My Grandma Pearl once told me there are two kinds of men: the ones who will make you count your blessings, and the ones who will make you want to start counting from zero to forget they ever existed.

Mitch Wiggins fell in the latter category. He made me determined to not only start again…but to start better.

King of Lazy. Dr. Do Little. The reality of falling for his sorry ass lifted the veil of denial from my almost thirty, unmarried eyes. The end of our disastrous liaison quite literally drove me from love’s hangover straight to Circuit Court…and in a brand new S-Class with a dented rear fender.

The real shame of his sham is the red flags started flapping within days of meeting him. I knew he was a steaming heap of fly infested cow shit in sheep’s clothing but I continued on with the farce anyway. The blare from my biological clock was ticking like an Old & Barren bomb merely seconds from exploding over the remnants of my life. For starters, the man was an insurance salesman. One rung up from used car salesman. He was so slippery I’m shocked his greasy charm didn’t make him slide his fake ass out of that wheelchair sooner. He oozed slick and even shaking hands with him was like running your fingers through a curl dripping with juice de Jheri.

Oh, but he was intelligent, seven kinds of fine, and he wore the right uniform—an Armani-suited god dipped in creamy caramel. But if you flipped him inside-out, he’d look like a naked mole rat.

There’s nothing worse than man with some outside fine and some inside ugly.

He’d been a total douche from day one, but what single woman wants to admit when her beau is dishing out the flowers, the gifts, and the 5-star restaurant dinners. All the flash-and-splash kept me faithful to the 90-day rule because I’d forced myself to believe I’d found “the one.” And he’d behaved like a perfect gentleman, in every way, according to original manufacturer specifications. However, on day 91, post-coitus, it quickly became clear that all he ever really wanted was to stash my cash and then smash-and-dash. All that love he claimed had for me spurted out of him with his load. I gave up the cookies and that son of bitch disappeared from the earth like the dinosaur. Then he slammed into my bumper a month later in a Lexus I later found out he’d bought with the money I’d given him to get therapy.

That was the final straw.  That stupid 90-day rule was out the window and the book went right behind it. Women could wait 9 days or 900 years to sleep with a man, a bitch ass was a bitch ass. He’d be pushed out of his mother’s spacious womb as a bitch ass and eventually die and return to the earth as bitch ass dust. Whether we swung our thonged booties from chandeliers or carried our celibate, sanctified behinds to church searching for the source of our hallelujah with our knees pressed together in a grandma suit, a woman could do only one thing to find out if a man was truly Mr. Right. Took a year of my life to figure out the answer.

And it all started with the 91st day.

After Mitch disappeared, I did what all women do after a break-up. Dove headfirst into an extended funk, which included a week-long rom-com-athon. I got drunk on the memories of the early phases of my relationships—and three bottles of Chardonnay. Looking back on those dizzying, emotional highs between Day 1 and Day 89 after you meet someone new, I wondered why we couldn’t put them on Groundhog Day repeat. Each first touch, first hug, first kiss, and first roll in the proverbial hay—The Honeymoon Phase. Those heavenly moments in the beginning of a relationship during which sublime happiness knew no bounds, when you agreed on everything and fought about nothing. And the butterflies. Oh, the butterflies. They flapped around in your stomach like bats out of hell. The love making was so delicious and frequent that you could produce enough serotonin and dopamine between the two of you to fuel a medium-sized Chinese village in the Shanghai Province. I convinced myself that this was how love was meant to be experienced—always.

No sooner than I conceived that stroke of genius did I hear someone jiggling the doorknob on the front door of my 10th floor Woodley Park. My best friend, Pam. Perfect timing. Pretty Woman was almost over and I was ready to talk. Pam no doubt had stopped by to ensure I was still breathing since I hadn’t taken any calls since my disastrous court appearance. I could now share my epiphany with her.

As I stood up to greet her, I caught a glance of myself in the mirror over the mantel. Ugh. I looked like a Real Housewife from Hell with orangutan hair. Bits of my shoulder-length kinky curled strands were sticking straight up to the ceiling as if I suffered from some freak static-cling ailment, and streaks of dried tears ran through the puke-colored mint julep mask slathered across my face; I’d forgotten to wash it off. And while I had a body for glamour, my baggy sweats and oversized T-shirt stained with unrecognizable food particles looked like I was five minutes out of a homeless shelter. Pam strolled in and glared at me with all the horror of a child catching his parents doing the hoochie coochie.

“Jesus H. Christ. What in the Freddie Kruger is going on here?” Pam said, her eyes scrunched and her lips thinned. She scanned the disaster area that used to be my living room. My housecleaning technician wouldn’t back until Monday. Lupa. She didn’t like the term maid. Said it made her feel like the hired help.

Don’t ask me why, but when I started explaining my frazzled state, the tears flowed like rain. And it wasn’t about Mitch. He was in no way, shape, or form worth any of my bodily fluid. No, once again, I’d allowed some dumbass man and some stupid rule shake my faith in my own judgment.

