Animal Husbandry

Animal Husbandry

by Laura Zigman


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New cow...

Ray makes the move. Jane feels the rush. Ray says the L-word. Jane breaks her lease. Then suddenly, inexplicably, he dumps her. Just. Like. That.

...old cow.

Now black is the only color in Jane's closet and Kleenex is clinging to her nose. Why did it happen? How could it have happened?


Jane is going to get an answer. Not from Ray. Not from her best friends, David and Joan. But from an astounding new discovery of her own: The Old-Cow-New-Cow theory.

Forced to move into the apartment of a womanizing alpha male named Eddie, Jane is seeing the world of men and women in a brilliant new light. And when she takes her Old-Cow-New-Cow theory public, it will change her career and her whole life. Unless, of course, she's got it all wrong....

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385319034
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/29/1998
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Laura Zigman grew up in Newtonville, Massachusetts, and graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She spent ten years in New York City working in book publishing, and currently lives in Washington, D.C. Animal Husbandry is her first novel. She is also the author of Dating Big Bird.

Read an Excerpt

"I should just marry this one.  She's definitely a wife," Eddie said matter-of-factly, glass of Scotch in hand.  He paced back and forth across the living-room floor in front of me the way he always did when he was contemplating the acquisition--or disposal--of a wife:

Step step step turn.

Step step step turn.

Step step step turn.

Not looking up from my copy of The Social Life of Monkeys and Apes (Zuckerman, second edition), I feigned indifference.  This was not the first time that Eddie had come home from a party and announced that he had met his wife, only to announce two weeks later, without a trace of irony, that he had met another.  I'd recorded it all in his notebook:

Case wives: #1-23.

Ages: 22-34.

Preliminary diagnosis of Subject E: satyriasis.

But despite the way of all his previous case wives' flesh and the fact that the chapter on baboons I was reading was a real page-turner, the familiar twinge of curiosity overtook me and I remembered the new purpose of my living arrangement with Eddie:


Inserting a bookmark in mid-chapter, I approached the cage and threw Eddie a banana:

"So . .  ." I said leadingly.

But Eddie didn't seem to hear me, lost as he was in the stream-of-consciousness comparative-shopping thought processes I now knew by heart:

Step step step great body nice legs good breeding turn.
Step step step but she's a blond ectomorph and I prefer brunette mesomorphs turn.
Step step step she's smart but not smart enough which could be a problem since she has to be smart enough to "get" me which could be difficult as I'm very complex turn.
Step step step what did I do with my cigarettes?  Stop.

He frisked himself, and finding a near-empty soft pack of Camel Ultra Lights in the torn breast pocket of his oxford cloth shirt, he shook out a wrinkled cigarette and lit it, then continued his slow, pensive three-step.

Now, where was I?  Oh, yes, the question of hair color and whether or not she'll be able to keep up with me intellectually.

I shifted uneasily on the couch. This excessive pacing and interior monologue was a radical departure from Eddie's usual post-cocktail-party, prenuptial ebullience.  If I was going to make the most of his willing--if unwitting--participation in my research, I realized I was going to have to extract the reasons out of him.  And while my objective, echoing method of questioning ("It sounds like you're angry that she's an ectomorph.") usually achieved maximum results, this time, because memories of Ray and the wanton polygamy of the male stump-tailed macaque I had just read about had made me mad, I said:

"So are you old enough to be her father, or is she at least out of college this time?"

Raising an eyebrow, Eddie acknowledged my reference to his weakness for nubile wives, a weakness that had inspired me, some months back, when I still thought it--and everything else about Eddie's womanizing--was hilarious, to refer to him "affectionately" as Humbert Humbert.  But Eddie's finding a wife was serious business these days, and so neither of us was laughing.

"Okay, I'm sorry," I lied.  "What's she like?"

Inhaling and exhaling, sipping and pacing, Eddie, as always, considered the question carefully.  Hypervigilant in his efforts to capture the true essence of each new wife with precision and accuracy, and in as few words as possible, he said finally, in a tone that implied he had given the question a great deal more than ten seconds of thought:

"She's perfect."

"Perfect," I echoed.

"Well, almost perfect," Eddie clarified.

"Almost perfect," I echoed again.  I was stalling for time.  Almost perfect was not in the notebook.

"Six inches shy of perfect, to be exact.  You see," he said by way of explanation, "she's only five foot one."

The first serious wife contender to come along while I lived with Eddie was the wife he met in early February.

It was a Friday night when he came home and announced his news, parading in front of me in his lucky suit, more than slightly drunk.

