Monday, May 10, 2004

And I'll finish that off with a ketchup on the rocks.

I have done some truly stupid looking things in my life while in pursuit of looking cool.

It's true. There have been times that I have been so incredibly consumed with trying to be something I am not, I came off looking a little like one of those slow children playing that you see on signs in neighborhoods all across America. (By the way people, if you'd keep your slow children inside and off the streets we wouldn't have to waste our tax dollars on signs trying to prevent them from being squashed by motorists. That's just smart parenting.)

Quite honestly, if I did nothing but write about the times I have proven myself to be a complete idiot, I would have enough material to keep me busy until I'm sixty-four.

It's plently bad enough that I am forever making myself look goofy while trying to look like a sophisticated woman of the world, but always the stubborn Taurus, I usually compound my goofiness by refusing to admit that I didn't know what I was doing. I act like I'm in a Broadway play or something and no matter how much the audience laughs at my screw up, I just keep going.

When I was fourteen I was attending high school in Germany where my Mother and her husband at that time lived. After spending my freshman year there, I decided I'd had all the schnitzel I could handle and that it was time to move back to the states to live with my Daddy and Step-Mom. Daddy booked a flight for me back stateside on Lufthansa Airlines.

The morning of my flight, I decked out. Naturally I didn't want to look like a fourteen-year-old girl, so I worked very hard to look like a woman who traveled internationally every third Tuesday. I succeeded only at looking like a child playing dress up.

Once on the plane, I found myself sitting beside an Iranian businessman. He looked to be in his mid-forties and judging by the way he was dressed, I decided he was certainly very successful. He wore a black suit and his fingers were loaded with gold rings bursting with diamonds.

He soon struck up a conversation with me and we talked for hours. We talked about the differences in our two cultures and about what it was like to live in his country. When the flight attendant came around with a cart packed with perfumes, he offered to buy me anything I wanted. I smiled sweetly and declined.

As you might imagine, I was feeling like an honest to goodness grown up. So grown up in fact, that distinguished professional men like this were simply captivated by me. I couldn't wait to tell all my friends.

When it was time for our meal, we were served what looked like a feast featuring all sorts of different things to eat. I was starving, but I was also mindful of being a lady and ate my food slowly. I even impressed myself by taking the most delicate bites, switching my fork from left hand to right after cutting my meat, and gently dabbing my mouth with the corner of my linen napkin.

On the side of the large platter in front of me was a small porcelain cup with a beautiful and creamy looking dessert. I had no idea what it was, but I was sure it was something very fancy and I couldn't wait to try it. Once I finished my meal, I picked up my spoon and scooped a mouthful.

It was butter.

I now had a giant glob of butter in my mouth and with my new worldly friend sitting at my right, I couldn't spit it out. He had seen me take a big bite, for Heaven's sake.

I also couldn't say, "Oh my gosh! I thought that was dessert!" because that would have exposed me for the "international woman of mystery" fraud that I was.

There was only one choice. Not only did I have to swallow what was already in my mouth, I had to act like I was enjoying it and then eat more of it. That was the only way to salvage my dignity.

And so I did. I ate that butter like it was the most premium ice cream in all the world until it was almost completely gone.

"I love butter," I said. "It's hard to get really good butter, but this is just wonderful."

Thankfully, the gentlemen never mentioned the fact that I was eating butter the way most people eat pudding. I can only imagine what he must have thought about people from North Carolina. Probably that we were all a bunch of butter-loving weirdos.

Over the years I've done similar things on dates with various men. Although I make it a habit not to eat butter if I can help it, I have made one or two goofs.

Like the time I was on a date and in an effort to show off, I ordered my steak just like his. Rare. When they brought it to me, I was certain my Daddy was right when he used to say, "Just knock the horns off and run it through the fire."

The thing was literally bleeding to death right in front of me. I almost felt like I should lean in close to my plate and whisper "Walk toward the light, Bossy!"

Once a man took me to a very swanky sea food restaurant. In case you aren't familiar with swanky, I'll describe it for you. There was a fireplace with a roaring fire crackling inside and just beside it, a piano bar with a Frank Sinatra wanna be singing Gershwin tunes. The tables had linen table cloths and napkins and they served my iced tea in a tiny little porcelain pot with a bowl of lemons on the side. Naturally, there were dainty white candles on our table flickering softly.

I almost forgot to mention the most swanky element in the joint. A giant lobster tank filled with the big, brown cockroaches of the sea swimming around looking for a design flaw in their fishy prison.

Oh the swankiness of it all.

I had never seen lobsters up close and personal before and I didn't quite understand the thinking behind having them in a tank.

"You can pick out the one you want," said the guy that had obviously overestimated my level of sophistication.

Forgetting for a moment that I had a part to play, I accidentally let the real me out of her cage and said, "That's horrible! I can't believe someone would do that! I mean, you don't go into McDonald's and ask them to let you have a look around the pasture out back so you can choose your hamburger!"

After trying to make me understand that we could not purchase them all and turn them lose in the wild, he gave up and called for the waiter. He politely asked if he could order for me and I said yes. He did not, however, order the lobster.

Although I cannot remember what kind of fish he ordered, I will never forget what showed up in front of me when our meal came.

That's because it was looking right at me.

He had ordered fish alright. An entire fish. A fish with little fish eyes and a little fish smile. He expected me to eat the incredible Mr. Limpet!

What was I to do? I couldn't look like a backwoods hillbilly... which of course I was. But, I couldn't eat the lovable Don Knotts either. I was nearly in tears.

I did what I had done time and time again accidentally in other social situations. Only this time I did it on purpose. I knocked over my precious little tea pot, spilling tea all over everything on the table.

When he asked to order another dinner for me, I passed and assured him I wasn't really very hungry anyway.

To this day, I have never so much as tasted lobster, even though I love seafood. To me, it would be like going to Wal-Mart and buying a bucket load of goldfish to snack on.

I may wear leather and eat chicken and love to go cat-fishing, but I've got to draw the line somewhere. There aren't many things I won't eat, but if it's looking at me or I've just seen it plotting with it's family and friends to plan a jail break only a minute before it's on my plate, then I have just one thing to say.

I'll have the Parkay and a spoon.

Copyright © 2004, Sherri Bailey
This blog may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express written permission of the author.

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