Sex, Advice, and Small Cars

I didn’t listen to anybody’s advice when I was a kid. About anything. It’s not that I was a rebel or even a know-it-all; I just sort of did things my own way. Usually not so much out of stupidity as a general sense of cluelessness.

My mom used to get terribly frustrated with me. “It’s one thing to follow the beat of a different drummer,” she would sigh, “but you keep wandering off after the tuba player.”

To be perfectly honest, she wasn’t exactly a source of great wisdom when it came to advice. She was a bit of a blurter with very vague definitions of what was appropriate advice to share with impressionable young people, especially in her later years.  I remember one particular conversation that took place when I made the mistake of asking her something about sex. I don’t remember now what the question was or what kind of temporary insanity gave me the brilliant idea of asking her, but I’ll never forget her response.

“The most important thing you need for your first time is a sense of humor,” she advised me. “Because, you know, when your foot is out the window and your head is stuck in the steering wheel and the gearshift is up your ass, there’s really nothing to do but laugh.”

I think I may have passed out at that point, because I don’t remember the rest of the conversation. Perhaps my mind has just protected my sanity by blocking it out. But I do remember that bit of advice, and I thought about it again during the course of one eventful evening with an old boyfriend.

I was in my early twenties, and I was in love for the first time. Call me a late bloomer, but I was learning about love and sex and daring all at the same time, and that made for an intelligence-numbing combination.  All Mr. Wonderful had to do was give me a particular look or raise one suggestive eyebrow, and I would become a quivering heap of idiocy. I knew better than to take some of the risks we took, but I just didn’t care.

Which is how we ended up “parking” in our old high school parking lot that night. Not the most romantic setting, especially since he was well over six feet tall and he drove a very, very small car. Suffice it to say that there were a lot of giggles and accidental horn-honking and a few near-collisions with the gearshift.  By the time we gave up and Mr. Wonderful stepped out of the car to re-adjust his clothes and give me a moment to do the same, we had no idea just exactly how long the police car had been parked behind us, watching.

cop

The officer took our names and other pertinent information and let us go with a warning. And that’s when things got interesting.

You see, Mr. Wonderful had decided to break up with me that night, but apparently didn’t see any reason to share that decision with me before trying to get lucky in the high school parking lot.  I had never been in love before, never been in a relationship before, never been dumped before.  And I didn’t take it well.

I started crying. Mr. Wonderful was trying to drive and trying to comfort me, and in the process of doing both he also managed to run a red light.

The cop who pulled us over took Mr. Wonderful’s license and went back to his car, where he no doubt saw that a different officer had just run that same license through the system less than ten minutes earlier. Meanwhile, my date was trying to comfort me by putting his arms around me.

I was having none of that. I was pissed. I swatted at him and tried to shove him away from me.

Now, imagine how that looked to the police officer sitting in the car behind us.

Before I really knew what was happening, Mr. Wonderful was out of the car. Just like that. Gone. In his place, the officer leaned into the car, shining his flashlight directly in my face and demanding things like, “Are you hurt in any way?” and “Do you need a ride home?” and the kicker: “Are you in the car against your will?”

Call me naïve, but I really didn’t understand what he was asking. Mr. Wonderful may have been a bit of a dick at times, but there was absolutely no way in the world he would have harmed me. I was perfectly safe with him, and I didn’t comprehend what the officer was asking. So I just kept sobbing, “I’m fine, I’m okay, I just want him to take me home.”

It took me years to realize just what kind of revenge I could have taken on Mr. Wonderful that night, or how utterly terrified the poor guy must have been during those moments. Just imagine what must have been going through his mind while he was face-down against the side of his own car, listening for the words from me that could have destroyed his life.

I like to think that I would have taken the high road even if I had comprehended what was going on. I hope that I’m the kind of person who would never have told a lie about Mr. Wonderful just to get revenge. As it was, he ended up with a ticket for running the red light, and nothing more. He drove me home and we said our good-byes, and that was that.

I can look back on that night now and laugh, so I guess my mom’s advice was right about needing a sense of humor. But if my teenage daughter should happen to ask me for advice about sex, I don’t think I’ll mention laughter, cars, or gearshifts.

