About the Author
Pamela Redmond Satran is the author of Younger, Babes in Captivity, and The Man I Should Have Married. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, who is an editor for Reuters, and their three children. The coauthor of the bestselling baby-naming books Beyond Jennifer & Jason, Madison & Montana, and Cool Names, Satran is a regular contributor to Glamour, Good Housekeeping, and Parenting. Visit her website at PamelaRedmondSatran.com.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Make a shorter resolution list.
It was three weeks before New Year's, and Megan Hale's resolutions filled twelve typed, single-spaced pages.
They were divided into categories and subcategories; they had explanatory paragraphs, and in one case, a diagram.
And then, reading through the list, she realized that there weren't enough days in the year to possibly accomplish every last resolution. She had 528 of them.
Make better use of therapy sessions.
"Do you think five hundred and twenty-eight New Year's resolutions are excessive?" Megan asks her therapist, a woman in her late thirties, who often answers questions with questions.
"Do you think it is excessive for you?" her therapist asks.
"That's almost one and a half resolutions per day. I think it is excessive. What do you think it means that I have so many?"
"What do you think it means?"
"That I'm a mess?" Megan offers.
Megan's therapist, who does not acknowledge any self-deprecation by Megan, writes something in her notepad, then looks up from her paper.
"For next week, why don't you try picking out the ten resolutions that you think are the most important for your self-improvement," she says. "And then we can concentrate on those."
Learn to be more comfortable alone
(since most of your time is spent that way).
"What do you mean you're not going out?" says Megan's best friend, Lucy, who happens to be the sort of take-charge person that Megan aspires to be. Lucy decides things on whims, such as switching primary-care doctors regularly in order to maintain an even supply of antidepressants. "It is New Year's Eve."
"My therapist says I'm never going to find anyone unless I'm comfortable with myself, first," Megan says. "Besides, you know how I feel about parties."
"Yes, yes, you're scared to death of meeting new people," Lucy says. "I know. Still, I don't think your therapist would approve of you hiding in your apartment on New Year's Eve. Not to mention, how often do I have to tell you that what you need is Xanax, not therapy?"
"Call me old-fashioned," Megan says. "I think maybe I should talk through my problems."
"I still think your problem is that you're just shy," Lucy says. "Besides, I think you have something to celebrate. How long have you been free of Mr. X?"
"Three months," Megan answers dutifully, like a recovering addict. Mr. X is her former boyfriend, the married one, who has two kids and a spacious house in the suburbs.
"I'd say that alone deserves some champagne," Lucy says. "Don't you?"
Since, at the very mention of his name, Megan feels the old, familiar urge to call his mobile phone, she does not feel like celebrating.
Do not sleep with married men.
It was never Megan's intention to be the Other Woman. Megan only wanted to be the Woman.
Not the Other One.
Other Women were deplorable and despicable. They were the ones always being portrayed on Oprah as the villains, the grainy photographs of women who ran off with their best friend's husband. They were always the ones who decline to be interviewed.
Besides, she didn't look like the Other Woman. She wore Gap sweaters and pants from Banana Republic, not fishnet stockings and crotchless panties. She didn't even own a thong. If presented with a garter belt and stockings, she'd have no idea how to put them on. Her sexiest pair of underwear, in fact, was made of simple black satin. She wore her dark hair in a bob, and simple, barely there makeup, and rarely wore a sweater with a neck lower than crew-cut.
Her whole life she'd only slept with five men. She could count them on one hand. It's just that the fifth one was married, and she's pretty sure that he counts for five thousand partners on the S&P Whore Index.
Only date men willing to be known by their real names.
"You keep referring to him as Mr. X," her therapist says in session. "Why not use his real name?"
"He's still married and he has children and told me not to tell anyone his name because he feared losing his kids if his wife ever found out."
"Our sessions are completely confidential," Megan's therapist says. "You can say his name here."
"I don't know." Megan hesitates.
"By saying his name, it might help you get over him."
"That's what I'm afraid of."
Do not go out with people met in elevators.
