Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Love(ly) Letter

This is a love letter never sent...

Thank God. He was 22 years older than I and completely inappropriate--he never would have fit in down on the farm. Somehow, though, it's always the inappropriate ones that capture your heart...


So, it’s your birthday… no, wait, it’s our birthday. What do we do? Oh, E, what do we do? We have books unwritten, articles unfinished, very important conversations that haven’t been dissected or transcribed and all of those editors and agents on our tails. The prose and the witty, clipped sentences are, you know, always there—metaphors, onomatopoeia, dialogue and all that. It’s just that when the tips touch the keys and the screen is white and vast and empty they don’t come out as easily as they used to.

No matter.
The 6th is for us. We eat cake and drink champagne and live on sweetness and memories for a day. Maybe longer. I smile and look up at the Spanish blue skies and pull your wool winter coat a little closer to your cold little body and remind you to think of the good bits because that’s all you can do on a day like this in a city like New York.
We take a walk—Bedford, Charles, West 10th and all the rest of the nice ones— and don’t think to complain about anything. Ladders and fire-escapes on the buildings’ facades cross and run together like honeysuckle vines on a garden trellis. With you next to me and me next to you and a brisk wind off the Hudson and the smell of warm butter and eggs from the corner bakery, everything is just so. We’re content and, for once, quiet. 

Quietly we dream.
Your eyes shift from me to the golden-hued windows of the brownstones and to the earnest shadows of cooks and nannies that stand over sinks and wipe the noses of precious, young children. Mother is upstairs sliding lacquered bangles onto her thin, tanned wrists. Daddy will eventually come home to a roasted piece of meat, Scotch and a family that smells of lilac and vanilla. A doll’s house for millionaires. We both think, “one day, one day” and only hope that part of the dream will come true.
The daylight hours have been nice—really, the walk couldn’t have been any lovelier nor our reveries—so we turn around before anything changes. Our minds have captured the right bits of naked, December tree limb, proud front stoops garlanded with pine, our birthday cake adorned with a perfect, red poinsettia. Everything isn’t just so; everything is extraordinary.

E, it’s your day and my day and our hearts and mouths are anxious to see what comes with the dark hours so I will the days to turn into New York City night, for the water towers to fade into Houston’s twilight sky, for the wine we drink to be like rubies and someone’s prose little pieces of heaven. Something, someone has to entertain all those important thoughts in your head.


Monday, August 29, 2005


Southern Boy has decided to cook for my entire family Labor Day weekend. No weaner roast here, y'all...

Sunday Feast w. Belle
Gulf Fried Oysters with Spicy Remoulade

Butterbean and Country Ham Crostini

Shrimp and Avocado Salad
Mango, Cilantro, Shaved Red Onion, and Chili Oil

Crispy Veal Sweetbreads
Pink-eyed Peas, Okra, Tomato and Ham Hock Broth

Roasted Gulf Grouper
Zucchini Ribbons and Sauce Vierge

Braised Duck Leg
Foie Gras and Muscadine Stuffing with Creamed Corn and Turnip Greens
Three Berry Galette

Freud and the Food Network

“What do women want?” Charlie asks me on the phone through a mouthful of shrimp Po-boy.

His question is a cliché, so why do I feel compelled to answer him? It must be his tone—it’s equal parts sweetness, anxiety and curiosity. (Then again, maybe it’s his charming Birmingham accent—when he talks it’s all vowels and minted iced tea). The boy needs something.

I’m a little disappointed that I respond with such standard fare as, “We want a lot of things—everything, really. Love, friendship, intelligent conversation, café au lait and brioche in bed, diamonds on every major federal holiday and anniversary…”

I hang up.

I drool over Adrien Grenier in “Entourage.”

I have the one glass of wine allotted to me during my ten days of antibiotics.

I switch the channel to Emeril Lagasse on the ‘Food Network.’

I start to cry.

Are steak au poivre and shoes string potatoes really that moving? No, of course not. But, he’s so damned patient deglazing the pan…adding Dijon mustard… pouring the most delicate touch of cream. His spoon patiently circles the sautee pan… Is something sticking to the copper bottom? Emeril’s brow furrows, the nose quivers, the eyes grow concerned, the big mouth turns downward and hopes that everything will go smoothly.

I need Emeril. Emeril would tend to me, take care of me, protect me.Forever.

