The year I was 21 was the year of that reality show named “The Pick-Up Artist.”
You might remember it. It was that Vh1 reality show with the audacious failed-rock-star-type Pick-Up Guru who attempted to teach groups of men with no game whatsoever how to get any woman into bed. I only watched one episode. In it, Mystery (an appropriate name, since his marketability as a dating guru is a mystery to anyone who saw him) taught the young Jedis how to make a move on a girl who was on the move. That is, he showed these gameless men how to pick-up a woman who was walking down the street.
(Now, for anyone that’s lived in a city, you know there are neighborhoods where any man can be successful at this without even saying a word. Thank you, Red Lights… obviously, the Pick-Up Artist found his disciples on farms…)
If Mystery was anything like Robert Downey Jr., who played in the late 80s flick of the same title, I might have ignored his fur-clad top hat and cut him some slack. I mean, did men take this guy’s advice seriously? I was doubtful… Until the following Friday night…
I was plowing through the lower west side, with a few of my girls a few steps behind, all of us en route to a concert, when a short, chubby, blonde guy walked passed me, looked back and then cut in front of me.
“You look familiar. Have we met before?”
My jaw-dropped. Clearly he’d seen the same episode.
“No.” I pushed him out of the way and kept walking.
“I think that guy thought you were a prostitute,” my friend Maddie said when she and the other caught up.
It implied a kind of safety (you know me, so you know I’m not a serial killer.)
It’s an understated compliment (you’re memorable.)
It might also imply fate (I knew you before I met you.)
In theory, it’s a good approach.
I’ve rarely fallen for it. The answer is almost always “no,” unless you’re at an alumni event, and then it’s only vaguely likely (You studied in the architecture library!? Me too!… Oh, right… orientation week…)
Every once in a while, it’s worth taking the bait (like that time in the elevator with the Coulda-Been-A-Gucci-Model…)
Unless you’re wearing hoop earrings, stiletto heels, and are walking through that neighborhood where it’s easy for men with no game to pick up women on the move…
“You realize you’re heading straight into the heart of tsunami country,” my mother warned when we finalized our bookings for a family vacation to Tofino, British Columbia.
Tofino is a small town perched on Clayquot Sound, on the far west coast of Vancouver Island. In March 2011, when we were starting to consider the area as the celebration site of my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, there was a tsunami warning. People were evacuated. My mother thought twice.
“There’s only one road out of the town — the road along the coast. Oh! And there could be an earthquake!”
Nevertheless, we decided that the first growth rainforests and the pounding pacific, ideal for sea-kayaking and surfing, were worth the risk of a tsunami. But my mother packed her flippers, just in case.
The night before we left, I wrote a note to a friend: “Providing my kayak doesn’t get flipped by a whale, I don’t end up in a back brace after my intensive yoga retreat, or my surfboard doesn’t get swept out to sea, I should be back by Aug. 27. We’ll catch up then!”
In all the things we tried to prepare for, it never occurred to us that we’d have to leave the earthquake and hurricane survival kits at home for our house sitters. Even though we’ve had numerous flights cancelled due to inclement weather, it never occurred to us we’d be stranded on the far, far west coast because of a storm named Irene.
It’s true that there is only one road that cuts through the heart of Vancouver Island, taking people from the more populated cities on the east coast to the rugged, untamed, ancient west coast. If you want to get from Nanimo and Tofino, you have to traverse 125 miles of narrow, winding asphalt with a maximum speed limit of about 40 mph.
To get to that road, you have to take a 2 hour ferry from Vancouver.
To get to Vancouver from New York, you have to fly 3,000 miles.
Basically, to once again quote my mother, if we’re in Tofino and something happens back at the ranch, “we can do fuck all.” But what were the odds that something would happen back home and we’d have to hurry back? Small, surely. And then Brian called to tell us about the hurricane baring down on New York.
For the first time in 10 days, we flicked on the television and logged on the internet. Panic quickly followed. Our flight was cancelled. There’s no way home until Tuesday. What will happen to the old willows by the stream, with their short roots and their overgrown limbs? What about the dogs? Will Brian and Cliff be able to find the leashes?