“I blame that fucking 90-day rule, you know?” I said, sniffling and swiping my nose on the back of my disgusting hand. If my mother had seen that display, she would’ve doused me with a vat of hand sanitizer. Serious germaphobe. “It’s one of the biggest frauds committed against women in the 21st century. Steve set us up big time. He should be arrested for crimes against humanity.”

“What are you talking about, crazy person?” She laid down her purse on the foyer table and plopped down next to me on the couch. Usually dressed for success, Pam looked as if she’d been through a ringer or two herself in her tattered jeans and faded Gap tee. She and her husband Joe weren’t exactly the poster children for happily ever after.

“The 90-day rule is nothing but a power play. He’s conned women into trying to seize the control in the relationship by withholding sex. But the reality is they will never get what they need that way. As a matter of fact, they will get the exact opposite.”

Pam’s nose crinkled. “Didn’t I tell you to throw that stupid book away? You’ve been studying that thing like calculus and my mind is on something else. When I walked in the door, I was thinking about my grocery list.”

I continued as if she was actually listening. Didn’t need her attention, only needed a warm body. “The nugget of wisdom he conveniently omitted from his heaping pile of bullshit is that the minute a woman withholds sex, that’s when the real game begins for men. We think they are playing for our hearts when they are really playing for accessible ass – a ‘beck-and-call’ girl, just like Vivian said,”  I said, referring to Julia Roberts’ line in Pretty Woman as if the words had come from some Freudian journal and not a movie script.

“Have you been drinking?” she said, scanning the room for bottles.

“Denying men sex is like firing the starting gun at a dog race. The word ‘no,’ signals that the chase has begun. They pursue us like greyhounds trying to get a mouth full of rabbit. Once they possess us and lock their jaws and we’re stuck. We’re so stupid, thinking this demonstration of patience proves they want to be with us, when all it proves is that they can wait 90 days to have sex with you.  And, don’t get it twisted. Waiting 90 days to give up the sex will never make a man up his ante to hold onto you. No, the minute he gets the cookies, he’ll move you into The Minimum Zone.”

“The Minimum Zone?”

“Yes. That’s when they determine bare minimum requirements necessary to keep you—and then they freeze the relationship right there. It’s only during the first 89 days when they move heaven and earth to give us everything we need. That’s the point of the chase. Think about every relationship you’ve ever had and you’ll know I’m not lying.”

“Girl, I wish I could say you’re lying, but it’s unfair to say all men have this mindset… just most of them.”

“Sex isn’t power. The game, the pursuit – that’s where the real power is. We as women have been too wrapped up in our emotions to understand that once the hound is in motion he’s not going to stop chasing until he bites us in the ass. If we go into relationships thinking like men, we will control nothing. Our needs will never get met. No, we have to think smarter than a man. We have to think like women—except with our brains, not our hearts. The goal is not to control the sex…it’s to control the game. Own the track. And stop acting like rabbits waiting to get bitten in the ass.”

Pam paused in silence for a moment then blinked three times. “This meltdown is because of Mitch, isn’t it? If so, you really need to get over it. He isn’t worth the time it takes to stomp a roach. If you quit spinning your wheels on this, you’ll have forgotten he existed in another week.”

“No, this isn’t about Mitch. It’s about every lying bastard with questionable motives who has ever charmed and deceived a woman for the sole purpose of securing a beck-and-call girl. I’ve had enough. From this day forward, I’m gonna control the game.”

I could hear the lion roar in my belly. It was a new day.

I stopped ranting long enough to turn my attention back to the TV. Pretty Woman was almost over. Richard Gere was down on one knee hoisting up the flowers, asking for Julia Roberts’ hand in what? As I thought about this scene my mental state, he sure as hell wasn’t asking for her hand in marriage. No, he just wanted her to be committed to him so he could have on-demand ass.

Used to be my favorite scene from any romantic comedy ever. I’d mouth the words “She saves him right back” with tears of gullible joy trickling from my eyes.

Uh, uh. Not anymore. Not after Mitch.

“See, this is part?” I asked Pam, pointing to the TV screen. “This is where Vivian makes her mistake. If she takes the money and runs, she’s got a clean getaway. She will never be more powerful in that relationship than at the moment she told him to take his money and shove it. Now look at her…she gives all that power away for a five dollar bouquet of flowers and the promise of what? A gold band? As if a ring means squat. If he’s polite he may stick it in his pocket while he’s boinking some twenty- year-old waitress a year from now. If it was me, I would’ve taken the wallet, kicked Rickey over the edge, and given him the middle-finger salute,” I blurted out, before I could change the name Ricky to Edward. And I knew Pam wouldn’t miss a beat.

Her eyes widened and she pointed at me with the “gotcha” finger. “Ah ha!  You said Ricky. You’re right, this isn’t about Mitch at all.” Pam grabbed the remote control and turned off the TV. “Everything you do goes back to Ricky, doesn’t it?”

Suddenly, I felt ill. Nauseous. Thinking of him always brought on an episode. Made me feel as if I’d just stepped off the Tea Cup ride at Disney. You know a man is wrong for you if the mere thought of him makes you feel as if you’re dying. I gripped my stomach and groaned. I’d been exhibiting more symptoms and was convinced I was gonna die. Pam didn’t believe death was knocking on my door but I heard it. “I was doing some research on Web Doctor the other day…and I think I have Leukemia.”