PROTECTION, SECURITY—this is the stripped-down answer (or, some version, thereof) of every woman North or South of the Mason-Dixon, East or West of the Mississippi. Freud, this is what women want.

I’ve watched the Food Network more this past week while being sick (with no appetite) than I have in my entire life. I go to the website. I think of ways to be a phone-in guest on “Sarah’s Secrets.” Really, though, I only pay attention when the hosts are male. Somehow, they’re caring for me. They’re gentle. Their kitchens are warm.

I’ll go to bed a little happier tonight—feeling a bit more safe--because Emeril taught us how to make challah. He kneaded the dough like I need someone to massage my aching back. He draped a dry, warm cloth over the yeasty mass so it would grow. He told us all that patience and a little love would make everything turn out beautifully.

Charlie? Are you reading? This is my answer. This is what I should have told you on the phone.

Friday, August 26, 2005


Two nights ago...

I’m typing on the computer. Cramp in my side. I hunch over the keyboard on my blonde wood breakfast table trying to make it go away. A hot shower—that’ll do it. I jut out my torso into the spray of scalding hot water. My stomach relaxes. Lights out by 9:30. Hoping for a restful night of sleep.

The pain awakens me. Is it possible to give birth out of the right side of your stomach? I wonder. It’s THAT bad. The clock over my refrigerator reads 11:45 p.m. I curl up hoping that the pain will dissipate with the new position. I adjust and readjust. The sweat on my forehead is not lying. I have to do something.

Within 20 minutes I’m in the Bellevue Emergency Room. This is where the crazies come, I think. BELLEVUE.

“Describe the pain on a scale from 1 to 10,” the bright-eyed, young nurse asks.

“Around an ‘8,’” I say, hunched over with the health insurance clipboard in my lap.

“Sex?” she inquires.

“Pardon me?” I ask, incredulous. She’s questioning my gender, isn’t she? The nurse thinks that I’m a tranny because I’m at Bellevue.

“Have you had sex within the last 24 hours? This kind of pain could be caused by a U.T.I.” she responds calmly.

“Of course,” I say, reddening. “Ummm, no sex, no.” With embarrassment the pain deepens.

I’m swiftly moved to the back of the e.r. next to a blonde with bacterial meningitis. From my bed, I see her throw up white foam into a pan. I hear her say over and over “Jesus Christ, the pain, the pain…” The doctor administers a spinal tap. She and her pretty, blonde curls scream for morphine.

Bloop. Bloop. Bloop. I try to keep time with my I.V. and the leaky air-conditioning unit—they seem to release fluid at the same time. I stare at the white corkboard ceiling squares. Maybe it’s a two to one ratio, I think. I ponder this for a good long while. My mind wanders, my body begins to relax...

White sheets… Southern Boy … Manhattan … Mamma …swift death…iambic pentameter…Edna St. Vincent Millay…Monday night pizza at “Lombardi’s”…Sunday evenings on our lake…Pappy…cocaine and perfect health… Fitzgerald and East Egg…

In and out of the CAT scan machine and I’ve hit the 5 hour mark. I feel sick. I think about life...

His shoulders…summers on the bay…why me? ... “pickled”… tickled pink…

“You have kidney stones—innumerable,” the doctor says, rousing me. “We’ve also found cysts on your liver. You need to see a specialist. Sign here and you can leave.”

I signed. I left. My taxi driver smiled and asked why I was all alone.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Star Dating

I hate to disappoint “US Weekly” but, the stars, “they’re not like you and me.” I’ve dated several. I know. One, in particular, I will never forget.

First, let me say that New York City has many levels of stardom—we’re not just talking about Brad & Angelina, Paris & Paris, Di Caprio & Bundchen… There are recognized stars in every field whether they are in cinema, media, sports, culinary or literary circles. New Yorkers LOVE to build a person up to star status (and then take as much pleasure in bringing them down).

V. was a “New York Times” superstar. Everyone knew him everywhere we went.

Valentine’s Day at the Four Seasons Grill Room.

The elderly Jewish couple to our left stares, grins, shifts in their banquet seats, clears their throats for attention. “Umm, excuse us, but, you’re V.M. from the “New York Times, aren’t you?” the wife asks him.

“Yes, yes I am.” V. tries his best to look uncomfortable with the attention—repositioning his tie, twisting his mouth into a grimace—but he clearly relishes the fact that the couple recognizes him. He looks at me with big, brown eyes that try to say, “I’m sorry” when they really mean, “Told you I was a big shot.” (Mamma always told me to look out for the male ego, “They turn out to be ‘big shots’ but, with an ‘i.’” Big shit, indeed, Mamma.)