While the boys are readying the yard, removing anything that could become a projectile, and battening down the hatches, I’m sitting on a bench in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, catching my breath after a 12k run and taking in the sunshine. The sail boats pass by and the there isn’t a cloud in the sky.
“Oh. My. God. I just, like, walked into George Clooney. George. Cloooooooney!” Rebbecca was so excited she nearly tossed her venti caramel machiato onto my white winter coat. “Aaaaaaaaaaand I got his autograph! Swooooon.”
I looked at Rebbecca with envy. For someone that’s spent 25 years living in and around star-studded New York City, I never meet anyone famous, let alone get their autograph.
Actually, that’s not true. I have “met” famous people. I once practically crashed into Tino Martinez, one of my all-time favorite Yankees, walking to MoMA. Even though my latte splashed on his running shoes, I never thought to ask him to sign the baseball and glove I keep in my purse. My celebrity encounters, like probably most people’s, are generally awkward and typically fall into one of the following categories:
1.Famous People I went to School With — Columbia is a magnet for famous people, but my grade school boasted a few future celebrities… too bad I didn’t get them to sign my yearbook.
2. Famous people I’ve tripped or nearly tripped — Vera Wang, Fern Mallis, and Ronan Tynan of the Irish Tenors would be included in this large group. (A subcategory of this might be entitled “Famous People I spilled Stuff On”)
3. Famous People I could have Met — This list could go on for ages, but my favorite is James Franco. I was a graduate student at Columbia at the same time Franco was getting his MFA in the Columbia School of the Arts. Later, my time at MoMA coincided with his own MoMA appearance. I frequently saw the car that brought him places, but I never once encountered the over-achieving Hollywood Renaissance Man in the flesh. Meanwhile, one of my college fencing teammates not only met him, but had coffee with him. She was thin, blond, leggy and two-faced — some girls have it all.
4. Famous People I Met, but Surely Creeped Out with My Over-Aggressive Enthusiasm — Joan Rivers and Sloane Crosely. My “Oh my god! My mother and I are just like you and your daughter! Except, my mother’s had hip replacements, not cheek replacements, so she can move her face,” and “I want your career, in fact, I want to be you,” were met with fearful eyes that read: I’m going to need a restraining order against this girl.
5. Famous Athletes I’ve Met, but Don’t Ask for an Autograph from because I’m trying to pretend I’m one of them — Given that I’ve grown-up in the company of Olympic medalists and that I once considered myself an Olympic contender, I try to act unphased by their achievements even though I’m in awe beyond awe. The exception to this is Evan Lysacek. I shamelessly had a friend ask Evan if I could take a picture with him.
6. Famous People I’ve met But Didn’t Realize They Were Famous Until I Went Home and Googled Them — Most recent example: at my favorite lounge, the cocktails are pure perfection and staff is family. My friend and I wiggled into an open spot at the bar next to an older gentleman with white hair and a familiar face. The head bartender kindly introduced us to the man, his friend Jeffery. Jeffery asked us if we had tried the cherry garnish — it was the best cherry garnish he’d ever had. Later, after some computer stalking, we found out his friend Jeffery was the legendary Jeffery Steingarten. Iron Chef America groupie fail.
45 minutes after meeting each other, they were off in the corner of the lounge lip-locked. A few days later, text messages inquires attempted to arrange a proper date — neither had the time and the exchanges ceased. A week passed and she awoke to a Facebook friend request, a miracle considering she never game him her last name. As she clicked “accept,” it occurred to her that they might have done things totally out of order…
Back when I was a bright-eyed student enrolled in Art History 101, I was given an assignment to write a short paper on a painting housed in New York’s Frick Collection. I settled on a series of 18th century baroque panels by the French artist Jean-Honore Fragonard entitled “The Progress of Love.” Floral-ridden and chocolate-box-esque, the 4 tableaux track love from its uncertain beginnings to a happy ending. Beginning with “The Pursuit” the artist takes us through “The Meeting,” “The Lover Crowned,” and “Love Letters.”
