DATING WRITERS by Jennifer Armstrong

He had shown up holding a book. God help me.

Sure, his button-down shirt and artfully frayed jeans hung just so on his 6′ 3″ frame. Of course his amber waves taunted me from atop his head, begging for my touch but just out of my petite reach. The glowy brown eyes, the lovingly farmed stubble, the smile, oh, the smile. Yes, the boy was built to destroy me. But it wasn’t even because he was firing at every human female weak spot.

It was that smooth, sea green, uncracked paperback book he carried. An advance copy of his book. As if we had pre-arranged our meeting, as if we’d met anonymously in an online chatroom sometime around 1999 and agreed we’d know each other when we met by the red rose in my jacket lapel and the green book he would carry. To be clear, it was not 1999, and I did not have a red rose in my jacket lapel. Or even a jacket lapel.

But, oh, he had the book.

We met at a mutual friend’s book launch party – where else? – and I noticed him right after she read to the bookstore crowd. Soon enough, party permutations brought us together during the post-reading celebration at a nearby bar. After standard introductions, we moved easily from business to personal, from standing in a group to standing in a corner alone to sitting on some barstools and touching each other’s forearms a lot. We learned that we’d both been in long-term relationships that had brought us to New York. We learned that we both were now single. We learned that we enjoyed the same music, especially Death Cab for Cutie and the Midwest, but mostly that we both loved words. He asked if he could see me again, and I struggled not to ask him to bring the book when he did.

He had his publicist FedEx me an advance copy the next day, so that was moot. Our first date progressed normally, without his papery appendage, which was probably for the best. Besides, I could curl up with my very own copy in bed when I got home. And, of course, that is exactly what happened. What can I say? I wasn’t being obsessive; I simply like to read before I go to sleep. Nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not like it was porn or something.

Okay, it is like that. When it comes to me, it is.

I date writers. This is how it has always been, and when I say “always”, I mean for the past four years. That’s how long it’s been since I left the epic ex, the college sweetheart-turned-fiancé who had sopped up more than a decade of my life. After him, I pursued the idea of dating lots of people with the same intensity Gatsby applied to pursuing his one beloved Daisy. I wanted to experience every shade of man the world had to offer: I made out with lawyers and bankers and actor/gardeners and actor/bartenders, but I saved my first significant post-breakup fling for a young, dark, sinewy writer who inspired me to take up real, get-yourself-an-agent writing. I knew that relationship would go nowhere, but that was beside the point – in fact, the last thing I wanted at that moment was something deep and abiding.

Or was it?

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Jennifer Armstrong is a senior writer for Entertainment Weekly and the author of Why? Because We Still Like You, a history of the original Mickey Mouse Club. She has provided pop culture commentary for CNN, VH1, Fox News Channel, and ABC, and her writing has been featured in Salon,, Glamour, Budget Travel, and the Chicago Sun-Times.

She also co-founded and continues to run Her essays have appeared in the anthologies Altared: Bridezillas, Bewilderment, Big Love, Breakups, What Women Really Think About Contemporary Weddings, and Coffee at Luke’s: An Unauthorized Gilmore Girls Gabfest.

She wrote “Dating Writers” because, well, what better way to purge a bad habit than to write about it? At least, that’s what all the writers she dated told her. Besides which, she’s now happily dating a software developer/photographer who has excellent e-mail skills but, thank goodness, no plans to publish a word. She hopes the men she references in this piece take it as an homage — she’ll always hold a special place on her bookshelf for them.

Her second book is The Feminist Bombshell, coauthored with Heather Wood Rudúlph and forthcoming from Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2013.

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