Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Way The South Was Won (By A Yankee)

My friend Sally hails from a prominent southern family.  In her father's Charleston home hangs a portrait of her relative fondly referred to as 'The Major.'  It is the polite way to note the south still won.  A confederate flag would be too gauche amongst period piece antiques and Miele stainless appliances.

In mid-April, I stood before that portrait.  I was in town for work, meeting with some sales reps and calling on some schools.  It was a trip I had been planning but intentionally booked to overlap with Sally's visit home from Los Angeles. 

"All ready," she said as she stepped back into the formal living room.  "Let's go next door!"

We strolled out to the street, walked ten feet, and entered into the neighbor's home where a small garden party was about to begin.  Most attendees were in their seventies.  The men all wore navy sport coats and Hermes ties.  Tailored silk draped across the bony shoulders of the women.  Suddenly my strappy sandals, the ones that arch my foot just so and display brightly pedicured toes, felt incredibly risque.

To my left stood a former diplomat, to my right a one-time CEO of a luxury hotel chain.  But never once did someone lead with such status.  I was asked about my provenance, my education, my profession. It was only through casual conversation, genuine inquiry, that details of the distinguished guests trickled out above the chime of ice clinking against crystal highballs.

At a certain point, I escaped to the back of the courtyard.  The absence of air conditioning inside, the tightness of the space outside, left me claustrophobic.  The periphery of the gathering would give me time to breathe, escape pleasantries amongst strangers.

"I'm Pete," the gentleman to my left said with an outstretched hand.

"Paige.  Are those your daughters?" I asked with a nod toward two elementary aged girls in head-to-toe Lily Pulitzer.

"They are."

"Don't tell anyone I'm admitting this but I think they are more at ease amongst all of these people than I am.  Incredibly poised," I offered before raising my drink to my lips.

"Thank you," he said with a smile.

We spoke further.  I learned he lives in Connecticut, working as a fund manager overseeing investments for academic institutions.  He visits Atlanta a few times a year, and apparently Georgia Tech serves the most horrendous food at those quarterly meetings.

"Well the next time you're in town, you should allow me to make culinary suggestions," I said.

"Deal," he said as he reached for his wallet, passed off a business card.

The conversation continued, revealing things like his familiarity with where I grew up thanks to a childhood hockey habit.  It turns out we both spent summer vacations splashing in the frigid Atlantic waters off Nantucket.  There was an ease between us.  Silences felt comfortable and appropriate instead of awkward and long. Eventually the crowd thinned, Pete returning to his father's home a few doors down.  There were burgers to  be cooked, after all.

Knowing his Atlanta visits were quarterly, realizing he'd be south-bound in June, late last Tuesday night I pulled Pete's card from my wallet, sat down at my computer and penned an email.  It was witty but reserved, flirty but proper. Just shy of midnight, I clicked send and crawled into bed.

The next morning I set off for the airport.  Work was taking me west.  I breezed through security. I napped on the plane.  And when I landed in Los Angeles, I turned on my phone and scrolled through emails. There, between a promotion from Saks for the new Chloe collection and an announcement from my manager, was a response from Pete. 

Of course he remembered me, the woman with a beautiful smile who easily laughed at his mediocre jokes.  He was just in Atlanta, he noted.  In fact, he had been there the previous week. And he cursed himself the entire visit.  How stupid he was, he confessed, to not have asked for my number at the cocktail party.  "But I have it now," he said.  "I plan to put it to good use."

Sunday, May 12, 2013

In My Defense, Conjugal Visits Never Came Up

"We're going over to Cara's house tonight," Leslie said earlier Saturday. "You should come!"

"Can't. I have a date."

"Not the guy who texted you at 10:30PM Friday to say he was at your complex and wanted to know if you were around, right?"

"God no."

"The all-star who played baseball for UNC?"

"Man he had a nice ass.  No. He's now head of sales for the entire US so he's married to his job."

"That dad? The WebMD guy you had a few dates with?"

"Huh. Haven't heard from him. But I think he's consumed with his new biz and his kids. Anyway, no. New guy. Vassar alum. He does something with commercial real estate."

"Cool. Have fun!"

Twenty minutes shy of meeting my date, the heavens opened and sheets of water plummeted to the earth.  Rivers snaked through my parking lot. Suddenly my four-inch, platform pumps, the ones made of a soft tan leather that stains from the tiniest drop of water, were tucked back into their box. Suddenly I was questioning if there was any way I could make Gortex sneakers look sexy. Luckily the rain let up enough to permit heels, but only the kind that can manage puddles.