And that’s okay, because my kid doesn’t listen to advice any better than I did.

This is a Finish The Sentence Friday post: “I didn’t listen to anybody’s advice when . . . ” hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, Michelle Grewe http://crumpetsandbollocks.com/  and Ruchira Khanna http://abracabadra.blogspot.com/.  Please take a few minutes to check out what some of the other bloggers did with this sentence!

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If you enjoyed this post and would like to read some earlier funny stuff from me, check out Have a Goode One, my collection of humorous posts from my blog, most of which are no longer available here on WordPress.

Sink or Swim

This one time, at Bible camp . . .

No, I just can’t keep going with the whole “American Pie” take-off. My experience wasn’t really “Camp” and I wasn’t exactly a kid. I was in my late twenties, single, and floundering a bit in life.  I had recently joined a singles Bible study group at my church, not so much because I held out hope of meeting Mr. Right, but because I was tired of being that weird single person in my group of married friends.  I wanted to be around other single people, and I wanted to learn more about God, so it seemed like a perfect combination.

It was a good thing I wasn’t looking for Mr. Right. Don’t get me wrong; there were plenty of attractive men in the group. Unfortunately, there were about three times as many attractive women as there were men, and I was not anywhere near being able to compete with any of them. Nothing even remotely romantic ever happened, but I made friends and had fun, so I count it as a good experience.

We all packed up and went on a weekend-long retreat at a camp in the northern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.  It was early May, so it was really too cold for tent-camping.  Instead, we stayed in a dormitory-style building with the men in one wing and the women in another, with the kitchen and meeting areas somewhere in the middle.  I don’t remember what the men studied that weekend, but we women focused on the book Becoming a Woman of Excellence, by Cynthia Heald.

To be completely honest, I don’t remember much about the book or the study.  I remember the fun.  Someone brought along a Frisbee fitted with lights so we could play with it in the dark the first night.  Unfortunately, none of us stopped to think that being able to see a Frisbee in the dark didn’t mean we could see the uneven ground or each other while chasing the Frisbee. Several high-speed collisions and twisted ankles later, we gave up and retreated back inside.

The second night, a group of us sat on the end of the pier that jutted out into Lake Michigan, and stayed there to watch the sunset. It was so cold that members of the group gave up, one by one, to watch from their cars.  One other woman and I were the last holdouts, and I was numb in some really uncomfortable places by the time we gave up.

Later that night, we stood outside and watched the Northern Lights. I had never seen them before and have never seen them since, but that image is burned into my soul. The greens and yellows danced across the sky like parts of a living thing, peaceful and electrifying at the same time.  I stood outside in the frigid air and clutched the hands of the people on either side of me, and I felt my tears freezing to my cheeks; I still don’t know exactly why I was crying.  It was just such pure and unexpected beauty that I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t control my own emotions.

But it was on my last day there that I learned my harshest lesson. During a break in the middle of our study, some of us decided to take a quick ride in the pedal boats that were tied to the docks.  I ended up paired with a woman named Harriet.

Harriet was tall.  I mean really tall.  She reminded of me Olive Oyl, Popeye’s girlfriend.  She had less curves than most broomsticks.  I think she weighed slightly less than my right breast.

olive

I, on the other hand, have never been a small person.  I like to say that I came out of the womb in a Misses’ size 16 and just kept growing from there.  I stopped growing taller when I was ten, and have proceeded to grow wider in the years since then. Suffice it to say that I outweighed Harriet by a substantial amount.

Those of you who have ever been out in a pedal boat can probably already see where this is going.

By the time Harriet and I reached the docks, all of the pedal boats were in use. There was one leaning against a nearby tree, and it never occurred to either one of us that there might have been a very good reason for it to be out of the water. We dragged it to the nearest dock, dropped it in the water, and climbed in.

pedal

We were about halfway out to the others when we began to realize there was a problem.

The boat was leaking.

It was just a small leak, but the water started to pool around our feet.  More accurately, it started to pool around my feet. Because I weighed so much more than Harriet, my side of the boat was already lower in the water than hers, and the incoming water all trickled over my way. Which, in turn, made my side of the boat sink even faster.

