Mating Rituals of the North American WASP

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are
used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2009 by Lauren Lipton

All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced,
distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written
permission of the publisher.

Excepting page 108, Luke’s poems and poetry fragments throughout are copyright © 2009 by Lee Slonimsky

Yeats’s poem “When You Are Old” is from the second edition of
The Poems of W. B. Yeats,
edited by Richard J. Finneran (Macmillan Publishing Company, 1983). Used by permission.

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First eBook Edition: May 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-55067-3


Copyright Page































“How I love this funny, smart, full of heart novel about the ‘I Do’ coming before the ‘I love you.’ Lauren Lipton is one of
my new favorite authors!”

—Melissa Senate, author of
See Jane Date
Questions to Ask Before Marrying

“Stylishly written, closely observed, and compulsively readable, MATING RITUALS OF THE NORTH AMERICAN WASP is an absolute
treat. It’s
The Undomestic Goddess
The Gold Coast
with fantastic results.”

—Alison Pace, author of
City Dog


“Striking a balance between silly and serious, this tale…will resonate with readers everywhere.”

—Emily Giffin,
New York Times
bestselling author of
Baby Proof
Love the One You’re With

“Wickedly funny, yet deeply poignant, this book marks the debut of a sparkling new voice. Lipton writes with wit, intelligence,
and, most of all, heart.”

—Carol Goodman, author of
The Lake of Dead Languages
The Ghost

“Light-hearted and full of laughs…a fast-paced read…Lipton is an exciting new fictional voice.”


“A humorous starting-over novel,
It’s About Your Husband
is chick lit with a twist…Lipton is a new voice, from whom readers will want more.”


“Chock-full of delightful characters…will keep you entertained all the way to the surprise twist at the end…a lively, fun
read that only gets better as the story progresses.”


“What makes
It’s About Your Husband
such an excellent read is not the plot so much as Lipton’s ability to capture the flavor of New York, the foibles of her
characters, and the metamorphosis of a delightful heroine…We look forward to what Lauren Lipton has in store for us next.”


To my father, Lew Lipton

Who taught me how to catch lightning in a bottle


I am fortunate to have a gracious and serene agent, Laura Langlie, and an incisive editor, Selina McLemore. Thank you to Caryn
Karmatz-Rudy, Elly Weisenberg, Miriam Parker, Latoya Smith, Melanie Moss, Tareth Mitch, Sona Vogel, Rick Willett, Claire Brown,
and Allene Shimomura at Grand Central Publishing, and to Tooraj Kavoussi of TK Public Relations. Melanie Murray, thank you
for believing in this book.

Miriam Komar and Sarah Sheppard spent a year helping me shape my story and characters and pushing me to do better. I am indebted
to them and to Carol Goodman, an exceptional teacher and writer. I’m grateful for the support of Davyne Verstandig, director
of the Litchfield County Writers Project.

Thank you to the many who gave generously of their time and expertise, including freelance television cameraman Pete Stendel,
Connecticut divorce lawyer Steven H. Levy, Esq., and Napa Valley wine and port expert Paul Wagner. Lee Lipton, MA, PA-C, provided
medical information. Mary Clare Bland, of East Side Tae Kwon Do in New York City, gave me a crash course in small business
ownership. Tom Herman (Yale ’68) and Marilyn Lytle Herman took me to the Game.

Litchfield, Connecticut, contractor Ben Buck explained how to apply roofing tar. Tedd Rosenstein, my Las Vegas bureau chief,
described the Brooklyn Bridge at New York New York in painstaking detail. Thank you also to Reverend David Rockness, pastor
of the First Congregational Church of Litchfield; docent Rosemary Sant Andrea of the Bellamy-Ferriday House; car expert Jonathan
Welsh; and Stephanie Chang. I assume full responsibility for any mistakes or omissions in, or embellishments to, the information
these sources provided.

The Silas Sedgwick House is modeled on a real mansion in Litchfield County. Russell Barton gave me a tour of his exquisite
home and let me take extensive photographs.

Girls-in-the-know Melissa C. Morris and Sandra Waugh saw to it that the Sedgwicks served the proper appetizers, drank the
proper liquor, and attended the proper church.

The poet and hedge fund manager Lee Slonimsky not only advised me on Luke’s investments but wrote Luke’s beautiful sonnets
and verse fragments (with the exception of the limerick, for which I take full blame). Lee, thank you. I couldn’t have done
it without you.

And without David and James, there would be no poetry in my life. I love you both.


Early Fall, September

omething wasn’t right, and she knew it before opening her eyes.

She’d been having the oddest dream about a man she was sure she’d never met in her waking life, though in the dream he was
as familiar as an old friend. A man she would not be able to recall later, beyond that his presence had buoyed her with happiness.
A man she only understood wasn’t Brock and was in fact someone Brock should never know about. And though she knew the correct
thing to do was to go home to Brock at once and apologize for all of it—the argument, the way she’d left things, and now
—she couldn’t bring herself to break the spell. She and the dream-man were laughing and talking, about what she wouldn’t recall,
either, as bells rang and cheers erupted in bursts, and smiling dream-people stood back to watch them in the manner of wedding
guests ringing the floor for the first dance. Then, just as she and the man were about to embrace, Peggy Adams had a moment
of clarity.
Something isn’t right,
she thought in her dream, and with that, it all dissolved.