“Saul and I thought that was you! We want you to know that we read your articles religiously. We love your radio program and every time you’re on the “Today” show we record you! Saul, just look at him! So dapper in that suit!”

“I’m glad that you enjoy my pieces,” V says, instantly warming up to the octogenarian strangers. “By the way, did you check out my latest interview with Scarlett Johansen? It was tough getting her to open up, but…”

Blah, blah, blah. I sip my champagne, readjust my Dolce & Gabbana cocktail dress and imagine how unbearable it would be to date someone on the real A-list, say George Clooney or Ben Affleck. Ten minutes later, I hear him say, “She’s a real beauty, isn’t she? I can’t believe she’s my valentine…” Back pedaling to the humble act—classic maneuver.

And, yet, Valentine’s Day was just the beginning.

Every other weekend he tried to persuade me to go to Cannes, TriBeCa Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, a Hollywood premiere, Sundance. While the parties, famous friends, flashbulbs and endless supply of bubbly would have been fabulous, his “famous person” idiosyncrasies would have been unbearable.

My date should not eat less than I.
My date should not own more Kiehl’s products than I.
My date should not talk more about “green lighting” projects in Hollywood than he does about his friends and family.
My date should not subtract 15 years from his age (that’s right—I “Googled” him and found out the truth.)
My date should not propose marriage after an inappropriate length of time.
Yeah—back up. Read it again—V. proposed.

He had just left the “New York Times” (or been fired—whatever) and was re-evaluating his life. Somewhere in there, I suppose, I was on the positive side of his “Life Checklist.” It all went down on a New Year's Eve.

“Mario [Batali] has invited us to a New Year's Eve dinner party celebrating the opening of his new restaurant. You can make it, can’t you?” V asks, his voice oddly sheepish through the telephone wires.

“Sure. I don’t think I have any plans. How many of us will there be?” You see, I’m very excited but trying to act casual—I love any culinary concoction of Batali’s that crosses a sautee pan.

“Mario and his wife, Joe and his family, Lidia, Michael [Stipe], maybe J-Z. About 20 of us. I’ll pick you up around 8:00.”

8o’clock, New Year's Eve, my nails freshly manicured and I’m in my dinner party finest—Chloe navy blue blazer, green silk top, pencil skirt, stilettos. I stare out the kitchen window at my snow-covered patio, clutching a congratulatory bottle of wine for Mario. He’s as devilish as his red hair suggests, I think. This is going to be a great night… love speaking Italian with him when V. is around. My intelligence stock shoots up. V. shuts up about his career for about 5 minutes and tries to figure out the cognates.

Buzzz. Buzzz.

“A bottle of wine for me? How thoughtful” he says when I greet him outside.

“It’s not for you, crazy—it’s for Mario. You know—to congratulate him on the new restaurant.”

“Right, well, uh, I thought it would be nicer if it were just you and I tonight.”

“What?” I practically shriek. "But, it's New Year's and he's having a party with Michael Stipe. I see the cabbie staring at me, silently calculating his crazy date/after 7 p.m./heavy snow gratuity.

“Let’s just get in the taxi. It’s snowing and I have reservations at a romantic little bistro in TriBeCa.”

It takes a glass of Sauvignon Blanc for me to speak in a civil tone. Then, it happened--over my beet, endive and goat cheese appetizer.

“I thought we could talk about us tonight,” V says, peering over his Pepsi-filled wine glass (yet another idiosyncrasy—Pepsi at fine restaurants).

“Really? Oh, I don’t know… Why don’t we just enjoy our dinner and save that for another night?” My chest goes cold, my cheeks flush. It feels as if something akin to a small hamster is toying with my large intestine.

“No, no, I think tonight’s the night.”

The night? The night for what?”

“Belle, I want you in my life—all the time. I, I want you to be my woman. I want you to be my wife. Belle, will you marry me?”

I slowly set down my knife and fork on the plate. I stare. He stares. I search the room for triangulation—can’t we talk about something else? Anything else? Where’s the damn waiter?

“Belle, what are you thinking? Look at me. I WANT YOU IN MY LIFE. Do you understand?”

I run to the bathroom and get sick. That's my answer.

