A FoolProof Diet


She threw up in the bathroom after every bite of sushi. We were at Nobu, a relatively expensive sushi place in NYC. Earlier that day she had gone to the doctor and had her stomach stapled. Actually, that’s not quite correct. It was a newer technology. There was a band surgically placed inside of her stomach. When she wanted to prevent herself from eating, she would go to the doctor and he would tighten the band. And then later, she would get him to loosen it.

(here’s how gastric banding works)

She was going on a trip through all the great food countries of Europe. All the rich, buttery places: Paris, Rome, etc. She was going with her brand new fiancé, a high-priced patent attorney. So she knew she would be eating a lot and she wanted to avoid eating in the week before going.

So why, then, go to Nobu? Because my new girlfriend had insisted to her that Nobu was the perfect place. She wanted to show off her new boyfriend, me. Or, if not show off, then at least get her girlfrend’s approval of me. And I was nervous. Just thirty minutes earlier I had thrown out my favorite coat. It was filled with holes. I bought a coat that I never wore again. I didn’t want to look cheap. I was insecure. My new girlfriend was a psychiatrist. Her friend’s fiancé was a fancy lawyer. And her friend, the girl with the stomach band was, and still is, the admissions officer at a high-priced private school for the children of actors and hedge fund managers. I was nothing.

She had the tiniest sliver of raw tuna tartar. She got up, “Excuse me” and went to the bathroom. It was her fifth trip to the bathroom. Her fifth slice of the thinnest slice of tuna. Her fiancé smiled and shrugged his shoulders at us. My new girlfriend, the psychiatrist, leaned over at him and pointed her finger, “Listen,” she said and her voice was firm like  a teacher’s, “My patients are all anorexic teenage girls. She has a problem and YOU have to tell her.”

“I don’t know what to do?” he said, “she just does what she does.”

(I love sushi)

“Sweetheart,” my girlfriend said to him, “you’re going to marry her. She’s going to be around your kids. You are condoning this behavior by not putting a stop to it. Do  you want your kids observing this behavior every night?” And he shrugged his shoulders and smiled. He said, “you’re right but that’s who she is.”

And then stomach girl came back.

I was silent throughout. I was nervous and wanted to create a good impression. Creating a good impression was a complicated concoction of not saying anything, saying things that were funny, saying things about patent law that I had no clue about, saying things about food that made stomach girl laugh, saying pseudo-romantic things that made my psychiatrist girlfriend say, “oh, isn’t he so sweet?” and finally constantly reaffirming that I was definitely getting a divorce and the paperwork was in the mail, which was a lie.

Plus I had my new coat.

Two or three days later I was late for a date with psychiatrist. I also knew roughly where I was going to take her but I wasn’t totally sure. I called her. She said, “You’re five minutes late and you still don’t even know where we are going to eat?” I agreed with her.

“You are so close, honey. You are so close to landing on the landing strip but you’re going to crash and burn. You are totally crashing and burning right now. You are really crashing and burning.” I started to panic.I said, “Ok, I’m at the restaurant waiting for you.” AndI just walked into the closest restaurant I could find and told her the directions.

(i was this close)

When she got there she started crying. “Did I blow it already?”she said. “Did I blow it by telling you you had crashed and burned?” I told her no. I told her I thought it was endearing. She went to the bathroom to wash her tears.

A few days later we watched a movie at my place. I told her I lived at the Chelsea Hotel but she didn’t realize that was like saying I lived in a shithole with potential rats, condoms in the elevator, drug dealers in the room next door, prostitutes in the lobby, and horrible art all over the walls. Not to mention bad carpeting. I don’t know what she thought when I said I lived in a hotel but the reality turned out to be below her expectations.

We just watched the movie and she didn’t stay the night. The next day she told me, “I had to talk to my therapist about you. You live in hell. I can’t go there anymore. I thought you would have more respect for yourself and live in a nicer place. My therapist thinks that you living in a hotel means you’re not really capable of committing to anything.”

I tried to explain to her that I was staying in the exact same room I stayed in for three years BEFORE I had gotten married. That, if anything, this room was the most committed to any one location that I had ever been before. That returning to the Chelsea was my way of reestablishing my life, of building roots into what I was familiar with. “No,” she said, “You need an apartment”.

So I got an apartment. Right across from the New York Stock Exchange downtown. “Don’t expect me to come visit you that much,” she said. “It’s too far away.”

But she visited anyway. She didn’t want to fool around though. We went to dinner instead. I was feeling insecure. It was the first time she had seen my place. Aren’t you supposed to consummate things like this? “Oh no,” she said, “not this conversation already. Forget it. Just forget it.” I didn’t talk for the rest of the dinner but I felt like crying. I didn’t understand anything that was happening.

(I could see this from my new home)

I walked her to a cab and paid for the cab to take her home. She wrote me a long email the next day saying I had a lot of problems and she was an expert and that I should seek help. I didn’t respond. Nor did I ever see her again.

