressing.

“So like a piece of chicken and lettuce?” she asked.

“I guess so, yes.”

“Do you maybe have any diet lettuce for him?” Seth asked. The waitress looked confused and Seth laughed, which made her even more confused, so she gave up and walked away.

i like this running gag

—p.49 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
56

When they first married, Rachel made sure that whenever she got home from work on Fridays, sometimes earlier and sometimes later, they would do the thing Toby had grown up doing: lighting the candles, blessing the wine and challah. By the time the kids were born, though, she was already on what she called her “trajectory,” and Fridays became the nights that Toby played a game of chicken with Rachel. She’d miraculously become available when the Rothbergs or the Leffers or the Hertzes invited them over for a Friday night dinner. But otherwise, she’d call and say that she “needed” to stay at work because she “needed” to get things done, knowing (she had to know) that she was being outright dishonest in her use of this word—that it was actually her resistance to spending time with her children and to some notion of a traditional role as a mother that made her want to work that much. Rachel knew how to work. She liked working. It made sense to her. It bent to her will and her sense of logic. Motherhood was too hard. The kids were not deferential to her like her employees. They didn’t brook her temper with the desperation and co-dependence that, say, Simone, her assistant, did. That was the big difference between them, Rachel. He didn’t see their children as a burden, Rachel. He didn’t see them as endless pits of need, Rachel. He liked them, Rachel.

—p.56 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

When they first married, Rachel made sure that whenever she got home from work on Fridays, sometimes earlier and sometimes later, they would do the thing Toby had grown up doing: lighting the candles, blessing the wine and challah. By the time the kids were born, though, she was already on what she called her “trajectory,” and Fridays became the nights that Toby played a game of chicken with Rachel. She’d miraculously become available when the Rothbergs or the Leffers or the Hertzes invited them over for a Friday night dinner. But otherwise, she’d call and say that she “needed” to stay at work because she “needed” to get things done, knowing (she had to know) that she was being outright dishonest in her use of this word—that it was actually her resistance to spending time with her children and to some notion of a traditional role as a mother that made her want to work that much. Rachel knew how to work. She liked working. It made sense to her. It bent to her will and her sense of logic. Motherhood was too hard. The kids were not deferential to her like her employees. They didn’t brook her temper with the desperation and co-dependence that, say, Simone, her assistant, did. That was the big difference between them, Rachel. He didn’t see their children as a burden, Rachel. He didn’t see them as endless pits of need, Rachel. He liked them, Rachel.

—p.56 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
58

[...] If he was honest, he didn’t even know that Rachel would ever date again, so disgusted was she by the confines of marriage, so ruined had she been by the compromises of another person trying to have an equal say or even just an opinion in her life.

You must be logged in to see this comment.

—p.58 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

[...] If he was honest, he didn’t even know that Rachel would ever date again, so disgusted was she by the confines of marriage, so ruined had she been by the compromises of another person trying to have an equal say or even just an opinion in her life.

You must be logged in to see this comment.

—p.58 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
63

He wondered if he sounded like this from his parallax view. He wondered if there was a version of this story in which he was the villain. He wondered if Rachel was sitting in some ashram somewhere telling anyone who would listen what a victim she was. A victim. Yes, of a husband who put his own career aside and raised the children and gave them consistency—the children they’d both wanted! A husband who rooted for her at her every milestone of success. What could she possibly say about him? That he was “unambitious”? He was as ambitious as he was allowed to be. There isn’t room in one marriage for two people who are hogging all the oxygen. One of them has to answer the phone when the school calls. One of them has to know where the vaccine record is. One of them has to do the fucking dishes. It was entirely possible that the only version of a story like this you ever heard was from the aggrieved party, the one who made the sacrifices and thought that the sacrifice gave you one up on your spouse, but it didn’t. It only made the spouse feel more entitled to take. Trust me, Tess’s husband was somewhere right now, one woman sitting on his face while another sucked him off, and he was certainly not talking about the ways Tess let him down.