Megan met Mr. X in an elevator at work. For nearly a year he was her Elevator Boyfriend, the cute guy she'd see in passing in the elevator some mornings and afternoons, the guy she was so terrified to talk to that she could barely even look at him directly without breaking out into a cold sweat. Of course, this happened to be the same reaction she had with every remotely attractive man she saw. She may never have learned his name except that one day, the elevator stopped completely, stuck somewhere between the seventh and eighth floors, with only Megan, her Elevator Boyfriend, and a UPS deliveryman.
"Doesn't that seem like fate to you?" Megan asked her therapist the morning she had first gone to see her, after her boss -- finding her crying in the bathroom -- suggested she take advantage of the free counseling sessions offered as part of the company health plan.
"Do you believe in fate?"
"Well, no -- yes, sometimes," Megan said.
"Sometimes people use fate as an excuse to do what they were going to do anyway."
In the elevator, Mr. X had said, "Welcome to the seventh and a half floor of the Mertin-Flemmer building."
Immediately, Megan recognized this from her favorite movie, Being John Malkovich.
"And fifty other lines to get into a girl's pants," she'd said, which was the only line she could remember from the movie. It was probably the most forward thing she'd ever said to anyone, least of all a stranger. The boldness of it completely shocked her. Where had that come from?
The UPS man looked from one to the other of them, and after a beat or two, Mr. X started laughing.
"That's my favorite movie," he said.
And just like that, Megan fell in love.
Always check to see if a man has a wedding ring before falling in love with him.
After she somehow found the will to break the long, protracted eye contact that they shared -- the this-is-beyond-flirting-and-into-love-at-first-sight kind of eye contact, Megan happened to glance at his left hand, and there it was. The wedding ring. A slim platinum band.
"You're married," she'd said out loud.
"Technically, separated," he'd said.
Never date a man who uses the word technically.
If this had been one of her friends in the elevator with Mr. X, Megan would have said do not agree to lunch and do not give him your phone number. Because a man who is technically separated is still technically married. But Megan, who had been accused by her friend Lucy just last week of never taking real chances and of always playing it safe with love, decided that maybe she would just go for lunch.
Lunch, after all, wasn't sex. What was the harm in lunch?
Megan felt at ease with Mr. X right away -- an ease that came from the sure knowledge that he was not Boyfriend Material, and therefore she didn't need to worry about whether her hair looked good, or she had smeared makeup, or that she was saying something dumb. She could relax and be herself for once, because there were not first-date jitters. Lunch with a married man -- even a technically separated one -- you see, was not a date. It was more like a practice date. No strings. No pressure. She already knew where this story was going to end -- nowhere.
Megan has always been shy. She was born shy. Her father said, in fact, after she was born, she didn't cry for three whole days, which worried doctors, who thought she might have a problem with her lungs. It turns out, she could breathe fine. She just didn't like to put up a fuss. She was so quiet, in fact, that when she was four, her father once caught her finger in the back door of the family station wagon, and she didn't make a single sound.
Do not be afraid to talk about your feelings.
After four sessions, Megan's therapist diagnosed her with social anxiety, after Megan scored 52 of a total score of 68 on a social anxiety test, which put her as "very likely" to be suffering from social anxiety. Megan's social anxiety, her therapist said, explains Megan's fear of small talk, and the reason she has not met any new friends since age five.
Her therapist suggested, in the short term, that Megan start attending anxiety group meetings once a week. The group is made up of an assortment of people with varying degrees of functional anxiety. The worst cases, in Megan's opinion, are Ed, a self-admitted sex addict, and Charlene, a woman who sometimes locks herself in her own bathroom for days at a time.
"We are not here to judge. We're here to help," her therapist says, and the group repeats it in unison, all except for Megan, who is thinking, "But I am judging everyone else so they must be judging me."
Do not let your anxiety define who you are.
In group therapy, everyone takes turns discussing their anxieties in the first half of the session, and then in the last half of the session, one designated member of the group acts out an anxiety. Charlene's, for instance, is to be in public and hear someone laughing.
"I think they're laughing at me," Charlene says. "I know it's not right, but I can't help the way I feel."
"I once had an escort laugh at me," Ed the sex addict offers. Almost all...