We looked at each other in horror.

“Pedal harder!” Harriet gasped.

Right.  Because I’ve always been so athletic.  Seriously, I wonder if it occurred to her at about that time that my weight probably had a little something to do with my complete lack of athleticism.

We turned the boat toward shore and pedaled just as fast as our legs could go.  Our friends soon caught up and passed us, trying very hard not to laugh at our plight.  To their credit, I think they all assumed that the boat’s position in the water was due to my weight rather than a leak in the boat, and they were all just too kind to say anything.  They didn’t want to be mean by commenting about the fat chick sinking the pedal boat.

“I can’t swim!” Harriet wailed when we were alone again.

“You don’t think you should have mentioned that before you got in the boat?”

By this point, the others were out of their boats and heading for the dormitory for Sunday dinner. They weren’t paying much attention to us.  My side of the boat was almost swamped, and Harriet’s was beginning to lift out of the water. It was only a matter of time before the boat capsized and flipped her through the air.  I had mental images of her skinny little body skipping across the surface like a stone.

We were about twenty feet from shore by that point, and there was really only one thing to do.

I went overboard.

Lake Michigan in early May is cold.  Damn cold.  As in Holy shit, I should have let Olive Oyl drown!

In retrospect, it’s highly possible that I voiced that particular opinion out loud. Several times. I grabbed the rope and started swimming, hauling the boat behind me, while Harriet pedaled her little heart out and I kept a running commentary about skinny people, boats with holes in them, and Christians in general.  I may have even offered my soul to Satan in exchange for warmer water, but I’m not sure if I said that part out loud.

It was a long, miserable walk back to the dormitory, made even worse by the fact that the others had started eating without us. I’ll admit; it hurt just a little to realize that we could have both drowned that day and gone missing for hours before anyone noticed we were gone. I felt pretty miffed about the whole thing until I heard the rumor circulating about why they all thought I was wet and Harriet was dry.

Everyone assumed that I had said something to her that was so offensive, so horrific, so insulting that she threw me out of the boat and left me to swim to shore.  That spoke volumes to me about my reputation within the singles Bible study group.

It also explains why I didn’t meet my future husband as part of the singles Bible study group.

And why you’ll never see my butt in a pedal boat ever again.

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This post is part of Finish the Sentence Friday, in which writers and bloggers finish a sentence and “link up” their posts. This week’s sentence was “This one time . . . ”  

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What Was I Thinking?

Well, that was stupid.

I have done many stupid things in my life.  I once turned down a chance to buy a mint condition copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 for $20. I went on a date with a guy who wanted to date my sister but “settled” for me when he learned she was married.  I believed the people who said an Epilady was painless.  I went home on April Fool’s Day one year and wrapped my computer in a garbage bag because I believed the DJ who said the phone company would be “blowing static out of the phone lines.”

In a world of people who do stupid things, I could be Royalty.  Maybe not the Queen of Stupidity, but definitely a Duchess of Derp at the very least.

But this one, this time, I really crossed the line.  I earned my Crown of Idiocy.

I joined an online dating community.  But not just an online dating community.  Oh, no.  I joined an online dating community for the “Large and Lovely.”   That’s right:  I signed up for a plus-size dating service.

Oh, Lord.

Do you know what I saw on the very first profile I checked out?  The guy is 6’4” – definitely “large” although not exactly “lovely” – and guess how he describes his perfect date?  Slim.  Now, I ask you:  what kind of asshole joins a plus-size dating community and says he is looking for a slim woman?

Don’t laugh too hard; I’m the only person I know who can join a plus-size dating community and find the one asshole looking for a slim woman.

This does not bode well.

I filled out the profile and tried to be as honest as possible.  I outlined what I see as my strengths and weaknesses, and I was pretty relaxed about describing what I am looking for in a man.  Looks aren’t all that important to me.  I’m not really impressed by a fancy job or huge income.  I’m not concerned with race or ethnic background or religion. Basically, I just want a couple of dates with a nice guy who lives within a hundred miles or so.

