It’s ten p.m. on a Saturday night in Park City, Utah. My friends and I have tipsily descended upon a saucy little French-American brasserie called Jean Louis. I stand at the rear of our group, observing a flurry of hellos from the proprietor, Jean Louis, himself: handshakes all around, and a hug for our friend, who I’ll just call the Painter. After a few moments, Jean Louis turns his gaze to me. He has met me once before without much fanfare; but this time, he grasps both my hands, plants delicate kisses on my cheeks, and says, in his deep (and headily seductive) French accent: “Oh, I love how your eyes, they sparkle!” Jean Louis does not release his warm grip on my hands. Rather, he looks at me like I am a plateful of lavender truffles and he hasn’t eaten in three days; he sighs lightly, his mouth may even be watering a little, and I love it. The jolt from his attention is like a triple shot of the finest espresso. He is shaved bald, with twinkling, devilish eyes, and I want to bask in his attention forever, my mind flooding with images of feisty barwenchery, but I am gently redirected by my friend – let’s call her Claudine – to our table, where we proceed to order drinks.
Claudine is my gateway friend. She has an extraordinary gift for making connections; through her, I have met many talented kindred spirits and kind souls, all of whom are far more outgoing than myself and tend to draw me out. Claudine is a tall, curvaceous, hot blond mess of sexy earthiness. She brings out the hip-waggler in me, God love her. Earlier in the day, Claudine and I sprawled out in a condo at the Park City Resort, sampling cheeses, crusty bread, and a spicy Zinfandel from the local gourmet shop. The annual Kimball Arts Festival was in town, and we were there to experience it. After a glass of the ethereal zin, we opted to have one more before heading out. After about the third glass, we decided it was too late to hit the festival, but simultaneously agreed that we could live indefinitely on a diet of cheese, wine, bread, and fruit. After the fourth, we amended the diet to cheese and wine. Then we finished off the bread and downed a gallon of water in preparation for dinner.
My husband finds it amusing when I recount my adventures as a ‘single girl in the city.’ We live in Utah, a fairly conservative state where family life is considered the ultimate glue in society. (I realize that family is a priority the world around, but in Utah it is near doctrinal.) We also live in a relatively isolated rural community, rich with farming and ranching, but sparse on some of the finer indulgences in life. I take every opportunity I can to get out, just to temper my occasional sense of loneliness and alienation. When Claudine invites me for a weekend in Las Vegas or Park City, I’m there. My husband stays home with the kids (which is an appreciable sacrifice, but, in the interest of full disclosure, his idea of a raging good time is staying up late playing World of Warcraft). He knows that the woman who comes back from her brief jaunts away, rolling into town with glitter in her mussed hair and smelling faintly of casinos at 6 a.m. on Monday morning, is a much happier wife. The whole family benefits from this.
Sometimes I don’t wear my wedding ring. I never wear it when I cook – there is no glory in scooping wet goops of unidentifiable food out of the crevasses of your wedding ring after making a meal that requires 67 hand-washings. That is masochism. Sometimes when I go out, and especially when I know that I’ll be the only married person partying in a hot town with a bunch of single up-and-comers, I don’t wear it because as soon as people know that I am married, their attitudes toward me change and, frankly, it hurts. That is a different kind of masochism: the sting of fuddy-duddism. I go from being Bombay Sapphire, sparkling on the top shelf behind the bar, to being that dusty jug of moonshine in the basement. I’d rather be top shelf. Hell, I am top shelf, but there’s just something about that whole “Oh, she’s married” notion that sucks out all of my sensuality and natural warmth in the perception of others faster than you can say hoover. It almost happened that night in Park City with Jean Louis. But I was lucky – maybe because Jean Louis is French and the French, as a cultural whole, tend to be naturally warm sensualists.
Jean Louis is standing outside with two of his employees as I leave his restaurant. He winks at me knowingly. He caresses my right cheek and asks, “What are these again?”
“Dimples,” I say.
“Deemples, yes!” he exclaims, smiling warmly. “They are beautiful!” I thank him sincerely for the briny, tart bloody Mary his bartender made me, give him an impassioned hug, and saunter off in search of the nearest bus stop, feeling shiny, bright, and as warm inside as a shot of top shelf gin.