Last year at an estate sale up in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the woman standing next to me remarked that this was the home of her deceased surgeon. "Sorry to hear that," I said. "Yeah," she replied, "Good thing my cleaning lady saw the obit. I was scheduled for a boob job that Tuesday."
Of course I immediately looked at her boobs. Couldn't have helped it if I tried. My glance answered my first question, which was whether she found a replacement surgeon. But the second question I asked myself went unanswered. Which was why. Why did this nice woman tell me, a perfect stranger, such a thing?
And not just the Oshkosh woman with the perky breasts. It happens all the time. In my presence, people tend to confess.
My kids think it's because I'm short and non-threatening. I am neither.
My sister says I hold eye contact too long. I've tried looking at other parts of the face and it's uncomfortable.
My husband believes I have a bartender's ability to listen without judgement. (Ha! You will soon read how the judgement comes later, publicly, in blog posts.)
But I like my husband's reasoning. I did in fact work as a bartender in college. It was a popular place, due in part to the Long Island Iced Teas we served, which made the floors so sticky, it took vigorous exertion to lift your feet and actually leave. Women wearing those jelly plastic shoes really had it rough.
My husband and I were dating then, and on a very busy night, he showed up unexpectedly, pushed his way to my area of the bar, and being a sophisticate from Murphysboro, Illinois, he ordered a scotch on the rocks.
"What's in that?" I yelled at him over Chaka Khan.
"Well, it has scotch. And it has rocks," he yelled back.
"Not sure we have that..." I said, looking right and left for Todd, the manager.
My boyfriend married me anyway. And last December on a trip to Paris, he was sipping scotch on the rocks in a throwback jazz club on the Left Bank when the young man next to him said, "Stop!" I looked up from my duck confit and this young man, a thirtysomething German Adonis, was blushing deeply. His date, who was next to me, leaned in and explained with not a whiff of shame, "I've been eating your pommes frites and he doesn't like it."
This was one of those typical French places where you are packed like sardines at wobbly tables jammed against the wall. And truth be told, I had been nursing the fries, which were uncharacteristically droopy, this being France and all. But still, how could I not have noticed her arm, covered with bracelets, sliding under my nose to snatch a fry?
And again, why? Do I give off a share-my-dinner vibe? Granted I don't encircle my plate with my arm, the way my sons do when they're particularly hungry. But do I look that harmless?
Indeed I am because I laughed at her brazen confession. And pushed my plate towards her. As we shared the remainder of my fries, she told me that she had been born in India, moved to France as a young child, attended college in the U.S., and worked in investment banking in Paris. Her date was German born and raised, a Harvard grad who was currently teaching at the London School of Economics. He had taken the Chunnel to spend the weekend. It was their second date.
The people around us stared as we conversed, probably, I figured, because we spoke in English. Okay, maybe it was loud English, as my young friend seemed intent on getting drunk.
At one point, the German economic Adonis excused himself to the restroom and that's when she popped the question. "Should I have sex with him tonight?"
"Not unless you want to." I said, feeling motherly.
"Oui ou non," she mulled. "He took the Chunnel. He's staying at my place. But I don't want him to think I'm a woo woo girl."
"You're a french fry thief," I said. "He might be expecting some woo woo."
She went on to describe the immense pressure she felt from her family to find a nice Indian man and settle down. She was over thirty and already considered a little "mature." Maybe this guy with his impeccable credentials would pass muster.
"He doesn't look Indian," I pointed out.
"He's hot, isn't he." she said.
"Sans doute." I nodded.
And that was that. The sexy professor of econ returned to the table, and asked for the bill. As they gathered up their things, my young friend turned to me and said, "I hate jazz."
"And now you've gone too far," I said. And I broke eye contact with her.
Photo by Paul DuFour.
At Finder Not Keeper: a set of vintage Longchamp canape plates and La Tour Eiffel. Click on the photo for shopping information.
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