Leslie Morgan, 49, had been married to Marty for two decades. They had two adored children, a gorgeous Pennsylvania home and a beach house on Long Island.
But somewhere along the line, “our love had developed a kind of gangrene,” Morgan writes in her new memoir, “The Naked Truth” (Simon & Schuster), out now.
“Even though I slept next to him night after night, I’d never felt so alone. Years had passed without his telling me I looked pretty or that I was a good mom . . . In therapy, I’d asked him . . . to make a list of reasons why he’d married me. I’d been waiting two years for him to answer.”
It wasn’t the first time Morgan, a writer and journalist, had come to the conclusion that her marriage was over.
During her 20s, she’d married a man who was violent and abusive whom she ended up writing about in a previous memoir, “Crazy Love.” Second time around, there was no violence, but “emotional abandonment is as destructive as terror and bruises,” she tells The Post.
Even so, after her divorce from Marty, Morgan was bereft. A Harvard graduate, she no longer felt like the woman whose TED talk about escaping domestic abuse had been seen by 5 million people. Before Marty, Morgan recalled, she had always had a “sweet tooth” for sex, but now the idea of being naked in front of any other man filled her with terror.
Then, a few months after her separation in 2014, she was at the airport in Philadelphia when her flight got delayed. She was so irritated, she spun around and her purse bashed into someone’s coffee, spilling it everywhere.
“Oh, my God,” she said to the coffee’s owner.
And when she saw what he looked like — cropped dark hair, deep blue eyes, two decades younger, she thought “Oh, my God” as well.
The man didn’t seem to mind the spillage. In fact, his twinkling eyes suggested the exact opposite.
“Can I please take you to Starbucks?” she said. “I would feel better getting you another coffee.”
“Of course,” he said politely.
The conversation quickly moved beyond pleasantries. Dylan worked in explosives, he said. He was a senior executive at a company in Long Island with a specialty in drilling and blasting.
And in that moment, Morgan suddenly blurted out: “I could use some of both!”
What on earth had made her say that? He’d almost spit out his coffee. But in that moment, the loudspeaker had called their flight and they lost each other in the throng of passengers.
When she finally got to Long Island, where she was writing for a few days while her kids were at camp, she couldn’t stop thinking about her encounter.
She didn’t even know the man’s name, but a Google search based on a few key facts led her to his LinkedIn profile and the name Dylan Smyth.*
She wrote him a letter and sent it to him at his company address, inviting him out for a boat ride. Three days later, she saw a message on her phone.
When she called Dylan back, he cut right to the chase.
“I’ve always wondered about older women,” he continued. “I’m 29. Is that a problem for you?”
“No, it’s actually a big plus,” she replied.
They arranged to meet in a few days at a boutique hotel on Long Island, but Dylan called her every day beforehand. He told her about his life, his estranged wife, his 5-year-old daughter. How he had only slept with three people.
In the meantime, Morgan shopped at Victoria’s Secret, settling on a black lace bra and thong which she deemed “passable.”
On the day of their date, Dylan met her in the hotel lobby. He was shorter than she remembered but his eyes were bluer. His “hi” was awkward, but his hug was firm.
After a quick dinner, they entered their dimly lit hotel room and her purse fell to the floor.
“I need to go slowly,” she said. “I haven’t had sex in over three years.”
But eventually, there she was, standing in just the black Victoria’s Secret bra and her black high heels with a man she barely knew.
Dylan took a long look.
‘Perhaps the most priceless lesson my year of five lovers taught me is that self-love is, in fact, far more important than the perfect partner’
“Oh. My. God,” he said. “You have a spectacular body, Leslie.”
After 20 years of feeling invisible, Morgan suddenly felt like she had stepped into the light.
A few days later, Dylan called and told her that he couldn’t keep seeing her — he was technically still married — and while Morgan was crushed at first, she realized that he had actually given her a great gift.
She talked to her friend KC about it. “I can’t look for another husband, or even a serious relationship right now,” she said.
“But I need men in my life (and) here’s what I want: one year, a bunch of men, no commitments. All guys like Dylan. Sweet, cute, smart, transparent, nice. Crazy about me. Any race, religion, profession, location. Aged . . . hmmmm . . . 35 to 65. I’ll have enough men in my life that I won’t get too attached to one. Then, after a year, I’ll figure out what I want long-term.”
“How many?” asked KC.
Leslie’s arms flailed. “Five!” she said. “Then I can lose one or two and still have a majority left.”
And so that was how her Five Boyfriend Plan started:
A chat with Damon outside their yoga class.
A glance at Marc across the Philadelphia TV station where he worked.
Giving Chris, the Marine from North Carolina, her card.
Asking Mishka, the builder who her kids said “is always looking at you, Mom,” to come and help with renovations.
And then there was Jake, her old high-school boyfriend, who invited her to a film screening and then turned up at her home with no plans to discuss the film whatsoever.
Morgan didn’t sleep with all of them, only fell in love with one of them, an experience she describes now as “the killer blow.”
The bottom line, she realized, was that “my old married life didn’t hold a tiny Bic lighter to my new single one. This adventure, no matter where it led, was better than the slow death of being with a man who didn’t love me, or even like me.”
Three years on, she is now 53 and “happily” single, although she still dates.
“Inside I feel fantastic, and other people, especially younger men, seem to be picking up on that,” she says.
“Perhaps the most priceless lesson my year of five lovers taught me is that self-love is, in fact, far more important than the perfect partner. That gift you give yourself.”
Photo Credit: Empire