"Speak," I slurred. I, of course, had been sitting on the what-will-become-of-me couch all night, sipping Jack Daniel's daintily from an oversized coffee mug.

He told me that he'd seen his wife at a cocktail party, that she was a cellist, and that she was very beautiful and very rich.  In fact, she was so beautiful and so rich, he said, that he'd found out he would have to get her permission to call her.

"Permission to call her?" I slurred again.

"She's had some unfortunate luck with men," Eddie purred, lighting a Camel and continuing to pace back and forth in front of me.  "Luck that I plan to change."

"Good thing you were wearing your lucky suit."

Eddie stared at me.  Obviously, at a time like this--post-hunt, prepursuit--he was not in the mood for humor. "So, what," I said, "you'll call her to ask her if you can call her?"

"No.  My friends who had the party will call her.  Then they'll tell me if I can proceed."

"Permission? How come we don't require permission to be called?" Joan asked when I called her later that night.  But before I had a chance to answer, Eddie hit my curtain a few times. He needed the phone.

An hour or so later he poked his hand through the curtain.

Opposable thumbs up.

Their first date would be one week thence, Eddie briefed me, the following Saturday night.  All weekend long he paced back and forth across the apartment, planning and refining his strategy for the date.

I watched him from my bed through the slit between the curtain and the wall and made notes:

Subject E's attempts to pursue "wife" have produced specific feelings of anxiety; convinced that a "perfect plan" for first formal encounter must be executed to produce desired effect in wife object.

Subject E grappling intensely with details of said plan (i. e.  activity, feeding venue, etc. ), as well as with issues of manipulation of wife object's feelings
vis-Ó-vis her perception of his plan of action.

Subject E displaying "deep thought" behavior patterns but has not verbally communicated to on-site observer.

Finally, on Sunday night, he filled me in on the details of his plan: because Catherine had lived her whole life in a rarefied environment and undoubtedly missed out on her childhood, he would take her to the circus and then to dinner someplace "common."

Such plotting.

Such planning.

Such psychological deconstruction and silent deliberation.

Bulls become eerily focused when they're formulating their plan of attack.

Eddie's date went off without a hitch.

Catherine loved the circus, and she loved the Greek diner he carefully picked out.  The following week he took her ice-skating in Central Park and to Rumpelmayer's afterward for hot chocolate and grilled cheese sandwiches.  It seemed his lost-childhood-theme-park strategy was working perfectly.

"Let's celebrate downstairs," he said to me when he'd returned from the date, his Hans Brinker cheeks aglow.

It was only three in the afternoon, and I had never been to Night Owls in daylight.  We sat down at the bar, and before we had even taken our coats off, our drinks arrived.

I looked at Eddie.  "What did you do?  Call ahead?"

Eddie took a sip of his Scotch before launching into his update.  "I thought you'd be interested to know that we haven't slept together yet."

No burying the lead this time.

I stopped in mid-sip.  "But you've been seeing her for two weeks.  Standard operating procedure for you is normally two hours."

"I know.  But this is different.  It's special," he said, his voice revoltingly full of reverence.


"You see," he explained, "sometimes, when a man meets someone special--a wife," he clarified, "it's better to wait.  To take things slow." He went on.  "You don't want to sleep with a wife on the first date."

I nodded for a few seconds, processing.  "But I thought that's what men wanted--to sleep with a woman as soon as possible so that they could fall in love as soon as possible."

Eddie shook his head dismissively.  Clearly, I wasn't getting it.

"So you didn't sleep with Rebecca on the first date?" I asked.

He looked past me to the windows that faced the street.  "No," he said.  "Though she would have."

I looked out at the street too.  The air was thick and gray, the way it gets before it snows.  "I slept with Ray on the first date," I said, almost to myself.  "Maybe that's why it didn't work."

Eddie turned and looked me in the eyes.  "No, Jane.  It didn't work because Ray's an idiot."

I stared at him.  In all the months I'd lived with him he'd never offered an opinion of Ray.  His words surprised me.  "You think?"

"He doesn't know what he wants yet.  He's too young."

Too young. Ray was thirty.  And Eddie was thirty-five.  That didn't seem too young to me to know whether or not you love someone, and what to do about it if you did.

"You need someone older," he continued.  "Someone more mature.  Someone who can keep up with you."

"Keep up with me?" I said.  "I'm a fucking mess." I saw my current life flare up in front of me like a lit match and laughed--the hole in my wall, the curtain, the ten-by-fifteen-foot bedroom cell, the notebooks.  My life felt suspended in a way it never had: stalled, impermanent, surreal.

"No, you're not.  You just fell in love with someone who wasn't ready for it."

