Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Invasion of the Dinner-Conversation Snatchers

Last night was a special night for the Boyf and me. I got gussied up in a black dress and black pumps and pantyhose (shut up; it was cold outside), and the Boyf showered and shaved and put on this blue-gray woven blazer that makes him look like Chris Noth and Cary Grant combined.

We walked to a swanky restaurant near my apartment that I'd been itching to check out for a whole year. Inside, it was cavernous and the decor was warm and smooth -- even more impressive than I had imagined previously, as I had walked past it on the way to the gym and peeked into the windows like a street urchin. The interior bar rose two stories, and the upstairs housed a champagne bar with a leather chaise lounge that Veronica Lake would have been right at home perching on. We had two pre-dinner flutes of champagne at a polished marble bar, and the Boyf presented me with a gift of jewelry.

I couldn't help somewhat humbly thinking, This was not my beautiful life.

This was not my Hollywood-actor-looking man. This was not my dress. My new pearls. My artfully presented dinner.

But I'll tell you what it most certainly, without its surreal Technicolor glaze, was:

This night was the night that we were seated roughly five inches from the loudest gaggle of 26-to-29-year-old rich SoHo women that I have willingly encountered, well, ever.

As we stepped around them and to our reserved table, they had to move their bags out of the way: five or six brown-leather monstrosities that took up the aisle between tables. The smell of new leather rose from the tiny herd of pouches and made me ever so slightly jealous.

The meal was fantastic, but as the ladies to our left had a few more glasses of vino, we could hear every morsel of their conversation. I'm infinitely grateful to the Lord that the conversation was funny, or else I would have slit my wrists with the blunt potato-serving spoon on our table.

"I lost my virginity when I was 13," the Alpha Girl with the immaculate bone structure and pulled-back hair intimated not so softly. "And it was beautiful and wonderful, and the perfect time for me. But I was worried about telling my parents. I was afraid I'd be punished because, you know, sex was bad."

The Alpha Girl continued the story even as I tried not to hear, and rather to focus on the risotto before me:

"We were in the woods in a sleeping bag; the wolves howled...." (At this point, I was trying to physically restrain myself from laughing.) "When I have kids, I'm going to let them drink at the house, because if they're going to do it, I'd rather them do it at home rather than drive somewhere and do it." (I rolled my eyes and contempleted having my tubes tied.) "If they want to drink, we're going to sit down and have a conversation about it. We're going to learn about how beer is brewed. We're going to learn about the different regions where wine is made." (I laughed audibly.) "And if they want to smoke pot, they should do it at my house. I mean, I don't have a problem with drugs as long as they're natural, like pot or magic mushrooms."

I had to turn my attention away at this point. It was just getting too funny. I did hear, though, one woman at the table tell a legitimately harrowing story about her first sexual encounter, and I won't tell it here, because it's hers to share. Their conversation moved on to current relationships. One of them knew the sous chef at the restaurant, and they were all having problems with their own boyfriends/lovers/crushes. I tuned it out as best I could, but then:

"You ARE Julia Roberts. You ARE 'Runaway Bride.'" (Another audible laugh from me. Did they not realize that that movie, like, sucked? Hard? Metaphor or not, the use of that movie in dinner conversation should be banned, right along with equally horrible movies such as How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Maid in Manhattan, and The Fifth Element.)

The thing was, these women weren't the textbook definition of dumb, no matter how much I wanted to think they were, with their money and their freshly slaughtered bags and their boys and their strange early sex. It looked like they were genuinely having fun and sharing their lives with each other, and they turned out to be very nice. They asked us about our desserts, and they took a sundae recommendation from me. And I loved that the laughter they provided prevented me from going into my own head after too many glasses of syrah, from berating the Boyf for something trivial, from going -- to put it delicately -- psycho, as I tend to do.

Every now and again, I guess, you have to cut the sorority house a break. A belated cheers to all of you at that table, ladies.

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