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How do you like your men?

August 28, 2013

‘How do you like your men?’ the waiter asked me. ‘Then we find out how you like your wine.’

He smiled encouragingly: a simple question, he must have thought. A harmless joke.

But I was in the company of a man at this point. The waiter had caught me off guard – I hadn’t been expecting to give my opinion on wine, on men, or on anything. I had rather hoped I could order a glass of house wine and be done with it. Now this man and I were standing side by side, stiff-backed like colonels, awaiting instruction.

How did I like my men?

Both men waited. I found myself longing for the old ‘What is your type?’ quizzes in Cosmo  - tall, dark and handsome, or short, fat and ugly? It was so much more simple back then; long before the days that wives, pension funds or personalities had anything to do with it.

The two men’s smiles were fading. I had wasted too much time. The joke had fizzed, and was starting to ferment. Say something.

But wait – it had to sound like I was speaking about wine, too – it had to sound clever. I wanted to come across as witty and self-deprecating, but also self-assured and confident in life.

How did I like my wine?

‘I don’t know,’ I mumbled. ‘I try it, and if I don’t like it I spit it out.’

The man next to me coughed.

Oh Lord. Try again. Quickly, now. Full bodied? Mature?

Spicy?

‘White,’ I blurted out. ‘White wine.’

Now I sounded like a racist. It wasn’t fair. If the waiter had asked me about humous, I would have said ‘middle eastern’ or ‘Arab’. It was just the context.

Both men looked perplexed.

‘Cave-aged,’ I added. Or was that just for cheese?

If only he had asked me about cheese! I could have given him a much more accurate description of my tastes – blue and smelly. Creamy. Or burgers – lean, rough yet tender, with a hint of pepper…

I was aware my face was red, like the red wine that I would apparently not drink. Maybe say something else – give it your best shot.

‘Fruity?’

The man beside me gave me a quick glance, perhaps considering his own feminine qualities. This had all gone horribly wrong. While the waiter turned and made a show of looking for a white, fruity, cave-aged wine, the taste of vinegar was strong on my palate.

I had imagined things to go differently. I knew nothing of wine or men. If I had learned anything from this evening, it was that my journey of personal discovery was far from over.

‘I’ll take a glass of the sancerre,’ said the fruity silver fox next to me. ‘And the bill, please.’

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