If someone asked me to describe New York City around the holidays, at least for persons over the age of 21, it could be summed up in one word: alcohol.
Sure, there are tourists, and trees, and trimmings, but if you're in New York and you're from New York, chances are you spend the entire month of December running from one crazy party to the other. Upper West Side, Lower East Side, Chelsea, Tribeca, SoHo, so what? There are so many parties to choose from, each more fabulous than the next. And fabulous parties + glamorous dress + open bar = the confidence to talk to the cutest guy in the room.
What else is a single thirtysomething girl supposed to do on a freezing Friday night? It's too cold to go out, too depressing to stay in. The answer? Bulk up on liquid courage in the form of expensive champagne (on someone else's tab, I might add!) and saunter her swinging hips up to the most metro hipster in the room. The guy who makes button down shirts and dark washed skinny jeans look good. The guy who has seemingly effortlessly perfect hair. The guy who started his own business and is already on the top of everyone's "must watch" lists. The guy who makes quiet conversation with a small group of guests, until they all erupt into laughter and you're desperate to know what the joke was. The guy your friends warn you about the minute you walk in.
"Kim, I just want you to know that there's a guy here. He's hot, he's straight, he's single, and he's trouble!"
Trouble??? How much trouble could one guy be?
Of course, this does not dissuade me. If anything, it fuels my morbid curiosity. It entices me to seek him out. A hot, single, straight man is at this party and you're telling me to stay away from him? Challenge accepted. Game on!
I await the opportune moment and casually slide in next to him at the seafood buffet. I smile at him with a little head tilt, a little batting of the eyelashes, a little flip of my blonde locks. I have spent years perfecting the "sweet but seductive" slow, sly, slide of a smile. It's my signature move and it works every time.
"Hi, I'm Grayson. I don't think we've met."
(Like I said, works every time!)
"Hi, I'm Kimberly. No, I don't think we have. I'd remember you." (Smile, smile, bat, bat.)
We exchange a few downtown opening lines. How do you know the hostess? What are your favorite bars down here? What industry are you in? As I reach for a few shrimp to delicately place on my plate (to be eaten later --- there is no sexy way to eat anything covered in cocktail sauce in front of a gorgeous man!) he says, "What? No oysters?"
I felt my skin squirming all around me. The cool, calm, confident Kimberly slipped away, and about-to-be-embarrassed junior high school Kimmy took her place. I wanted to crawl off and hide but I tried to remain in control. "Nah, never really cared for them. Pretty sure they're not delicious."
Grayson smiled my same slow, sly, slide of a smile back at me, batted his gorgeous baby blue eyes, complete with lashes any woman spends all her time and money trying to emulate, and whispered so that only I could hear him...so that I felt like the sexiest, most beautiful woman in the room...so that the two of us were sharing a secret so intimate, no one else in the world could know what he was about to say. "That's a shame. They're supposed to be an aphrodisiac and make everything more amazing in bed."
And then, I swear, he winked.
Everything inside me melted. Everything inside me flip flopped over. Everything inside me was screaming "Nooooooo! Don't do it!" but I couldn't resist. Those eyes. That hair. The secret whisper. He was so close to me, I couldn't escape. It was like he saw right through me and wouldn't let go. I gave in.
I smile-smiled and bat-batted back at him and whispered soft and low, "Would you show me how?" Ladies, lesson one: Invite a man to teach you how to do something, anything, from holding a baseball bat to driving a stick shift to eating oysters, and you'll have him eating out of your hand. Grayson grabbed a little plate, piled three oysters on it, squeezed a bit of lemon juice on each one, and spooned a tiny dollop of cocktail sauce on each one.
"I'm giving you three," he said, "in case you like the first one so much that you keep going back for more. Personally, I can never get enough."
Swoon, swoon, double swoon!
The paralyzing fear of putting these sea creatures anywhere near my face was slightly overshadowed by the mesmerizing tranquility of his eyes. "How do I eat them?" I asked, my nervousness growing by the minute. "Just close your eyes, lift it to your lips, tilt your head back, and enjoy. Relax - it'll be a delicious moment for you." Wink again!
I was pretty sure we were no longer talking about oysters. I picked up the smallest shell on my plate, closed my eyes like he said, tilted my head back, and opened my mouth. I felt him waiting on my reaction. I felt his breath hanging in the air, hoping that he would be there for my virgin moment. I felt everyone around us staring at the girl Grayson had cornered by the buffet table, seducing her with seafood.
I felt like I was going to throw up.
The oyster did not go down easily. The oyster fought back. The oyster was sticky and slimy all at once. The oyster was not delicious. The oyster got stuck in my throat. The oyster would not be chewed. The oyster did not want me to eat it. The oyster did not want to get me into bed. The oyster was determined to ruin my chances with Grayson. The oyster ruined my life.
My eyes popped open. I was stricken with grief, humiliation, and terror all at once. A waiter appeared out of nowhere, held a napkin out in front of me, and I spit the oyster out once and for all. Grayson waited a moment before rolling his head back in loud, uproarious laughter - the same kind of laughter that was used to entertain his holiday party entourage earlier was now at my expense. He smirked a mean little Grinch smirk at me and said "Well, I guess that answers that question."
"Question? What question?" I blurted out, wanting to wipe my tongue clean with the napkin.
"Spit or swallow" he laughed, winked, and walked away.
There is simply not enough expensive champagne to wash down the taste of an oyster, or help you swallow your own pride.
Lesson learned ladies: When your girlfriends warn you about a man you haven't even met yet, chances are - they're right. Don't go looking for trouble, or trouble is exactly what you'll find.