Friday, October 28, 2005

Martinis for two, with a twist...

This past Wednesday I received an invitation to a Singles Martini Tasting event from the same people who put together the speed dating night that I wrote about here. Since the events from that night provided plenty of material for an entire blog entry, I thought that I should give this one a shot too.

The event was held at McFadden's, a popular nightspot in the currently trendy Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia. The bar itself is your typical faux-Irish pub, with the latest imported beers on tap and dark walnut chairs and tables spread about the main room. The martini tasting was held in a smaller, private room towards the back, with its own bar and leather couches and ottomans. The night involved a new flavor of martini being served every half-hour, for a total of five (in 3 oz. glasses). The target age range of the singles was listed as 27-45. I went there straight from the office after a hectic day and didn't arrive until almost 7:30. My plan was just to unwind with a couple of cocktails, have some light-hearted conversation, and hopefully come away with some interesting blog material. By the time I eventually walked in, the event was in full swing.

As I entered the room, two things struck me right away. I did a quick count of about 12 women all around the room, all of various ages and all of them fashionably dressed. The more remarkable fact was that, with my belated arrival, the total male population of the room rose to three. In addition to me, there was Ed, a sales rep in his early forties who resembled a slightly stockier version of the actor Joe Mantegna. The other Y-chromosome in the room was supplied by Peter, a tall, thin asian male also in his early forties who resembled an older, matured version of Long Duc Dong, the foreign exchange student from "Sixteen Candles".

[hey, folks--I just call 'em like I see 'em...]

The other thing that quickly became apparent was that as one of only three males in a room full of women at a singles event, my plan about laying low and making mental notes for my blog went right out the window. Hanging up my suitcoat, walking over to the bar to order a drink, catching up with the hostess who I knew through mutual friends--I had the unmistakable feeling of at least a dozen pairs of eyes following me about the room at one point or another. I started to make brief small talk with the people standing around me, but I wanted to take some time to try to speak with everyone before I jumped into a prolonged conversation with anyone in particular.

I noticed a woman with dark hair in her early thirties sitting on one of the leather couches along the wall. I would be lying if I didn't admit that the very flattering top that she was wearing was also one of the first things that had caught my eye. Sometimes a low-cut shirt can be a blessing and a curse, because there is always the danger of becoming too self-aware of the very area where you in fact are not supposed to focus your attention. So the more you begin to engage in an internal monologue to remind yourself that you should be looking the woman in the eyes and not glancing down at her chest, the more you feel the growing compulsion that you CAN'T HELP BUT LOOK DOWN and your eyes start to water from the strain of fighting to keep themselves level...

Right about then some appetizers were set out on the small table right in front of her couch, so I had the perfect opening to walk over and begin a conversation. Her name was Nancy and she was sitting beside her friend Carol, who had curly blond hair and was also in her early thirties. They had come to the bar together, and neither had been to one of these singles events before. They had actually become friends about a year ago after attending a seminar entitled "101 Places to Meet Single People". When I asked about some of the ones in the top ten, the suggestions like #5--"Join a co-ed sports league", or #10--"Volunteer for a charity" seemed to make good sense. But I kind of got the sense that the creators of the seminar had gotten desperate towards the end of the list and had to stretch to come up with some fillers. For example, I was fairly certain that
#98--"Hang around the Greyhound bus terminal" wasn't going to turn up any viable suitors.

We spoke for awhile about our individual backgrounds and careers. She worked for a non-profit organization and provided training and education to employers with mentally and physically disabled employees in the workplace. The conversation flowed easily from one topic to the next, and was balanced pretty much fifty/fifty between us. Ed sat down across from Carol, and the hostess brought around a different style of martini every half-hour. I'd like to fill you in on the rest of the attendees from that evening, but to be honest I pretty much stayed put and continued to talk with Nancy. I did notice a slight commotion about thirty minutes later, when five of the women got up and left. They were complaining that there weren't an equal number of men there and that they thought this was going to be a speed dating event. I found out later from the hostess that there actually had been a total of ten men confirmed for the evening. I can only assume that the other seven must have bailed that night to watch Game Four of the World Series in some crowded sports bar surrounded by other men. Good call, guys...

