Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sushi & Salsa - Martinis & Margaritas

I don't get out much. So, when I do I guess I consider it worth writing about.

Saturday night I went out with a few friends to celebrate my very good friend Bear Maiden's birthday.

My other friend, Lilacblue, stopped by my house first to drop off her daughter, Ladybug to hang with Sugar and Spice while we went out. I can't tell you how surprised I was that the Bull actually accepted being left with three girls while we moms went out to party. The worst he did was to shrug his shoulders, scowl and say "What choice do I have?"

Now I have to say, that there have been times that this, combined with him walking around not saying anything, with his shoulders all tight, would have been enough for me to throw my hands up and say, "Fine! I'll stay home." But those days are getting fewer and farther between. I need and relish time away from house, home and kids and I'm finally at a point where I'm willing to grab those moments and leave the Bull, Sugar and Spice to comfort each other over it.

Which is pretty much what happened - Spice realized, just as we were headed for the door, that we were really going out. LilacBlue and I both saw her face start to drop - and we moved quickly out the door. But the distraction of having Ladybug there must have been some solace, because I paused on the other side as I locked the front door and never heard Spice cry or even fuss as loudly as she is prone to.

So LilacBlue and I hopped in a cab and headed downtown. We made stops at Zabar's to get a Junior's Cheesecake for Bear Maiden, Claire's to get some fun, funky jewelry for me (my regular, nicer jewelry is pretty tame and I didn't feel like looking tame), and an impromptu stop at a shoe store where LilacBlue grabbed a hot looking pair of boots which she wore out of the store.

Now, I forgot to mention that BearMaiden, LilacBlue and I generally hang together after dropping our kids off at school - if all of us have the time. None of us feels too comfortable with the typical 9 to 5 and so we do our best to avoid it - though, of course we do have to work - sometimes. For the last couple of months, we seem to manage to hang out about once a week - though we never plan it that way - it always just seems to happen. And because we're pretty down to earth people, and are meeting up when dropping our kids at school - we are usually in jeans, sneakers and sans make-up or any frills.

A couple of weeks ago - during one of our days hanging out - LilacBlue had to pick up a skirt and blouse to wear to an event. BearMaiden and I teased her relentlessly about wearing a skirt. But in the end, we decided that for our night out we would all wear skirts - would dress up.

Now, I really don't do skirts. In my closet there are 2 skirts and one dress that are fairly casual. In the back of The Bull's closet I have another 2 skirts and one dress that are essentially packed away - these are formal - the dress is a floor length, black velvet number that I really should find an excuse to wear because it is the one article of clothing I own that I know makes me look hot.

I am uncomfortable in skirts and more uncomfortable in the shoes that need to be worn with skirts. But, I agreed to the torture of getting dressed up because, it emotionally it feels nice to look good sometimes - even if it physically it feels pretty uncomfortable.

So I pulled out this cute, little black and white patterned wrap dress that I bought on a whim and squeezed my fat calves into a pair of leather knee-high boots (well they're supposed to be knee-high, but my fat calves keep them from quite making it to my knees). And I did my hair and put on make-up and all that.

Well, when LilacBlue showed up - her hair was out and bouncing and she was wearing a cute little top - and JEANS! No skirt. I fussed at her and acted all betrayed, and had a fleeting moment of thinking of putting on jeans - but changing at that point would have been more trouble than it was worth. So we headed out. But then Bear Maiden showed up in JEANS and snow boots!!!! Ugh! And the three other friends we met up with were all wearing jeans as well. I froze my legs off for nothing!

Back to the night out - LilacBlue and I arrived at the restaurant - a sushi place on the Upper West Side and found that our other friend - Lioness was there. Lioness is new to hanging with us. Her kids started going to the same school as our kids last year, and we all kind of discovered her and how well she gels with us in the last couple of months. She's feisty and bossy with an off-beat sense of humor that keeps us all on our toes.

After a while BearMaiden finally made her way to the restaurant along with her sister the Professor who was sporting new, funky eye glasses and beautiful braids cornrowed up to the top of her head and cascading down in a long ponytail. In honor of her birthday BearMaiden had released the ta-tas in a pretty floral top with a plunging neckline - that was sure to make any man drool all over himself.

Finally the last of our party arrived. Now Bear Maiden calls her One Half - in honor of the fact that she is part of one of the most seemingly perfect couples any of us have ever seen. But I have a hard time referring to anyone - particularly a woman - by her marital status. So I've struggled with names for her. But after seeing her uncharacteristically lose her temper recently - I've decided to call her QuietStorm because her normally peaceful demeanor is clearly concealing quite a fiery personality.

So our party was complete - and fun and comfortable with each other and ourselves. We toasted Bear Maiden's birthday with martinis. I was the last to order one because I hadn't made a decision to drink alcohol. I tend to stay away from drinking ever since I quit smoking the day before I discovered I was pregnant with Sugar. I have a hard time separating drinking and smoking - tend not to want to take the chance of smoking becoming a habit again. But, I decided it was a night to break out of the usual a bit and take chances - so I ordered a chocolate martini that was basically more like drinking dessert than anything else - but it was delicious.

It's funny to sit at a table with a bunch of rather strong women and see how we react to each other and how those around us react to us. The conversation flowed and we all had funny anecdotes and stories to share with each other. We laughed loud at one another's jokes and sometimes talked over each other when we all had something to share - but all in a good-natured way that we clearly felt comfortable with.

I think, because we are all mothers we are used to talking over, above, through and under other people. I mean kids are just never quiet - so anyone who lives with children quickly learns that you can't wait for silence to have your say - you just jump right in there and either you grab the attention of those you want to hear you or you wait and try again later.