So far, men in England and Los Angeles really seem to like me.  A handful of married men have expressed interest.  Married men.  Seriously, married men join dating services?  Why?

Have I heard from any single men from Michigan?

Nope.  Nada.  Zip.  Zilch.

From this data, I can infer that men from Michigan are all married, faithful, and/or in pursuit of slender women.

Maybe I’m just being too picky, but I really can’t get excited about a guy who calls himself “Cubbychaser01” or “LikeBigButts38.”   Not overly excited by the dude who says he wants a woman with “more cushion for the pushin” or swears that “Fat chicks need lovin’ too!”

One guy looks suspiciously like Dog the Bounty Hunter.  I’m tempted to respond just so he can think he’s catfishing me, but I’d rather not waste my time.  Or his.  I mean, what if it really is Dog, and then I ended up in a fight with Beth?  I’m not sure I could take her in a fight.

I don’t want to find out.

Although I’d love to know where she buys her bras.  I want one of those.

Blind Fool

A friend recently reminded me of a letter I sent her a very long time ago.  It was my long-winded rant to let off steam after a blind date gone horribly wrong.  And while the original of that letter most likely vanished years ago, the memories of that night are indelibly burned into my brain, never to be forgotten.  And believe me, I’ve tried to forget.

I was in my mid-twenties and tired of being single.  I blamed it on being overweight and less than attractive, but I can be honest enough with myself now to say that it probably had more to do with my attitude.  Well, attitude and the fact that I never went to places where I might actually meet single men.

I don’t like bars; I can’t dance and I have some sensory issues in loud places.   I get tense and bitchy and defensive, and I start liberally applying alcohol to calm myself down.  The problem is that I usually calm myself down a little too much, which is why there are stories out there about my dancing on the tables at La Senorita while belting out Is She Really Going Out With Him? and other Joe Jackson classics.

For some reason, I always sing Joe Jackson when I’m drunk.  I’ve been known to do the full repertoire, from Play Us a Slow Song to Steppin’ Out, complete with my own very uncoordinated version of air-piano.  There’s no real cause for concern until I hit Memphis, because that means I’ve become an angry drunk and I’m about to start screaming “Where the HELL is Memphis!”

Sing it with me, Joe!
Sing it with me, Joe!

I’ve also been known to perform The Jazz Butcher’s The Devil is My Friend or D.R.I.N.K.  under certain influences, but let’s not follow that tangent in a blog that may someday be read by future employers.

At any rate, I had a hard time meeting men.  I joined a few singles groups, which turned out to be three or four balding and paunchy men surrounded by twenty desperate females, most of whom were younger, slimmer and prettier than I was.  If you can imagine the scene in Monty Python’s Holy Grail where the virgins surround Lancelot and clamor for a spanking, you’ve pretty much just attended a meeting of the Kalamazoo Area Singles Club.

So I decided to answer a personal ad.  Here’s the logic I applied to the situation:  I was single and not a complete loser; I just didn’t seem to meet any single men.  Therefore, it only seemed logical to assume that there were men out there in similar situations: single, not complete losers, just having a hard time meeting single women.

Sounded great in theory.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way.  The first guy seemed like he was okay.  We chatted on the phone and decided to meet at a local restaurant.  I wore my nicest dress, spent some extra time on hair and makeup, and arrived a few minutes early.

He was twenty minutes late.  Strike One.

He was wearing puke-green polyester stretch-knit slacks pulled up to his armpits.  Strike Two.

I really tried to give him a chance.  I tried not to judge this skinny, skinny man in the pukey polyester.  He had a maximum of seven hairs on his sweaty head, swirled and combed into an artistic masterpiece that fooled absolutely no one.  He had a nose big enough to provide shelter during a rainstorm – although anyone seeking shelter there would have been promptly soaked by the steady flow of snot.  He had either a nervous tic or a dirty contact lens; either way, he blinked constantly as he gave me the “FUB Look.”

Come on, Ladies.  You know the FUB Look.  A man looks at you, and his smile half-freezes.  Slowly, his eyes travel the length of your body, from head to toe and back up again, and the smile gradually turns to dismay or even outright horror.  And whether he says it aloud or not, you instantly know what he is thinking:  “Fat, Ugly Broad.”  F.U.B.

