Thursday, June 27, 2013

Things I No Longer Do

“Do you like women with short hair?”
It was a warm, slow-moving spring day, the kind were I like to sit outside, relax and people-watch.
“Short hair?” I said. “Sure, why not?”
We were having lunch at Rafa's, my favorite sidewalk cafe. I had invited my dating coach to join me, knowing he couldn't pass up the homemade tortillas and the view. He was twenty-six years old, a high school football coach with a six-pack. Mocha skin, black hair, and dark eyes. “Soulful,” he corrected me.
I didn't know what hair length had to do with dating. But I didn't know much about dating. Some 20 years ago I married my high-school sweetheart. We were together long enough to have three children and one divorce. I turned 41 last summer and the closest I had ever come to dating in my life was the Sadie Hawkins dance in junior high. And for that, the girl invited the boy.
“My wife thinks she's a matchmaker,” my friend said. “She's sure you'll like this lady.”
That caught my attention. I had heard him refer to lots of women in many ways, but not a single one had earned the description of “lady.”
“She's just worried,” he went on, “You know, about the short hair.”
“What's that got to do with it?”
He looked at me, studied my face, waited for me say something. When I didn't, he looked back at the people passing on the sidewalk.
“Never mind,” he said, dismissing my ignorance with a flick of his hand.
We had started lunch by talking about jobs, work, and family, but for dessert, the conversation turned to women. It was why I asked him to lunch. He had been a player since he was 12. I often had the impression he was still playing, even though he was married with a new baby. I depended on him for advice about dating protocols, especially since I had a disastrous date with a woman whose first words were warning me she carried a "Bobbitt" knife in her purse.
“What has hair length got to do with dating?” I asked again.
I waited, but didn't get an answer. Instead, I saw his eyes light up. I had learned that the sudden sparkle and angle of his stare meant he was watching a woman's legs. He used to ask me to look, to join him in drooling. But I had always refused. Staring is impolite, turning to stare even more so, and staring at a woman's legs is crude.
“What's it mean?” I insisted, trying to distract him.
“What's what mean?” he said.

His stare never left its target while a grin grew at the corners of his mouth. I knew she was getting close. I heard the approaching click-click-click-click of high heels matching his bouncing eyelids. She came in to view as she started to pass our table. My friend looked up at her face. She stopped, looking sideways at my friend. She was beautiful, and knew it. She stood there, enjoying the attention she was getting. She turned her head to look at my friend. Their eyes locked, longer than usual, longer than was polite, especially for a married man. My friend slowly scanned back down her body to her legs and grinned broadly. She smiled, didn't move, acted like she was looking for someone in the restaurant. A few long seconds later her eyes paused briefly as they meet my friend's. My heart beat faster. There was an excitement, a charge that passed between them. When she walked away I swallowed hard.
“My god!” I said quietly, my throat still dry. “What is it about you?”
“Wait,” he said, keeping his eye on her back. I heard him counting under his breath, “four, five, six, now...”
As if choreographed, she glanced over her shoulder, smiled at him, then continued to walk away. But her hips swayed a little more, and her pace had slowed, carefully timed to cause her skirt to swish back and forth. I swallowed hard, again as I imagined what was under that teasing tail.
“How do I get THAT?” I asked in awe of my friend's performance.
He looked at me seriously for a fraction of a second, then jumped out of his seat and ran to catch up with the woman. She stopped. He talked and looked back at me. She turned and smiled, a smile meant just for me. “Shit,” I said, suddenly worried about my hair. I smiled back, hoping she couldn't see my cheeks were burning.
Keep your eyes locked on hers until she looks away. This shows confidence and integrity, two prized male traits.”
It was my friend's voice in my head. So I kept my hands away from my hair and did not look away until she did. She searched in her purse and pulled out a pen, handed it to my friend. She shook her head “no” and he held up his other hand. He leaned forward with an exaggerated interest, pen ready to write on the palm of his hand. He made it look funny, like a schoolboy waiting anxiously for an assignment from an adored teacher. She laughed.
A sense of humor is critical. Nobody likes a sour-puss!”
I remembered how my friend winked as he paused between “sour” and “puss.” He was right. After she laughed her whole body looked more at ease, less defensive, less threatened. My friend started writing on his palm, playing the part of the adoring student. As he wrote, she tried to peek at his palm but he tilted it away, put his hand closer to his chest. She leaned towards him, still trying to see what was on his palm. They were almost touching, but not.
Let her make the first contact. It's her way of saying it's okay to touch.”
My friend handed her back the pen. Did she just brush his hand? Was it an accident? He was still guarding what he wrote on his palm. She still wanted to see, but he wasn't going to show her. She laughed and her hand came up to sit atop his palm. She tugged. His hand moved towards her, then moved back. She didn't let go, didn't resist being pulled until both hands rested against his chest. He leaned over to her ear and said something. There was another moment of eye contact that sent my libido off the charts. He smiled and took a step back. She let her hand fall, smiled and walked away.
“Here,” my friend said, “I got her phone number.”
He sat back down at the table as if nothing had happened. I was speechless. He pulled his schedule book from his pocket, tore out a page, and copied the phone number from his palm.
“You had a piece of paper...” I said.
“You're all set up. Just give her a call,” he said, handing me the number.

I took the scrap with its sloppy squiggles and made sure I could read the number. He jabbed a finger at me with a look of triumph.

“And THAT is how you get THAT,” he said, jerking his thumb towards where the woman had been.
I was still dumbfounded. I could feel the fear rising as I stared at the piece of paper while he copied the number in his schedule book.
“You didn't set ME up, you set YOU up!”
He didn't answer right away, kept his head down.
“No. It's for you,” he said, looking me in the eyes.
I knew him well enough to know that he was a good liar. It was the pause that clued me in. And he knew I knew. He closed his book and put it back in his pocket.
I never did call that number. In fact, I never thought about dating again. My blind date with the “lady” lasted 14 hours. Eighteen months later we were married.

 - James Seamarsh, still married to my perfect date JS annotation code