I turn around in front of my floor length mirror. This dress fit a few months ago. It must have shrunk when I washed it. Either that or the half gallon of ice cream I had the other night is creeping onto my backside.
I crane my neck around to get a good look. There’s a hint of Kim Kardashian back there. I realize men appreciate her assets, so to speak, but it’s a little much for a first date.
I shrug at my reflection and decide I don’t really care if the dress is too tight. Another evening I’ll probably be wasting with some loser from the internet.
This time it’s Peter, the commercial real estate broker Aubrey found the first night. She’s convinced that because we’re both diehard Florida Gator fans, we’ll instantly click. I’m skeptical, at best.
Best case scenario, he’s tolerable and I can drag him to Aubrey’s upcoming engagement party. I’m pretty sure I’m the only single friend she has, and I can’t stomach the idea of a night in coupledom alone while they all try to fix me up with their second cousin who lives in his mother’s basement (but only because he quit his job as a stockbroker to pursue his dream of becoming a rock star).
Peter is meeting me at The St. Regis Bar in Buckhead. Normally, I would be sketched out by having our first date at a hotel bar, but this one is a seen-and-be-seen kind of place. A little glitzy for my taste, but it was his suggestion since he lives nearby. Besides, it’s a bar; how bad could it be?
As I exit my car at the valet stand, I notice Peter waiting by the massive gold front doors. He smiles when he sees me, and I give a little wave as I approach him.
“You must be Reed,” he says, extending a hand.
“I guess that would make you Peter,” I say as we shake. I’m pleased to see he’s even better looking in person than in his photograph. He has a full head of rich brown hair and perfectly straight white teeth. He’s dressed in grey slacks and a button-down pale blue dress shirt. Our complimentary shades of blue either make us an attractive pair or we look like we’re getting ready for one of those family photos where everyone is dressed alike. I hate those.
With a grand gesture towards the door, he indicates I should enter the hotel first. I mentally write “gentleman” on my pro/con list.
A doorman swings open the door, and I try not appear overwhelmed by the oppulance that is revealed inside. There are marble columns and a sweeping staircase to one side, an array of leather chairs and couches to the other. Crystal chandaliers hang down every few feet, and the place virtually smells of money.
Peter leads me across the lobby, his hand on the small of my back to guide me. It seems a little early for that, but perhaps a little chivalrous. With the men I’ve been meeting, I’m a little fuzzy on what a proper gentleman does. Miss Delilah would know.
We begin to ascend the staircase to the bar. When we round the corner, I realize this isn’t the kind of bar I’m used to frequenting.
The walls are mahogany and the lighting dim, reminding me of the men-only cigar bars you see in old black and white movies. There are leather chairs and couches (which I suppose are really called settees in a place like this) arranged around the room in small seating groups. Scattered with them are end tables with lamps, lending to the old-boys-club atmosphere.
“Let’s sit over here,” Peter says, pointing towards two wingback chairs with a small table between them.
I nod, still taking it all in. Looking around, I expect a server to appear with cigars and a decanter full of port. As a matter of fact, I’m kind of hoping one does.
Instead, a woman wearing a uniform that resembles a 1950s flight attendant appears before us. I hope she doesn’t notice as I gawk. Who takes a job where they have to wear such a ridiculous costume?
“We’ll have a bottle of the Sarget de Gruaud Larose,” Peter says, placing the menu back on the table between us.
He doesn’t seem to notice the look on my face. The one that says I don’t appreciate when men order for me. What in the hell had he ordered anyway? It was literally in a different language.
“I hope you like red,” he says, leaning back in his chair. “It’s a really nice full-bodied Bordeaux blend.”
Aubrey’s voice is in my head, telling me to try something new. He’s not my type, but she would simply offer that I’ve been dating the wrong men. Fine, I’ll try it her way.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” I say.
Peter is glancing around the room, offering a small wave to an older man at the bar and then to another flight attendant with a serving tray.
The con list is growing. Right behind “orders for me” is now “hangs out at stuffy bar on a regular basis.”
Not only does this bar make me feel as though we’re trying to play grown up, it says we’re trying to pretend we’re rich and sophisticated adults. The kind that go to symphonies and operas.
So much for us having anything in common. I couldn’t picture this man who is clearly at home surrounded by mahogany and marble getting decked out in orange and blue and singing out “We are the boys of old Florida” at the top of his lungs during a Gator football game.
“So, you’ve never been before, right? I come several nights a week. They’ve got a good wine selection, and there are a good group of regulars.”
“I’ve heard about it, but I haven’t been. It’s quite impressive.” I wanted to pat myself on the back for answering in such a politically correct manner.
The server delivers the bottle of wine, which Peter takes great care to swirl in his glass before sniffing thoughtfully and taking a small swallow.
I love wine, but I’ve never understood the ritual people go through at nice restaurants and bars when the wine arrives and they’re asked to give their okay before the server pours it around. I simply don’t discriminate, I love all wines.
“This’ll do,” Peter says, nodding at the server.
It’ll do? Didn’t he just tell me how fabulous it was when he ordered it? I add “snob” and “wannabe wine connesiour” to the con list.
I decide against doing a pretend swirl-and-sniff on my own glass of wine, and instead jump right into tasting it. That’s the real test anyhow, right?
“How do you like it?” he asks, as if my opinion on the subject suddenly matters.
“It’s very nice.” Miss Delilah would say that a proper lady is always complimentary of a man’s choice. She’d be proud.
