by C. Jeanette Tyson
the elections. If you can. The real test of strategy these days seems to be
in the sexual/culinary politics of dating.
Yes, itís been a while since Iíve engaged in
that particular contact sport but I remember a time when a date meant
dinner. Of course back then dinner did not also mean seventy dollars for a
sitter, shortchanging the freelance project that would pay the property
taxes, or for-going a cozy evening in pjís on the sofa with cheerios,
Little Bear and two cuddly kids. Back then even a bad date trumped all the
ways I was wasting my time.
Not so anymore.
The singles game in your forties is a huge psycho-socio -economic drama that
plays out interestingly on the culinary stage. Sabers are drawn on the very
Phone rings. I answer. I hear an unfamiliar male
voice: Hi Jeanette, this is Fred. You donít know me but Amy thinks we
ought to get together and I was wondering if youíd like to... have coffee
Oooh. Translated that means: I owe Amy a favor for
some reason you donít need to know about but I donít want to waste a lot
of time because chances are you have thick ankles or some hair thing going
on that Iím not going to like.
Unfamiliar male voice quickly adds: Or lunch, lunch
Translated: Hey, I donít want you to think Iím
a shallow cad. Iím a decent guy, after all, despite the fact my ex-wife
found deeper satisfaction with the pool boy. Iím mature enough to give you
a chance even if you do have thick ankles. Also I make a lot of money, babe,
more than enough to buy you salad and a glass of iced tea.
Gee, how could a girl refuse?
Granted, these days coffee is something of a
financial investment but itís hardly romantic. Coffee is something you do
with old college professors and other people with whom you have a limited
number of things to talk about. Coffee is finite, what are you going to do,
order another triple whipped soy chai with nutmeg? Isnít the whole sweet
point of dating to give yourself over to possibility? To let the twin
streams of fate and desire sweep you along (and hopefully not dump you out?)
What about this: guy asks girl for a drink, but he
asks her to a south-of-the-border style hacienda a bit off the beaten path.
The patio, with its tropical plants and ochre and eggplant colors, is lush
and sensual. The wine list is long. Conversation flows, the atmosphere seems
charged, as if lightning is about to strike, thunder about to roll; other
people, other noise fades away. Then he looks at his watch. Not once but
Woman: Is there somewhere you need to be?
Man: No, no. I made reservations for dinner in the
other room. Would you like to stay?
BINGO! Romantic yet practical or vice versa, who
cares, here we are, back in the clear full-mooned sky of possibility. Here
we are, closing the place down at midnight. Here we are, two people on the
planet who havenít gone all weird, or if we have, at least weíve gone
more or less in the same way.
No matter where you started, letís say you make
it this far, to a full-fledged dinner. Then comes the time when he comes
over to your house to partake of something youíve created with your own
hands. Maybe itís set up as a casual thing; he brings a video, you throw
together a salad but call in pizza. Maybe you have on blue jeans or maybe a
sexy dress but no shoes. Maybe you light a few candles or maybe you keep all
In the dating game, dining in ups the ante because
everyone knows youíre only a room or two away from the bedroom. If this
happens early enough, say the third or fourth date, it could be a big
turning point in the whole drama. If this happens at the third or fourth
date, youíre going to spend the whole next day burning up the email with
your girlfriends because no ballgame anywhere is ever going to come under
more next-day armchair scrutiny. Everyone is going to want to know what you
had for dessert.
Picnics are a wild card. They score high on romance
! sort of way but thereís also no way out. In their studied casualness,
they put on a lot of pressure. They bring economics into the situation;
itís roasted chicken not Jeffreyís, after all. And
if itís too remote, they rob a girl of a chance to wear great
shoes. Always risky. Then thereís the whole outdoor sex thing. But
thatís a pretty advanced scenario for me at this point. Generally Iím
willing to give a picnic guy points for attempting a difficult maneuver.
Three meals a day, snacks, coffee, cocktails,
popcorn; itís a new and complicated language Iím learning, with
unpredictable tense changes, difficult pronouns, layers of meaning.
At least breakfast still means breakfast.
C. Jeanette Tyson is AustinMama.com's beloved Foodie-in-the-Field.