A few weeks later she wrote to me and said,”hey, what happened to you? Where are you? Why haven’t I heard from you? This is such a drag because I finally cancelled my membership to match.com because of you.” But I didn’t respond. She has since unfriended me on facebook.

Psychiatrists, lawyers, admissions officers throwing up in the bathroom. I was the only one at that initial dinner that hadn’t finished a degree higher than a Bachelors (I was thrown out of graduate school. The actual letter throwing me out 20 years earlier cited my lack of maturity.) When your kid applies to an exclusive private school in Manhattan, I might actually know the admissions officer who decides if your kid is good enough.

I hope this doesn’t sound bitter. I’m really not. And I’ve changed some details so any lawyers involved can’t sue me. It wasn’t Nobu, for instance. It was another sushi restaurant. And she wasn’t a psychiatrist but a psychologist. And it wasn’t match.com but another dating site. And she hadn’t allowed me to actually use the word “girlfriend” yet. “Too soon,” she said. And I actually did cry at the final dinner instead of just feeling like it.

After that last dinner and I put her in a cab I was feeling lonely. I called a friend of mine who lived in the area and we went for a walk. I was happy because it was around midnight. “What happened to X?” she asked.

“It doesn’t look like it’s working out,” I said

“How come? I thought you really liked her.” We crossed the bridge that connected Battery Park City with the rest of Manhattan. I tried to think of why it wasn’t working out. All I could think was that New York City had too many people in it. Maybe too many people with advanced degrees.

“To be honest, I have no idea why it’s not going to work out with her. I did really like her. But sometimes things just work out for the best instead.”

And they did.

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  • joekool

    I was hoping for a weight loss diet, disappointed.

  • http://what-are-my-options.blogspot.com/ the99th

    “Maybe too many people with advanced degrees.”

    Another bubble in paper assets, paper credentials, and paper personalities. 

  • Darrin S.

    It sounded like a good diet to me, James.  You shed a whole bunch of real and potential future baggage, even though it may have hurt like hell.   Now I just have to start following your advice.   :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/peach.michael Mike Peach

    Totally awesome Mr Altucher. I just love reading you. You make me want to be a crazy haired haired nerdy geek. Don’t ever stop.

    • http://twitter.com/PurviRajani Purvi Rajani

      I am a crazy haired nerdy geek. Altucher gives our people validation. :)

      • hoboken

        I’ll second that……..

    • Tgxman

      you are a nerdy geek, james makes me want to just be

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Great one! :)

  • http://www.perfectlyturbulent.com/ Michael

    In most of these situations emotionality takes control even though our rational self knows all along that the entire situation is one big red flag. But sometimes I think we just prefer the stability of a known connection and companionship to the uncertainty of single life.

    Some of us, like you, are lucky enough to get out of those relationships that take much much more than they ever give.
    Nice post James.

  • http://twitter.com/arora_rish Rishabh Arora

    Its the society’s conditioning and pressure that pushes one to go for stupid degrees. Many people do realize the mistake they make, but The sad part is that once you are there, your ego never allows you to go past it. And the fear of starting on a new track again blows off your courage.

    And so the person becomes a parrot, speaking out what’s in the books much more than what’s ur experience.

  • Tia

    Who over here wants James to do a review of each upcoming episodes of the TV hit show “Shark Tank”??

    It will be a great business lesson for all of us….

    Like this post if you want James to do this (if he has time of course)


  • http://planetoplano.blogspot.com/ Leonard

    Actually living in a hotel shows commitment. Commitment to living well: every night you come home to a clean place, someone has changed and made your bed, cleared your plates, iron your clothes, if you want to; and the people who run the place guard your privacy and are committed to make your stay the most enjoyable, because it’s their business.
    In the past many rich people stayed at the Ritz or at the Plaza, and I think it would be fantastic to live in a place like that.  

  • Anonymous

    thanks for this piece! I can relate to this very well. I went on a couple dates with a guy and I find myself sitting and waiting for a phone call from him. Not sure if I should call him and ask that question, “why haven’t I heard from you?” …I don’t think I blew it. Maybe things will just work out for the best… -heartbroken cause I thought he was ready for something good and real! 

  • Sean

    So, you know the expression, “bleeding on the page”…?

  • http://twitter.com/VeehCirra Veeh Cirra

    Very true, things do work out as they should…for the better. Though most times it’s hard to see the bigger picture when you are in the eye of a tornado. You have indeed met very interesting characters James, reading you is always great.

  • Dave

    Hey James,
    I really should not say it, but I love you. You make me believe, that however grim the situation might be, it is your inner strength and belief, that leads you out of it, and that I have to follow my hearth.
    The tone of the post is a bit melancholic. Almost depressing. That makes the turn just at the ending even brighter. Can I steal your stuff for my novel? I think I already did. Truth is, I do not have a novel yet.
    Thanks! Great stuff.

