Saturday night I was driving around my neighborhood for 45 minutes trying to find a parking spot.
I had groceries with me, and as I was circling I opened a packet of sliced provolone. I kept driving around and around the same damn set of blocks, and getting more aggravated by the minute, and eating more cheese.
At some point I looked down and thought, "I've eaten too much cheese!" And started to giggle out loud.
Because, you see, a year or so ago I went on this not-date date with a guy who lived in my neighborhood. We had met totally randomly, and established very quickly and for a variety of reasons, that we were not going to date. One of the big ones was that he was Republican and wanted to date a Republican. And I did not.
But he had all these interesting things about him - was in the foreign service, spoke five languages, had been all over the world, was moving to Morocco. Plus, he said he had single colleagues who I might like. I should meet them. This definitely made him appealing.
He'd invited me out for happy hour with a bunch of his friends, but I'd been unable to make it. And so one evening he suggested we grab dinner.
So we went out for friendly not-date dinner. And sometime during dinner I realized that it was all about him, his job, his importance, his this and his that. And every time I interrupted his monologue and tried to turn it into a conversation he ignored it. To tell me something else that should impress me about him.
So I decided to ask about the single men he was offering up. The fabulous friends. And he went through the list, naming them, and then giving me reasons why actually, now that he was thinking about it, they wouldn't work out. One smoked. One was just about to move to, um, Thailand. One he strongly suspected was gay.
One by one, he eliminated all. Really, he had no single friends that I would actually like. Pity, that.
And so I think I must have asked about relationships and moving around a lot or something, and the conversation turned to his work and relationships in the workplace. And how his last girlfriend had been a colleague.
"She was so beautiful. I didn't think I'd ever get her to go out with me. But finally she did."
"So," I asked, "what happened?"
"Oh, we went out for a while. And I really liked her. But in the end I had to break up with her. Because she just ate too much cheese."
I almost spat out the sip of beer I'd just taken.
"I'm sorry. Did you just say you broke up with her because she ate too much cheese?"
"Yes. She ate too much cheese."
"How much cheese? And is she from the Midwest?"
"They eat a lot of cheese. How much cheese? How much cheese is too much cheese?"
I was picturing a woman gnawing at this enormous block of cheddar, as big as her head. I've subsequently had so many conversations with people about this. What kind? Gorgonzola? Swiss? And most importantly: how much cheese is too much cheese?
"A lot. I don't know. She ate a lot of cheese. And I didn't like the way she ate it."
I was giggling. And so intrigued. "But how much? How did she eat it?"
You can see how this conversation had suddenly become fascinating to me.
He was getting agitated. "I don't know. A lot. She ate a lot of cheese!"
"OK, fine. So you broke up with this beautiful woman because she ate too much cheese."
"Yes. Well, that and she talked really dirty in bed. And she stuck her finger in my butt."
With this he poked his finger in the air.
I probably don't have to tell you how hard I laughed at that. And he? Looked very pleased with himself. Like he'd told a great joke. Clearly I found him funny.
After I'd stopped laughing, wiped the tears from my face, and caught my breath, I asked if they still worked together. They did not.
Because I just cannot let go of something like this, I was about to bring up the amount of cheese again. When he asked, "Would you like to go out again sometime?"
I had my hands resting on top of the table, and as he said that, he reached over and started fondling my fingers.
I withdrew my hand.
What to say to self-absorbed cheese eater hating finger up the bum man? "Um, well, I suppose we could go out as friends. In the neighborhood. It's good to have friends. In the neighborhood. We are neighbors, after all."
"But just as friends?"
"Well, yes. Remember how we'd already established that we're not really anything the other is looking for? For starters, you're looking for a Republican, remember?"
"Well, yes, but that's for a serious relationship. We could just have fun."
I took a deep breath and said, "Let me be very honest with you. I am never. Ever. Going to sleep with you." I looked him straight in the eye as I said this.
"Is it because I'm Republican?"