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I looked at my naked reflection in the full-length hotel mirror.
Weeks of barely eating had diminished my size, yet dimpling was everywhere.
How would I ever stand naked in front of another man?
Mother constantly nagged me about my weight. Even complained to our church’s women’s group when I was eight that I kept getting bigger no matter what she tried. A sneering kid shared that tidbit during Sunday school. I will never forget how everyone laughed at me.
My sister Deb had left home by then, and the only time I ever achieved normal weight were the two summers I spent with her, my former “Mom.” And no—no one ever thought to investigate that.
I grabbed a tight black and white striped dress from the closet and quickly tugged it on. Then rescued an old pair of control top pantyhose from a zipper pouch in my roller-board suitcase. Thank goodness it was still cool enough in Chicago to wear them.
In the bathroom, I put on lipstick and sprayed my hair. Even though I was here for work, it felt like a vacation to be away from home. My husband Jim had received the divorce papers a few days before, and I’d been waiting for him to erupt.
But nothing. Which worried me. What was he planning?
I took one last look in the mirror before heading out the door. Not bad for 51. I closed the door behind me and noticed my hand had left sweat on the doorknob. What if no one found me attractive?
What if they did?
At dusk, I walked into the dimly lit restaurant. It would have been an excellent locale for a clandestine meeting. The only light source was a sparkly bar sculpture made of wine bottles. I imagined it saying, “Drink me, drink me!”
From the darkness, I heard a voice, “Donna, Donna? Over here.” I turned to see my single friend Meg in a black shift, pearls, and flats. She had a blonde page boy and was pretty in a girl-next-door kind of way. We hugged and I sat down.
“Wow, you look dressed up,” she said.
“Just got this. First chance I had to wear it.” I don’t know why I lied. I’d bought the dress months earlier.
I waved to get the server’s attention and we ordered a bottle of red wine. As we waited for his return, we caught up on work. Meg still had the same job. I’d moved twice since we last met.
Even though I always did well at work, at some point I would grow frustrated with the job, or my boss, or how they were managing the company, and I would leave. I did this over and over. And never wondered if it was me–not the place–that was to blame.
The waiter came with the wine and poured our glasses. When he left, we clinked and took a sip, which gave me the courage to say, “I’m getting a divorce.”
“Oh, that explains the sexy non-work dress on a Wednesday.” I laughed. Meg asked what happened, and over wine and the eventual charcuterie plate, I told her.
If she was surprised, she hid it well. When the bottle was finished, she said, “Want to go bar hopping?”
My eyes opened wide, and I covered the smile on my face with my hand. “If you want to. I know it’s a school night.”
She waved me off, “No worries. This’ll be fun.”
We paid the bill and took a cab to a skyscraper downtown. We rode the elevator to the rooftop bar, found a standing table facing the lake sunset, and ordered drinks. The cost per glass of wine was more than the entire bottle at the last place.
As we talked, an attractive bearded man in a blue seersucker suit walked over. I’ve had a thing for seersucker suits since watching the show Matlock as a kid. I gulped the last of my wine.
“May I buy you another glass?” he asked. “There’s an excellent cabernet from California on the wine list. It has lovely vanilla and berry notes.”
“I love cabernet.” “Then that is what you will have.” He got the attention of the waiter and pointed to a 40-dollar-glass.
I looked at him and said, “Uh, thank you. But that’s an expensive wine.” What was he expecting in exchange?
“That’s okay, I can afford it,” he said, turning to Meg. “Are you ready for another one?”
“In a little bit. We’re trying to figure out our next stop.”
“Do you like music?” “Absolutely,” Meg said.
“How about the Redhead Piano Bar?”
“Oh, I’ve heard of that, but never been,” Meg said. He told us it was a sing-along bar with music for all ages. But mainly frequented by people our age.
Within an hour Meg and I were walking toward the Redhead. By then, my speech was slurry, so we veered into a greasy spoon for a cheeseburger and fries.
We lost Seersucker in the burger joint but found him again at the piano bar. The place was perfect—people our age, some older—and the pianists took all requests, from classical to modern, jazz to rock. There was a circular bar around the grand piano and the crowd was standing room only.
I marveled at the pianist’s talent and patience. A few men flirted with me and I let them buy me drinks. But I was an alien in this dating world. I’d wondered what it would be like to be naked in front of another man. Could I go through with it?
As the night continued, there were lots of requests for Billy Joel. “Only the Good Die Young.” “Just the Way You Are.” When the pianist played “New York State of Mind,” I cried. It’s one of my favorites. Meg hugged me as we sang along.
At last call, Seersucker asked if he could walk me home.
I don’t remember anything after that.
The next day I woke up naked in my hotel room.
Mind reeling, I glanced over to see if anyone was beside me. Then the night filtered back.
No, nothing happened. I just forgot a nightgown.
I sat up and drank from the bottle of water next to the bed. Years of sales conference drinking and the cheeseburger served me well. I didn’t feel that bad. Maybe I could get used to the single life again.
An hour later, I grabbed a taxi to the headquarters of a local banking client and spent the rest of the day there. That night I begged off dinner with a colleague and went to a local department store outlet. I went in planning to get a pajama set, but a peachy orange satin negligee called to me, along with a matching floral bathrobe.
They fit beautifully. I fantasized about wearing them for someone other than my husband.
That weekend, during a chakra energy discussion in yoga teacher training, I discovered that the negligee was the same color as the sacral chakra.
Which meant I had a deficit in sexual energy.
I had painted a wall in my “she den” that color. Thank God none of my friends spoke chakra.
My first single night out after 22 years of marriage: an excerpt from Donna’s book We’ve Got to Stop Meeting Like This
Join Donna for her retreat on Managing Change with Grace at Kripalu next month. Link to register is here” https://kripalu.org/presenters-programs/managing-change-grace