Last weekend, I wrote about how awesome it was to date my mom. Then, two days later, I took my brother as my guest a film screening. Everyone said that taking your brother out was worse than taking your mom, because if you took your brother out it seemed like you were trying to pass him off as a real date, and that was a sign you’d hit rock bottom.
So I turned my attention back to wooing parental units. And I got really lucky this week. See, now that my step-mom has finally turned 50, she’s moved on from romanticizing booty calls and decided it’s time for us to get some culture in our lives. I don’t get any calls-booty or otherwise-(see above, re: wooing parents) so when she invited me to see the Alvin Ailey show tonight I was delighted to prove that I was more high-brow than I appeared when giving her a Lululemon thong for her birthday.
The show was beyond amazing-the dancers seemed to be formed from the air around them rather than figures moving through it. The costumes, the music, and the lighting were incredible, and it gave me new insight into the dynamic and symbiotic relationship between choreography and dancer. But enough about culture.
More about the after-party. Step-Mom was really craving miso soup, and decided we should go to Nobu 57. When we got there, there was going to be a wait, and I thought for sure since it was 10 thirty pm and she’s 50 years old, she’d want to split. But apparently she wanted to drink.
We went to the bar, ordered some vodka sodas and settled down to complain about all the idiots who go to Nobu on a Thursday night.
“Who would ever want to get all gussied up like that every night?” She wanted to know.
“I dunno, I guess some people like putting on make-up..They feel it’s art.” Having not washed my hair in three days, I couldn’t really empathize with those people, but I was sure they existed.
“Oh.” She paused. “Your dad did say he thought I should get dressed up like I did on my birthday every night. But I think he was kidding.”
“Who knows?” I warned. “But who cares? That’s the problem with men. They’re totally annoying.” She laughed politely and I laughed harder, which is probably why she’s married and I’m undatable. Then, just as an annoying man in a pinstripe suit started chatting us up (and by us, I mean her), we were called to our seats at the sushi bar.
We plunked down and she began to sympathize with the pinstriped man, who, truth be told, was quite disappointed when we left.
The solution to my problems suddenly occurred to me: “Maybe I need a sugar daddy! I mean, if someone paid for highlights, a manicure and a dress, you could definitely take me to an office Christmas party!”
“You want to go to an office Christmas party?”
“No. I mean, yes. But first I need a sugar daddy. How can I get one of those?” I wasn’t expecting her to know the answer, but her advice was to ride the shuttle plane between Washington DC and New york (the one she took every other weekend to visit my dad) because there are “lots of men who need someone to talk to.” She also suggested that maybe next time we came to Nobu, I should dress up a bit. (She has a real maternal knack for noticing when my hair is filthy.)
But then, just as I was about to launch into an explanation of how I had missed the boat on getting married in my 20s, a truly spectacular woman sat down next to me. As depicted in the picture above, she had thick white make-up, black and yellow lines below her eyes, paper and napkins in her hair, a huge veil and red marks drawn all over her face. She wore stillettos, pink fishnet stockings, a mini skirt and a tight sweater. A permanent gel beneath her eyes gave the impression of a face damp with tears. We stared in shock. I could actually smell her make-up, and it was not the fragrant kind.
“Only you would come to Nobu and have that woman sit next you,” Step-Mom marveled. But the serving staff seemed totally unfazed and even over-gracious. I grabbed the waiter.
“Does she come here a lot?”
“Yes, all the time.”
“Is she always dressed up like that?”
“Yes.” His passive, distracted demeanor made me think that he thought I was a tourist.
“Do you know why?”
“I don’t know. I think someone asked her once but now I can’t remember.” Now I couldn’t believe the waiter. Who would forget something like that?
“Can I talk to her?”
“Sure! She’s friendly.” Friendly? He definitely thought I was a tourist.
I shirked my shame and turned to my neighbor. “That’s a beautiful bracelet you’re wearing!”
“Oh, Thank you!” She was British. “I love it so much I only own one. I wear it every single day. I got it at Nezz….oh..that French name I can’t pronounce.”
“Nice? You mean Nice, France?”