or they both feel like the aggrieved party in some way

—p.63 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

He wondered if he sounded like this from his parallax view. He wondered if there was a version of this story in which he was the villain. He wondered if Rachel was sitting in some ashram somewhere telling anyone who would listen what a victim she was. A victim. Yes, of a husband who put his own career aside and raised the children and gave them consistency—the children they’d both wanted! A husband who rooted for her at her every milestone of success. What could she possibly say about him? That he was “unambitious”? He was as ambitious as he was allowed to be. There isn’t room in one marriage for two people who are hogging all the oxygen. One of them has to answer the phone when the school calls. One of them has to know where the vaccine record is. One of them has to do the fucking dishes. It was entirely possible that the only version of a story like this you ever heard was from the aggrieved party, the one who made the sacrifices and thought that the sacrifice gave you one up on your spouse, but it didn’t. It only made the spouse feel more entitled to take. Trust me, Tess’s husband was somewhere right now, one woman sitting on his face while another sucked him off, and he was certainly not talking about the ways Tess let him down.

or they both feel like the aggrieved party in some way

—p.63 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
65

Keisha was a twenty-seven-year-old occupational therapist who strutted into the Murray Hill bar where they were meeting, ordered two Kamikazes, despite him saying, “Actually, no, I’m not really into—” and so drank both herself, then yelped a “Whoo!” and later, after four more drinks, wrapped her arm around his neck and a leg around his waist and told him to take her home. He couldn’t. “Come on, what’s wrong with this?” The this, she made clear, looking down, was her body on his, and he ached so badly for her but how could he? How could he take advantage of this young girl who was positively soaked in alcohol? He went home and masturbated, but he couldn’t come.

lol

—p.65 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

Keisha was a twenty-seven-year-old occupational therapist who strutted into the Murray Hill bar where they were meeting, ordered two Kamikazes, despite him saying, “Actually, no, I’m not really into—” and so drank both herself, then yelped a “Whoo!” and later, after four more drinks, wrapped her arm around his neck and a leg around his waist and told him to take her home. He couldn’t. “Come on, what’s wrong with this?” The this, she made clear, looking down, was her body on his, and he ached so badly for her but how could he? How could he take advantage of this young girl who was positively soaked in alcohol? He went home and masturbated, but he couldn’t come.

lol

—p.65 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
99

[...] The magazine used to send me on trips to nice hotels in foreign cities that I was probably never going to visit on my own, and once, in London, I stayed two extra days just because I couldn’t bear to get back on a plane after my two-hour interview. I changed my ticket (never once did I book the trip for longer, I merely extended the stay) so that I could stay two days extra. My daughter was eight months old at the time. But it wasn’t just that I was tired, and it wasn’t just that it was unreasonable to ask me to go to Europe from New York for two days. It was because I felt like the hotel, the city, the aloneness, these were times where I could feel my skin again; I could feel my body again. I existed again without context—without a stroller, without a man holding my hand. I wouldn’t wear my ring on these trips. It wasn’t because I wanted to fuck around. It was because when I was on airplanes my fingers got cold and skinny and so my ring would drop off and I couldn’t take the panic of worrying that I’d lost it. But also maybe it was the other thing, the context thing, I don’t know. Put it this way: You can feel your body for the first time in a long time, you can feel your skin, then suddenly you can also feel this ring around your finger and the weight of it is suddenly unbearable.

—p.99 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

[...] The magazine used to send me on trips to nice hotels in foreign cities that I was probably never going to visit on my own, and once, in London, I stayed two extra days just because I couldn’t bear to get back on a plane after my two-hour interview. I changed my ticket (never once did I book the trip for longer, I merely extended the stay) so that I could stay two days extra. My daughter was eight months old at the time. But it wasn’t just that I was tired, and it wasn’t just that it was unreasonable to ask me to go to Europe from New York for two days. It was because I felt like the hotel, the city, the aloneness, these were times where I could feel my skin again; I could feel my body again. I existed again without context—without a stroller, without a man holding my hand. I wouldn’t wear my ring on these trips. It wasn’t because I wanted to fuck around. It was because when I was on airplanes my fingers got cold and skinny and so my ring would drop off and I couldn’t take the panic of worrying that I’d lost it. But also maybe it was the other thing, the context thing, I don’t know. Put it this way: You can feel your body for the first time in a long time, you can feel your skin, then suddenly you can also feel this ring around your finger and the weight of it is suddenly unbearable.