V. is now one of the vice-presidents of Sony (still single) and, well, I’m still Belle… in SoHo…writing, thinking, remembering, looking for someone (non-famous) that will do everything right at just the right time.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


The agency just called.

“You got a short, white tennis skirt and lots of champagne in your future,” Renee said. As the agency’s head booker, she loves coming up with dramatic lines when I land an assignment.

The “Evian” marketing team liked me; I’ll be their VIP “hostess” for the beginning, and end, of the U.S. Open. Is “hostessing” an actual job, you ask? In New York City it is…especially when you’re 25, vaguely attractive, poor and at work on your first novel. I see it this way: a tennis skirt and an “Evian. Live Young” tank top in the cool comfort of a Flushing Meadows VIP room is much more agreeable than juggling plates and bickering over the tip pool at some Midtown, one-star restaurant.

The egos, however, are going to get me. How goes the F. Scott Fitz quote? “The rich, they’re not like you and me.” The same can be said for the men that inhabit VIP rooms. The laminated cards, wrist bands and free-flowing alcohol give them the bravado and swagger normally reserved for rock stars. Add to the mix my scanty attire and subservient position and, in their minds, I’ve become a veritable groupie.

One errant hard-on and I’m out of there.

I’m not goddamn Penny Lane.

Chef's Whites

Nurturing: the act of bringing up; sustenance; to feed; to help grow or develop; to cultivate; the act of suckling.

Suckling? Ok, maybe I’m getting a bit too scholastic. Allow me to say this—I have never felt nurtured by a man in New York City. Sure, court-side tickets to the Knick’s game and a meal of beef cheek ravioli, Osso Bucco and panna cotta at “Babbo” are fabulous. My face glows and my laugh is easy because such evenings with the California businessman are delicious. I almost convince myself (multiple times) that he cares.

Then, I go back to my apartment—alone. What do I feel? Bloated, maybe? Woozy from the arena lights and that last glass of Barolo? I feel indulged and expendable— not nurtured and cared for. Months pass and nothing has changed. I’m nothing more than an add-on to his expense account budget, a couple of digits easily passed off to the company accountant.

Southern Boy enters the picture.

He is… a Jumpha Lahiri novel on a long plane flight… the sweater page in a J. Crew catalogue… hot chocolate at Café de Flore on a rainy, cold Parisian afternoon… a vase of peonies on the bedside table…

Wait. I haven’t even gotten to the good part, the real part.

He’s a chef.

Friday night he whipped up a six-course tasting menu for me and my friend “just because.” He gets up in the morning to prepare fresh-squeezed orange juice and breakfast burritos. A midnight snack? White peaches and vanilla-infused zabaglione. The way he takes care of me is elemental. It gets me in the gut and then takes me by the heart. He nurtures.

Good-bye pin-striped suits, hello chef’s whites?

If only he and his whisk weren’t a thousand miles away…

Monday, August 22, 2005


He remembers my blonde ponytail.

I remember his skinny legs.

He says I was intimidating.

I tell him he was way too shy—why didn’t he send me “Polo” cologne-scented letters like the rest of the camp boys?

“Am I really sitting across the table from the Belle?” Southern Boy asks me over dinner at “Bottega,” a Birmingham hot spot.

I feel vaguely uncomfortable with the question. The men in New York always tell me how important they are; they say that I’m lucky to have 3 hours of their non-cell phone, non-Blackberry time.

Not so with Southern Boy.

When we’re together his smile is big, broad and genuine—the eyes, wide and incredulous.

“Come on,” he continues, “why are you here? What have I done to deserve the blessing of you in my life?”

Blessing—there’s a word that never crosses a Manhattan man’s lips.

“I walked into your restaurant—that’s how. Fate, karma—all that stuff you never fully believe in until it happens to you—that’s how we’re together.” I take a sip of my Sancerre and think that maybe once I’ve been dealt a winning hand. Just in case, I knock on the underside of the table.

He reaches over the table, touches my cheek, lowers his head.

The kiss.

So this is a man...

Monday, August 15, 2005

Alabama Heat

Cowboy boots? Check.
DKNY cut-off jean skirt? Check.
Burberry string bikini? Check.
Four bottles of Chablis in my laptop case? Check.

I'm flying to Birmingham (for the 3rd time) to be with a man--a Southern man. A very Southern man, mind you. He was my 4th grade date to the Camp Beckwith summer dance and, somehow, we reconnected after fifteen years. The last person I imagined meeting on my Florida summer vacation was a college-football lovin,' NASCAR watchin,' Appalachicola oysters slurpin,' handsome, kind, generous man from my pre-pubescent past.

