How do you like your men?
‘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?
‘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.
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.’