Monday, June 6, 2011
Kids in a Candy Store
I exit the subway at Rockefeller Center with enough adrenaline running through me that you'd think it was a tie score, bottom of the 9th, bases loaded, seventh game of the World Series. Which, in my world, it is. I haven't been on a "cup" in five months. I haven't met anyone new in almost half a year after dating 92 losers. A year in the life of 100 Cups of Coffee has been exhausting. Physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. I've had to learn the childhood memories / go-to drinks / food allergies / favorite radio stations of 92 men, not to mention their jobs / where they live / pets' names. After all that, you can understand why a girl needed a break. I'm not complaining, mind you. For the most part, it was fun. I got to go a lot of places I'd never been before, have new experiences, and meet some very interesting people (I'm using the term "interesting" ironically here!) Yet *this* first date is special. This date is with Kit. This date is making me very nervous. Because for once, I really, really like him.
I pull my phone out of my bag and call Kit. We're meeting on 5th Ave outside of St Patrick's but I know that he was at least an hour early and I am perpetually five minutes late to everything. I sometimes wonder what my life would be like if I was ever on time but the simple fact is that punctuality is not in my nature. It's a quirk. Get over it.
He answers with a shaky "hello?" and I smile into the phone. "Hey," I say, "I'm out of the subway. Where are you?" "I am standing by the tulips, anxiously waiting for you to arrive." I smile again. He pauses a moment before asking, "Are you nervous?" I am. Of course I am. But do I tell him that? Do I want him to know how much I want him to be normal? How the whole train ride in I've been nauseas over the thought of meeting him? How I'm secretly praying that he doesn't look like the Elephant Man because I can't seem to wrap my head around the concept that he just might really be as good as I think he is? No, I don't tell him any of this. I just giggle and say "Yes. Yes, I'm definitely nervous. Excited mixed with scared and a dash of hungry." He laughs and says, "Ok, good, now we can be nervous together and that way it'll be easy to relax. Besides, you have nothing to be nervous about. You look really pretty."
I stop dead in my tracks. "Wait, can you see me?" I gasp. He shyly admits that he can. I frantically scan the sidewalk for anyone on a cell phone but this is midtown Manhattan on a Sunday afternoon. I feel wave after wave of tourists wash past me, each one looking at the skyscrapers or the cathedral or window shopping. I try to focus past anyone with a camera or already holding hands with a partner or carrying a small child. Kit is laughing to himself on the other end of the phone and I retort with "What happened? Did you see me and change your mind? Did you realize I'm not as cute in person and you ran? Cause I did NOT come all this way to get stood up!" "No, no, no, no," he reassures me. "Actually, your hair looks great short and you're so elegant, I was worried I wouldn't be good enough for you."
With this, my gaze falls on an incredibly cute boy who has popped out from behind a vending truck. He waves with the phone and smiles at me. It's Kit. I know it is. But I can't talk. I can't do anything but stare. He. Is. Gorgeous.
I clumsily hang up my phone and slide it back into my purse. He stuffs his cell into his coat pocket and grins goofily at me while extending his arms. Before I know what's happening, we're hugging and not one of those crappy, one-armed, pat on the back hugs. A real embrace. I linger there, memorizing the moment - the feel of his wool coat against my cheek, the faint smell of Old Spice on his collar, the way his arms fit perfectly around my waist, the sounds of the cars and people around us. Time stops right then and there and New York City fades away. Kit and I are all that exist. I am instantly lost in him.
I pull back for a second and stare at his face, still in disbelief that I'm here with him and that he's real. He's SO much cuter in person than his pictures online and I wonder how the universe came to send me this man? He appears to be from a different planet than all the other boys I've dated. He seems normal.
Just then, I beam up at him and say with total distrust: "Were you seriously hiding behind a falafel cart?!?!" We both burst out in laughter at the kabob truck he'd used to conceal himself from me and head out across the street. He takes my hand in his and it feels like the most natural thing in the world, like this isn't our first date, like we didn't just meet three minutes ago. All my nerves are instantly calmed and I find myself relaxing into the safety of his palm against mine, our fingers meshing, our skin touching. There is a tingly, excited heat between us I never want to let go of. Not ever.