It’s been a long time since I thought about these paintings, but as I compared dating notes with a few girl friends who recently acquired/deactivated boyfriends, I decided the scenes set among the frilly, baroque gardens of earthly delights needed a 21st century make over…
The Pursuit (the attempt at seduction):
In Fragonard’s day, when masquerade balls were probably the 18th century’s closest approximation of OkCupid, The Pursuit really only happened in the flesh. Today, technology grants us endless ways to approach (stalk?) our future lovers, but at the end of the day, we still prefer a good chase in the real world…
Much Like Fragonard’s leading lady, today’s heroine is out with her girl friends when He makes his approach. He catches her off guard — the last thing she had on her mind tonight was getting lucky. He nonchalantly slips in next to her at the bar and leads with a corny pickup line because he figures it’ll make her laugh. It does. The usual questions are asked and answered. He offers to buy her a refill. She accepts. There’s an occasional arm touch or shoulder tap. Her friends drag her away – they have places to go! She won’t give out her number. But shouts back her name, spelling it out for him. If you want to find me, you’ll find me, she tells him. Lucky for him, he has a good memory. He tracks her down on Facebook. A friend request. Accepted.
She’s out again with her friends, a drink down the hatch when they convince her to message him and find out what he’s doing that night. The doors are wide open. Messages fly back and forth for the next few days. He’s busy. She’s busy. He’s busy. She’s busy. Radio silence. A week passes, then finally he tries again. They agree to a proper date…
The Meeting (the moonlit assignation)
First dates don’t happen on weekends anymore. Weekends are reserved for real friends. Weekends allow you to behave out of character. Weekends have consequences.
They agree to meet on Tuesday night, after work, for drinks and dinner. She has a 9AM meeting Wednesday morning with a big client — the perfect built-in out for when things start to go rough. He’s decided she’s worth impressing and takes her some place upscale but understated. By now, they’ve both forgotten what the other person actually looks like in real life, and are surprised to find they’re attracted to each other.
He’s nervous and spills her drink. The ice is broken, literally and figuratively, and the subsequent conversation is lively. Before they know it, the maitre d’hotel is kicking them out — it’s closing time. He wants to kiss her. She’s sorry it’s a Tuesday, hugs him instead (what restraint!) and they agree to meet again.
Love Letters (the continuation of a happy union)
In Fragonard’s series, this actually comes last — the happy couple send letters to reinforce their eternal love for one another. Today, I’m not sure how many people exchange handwritten love letters any more. However, the exchange of love notes in 2010/11 take on many forms, thanks to BBM and text messages. Fingers shoot across miniature keyboards in rapid-fire, concise exchanges. “Wanna come over?” “what r u wearing” “;)” NC-17 camera phone images strengthen the lust, while the occasional “i miss u” or “dinner 2nite?” tug at the heart strings.
The Lover Crowned(they finally get it on)
When she was 18, her mother gave her a copy of “The Rules.” Recently, she’d been watching “Millionaire Matchmaker.” Both advocate waiting until a relationship turns monogamous before sleeping with the guy. She always felt this approach got her into more trouble than it was worth, but she’s been trying to stick with it. They’re a few weeks into things and out to dinner when he asks her if she’d like to join him at his sister’s wedding next week. Gulp!
“So..um…what’s up with us?” she asks, knowing that she’s about the meet his whole extended family. Is she “a friend” or “the girlfriend?”
The verdict? She’s the girlfriend…
They go back to his place. Clothes fly off — in the morning, there’s shirts in the kitchen, pants in the living rooms and trails of random garments hanging off the furniture. Thank goodness it’s a Sunday morning.
He like the Knicks. She likes a Broadway show. He likes comedy clubs. She likes the US Open. They both like a good party. They’re both tired of the typical date night on the town.
It’s time for something fresh, and I’ve got an easy way to make everyone happy…
Take your main squeeze to the Fencing Masters NYC.
On November 17th, the world’s best and most decorated fencers will take on members of Team USA at the Hammerstein Ballroom in a dynamic show of athleticism. It’ll be sporting event meets gala, complete with cocktails and hors d’oeurves. To cap off the evening, guests can brush elbows with the Michael Jordans of fencing at the Fencing Masters After-Party, which will take over New York City’s highly esteemed Hudson Terrace.
Your guy has always wanted to hang out with professional athletes. Your girl has always wanted to have her photo taken with a male Gucci model. You’ve both always enjoy hanging out together. Fencing Masters NYC can make all that happen.
Tickets on Sale on Groupon for one day only (Nov. 1)! Get your deal here: Groupon