Monday, September 8, 2008

My Muse As Matchmaker

I’ve never been good at choosing men; many of my ex-boyfriends have been featured prominently on I used to think I just had lousy luck, but after dating a series of inappropriate guys, I found myself wondering if perhaps there might be a little something wrong with me.

I began to lurk in the self-help section, snatching up books like Smart Women, Cataclysmic Choices or Why Am I a Mutant Magnet? I couldn’t understand why I was attracted to men who wanted to seize my heart and use it as a shot put.

Case in point: I began to date Frank, an artist, who also extremely neurotic, smoked more pot than both Cheech and Chong, and thought he was God or at the very least, God’s right-hand man.

Why, then, did I swoon in his presence? Despite all his flaws, Frank’s work ethic fascinated me. If he were in the middle of an important sculpture, he’d assuage parties and other social activities. He’d work for hours—without food, sleep, Marlboro Reds, or even sex.

Next came Joe. Joe, a budding and passionate playwright, was terrified of being ordinary. He was also terrified of dating anyone ordinary. If I gained a pound or two, or sprouted a zit, he’d snub me. One day, he suddenly decided I was too short. A genius like him deserved someone tall and leggy— and I, at a dwarfish five foot two didn’t fit the bill.

Finally there was Mitchell, a poet who I met at a writer’s conference. He was the sort of awkward, stuttering type of fellow I normally wouldn’t have given a second glance. But Mitchell ended up being the superstar of the conference; all the evaluators gave his prose glowing marks. I read a collection of his poems and as a result fell in love with it and him. Luckily Mitchell got overwhelmed by my misplaced devotion, and gave me my walking papers.

After having my heart broken repeatedly, I decided to forget about men for a while and throw my energies into writing a novel. Although I was unaware of it at the time, into it went a dollop of Frank’s drive, a dash of Joe’s passion, and a dose of Mitchell’s quest for excellence. It was the novel that would eventually get published and lead to four more.

Once I’d written a novel, I never dated another Mr. Wrong; I no longer had any interest in troubled artists.

A good friend, who had seen me through all three relationships once asked me, “What did you see in them?”

It’s only been recently that I could answer that question: I saw in them qualities I desperately wanted in myself but had refused to acknowledge.

Some day I will dedicate a book to these men who were chosen, not so much by me, but by a very determined and enterprising muse.
Karen Neches is the author of Earthly Pleasures, a Booksense Notable. Visit her at

1 comment:

River Jordan said...


Very funny and there should be an entire book of women who have done much of the same. At least all the wrong men for all the wrong reasons - (and I'm sure men do the same sort of thing in some way or another - as in "she shure looked good to me and I thought that was good enough")

And I hope there is a mutant magnet book out there right now on the shelf to buy. If so - I'm buying it right now for a friend of mine that needs a little whoa there cowgirl in her cowboy search!