But, I did.
And, something's come over me.
Is it the damn Alabama heat... or is this love?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Is It Your Fifth Martini Or Are You Happy To See Me?

In New York City, it’s difficult to discern if you’re dating an alcoholic. Manhattanites drink any time, any place, any occasion. A “Balthazar” lunch with two carafes of wine? Five ‘Happy Hour’ gin martinis at the “Biltmore Room?” A Bordeaux AND a Malbec with an expense account “ Peter Luger’s” steak dinner? A bottle of champagne at “La Goulue’s” noon Sunday brunch?

Good livin.’

“’Nother round over here, bartender,” Steve says, with a sweep of his arm.

I beam. I touch my neck. I lean in closer. My date's so handsome and he loves my company, I think. He just ordered two more martinis because I’m so damned fascinating—and pretty. My skin looks great, so do my newly whitened teeth…


I could have the conversational skills of Anna Nicole Smith and the body of Starr Jones and he would still be on the bar stool next to me.

His cheeks didn’t flush from desire. The hands didn’t shake because I reminded him of Sharon Stone. The brow sweat wasn’t caused by a rush of testosterone. It had nothing to do with me and everything to do with a half a bottle of Kettle One circulating in his blood stream.

Alcohol is cupid; it puts us, and keeps us, together.

Problems arise, however, when there is the U.S.E.—Unexpected Sober Encounter.

Random time and place—say, lunch hour at the organic market in Union Square—I spot a version of Steve. We’ve been out four times and yet… is that really him?? Shit, he sees me looking. He lifts his arm in a gesture of recognition. He’s walking toward me. He’s close. He, too, looks a little let down by my noon-time appearance. At least he’s speaking, trying to be cordial. Somehow, I can’t concentrate on his words when, for the first time, I’m seeing his mottled, red nose, wrinkled jacket, nicotine-stained teeth and wide, oddly feminine hips. Had I actually sat across from this man in a restaurant? Multiple times?

I gulped my bottle of Poland Spring.

Cupid retracted her bow.

My subsequent two-week relationship was with a tee-totalling Equinox trainer--dumb as bricks.

He looked good at high-noon, though.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Looking for Mr. Goodbar

Single girl's quote of the day:

"I'm not trying to meet Mr. Right. I'm just trying to avoid Mr. Wrong."

Friday, August 12, 2005


A surefire sign that a man loves you (or is really, really into you): HAIR REMOVAL.





In 25 years, I have loved two men. They, in turn, loved me very much. Both were more than willing to remove unwanted fuzz. I asked. They acquiesced. Very simple.

Think about it: we women shave, wax, thread, pluck, dye and perm every inch of our bodies. Every hair follicle has been “treated” in one way or another. Is it fair that he likes you with a Brazilian while his bits are hidden in a forest?

Dare him to go bare—see what you’re left with.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


I moved to the City three years ago. August 2002 meant trash baking in the sun… freedom… a terrible, short haircut… cocktails at “Luna Park”… the overnight shift at “Fox News Channel”… mice on the hard wood floor… “Café Noir”… a crush on Shephard Smith… exactly 2 girlfriends…take-out chicken wings from “Virgil’s Barbecue”…perpetually being lost… thinking “Barney’s” was a children’s program… wishing I had skinny jeans, stilettos and a boyfriend that would take me to “Raoul’s.”

Nothing was definite, nothing was secure. I was convinced of only two things: I could never afford fresh produce again, I would never have a boyfriend in the city.

How did the women do it? I wondered. They were thin, dressed to kill, always a handsome banker-type by their side. They sipped their Grey Goose martinis (“3 olives, please”) and laughed just so. All I had was a pair of kitten heels and a big ass.

“How do you meet these men?” I asked one of the “Fox” associate producers.

She looked at me like I was crazy.

“You just do. It’s New York City, for Christ’s sake.” She tossed back a strand of perfectly straightened hair and continued IM’ing her fiancée on the computer next to me.

I think back now, trying to recall my first real New York City date—I can’t. Was it the blind date with the Skadden Arps attorney? The banker I met at the rooftop bar of “60 Thompson?” The washed up 45 year-old actor that topped out with a “Burger King” commercial? I don’t know. I wish I could tell you.

I made a habit of reading Joan Didion before bed. Whereas the men left me despondent, she gave me hope.