But it was funny watching others react to our kind of loud fun. Two, clearly single women sat at a table not far from us and one of them was very distracted by us - she kept looking over suddenly as though we had startled her and would scowl at our boisterous laughter. I couldn't help but be amused by her.

After dinner, we all headed further downtown - to the lower east side to a bar/club that has free salsa lessons on Saturday nights. Now I can't remember the last time I was in a bar or club. I really can't remember the last time I was in one with a bunch of girl friends. But I was treated to the highlight of being "carded" as I walked in the door. Now, of course, they card everyone - but at my age - it just feels fun to be carded. Especially since I'm old enough that I can remember when NO clubs in NYC really carded. I started ocassionally going to clubs when I was about 15 or 16 and I don't think anyone ever asked me to show ID in a NYC club until I was in my late 20s. So, it's enough of a novelty to me that I get downright girlish and giggly over it.

Quiet Storm chose to head home after dinner so it was just BearMaiden, LilacBlue, Lioness, the Professor and I entering the bar. A friend of the Professor's was there already with two male friends. Lioness bought a round of margaritas and we got a few sips in before the Salsa lessons started.

The dancing was fun. I mean I have never been able to learn to salsa. Not that I've tried that often - but when I have - the rhythm of it threw me off. But they broke it down to it's simplest steps and after a while I actually began to get it. And that was enough to keep me somewhat amused - just enjoying dancing and focusing on learning something new.

Then there was the people watching. Oh my what a crowd! When we first got there, before the salsa started they were playing some rather typical pop/dance music and there was this couple going at it on the dance floor. It was hilarious to watch them grinding and gyrating - him leaning up against a pole in the middle of the floor and her thrusting her butt back into his hips. Very funny and over the top.

Once the salsa started there was couple after couple to entertain. The older Svengali-type dude who clearly liked to take younger women and school them in the ways of salsa, dancing with the young college-student-type who looked like she was minoring in ballet or modern dance. Their dance was so extreme with him guiding her around the dance floor and her trying to simulate shakes and undulations that should come from the soul as though they were dance steps to be memorized - that it eventually went from amusing to kind of embarrassing. Though I have to admit that they sparked an idea for a short story - I think because they were both such caricatures.

Then there was the really short, slender black man dancing with the tall, heavy white woman. I mean she had to have had about 5 inches and at least 65 pounds on him. He kept trying to spin her and basically had to stand on his toes and reach up as high as he could while she ducked down to get under his arm.

Finally, there was the Asian dude who really thought he could dance, but looked very much like a dance student who needed about ten more lessons before he started showing off. His ego was fed, though, by two white women who were about a thousand times worse than he was and each eagerly awaited her turn with him while the other one danced.

Then there were the men who were there to just dance with any woman they could who was inexperienced at dancing Salsa. I'm not sure what they got out of this - I mean do they just love to dance? To teach? Of is this some kind of pick-up for them? I don't know. But there were quite a few of them. I think Asian dude was one. But most of them were older Latinos. Probably in their 50s and 60s - they moved through the crowd wearing their coats and sometimes even hats - dancing with single woman after single woman.

One of them attached himself to our group for a while, showing BearMaiden, LilacBlue and I the steps and then taking each of us for a spin on the dance floor. I found this man not at all attractive, and there was something about him - and the others that weirded me out a bit. But I have to admit that I enjoyed dancing with him. It was fun, getting engrossed in trying to keep up - and being led, guided in dance was fascinating. It is very rare that I have the luxury of someone else taking any kind of lead with me - and granted that's at least partly because I don't fully allow it. So I enjoyed it with dance.

I could easily see that I could get into taking lessons if I had a good, experienced partner. When I think about it - I think it would even be something really good for the Bull and I to do together. I mean, he's certainly not a good, experienced salsa dancer - but he could learn - and for us to be engaged in an activity that puts him entirely in charge could be a really good thing for us. I'm going to have to look into this.

But as much fun as it was to dance and to people watch - I discovered something I've always known. I am not a club/bar kind of person. I get bored and overstimulated. The crowd sucks the energy out of me. The loud music and voices and lights make my head spin a little. I can't hear well, I can't focus. And I begin to shut down.

I understand now why I drank so heavily when I was younger. It was my way of kind of deadening some of my senses so that I could handle the crowded environment. Because after a few drinks I can focus in on one thing or another and shut out the rest of the stuff - and that makes it bearable. I had always thought that I was drinking because I was shy in crowds. But it's not the shyness (though sure that still lurks) it's the overstimulation - life/energy sucking quality of it that gets to me.

So when I got to the end of my margarita I knew I had two choices. Either I could drink more and keep drinking until I stopped feeling boxed in a spaced out - or I could go home. For probably the first time ever in my life I opted to go home.

To anyone else this might have seemed a little thing. But to me it was huge. I finally decided to know myself and accept myself for who I am. To not force myself to go beyond my limits but to decide that my limits are fine and valid and worth respecting. I think I might have just really learned what it means to truly respect myself.

LilacBlue and Lioness decided to leave with me - LilacBlue because she had to get LadyBug from my house and Lioness because - well, I guess she was ready too. So we made our way through the crowd and out the door and caught a cab back uptown.

When we got home, the Bull was a little pissy after being left with 3 girls who wouldn't go to sleep. Well - that's not entirely true - Sugar was ready and prepared to go to bed on time. But LadyBug and Spice resisted until he was worn out and cranky. Spice woke up when I came in and it probably took me another half-hour to settle her down.

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