Archive for the ‘romance’ Category

Take a bubbly bath

Whether you’re happily coupled up, looking to be, or in love with yourself Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love, so why limit it to one day? /Why not take the week and fall head over heels in love with someone or something. Better yet, share the love. Here are some suggestions:

• Take advantage of after-Valentine’s Day specials – pick up some red roses on the 15th and drop the petals in a bubble bath while sipping pink champagne.

• Express yourself and paint your nails red. Buy little heart decals at the drugstore for the perfect finishing touch.

• Wear your heart on your sleeve and purchase a heart charm for your favorite bracelet or necklace.

• Buy a box of Valentine’s Day cards – the kind you used to buy in school – and give them to strangers like the school crossing guard, the dry cleaner, the cashier at the grocery store, the person next to you on a plane, the receptionist at your doctor’s office. Go ahead – make someone’s day.

• Make a contribution to your local heart and stroke foundation. Heart disease is the leading killer of women.

• Buy something red or pink – a scarf, a hat, or a pin – and make it your signature color for the week.

• Be sweet on yourself and indulge in chocolate truffles or a cupcake from a specialty shop.

• Send a Valentine’s Day card – unsigned – to your secret crush.

• Do a girls’ night in and screen your favorite Rom/Com or try your hand at an old board game like Mystery Date.

• Join an online dating site. You never know.

• Surprise your significant other in the weeks following Valentine’s by doing something different, treat him/her to a massage, a cooking lesson, a golf lesson, or a wine tasting.

photo: © istockphoto.com/pierredesvarre

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I never meet interesting men on planes. Given all the flying I do, you would think the odds would be in my favor. But it seems there’s a cosmic conspiracy to keep me uncoupled and out of trouble, at least while I’m in the air. In hundreds of thousands of miles logged on various airlines I only met one intriguing man. That was a long time ago, and I must confess that I treated him rather carelessly. I lost him, and the universe has been repaying  my ingratitude for its gift ever since. Until this past weekend, that is.

The Monday morning flight from Trieste to Munich was filled with predominantly male business travelers. As most of them have little or no manners when it comes to female passengers I didn’t hold out much hope this flight would be any different from the other commuter flights I’ve taken over the years.

I waited until the very end to board. I could see my row and the aisle seat was already occupied by a man who looked like just another Monday morning commuter. I bent down and politely indicated that I had the window seat.

“It’s okay, I’ll move,” he said.

“No really, I can sit there,” I said. He was tall and probably wouldn’t have been comfortable in the window seat.

He slid over any way. Very nice, I thought. I made a note to myself. “Must remember not to generalize.”

On the flight out one hears all manner of languages and accents — Dutch, German, French, Swedish, heavily accented English and, of course, Italian. As luck would have it – my gentleman was Italian. And he was the whole package, tall, dark, and handsome. For once the universe surprised me with pleasant view both inside and outside of the plane. I stole glances at him as we crossed the Alps. He folded up the newspaper he was reading to give me a better view, and our conversation started.

The depth and breadth of his conversation amazed me. He was well read, well-traveled and well educated in the social skills department. We talked for an hour and didn’t realize we’d landed until the flight attendant asked us to leave the plane. We both agreed to stay in our seats until everyone deplaned. This way we could avoid the crush. Besides the transfer bus for the terminal couldn’t leave without us.

As the last people on the bus, we squeezed into the crowded back end. I held my purse and my briefcase in one hand and a pole for support in the other. I had all of the weight on one side of my body and felt off balance. He towered over me as I stood to face him and continue our conversation.

He smelled good, like English soap and fresh air. His breath was sweet. As the bus turned a corner, I lost my balance. He put his free arm around the back of my waist to steady me as he pulled me slightly toward him. He apologized for being so forward, but I assured him that the alternative, me falling, was worse. It was the most gallant of gestures.

I lost my balance, and he steadied me, two more times on the way to the terminal. Please don’t let go, I thought. But the bus stopped and he had to let go. It was the shortest bus ride of my life. As we said goodbye, I reflected that I may not have fallen, but I certainly did lose my balance, at least for a little while.

photo: © istockphoto.com/TerryJ

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Many years ago, I stumbled headlong into an intense affair with a handsome but unavailable Swede. I clearly recall walking down Michigan Avenue arguing both sides of the debate with myself, the yes / no of it all. I still hadn’t made up my mind when later that day I bumped into a male friend, who, sensing my dilemma, offered the following advice, “It’s the things you don’t do that you end up regretting.”

Looking back over the years and weighing up the have done with the have not done, I can honestly say that I feel a greater sense of regret for those things left undone, i.e. not meeting the handsome and mysterious Frenchman in Paris. A little voice in the back of my head questioned that decision the minute he stepped off that train. And he wasn’t the first Frenchmen that I sometimes wonder about.

So what about the other side of the coin? When it comes to relationships, is it possible to still do something and regret it? If so, to what degree? Someone once asked me how many of the relationships that I talk about in my book do I regret? The answer is none. I had high hopes that those magical moments would last. And when they didn’t I felt sad, angry and disappointed.