“…New York was no mere city. It was instead an infinitely romantic notion, the mysterious nexus of all love and money and power, the shining and perishable dream itself.”

Things would get better. I would find somebody. Somebody would find me. Lights off. The mice scurry around my bed.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Madame X

The weapon's inspector won't stop calling...

Mi dispiace, poverino..."Madame X" on Houston St is not an acceptable first date venue--the interior looks like a New Orleans whore house. What about "Yama" next door? If you own a floor-through on Greene and Prince you're held to a higher standard. A burger and fries at "Silver Spurs" would have been better... I could go on, but I won't.


Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Cock rings and Sympathy

G. is old and famous and I consider him one of the first friends I ever made in New York City. We met by accident as a 22 year-old aspiring journalist and 55 year-old SoHo artist/personality (yes, according to “New York” magazine, he is one of those “/” types…) can—by accident, in a swanky restaurant. We’ve been in contact ever since because we’re neighbors and Downtown Manhattan is his Manhattan, his territory, his lair. In spite of his ego, he has been a good neighbor and friend. My journalism reel would have been a complete disaster without his brilliant, engaging, coquettish presence on camera. But, somehow our relationship has changed, evolved, devolved…

Saturday night.

I’m a bit worried as I set out for G’s duplex penthouse on the Hudson River. Yes, my Ferragamo heels are uncomfortable. Yes, it is sweltering outside and I have unsightly boob sweat on my silk, handkerchief sundress. That’s nothing. I am most concerned about his voicemail.

“B, baby, I have a gift for you… think you’re gonna love it. Can’t wait for you to try it on for me. See you at 8:00.”

Am I overreacting? Maybe it’s a belated birthday gift—pearl studs from “Tiffany’s” or chandelier earrings from “Fragments.” The minute I step into his apartment, however, I decide that it has to be something more.



Veuve on ice.

What's next? A Viagra resting on the night stand?

“There’s my girl,” he says in a soft, intimate tone. He looks me up and down as I step out of the elevator and into his loft. Immediately, I spot the large pink and black “Agent Provacateur” lingerie bag on the dining room table.


Air kiss. Air kiss. “How are you, doll?” I ask in the most platonic voice I can muster. I stand there and look at him with his tight curls and black, shrunken t-shirt in the middle of his modern, industrial loft—he looks like a little boy lost on the screwdriver aisle in Home Depot. That’s all he is, a little boy—a child with a very, very large bank account. Why do I insist on playing the role of the indulgent mother to every Manhattan male?

On the roof, he fills our flutes to bursting with the bubbly. I nervously toy with the glass like a toddler holding her first sippy cup. Composure, B. You’re the adult here.

“Go on, open it,” he says, staring at me, ignoring the setting sun and the silver-capped Hudson.
I peel off the black satin ribbon and open the box. Resting on pink tissue is a sheer black bed coat lined in brown mink (very Brigitte Bardot) and a pair of black, lace panties that tie at the side (very Carmen Electra). Is this really my life? How does a girl from rural, Northern Florida find herself in a situation like this?

“I don’t know what to say. G., you’ve out done yourself.”

“Wait, I have something else for you,” he says, reaching into his pocket. He pulls out a small, red velvet box.

He better not fall to one knee, I think. I down the rest of my champagne in a last ditch effort to inebriate myself.

Deep breath.

Flip open the box.

No chandelier earrings, no diamond bracelet. Nestled on the red, velvet cushion is a pair of black leather, diamond-studded pasties. PASTIES.

“What in the world?” I finger the tassles.

“Go on, now, try everything on for me,” he says as if we’re a lusty couple celebrating our first anniversary.

“What are you talking about? I’m not trying this on.”

“If I spend a fucking grand, the least you can do is to put it on.” His mood turned on a dime. Spit begins to collect at the corner of his mouth. His leg twitches. He’s been doing lines.

“I didn’t ask for any of this. I’m NOT trying it on.” My tone surprises me—it’s calm and firm.

“Then you can’t have it—you can’t take it home with you.” G. slams down his flute on the teak wood table, stuffs everything back in the gift bag and strides toward the door. “Stay there,” he commands.

14 floors down to street level. I contemplate the fire escape. Across the street, a couple is having a cocktail party in the new high-rise apartment building. One guest points to me, lit up on the patio in the dark night. Everyone turns and waves. They think I’m lucky. The husband raises a glass in my direction. He nods politely.