The Polyester Prince gave me the FUB Look twice.  Who can blame him?  In all of his 5’10” 138-lb glory, he probably had to look twice to take it all in, what with his bulging, lashless eyes being the biggest part of him.  Other than the Adam’s apple, of course.  That thing was so big that I wondered if it was self-aware.

“Awww,” he said.  “I thought you’d be slim.”

Strike Three.

“I was hoping you’d be evolved,” I told him.  “Looks like we’re both disappointed.”

I have no idea why the night didn’t end there.  No, we decided to share a dinner anyway.  And then I noticed his huge turquoise belt buckle.  That thing was at least six inches in diameter, surrounded by gleaming filigree and silverwork, and probably weighed as much as he did.  He looked like Ed Grimly wearing a WWE Championship belt.  No man with an ounce of self respect would be caught dead wearing that thing.

Just imagine the WWE belt on this guy
Just imagine the WWE belt on this guy

I just had to mess with him.  I couldn’t resist.  I told him I didn’t want the corner booth because our Chakras wouldn’t be properly aligned there, and I babbled about auras and crystals and all of that New Age crap that was so popular in the early 1990’s.  I had no clue what I was talking about, but did everything possible to seem utterly batty.  I think I may have even told him I was a Wiccan at one point, and offered to read the Tarot for him.

“What I don’t get,” he interrupted, “is why you never mentioned on the phone that you are fat.”

“What I don’t get,” I said, “is how that belt buckle hasn’t severed your spinal cord.”

He took his food to go.

I went home to write an angry letter to my friend Michelle, describing the entire disaster and swearing off blind dates forever.  No more fix-ups, no more blind dates.  Never again.

Of course, I made one exception a few years later.  This one took me bowling, tried to get the bowling ball stuck in the machinery at the end of the alley, and showed his butt-crack to the world every time he bent over.  But he made up for it with a great sense of humor and some sparkling blue eyes.

That date lasted eighteen years, but that’s another tangent I don’t care to pursue today.

Ready or Not

Not too long ago, my daughter told me that some of her friends were wondering if I am going to start dating now that I am getting a divorce.

Just so we’re all clear on this, I think we all know that none of her friends care whether or not I ever go on another date.  I assured her – and her “friends’ – that yes, I will probably date again someday, but that I’m not ready yet.  How, she wondered, will I know when I’m ready?

“I’ll just know,” I told her.

I’ve talked about it a few times since then.  Thought about it.  Joked about it, although I was only half-joking when I asked my friends if they thought there might be an online dating service for short, overweight, partially handicapped people in their forties.  Pretty specific, I know, but I’ve seen commercials for some other specific dating sites:  Christian Mingle, Farmers, etc.

I’ll know when I’m ready.

I’ve flirted a little bit.  Flirting is fun.  And harmless.  Well, mostly harmless.  I’ve had a lot of fantasies about Randolph Mantooth, Josh Hartnett and Eric Allan Kramer.  Quite the variety, I know; I’m keeping my options open.

I’ll know when I’m ready.

“You need a man who reads as much as you do,” said my daughter, the matchmaker.  “Who’s into science fiction and comic books and anime and Dr. Who and Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy.  “

Honey, I’ll never meet men like that.  They are all living in their parents’ basements.

However, I think I was propositioned recently.  I don’t know.  It might have been flirting, but it might have been a definite offer.  He’s an old and dear friend from long ago, and his, er, offer is definitely appealing.  I asked a friend what she thought he meant, and instead of answering she asked me a question.

“Is he, you know, worth shaving?”  My friends are pretty blunt.  They have to be; I don’t do well with subtlety.

“He’s worth more than shaving,” I sighed.  “He’s worth waxing.”

She advised me to go for it, and promptly hurried home to attack her husband.  I wasn’t sure if I should be worried for him, or if he owed me a big thank you for planting ideas in her head.

