Authors: Lindsey Kelk
‘I passed out?’ I couldn’t believe it. Even during the annual Drink the Bar Dry event at uni, even after five jugs of sangria on holiday, even after eight shots of Sambuca on Louisa’s hen night, I had never passed out from drinking. Thrown up, yes, lost some shoes, OK, yes, but never passed out.
‘It’s OK, Angie,’ Jenny said vanishing through the door. ‘Consider that a baptism of fire. We’re going out again tonight, if you want to come. Just for dinner? Oh and Erin said she would meet you for lunch if you were feeling human. She’s so the perfect girl to give you dating advice before your hot date.’
After Jenny had gone and I had puked a few more times, I steeled myself to leave the hotel. It was another beautiful day in Union Square Park. The sun shone just as it had on Sunday. In three short days, the sheen of ‘new’, of ‘other’, had worn away leaving something even more exciting to me. It looked familiar. It looked like home. I had walked through that gate, I had used that subway station, I had run full pelt away from that bench. I picked up my (still beautiful) Marc Jacobs bag, swiped on some MAC Lipglass, a wipe of mascara and a bucket load of blusher. Even with one of the worst hangovers I’d ever had, I still looked a million times better than I had pre-makeover. Jenny Lopez was a saint.
Manatus was a sweet looking restaurant, nestled at the top of Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village in between a twenty-four-hour pharmacy and a designer lingerie store. I loved New York. I’d grabbed a cab outside the hotel, against Jenny’s express orders to take the subway, but I really didn’t like my chances of staying vomit-free on the train, so instead I motored along with my head out of the window. Luckily, I recognized Erin from the window. Petite, long blonde hair tied up in a ponytail, really pretty. No wonder she was Jenny’s dating guru, I just couldn’t believe she wasn’t taken already.
‘Hey!’ she stood up and welcomed me with a kiss on the cheek as I manoeuvred myself through the tables and prams. ‘I was worried you might not recognize me.’
‘You don’t forget someone you’ve shared a duet of “Baby, One More Time” with that easily,’ I said, quickly sitting and taking a long sip of iced water. ‘It’s all starting to come back to me now. Tragically, all of it.’ I shook my head shamefully.
‘It was fun,’ Erin said, waving over a waitress for a menu. ‘And we were relieved to see you were human. Since Sunday, all I’ve heard from Jenny is how incredible you are and, not to sound like a total bitch, when you walked into the bar, looking like a model, I kind of found it difficult to feel sorry for you. I mean, who looks that amazing and needs man help?’
‘Oh, I, well, me? And I think it’s just help in general I need.’ I wasn’t sure whether to thank her for the compliment or apologize. ‘And no one is mistaking me for a model. Really.’
‘Well, the hair, the dress, and wow, the shoes,’ she said. Luckily her eyes were shining brightly and I knew I’d found another genuine person. ‘But when you get drunk, you get drunk, huh? Now what are you having?’
The waiter hovered at our side, waiting patiently.
‘Toast,’ I said, not even having looked at the menu. I had a feeling Erin didn’t waste a lot of time with things as trivial as menus.
‘And I’ll take the granola with a fresh fruit cup,’ she said, handing the menus back to the waiter. ‘Anyhoo, Jenny tells me that hot thing you were talking to at the bar in the Grand has asked you out. Did you call him yet?’
‘Shit, no,’ I said, scrabbling for my wallet. There was his card. Safe and not vomited on. ‘I’ve been in no fit state.’
‘OK, call him now,’ Erin said, signalling for more coffee. ‘Seriously, call him.’
She passed me her phone but I just stared at the numbers. ‘What do I say?’
‘Hi, it’s Angela Clark, we met at the Grand last night,’ she said breezily. ‘I just wondered if you still wanted to meet up for dinner tomorrow? How’s that?’
‘Better than what I had,’ I muttered, dialling before I could think about it.
‘Tyler Moore,’ he answered on the first ring.
‘Hi, uh, it’s Angela, Angela, erm, Clark?’ I stumbled over my own name. Sexy.
‘Hello, Angela Clark,’ he replied. I couldn’t tell if he recognized me or not. ‘I was wondering if you’d call.’
He did remember me!
‘Of course,’ I said, trying to emulate Erin’s breezy approach. She made a rolling motion with her hands, I needed to get on with it. ‘I just wondered if you still wanted to meet up for dinner?’
‘Yeah, tomorrow right,’ he said. It sounded as though he was leaning forwards, flexing those muscles. Oh, dear. ‘How about the Mercer Kitchen at eight?’
