The sheets were blue and white, I remember, and smelled lightly of l'Air du Temps. The mattress was on the floor and I was flat on my back looking up, admiring my girlfriend as she stood admiring herself, completely naked, in the mirror across the room.
"If you had to pick something that you didn't like about the way I look," she said, "What would that be?"
"You're perfect," I said.
"No, really," she said.
"Perfect," I said.
"Come on," she said.
I wish—oh, how I wish—I'd maintained my resolve on that one. I knew it was a trap, even if it was not intended as such. (She really was, and is, extraordinarily beautiful.) But there are moments when the woman you love asks more than your besotted, indulgent patience will bear. She asks you to focus on a detail when what you appreciate is the entirety. She asks you about her shoes when you are gazing much higher than that. She asks you to find a blemish when you hadn't noticed any at all. And then you tell her... something.
I looked, and looked, and spotted what I thought was, well, a very small flaw. I said that, if she was really going to insist, there was one thing that might be a little less than perfect.
Yes, it was just about the dumbest thing that I've ever said.
I'd like to think I've come to understand more about women, and the world, since then. But I’m not so sure. What I do know now is that when a woman asks what a man may see as the simplest, most perfunctory and inconsequential of questions—"How do I look?"—it can be a mine-field, and even a turning point. What I also know now is that one of the most common answers, "Fine," is just about the worst. “Fine” is the judgment of the inattentive. Infinitely preferable to "Fine" are "Wonderful," "Beautiful," "Radiant," "Dazzling," "Resplendent," "Delicious," "Delectable," "Hot," many pop-rap-gangsta variations thereon, or, simplest of all, "Wow!"