We talked over margaritas and chips. We connected over fish tacos. The conversation flowed rather easily, even though I already knew I wasn't interested. He was pleasant enough, nice enough. He was enough. Just not witty enough, smart enough, or charming enough for my taste. This meant I had no concern to speak freely when the topic of dating surfaced.

"So how's JDate treating you?" he asked.

"Good! With the exception of the racist windbag I went out with last week, everyone has been incredibly pleasant," I replied.

"I went to this Jewish cocktail thing at the Landmark a few weeks ago and I was the youngest person there," he said with a chuckle.

"Ha! Some guy I've gone out with, his ex-wife was an organizer for that event."

"Rachel Rosenson?"

"No clue. I only know him as James JDate.  But this guy sold his business to WebMD. Now starting over in the medical field. Job placement stuff."

"Has to be Rachel Rosenson."

Later that night, I shuffled through my front door and collapsed on my sofa. Then, for the first time since getting back into the dating game, I googled one of my suitors. James Rosenson rendered no results.  But Rachel Rosenson did, one of which included a photograph from a few years ago with the guy I had gone out with, and his full name was noted as James Goldberg.

"Remember that dad of three I went out with?" I said to Leslie at Mother's Day brunch. "The guy who sold his business to WebMD."

"Yeah. I liked him!"

"Um, in 2010 the SEC filed charges against him. Ponzi scheme."


"Wait," my brother in-law chimed in when he finished chewing some bread. "My friend's parents got swindled by some Atlanta guy. I think the trial is coming up."

"No the people my guy swindled lived in Florida," I explained.

"Yeah, the parents live in Florida. Majorly orthodox though."

".....this dude was raised orthodox."

We blankly looked at each other, falling quiet to digest the situation.  Then I spoke.

"I guess JDate should consider adding 'White Collar Criminal' to the list of professions?"

"Did he ever ask how you felt about conjugal visits?" my brother in-law inquired.

"At least you can't take his silence personally. Dude's busy preparing for prison," Leslie added.

"Yeah, there's the silver lining I was looking for."

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Sexy Silver Pumps and a Really Good Kiss

"Where are you going for drinks?" Leslie asked as we huffed and puffed on neighboring treadmills.

"Not sure yet. What do you think I should wear?"

"You looked really nice the other night, when we went to Bacchanalia."

A little after five o'clock, my date informed me where we'd be going (F&B, a bistro-esque spot a mile or so away from where I live) and what time we'd be meeting (6:15pm with flexibility to accommodate the clusterfuck of traffic that occurs at rush hour in Atlanta).  I spent the next twenty minutes fretting about my outfit, eventually calling Leslie for guidance.

"Pony-hair Oscar de la Renta pumps or pointy silver pumps?" I asked her as I stood naked in my closet.


"Cream lace top with the flutter cap sleeve or snakeskin racerback tank?"

"Tank. With a jacket. But not a worky jacket."

"Unstructured one from Madewell or tuxedo-waiter-ish-like one from Banana?"

"Oh my god, how have you gotten through life this far?!?!?"

"It is a wonder!"

He was seated at the bar when I arrived, casual in jeans but put together with a sport-coat and perfectly pressed shirt.  A lowball of Sapphire and soda sat within his reach, a wedge of lime set on the cocktail napkin. I shimmied onto a neighboring barstool, said hello and offered a smile.  Then I ordered a Belvedere and tonic.

Our time at the bar stretched up to ten o'clock, at which point we dropped my car at his place and relocated elsewhere for a bite to eat. We placed bets on whether the hostess sucked into a very short and very tight dress was wearing panties. We giggled at the couple sitting side-by-side in a banquette, both distracted by their cell phones. I made fun of him for owning a red Corvette. He complimented my smile.

It was around midnight when we returned to his place.

"Want to come up?" he asked, a slight tilt of his head as if to hint at the direction.

"Sure," I answered.

We talked some more, watched television, and kissed. His lips were soft as they pressed against mine. I ran my hand up his shirt, against his chest. He slipped my jacket off my shoulders. Our legs remained tangled even as I rolled onto my side, set my hand on his stomach and glanced at my watch. The light reflected off the silver hands, indicating it was just shy of two in the morning. I lowered my mouth toward his ear, kissed his lobe and then whispered, "I think I should head home."