I exhaled slowly and closed my eyes, hoping to see in that blackness the glimmer of the future husband that Eddie was describing.  But that place was empty, and I didn't want to stay there.  I opened my eyes and tried to refocus on the present.

"So what are you going to do about Catherine?"

"We're going to spend the weekend at the Plaza," he said, standing up and leaving a ten-dollar bill on the bar.

I put my cigarette out and slid off the bar stool. "Bring me back a shower cap, okay?"


On Saturday, January 10, welcomed Laura Zigman, author of ANIMAL HUSBANDRY.

Moderator: Welcome, Laura Zigman, and congratulations on your book ANIMAL HUSBANDRY. We are so glad you could join us this evening!

Laura Zigman: Thank you, and I'm glad to be online!

Maya from Westport, CT: I've heard you touted in the press as the next Olivia Goldsmith! How do you feel about that label?

Laura Zigman: Well, it's flattering to be compared to anyone who's anyone but I think it refers to the issue that Goldsmith brought out about divorced women. It made a lot of divorced women feel closer to one another. So if they're comparing me as the Goldsmith for women who have been dumped, that's flattering, that's nice!

Patricia from New York: A bunch of my friends and I totally identified with Jane Goodall's experience with Ray -- do you identify? What's your story? Because we're all certain that it must be based on something.... Isn't it a little sad that so many women identify with that?)

Laura Zigman: It is very sad, it's one of the reasons that I kept writing the book through years and years of discouragement, because the character of Ray is so similiar to so many guys I"ve heard about. Women I know, myself included, have had [so] similiar experiences that sometimes it seems we've all dated the same man.

Suzanne Conway from Alabama: What was the hardest part to write in the book?

Laura Zigman: The hardest part to write was the good parts -- those being the parts where I was trying to write what it feels like to be in love. That's hard to write about without it sounding really mushy or clichéd. Also, knowing the outcome of the plot made it hard to keep the cynicism out of the love parts. It was all hard to write, but that was the hardest. It was also hard to write about the obsessive behavior that comes with getting dumped. It's not something you want to admit that you even know about, but I think we all know about it. Right, ladies?

Greg from Chicago, IL: Did you write ANIMAL HUSBANDRY with a particular audience in mind? If so, could you describe your imagined audience?

Laura Zigman: When I was writing the book, I never thought of having an audience, because I never thought anyone was going to see it. I was writing it just hoping to just finish it...I never thought anyone else besides my best friends and my parents would see it. Occasionally I did think if I could finish it and it did get published, the audience would be people like me. Which is to say average everyday people. I don't think it matters what part of the country you live in, but heartbreak seems to be the same. I also hoped that men would read it too. I hope they read it, because I think it helps men understand what women are thinking.

Megan from Amityville, NY: OK, we all want to know, who is Ray based on?

Laura Zigman: He's a composite character based on men I've dated, men I haven't dated, and men my friends have dated. Since again there are a lot of similiarities between Ray types. We've all known them!

Louisa from Asheville, OH: I admire what you said about your struggles to write what it is like to fall in love. There is such a fine line, as a writer, between representing what is often real experience and something "cliché." Do you have any advice for writers about dealing with these obstacles, or even how to recognize them?

Laura Zigman: Good question. The most you can do is just write it down. The first ten times I wrote it down, it was really digusting and clichéd. In order to get to a point where some craft of writing comes into it, you have to be very honest. Every love story that has been written has already been done -- everything's basically clichéd because none of us are that original anyway. It's important just to write it and add the art to it later, if at all.

Alice from Austin, TX: I really liked the character of Eddie, he was a total womanizer, but he seemed to have a big heart when he wanted one. Any thoughts on why he had such a big role...

Laura Zigman: It was important to me to have a male character that was very multifaceted. Eddie's character, I hope, was. That's because I think a lot of men, even if they are epic womanizers, often are not bad guys. They don't intend to be mean, they don't mean to cause pain, even though they do. They're good inside in a lot of ways, they're just really careless in their relationships. I think that's true of most men. There are exceptions -- like the movie "In the Company of Men." I was probably the only person not depressed by that movie, because I thought it was a horrible story, but of all the stories I've heard, I had not heard of that bad of a story of a man causing a woman premeditated misery. That man had a plan and carried it out. Most of the guys I have known, and my friends have known, have not been that premeditated at all. They've been careless, but that is very different from intentional evil.

David Phelps from Washington, DC: Do you feel that men and women have fundamentally different ways of dealing with life? Is there any hope for a peaceful coexistence?