And then I had a panic attack.  A heart pounding, lungs squeezing, hands trembling panic attack.  And not just at the thought of potential nudity in my near future – although my nudity would have been a frightening thing, his nudity would surely be like a work of art. A thing of beauty.  And when  I go into panic mode at the thought of seeing nude and beautiful . . . things, I need to face the truth.

I am not ready.

Some women are able to have a quick, meaningless fling to celebrate being single.  I wish I could; I rather like the idea of a few commitment-free encounters to help ease me back into the dating world, but that’s just not who I am.  I was an old-fashioned girl before I got married, and I’m an old-fashioned woman now that I’m divorced.  Like the song says, I’m “sadder but wiser.”  And still old-fashioned.

So I played dumb and pretended not to question any kind of possible subtext under my friend’s message.  If he meant nothing, we are good.  If he was just teasing, we are still good.  If he actually meant anything more than that, I hope he understood that my stupidity was masking my terror.

I want to fall in love again.  I want to feel beautiful and desirable and cherished.  I want to kiss someone until my lips feel bruised, and I want to drift off to sleep in someone’s arms again.  I want to hold hands in public and kiss goodbye before work in the morning, and I want to mean it when I say, “I love you.”  I want him to mean it when he says it back.

But I’m not ready.  I’m too afraid.

I’ll know when I’m ready.  I don’t know how I’ll know, but I’ll know.

No More Coffee Spoons

I spent most of yesterday packing.  No, I haven’t heard yet whether or not my offer on the little house has been accepted, but I might as well do something productive with my time.  And it feels good to be moving towards something rather than sitting around wallowing in self-pity.  I’ve cried enough tears for a lifetime, and I’m done with that part of the process.

For now, anyway.

I wrapped and packed most of my breakables.  Too many knickknacks and tschotskes.   Too much stuff.  Grandma’s Depression Glass.  Aunt Marian’s Norman Rockwell figurines.  Aunt Ida’s thimbles.  Aunt Verna’s tiny porcelain shoes.   Mom’s Monet prints.

None of this is mine.

I started looking around.  Really looking.

The rustic log-style bedroom set was chosen by my husband.  The cherry dining room furniture belonged to my aunts.  I made the curtains from fabric given to me by my mother-in-law to go with furniture that I didn’t pick out.

None of this is mine.

I went to a job interview yesterday in a blouse given to me by my sister.  When I got home, I used my mother-in-law’s meatloaf recipe to make dinner.  With venison from a deer shot by my husband.  That’s right, I cooked Bambi.  And I made him taste good.

I used to march in front of an animal research facility, waving a protest sign for animal rights.  Now I am married to a hunter and I cook wild animals.  Who the hell am I?

None of this is mine.

My daughter asked me if I plan on changing my name after the divorce.  I honestly hadn’t thought about it.  I can’t go back to my maiden name; Amy Hyde doesn’t exist anymore.  She was young and naïve and didn’t always have a lot of common sense when it came to putting foundations under the castles she built in the air.  She trusted people too easily and she believed in Happily Ever After.

One of my old friends just told me “I wanna see the Amy that I used to know.”  Well, she’s gone.  She grew up.

The person I have become doesn’t believe in Happily Ever After.  She rolls her eyes when she hears people spout nonsense like “The heart wants what the heart wants!”  She paints her walls in a sensible shade of eggshell and buys a common-sense brown Berber for the entire house.  She doesn’t even own a pair of heels because flats just make more sense.

None of this is mine.

I always hated it when I heard people talk about “finding themselves”.  It seemed so ridiculously self-indulgent.  While others around me babbled about taking time to find themselves, I laughed behind their backs and got on with living my life.   Get a job, get married, feed the kids.  Get up in the morning, go to bed at night, measure out life in coffee spoons.  Day by day.

None of this is mine.

I don’t know how to decorate my new house.  I have no idea what my style is.  I don’t know what I want or what I like.  Rustic? Classic?  Country?  No clue.

When –not if – I start dating again, I don’t know where to begin.  What do I find attractive in a man?  What’s my “type”?

Life has given me the cleanest of clean slates.  I have an opportunity to “find myself” in ways I never could as a married woman.  I have choices.  And I am choosing to see this as a chance for my new life, not a reason to give up.  I am choosing not to be angry anymore.

