Run Catch Kiss

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

July 3, 1999

“A tale of being single as the century ends”

By Curt Schleier

Special to the Journal Sentinel

I missed the sexual revolution by a week and a half. Just 10 days. If I’d been born in early September instead of late August, my entire life would have been different.

It was a different time. We didn’t have a sexual awakening back then. We’d put on the snooze alarm and go back to sleep. Today, by way of contrast, everyone seems to be wide awake, participating in the fruits of that revolution – and writing about it:

Candace Bushnell wrote a series of exotic, erotic supposedly non-fiction articles for a New York weekly. Called “Sex and the City,” those pieces became a book and an HBO series. Courtney Weaver wrote a column called “Unzipped” for the Salon e-zine and has a book of the same title out this winter. Now comes Amy Sohn’s “Run Catch Kiss,” loosely based on her own experiences writing an autobiographical dating/sex column called “Female Trouble” for another New York weekly.

Do we see a trend here? Just my luck. I discover how to get a book published and I’m too old to do the research. Unless, that is, someone is interested in a book called “Run Catch Viagra.”

Sohn’s protagonist/alter ego is Ariel Steiner, an aspiring actress just graduated from Brown University and back home in Brooklyn. She takes a temp job at a large corporation to support herself while she auditions on her lunch hour.

Unfortunately, her agent can only send her on auditions for “fat girl parts.” Steiner hasn’t lost her freshman 15 pounds. Still, Steiner’s brashness lands her a part in an off-off Broadway play to which she contributes vignettes based on her dating experiences.

Eureka! She discovers she has a talent with words, submits a story – an account of the frustrations (sexual and otherwise) of dating in New York – to a weekly paper and is offered a column. Her frank and frankly raunchy revelations win her a certain amount of notoriety. But the supply of stories just can’t keep up with the demand of a weekly deadline. So she embellishes certain encounters, makes up others, and gets into a real moral bind about what to write about Mr. Right when she thinks she’s met him.

Sohn seems to have enjoyed writing this book as much as I enjoyed reading it and takes the opportunity to poke fun at the entertainment business, the press and dating, among other institutions. Ironically, Steiner’s parents are treated sympathetically and with dignity. But what raises “Run Catch Kiss” above the level of self-indulgence is its honesty. It isn’t easy not being the prettiest girl on the block. Steiner is sent on an audition by her agent and told to “wear a little makeup. It’ll make you look pretty.”

And it isn’t easy being a liberated modern woman when, at heart, you’re an old-fashioned girl. One of Steiner’s beaus takes her to a private room in a porno shop. “Other girls would be scared to do this,” she tells herself. “But not Ariel Steiner. Ariel Steiner can (make love) in a porno booth and come out feeling liberated, not gross.”

But Steiner lies to herself. In mid-act she decides “I didn’t want to be this miserable. I wanted to love it. I was (making love) without caring, just like a guy. Hadn’t I won? Wasn’t this the sex columnist’s dream?”

Clearly not.

Despite the breezy style and numerous laughs, there’s an underlying sadness here. If there’s a moral to this tale, it’s that missing the sexual revolution may not be so bad after all.

“Run Catch Kiss” has a lot of graphic language and action, so it’s not for everybody. But beyond that, this is an intriguing look at singlehood at the end of the millennium. It’s highly recommended.