‘That sounds great,’ I said. I’d done it! I’d got a date! ‘Shall I meet you there?’
‘Perfect, that’ll give me time to go home and change,’ he said. ‘See you in the bar at eight, Angela Clark.’ And he was gone.
‘So, you’re going?’ Erin asked, tapping her feet under the table.
I nodded and bit my lip. ‘We’re meeting at the Mercer Kitchen at eight. Is that good?’
‘That’s really good,’ she approved as our food arrived. ‘Mercer Kitchen is a great first date. Low lighting, great food, cool people and lots of potential for after date drinking. That’s a good pick.’
I nibbled on a piece of dry toast. Maybe this wouldn’t be as terrifying as I had thought. ‘What’s the dress code, is it posh?’ I asked, worrying slightly. I couldn’t afford to go shopping again.
‘Mmm, lots of after work suits and trendy girls but nothing too try-hard,’ she said shrugging. ‘You’ll be just fine in a cute dress or jeans and a cool shirt. He’ll probably just be in his suit.’
‘He said he was going home to change,’ I said, gingerly nibbling at my toast.
I could keep it down. I could keep it down.
‘Really? Hope he doesn’t show up dressed like Fabio or something,’ Erin laughed. Seeing the fear in my eyes, she stopped with a little cough. ‘Sure he won’t. Now, New York dating basics?’
‘Definitely,’ I nodded. ‘Dating basics in general. I don’t know how much Jenny told you …’
‘More or less everything,’ Erin said. ‘And what she didn’t know, you filled in last night. I’m guessing I know more about your sex life than your ex.’
I blanched and swapped the toast for the tea again. The waitress had topped it up with hot water making it weak as wee but I drank it anyway. ‘Sorry.’
‘No need, I have to have all the facts before I take on a pupil,’ she said. As Erin reached out for the honey I noticed her fingers were completely decked out in diamonds – solitaires, eternity rings, trilogy rings, every finger except her ring finger. ‘And believe me when I tell you I know everything. You were really quite graphic.’
‘Oh, God,’ I rubbed my forehead trying to remember exactly what I’d told her. Maybe I hadn’t remembered everything. ‘Go on then.’
Over the next hour and several cups of coffee for her and weak, weak tea for me, Erin, my answer to Dr Laura crossed with a head cheerleader, briefed me on the dating dos and don’ts of New York City. A beginner’s guide to The Rules. Do let him pay if he offers, don’t forget to bring your credit card in case he doesn’t. Do ask him questions about himself but don’t ask about exes. You can talk about jobs but don’t push financial questions, you don’t want to come across money hungry. If he asks you about your relationship history, give him the facts but not the details. Should the date go really well, you can accept a second date then and there, but since the date was on a Thursday, I was, under no circumstances, to accept a date for Friday or Saturday night. Saturday daytime maybe, Sunday, fine. It all seemed a little bit unnecessary.
‘You just don’t want to reveal anything that would put him off. And I mean anything at all,’ she said with incredible seriousness, ticking off her points on her diamond laden fingers. ‘Don’t be too funny, guys like funny but they don’t want to marry a comedian, right? The guy is supposed to be the funny one. Don’t overeat, if he orders for you, all the better. Don’t drink too much, at best he’ll think you’re an easy lush. At worst he’ll bail altogether.’
‘You mean it’s worse to have a man ditch me than sleep with me and then never call again?’
‘Oh honey, this is New York,’ Erin shook her head. ‘Getting him as far as the bedroom is half the battle – fingers crossed you’ve got some skills there, and then there’s a chance he’ll take you out for a second spin. It’s hard, but if you’re a really great lay, you can change a first impression. Sometimes.’
‘Okaaaaaay,’ I felt myself colour up. ‘I’m not sure I have that many “skills” so I’d just better not drink too much.’
‘Hmm. Well these are just the dinner rules, there’s a whole heap of other rules for when you start sleeping with him. But basically, don’t screw on the first date. Ever.’
‘Not a problem, I’m sure. So since it seems I know absolutely nothing about dating or men, tell me everything else I need to know.’
Listening to Erin’s instructions, helpful, well-intentioned and requested as they were, was a little bit like being given driving instructions, so I’d more or less lost her by the third turn. Now, rather than being a bit worried about my date with Tyler, I was scared shitless. While she was clarifying how far I was allowed to ‘go’ if I wanted to see Tyler again I was too busy trying not to get caught looking at the man in the corner of the restaurant. He was hiding behind his battered Murakami novel, emerging only to fiddle with his iPod and order more coffee. Something about his messy black hair and vivid green eyes was vaguely familiar, but I wrote it off as him just being really, really hot.
