When you're on the phone for several hours in one week with the pushy guy from the collection agency, impress him not just by flirting with him and telling him how to meet girls in his hometown, St. Louis (when he complains that all the girls he meets online are too fat, tell him to go to yoga class, duh), but absolutely floor him by telling him you are certain he is a man who grew up with a bunch of brothers--no sisters.

"How did you know that? Whoa, that's incredible, I'm the youngest of four brothers," he will say.

Smile coyly and let him hear it in your words as you try to get him down another thousand bucks.

How do you know this? You're a novelist and you know that anyone who works all day at a hard-ass collection agency testosterone job and then claims to be a professional poker player in his spare time did not have a sister to kick his ass when he was little.

Also guess, correctly, that he's not doing so well with the ladies.

"It's some Jerry Springer stuff over here, but that's cool, that's cool," he will say.

His wife is now "with" his neighbor, who is also his best friend, he will explain.

"You'll find someone," you will tell him, "You're just not ready yet."

"It's been six years," he'll say, and you'll sort of murmur and think of how in New York he'd find a girlfriend with an eating disorder in a month.

Think of this conversation the next time someone tells you that they are really impressed with how you are "following your dream" and that your endless balancing of four underpaying day jobs and Visa "grants" and apartment subletting must provide you with "great material."



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