One early evening when I was in my early thirties, I was hailed by a dreamy man. Seated at a sidewalk cafe in the UES, he said in a thick French accent, "Would you care to join me?"
I plopped down across the table from him. The man introduced himself, "My name's Bruno," and hailed a waiter to order a red wine for me.
He was my fantasy come true: a handsome Frenchman in Manhattan. Oh, he was gorgeous. Tall, slender, dark-haired, dark eyes and such a distinctive nose! Actually, his nose made his face: long, elegant, almost aquiline, slightly on an angle. That nose got to me, a feature that graced paintings over centuries. I was swept up in the romance of having my very own Frenchman in Manhattan even though I wanted an older man, not a younger one.
Quite rapidly, the fantasy dissipated.
Speaking constantly and strictly in French proved tiresome after spending several years in trading rooms mixing French, English and Hebrew, shuffling through the three with ease. Several times, late at night, while dining at restaurants, he chatted in French, me responding in English.
Cosmopolitan New Yorkers interrupted our conversation. "Excuse me, but are you aware that you're conversing in two languages?"
"Yes," I said. "I'm way too tired to speak in French."
He said, "I"m way too tired to speak in English."
He must've looked at me as a potential mate. I've had that situation before when men fall for me in one swoop and suddenly wake up three months later, running for the hills. He proved no exception. Within a month he brought up the topic of his mother who lived in Paris.
"I think my mother can handle the fact that you're older than me, that you're a consultant and an actor. But, I don't know what we can do about the Jewish aspect."
I knew where this relationship headed on so many different levels. Yet, I enjoyed being with a handsome Frenchman in Manhattan and decided to stick around until the inevitable. However, I had one major complaint which I felt reluctant to discuss: his inability to orgasm.
I come from the school of thought that men can achieve orgasm by any means. Reinforced by a tale recounted from a neighbor's daughter when I visited home my freshman year in college.
"I heard you graduated from Columbia Law with honors. Where are you working?"
She sighed, downcast. "I'm an ADA in Manhattan and just prosecuted my first case."
"Congratulations!" I said.
"Not exactly a case I can brag about. A guy fucked a chicken on Fifth Avenue. Not as uncommon as you may think."
That stuck in my craw. So, I never paid attention to this guy's inability to ejaculate until three months into the relationship. That's when sex grew increasingly frustrating to him. He struggled and struggled, prolonging the act until it became too uncomfortable. At that point, I tapped him on the back, like someone seceding from a wrestling match in defeat. Yet, I didn't say a word because I'm NOT A THERAPIST!
I knew he had deep-seated issues. But, I didn't care and wasn't interested. Unlike today when I plague my boyfriend with a million questions. For I learned from those momzers of the past. I don't want to be blindsided by slighted wives, abandoned children, bill collectors, probation officers and strange deviancies that come to surface only with me. I'm done with all that shit. My attitude is, "Please tell me now so I can easily walk away without being dragged down in the mud."
With Bruno, I didn't have the luxury of knowing upfront the mishegoss going on in his life. It was usually coughed out before running from lawyer to lawyer. Although in his late twenties, he was already separated. And trying to get custody rights for a child he had with someone else who gave his daughter up for adoption. All I knew was he had lawyers galore for his impending divorce and custody cases and others to obtain his green card and one more to launch his advertising agency.
Everything came to a head when he phoned me with news. "My mother's spending a month with me. I'll have to spend nights with you at your place. Oh, by the way, she wants to meet you."
That was the real reason for the trip. Little Bruno was a mother's boy and required his mom's approval. Given the muck of his life, perhaps that was the wisest thing he could possibly do. At the pre-arranged time, I went to a very popular and packed French cafe-bistro on Park Avenue South for what I knew would end up as my exit interview.
I was unprepared for his mother who swept into the cafe like a glamorous French movie star. She was in her late 50's, yet had that timeless beauty for which Frenchwomen are known. Her blond hair was swept up in a perfect chiffon, her face perfectly made-up and her clothes the latest sophisticated style. I knew where Bruno got the nose. If he only inherited her confidence and snobbism!
She took one look at me and I knew my goose was cooked.
For forty minutes she grilled me in heavily accented English: my education, background, current profession and future prospects. Several times I sidestepped the Jewish issue. While she went to the ladies room, I asked, "How'd I do?"
He laughed. "Well, you took care of the age difference, your career, but we still have that Jewish aspect."
She returned right in time for Round Two. With the scent of a bloodhound, she weaseled out my Semitic history. Bruno groaned. Deep in my heart, I knew Mom gave me the Caesar's thumbs down.
With a scant smile of victory, she eased up and decided to entertain us with a story about her bird. To this day, I thank her for that tale which made the interrogation worthwhile.
She explained, "I've had this cockatoo forever. He's a spry little thing."
Bruno nodded. "I've known that bird since I was a teen."
"I trained him to poop on demand."
I exchanged glances with Bruno. "Poop on demand?" He shrugged and slid down in his chair.
"Yes," replied his mother in thick accented English. "Birds poop every ten minutes. I don't want him to crap on my shoulder, on my clothes. So, I taught him when he was young that when I say, Poop, he poops." With that statement, this elegant, beautiful, middle-aged Frenchwoman stood up in the center of the packed cafe and squatted to her haunches, almost knocking over a waiter in the process.
She yelled, "Before I take him out of his cage, I tell him to poop. That's when the little bird squats like this," and then simulated taking a crap, grimacing her face, arms flapping at her sides to emulate bird wings. "I watch his little body struggle," she shouted and then hopped from one foot to the other as if she were a cockatoo, knocking into waiters and other patrons in the cafe.
My jaw dropped to the table. You could hear a pin drop. She continued to bounce up and down, arms flapping, making strange bird noises. At that point, the entire cafe watched this fiasco. Bruno turned beet red and couldn't meet my eyes. I was too much in shock to burst out in laughter when, exhausted, she returned to the table. Seated with a straight back, proudly, she turned to me and said, "What do you think?"
I cooly replied, "Tell me, were you that successful with your son as well?"
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