Our plan was to head over to Saks Fifth Avenue cafe for afternoon tea. The window seats overlook the rooftop gardens at Rock Center and they are truly beautiful. I love knowing these hidden secrets around my city, all those tiny treasures you can't see from the street. Yet Kit says he isn't hungry just yet so I have a few ideas on the back burner. Yes, most of them are ridiculous but he's such a good sport and tells me to lead him anywhere. So I do. I lead him into the American Girl store.
I know what you're thinking. He didn't turn and run away screaming at that exact moment? Nope. He did not. I told him that I had a surprise for him and he just smiled and said "Lead the way." We took the three escalators up (the place is huge) to the historic doll level and I pointed out the reason we'd come in. There is an American Girl doll named Kit. She's a newspaper journalist (at the ripe old age of 9) living during the Great Depression, writing about her family's hardships. He loved it! Was so proud and impressed that he shared a name with this inspirational little girl (even if she is fictional) and really touched that I thought to bring him in here and show it to him.
Then it was his turn to shock me. "These dolls are great. They really give girls an appreciation for history and sports and getting involved in stuff. If I have girls, this is exactly the sort of thing I want them to learn."
I'm sorry. Girls?
"Yeah. it's something I've thought about a lot actually. I want my girls to play with dolls and do dress up and other frilly stuff. But I also want to teach them how to play soccer and tennis and enjoy the outdoors and not be afraid of getting a little muddy. I want them to love music and know how to cook and take them camping and be Scouts."
Um, wow. And how many kids do you want?
FIVE?!?! ME TOO!!!
I mean, with the costs of raising kids these days and college educations and stuff, I think I could probably settle on three. And I definitely want a boy. But yeah, I think I mostly want girls.
Well, since you have this all planned out, are there any names you were thinking?
Hmmm. Sara. I always liked Sara. Also Catherine and Elizabeth. Actually, Catherine Elizabeth. That's my favorite name.
Ho. Ly. Shit. That's MY favorite name for a girl. Ever. I also like Emily. But no joke, all of my baby dolls when I was little were named Catherine, Sara, or Elizabeth. All of them. Except for Kirsten, Felicity, and Samantha obviously. But the American girls already come named so that was not my fault. PS: Sorry, I was never a fan of Molly.
At this moment, we simultaneously realize that we are picking out names for our future children together within an hour of meeting and perhaps we should go somewhere else. Anywhere else. The following list includes highlights from the remainder of our first date:
Teagschwendner - break it down and it's just a German Tea Vender. We sample several teas and I buy an Earl Grey Lavender and a Cream Nut Brittle. Kit falls madly in love with a Gummy Bear tea, in total disbelief that someone combined his favorite candy with his favorite beverage. We are both in tea heaven!
Lego Store - yes, we are giant children and both love toys. Especially toys from our childhoods. Never let it be said that 80's babies are not a nostalgic bunch! He searches in vain for Batman Legos (which I don't think exist) and grieves upon the realization that they've been replaced with Star Wars Legos and the Knights & Castles collection. We pore over the intricate detail work of the Lego Rock Center display, right down to the mermaid statue, skaters on the rink, tourists with tiny Lego cameras around their necks, and even a construction crew with Lego jackhammers.
Rock Center - we take turns pointing out our favorite spots in the bustling tourist trap, admiring the ice skaters, and sharing memories. Kit snaps a photo of the famous Prometheus statue and makes it the background on his phone. Our first date immortalized in modern technology!
Maison du Chocolat - one of the two best chocolate shops in the city (the other is Jacques Torres) and the smell almost knocks us over when we walk in. It's pure, sweet heaven. I treat myself to a small box of French macarons, This day just keeps getting better and better.
