From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
For five years, Jenny McCarthy was part of one of Hollywood's favorite funny couples. Yet when her relationship with actor Jim Carrey ended earlier this year, she found herself taking a serious look at her ideas about love. "I could make a list of all the problems [in our relationship], but if I blamed Jim for us not being together anymore, then I completely lost the lesson in it," says the actress. "Leaving that relationship behind, I realized that I am the love of my life. I always counted on a man to be that, and it was such an illusion."

What was real was her determination to move forward and adjust to her new single status, which included dating casually for the first time since she was a teen growing up in Chicago. "I've gone from relationship to relationship my entire life. So I started going out with my girlfriends, and then I just wanted to have fun," she says, laughing. Now "light dating," she has been spending time with Jason Toohey, 35, a former fitness model and Vegas pirate performer, since this summer. "My friends say I have the most hilarious, weirdest disaster of a life," she says. "But at least I have stories to tell."

Does she ever. Her seventh book, Love, Lust & Faking It: The Naked Truth About Sex, Lies and True Romance, includes confessional tales about her first love, meeting Brad Pitt and her fantasies, along with risque musings on everything from aphrodisiacs to threesomes ("I'll probably razor blade out some chapters for my mother," McCarthy says). Indeed, the only subject off-limits is her relationship with Carrey. "If he wasn't famous, he'd be splattered all over this book. I'm always honest about everything. I just have to respect his privacy."

McCarthy, 37, has no such filter when it comes to her own life as actress, author and mom to 8-year-old Evan (her son with ex-husband John Asher), whom she continues to say has "recovered" from autism. "He started third grade and is doing amazing," says McCarthy, who is having him homeschooled. "He keeps asking me why he can't have multiple girlfriends at the same time. He's also in love with birds and horses, so he's either going to be a vet someday or the next Hugh Hefner."

A former Playboy Playmate herself, McCarthy's set on applying the "naked truth" part of her book's title to her love life from now on. "I'm starting off this new dating period going, 'Here's my C-section scar. Look at my stretch marks,' " she says. "You have to be your authentic self from the beginning. Even if it's just, 'I hate football!' Because we'll all pretend we don't. It's really good if we women can live in our truths."

For her, that involves a daily effort to balance work-she's planning to host a syndicated talk show for Oprah's Harpo Studios next year-and play. "I'm much more wise and clear-headed now," she says. And she's not ruling out marriage-or more kids-down the road. "I wanted a baby with cellulite thighs and Evan was very skinny, so who knows?" McCarthy says. "I'm in a good place. I can't wait to see where I go from here."