“No. On 62nd and Madison?”
“Oh!” I was about ready to give up when she grabbed a pen and a napkin. On it, she wrote,
“Oh! Hermes!” What kind of person can afford to shop at Hermes but not to figure out how to say the name?
“Yes, I just can never pronounce it right. And then I worry so much about it that it gets worse.”
Then she turned to the man at Sushi bar, and explained that when she took her sashimi in her fingers, the rice got stuck and the thing fell apart. I saw the half-eaten creation on plate. As she said, the rice and fish were separated. But I was completely shocked when the man promptly served her a replacement.
I was sort of at a loss by this point, when two business man came over and sat on her other side. “Happy Halloween!” one of them blurted out. Step-Mom and I were so mortified we turned away.
But later, I couldn’t help but try to eavesdrop on the men and the costumed lady. She noticed and curled away, asking, “did you want to talk to them?”
She seemed so apologetic that I couldn’t help but answer, “No! I wanted to talk to you.” The business man looked surprised. I was surprised, too. “Umm…” I stammered, searching for a topic. “So..uh…how you choose that Christmas-themed napkin you wrapped in your hair?”
“Christmas?” She looked confused. I tried to gauge her age. Somewhere in between Miss Havisham and Marie Anoinette, I decided.
“I don’t have Christmas in my hair.”
“Yes you do!” I argued, without knowing why. She softened, touching her hand to her hand.
“They’re candy canes,” I offered.
“Oh, yes! I don’t know…I just like the colors.”
“Ah. Well, I don’t want to interrupt your conversation…”
The business man interjected, “my wife’s pissed that I’m out, but I’m looking out for my buddy who’s single. How ironic is that?”
“Totally ironic!” I assured him.
Having received positive affirmation, he continued. “This is kind of a ‘Knocked Up’ situation. Don’t you think? You know. All of us here at the bar.”
“I’ve never seen it,” said our new theatrical friend.
I chimed in, “My step-mom has, but only because she’s married to my dad.”
“I didn’t like the premise of the film,” Step-mom interjected.
“But he’s an amazing man,” Step-Mom added.
“It’s true, he is” I agreed. “But can you believe that he told me that I was immature?”
Our new friend’s face lit up. “My dad told me that I was immature, too!”
“Wow!” I enthused. “What’s your name?”
“Julie. His name is Bill,” she said of the man to her right. “What’s yours?”
“RB.” And we shook hands.
“So you’re from England?”
“Well, I was born in Australia, but I’m from England. In New York I stay in hotels. Have you ever been to England?”
I told her that I had been to London, and she told me she lived in Oxford.
“Oh! Did you study there?” Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the businessmen smirking.
“Yes! I do study there.”
“What do you study?” A smile was creeping on to my face, mirroring the confusion and amusement of the men in suits.
“No way!” I shrieked, totally forgetting myself. “I majored in philosophy!” I turned to Step-Mom and then the men, gesturing at Julie. “My soulmate!”
“Analytic philosophy.” She went on. “You?”
“Well…a lot of general stuff..kind of aesthetics…I like Schopenhauer.”
“I like Quine,” she volunteered.
“Yes! Meaning and naming.’
“No,” she counted, “Naming and Necessity. That’s Kripke. I love him.”
“He taught at my grad school, but he’s totally crazy…but great!” I couldn’t believe she knew about Kripke. A mere 10 minutes before I’d been trying to figure out how she had braided a holiday napkin into her hair.
“Yes! He’s totally crazy, I agree.” But who was she to talk? She went on, “we have so much in common!”
“You dropped your earring,” I warned her. As she leaned down to get it, I saw the two men looking baffled and entranced. I looked at the table in front of us and noticed that Julie had been ordering plates and plates of expensive Nobu food. When she rose back from the floor, I added, “It’s great to meet another Philosophy student!”
“I know it’s hard! People always think you’re so intellectual.” Surprisingly, I did not find it hard to believe that this woman would be perceived as intellectual, even though when she walked in I thought she was a circus clown.
“Nobody thinks I’m intellectual,” I complained. “People think I’m spaced out. Now I’m a yoga teacher so it’s even worse.”