She scanned the array of over-the counter medications blanketing my teak coffee table (I’d been thing about Ricky a lot) and picked up the bottle with the colorful tablets. Then she held it to my face. “Really? Tums? Since when did Tums cure Leukemia?”

I sniffled repeatedly and released my gut long enough to grab a tissue and dab my tears. I’m far from a drama queen so I didn’t understand what she was insinuating. “Well, it’s either Leukemia or gas. I’m still monitoring my symptoms.”

“That does it,” Pam yelled, exasperated. “No more laptop. I’m taking the MacBook home with me until I drag you kicking and screaming out of this funk.” She started lifting the decorative pillows on my sectional trying to unearth it.  “Where is it? And please tell me you’re on something…other than this side of crazy.”

She looked exhausted. But she couldn’t be tired of me already; she’d only been at my place for fifteen minutes. We’d barely explored the tip of this massive iceberg.

“I’m not on anything…except Tums…and Chardonnay,” I said, gripping my stomach again. Maybe the roar from my inner lion was gas. “And you can’t take my laptop. I’m expecting an email from the HealthLine symptom checker.” I fell over on the couch in her direction. “Feel my head. Lupa’s been keeping a chart.”

“Child, please,” Pam said. “I don’t need to take your temperature to know you’ve got issues that require prescription medications. And did you ever think the combination of Tums and Chardonnay might be a bad thing?” Pam shook her head. “I never thought I’d say this but being around you actually makes me appreciate marriage…which speaks volumes because right now my relationship is like a daily root canal.”

At this point, Pam launched into a diatribe about her own personal drama, as she walked around opening the curtains to let the sun penetrate the doom and gloom in the room. She and Joe got into yet another stupid argument about something which neither one will be able to articulate into coherent sentences next week. Pam was having trouble already and the incident only happened before she arrived at my place. “Something odd is going on with him. Can’t put my finger on it, but we’re gasoline and fire these days. Put us together and someone’s gonna explode.”

“Hmph. You talk about me? Look at you. You’re not happy either. And you didn’t sleep with him for like 120 days after you met. What does that tell you?”

“It was 127 days, for your information. And I’d rather married to Joe, than waste my time with any one of those jokers you’ve been messing with in recent months. Remember what’s-his-face with chronic booger issue?”

“Ugh. Don’t remind me. Five years with Ricky. Six months with Nathan the booger boy. And three months with Mitch. Between the three of them I’ve wasted almost six years of my life, countless hours pining for them and trying to prove myself worthy. Makes me sick to think about what I could’ve done with that wasted time. I could’ve earned two master’s degrees in that time. Or…or I could’ve shopped and eaten my way through all 196 countries, six times over.”

“Assuming you could settle your flighty ass down and string together to cogent thoughts in a row.”

I cut my eyes at her. Heifer. Always trying to badger me with reason. “I’ll never waste my time again. Not in this lifetime. As of this moment, right here and right now, I’m taking control of the game.”

“Control?”

“You heard me correctly. I did not stutter,” I said. The corners of my mouth curled up into a smile as if I’d discovered the cure for carbs. “I’ll never see the 91st day of a relationship again. All I want from now on is the honeymoon. No bullshit. No letdowns. No arguments. No disappointments. Only first touches, first hugs, and first kisses.”

“And what about first screws?”

“When it comes to sex, I’m going to have firsts, seconds, and thirds. A girl has needs.”

“I’ve got news for you. This honeymoon plan is never going to work. Your problem has nothing to do with the 90-day rule. Your problem is that when your relationships go south, you go from zero to crazy in 60 seconds flat. You keep trying to find a mystery where there is none. The fact of the matter is love is a result of the effort you put into it. You find someone who doesn’t induce you to seek murder-for-hire and you make it work. There! Mystery solved.”

I stared at her until I caught her eye. “So you’re saying you haven’t considered murder-for-hire with Joe? Because I’m sure I heard you making a call yesterday.”

She didn’t answer. Just sucked her tongue and pursed her lips. She may be able to fool some of the people some of the time, but not me. Let’s just say I’ve seen the dirt under the manicured nails of that relationship.

“It’s official. The cheese has officially slipped off of your cracker.”

I smiled and sashayed to the refrigerator.. “Trust me when I tell you, tomorrow is a new day. You want a drink?”

“No, but I need one after all of your philosophizing. Whatever you’re getting, make it a double,” she snapped, wiggling her fingers in the air as I shuffled to the fridge and poured out the last of the Chardonnay. “Now all I need to know is how you’re going to carry out this ingenious plan. You don’t work well without adult supervision.”

“That’s why I have you, Pam,” I said, delivering her drink and returning to my seat on the couch. I propped my feet up on the table, hoisted my glass in the air, and said, “Let’s toast to new beginnings. I’m not spilling a word about the plan right now. Just be prepared for shock and awe.”

            “And honeymoons,” she said before guzzling down her wine.            “Yes, lots of honeymoons.”

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