We will drink champagne and eat innumerable chutney and pickle sandwiches. Settling back onto the gingham blanket, dodging French tourists and kicking the prams out of our light, I will tell the Board my most recent Urban Tale of Men and Music. As we pass the cheesy snacks, I will turn to their six well-fed, attentive faces and begin the story of
The Guy in the Grey Tailored Suit
We’d met on line last autumn. We’d exchanged quirky details. He took my cue and refused to use emoticons in our instant messages but described the emoticons we, in the free cyberworld, SHOULD have. For instance, I’d mistakenly referred to Highgate as being in Zone Two and he wrote
Wait, isn't Highgate Zone 3? (insert ahem-cough-cough face here)
Me: That was one of the best verbalised emoticons I've ever seen. (Eyebrows-raised-head-nodding-respect face here.)
Him: Why thank-you (insert hands-in-pockets-while-avoiding-eye-contact-and-kicking-softly-at-nothing-in-particular-in-a-golly-shucks-kinda-way emoticon here)
He was American, cripplingly well-educated, adored opera and thrash and, when he sent a photo, jolly nice looking. He was a former professional athlete, loved dogs and wrote well.
What was not to like?
I’ll tell you what. He lived in New York. Do you know how difficult it is to get home in time for the last chai tea at Starbucks in NW8 when you’re cycling from New York?
We had emailed intensely for the best part of a month before I realised, sadly, I wasn’t going to meet him any time soon and, with a weakness for three-dimensional relationships, I told EmotiLogos Guy I was leaving the site and sent him my email address, in case he wanted to stay in touch.
I didn’t hear from him again but that seemed fair enough.
Every now and then I wondered how he was. When I heard about stem cell research or the mapping of the genome (Geneticist, PhD) and that we are more closely related to mice than any of us had ever been willing to admit, I was sorry not to have him to ask. But he’d become a corporate lawyer and wasn’t in London and I had to wade through Science Daily on my own – (Novel Nanoparticle Delivers Powerful RNA Interference Drugs! – how was I to make s sense of THAT without HIM?)
Then out of the blue, five months later (three weeks ago today)– he wrote. It seemed a shame we’d never met. He was in town. Would I like to grab dinner?
I said yes, immediately.
Any guy who puts nineteen hyphens in one sentence just for a yuck is someone a girl wants to meet.
I recognised him immediately from the photo. Tall, blue-eyed, full mouth. He stood up and went to kiss me but the table was too big between us, so we settled for a very firm North American hand shake.
‘I wanted to get that table’ he said, indicating a place on the other side of the restaurant, ‘but they’ve said it’s reserved. No one is sitting there now. If no one sits there all night, I’m going to take issue.’
‘You should,’ I said, sitting down and putting the starched white napkin in my lap. ‘Take issue, take umbrage. Take as much offense as you can get and hold onto all evening. That’ll be fun. For both of us.’
He smiled. (He’s North American, he lives in New York. They are down with the insults.)
Because even by this point - and we’re talking three? four minutes in? - I was pretty sure that he didn’t find me actively repulsive and wasn’t quietly texting his axe-wielding ex-girlfriend to say All Is Forgiven Please Call. There were tell-tale signs.
Tell-tale signs I confirmed on Google the moment I got home (‘Body Language To Tell if A Man Likes You’), having caught myself in mid-meal stroking my own ear lobes.
Yes, dear reader. I was looking at him and unconsciously having foreplay with myself. This was just after dinner. We were onto pudding that he had craftily arranged for me to have by promising to have some himself and then not having any, which was just as well because I really wanted all of it, and I found myself leaning on the table, listening to him and stroking my ear lobes.
‘Holy frajole,’ I thought to myself. ‘This is body language. I am expressing a great deal here without verbalised emoticons or genetic jokes and I Had No Idea.’
He kept ducking his head, adorably, to laugh when I was hilarious – almost as though he didn’t want to be seen to be vulnerable in the face of my comic genius – and when I spoke of something I knew no one on earth had ever ventured to discuss (‘Dude, a fight between a cave man and an astronaut would definitely go to the astronaut!’) he raised his eyebrows and soaked me in.
“A slightly surprised, quizzical expression means he finds you fascinating,” the web site confirmed. I get that a lot. I’m going with fascinating and not abnormal.
He is an epicure and managed to convince me, as no man has in almost ten years, to have a drink after dinner.
‘I don’t drink when I’m with other people,’ I confessed.
Up with the eyebrows. There I was, being fascinating again.
‘You drink – alone?’ Ah. Maybe I was just sociopathic.
