I was sitting by myself in Luzzo’s, a great little trattoria near Gramercy Park specializing in coal-oven-baked pizza. At the table next to me were two good-looking guys in their late twenties. One of them asked me what I had ordered, sensing correctly that I had been there before. I recommended the Funghi, a mushroom-and-basil taste of heaven; I warned him about the “Napoletana“-style thin crust, since I detected a Chicago accent and knew that thick-crust pizza is something of a religion there.
We chatted about where we were from (I was right about Chicago), and as usual, they had a hard time believing I was from California (I may lack the sun-and-fun bunny looks, but I was born on Sunset Boulevard); Kyle’s friend Ronnie was from India but had traveled to Israel to visit Christian religious sites, so we had a great deal to talk about. Before we knew it, two Funghi pizzas had disappeared and Kyle asked what I was doing later that night.
“Um, like, nothing?” I replied in my native tongue, (I was raised in the San Fernando Valley and tend to revert to “Valspeak” when I’m nervous.)
“Well, you wanna join us for drinks later? A bunch of us are meeting up at our place in the Village, then out for drinks. It’ll be fun.”
My brain whirled: he wasn’t asking me out on a date, per se, so I wasn’t being unfaithful to my boyfriend, and besides, what harm would there be in drinks? Mostly, though, I did the math on their ages: they were born well after I had graduated college.
As kids their age might say, WTF?
“You don’t think it would be weird to have someone my . . . age hanging out with you?” I blurted.
Kyle laughed. Ronnie said, “Hey, you still got game or we wouldn‘t be asking.” I don’t know if it was really a compliment, but I didn’t care.
“Seriously,” said Kyle, “You’d add a lot to the mix. In fact, one of the girls is Tunisian with ties to Palestine, so it should be pretty interesting.”
To say the least. But go to two strangers’ home, then get into a cab with them, assuming they didn’t change my address to a hefty bag in their crawlspace . . .?
What the hell? I thought. Why travel all the way to Manhattan if you’re not going to have an adventure?
We exchanged numbers and I returned to my hotel to freshen up, which, as we women over forty know, involves a paint roller, spackle-like foundation, and a putty knife. Hours later, I climbed the stairs of their four-story walk-up. My heart was pounding beneath the armor-like undergarments that helped me achieve the effect of having a “forgot-to-have-kids” figure with the help of levers, weights and pulleys.
I knocked on the door, and was practically knocked down by a chocolate Labrador retriever.
“Down, Lenny!” Kyle called out, pulling helplessly on the collar.
OK, the guy likes dogs, so he can’t be all bad. And Lenny liked me, so I had passed the first test.
We sat and sipped wine (except for Lenny), and I met the 22-year-old Tunisian gal. Not only was she drop dead gorgeous (petite, olive skin, wavy black hair, dark almond shaped eyes, cheekbones for days), she was a Middle Eastern correspondent for an international newsmagazine and spoke five languages fluently, some of which she picked up during various residencies on all five continents. Mere words cannot describe the relief I felt at not having to compete with her on any level; I silently thanked my Higher Power for not having to woo any males away from Princess Jasmine in order to school them in the finer points of my stretch marks.
We caught a cab to a West Village bar, where two Midwestern gals joined us to counterbalance the Middle Eastern influence of Jasmine and me (sort of). The conversation was lively and leaped all over the place; I was enjoying myself immensely, but I noticed that Kyle was paying particular attention to me. It wasn't “hit-on-me” attention - more the kind one gives to a novelty; perhaps he was simply showing polite interest in the elderly. What he definitely didn't notice was that Jasmine seemed less and less pleased. She really tipped her hand, though, when the discussion turned to the current Mideast situation; I tried to find common ground by saying, “Not all Jews and Arabs hate each other. I mean, look at us: we get along, right?”
She paused before answering: “It’s a peace process.”
Ooooookay. Soon, I caught Princess Jasmine giving the two Chicago girls a “Who invited Granny?” eye roll. I excused myself and found the waitress.
“Hi, can you put that table’s order on my credit card? There’s going to be a fight over the bill and I'd just as soon not bicker.”
The waitress, who was my age, winked at me. “I like the way you think, hon.”
After signing the slip, I returned to the table.
“Hey, guys, the first round was on me. It was great meeting you all, but I’ve got to get my beauty rest.” There were hugs all around, even from Princess Jasmine (it was her turn to be relieved). I got to make a clean exit.
In situations like those, age really does have some advantages: the years had taught me well when it’s time to get out, and my killer credit rating let me be a hero by treating new friends to a round of beers and nachos.
Plus, Granny really did need her rest.