—p.99 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
101

Glenn was not really a predator. It was more like he was powerless against the attention I, a young person, was giving him. The first time I met him, he was standing in a doorway, backlit, holding a magazine proof that I had to read for an edit test. Something happened in that innocent exchange—the simple placing down of a piece of paper on my desk with a kind word. Something electric, something addicting. I sought him out at every turn. I asked for help where I didn’t need it. I swiveled around his desk, obvious to everyone around me, unable to stop myself. He walked past me and my breath caught. He was not that handsome or interesting. I’m telling you, it made no sense.

But then, too, I could feel my body. I could feel it opening to him, and I saw just how it all worked: evolution, attraction, procreative imperatives. I saw for the first time that I was powerless to these forces. I’d had crushes—I’d even been in love. But nothing as, I don’t know, full-body as this. This was why people wrote poetry. This was why all the songs were about love. I get it now, I thought. I get it. One night, in an elevator, he told me he found me distracting. I told him we should talk about it over dinner. He called his wife in front of me from a pay phone to say he was stuck in the city for a few hours. And that was that.

—p.101 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

Glenn was not really a predator. It was more like he was powerless against the attention I, a young person, was giving him. The first time I met him, he was standing in a doorway, backlit, holding a magazine proof that I had to read for an edit test. Something happened in that innocent exchange—the simple placing down of a piece of paper on my desk with a kind word. Something electric, something addicting. I sought him out at every turn. I asked for help where I didn’t need it. I swiveled around his desk, obvious to everyone around me, unable to stop myself. He walked past me and my breath caught. He was not that handsome or interesting. I’m telling you, it made no sense.

But then, too, I could feel my body. I could feel it opening to him, and I saw just how it all worked: evolution, attraction, procreative imperatives. I saw for the first time that I was powerless to these forces. I’d had crushes—I’d even been in love. But nothing as, I don’t know, full-body as this. This was why people wrote poetry. This was why all the songs were about love. I get it now, I thought. I get it. One night, in an elevator, he told me he found me distracting. I told him we should talk about it over dinner. He called his wife in front of me from a pay phone to say he was stuck in the city for a few hours. And that was that.

—p.101 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
102

When Glenn was in my bed, I would light up a cigarette and blow it toward him so that he would smell like cigarettes when he got home, hoping it would tip off his wife and move some sort of needle. I’d spend my days imagining that something happened to her or them—usually it was a tragedy, not just a divorce—that would necessitate me moving into his house and taking care of his kids. I thought of that time now, how I imagined wanting someone else’s life instead of doing the work of imagining my own. God, what a fucking idiot I was. My dreams were so small. My desires were so basic and showed such a lack of imagination. In my life, I’d go to weddings where the bride wore a red dress. I’d meet people in open relationships. I’d wonder why I was so unoriginal. I had been so creative in every other aspect of my life; how I’d turned out so conventional and so very establishment was bewildering.

—p.102 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

When Glenn was in my bed, I would light up a cigarette and blow it toward him so that he would smell like cigarettes when he got home, hoping it would tip off his wife and move some sort of needle. I’d spend my days imagining that something happened to her or them—usually it was a tragedy, not just a divorce—that would necessitate me moving into his house and taking care of his kids. I thought of that time now, how I imagined wanting someone else’s life instead of doing the work of imagining my own. God, what a fucking idiot I was. My dreams were so small. My desires were so basic and showed such a lack of imagination. In my life, I’d go to weddings where the bride wore a red dress. I’d meet people in open relationships. I’d wonder why I was so unoriginal. I had been so creative in every other aspect of my life; how I’d turned out so conventional and so very establishment was bewildering.

