Twenty-one Truths About Love, page 1
Table of Contents
About the Author
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WHO ALWAYS GETS IT,
EVEN WHEN IT’S POSSIBLY
JUST HIM AND ME
Boundless thanks to the following people for making this book possible:
My wife, Elysha, who I write for first and foremost, even when she’s not reading my stuff on a timely basis (or at all).
My in-laws, Barbara and Gerry Green, for continuing to fill my life with their enthusiasm, excitement, and unsolicited counsel. About once a month, Gerry will say, “Tell me something exciting, Matt! Give me some news!” He has no idea how long I have waited for someone to ask me questions like that.
Matthew Shepard, who remains my first reader and the person who always sees what others do not.
My brother, Jeremy, who offered a solution to a sticking point in this book that threatened to derail the whole damn thing. I might still be trying to get unstuck if not for his brilliant suggestion, offered while sitting in section 331 of Gillette Stadium, watching the Patriots win another game alongside me.
Donna Gosk and Amy Doherty, who read these lists before they were even a novel, when professional development seminars were proving to be less than professional and hardly developmental. My attempts to make them laugh with amusing bits of nonsense unexpectedly resulted in this story.
Steve Brouse, who allowed himself to unknowingly be co-opted as a character for this novel and not protesting after the fact. He is exactly as he is portrayed in this novel: brilliant, bold, and unwaveringly ethical beyond compare.
All of my friends who graciously read the early drafts of this book and told me when I was being obtuse, confusing, and tragically unamusing. Your untempered, hurtful words have helped to make this book so much better.
Kaitlin Severini, my copy editor, who has not only spared me many a literary embarrassment but has gone above and beyond the call of duty researching, confirming, and correcting multiple bits of nonfiction references in this book and correcting my math again and again. The job of a copy editor knows no bounds. They are truly the Swiss Army knives of the literary world, and I’m so pleased that Kaitlin Severini was so sharp.
NaNá Stoelzle, the proofreader of the final text of this book. As a perfectionist, even the smallest error makes me lose my mind. Knowing that a professional perfectionist read every line of this book allows me to sleep well at night.
Every person who told me with absolute certainty that a bunch of lists could never tell a story. I love it when people tell me what I can’t do, and I love saying, “I told you so” even more.
Hannah Braaten, my editor and coconspirator, who rescued this book from the hinterland and carried it to the mountaintop. I feel so very fortunate to have found someone so talented and so skilled to shepherd my work from scratches and scribbles to a real life book.
Lastly, thanks to Taryn Fagerness, my agent, friend, and partner in this creative life. She found me in the slush pile years ago and changed my life forever. She makes my sentences better, my stories better, and as a result, my life better. It’s not often that another human being can make your dreams come true, but she did, and I am forever thankful.
Ways to keep Jill from getting pregnant
Refuse to have sex
Wear a condom without her knowledge
Get a vasectomy without her knowledge
Realistic ways to keep Jill from getting pregnant
What I tell Jill: 1,800
Car insurance: 175
Student loans: 395
Cable and Internet: 215
Oil: 775! (WTF?)
Other stuff: Too much
Number of months before we run out of money
Number of months before Jill thinks we will run out of money
Number of minutes per hour that I worry about running out of money
Chocolate glazed doughnuts
Little Debbie Snack Cakes
Regret over quitting my job
5 Problems with Lying
We lie most often to the people we love.
There is no greater shame than getting caught in a lie.
A lie often requires additional lies, making it impossible to ever come clean.
Liars are the worst human beings.
Lies always cover up the worst parts of you.
How liars with the best intentions are like the owners of every iteration of Jurassic Park
They never set out to hurt anyone.
They operate with enormous hubris.
Denial both perpetuates and intensifies the problem.
The situation inevitably gets worse and worse as time goes by.
The end is never pretty.
Serious question about all Jurassic Park movies
Why not create only plant-eating dinosaurs? Are brontosauruses and stegosauruses really not exciting enough?
How the brontosaurus is like purgatory
The brontosaurus was a dinosaur, then it wasn’t a dinosaur, but now it might be a dinosaur after all.
A New Chapter Picks of the Month for November
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (Jim Hawkins was the John McClane of his day)
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Ernest Cline apparently lives in my teenage brain)
Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi
World War Z by Max Brooks
Ballistics: Poems by Billy Collins
Preferred Choice of Name for Billy Collins (best to worst)
Preferred Choice of Name for Me (best to worst)
Nicknames for William that the Internet says are real but are not
Einstein’s Conditions Upon Which He Agreed to Remain Married to His Wife for the Sake of the Children
A. You will make sure:
that my clothes and laundry are kept in good order;
that I will receive my three meals regularly in my room;
that my bedroom and study are kept neat, and especially that my desk is left for my use only.
B. You will renounce all personal relations with me insofar as they are not completely necessary for social reasons. Specifically, You will forego:
my sitting at home with you;
my going out or travelling with you.
C. You will obey the following points in your relations with me:
you will not expect any intimacy from me, nor will you reproach me in any way;
you will stop talking to me if I request it;
you will leave my bedroom or study immediately without protest if I request it.