Some random streets - I recall this gorgeous indoor waterfall I really want Kit to see and we wander through street after street looking for it. I cannot quite remember where exactly it is but he gives me the grand tour of fancy places his dad worked when he was a kid and even shows me where his mom used to take them out for Chinese food (apparently Panda Pavilion was *the* place for sesame chicken!) We find some street art on display at an abandoned storefront where a couple of artists are asking everyone's opinion on graffiti as a form of self expression in the city. First of all, you don't want to ask me honest opinion on anything, because I will give it to you! Second of all, Kit and I discuss for a moment and realize that we are both opposed to street art when it ruins perfectly respectable buildings. This team is trying to get NYC to re-appropriate unused lands and buildings as space for art, in an attempt to get residents more involved in their local communities and feel pride about the places they live. Hey - to each their own. The artists give us buttons and postcards to remember the installation and while I'm pretty sure I'll be spending more time admiring French impressionists at the Met than graffiti on a warehouse, I admire their initiative and it did give us something to talk about!
Disney Store - If you haven't figured it out already, Kit and I are acting like overgrown children and having way too much fun doing it! He shows me through the "boys side" of the store, and I show him around the "girls side" of the store. Here's the thing: the very obviously boy's section is filled with Cars, Toy Story, and comic book characters (which I didn't even know Disney owned, but apparently they do.) Throughout this dating process, I have not been able to escape dating men who freakin love comic books and Kit is no exception. Only problem is that I don't get it. I don't understand the obsession with comics. Aren't they for kids? He takes my hand, looks me right in the eyes, and starts to explain. "Alright, you're a nerd, yes?" I nod yes. There's no point in denying it. "And you love history, right? Well, what kind of stories did the Greeks and Romans tell? They told stories of heroes and villains. Gods and mortals. Beings with extreme intelligence and supernatural powers. That's exactly what comic books are. They're tales of good versus evil. When we look back 2,000 years, we find Greek and Roman mythology and that's how their culture lives on. When future generations look at us, they'll be able to see what our values were by the stories we told and so much of our history can be seen through comics." Ummm, wow. Nobody has ever been able to relate it to me like that. It almost makes sense now. Plus, Kit's mom gave him his first comic book when he was six years old (The Green Lantern) because that was her favorite story as a child. It's something they share, a way for him to connect with her even though she's gone. I suddenly have a very soft spot in my heart for this man, his mother, and his love of comics. Then I make him spend time wandering the pink princess section just to shake off all the testosterone I just absorbed! Yay, Cinderella :-)
Toys R Us - right up the street from Disney and hey, as long as we're on a throwback kick, we might as well enjoy every moment of it! Besides, Kit is convinced that they will have the Batman Legos. It makes me sad when he is sorely disappointed, yet again. We have a great deal of laughter in the games section - you would not believe the explicit nature of board game names these days! Maybe it was just our dirty minds (also the name of a game) but there was some suggestive language happening there. It was nice to let our guards down a little and just be playful and tease each other. I think we'd both been on our best behavior, still wanting to impress the other, that when the opportunity arose to be slightly immature, we both jumped on it. There were a few times in the games section that the aisles got particularly narrow and Kit and I were very, very close to each other. I thought he was going to kiss me. I wanted him to kiss me. I cannot tell you how very badly I wanted him to kiss me. He didn't kiss me. Sigh...