—p.102 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
103

While I was on the story—I was at the men’s magazine by now— we’d have lunch, and I’d try to squeeze information out of him, and he wouldn’t give me any, but he remained steady and cheerful, never annoyed. What a strange thing, a lack of darkness. What a strange thing, for your job to not stress you out, for good things to make you happy and bad things to make you sad. Simplicity is a cool shower after a hot bath. My emotions never tracked quite so logically. Maybe that was what I was drawn to in the first place with him, that his peacefulness was a necessary correction for me. It did not occur to me how I would have to spend my life explaining my darkness and dissatisfaction to someone who didn’t even understand the concept of it.

We had a great sex life, and then we had a regular one, and then (as in now) we were in the wilderness. We had sex once a week, then not once a week, then every other week, but then twice in that next week so it must be okay, right? Here is the problem: You can only desire something you don’t have—that’s how desire works. And we had each other. Resolutely. Neither of us with a stray glance at another. After Adam and I were married, when I’d go out into the world, I’d see that the men I found myself drawn to were almost replicas of Adam, just like that guy in Lisbon. I wanted nothing different. I just missed the longing. We are not supposed to want the longing, but there it is. So what do you do with that? Forget it, there’s no use talking about this. Talking about this doesn’t make it better.

ah!!!!

—p.103 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

While I was on the story—I was at the men’s magazine by now— we’d have lunch, and I’d try to squeeze information out of him, and he wouldn’t give me any, but he remained steady and cheerful, never annoyed. What a strange thing, a lack of darkness. What a strange thing, for your job to not stress you out, for good things to make you happy and bad things to make you sad. Simplicity is a cool shower after a hot bath. My emotions never tracked quite so logically. Maybe that was what I was drawn to in the first place with him, that his peacefulness was a necessary correction for me. It did not occur to me how I would have to spend my life explaining my darkness and dissatisfaction to someone who didn’t even understand the concept of it.

We had a great sex life, and then we had a regular one, and then (as in now) we were in the wilderness. We had sex once a week, then not once a week, then every other week, but then twice in that next week so it must be okay, right? Here is the problem: You can only desire something you don’t have—that’s how desire works. And we had each other. Resolutely. Neither of us with a stray glance at another. After Adam and I were married, when I’d go out into the world, I’d see that the men I found myself drawn to were almost replicas of Adam, just like that guy in Lisbon. I wanted nothing different. I just missed the longing. We are not supposed to want the longing, but there it is. So what do you do with that? Forget it, there’s no use talking about this. Talking about this doesn’t make it better.

ah!!!!

—p.103 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
105

It was all such an insult, the Hamptons. It was an insult to economic disparity. It was an insult to leading a good life and asking hard questions about what one should sacrifice in the name of decency. It was an insult to having enough—to knowing that there was such a thing as enough. Inside those houses weren’t altruistic, good people whom fortune had smiled down on in exchange for their kind acts and good works. No, inside those columned, great-lawned homes were pirates for whom there was never enough. There was never enough money, goods, clothing, safety, security, club memberships, bottles of old wine. There was not a number at which anyone said, “I have a good life. I’d like to see if I can help someone else have a good life.” These were criminals—yes, most of them were real, live criminals. Not always with jailable offenses, but certainly morally abhorrent ones: They had offshore accounts or they underpaid their assistants or they didn’t pay taxes on their housekeepers or they were NRA members.

—p.105 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

It was all such an insult, the Hamptons. It was an insult to economic disparity. It was an insult to leading a good life and asking hard questions about what one should sacrifice in the name of decency. It was an insult to having enough—to knowing that there was such a thing as enough. Inside those houses weren’t altruistic, good people whom fortune had smiled down on in exchange for their kind acts and good works. No, inside those columned, great-lawned homes were pirates for whom there was never enough. There was never enough money, goods, clothing, safety, security, club memberships, bottles of old wine. There was not a number at which anyone said, “I have a good life. I’d like to see if I can help someone else have a good life.” These were criminals—yes, most of them were real, live criminals. Not always with jailable offenses, but certainly morally abhorrent ones: They had offshore accounts or they underpaid their assistants or they didn’t pay taxes on their housekeepers or they were NRA members.