Yeah, cheers. Cheers to 28 flights of stairs, leather pasties, cocaine…

“Oh, B., baaa-aaby, what do you think now?”

I slowly turn toward the falsetto voice. I start at the feet and work my way up: G. is posing in the doorway in 4-inch Lucite heels, black fishnet stockings, MY black panties, MY sheer, black bed coat. A studded dog collar adorns his neck.

“I told you I had nice legs,” he says with an absurd grin on his face. “So, whaddya think?”

“I think you’re stretching out my panties.”

Stupid girl. Once I say it, he slips them off to reveal a cock ring.

I want to be back in 8th grade, I think. I want a wild night out to be stuffed manicotti at the Olive Garden and a Sandra Bullock movie. Dinner at 6:00, tucked in by 10:00. A kiss good night from Dad, a back rub from Mamma. Pancakes and “Saved by the Bell” in the morning.

I walk toward him. I look him in the eye—not at his absurd costume. I feel sorry for him. I give him a kiss on the cheek and walk home.

Monday, August 8, 2005

Single and Subversive

A caveat of the New York dating scene: if he’s over 45, single and extremely successful he’s subversive—more sexually subversive than the rimless Silhouette glasses or Helmut Lang suit could ever suggest. After Friday and Saturday nights I feel like crossing the Mason-Dixon—running, screaming—and marrying the first gentleman cotton farmer that crosses my path…

The first man we’ll call Andrew. We met at the Four Seasons bar, “5757,” and in that beautifully muted, tasteful setting he seemed interesting, normal—almost refined (real-estate developer, weekend home in E. Hampton, China and Brazil are favorite vacation locales, plays basketball with Adam Sandler at Reebok). Nothing was excessive that night, not the drinking, innuendo or sexual tension. Two martins for me, 3 Sam Adams for him and I then I left for late-night escargot with a neighbor at Blue Ribbon on Sullivan Street.

He called the next morning. I didn’t answer because I hadn’t had my wake-up hour of coffee and the “Times.” Did I find his prompt response to be courtly or worrisome? I wasn’t sure so I didn’t call back. He rang again. I hit the “7” delete button and began to realize that the hard-to-get act really does drive men crazy. A last ditch effort on his part:

“Hi, B, this is Andrew and I’m in desperate need of a decadent, champagne lunch. I just closed a major deal and I need someone to celebrate with me. It’ll feel like playing hooky, promise. Call me back and let’s set up a time.”

Should I really respond to his blatant bribe of champagne and imported food products?

Of course.

We decide on “Cipriani’s Downtown”—my favorite locale for spotting men like him and women like me (except that the women are prettier, thinner and being paid by the hour). I know our roles: he pays for the exorbitantly-priced lunch, I pay my keep with a sexy dress, towering heels and soft eye-makeup. I arrive 15 minutes late and Andrew whistles under his breath, “Whew, you look fucking fantastic.” Expletive red flag—you’re too into me too soon, very déclassé.

We have champagne, prosciutto, mozzarella di buffalo, the utterly perfect grissini as only Cipriani’s can make and then, “How does it feel being beautiful, knowing you can fuck anyone that you meet?”

Whoa! Put the skids on your mouth and tuck it back in your pants, Andrew. “I don’t think about that mainly because it isn’t true,” I reply, looking down at my Branzino alla Veneziana “Come on, don’t be modest. If a woman like you can have whatever whenever, what do you dream about? What’s your biggest sexual fantasy?”

I want to say something so off the charts, so kinky that he’ll redden, harden and then knock over his $9 Italian beer on the starched, white table cloth. But, I feel that he would enjoy it too much. It’d be a waste of my imagination.

“I don’t think I know you well enough. But, if you’d like to share your fantasies with me, feel free.” You’re gonna back down, aren’t you? I think. You’re all smoke and mirrors and really a fan of the lights off and a woman that loves missionary.

“Ok, I’ll tell you my erotic fantasy,” he said, visibly readjusting himself at the table. “I saw this porn flick a few weeks ago and the black leather-clad blonde—who looks a hell of a lot like you—strapped on this huge, black d…”

My eyes must have widened just enough to let him know that he sickened me, that I all I wanted was to leave him at the table, retreat to my apartment and watch back to back episodes of the “Golden Girls.”

“I’m sorry, have I said too much? Have I offended you?” he asked, suddenly a meek, well-bred boy from the Upper East Side.

Check, please.