The first time I took notes during dinner was last year, for my man friend’s three-hour birthday feast at Gramercy Tavern. I have no idea what we ate. I have vague memories of multiple desserts, a cheese plate, too much rye, weaving through tables to pee a third time, and excellent floral arrangements.
I have vivid memories, on the other hand, of the couple sitting next to us. An older banker type, late 50s, suited but not fashionably so, and his lady companion: blonde blow-out, mid-30s, big ivory Louis Vuitton checkered tote, bodycon dress, no wedding ring.
Looking back on my notes from their conversation, it reads more like absurd literary magazine slam poetry than actual real-life talk, but: I swear it was! This might leave you wondering, who is Susan? I’m sorry, I don’t have the answer.
He: I just didn’t want to give you another reason to resent me…
I asked you to move in with me and you said no.
She: What bothers me is Susan will know where the diamond is from.
He: Is she being melancholy because mom is dead?
Ben called to say thank you for the Yankees tickets.
And the kicker:
He: I look like I weigh 400 pounds.
Since then, I’ve been more dedicated to the cause. Just last week I met a friend for a cocktail at Evening Bar. She was graciously late, and yeah, I wished she’d have canceled because I was sitting next to a match-making service interview. The match-makers were two young women and one old man. The women were rocking that ambiguous business sexy-chic thing marked by Equipment silk blouses. The man dominated the interviews and mentioned clients who ran marathons. He mentioned marathons at least five times per interview (there were three in the time it took me to sip one fancy cocktail and eat three servings of bar chips). He ordered a bottle of cognac for the table, ugh, and loudly excused himself to take a call outside/assert he is a Powerful, Important Man. Which, if your profession is match-making, how urgent could it be?
“Well we can guarantee he isn’t a serial killer—or married.”
But let’s get to the goodies. The scene:
First client: too young, beautiful and over-educated to need a match-making service, but what do I know, maybe that makes her intimidating.
The match-makers ask Client No.1 a variety of questions: how religious are you, who have you dated in the past, how dedicated to fitness are you, what are dealbreakers, etc.
Client No.1 used to work at American Express, and would wake up at 5:30 to spin before work. (Dude intervenes: “We have type A clients, we’re not a dating site. We have marathon runners it’s retarded, there’s an Iron Man guy!”)
Now she’s a member of Equinox, does a lot of high-intensity cardio classes. She starts to sound high-intensity herself. (Dude intervenes: “We have one gentleman in Germany, a marathon runner, wakes up at 4:30 to run!” (What is it with this guy and marathoners?))
She has an MBA. Is looking for a guy max 10 years older. Pretty indifferent to religion. Her last relationship lasted six months. Her dealbreakers: smoking, drugs, video games.
My friend Andrea arrives. I love her but I tell her there is business at hand. She understands.
Client No. 2: Julie, decked in a white fur coat that PETA would have loved to get their red-painted paws on, carrying a stuffed Prada shopping bag. Dyed blonde Disney princess blowout, early to mid 40s, oozing desperation. I bet she’d be fun to drink martinis with, but Julie orders white wine.
Julie was in a long distance relationship for a while. She’s Jewish but that doesn’t matter to her for a man, though she does want to raise her kids Jewish. She admits she may have lied on the questionnaire about her religion because she “felt a little bad”. (Dude comments that “that is normal in this situation.” I cough on an olive.)
Julie is now gulping down her white wine. She’s a psychologist, but when she does online dating she lies and says she’s in behavioral medicine because, she’s had patients call her before. She’s really close to her family, wants her future mate to value family, and drops the phrase “life partner.”
Dude, dominating, again intervenes: “Well we can guarantee he isn’t a serial killer—or married.” He laughs heartily and goes outside to take a call.
Unfortunately, the eavesdropping ends there. I didn’t get to transcribe the third interview, because Andrea began to tell me the most hair-raising story about being robbed at knifepoint in her apartment building. I’ll save that story for another time, perhaps over drinks…
Alex Beggs is associate editor at Vanity Fair, and writes the Cocktail Hour column for VF.com.