‘Well, no – yes, I guess, but only to sleep. If I am going to have a drink, it’s not wine. That brings me out in hives. You don’t want to see that. It’s not a good look.’
‘You don’t know that. I might find your urticarial disorder compelling.’
Of course. PhD. Geneticist.
‘Welts?’ I clarified.
He shrugged in a ‘seen-a-million-of-em’ kind of way and showed me the menu.
He pointed to a Scotch with a French-sounding name that cost more than my week’s grocery budget. He must have seen me blanch because he took the menu away and said one of the most alluring things I’ve ever heard from a man I’ve only known for 87 minutes. He looked at me across the table cluttered with glass and silverware, every surface reflecting gold in the dim light, leaned forward slightly and asked
‘Do you trust me?’
Two and a half hours later he leaned back in his chair and said ‘This is what a dinner should be. Relaxed, good food, good conversation.’
‘And a great deal of jewellery-fiddling’ I thought to myself. Apparently women have a collection of almost thirty gestures indicating physical interest (men have 10), but it is a sure-fire, tell-tale sign that she likes you if she plays with what she’s wearing.
I couldn’t keep my hands off the choker around my neck, even when I knew I was doing it. As though I was imagining his former-professional-athlete’s hands on the skin at my throat.
We left the restaurant and emerged into the warm, cobalt-blue night.
Now that we were walking together I could see he was tall – taller even than I’d thought at dinner, although lusciously, he had perfect posture. A guy who sits up straight rocks my world (my dad was in the military)(which means I also respond well to a fly-past) and it can be evidence of interest. When a man likes you, he stands taller, extends his chest. Even in three-inch heels my head was well below his shoulder.
‘Wow, he must really like me,’ I thought, a little excited, feeling I was in with a chance (forgetting, conveniently, that he’s 6’2”: no matter how much he likes you, he can’t actually gain height during the evening).
We strolled easily together and every now and then I glanced at him and was able, for the first time, to really absorb and apprehend what he was wearing.
It was a grey tailored suit. Or I assume it was tailored as I'd never seen anything like it in the window of a shop. The jacket had seemed nice enough while he was sitting down but now that he was walking I could see the effect of the whole and as we strode down the pavement towards my bicycle I underwent a most perplexing and disorienting experience.
I was becoming aroused.
And it was the suit.
It owed a great deal to the ‘mod’ retro look, now popular but without seeming trendy or flash. It was fitted and he filled it out. The trousers were narrow and his shoes tapered – but not annoyingly so. The jacket was almost tight. The cut was deeply pleasing, as though the tailor had just done away with everything that didn’t fit and was left with this perfection of a garment on what, by the time I was unlocking my bicycle and trying to speak coherently, was beginning to look like the perfection of a man.
I fumbled with the key and prayed not to drop it or accidentally re-lock my bike to my leg. For the first time that evening I felt nervous, self-conscious. Here was a new and surprising truth I had to admit to myself: I was sexually attracted to his clothes.
(Describing the experience to Our Publicist a week later I said ‘I – I was moved. I felt this rush – this thrill – right in my thorax.’
‘I don’t think it was your thorax darling,’ he said.)
He watched me liberate my bike then bent down to help with the cable. It was the closest I’d been to his silk-blend slim-fit sleeves. I needed a distraction and how, before I lunged for the shirt-collar or tried to steal his socks (also stylish).
‘Aren’t these shoes great? Do you like the sound?’ I clopped eagerly across the street, slapping my wedge heels on the pavement. ‘I’m recreating 19th century London. I’m a minute I’ll rear up and try to pound you into the cobblestones. How authentic.’
He was a very good sport and said yes, he liked that horse-hoof sound, gosh - wasn’t I entertaining? But as I walked him to his hotel, now, perhaps, getting carried away - clicking my tongue, chomping my teeth – I tried to head butt him into traffic at one point, just for verisimilitude - I panicked. What information was I communicating? Does the extensive research into female mating rituals include ‘Animal mimicry?’
We stood for a moment under a lamp standard, the handsome facade of his hotel silhouetted against the twilight of a late spring sky and after very swift kisses, one to each cheek, he said ‘I’ll call you when I’m back in London.’
That was a month ago and he hasn’t rung. I half-suspect he won’t and again, I would understand. It’s possible he clocked the ear-rubbing and the necklace-fondling but a woman overwhelmed by the sensuous appeal of a perfect lapel evinces behaviour no website is going to describe.
I’m telling myself it’s just as well. (‘Come on. What guy isn’t charmed by a horse impersonator?’ Chris, my producer has asked.) He lives in New York, we are worlds apart and - let’s face it – it’s hard to progress in a romantic relationship if you’re begging the guy to keep his clothes on.