“You’re a yoga teacher!” blurted out Bill. “I mean, is that serious?”
“Yes.” I turned back to Julie.
“We have even more in common!” She revealed. “I used to teach a dance aerobics class in Oxford. We both have great posture.” Although her posture was perhaps not the first thing I observed about her, I accepted her assertion. But I didn’t forget about the black lines and red dots drawn all over her face. She was oblivious to them, inquiring, “What else to do?”
“Wow!” I replied, as she rescinded her hand. There was a pause, and the space gave me courage. I couldn’t help myself. I looked her in the eye. “Ok. Let’s cut to the chase.” She squinted her ice blue, over-decorated eyes at me. I plowed forward. “What’s with the make-up?”
She seemed shaken up, but determined. “It just started with the..with the..” She gestured around her face.
“White make-up?” I suggested.
“Yes. It started there, then I started to wear rouge.”
“I just started to wear rouge!” I yelped, hoping to encourage her.
She stayed wistful and bewildered, and concluded, “It just kept going, bit by bit, piece by piece…”
“And then you got to Christmas napkins in your hair?”
She touched her hair again, I think still refusing to believe that there were candy canes up there. “I just choose the napkins by the colors,” she explained. “I like colors.”
I gestured to her plate, reminding her to eat. “Why did you start with the white make-up?”
She regained composure, suddenly. “You know I don’t usually tell anyone this when they ask me. But…you’re different. There’s something about you…you’re friendlier.” She to mull this over in her mind before continuing, “my father called me pale face when I was younger.”
“So..you do it for him?”
“I don’t know why I do it. When we lived in Australia I had a pale face but within minutes of being out in the sun, I got so dark. I had long blond hair that got longer, and I worshiped the sun…but then I wasn’t pale-face anymore. When he calls me and says, ‘why do you do it?’ I don’t say it’s for him but I think maybe he thinks it’s for him.”
“You mean ‘do it’ as in the make-up?”
“Is your father alive,” asked Step-Mom.
“No. But I say that he does things in the present because why wouldn’t I? It’s too strange to say ‘my late dad.’ She went on. “He called me pale-face then, and this my pale face and my long blond hair.”
“What about your mother,” asked Step-Mom, angling to get a guess about Julie’s age. “Is she still alive?”
“Yes.” Julie almost seemed annoyed about this. “She calls me up all the time to tell me she misses me. She doesn’t miss me. We have a terrible relationship. But she always says the same thing, ‘I remember the day you were born. You had white skin and rosy cheeks.’ She starts in the same way, ‘I miss you’ and she gets to the same place: White skin and rosy cheeks. And look! Now I’ve got white skin and rosy cheeks.”
Suddenly I was overcome. “Julie, you don’t have rosy cheeks, really. You have red dots all over your face…do you know that? Why the red marks?”
Her face twitched in a way that made me irrationally frightened for her safety; I had pushed her too far.
She breathed. “I use rouge. It all happens, bit by bit. I was born with white skin and rosy cheeks because I took three days to be born. And I tell my mother, don’t miss me. I’ve got white skin and rosy cheeks.”
“I took four days to be born!” I cried. Because what else was there to say? “Soulmates,” I added to the group.
She brightened. “You know I’ve got more parallels with you than with any other person I’ve met in my whole life? I don’t know how this happened, but you’re different than everyone else. How did I find you here?”
Step-Mom began putting on her coat and advised, “You’ve got to stay open.”
I made my yoga-teacher prayer hands and smiled. “Open to the universe!”
We said our goodbyes and I was putting on my coat when I realized that someone was guiding it around my shoulders. It was the businessman who was not Bill.
“You were wonderful, there,” he told me. “That was truly amazing.” He handed me his card. I peeked at it: Private equities. Then, he took my hand in his, raised to his face and kissed it. “You are a dear soul.”
I pocketed the card and as we leaving, Bill called after me, “My friend should know there are zero odds on that card! You’re never going to use it!”
Obviously he didn’t over the conversation about sugar daddies…three cheers for my dirty hair.