There I sat on the Metro-North train back from Westport, CT, engaged in an involuntary half-snuggle with the oversized man sitting next to me but contented all the same, being as full of Thanksgiving turkey, gravy, and wine as I was. After a dizzying night of meeting 18 members of my former boss’ friends and family---I felt like I was in a Woody Allen movie circa 1975; me the WASP-y, fish-out-of-water Diane Keaton character half-smiling and half-awed as 18 concurrent conversations are going on around her in various degrees of Yiddish---I was in the mood for some hardcore chillin’ and digestin’.
Through the tryptophan haze, I spotted a tall, Nordic-looking prepster standing in the car ahead of me reading a book entitled “Body Language”. Looks interesting. Book does too.
I see Nordic-looking prepster again on the subway platform immediately afterwards, and make a point to stand next to him. Why, I’m not sure, as I’m lost in my iPod and feeling a little too shy to chat up strangers, but I definitely sense a vibe that he’s checking me out and my curiosity is piqued. I take out my earphones and stuff the iPod back into my purse. You never know.
As we stand next to each other on the now-moving train, he’s keeping mum, so I lean towards him, read over his shoulder and say, “So, why DO people look taller on TV?”
He smiles slightly and explains in a matter-of-fact way that people on TV are usually high status individuals, and the public perceives high status people as being taller than they actually are, etc. His accent is mild and charming, *and* he’s a total non-fiction dork like me. I silently thank myself for taking off those damned headphones.
The train pulls into the Union Square stop. I interrupt him to tell him that this is my stop; is this his stop too? No, he answers, but do you want to get a drink? Sure, I say, and we hoof it off the train together and head to the downstairs bar at Coffee Shop.
On the walk over, he says something that blows my mind when I ask him why he didn’t start talking to me first on the train: “Did you know that 90% of flirting is actually initiated by women, and whether or not it works is usually just a question of a man picking up on it?”
I think about this. It certainly seems like this theory has some validity. Last week, it was me that started chatting up Marcos…and now this…plus I find that even on internet dating, sending someone a “wink” (the modern technological version of dropping your handkerchief and batting your eyelashes in sexy distress) gets you a lot further than being a Rules Girl and waiting for the men to flock to you. Sometimes, sistahs gotta do it for themselves, youknowwhati’msayin?
We get cozy in the banquette by the roaring fireplace, and he tells me that his name is Lars, he’s a management consultant for a Big Bad Consulting Agency Not To Be Named Here, I guess correctly that he’s Swedish (ah!) and 33 (ooh!), he’s been in a string of long-term relationships for the past 12 years with only an 8 month break, and after he insists through Swedish pride that Absolut is every bit as good as Grey Goose and we conduct a taste test on each other (neither of us guess correctly), we then conduct a taste test *on each other*….
….Man, we must have made out for at least 3 hours. The combination of the cheesy ‘80s make-out music (did they really play John Waite’s “Missing You”?!), the flickering fireplace warming our skin, the shots of vodka warming our insides, and the fact that we were being naughty enough to perform so much PDA but not naughty enough to leave and take it further made me feel like I was 17 again. Whenever I felt exposed and shy, I held the raccoon-fur babooshka my boss gave me that night in front of our faces and kissed him behind it.
He finally asked me my name. I figured it was a little late in the game to be asking for that, so I refused to tell him, which only made him more excited and kiss me with that much more passion.
We share a cab home, he puts my number in his phone under the name “Laura”, and the next night, he takes me out to Raoul’s, a fancy French restaurant in his SoHo neighborhood and we’re having a very cultured and intellectual conversation….until he leans over, brushes his lips against mine, and we’re re-engaging in our PDA-fest all over again. The waiter coughs politely as he drops the bill in front of our slithering, enmeshed bodies.
In the meantime, things with Marco have been taking off, too. We’ve gone on two dates since I first met him and I’ve been really starting to take a shine to him---where Lars is a bit analytical and conservative, Marco is warm, emotional, and down to earth, if not a little rough around the edges…the kind of guy who grew up behind a bar in Hell’s Kitchen, brought weapons of various sorts to high school for protection, has a huge tattoo of a knife through a heart and thorns with his dead mother’s name on it…but he treats me like gold and I can tell he really likes me. And yes, this Kissing Bandit (me) did get a chance to kiss those succulent lips when he dropped me off in his Jeep after our first date, and they were as nice as I expected them to be.
Everything is going well….until…as we sit at Wakiki Wally’s, a tiki bar that looks like it was constructed by a whole crew on acid, we’re talking about tattoos and I make some offhand comment about “wouldn’t it be funny to get a six pack tattooed on your stomach?” and he shoots back angrily, “What, are you saying that I’m fat?!”
Shocked, I tried to gauge if his ire was in jest or the real deal. I open my mouth to protest my innocence---honestly, in the clothes I’ve seen him in the past few times I can’t even tell *what* his body looks like---and he starts laughing and says, “No, I’m just kidding, I know I’m a little out of shape, but whatever.”
I’m a little annoyed at his twisting my words around and turned off by his apparent lack of confidence, but I let it go. Until he brings it up three more times.
I try to see past it. We all have our insecurities, I tell myself, and this guy’s a human being, after all; not made of wood. But I couldn’t help it---the more he talked about how unattractive he looked, the more unattractive he indeed became, and I could feel my distaste for needing to prop up his ego become stronger than my altruistic desire to do good and make him feel better about himself. I made a pact with myself to never, EVER speak disparagingly about myself in front of anybody I ever wanted to see again.
He dropped me off, asked if he could see me again before I leave for Spain, and we made tentative plans for Tuesday night. I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater---this could be a great guy who just needs to get a shot of confidence, a slap on the ass and be sent on his way down the Road to Self Esteem and arrive as Mr. Perfect. It’s possible, right?