In reality, it’s a little heavier than I prefer, but it’ll do. I’ve decided to give him at least one glass of wine to turn the evening around before I bolt out the door.
“You’re a baseball fan, right?” he asks.
Okay, so he’s asking questions about me. Mental checkmark for caring about more than himself. Double checks if he asked because he likes baseball. “Yeah, I’ve always loved it.”
“A friend of mine had his rehearsal dinner at Cooperstown. We had the whole place to ourselves,” he said.
He had me at “Cooperstown.” I’ve always wanted to visit baseball’s Hall of Fame.
“That’s amazing. I’m hoping to make the trip up there in the next year or two,” I say to him.
“It was pretty impressive. Maybe I’ll take you there one day,” he said, winking over the top of his glass before taking a long sip.
I give a light laugh, “I’ll hold you to that.” Maybe he has some redeeming qualities after all. I just need to introduce him to a good old fashioned dive bar.
“A trip like that is expensive,” he says. “I hope your parents taught you that nothing worth having is free.” Another wink, which now reeks of sleaze, follows.
Is that bile I taste? I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. Is he insinuating that sexual favors are his favored currency or just flaunting that he has money? I’m not even sure which is worse.
I take a long sip of my wine, nearly draining the glass, while I formulate a response. I can feel the heat rising to my face, fueled by irritation and expensive Bordeaux.
Before I can speak again, he says, “I’m very generous with a lady who’s worth it. Fine dining, flying first class, staying in five star hotels…nothing is too good for my woman.”
I’m sure the sentiment behind it is well-meaning, but my first reaction is to inform him that I make six figures and don’t need a man to treat me to anything. Miss Delilah’s voice in my head forces me to bite my tongue.
Instead, I say, “You’re such a gentleman. I’m sure women just line up for a guy like you.” Except me.
He’s pouring us each another glass, which I plan to gulp down as quickly as possible before making my exit.
“It’s tough to find a woman who appreciates the finer things in life, but isn’t just after my money,” he says, placing the nearly empty bottle back on the table between us.
Really? You do such a nice job of hiding whatever wealth it is you seem to have. “That’s terrible. My parents always told me to be sure I could provide for myself, so I wouldn’t have to depend on a man.”
“You just need to find a nice man who’ll take care of you. No sense in someone as pretty as yourself having to work.”
“I actually enjoy my job. I can’t imagine not working.” It came out a little curt, but I don’t care anymore. Only two more big gulps and the wine will be gone. Followed shortly thereafter by me.
He swirls his wine, deep in thought. “It just seems silly. Women go off to work and leave the kids with a nanny, when really they’re only making enough money to pay for the help. Why not just stay home with the children?”
A big swallow cuts my remaining wine in half. “Well, actually, I make a little more than that.”
“I just realized I don’t even know what you do. How rude of me.” The pained look on his face reveals he is embarassed by his gaff, but I doubt he genuinely cares about my chosen profession.
“I’m an attorney,” I say, satisfied when I see the disappointment cross his face in the shadows of the table lamp.
“Oh,” he says, a visible frown on his face.
“Not what you expected, huh?” I give a little satisfied smile and realize it’s the first one I’ve produced all evening.
“Is your father a lawyer,” he asks, seemingly grasping for some explanation.
“Nope, no one in my family is an attorney. Just something I always wanted to do.”
“What firm are you with? Several of the guys I went to prep school with are at firms here in town.”
“Pope, Moore, Smith and Garrett,” I reply. One last big sip and the Bordeaux is gone, leaving me with nothing else to do but escape.
He’s frowning again. “Hmm, I haven’t heard of that one. My roommate from college is at Queen & Spears,” he says, naming the biggest firm in town. “He’s making bank right now, but your firm probably doesn’t pay that well, right? I mean, I’ve never heard of it.”
Clearly he knows nothing about the legal industry. All the big firms are competing for the same talent, so they all pay in roughly the same range. Generally, when one bumps first-year pay, they all rise to match. My firm is no different. Although it’s smaller than Queen & Spears, it’s still fairly large. I only make a few thousand less than his friend.
Miss Delilah is on my shoulder, a stern look on her face. It’s bad enough you’re an attorney. Do not discuss your income. I can almost hear her hissing through her teeth, the way she does when I’ve broken some cardinal rule of etiquette. I’ve heard it a lot in the past twenty years.
“It pays well enough,” I say, giving a tight smile. I glance around the room, noting the exits. At the next seating group over, there’s a young, busty blonde plopping herself in the lap of a gray-haired gentleman in a suit. The whole scene here continues to remind me of some bad black and white movie.
Peter only nods and then sip his wine. He’s doing a search of the room as well.
I decide to put him out of his newfound misery and bow out. “Peter, it’s been lovely, but I think I should be going.”
An insincere look of disappointment on his face, he says, “So soon? Well, it’s been a pleasure.” He reaches out to shake my hand, his eyes lingering across the room on a blonde at the bar in a tight black dress who’s giggling loudly at something the bartender has said.
I nearly sprint from the table after a quick goodbye, picturing puffs of smoke behind me like the roadrunner in Looney Tunes. I don’t look back to see, but I’m sure he made his way to the blonde at the bar just as quickly.
As I wait for the valet to bring my car, I vow to cancel that stupid subscription as soon as I get home. I’ll cover the mailbox with one hand so the little flag can’t tempt me. I’m not getting lured into opening another one of those emails. Nope, no more online dating for me!