Pretty soon the martini tasting officially ended, and a group of six of us headed over into the main bar itself. Nancy had picked up my martini glass along with hers when we got up to move, and sat them down next to each other on the big round table where our group had settled. I pulled my chair up close to hers and pretty soon the tone of the conversation made a complete transition from polite small talk to full-on flirting. In addition to Carol and Ed, two other women from the event had joined us at the table. Mary, who was in her late 20's and had just moved here from the West Coast, worked for a national pharmaceutical company headquartered in Philadelphia. After subjecting her to the 1000th joke she heard that day about getting free samples of Viagra, we found out that she apparently worked in the company's research and development division. We good-naturedly began to tease her about being single-handedly responsible for everything from the world-wide outbreak of the SARS virus, to her inventing the condition of lactose intolerance just because she was bored one day at work. Mary and Ed began to really hit it off, and they spent the rest of the night talking to each other.

At one point I had gone up to the bar to buy the next round for the group. As I returned to the table, Carol was mockingly claiming that every guy that she had ever met was too afraid to dance in public. Acting on impulse, as I tend to do after my third martini, I put down the drinks and said "Let's go." The bar was about 3/4 full of people and there was still enough room to find an open spot for some basic swing moves (picked up at the same time that I took ballroom lessons several years ago with a former girlfriend). I had only intended on twirling her around a couple of times to call her bluff, but she got so into it that I couldn't just stop in the middle of the song. My moment of spontaneity began to backfire, as the song continued to play for several minutes, and I caught just the briefest glimpse of something flash across Nancy's face. Finally the song came to an end and I went back over to the table. Nancy was smiling and gave us a round of applause, but laughingly demurred when I said that I wanted the next dance with her.

The moment passed and the flirting resumed its intensity. I asked about a gemstone that was set in her necklace, which was positioned at just the perfect length to further enhance the whole effect she had going on up top. I reached out to look at the stone more closely, and then kept my hand there just inches above her chest while I continued the conversation, making serious eye contact the whole time. A short time later, the right song started to play over the speakers, so I stood up without saying a word and took her by both hands. She put up a moment's playful resistance, and then smiled as I lead her out to an open space. Soon her entire face lit up as I spun her around and twisted her back into my arms over and over. That song came to an end and a slower song began to play. I took her left hand in my hand and slipped my other arm around her back. My hand pressed against the small of her back and I pulled her body up tight against mine. I shifted my hips slightly so that I could move my knee in between her legs, so that one of her legs was on either side of mine, and she gently began to press against my upper thigh. Our faces were just inches apart and we slowly rocked and swayed standing in place for the rest of the song.

They announced last call right after that, and I settled up the bar tab and we all headed outside. I walked the two of them over to the parking lot, and Carol helpfully announced that she was going to try to find a decent channel on the radio while Nancy and I stood by the rear of her car. It had gotten a lot colder during the night, and I had put my suit jacket around Nancy's shoulders as we walked along. I slipped a hand under each lapel and pulled her to me. Our faces moved towards each other and I began to kiss her. We stood there for several minutes, and the kisses ranged between just a gentle brushing of our lips together, to a little flicker of our tongues, to a deeper, harder kiss, and finished with me giving just the slightest pull on her bottom lip. I brushed her hair back from her face and thanked her for the dance. She smiled again and said yes when I asked if she wanted to go out again sometime next week. We exchanged numbers and made plans to talk over the weekend. I leaned over and said goodnight to Carol, helped Nancy into the car, and watched as they pulled out of the lot and into traffic.

I went over the events of the past few hours as I headed back to my car. I had to laugh at how the evening had taken a completely different turn from what I had expected. I had planned on just unwinding with a few drinks and making some small talk in the hopes of finding something to write about for the next installment on my blog. Instead I found myself kissing a beautiful girl after several hours of laughter and intriguing conversation. I wondered if the night would have ended the same way if I had gone out actively looking to meet someone, instead letting things develop naturally the way that they did. With blind dates, the singles scene, and internet dating, too often the focus becomes placed just on the process of searching for someone, instead of getting out of the way and giving chemistry the chance to develop on its own. Sometimes it pays to simply go out there, put everything else out of your mind, and just let yourself move with the night's rhythm.