Laura Zigman: I certainly hope there is! I think that men and women are very different psychologically. They are just raised very differently and they think and behave very differently, although there are great similiarities. We all want to connect with someone in a relationship. It's a problem when our behavior and thinking patterns are different in a relationship because it makes it difficult to work. Women don't understand men and what they want and how they think, and why they behave the way they do, and men, I think, are equally confused. I think a lot of men bought THE RULES! I think The Rules are ridiculous! On the other hand, I think they make a lot of sense to a lot of people. I think if you modify them they could work! It's an extreme program to follow. In a lot of ways they are true. It's very apparent when a guy you don't really like calls you, you take your time calling him back. It's miraculous that he then calls three times hoping to hear from you. But if a guy you really like calls, you'll call him immediately, and then it takes him three days to call you back.... Basically, The Rules deal with the notion that men want what they can't have and they don't want what they can have, which means basically that men like the chase. As sort of repugnant as that is for women to think, I think in general it's true. But I think it's true for women, too. Women do like men that are a little hard-to-get, I think. But I think to follow The Rules by the letter is distasteful to a lot of women, that there should be a prescribed system that is premeditated and calculating, which it is. I think that the book became very popular, especially for women, indicates that women are very confused. They try to survive in the dating world, and they've become so discouraged that it has struck a chord with a lot of women. It made it seem that there was an answer as to why things were so impossible between men and women.

Stephanie from Tallahassee, FL: How on earth did you come across the Coolidge theory? Is it an actual scientific theorem, or did you just make it up? By the way, I loved your book!

Laura Zigman: Even though it sounds like I made it up, it is an actual theory of animal husbandry. A friend of mine, years ago, who had just been dumped, read some women's magazine article about dating that mentioned the Coolidge defect. Which is basically that cattle, bulls, and sheep won't mate with the same cows twice. It's something that's seen throughout the animal kingdom in various degrees. There's a study done with rats where they measure the frequency of a rat's erections [to see] if it's the same when there's a female in the nest. They get slower and slower, but when a new female is introduced to the nest, the [time] between erections lessens considerably. That's true throughout the animal world.

Tessa from San Francisco: I thought the op-ed piece in The New York Times from the irate feminists was an interesting inclusion -- what were you trying to accomplish with the thought that women can be as polygamous as men? I liked what you did with it!!

Laura Zigman: Thanks. Well, I think it's documented that women cheat too, certainly in the animal kingdom there's ample evidence of females' copulating behind the backs of their mates. And lots of women have affairs or flings. I didn't want people to think that women are less sexual or any more moral than men. It's human to cheat or to want different partners. But that said, I must admit in my own experience, which might be askew, and the experience of most of the women I know, it's more common for men to cheat, and it's more common for men to do it with [more] frequency and carelessness than women. Although women can do it too.

DAX from Fresno: Hi. Are you currently involved in a relationship? Has you significant other read ANIMAL HUSBANDRY?

Laura Zigman: No. And I'm not dating anyone right now, and I'm afraid that when the book comes out I'll never date anyone again. I'm afraid that men will think it's so male-bashing that I'm too bitter to date, which I'm not.

Lisa from San Diego: I hated that Jane continued to wallow in her misery even after it was clear that Ray was an asshole...but it wasn't unrealistic -- any thoughts?

Laura Zigman: I hated it too that she wallowed for so long, but I agree that it's very common. No matter how smart you are or how much you know intellectually that sometimes relationships don't work out, in reality it's very hard to do that.

Jeff from Albuquerque: In writing ANIMAL HUSBANDRY, did you have any experience with animals? Did you have to do any research on the mating and raising of animals? Or is the title just a joke (disguising the truth, of course)?

Laura Zigman: You mean, besides men? Ha ha. No, I did not have any direct research with real animals. Unless you include watching a lot of science documentaries on PBS and reading a lot of obscure books about the subject.

David from Brooklyn: Do you have plans for another book?

Laura Zigman: Yes I do, I am working on a book which is tentatively titled DATING BIG BIRD, which is about women in their 30s who want to have kids but who aren't married, or their boyfriends arent' ready to have kids, so they have to make plans to have them.

Catherine from Minneapolis: To write so perceptively about the male beast at its worst, you must be writing from personal experience. Can you talk about how true to your own life this book is?

Laura Zigman: I think that all of us have had really epically bad dating experiences, whether they be blind dates or relationships or whatever. When you add your experiences to those of your friends, you end up with a broad library. And in the news -- in New York a woman was jilted at the altar by the woman's husband to be. And it was a very public dumping because it ran in The New York Times. What was interesting to me, besides the fact that he ran off with the honeymoon tickets to Tahiti, was the public response. Every paper picked it up. I think people have reached a point where they are disgusted by bad behavior like that. Even though my book is fiction, it's amazing how many of the satires are true about different people.

