You know the old saying, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas"? well, I almost want to say the same thing about my Saturday night this last weekend. Anthony was out of town, Hollis was staying the night with my parents and an old friend and I had dinner plans and I ripped it up. But, since it's not Vegas it's something worth retelling.
I don't even remember the last time I went out under circumstances similar to when I was single. I was on my own Saturday, free as a lark. No baby to worry about. No husband to worry about me. I didn't even have a dog I had to worry about letting out. However, I now have a mother to worry about me.
I rarely, if ever, get behind the wheel after even one glass of wine when Hollis is in the car, so my mom was really worried about me drinking and driving by myself that night. She wouldn't let up, "Call us if you need a ride," she kept saying.
"Yes, Mom. Ok, Mom. Of course, Mom. I'll be fine, Mom. I'm not going to get drunk, Mom," and so forth and so on.
But after I'd dropped Hollis off at her house and returned home to get dressed I thought, what the hell? Why not just call a cab and just not worry about it? So I did. And the nice cabby was at my house promptly at 6:30.
As I locked my front door and got into the cab I felt like I was having an out of body experience; I was flashed back to the early 2000s when cabs were a regular means of transportation for me. My perfumed arms and legs meticulously moisturized, my legs shaved, my hair just right, makeup perfect. My dress figure flattering, but not too revealing. I felt like ME again.
As I sat in the back of the cab and watched the familiar buildings go by through an unfamiliar window I was transported to a place of calm and reflection. So this is what it used to feel like, thought. And then I watched the highway over the cabbie's shoulder and thought of all the other cab rides I'd ever taken in my life and how those evenings had ended. Usually with lots of booze and a line of coke or two or three and strangers in my house. I had such an open door, let's party and have fun attitude that my trust in a complete stranger was overwhelming. I've often wondered if my brazen trust didn't disarm any would-be wrong doers, because no one ever hurt me or even tried.
I thought I should call my mom to let her know I was cabbing it after all. I knew she might be up all night worrying about me and drunk driving, but that wasn't enough. She wanted me to call her when I was going home that night. I told her no and no I had no idea when that might be. I was going to be safe, but have fun, too, and that meant not having to call anyone. I have my limits, too, after all.
We arrived at the restaurant 15 minutes early and I paid with a credit card - again, I thought back to the days when they didn't even take credit cards - and went inside. It was a trattoria, sparsely decorated with only a handful of patrons. It was only 6:45 after all. I walked to the bar, straight towards a line of 5 men, shoulder-to-shoulder behind the bar. I felt tall with my Frye boots on and pretty. They politely appraised me and then one of them followed me to the end of the bar where I pulled out a stool. I ordered a glass of sparkling wine.
A minute later my friend arrived and we took a seat in the corner. We ate and drank and reconnected: lots of verbal sparring and jokes and laughter. It was awesome.
[It's important to note that my friend, Dave, is also a friend of Anthony (one of the chosen few). I've known Dave for more than a decade and love that he and Anthony are friends now, too. I have rarely gone out with him alone since getting together with Anthony for the mere fact that I love that he and Anthony like each other and so I have happily encouraged their friendship over ours. Dave and I aren't going anywhere (as in, we're going to be friends no matter how much we hang out, whether we like it or not).]
I talked to Dave about all the different parts of me and how I've been ignoring the Me in me and how it's been a real eye-opener this summer to suddenly feel like I'm standing around with my dick in my hand and he immediately quipped, as he's wont to do, "Well, then it's time to stroke it."
And so I did.
We walked to a nearby bar and sat in overstuffed couches by the door. We laughed our asses off and Dave told me the female bartender thought I was pretty. An old friend walked in and his lady friend complimented my dress. I felt amazing.
A few glasses later we walked to meet up with some of Dave's other friends at yet another neighborhood bar. Dave was wonderfully rude and abrasive and I felt 23 again. It was awesome. I could be myself and trust that it was cool. Just me and me and me. All Jess, all the time. In other words, no one's wife, no one's mother, just someone's friend.
More girls complimented me on my dress and I by now I felt like a freaking super star.
At about 1:30 I called for a cab and left to meet him outside, but he never showed so I began walking downtown to find one on my own. I walked for blocks and blocks, passing groups of friends and loners as the bars spilled out onto the streets. Horns blaring, voices shouting. I felt so alive and strong. I turned down a street with throngs of people and was about to hail a cab when I hear, "Jess!!" I turn around and it's a friend I haven't seen in years.
"Oh my God!! Jenna! Holy shit!" The look on her face said you could have knocked her over with a feather. I close the distance and give her a hug and say hello to her friend. They insist that we have 10 minutes left "to save the world" and usher me inside to the bar and buy me another drink. Behind me are couples gyrating together, laughing, and sloshing drinks and the three of us down our drinks (me, yet another glass of wine). I thank them both and leave to find that elusive cab.
I walk several more blocks to end up in front of the Hilton. I'm surrounded by hundreds of people, cabs, cars, lights, doormen. I just stand on the corner and breathe. I dare anyone to ruin my night by a touch or a look. I'm ready to turn my laser beam eyes on them and cut them down. Nothing can ruin this moment for me. This moment of unadulterated amusement and excitement.
Of course the night wouldn't be complete with some drama. While standing in front of the hotel Dave calls to ream me out that he was about to start driving around looking for me because I still hadn't texted him that I was in a cab. Truth was, I'd forgotten all about it, but I hadn't found a cab anyway. Just then a cabbie sees me and is available. Nothing short of a small miracle.
My voice hoarse from bar-talk all night I laugh at Dave and tell him I'm ok and that I was getting in to a cab that very moment and I drive home to awaken a new woman.
And a new woman I am. Things happened to me Saturday night that have seemed to dislodge the pangs of loneliness and insecurity. A few correctly placed glances and compliments have bolstered my self-esteem. No one looked at me like I wasn't worth looking at. People were approving and excited to see me and talk to me. And I had the added comfort in knowing that I was taken and safe. Girls I talked to often started sentences with, "If I ever get married..." or "If I ever have kids..." Those words are forever lost to me because I have found that kind of love in both cases and therefore I have the added bonus of getting to be me and getting to be a wife and mother.
I'm certain that this isn't the last time that I'll need to do something like this. It's obvious to me that I can't shut this part of me off just because of motherhood or marital status: I need the attention, the reassurance, and the thrill. I just do. Maybe I'm a weak person for admitting it or for needing it, I don't know, but what I do know is I don't care. I don't claim to be all powerful or perfect or even appropriate every moment of my life, but so long as I'm doing the right thing by me then I'm inherently doing the right thing for my husband and son because they get a better, happier me.
So, thanks, to all the strangers out there who looked at me and not through me Saturday night, and thank you, friends, for seeing just me, too.