And, so, I think my friend is only partly right. I believe the regret you feel in not having done something is in direct proportion to the desire we feel for the person, object, or activity.   As for regretting the things that I’ve done, with the healing benefit of time, I realize that in spite of the hurt and pain, given the opportunity I would still make the same choices.

Singer/songwriter Adele’s song “Someone like You” expresses it this way:

Regrets and mistakes they’re memories made

Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste?

Adele is right of course, memories are better bittersweet than bland, just like dark chocolate or the skin of a plum. And I am better for having tasted them.

No Regrets

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Little did I know when I wrote my previous post, Bird in the Hand that my week in Johannesburg would be a real life variation on the same theme: birds. How strange is that? What was Mother Nature trying to tell me?

First there was my early morning wake-up call at 6:00 a.m. Somewhere in my jet lag induced unconsciousness I could hear honking. I’ve heard of cell phones that chirp but never hotel phones that honk. Now fully awake, I realized the noise was not coming from inside but rather outside on my window ledge.

A pair of bickering black-billed geese, husband and wife, no doubt, had pitched up on my window ledge high above Sandton City on the 14th Floor of the Sandton Sun Hotel. It was my own personal (wake-up) call of the wild.

Bird with a View

How in the world did they get there? And just what were they arguing about at this hour? And why had they picked my window ledge? I got up and went to the window and looked down the ledge to where they sat bickering.

I watched her walk off in a huff. (I guess some things are universal.) He followed her down the ledge honking as if he was trying to convince her of something. By now they had arrived in front of me. It certainly looked like I was in the middle of some domestic squabble. Geese may mate for life but they’re not necessarily faithful so maybe there was another goose – or gander – involved.

I pulled back the curtains slowly trying not to frighten them so I could get a better view of the unhappy couple. Sensing the presence of an intruder, they turned their ire on me. I was about as welcome as the paparazzi at a Hollywood marriage meltdown.

Determined to keep their argument private, he puffed up his chest and spread his wings in an attempt to intimidate me. And then united as a couple they began to peck at the window. I was impressed, and then I realized they weren’t attacking me. They were attacking their own reflections in the window. Having spent their anger on something other than each other, they waddled off to other end of the ledge and I heard nothing further from them. They were back to being lovebirds.

The next day I packed my bags and headed for the comforts of home – my friend Julie’s home in a city suburb – the same Julie whose thought-provoking comment was the genesis for my book, Any Color but Beige. (See Chapter 25) The same Julie who generously whisked me away to the Veld for some much needed downtime last year. The same Julie who hosted a Girls’ Night In to celebrate the launch of the book in South Africa. (More on that later).

I was content to sit in her garden and soak up the summer sun while I watched the brightly yellow-colored birds called weavers build their nests. That day there was one weaver who had just put the finishing touches on his new nest when a curious female alighted on a nearby branch.

(The females are a dull brown but that doesn’t bother the males. Oh to be as free as that female weaver and have the male of the species chase you in spite of your dull plumage. I mean really, ladies, try getting away with a mousy color on the top of your head or half an inch of regrowth showing at the roots.)

At last someone with whom he can share his love nest. The little male weaver wanted to strut his colorful stuff and so he hopped onto the branch next to her and started to make small talk. Like a good female, she studiously ignored him.

When another male tried to muscle in on his girl, our brave little weaver ran him off. When I second male moved in, our little guy ran him off too. How’s that for defending your home and your castle? I heard him chirp. When he returned to put the moves on the female, she failed to return his romantic overtures. He flew up to the nest to invite her in to see his etchings but no dice’ she wasn’t budging.

He looked dejected. The tree was full of nests and so maybe she was waiting for a better offer. Finally, tired of waiting, for what I’m not quite sure, she flew off. I felt sorry for the male but Julie told me that it just may have been a blessing in disguise. Had the lady accepted his offer and flew up to the nest she might have found it lacking and tore it apart bit by bit. He would have to start over and try again until it pleased her. How like life.

And so the little yellow weaver went back to decorating his pad and waiting for the next pretty bird to come along. It’s like his mother once told him, “There are plenty of fish in the sea and plenty of birds in the sky.” How like love.

So what was Mother Nature telling me this week? Life, like love, is for the birds.

Photo: © iStockphoto.com/amrishwad

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I’ve been thinking a lot about old sayings –you know – the ones we use to help us make decisions.

For example, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

I used to think that made sense until experience proved me wrong. It’s always better to keep both hands open.

Not too long ago I had a lovely golden bird in the hand. I was so happy and pleased that this golden bird chose to alight in my garden and stay awhile that I became oblivious to all of the other beautiful birds visiting my garden that summer.

One day the golden bird and I had plans to rendezvous at a little love nest in the south of France. I decided to take a day for myself in Paris prior to joining him in Nice. I stayed in the very posh neighborhood, at the lovely L’ Hôtel de Banville in the 17ieme. It was a beautiful summer’s day and I decided to take le Métro to the Les Tuileries and walk in the gardens.

The closest Métro stop was Porte de Champerret  in a well-to-do treed residential area  with small shops and restaurants. Thinking and smiling to myself about my upcoming tryst, I happened to glance up and catch the eye of a very attractive Frenchman.