—p.105 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
106

[...] It had been a year since Toby had first asked for a divorce. His request had come not from anger but from the irritation of the hole it bored in you when you were lying to yourself. Each time he brought the topic up he had only been met with hysterical threats. She screamed at him that he would never see the children again if he tried to leave her, and that he would be left penniless.

“But why?” he asked. “You can’t be happy like this.”

She didn’t have an answer. She just kept threatening. He relented, terrified and even sadder. But somehow, as it snowed onto the skylight into their bedroom, and it was quiet in a way that it was never quiet there during the summer, a peace seemed to settle on her. They lay in silence, the air cold but the bed full of heat, and she said to the ceiling, “I think we should get divorced.” He turned over on his side to face her and he was filled with an aching love for the thing they had destroyed and tears were coming down her face and he wiped them away with his thumbs. “It’s going to be okay,” he said.

—p.106 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

[...] It had been a year since Toby had first asked for a divorce. His request had come not from anger but from the irritation of the hole it bored in you when you were lying to yourself. Each time he brought the topic up he had only been met with hysterical threats. She screamed at him that he would never see the children again if he tried to leave her, and that he would be left penniless.

“But why?” he asked. “You can’t be happy like this.”

She didn’t have an answer. She just kept threatening. He relented, terrified and even sadder. But somehow, as it snowed onto the skylight into their bedroom, and it was quiet in a way that it was never quiet there during the summer, a peace seemed to settle on her. They lay in silence, the air cold but the bed full of heat, and she said to the ceiling, “I think we should get divorced.” He turned over on his side to face her and he was filled with an aching love for the thing they had destroyed and tears were coming down her face and he wiped them away with his thumbs. “It’s going to be okay,” he said.

—p.106 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
107

[...] They held hands sometimes, which they hadn’t done in years, and which he realized was a completely counterproductive, backward thing for them to do. There was calm, and with the calm came relief, and the relief felt in his body the way endorphins did, and he became worried that he would mistake that for love. He couldn’t understand why, if they could be happy in each other’s presence while they were in the last days of their marriage, why couldn’t they have been happy for real?

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—p.107 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

[...] They held hands sometimes, which they hadn’t done in years, and which he realized was a completely counterproductive, backward thing for them to do. There was calm, and with the calm came relief, and the relief felt in his body the way endorphins did, and he became worried that he would mistake that for love. He couldn’t understand why, if they could be happy in each other’s presence while they were in the last days of their marriage, why couldn’t they have been happy for real?

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—p.107 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
120

The only way he had survived in his marriage, with a wife who not only made about fifteen times his really quite good doctor salary but who, the moment she surpassed him on the earn-o-meter, found herself completely disgusted by his earning ability, was that he made a big show of only barely tolerating the perks of the money. He allowed Rachel to buy the Hamptons house, he allowed her to buy the monstrous new-money/fake-old-money apartment at the Golden, he allowed her to buy the convertible. He never allowed himself to realize that Rachel’s things had become his things, even as he partook in their thingness. He didn’t buy them, but they were also his. And now he hated mediation because it felt like wanting any of it, claiming any right to it, would have been admitting that he derived pleasure from it, too. Fine, he said with every tiny acquiescence. Take it all, take it all.

oooof

—p.120 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

The only way he had survived in his marriage, with a wife who not only made about fifteen times his really quite good doctor salary but who, the moment she surpassed him on the earn-o-meter, found herself completely disgusted by his earning ability, was that he made a big show of only barely tolerating the perks of the money. He allowed Rachel to buy the Hamptons house, he allowed her to buy the monstrous new-money/fake-old-money apartment at the Golden, he allowed her to buy the convertible. He never allowed himself to realize that Rachel’s things had become his things, even as he partook in their thingness. He didn’t buy them, but they were also his. And now he hated mediation because it felt like wanting any of it, claiming any right to it, would have been admitting that he derived pleasure from it, too. Fine, he said with every tiny acquiescence. Take it all, take it all.

