At twelve-thirty I dashed out of the office for a lunch meeting with a publisher, one of several who had been offering me large sums of money to pen a sequel to my bestselling book. At three, I raced back to the office to be interviewed by a writer for Ladies' Home Journal; I was being included in a cover story called "Women for the New Millennium." And at five-fifteen, I hurried over to the radio station to host my three-hour, drive-time call-in show that didn't exactly have the audience of Dr. Joy Browne but was creeping up in the ratings.
It was a hectic day, as they all were then. A hectic but invigorating October day during which I was able to teach men the language of Womenspeak and improve the quality of their lives and the lives of the women close to them. The Wyman Method may have had its detractors (Saturday Night Live ran a rather tasteless skit where the cast member who impersonated me instructed men how to nag, whine, and fake orgasms -- ha ha), but my program worked. It did.
It was eight-thirty by the time I left the parking garage in Manhattan and nine-fifteen by the time I pulled into the driveway of my house in Mt. Kisco, a picturesque hamlet in Northern Westchester just a stone's throw from Chappaqua, the picturesque hamlet in Northern Westchester that Bill and Hillary Clinton either elevated or contaminated, depending on your politics.
My house was rustic yet sophisticated, -- a stone cottage set on seven leafy, spectacular-for-fall-foliage-watching acres at the end of a dirt road. I had lived in it for five years at that point -- paid for it from the advance from my book. I'll never forget how proud I felt the day of the closing. There I was, a single, thirty-three-year-old woman, buying a house in an expensive New York suburb with money I had earned all by myself. No help from a trust fund. No help from an alimony check. No help from either of my parents, who, although divorced, were still too consumed with each other to notice that I had moved.
And then, just when I was beginning to entertain the thought that it would be nice to have a man around the house, a man entered the house -- walked right up to the front door and rang the bell, as it happened.
He was a tall, sinewy, exceptionally good-Iooking carpenter who came to build me some bookcases. He had been recommended by my realtor. His name was Kip Jankowsky and I married him.
Oh, I know what you're thinking. A carpenter, for God's sake. Does the world need yet another story about a highly educated woman having a relationship with a man who's never heard of ]oyce Carol Oates? But understand that while Kip was, indeed, a stud muffin and six years my junior and not a college graduate, he made me feel right in tune with all the other career women who were choosing carpenters and cowboys and lawn maintenance workers over dentists. To put it another way, he was easy on my intellect. Instead of challenging me, he appreciated me, which wasn't a terrible thing.
Besides, Kip was an excellent carpenter, an artist, not some run-of-the-mill, high-cracking handyman. The fact that he was also an energetic, extravagantly giving lover -- and that, prior to meeting him, I had been sexually inactive for longer than I care to discuss -- contributed mightily to his appeal.
But what sealed the deal for me, what boosted him up a notch from hunky companion to husband material, was his ability to communicate, to share, to allow himself to be vulnerable. At our very first encounter, he was surprisingly forthcoming about his conflict about working with his hands for a living instead of being the "suit" his father always wanted him to be. He even choked up, teared up, wiped his eyes, then apologized by explaining that he often became emotional whenever he skipped lunch, due to a chronic low-blood-sugar problem. Perfect, I thought. I've found a man who already knows Womenspeak, a man I don't have to fix. What a relief.
Copyright Jane Heller, 2001. All rights reserved.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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