‘So as long as you play by The Rules, you’ll be fine,’ Erin carried right on, not even noticing that she had completely lost my attention. ‘And it’s not like you’re wanting this guy to marry you right now is it, you just want some fun, yeah?’
‘Um, yes, nothing serious,’ I said, trying to push away the idea of myself and Tyler in Tiffany’s, Tyler on one knee, me crying and everyone clapping. ‘Erin, can I ask you a question?’
‘Of course,’ she said. ‘What kind of teacher would I be if I wasn’t open to criticism?’
‘Oh, nothing like that,’ I said quickly. ‘I was just wondering, well, I was just wondering why you aren’t married? I know it’s not the law to be married, but you’re just a complete dating encyclopedia and you’re so perfect looking and you’re so nice and …’
‘I was married,’ she said simply, holding out her right hand. ‘I was married when I was twenty-one to the sweetest guy you ever met.’ She presented one of the rock-like solitaires for inspection. ‘But by the time I turned twenty-three, he had grown up into a complete shit. Cheating on me with everything that moved.’
‘I’m sorry,’ I said, not really knowing where to put myself. ‘I guess it’s definitely better to be single than in a bad marriage.’
‘Mmm, well, I’m not done yet,’ she sighed, looking at her rings. ‘And then I was engaged to a hotel owner. That’s this one,’ she held out a beautiful sapphire and diamond eternity band, ‘but it was a total rebound relationship, you know, so I called it off a month before the big day. And when I was twenty-nine, I married Joel, my hairdresser.’ The diamond trilogy ring.
‘Oh,’ I said quietly. She clearly was the person to go to for advice on how to get a man down the aisle, just not how to avoid repeat trips.
‘But we both knew it wouldn’t work, so I took off,’ she said thinly, tipping her head to one side. ‘I won’t do it again.’
‘Wow,’ I didn’t really know what else to say. All of a sudden I had a little less faith in The Rules.
‘Don’t get me wrong, I love to date and I hope I’ll meet someone to maybe have kids with, but I don’t think I’ll get married again. It’s not a problem, I’ve got a great career and fantastic friends. I think it just took me too long to realize I don’t need a man to validate me.’
‘I think that’s so cool,’ I said. ‘I feel really silly now though.’
‘No way,’ Erin laughed. ‘I really hope my friends do find nice guys to marry and settle down with, I just don’t worry about it as much as some other people. I’ve got a successful PR company, two healthy divorce settlements and I go on great dates all the time, it’s just, I’m thirty-seven and I’m just not prepared to settle any more.’
‘Firstly, you are never thirty-seven,’ I gaped. I had her down as Jenny’s younger friend and Jenny was no candidate for Botox. ‘And secondly, do you think I’m being silly, going on this date? Should I just take time to be me?’
‘Do you want to go on the date?’ she asked.
I thought about it for all of a split second. ‘Yes, I do.’
‘Then you should go, have fun,’ she said, fishing a beautiful Chanel wallet out of her handbag. ‘Just don’t let it be everything to you. Jenny said you’re a writer, right?’
‘I want to be,’ I shrugged. ‘All I’m writing right now is a sort of, well, a diary.’
‘But your diary right now must be fascinating!’ she said, flicking through business cards. ‘I represent The Look magazine and they’re always looking for bloggers to post on their site. It’s not much but it could get a mention in the magazine and who knows who might see it. Want me to set up a meeting?’
‘God, yes!’ I said, already picturing myself in Starbucks, tapping away, annoying people with my dramatic sighs. ‘If anyone was interested I’d love to write for them.’
‘Well, let me talk to some people when I’m there later,’ Erin said, tossing a couple of bills on the table and waving away my protest. ‘And I’ll let you know how it goes tonight. You’re coming for dinner tonight, aren’t you?’
‘Only if you promise not to let me drink any of those awful margaritas,’ I grimaced. Just thinking about them made me look around for the ladies’ loo.
With two quick kisses and a ‘call me’ Erin was gone. None of the waiters seemed to mind that we’d been sitting for well over an hour without ordering anything but tea and coffee top-ups, but I asked for a hot chocolate anyway. Pulling out my notebook and hotel room pen, I started to scribble my thoughts. God, imagine writing an online diary for The Look magazine! Maybe it wasn’t as internationally well known as Elle or as respected as Vogue, but it was definitely up there. Note to self, buy some magazines. I found my iPod in the bottom of my bag and scrolled through for some inspirational music. Hmm, shouty rock girls, floppy fringed indie boys or Britney. After my girl power lecture from Erin, didn’t it have to be shouty rock girls?