“What are you leaving for the tip?” my husband asked, studying our share of the dinner check we were splitting with my newish girlfriend and her husband, whom we were meeting for the first time. The restaurant was reasonably priced, so I was stunned when my friend’s husband replied, “Thirty-two.”
“That can’t be right,” I blurted out. Martin moved the check, letting me see the Chianti the other guy had ordered cost $185. For me that was closer to a flight to Italy than a bottle of wine. The spendthrift spouse said, “It amuses me that back when I was at Harvard, we were happy with cheap Mateus.”
That was the fifth time he’d dropped the name of his school, and the first thing I brought up when Martin and I were alone. The evening had been the married version of blind dating, where we vetted someone else’s husband to see if we were all compatible and would socialize as couples. After leaving the restaurant, I vented to Martin, pronouncing my friend’s partner a narcissist: “He wanted all the attention and—”
“You OK to walk home?” my husband interrupted.
“Now you’re going to interrupt?”
Martin looked puzzled.
“He never let anyone finish what they were saying,” I complained.
My new friend and I had bonded instantly in yoga class, maybe because we were the only ones not wearing Lululemon, both checking our watches when we were instructed to move from downward facing dog to warrior. We were the first to rush out of the studio, and while we were putting on our shoes, I said, “I had a Groupon,” to explain being there.
She laughed. “Trying to keep up with my trendy daughter-in-law.” Walking out together, we decided to get a drink. In our two hours together, we learned enough to write the other’s obit. Anybody listening might have imagined we were longtime friends, unless they heard her telling me she’d been married to a lawyer for more than 30 years, and my responding that our 40th anniversary was coming up. We made a date to have lunch. After a few of these, I suggested dinner with our partners included.
Walking back to our apartment, I told Martin, “He’s good looking, but I don’t understand how she can tolerate someone so desperate to impress.”
“It’s her problem, not yours,” Martin said.
“It will be when she suggests getting together again,” I worried.
“You’ll do what you do with other women whose husbands you can’t stand,” he said. “You’ll see her for lunch.”
“If she realizes how I feel about him, it could wreck the friendship. And I really like her.”
“So, we’ll invite them over,” was Martin’s suggestion. “We can put up with him one more time.”
“Then they’ll want to reciprocate. The more involved you get, the harder it is to disengage.”
“Don’t you think you’re making too much of this?” he asked.
“You’re not the one having to figure out what to say,” I countered. “That always falls to the women. The only man who makes plans is having an affair,” I joked. Still obsessing over how to handle this without hurting her, I panicked the next day when I saw she’d e-mailed me: “That was fun. I miss you already. Let’s have lunch. Give me some dates?”
“She’s great,” I told Martin. “I bet she picked up on our reaction to him and is giving us an easy out.”
“Or,” he laughed.
“She hated me.”