He wasn’t too tall – I’d say about 5’10 – and dressed: very French in his summer slacks, form-fitting white Lacoste shirt, and a cardinal red sweater tossed carelessly over his shoulders, the sleeves looped in front of his chest. His eyes were the color of cornflowers.

He rested comfortably against the hood of a high-end performance sports car, his Gucci-clad feet crossed at his tanned ankles. He was talking on his cell phone.

He returned a smile that wasn’t intended for him. That caught me by surprise, and I smiled back. I guess you could say we had a “moment”. But what to do about it? I was not going to start a conversation with a total stranger, especially since I already had a man waiting for me. I didn’t need another devastatingly handsome, and charming (all Frenchmen are charming) European man.

And so I walked straight into le Métro and headed for the platform. Somehow I knew he would follow me. Sure enough, when I got to the platform and turned around, I saw him walking toward me, like he had every intention taking the Métro that morning. I walked farther down the platform curious to see if he’d get in the same car. I momentarily lost sight of him when the train pulled up. I walked into the car carrying my guidebook and, there he was, he came in right after me. He sat across from me and made eye contact, looking for some sign of encouragement from me. I smiled but I was determined to play it cool. If he was that interested, and he looked like he was, it was up to him to approach me. I was done doing the modern girl thing. Plus I was in France; I was determined to play the coquette – short of batting my lashes.

We continued to exchange meaningful glances all the way through the next stop but nothing happened. We rolled into a third stop and exchanged fleeting eye contact. I knew I should proffer something more than passing glances, but the golden bird was waiting for me so I was more than willing to let this one get away. Unless of course he came up with an introduction, a beau geste, that would make my heart skip a beat.

The fourth stop came and he rose to leave. Dejected, he glanced back over his shoulder as the doors closed and I shrugged as if to say, “It was your move, why didn’t you make it?” With a hint of unexplainable sadness, I waved goodbye.

A day later I was in Nice basking in the Mediterranean sunshine with the golden bird, and a month after that he flew the coop without so much as an email or tweet goodbye.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had only been a bit more receptive to the mysterious French stranger. If I had given up the bird in the hand, or what I thought was a sure thing, for the potential of two in the bush. Had I made a cardinal mistake? I guess I’ll never know. He will forever remain the one that got away.

Photo: © iStockphoto.com/Johnny Greig


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When I mention to people that my book launch was the best night of my life, reactions vary from agreement to doubt. It’s interestingto note that only the men appear to doubt my claim. I find this puzzling because, given the differences between the sexes; I would have thought men would just get it. So this reaction surprised me.

Oh yeah?

Men, who by their very nature, are competitive beings, have played some sort of sport at least once in their lives or have “lived” an extraordinary moment: a game-saving tackle on the goal line, a home run in the bottom of the ninth, or a three pointer at the buzzer. Or maybe it was closing a million dollar deal, landing a new account, or cashing out a winner in poker. Whatever the event, it will go down in their memories as probably the best “moment” of their lives.

So why is it so hard for men to make the leap from pitch, playing field or boardroom, where the glad-handing and back-slapping of buddies is commonplace and where solo efforts of prowess are lauded, to the softer side of life where creation and not competition reigns supreme.

The cynic in me postulates that any achievement not involving at least the advice or counsel of a man is somehow lacking. How could she have done it without me? How dare she do it without me? It can’t possibly be the best without me. This last one may have a slight sexual undertone depending on whom I’m talking to. Wink, wink, nod, nod.

But the explanation is quite simple once I juxtapose it for them against a bigger picture –the marathon race we all run called “life.” People come and go and add and subtract from our lives (hopefully they add more than they subtract). And the memories created “a deux” can sometimes be tainted with sadness, despair and regret, should things end badly.

Our memorable solo moments, days, nights or seasons are the best because we own them. We are the sole architect of those pieces of happiness, achievement or glory. A moment, day or, in my case, night, is something, not even time, can take from us, nor memory taint. Savor them!

Photo: © iStockphoto.com/Ulvestad

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There’s an old proverb that says, “Lucky at cards, unlucky at love.”  The Italians turn it around and say, “Sfortuna al gioco, fortuna in amore”.  Translation:  Unlucky at cards, lucky at love.  And they would know.

And then there’s me unlucky at cards and unlucky in love.  So what’s a Café Girl to do when she’s in Las Vegas?  Certainly not gamble. That would so be a waste of money. And certainly not flirt with that handsome stranger in the tuxedo at the baccarat table in the High Stakes Lounge. That would be a waste of time, especially since his name is Giancarlo. Tall, dark and dangerously handsome – you can just tell that he holds all the cards.

No, I kept my hands in my pockets and my heart in check as I walked back to my hotel.  No one was getting lucky tonight.  Then, as I was passing by the Trevi Fountain near the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace, I noticed a penny on the ground.  Oh what the heck! It was a small gamble and the only money Vegas would get off of this Café Girl. I gave it a toss … and made a wish.

Unlucky at cards? Usually. Unlucky at love? Most definitely!

But when it comes to adventure – all I can say is be careful what you wish for.

Photo: © iStockphoto.com/Juergen Sack

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