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call-hell: The Dictionary of Failed Relationships




Excerpted from
The Dictionary of Failed Relationships: 26 Tales of Love Gone Wrong
By Meredith Broussard

call-hell \'kol-hel\ noun [insp. by Dorothy Parker]: the state of severe anxiety following a date or sexual interlude, when the woman wonders desperately if the man will call, and the man does nothing to eliminate this severe anxiety. Symptoms of call-hell include: obsessive checking of telephone messages; calling oneself to make sure that voice mail/machine/phone service is functional; refusal to take out trash or do laundry lest one miss the all-important phone call; telling friends that the line can't be tied up; disappointment/frustration at perfectly ordinary phone calls, simply because the ordinary people are not The Man.

Every Valentine's Day, Rose Brody went to a party at a bar in the East Village, and every year she left more despondent than when she had entered. The party was held at a huge hot spot with high ceilings and was hosted by three entrepreneurial promoters who gave each guest one hundred dollars' worth of funny money upon entry'. Over the course of the evening, as the revelers drank more and more Stoli tonics and found negligibly attractive strangers more and more appealing, they would begin to take out the fake cash and dare each other to do illicit things: "I'll give you five bucks to French-kiss me for five Mississippi seconds ," or "III give you a hundred to leave with me now."

If the daree were interested, she would accept the dare and the money; if not, she would give the darer the same amount of money instead-and he would walk away with his tail between his legs. II a darer felt timid, she could have a friend make the entreaty for her, and then act as though she herself had no idea why she was being asked to lick the chest of a Greek god-like stranger. Whoever had the most money at the end of the night won dinner for two at an expensive restaurant, which Rose thought was a silly prize, given that anyone attending a Valentine's party to begin with probably felt uneasy at the notion of dinner for two.

At last year's party, Rose had met an attractive, muscular Jewish painter named Sam, and, convinced there was mutual chemistry, she cl dared him to kiss her. He obliged, seemingly delighted, and the embrace was so intimate, long, and lovely that Rose felt certain he was smitten. As she was contemplating which font to use on the save-the-date card, he said, "Will you excuse me? I have to go to the men's room."

"Of course," Rose said, understanding that natures call sometimes competed with loves. She looked at him dotingly. He looked at her less dotingly, hesitated for a moment, and then picked up his beer bottle and took it with him.

Given her track record, Rose was nervous about attending the party this year, but at the last minute she changed her mind. She had no other plans and decided the upside was that she would be unlikely to have a worse experience than she had the year before. She wore confident clothes, hoping they might bring good luck: a new pair of jeans called Sevens that made her derriere look round but not too big, a black rock-and-roll tank top with a print of a unicorn on it, and a belt with a buckle that said INDIAN.

When Rose walked into the party, one of the promoters gave her a hundred dollars and said. "Have fun/' She slipped the money into her pocket and spotted Tom, the ex-roommate of her ex-best friend. He was talking to a skinny boy who had mussed black hair and a strange elfin look, as though he had been the runner-up for lead hobbit in The Lord of the Rings.

"Hey, Rose," said Tom. "This is my friend Matt. Matt, this is Rose Brody."

"Do you bike, Rose?" Matt asked.

"What?" she said, thrown.

"Indian motorcycles" he said.

"Oh," she said. "I didn't even know what Indian meant. I bought this at a high-end women's clothing store because the saleswoman pushed it on me."

"It's good she pushed," Matt said. "You got a lot going on there! I wouldn't mind clinging to your waist." He put his thumbs in his belt loops, jutted his chin out, and nodded slowly. His delivery was so over-the-top that Rose decided he wasn't so much sleazy as sending up the notion of sleaziness. The half-kidding style made her so uneasy that she mumbled, "Nice meeting you," and moved along.

For the next few hours, Rose circulated and made small talk with others in the crowd, which was comprised mainly of actors and screenwriters. Rose was a freelance copy editor and was half-afraid of, half-entranced by the beautiful people.

Around midnight, the music got loud and the group danced and sang along to the only black songs that white people know the lyrics to: "ABC" and "Dance to the Music" Rose could see all the young folk beginning to dip into their funny money and dare each other to do strange things: A slender performance artist climbed up on a table and was mooning the crowd; a buttoned-up blond was giving a lascivious lap dance to a guy on a couch.



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