  • Anonymous

    Loved it. Your friend, who is a girl, but who you weren’t allowed to call your girlfriend was a psychologist who had a therapist. I have have lived it, sort of.  All we are missing is the Tee shirts.  

  • Bridgetlcw1

    So real and heartfelt! I am one of those advanced degree people,
    And I try not to hang in that circle because I think we/ they are
    All a little crazy! You confirmed that!

  • CS2010

    I carry with me similar feelings about someone from my past.  Now that I’m content and happy and truly connected with someone and we feel worthy of each other, I look back and realize I had nothing to feel bad about.  It was just a bad match.   It feels good to be with someone who doesn’t want me to feel bad, who let’s me accept myself as much as I accept them…. Acceptance is what brings out the best in people.

  • Anonymous

    Great post.

    been there before.  

    it’s a nasty trap when you feel the need to constantly please someone else, rearranging your whole life just to gain their approval, as though her approval will be the pinnacle improvement to your life.  Also, avoid chicks (or dudes) that psychoanalyze you and feel compelled to let you in on the secrets of all your short-comings…crappy people.

  • Anonymous

    LOL – Too funny.  Long email telling you how much you needed help, what a pitiful mess you were, then, “hey, where have you been?”

    Sounds like every woman I’ve ever known. 

    • Haley

      Oh god… I hope and pray I don’t ever become that type of woman, assuming I’m not that way now. I will go out of my way to not be “that” woman… the pathetic egotistical mess empty of all logic. haha, oh god…

    • http://www.facebook.com/donnamanning Donna Manning

      Women are a strange mess, that’s for sure.  :)

  • Quietjim

    so did you hit it or not. you need guy friends, man

  • S.

    This had to be a very difficult piece to write.  I know your quietly reading these comments on the watch for negative Nellies ready to spread their particular brand of ugly.

    No matter what you hear from them – you knocked it out the park.

  • Haley

    I love reading this blog but so many of the posts make me want to pop some pills and cry myself to sleep… Okay, just kidding, but really, why so sad? How about some inspiringly ecstatically happy posts? I suppose that doesn’t get as much attention as stories that “bleed”, as you have pointed out before :p   

    • Haley

      Ah, wait, I guess I missed the part where it said “Things worked out for the best.” Duh…

  • Laura G.

    You’re right… things do work out for the best. Now, you have a beautiful, loving wife:)

    Great insight in this piece, James.

    I think I know the dating site you mentioned– I was on JDate for a few months a long time ago, myself. What a relief to be off the market!

  • http://www.shagaholic.com/ adult sex

    Thanks for the article. Very interesting.

  • Johnbeltrano

    Seriously, you were the saner, most normal person in that table. And the only thing you did wrong is that you didn’t break up with her when she said that whole “crash and burn” thing. You have to respect yourself more, not by living in a better place, but by not letting anyone like that bitch psychologist tell you what to do.

  • http://twitter.com/kamalravikant Kamal Ravikant

    “Sometimes thing just work out for the best instead….and they did.”  Love it, James.

  • Anonymous

    It’s scary to think that someone like that nut could be a psychologist. You were the sanest one in the relationship. In fact, I think that you may be one of the sanest people on the internet in your own special crazy way. I hope that doesn’t seem like hollow praise considering the nuts on the internet. Anyway, loved the piece. It’s one your best.

  • Anna

    Read this two days ago and this line:
    “But sometimes things just work out for the best instead.” has stayed with me.

    Great post James.

  • Hope

    Nice piece.

  • http://Www.brookefarmer.com/ Brooke Farmer

    Did you really say, “But sometimes things just work out for the best instead”?

    Sounds uncharacteristically optimistic.

  • The Prudent Pachyderm

    Good shit broheim; way to keep it real. t
    That’s your differentiator. What’s it say about society when a truthteller is rare as a unicorn.

  • http://twitter.com/kyleschen kyle eschenroeder

    thank you for being honest. it let me give me permission to be honest. and i steal your style a bit when i write. so thanks

    • http://twitter.com/jaltucher James Altucher

      Please feel free to steal my style. I steal in almost every post. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/donnamanning Donna Manning

    Sounds like you were probably the only sane one at the table…  :-). Fancy degrees don’t mean you are awesome.  They mean you spent a lot of time and money to get a job that MIGHT pay well (or you want to prove something to everyone).  Of course, you can be sane with a degree.  It doesn’t sound like you were with any of them at the time though.  

  • LuciaW06

    I didn’t get it… I don’t get it .. Please tell me that the point was that she was a bitch and it worked out for the better and that you are now better capable of recognizing the signs of lunacy… . In our modern, feminist, metro-sexual society, too many of these dumb women have been empowered and men have been brainwashed by the media to accept their behavior.. Will the real men please stand up?