This was one of the many side effects of Peggy’s chronic anxiety: Traveling made her jumpy, and she could not get comfortable
in a strange bed. Not even in a luxury hotel. She’d try to laugh it off—
Hello, housekeeping? There’s a pea under my mattress
—and go to sleep. But the pillow would be too plump or the fitted sheet would come untucked, revealing an expanse of bare
mattress inches from her face. The rest of the night she’d alternate between imagining exactly what might be on that mattress,
thinking wistfully of her own bed, and chastising herself. When had she become afraid of everything? Why couldn’t she snap
out of it?

But this particular out-of-kilter feeling went beyond the dream and beyond Peggy’s sense that her world was closing in and
it was her own fault. It went beyond her concern that her friends were leaving her behind, moving ahead with their lives while
she remained in the same place. It certainly went beyond being in not-her-bed. The past two mornings, Peggy had awoken not
to the distant growl of Manhattan traffic on Ninth Avenue or, depending on the day, the splash of Brock shaving in their apartment
bathroom, but to the gusty air conditioner in a room at the New York New York hotel in Las Vegas, with Bex Sabes-Cohen—her
best friend, business partner, and fellow bachelorette-weekend guest—rustling sleepily in the other double bed and a view
of a reproduction Chrysler building out their window. It had caught her off guard Friday and Saturday, but it was Sunday,
she’d be flying home later today, and with her everyday life within an afternoon’s reach, the foreignness of the hotel room,
her remaining hours of contrived gaiety in Las Vegas, even her fight with Brock, seemed perfectly manageable.

Still, Peggy wasn’t ready to face any of it. She burrowed into the unyielding pillow, suspecting she hadn’t slept nearly enough.
Her eyes seemed glued shut, and she wondered,
Had she somehow not washed her face? She ran her left index finger across her lashes. They were gummy and stiff. When she
moved her other hand under the covers, the clasp of her watch caught on the knit fabric of her cocktail dress.

Usually, Peggy set it on the bathroom counter before brushing and flossing. Why couldn’t she remember brushing and flossing?
Could she have forgotten to, just as she’d forgotten to remove her makeup, her watch, and…this was curious. Was she really
wearing her dress?

She opened her eyes. The curtains were open, and blue white sunlight shrieked in through the window. She shut her eyes, but
not before registering that she
still wearing the low-backed black jersey number she’d chosen for the weekend’s climactic evening of dinner and drinks and
blackjack with Bex and their other former college roommates.

What in the world was going on?

Peggy did remember having faced a wardrobe dilemma. Las Vegas had turned out to be a city of tourists wearing baggy T-shirts
and shorts. Bex had already pointed out that the other bachelorettes weren’t much chicer. Jobs, relationships, and circumstance
had flung their four New York University friends thousands of miles from the city and out into the wide world of sneakers
and sweatpants and logos on everything. For the past two days, Andrea, the guest of honor, had lived in a white tracksuit
with “Bride-to-Be” appliquéd across her backside.

Peggy had had her dress over her head and been about to shimmy it down over her hips when she’d heard Bex come out of the

“Do I look like an alien from Planet Overkill?” Peggy had asked through the layers of fabric. When no response came, she slithered
the dress all the way on, letting it brush silkily around her calves.

Bex was wearing a camisole, black pants so snug that a thong would have left lines, and one skyscraper-heeled, pointy-toed,
patent-leather boot. She laughed. “You’re asking the wrong girl.”

Peggy adored Bex for her brash self-assurance, her unflagging trust in her own choices.

Unfortunately, Peggy did not share these characteristics.

“I’ll wear jeans.” She started to back out of the dress.

“No, you don’t. You’re going to be festive this weekend if it kills us both.…” Bex had gotten a look at Peggy’s face. She
stopped tussling with her other boot. “I know, sweetie. Fights—they’re miserable.”

Peggy let the dress fall back around her and dropped onto the bed. “Thirteen months, Bex.”

“I know,” Bex said.

“Andrea meets Jordan, they go to dinner, they move in together, and poof—engaged.” She held up her palms, mimicking a scale.
“Andie: thirteen months. Me: seven years.”

Bex nodded. “I know.”

“And I shouldn’t have yelled at Brock. I never yell at him. I don’t nag; I don’t push; I give him space. How long am I supposed
to wait?”

“I don’t know. I would have left him already.”

“I’m not leaving him.”

“I know,” said Bex.

Peggy had registered the disapproval in her best friend’s posture and slipped on her shoes. Shoes that she now suspected—

Her heart began to pound. She kicked the bedclothes off her feet.

She was still wearing them.

As for Bex, what had become of her? Bex, along with her bed and the Chrysler building outside their window, had disappeared.
How was that possible? The only bed in the room now was Peggy’s.

But Peggy wasn’t the only one in it.

It took multiple tries to work through this last piece of information. Man. A man. A man in bed. In her bed. No, on her bed.
He lay on his back on top of the coverlet, in a rumpled shirt and a diagonally striped tie, in slacks, socks, and burnished
dress shoes that looked as if they’d been polished and repolished for the past twenty years. He had blond lashes and a peaceful
face. His chest rose and fell gently. He could have been a sleeping boy, except for the red gold stubble on his cheeks.

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