"I think you should stay," he countered, running his fingers through my hair. "Nothing needs to happen. It would just be nice to wake up with you here."

I didn't disagree. His touch was gentle but masculine. His kiss melted my skin. If I were ten years younger, I would have considered it. But knowing what I want, I slipped back into my jacket and then sat down to put on my heels. Silver, pointy-toed, three inch pumps that arch the foot and straighten the back.

"You're incredibly sexy," he said as we arrived back at my car, tugging me closer to kiss my neck, my cheek, my lips. "Stay."

I ran my fingertips up his thigh, lifted my gaze to meet his eyes, and then rose as high as I could onto my tippy toes to kiss him. To feel his lips, his tongue and his warmth one last time. And in that moment, I wanted nothing more than to stay.

"Maybe next time," I softly offered. "Sweet dreams."

Friday, May 03, 2013

I Feel The Feminist Movement Kinda Fucked Me Over (With Men)

Because of the feminist movement, there have been female astronauts, movie producers, and Supreme Court Justices. Thanks to the trailblazers that came before us, women now have access to voting booths, birth control, and equal pay. But at the risk of sounding unappreciative, the feminist movement has royally fucked up the dating scene in the twenty-first century.

At forty, I own a condo and I bought it without a man having to cosign my mortgage. I have a 401k, investments, and a job that pays me well enough to enjoy things like a German sedan, Prada purses, and produce from Wholefoods. The hiccup is that all of this independence challenges the courting process.

"What the heck is the point of a flirt?" my friend asked me the other day, referring to a way of communicating on dating websites.

"It helps you identify which men are total pussies. That's the point," I replied. "Any man who needs to rely on a passive, pre-formatted one-liner to get my attention clearly has a vagina. It's on par with throwing sand in my face and then running away."

The feminist movement has given women access to everything, including courting a man. The problem is that most men, instead of stepping up their game, have taken this as a cue to sit back and relax. Not only do they no longer have to pursue a woman, but the woman will bring home the bacon, whip up a lavish meal, do the dishes, fold the laundry, and make sure the kids are tended to. A man takes out the trash. Yes, I'm generalizing. But I am also looking back at past relationships and men with whom I'm friendly. Challenge me all you want but you know I'm pretty much correct here.

A psychologist named Dr. Patricia Allen has noted that there are two energies in a personal relationship: feminine and masculine. The feminine wants to be cherished for her feelings. The masculine wants to be respected for his thoughts. Your genitalia has nothing to do with what role you play. There are masculine women and feminine men. Also, you can be both, acting masculine at the workplace but presenting with feminine at home. The problem is understanding what you want and then playing the proper role to get it.

"This guy who wants to take me out thinks Ru San is the best sushi in town," I said to Leslie over lunch yesterday.

"Really? Yuck. That place is cheesy and the pits!" she replied.

"I know! And all I could think was, 'Can I really respect a man for his thoughts when such thoughts include thinking shitty sushi is divine?' By the way, it gets worse."

"How can it get worse than that?"

"He decided he also needed to convince me Italian cuisine in the states is edible, starting with his favorite spot in Atlanta, Baraonda. E loved that place, meaning I've eaten there a bunch of times. Also, it suuuuuuuuucks."

"So what did you do?" Leslie asked, laughter dotting the question.

"I feigned sleepiness and got off the phone. I'm supposed to respect his thoughts and I couldn't do it so I figured I'd just go to bed."

This morning I relayed the story to another friend, including the anxiety I felt when I couldn't figure out how to respond without sounding masculine.

"No, you can have an opinion," she explained. "You just need to phrase it as a feeling. Something like, I don't feel comfortable in that environment."

"Ohhhhhhhhh! That's a huge relief. Because I was on the precipice of dropping out of the dating scene if it meant forfeiting all brain power."

"Ha! Silly girl. But I do think, in this instance, you should have just gone with the masculine response. You're palate is too sophisticated for this guy."

I hung up the phone and looked around my apartment. Tonight I'm meeting a local lawyer for drinks. Tomorrow a liberal leaning real estate investor is taking me to dinner. And after speaking with my friend, after realizing that morphing toward the feminine doesn't mean surrendering one's thoughts or identity, I'm ready to give this feminine energy thing another go. Translation: I won't even do the requisite wallet reach. After all, I don't FEEL that is an appropriate gesture seeing both of these men invited me out.