For most of his reading at the Chelsea Barnes & Noble last night, I Can't Believe I'm Still Single author Eric Schaeffer was in his charming first-date mode, all bashful grins and 'aw-shucks, little old screenwriter me? Did I mention I dated Molly Ringwald once?' But occasionally, Eric would get to the clause in one of his run-on sentences that contained a zinger. He'd narrow his eyes and shoot a barbed insult at a pathetic divorced fattie whose life had been brightened when he'd viewed her Nerve profile, or he'd diss a dirty whore who'd had the gall to waste Eric's dating time by not being upfront about her oral herpes, and it would hit you: This guy really hates women. It's not a joke. This is a sociopath who preys on the dating desperation of aging New York ladies and then writes delusional screeds about them in order to feel better about himself. This guy is a Peter Braunstein who hasn't snapped... yet. The audience for Eric's reading was full of women. After all, who hates women more than women do?
The Barnes & Noble was packed, and not everyone there was a friend or relative of Eric's. "I think I only know about half of you!" he exclaimed on arrival. He shuffled up to the lectern, sweaty and red-faced in a plain white t-shirt. "We're just going to hang for five minutes, give some bridge and tunnel people time to get here," he explained, then quasiapologized, "I hate making people wait."
My fellow audience members took the opportunity to chat while they waited. The largish ladies to my right were discussing a recent outing to DSW, but I was more interested in the couple to my left. For starters, they were a couple. Was this like a date for them, I wondered? "Well, we've been married for a while, but I guess it still counts as a date," said the 30ish man half of the couple, who was very redolent of cigarette smoke. "Actually, Eric's movie Fall was one of our first dates. We've been fans ever since."
"So do you just like his movies, or have you read his blog?" I asked. The man hadn't, but his wife had: "No, I don't think he's creepy. I think he's just being honest." Unfortunately, the beginning of the reading precluded my getting to know those crazy (really! crazy!) kids any better.
Highlights of the reading:
"I like Jewish women. They're smart, attractive, and straightforward."
A bit about how he thought a rural, overweight woman would be overcome with joy that a "semi-cute, marginally-famous New Yorker" had viewed her Nerve profile.
A bit about his love of America's Next Top Model (Noooo!) which, he explained, is an outgrowth of men's primordial desire to "bash a woman on the head and drag her back to his cave."
It is not.
Eric wanted to make the reading "fun" for us, so he gave us a choice: After he'd read two chapters from his book, one about his fear of herpes and another about his quest to become #1 on Nerve, he asked for a show of hands as to who wanted more stories and who wanted a Q&A. I was the only person who raised my hand for a Q&A, and was thanked by Eric for my honesty. I sneaked out seconds later. I had personally interacted with Eric Schaeffer, and I was going to have to live with that forever.