7th Avenue - Do you like comedy? Do you like to laugh? Hey, you wanna come see a comedy show tonight? If you've ever walked through Times Square, you have been assaulted by "barkers" on every corner, trying to rope you into seeing a show of some sort, usually stand up comedy, usually pretty awful. Kit and I barreled our way through the barkers, ignoring them whenever possible, coming up with witty and sarcastic retorts whenever they got in our faces. He would way something like "No, I prefer tragedy" whereas I would just start speaking French or Italian, pretending not to understand what they were saying. He held my hand tighter through this crowd, not wanting me to get lost in the shuffle when we were approached by a totally different kind of man who said "Hi gorgeous married people. What's up? My name's Jesse." Stopped. In. Our. Tracks... Married?!?! He continued, "Aw, man, you really got yourself a beautiful wife here. You are one lucky guy. Just look at you. I can tell by the way you look at her that this is your true love. You know how a man just knows when he's gonna spend the rest of his life with a woman? And why wouldn't you want to grow old with her? She's so pretty. Tall, blonde, looks at you with those big, blue eyes and I bet she just melts your heart, doesn't she? How long have you two been in love?" Kit squeezes my hand and says, "Jesse, it feels like a lifetime." Moral of the story: Jesse was a homeless man who'd recently gotten out of jail and rehab, trying to set up a new life for himself, working for a non-profit that offers shelter to people in need who truly clean up their acts. He was simply asking for small donations to keep a roof over his head, clothes on his back and food in his stomach. Of course we wanted to help him out. To be perfectly honest, Jesse could've been selling time shares to the moon and we would've bought one. He will most likely never know that he's part of our story, but Kit and I got married by a homeless man on our first date and if that doesn't lead to a happily ever after, I don't know what will!!!
Stecchino - a gorgeous little wine and cheese bar on 9th & 50th. I took my single girlfriends here for Valentine's Day and we had a blast. Given Kit's propensity for "fancy cheese" as stated in his online profile, I knew this would be the perfect location. I got a glass of prosecco, we split the cheese, nut and fruit platter and ordered a plate of bruschetta. It was all delicious but the best part was the man sitting across from me. We'd been walking for hours already, holding hands throughout the entire city, talking and laughing and now finally, we were sitting down, staring at each other, neither one really believing how lucky we already knew we were. A group of boisterous theater-goers sat down at the table next to us and one lady (who had clearly had some pre-cocktails) said "Oh my gosh, you two are so cute. How long have you been together?" which I couldn't bring myself to answer with a straight face. Kit looked right at her and dead serious replied, "We're newlyweds." That was it. I lost it. I started laughing so hard that I literally honked. That's right. Sounded like a Canadian goose during mating season. Honked. This, of course, make Kit laugh so hard I was grateful water didn't come out his nose. The table of happy patrons thought it was "just adorable how in love [we] were" and laughed right along with us, clearly not understanding the joke. We are on a FIRST date here people. Yet the universe seems to want us to get married. Alright, universe, I can take a hint. Or, in this case, a smack upside the head.
Bryant Park - Leaving dinner hand in hand, stepping out into the world together feels somehow different after our meal. I've only been by his side for a few hours (after hundreds of emails, texts and forever on the phone) but Kit has already wiggled himself into a place in my heart that I didn't even know was open. We head across town to Bryant Park, one of our shared favorite spots in the city and I point out the beautiful apartment my family had there for a few years. It was perfect. The view from the 8th floor overlooked the whole park - the carousel, the gardens, the patio cafe, and the back of the New York Public Library. I loved spending time there and wish more than anything that we still had it now. It's the greatest spot in the city (my humble opinion.) Kit stares at me like I have six heads for a minute before saying "That is the EXACT building I want to live in. I walk by here all the time, promising myself that when I win the lottery or have an amazing job, that is precisely the address I want. And you were there the whole time?" I nod and share with him how happy it made me to be married to a man who worked fashion week because at 5 am, he could just roll out of bed and walk straight downstairs into the tents. I cooked for him and cleaned up after him and would always be ready to massage his shoulders after a long day. Kit took my face in his hands and softly said, "Any guy who gives you up is an idiot. Not just for all the stuff you did but just because you're you. You're amazing. His loss." I closed my eyes for a moment as I felt the tears welling up in them just as Kit leaned his face into mine and kissed me, right in the middle of the park. He still had one hand on my cheek, the other arm wrapped around my waist, pulling me in as close to him as I could get. His lips were soft and sweet and once again, the world just disappeared. New York City ceased to exist and it was just us, lost in this amazing moment together. I felt small and safe and protected by Kit, hopeful about a future together, trusting that there was something truly special about us, and that maybe, just maybe, being with him would help me heal all those hurts from the past. Love lost is painful. Love gained is priceless.