This is all mine.

Scotch Eggs and Skinny-Dipping

Some people eat to live, while others live to eat. What about you? How far would you travel for the best meal of your life?

I love food. All food. Any food. I eat when I’m hungry or sad or lonely. I eat when I’m happy or when there’s nothing better to do. I like the taste and the smell and that contented feeling that comes with having a full belly. I like to prepare food for others, and I enjoy sharing a good meal with people who appreciate it as much as I do.

Years ago, a writer friend got a job as the historian for a local restaurant that specialized in English and Indian cuisine. They served food with names like Toad in a Hole and Chicken Tandoori. Their mango chutney with papadum could make one’s eyes roll back in the head while one bite of Scotch Egg was enough to lose track of one’s own name. The food wasn’t just good. It was a gift from Heaven above.

My friend helped them find authentic antiques for their walls, and then he wrote up a booklet that explained each one while detailing a brief history of Victorian England.

Nobody cared. Nobody read his little booklets. They were there for the food.

My friend got to eat there for free. He also had a little bit of a crush on me. He was a few years older than I was, and a very nice, very smart, very funny person. I liked him well enough, but definitely did not return his amorous feelings.

But the food was really good.

I am almost ashamed to admit that I went out with him several times, just so we could eat there. I say “almost” because the food was that good. Totally worth it.

We started the evenings with our favorite drinks: Guiness Extra Stout for him, Strongbow Hard Cider for me. We munched on papadum and chutney while waiting for the appetizer – usually a Scotch Egg, otherwise referred to as Heart Attack on a Plate. A hard-boiled egg wrapped in spiced lamb sausage, breaded, deep-fried and served on a bed of basmati rice and grilled onions with peppers.

We experimented with different entrees on each visit, but my favorite will always be the Whitefish Grenoble, dotted with tiny green capers and cooked to perfect melt-in-your-mouth flakiness. Our favorite dessert was the steamed gingerbread pudding, firm and sweet but with a hint of spice and covered with a thick, creamy caramel sauce. We always finished the evening sipping fine Port as tiny pieces of rich, dark chocolate melted on our tongues.

I once took my sister there for dinner, and her eyes immediately filled with tears at the first bite of Whitefish Grenoble. “I don’t ever want this meal to end,” she sighed.

Back to my writer friend and the best meal of my life. I know that the prompt asked how far I would travel, not how far I would go, but I’m going to take certain liberties with the theme.

He never tried to kiss me, never tried to hold my hand. He was always a perfect gentleman. To be honest, it was flattering to have a male gaze at me in adoration like that. I have never been pretty enough to inspire that type of devotion in men, and it was almost as rewarding as the food. I was young and somewhat naïve; the attention was something I had never dealt with before.

The last time we ate at Arie’s London Grille, I drank far too much Strongbow. I sipped a second glass of Port and then a third.
Between the Strongbow and the Port, my friend’s suggestion of skinny dipping in Lake Michigan suddenly seemed like a good idea. It was a bright, moonlit night, and he promised not to look.

It wasn’t until I was neck deep in the water that the harsh, cold reality of my situation slapped me in the face. It was midnight. I was alone on a deserted beach with a man who was easily twice my size. I was drunk and unsteady on my feet. No one in my life knew where I was or who I was with. I was bare-ass naked and quite possibly in very grave danger.

All for the sake of a really good meal.

I was luckier than I deserved to be. I marched out of the water and told him to take me home, suddenly more sober than I have ever been, before or since. We put clothes on in complete silence, not waiting to dry off. He drove me home without another word and I never heard from him again. I can only assume that having your date react to nudity with stark terror is enough to put an end to any crush.

How far am I willing to go for the best meal of my life? Far enough to take advantage of a friend’s feelings toward me, far enough to place myself in a bad situation, far enough to become really, really stupid.

I like to think I learned from that night. I hope I would never treat another person the way I treated poor old Bartholomeo in exchange for a few good meals.

But I can’t be held responsible for my actions if my husband ever takes me out for a Scotch Egg and Whitefish Grenoble. And if he throws in a gingerbread pudding, I just might agree to anything.