Jody figured he knew what the problem was. He’d grown up feeling clumsy and ugly (or, at best, not at all attractive) and unlovable, and hating it. In adulthood, he couldn’t get enough reassurance that he had ceased to be any of those things. In the spirit of going-out-of-business retailers who will reject no reasonable offer, Jody couldn’t turn down any reasonably attractive woman. Sometimes, slinking guiltily out of such a woman’s apartment (or, in a couple of notable cases) office, he would reflect on the film star Paul Newman’s having famously wondered, “When I’ve got steak [his wife, Joanne Woodward] waiting at home, why would I settle for hamburger [that is, someone less desirable than Woodward]?” Jody regarded Karen as very much prettier than Joanne Woodward — who, yes, yes, no doubt had lots of wonderful attributes beside her looks — and settled for a great deal of hamburger.
He was pretty sure that if Karen ever found out about his ongoing…thing with Susan, one of his fellow production artists, she’d give him an especially hard time about Susan’s being far nearer to tepid than to hot, and having rather a lot to sit on. But she turned out to do nothing of the sort the night she discovered on Jody’s iPhone the selfie of Susan in a filmy black negligee that made her look sillier than sexy. She came into the garage, where Jody was changing the Civic’s oil, and addressed him in the least censorious, calmest tone in the world. When, in response to her holding up his phone to show him the photo, he turned the Forester’s color and started blurting nonsense, she just smiled indulgently and said, “It’s all right, Jode. I’ve been seeing someone myself.”
Said someone turned out to be an intern at the magazine where she was deputy features editor, and Jody went from frightened and defensive to righteously indignant at warp speed. “Maybe you’d like to tell me about…him,” he seethed, which made Karen giggle. She revealed that the fellow was 22 — 19 years’ Jody’s junior! — and “well lush”, said assessment delivered in the tone and accent of one of those girls in three pairs of false eyelashes and shoes she couldn’t actually walk one commonly observed throwing up on each other in town centres of a Saturday night. Jody felt mocked, and made his I’m-pouting face.
“I’ve actually been thinking for ages that our seeing other people would strengthen or own bond,” Karen said, without sniggering.
“So there’s been others?” Jody demanded, ungrammatically.
“Loads,” Karen affirmed. “I mean, not nymphomania-level loads by any means, but several, as I’d guess you’ve had yourself. In any event, I think it’ll be very much healthier if, a couple of nights a week, each of us is free to pursue other interests, if you will, with no questions asked. I’m seeing Jez Thursday night, so you might want to make plans with Ms. Thickthighs.” Jody surmised miserably that Jez was the lush young intern, and Susan Ms. Thickthighs.
As we’ve discussed, Jody wasn’t exactly infatuated with Susan, but didn’t feel confident about being able to pull anyone prettier before Thursday, so the next morning he invited himself into her cubicle and asked if she anticipated feeling thirsty on Thursday evening. If so, he would take her out for a drink. Susan advised him that she’d found insulting his slinking guiltily from her flat not 10 minutes after they’d…finished the one time she’d had him round, and that she would buy her own bloody drink. It occurred to Jody to threaten to circulate the photo of her in the unflattering black negligee in the office if she wouldn’t play ball, so to speak, but he had a shred or two of decency left, even after his many indiscretions, and spent Thursday evening with a mate, moaning about how treacherous women were.