Rita from Seattle, WA: I love having a scientific rationale for men's behavior!! How did you decide that this was the right tack to take?

Laura Zigman: I also loved finding a scientific theory to explain male behavior, because at least it was an explanation -- something that would legitimately illuminate something I could not understand. And whether it's finding a theory to explain love or why it doesn't work out, science is a very comforting thing to use because it legitimizes the inexplicable.

Moderator: Thank you once again for joining us this evening, Ms. Zigman! We look forward to reading more of your books in the future, and we hope you will join us again!

Laura Zigman: I had a lot of fun! Thank you for having me. I am thrilled and amazed that people I don't know are reading the book!

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Animal Husbandry 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
sturlington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After being dumped for no good reason at the dreaded three-month mark, the novel¿s heroine sets out on a pseudo-scientific research study to figure out why men act like they do. She comes up with a theory ¿ the ¿Old Cow-New Cow¿ hypothesis ¿ and her observations of her guerilla-dating roommate, her ex and the married man her friend is seeing seem to bear it out. But the story is really about finding the strength to get off the ¿what will become of me¿ couch and get on with our lives, even with a damaged heart.
THEsisterjanet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My second Zigman, after Dating Big Bird. I've shared it with many a friends. I even went to see the movie (Someone Like You) in the theater when it came out--because of the book, of course.
qcait on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very witty and very intelligent. Better than the movie (as always). If you try to make logic out of relationships, you will love it. During my last breakup I sat down and read it over the weekend and it calmed me down some. A great read if you're looking for something that will keep you amused.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Animal Husbandry is perhaps one of my favorite books. Though I've read and bought the book some time ago, I never had the chance to review. My input: clerverly written with witty dialogue and interesting detail. Zigman is able to capture the one thing many people don't want to talk about: fear of lonliness and betrayal. How does one cope with being alone?

Jane Goodall falls in love only to be dumped. Why do men leave women, or more specifically, why do men leave her? learning various facts about the male species, in general, answers still alude her until a scientific article appears in the paper: Bulls. The Old Cow-New Cow Theory is born. Jane experiments with Eddie, her pathalilogical womanizer of a co-worker/roommate, and discovers something she never thought possible...herself.

Guest More than 1 year ago
After turning the last page, I thought it was my own life-dissected and written down. Not a self-help book, but it helped me. Not an autobiography, at least not of my commitmentphobiac tomato seed, yet so accurate. I recommend it to the every past, present, and emeritus member of the Cow-meets-the-Bull Club.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is one of my all time favorites! Zigman explores al of the truths about the way males act in relationship to women! A definet must read for all us single young women!!:O)
Guest More than 1 year ago
When the movie Someone Like You came out, it looked terrific. I figured I'd read this book before going to see it. What a disappointment! I did not care for all of the scientific 'reasons' for why Jane was dumped. All of the cow language got old very fast. I certainly felt bad for her, but this was one of the slowest books I've ever read. I forced myself to read to the end just to see if anything good would happen.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Loved it! Great characters, feel good, funny novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
2 years after being dumped, still moping, I came across this book and expected it to be one of those run-of-the-mill types. Turned out I didn't put it down till I finished it, and surprisingly ended up with a smile on my face, through all the tears. My life has not been the same since I stopped looking for answers thanks to this book :)
Guest More than 1 year ago
Zigman does such an outstanding job creating the 'Old-Cow-New-Cow' theory that one begins to believe it is an actual scientific theory. A great book to curl up with at night and read until you fall asleep. I admire Zigman and the obvious effort, hard work and research she put into writing this book. I can't wait to read her new book!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was hilarious. I have never read a book so emotionally honest and close to the heart. It is a good read for anyone recovering from a broken heart whether it happened yesterday or 10 years ago. She takes an honest look at the irrational thinking and behavior that we all have experienced during recovery. I recommend it to all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing!! I found myself e-mailing and telephoning girlfriends constantly because I knew we could all relate to the 'Old-Cow/New-Cow' theory. Women, this is a must read if you are striving to gain a better understanding of the male species. You'll laugh and shake your head in understanding from start to finish.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book by accident in a 'I am going to forget about him and keep myself busy' jaunt to the library. I enjoyed it so much that now, in another attempt to forget about another him I am forced to read it again. And to also share it with my friend...I am sure that any woman I share this with will enjoy it as much as I since we have all gone from new cow to old cow in less than a year.