Frances Kuffel is a recovering literary agent who has written several memoirs, including Passing for Thin: Losing Half My Weight and Finding Myself,
and Eating Ice Cream With My Dog: A True Story of Food, Friendship, and Losing Weight... Again
. Her most recent book is Love Sick: A Memoir of Searching for Mr. Good Enough.
Here's what she has to share about her latest effort.
This is an intimate book. Did you surprise yourself while writing this?
Yes, and about things I didn’t know I would write until I came up against them, like whether I buy love or the difference between hurt and pain.
And what is the difference between hurt and pain?
Hurt is that thing you feel in the now and remember with a wince or no visceral reaction later. Pain is ongoing; it lasts longer than a break-up or a bad experience. It can subside and then explode when you least expect it.
Is it hard to be so honest?
Not for me. I think that being obese makes me want to expose reasons, struggles, my humanity in order to get beyond what I look like.
Do you feel like you are reopening old wounds?
Oh, yeah. Will and I shed a lot of tears about our childhood, and revisiting Dar was excruciating. I’m not over him yet. I also haven't gotten over lots of men I've dated in the last ten years, but Dar is at the head of the list. He has more humanity, is more open to the world, than any man I've ever known. His heart is so big there was almost room for me. If I could go sit with him right now I would feel peace and, unfortunately, possibility. That's unfortunate because I need to feel possible by my own devices.
Will is Will. The Rock. If I could go sit with him right now I would feel the peace of being completely known and accepted and emptied out of my anxieties from the language we speak: hysterical laughter, Bach, Chopin, dogs—probably tequila. I love him. He loves me. It's simple and very, very complicated.
What led you to write this particular book?
I could see that my relationship with Dar, of friends-with-benefits, was going to kill me. I wanted to fall in love with somebody else, maybe foreverishly. I could see that it would make an interesting self-study along with some good adventure stories.
There is a mean-spiritedness in our online atmosphere. Do you have extremely thick skin?
I was a literary agent for many years and had to talk clients through bad reviews. When I started writing, I had to take my own medicine. I don’t look at my sales rankings online or what readers have to say unless they email me—and even then I sometimes have to drop the correspondence because they want to “fix” me. I’m aggressive enough about publicity that I can expect some sour notes.
Do you think ever-evolving dating Apps and sites will further change love and romance?
I see it, all the time, on Twitter and Facebook, and in the headlines about our iPhone addiction, which is now a real concern. We’re becoming a world connected by fingertips rather than voices or bodies or even full words of how we feel. “I’m happy” is so much more complicated and real than a smiley face.
What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing this?
I’m a grudge-holder but I’ve truly forgiven Will. That makes me want to forgive other people from my past. I’ve learned better how to live with uncertainty, disappointment and expectations with the mantra, “Say goodbye without leaving.”
Who would most benefit by reading Love Sick?
It’s a funny book, so anyone who wants an airplane read. It’s about being in late middle-age and ever-single and odd and not looking the way I’m expected to, so anyone in those states or who wants to understand them might find companionship or enlightenment in the book.
What gets in your way when writing? What do you fear?
I fear failure and I fear my deficiencies, and I fear them to the point of paralysis. Beginning to write makes my hands shake and my stomach queasy. Once I’m well into a chapter, it takes on its own momentum, but I’m horrible about starting anything new—blog, book, short story, chapter, whatever. Right now, I’d like to be writing fiction but that’s even scarier than memoirs because I know my own story but I don’t know my characters’ stories. So my wishes are divided and that doesn’t help me settle down to the most promising project on hand.
What is the most profound thing you’ve learned about yourself while writing this?
I don’t think I’m ready for a boyfriend. I torture myself too much to be what he wants and that means I neglect my own screwy psyche. Living the experiences of the book, writing about them, and the publication of the book itself has shown me how far I have to go in terms of my own mental health.
If you had one piece of advice, what would it be and for whom?
I think I would tell the men I’ve had real relationships with that when love is right, it’s easy. It doesn’t take a lot of psychologizing or plotting. When it’s right, there are no real hurdles in the way. Both people can be respected enough to take care of himself, herself. There is balance and the path is pretty clear toward commitment. Maybe that advice is for myself as much as for them.
For more on Frances Kuffel, see her pages here and here and here.
Lybi Ma is the deputy editor of Psychology Today. She is also the author of the novels Repo Girl and Double Happy.