Run Catch Kiss

New York Times Styles

June 27, 1999

“A Night Out With Amy Sohn: The Flirt’s Progress,” by Anthony Lappe

Amy Sohn surveyed the midriff-baring crowd indifferently milling about the bar at Drinkland, an East Village lounge with swirling Austin Poweresque décor, and lamented the very unshagadelic scene. “Everyone wants to hook up, but they want to maintain the air they don’t,” she said.

Ms. Sohn is not likely to be accused of putting on cool airs. On a Saturday night in June, Ms. Sohn, 25, was celebrating the imminent publication of her first novel, “Run Catch Kiss” (Simon & Schuster, $23). The book follows her not-so-alter ego, “a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn Heights,” who graduates from Brown University and falls into a job chronicling her sex life in a weekly column. Ms. Sohn’s real-life column, “Female Trouble,” runs in the New York Press, a free alternative paper, where her risqué, self-mocking take on singledom has a loyal following.

She has become a downtown Candace Bushnell, whose “Sex in the City” New York Observer column has inspired a series of HBO, although Ms. Sohn loathes the comparison. She, too, has cultivated the image of a witty flirt and has a television deal in the works, and animated pilot for Oxygen, the new women’s network.

On this evening’s revels, she was escorted by her best friend and source of material, Joanna Yas, 26, a literary magazine editor, and a friend of Ms. Yas’s, a veterinary technician visiting from Los Angeles. Drinkland, on East 10th Street, off Avenue B, is in the heart of what Ms. Sohn calls the “danger zone,” a 10-square-block area where her last four boyfriends lived. An assortment of socialists, artists and musicians, they are worlds from Ms. Bushnell’s megarich love interest, Mr. Big.

“They all had sideburns, overinflated egos and serious boundary issues,” Ms. Sohn said.

After several vodka vanilla and 7’s, Ms. Sohn, with her wild curly hair and low-but dress, demonstrated her flirting techniques. She sidled up to a handsome investment banker from Iran and began taunting. “I heard the unibrow is a design of virility,” she said. Then she challenged him to arm-wrestle. “Don’t worry, I’m strong,” she said. He won.

Smitten, the banker bet she couldn’t guess his favorite part of a woman’s anatomy. She said, “Feet.”

“How did you know?” he asked.

“It’s in your eyes,” she replied. [Note from A.S.: I actually said, “It’s in your eyes. You have the same depraved look at Quentin Tarantino and he’s a major foot-fetishist.” But since the Times couldn’t confirm that he was a foot-fetishist they had to cut it. If you ask me, it’s obvious: check out the Bridget Fonda toe ring shot in Jackie Brown.]

At the Music Box, on Avenue B, Ms. Sohn attempted to charm her way to the front of a line for a pool table. Thwarted, she sounded the retreat to her friends. At the next spot, Sway, a velvet-roped lounge on Spring Street, safely west of the danger zone, the women slid into a booth. Shouting over deejay-pumped hip-hop, Ms. Sohn described the single girl’s lexicon that she and Ms. Yas developed. “Like to get Ira’d,” she said. “That’s when you wake up with a guy on Sunday morning, and all you want is for him to leave, so you can listen to Ira Glass’s “This American Life” on NPR, alone.” [A guy I know who’s friends with Ira Glass passed this article on to him, and Ira’s comment was, “The sad thing is, the same thing happens to me. Women kick me out of their apartment so they can listen to my show.”]

The novel coincides with a crisis for her column. Her boyfriends have tolerated, even enjoyed, exposure of their sex life, but Ms. Sohn’s current beau wants to keep his private. “Good relationships make boring columns,” she said. She recently took six weeks off from the column and is still struggling to find material.

Ms. Sohn conceded that the thrill of the hunt was losing its allure. By 2:30 A.M., she was fading. “Given the choice between the hottest sex and the most intense conversation, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to talk.” Soon after, she slipped out the door, leaving behind a half-drink vanilla vodka, and her friends.