At the age of 33, Kathy Hanson of New York City was still single, and for the life of her, she couldn't understand why.
"Actually, that's not quite true," Kathy admits now with an embarrassed smile, catching herself in her own lie. "I'd let myself go. My eating was out of control, soy lattes two, sometimes even three, times a week! And I was still running every day but I totally stopped doing yoga. I went from a size two to a six - in four months!"
She shakes her head in shame, remembering.
"And I'm only five-ten. I was huge! I rationalized by saying that the right man should love me for who I am, at any size. But it's only fair that a man wants someone who takes care of herself."
Kathy also acknowledged that her career track had been less than impressive. She'd been with the same modeling agency, Ford, since the age of 19.
"And here in New York, everyone knows that IMG is really where it's at," she notes. "I'd done five covers in three years - ridiculous. It was clear I just didn't have much drive or ambition."
After taking a good, hard look at where she was - and wasn't - in her life, Kathy decided to do some serious self-improvement in order to make herself more appealing to the plethora of sane, mature, attractive, available men in the Big Apple.
She got a subscription to The Nation to bone up on current events. She dieted down to a size four, which, she acknowledged, "wasn't ideal, but it was something." She nailed a few high-profile modeling gigs as a health model, for which a size 4 figure was acceptable.
And it worked.
"One day," said Kathy, "a guy came up to me on the street in Midtown. He wasn't cute, exactly, but I thought it was nice that he started talking to me out of nowhere. He clearly had good social skills and was confident in himself. Those are qualities I admire."
At his request, Kathy gave the "street man," Quinn, her telephone number - which immediately led to a string of intense, highly sexual text messages.
"At first," Kathy recounts, "I thought the texting was inappropriate, even disrespectful, given that he'd just met me. But I realized I needed to loosen up. And I got really good at talking trash, if I do say so myself."
After a period of successful "sexting," Kathy and Quinn had their first date, a Saturday night dinner. At that time, a potential conflict arose, which nearly doomed the budding relationship. Kathy, a committed vegan, ordered the pasta primavera; Quinn selected the restaurant specialty: foie gras.
"I was appalled," says Kathy, "because I feel really strongly that in this day and age, there's no justification for killing and eating animals. Not when there are so many more compassionate options readily available. And foie gras, of all things!"
But through her own personal development work and cognitive behavioral therapy, Kathy had come to recognize that she could at times be judgmental and even a little controlling. For that reason, she made a conscious decision to overlook Quinn's morally questionable entrée choice.
"It felt good to live and let live," Kathy said. "Well, of course, the dead goose wasn't doing any living. But Quinn didn't feel judged. And that was the important thing."
From that first date, Kathy's relationship with Quinn continued to blossom, or if not blossom, at least proceed. With a few bumps along the way. The two had some marked differences.
"I'm kind of a purist about the body," Kathy explains. "Whereas he was overweight, never exercised, and ate mostly junk. He smoked pot regularly, and drank a lot more than I do. He used amphetamines to keep his energy up, and I think he was taking Viagra. Plus, he was really into pop culture and television, whereas I don't even own a T.V.!"
Nevertheless, Kathy learned that with some self-discipline, she could turn a blind eye to her own values and standards in the interest of love. Or if not love, a solidly mediocre relationship.
As Kathy describes it, "There was a connection. We weren't officially boyfriend/girlfriend, and he was careful to avoid any public displays of affection in his neighborhood or any place there was any chance of running into anyone he knew. But we had something."
Kathy also realized that the age difference between her and Quinn (17 years) didn't bother her nearly as much as she'd expected it to.
"After all, what's 50?" she asks rhetorically. "Just a number. Who cares?"
A turning point came when Kathy realized the toll that her vegetarianism was taking on her and Quinn's relationship.
"Much as I didn't want to believe it, I could tell it was a drag for him," she says. "Not that he'd stopped eating meat, even around me, but I could tell that the fact that I didn't eat meat made him a little uncomfortable."
And so, several weeks later at brunch, when a waiter mistakenly brought a side of bacon with Kathy's tofu scramble, she gazed at Quinn with sincere affection - and picked up a piece of the fried pork fat.
"The look on his face when I took a bite was precious," Kathy recalls with a tender smile. "I knew then that I would do anything for an unofficial, uncommitted, but very special relationship. It felt wonderful to practice unconditional acceptance."
Unfortunately, despite Kathy's personal successes in learning to kind-of love the kind of person with whom she'd never before imagined wanting a relationship, her relationship with Quinn didn't end with a "happily ever after." After several heated disagreements over anal intercourse, Quinn told Kathy that while he "really liked her," he wasn't comfortable continuing to see her. And the sort-of couple parted ways.
Kathy accepts full responsibility for the breakup.
"I'd made a lot of progress loosening up by eating animal flesh and drinking more and trying some pills," she says now. "But apparently I still had some sexual repression. I told Quinn I wasn't into ass-fucking, and I see now that that was a mistake. I should have been more open. I was making it all about me. I was selfish."
That being said, Kathy is at peace regarding the end of her and Quinn's relationship.
"I wasn't perfect," she acknowledges, "but I tried. And I learned a lot. And that experience has only made me a better person for the next raunchy middle-aged man who tries to get in my pants."