D. You will undertake not to belittle me in front of our children, either through words or behavior.
Conditions Upon Which I Will Agree to Remain Married to Jill (also a real list)
A. You will allow me to continue to be your husband.
B. You won’t kill me in my sleep.
Cosmopolitan and Sex
Number of times I’ve seen a Cosmo cover advertising an article featuring triple-digit sex tips: 9
Number of times I’ve been tempted to purchase one of these magazines for the sex tips: 9
Number of times I’ve bought one of these magazines for the sex tips: 3
Total number of sex tips in combined magazines that I have purchased: 304
Total number of useful sex tips: 1
Total number of useful sex tips in Jill’s opinion: 0
Text messages from Jill at lunchtime
I wish Jasper wasn’t so stupid. How do idiots become principals?
The usual stupid stuff. Can’t keep his lies straight. Selfish assholery.
You’re lucky you escaped this place.
I miss you being here. I liked seeing you during the day.
No, I’m fine. Stay there. Sell books.
Seriously, I’m good. I have Julie and Lisa and tomato soup.
Can you pick up dog food on the way home from the store? Blue Buffalo.
I don’t want to hear it. Clarence deserves the best.
The size of gummy worms compared to the size of gummy bears makes me question the whole gummy universe.
Love you more.
Proof that I am stupid
When I was a kid, I dropped my cotton candy on the ground and tried to wash it off with the hose.
When I was in high school, I still couldn’t understand why “a quarter past the hour” wasn’t 25 minutes past the hour, because a quarter is 25 cents.
I always mop myself into the corner of a room.
I once asked a police officer (in all sincerity) how she would handcuff a one-armed suspect.
I thought that women had prostates until very, very recently.
When I was a little kid, I thought that actors actually died in real life when they filmed death scenes for movies, so I was afraid to watch anything but cartoons.
I only found out recently that a pickle is a desecrated cucumber.
I didn’t realize that fruit juice was loaded with calories until I had gained 20 pounds.
When I was in Mrs. Lavern’s third-grade class, I explained to my classmates that a new moon was when the moon goes away and is replaced by an entirely new moon. Then I tried to pretend like I was joking even though everyone knew that I wasn’t. Then I started crying.
5 years of Jill
Sat beside Jill in first faculty meeting
Made Jill laugh in first faculty meeting
Fell in love with Jill at first faculty meeting
Pined over Jill while she dated fucking Feeney
Waited inappropriate amount of time after breakup with Feeney (3 days)
Learned about Peter
Wondered if I could date a widow
Realized I was being stupid
Wondered if I was being stupid
One-year anniversary at Niagara Falls cheap motel
Dumped by Jill
23 days of hell
Dated Jill again
Moved in with Jill
Proposed to Jill on our second anniversary
Admit to never wanting children “never, ever, ever”
Negotiation (fight) over children
“The 72 Hours of Silence”
Concession (Jill would say “agreement”) over children
Negotiation over religion of children
Second thoughts (me, but maybe [probably] Jill, too)
Called off engagement (in my mind only)
Second thoughts a second time
Bought house on Magnolia Hill
One-year wedding anniversary in Kennebunkport, Maine
Failed renegotiation over children
Attempted baby making
Solutions to pending financial disaster
Second job (what? when? how would I explain it to Jill?)
Write a novel (can you actually make money doing this?)
Day-trading (Do I need money to start?) (Is it a thing?)
Thank-you note idea
Write to millionaires
Realistic but impossible solutions to pending financial disaster
Admit to Jill that I’m a failure (this would not actually solve the problem)
Ask Mom for a loan
Ask Jake for a loan
Find an investor for a marginally profitable bookstore
Best but still impossible solutions
Make the bookstore more profitable
Best solutions if I had a time machine
Un-quit my teaching position
Don’t open the bookstore
Don’t allow 13 months of denial and lies to pile up while our savings account disappears before thinking about telling Jill
Ways of making the bookstore more profitable
Sell more books
Charge more for books
Negotiate a lower rent
Lay off employees
Preferred order of layoffs (in an ideal world)
Realistic order of layoffs (in a world where I’m afraid of a certain employee)
Special K (no fake strawberries)
Extra-chunky peanut butter
Little Debbie Snack Cakes
Day Trading for Dummies
Poker for Dummies
Birthday present for Mom
Things that exist that I didn’t think existed
Day Trading for Dummies
Things that don’t exist that I thought did
A way of explaining to a muscular salesperson why
Division of Labor
Shops for food and most household goods
Cooks almost all meals (doesn’t like my cooking)
Sweeps (so she claims)
Washes, folds, and never fucking puts the laundry away
Weeds flower beds
Walks and feeds Clarence
Brings out trash
Replaces trash bag after taking out trash (which is an additional chore no matter what Jill says)
Washes, folds, and PUTS AWAY LAUNDRY
Ruins Jill’s sweaters and jeans while trying to wash them
Organizes Jill’s sink-top cream/lotion/soaps/makeup paraphernalia when she’s not looking
Constantly turns off lights (yes, this is a chore)
Cleans out refrigerator
Rakes leaves into meaningless piles that eventually blow into the neighbor’s yard
Processes mail (also a significant chore no matter what Jill says)
Brings trash and recycling to curb on Mondays
Chores I know Peter did because Jill told me
Walked and fed Clarence
“Just fixed things when they broke. He was good with that stuff.”
Chores I know Peter did because of what Jill didn’t tell me but told me anyway
Took away all of Jill’s worries about money, mortgage payments, insurance, retirement planning, broken dishwashers, service contracts, gutter cleaning, flat tires, refinancing, and clogged drains so she could focus on herself and her career
Other author's books:
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