oooof

—p.120 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
121

He could grapple with the loss of stuff. The car and the Hamptons house and the club would disappear from his life overnight and he would adjust since he was never really meant to be a rich person in the first place. But now he was being treated like a housewife who had taken care of the children, and Frank was telling him to fight for what was his, the way he probably had to tell the housewives to fight for what was theirs. And Frank was right. He was owed something. He was owed something for allowing her to kneecap his career with her insistence that she be allowed to work late, that she had one more phone call to make. He was owed something for being diminished and counted out. He was owed something for having to shiver in her shadow all these years, for being made miserable, for being forced to fight to the death every night. Did he sound angry? He wasn’t angry. He was just explaining things.

ackkkk

—p.121 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

He could grapple with the loss of stuff. The car and the Hamptons house and the club would disappear from his life overnight and he would adjust since he was never really meant to be a rich person in the first place. But now he was being treated like a housewife who had taken care of the children, and Frank was telling him to fight for what was his, the way he probably had to tell the housewives to fight for what was theirs. And Frank was right. He was owed something. He was owed something for allowing her to kneecap his career with her insistence that she be allowed to work late, that she had one more phone call to make. He was owed something for being diminished and counted out. He was owed something for having to shiver in her shadow all these years, for being made miserable, for being forced to fight to the death every night. Did he sound angry? He wasn’t angry. He was just explaining things.

ackkkk

—p.121 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
149

He told David Cooper that Karen was third on the transplant list. But Toby’s reserves were depleted, of both rest and fluids. In his weakened state, he was susceptible and primed for the acute jealousy of the thing he saw before him, which was an utterly normal marriage, a thing he had tried so hard at and had wanted so badly. It was an enormous privilege to take your spouse for granted until something bad happened; that was life, and that was beautiful, this idea that you’d just be trudging along and remember each other’s birthdays once a year and fall into bed exhausted and wonder if you had enough sex and then one day BAM! you become awakened to just how much you needed that person—some crisis like this, and that was all you’d need to remember how much you loved your spouse. That was all Toby had ever wanted. Sometimes you saw couples who seemed wild about each other, always holding hands, sitting on the same side of the table when they ate out, even when they were together alone. Rachel would say that those people were putting on a show, that they were covering up a real poison in their relationship, and that was the only time Toby ever felt like she was on his side: when she was working as hard as he was to make their misery seem normal.

—p.149 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

He told David Cooper that Karen was third on the transplant list. But Toby’s reserves were depleted, of both rest and fluids. In his weakened state, he was susceptible and primed for the acute jealousy of the thing he saw before him, which was an utterly normal marriage, a thing he had tried so hard at and had wanted so badly. It was an enormous privilege to take your spouse for granted until something bad happened; that was life, and that was beautiful, this idea that you’d just be trudging along and remember each other’s birthdays once a year and fall into bed exhausted and wonder if you had enough sex and then one day BAM! you become awakened to just how much you needed that person—some crisis like this, and that was all you’d need to remember how much you loved your spouse. That was all Toby had ever wanted. Sometimes you saw couples who seemed wild about each other, always holding hands, sitting on the same side of the table when they ate out, even when they were together alone. Rachel would say that those people were putting on a show, that they were covering up a real poison in their relationship, and that was the only time Toby ever felt like she was on his side: when she was working as hard as he was to make their misery seem normal.

—p.149 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago
155

Bartuck had taken an interest in Toby. Not in Phillipa London—in him. Toby would go home and share news of the day with Rachel. “You have to ride this mentorship to the sky,” she would say, which was the kind of imbecile power-talk they used in the mailroom at Alfooz & Lichtenstein. [...]

made me laugh in just how horrible and condescending he is to her

—p.155 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago

Bartuck had taken an interest in Toby. Not in Phillipa London—in him. Toby would go home and share news of the day with Rachel. “You have to ride this mentorship to the sky,” she would say, which was the kind of imbecile power-talk they used in the mailroom at Alfooz & Lichtenstein. [...]

made me laugh in just how horrible and condescending he is to her

—p.155 by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 1 year, 2 months ago