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The Barmaid Blog™: Life for a 30-something Manhattan Barmaid

...and You Smell Like One, Too (Part II)

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...and You Smell Like One, Too (Part II)

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I'm twenty-seven.

It's Saturday, March 15, and I'm out to dinner with Jenny, who I guess at this point is my girlfriend, though I've used the term so many hundreds of times in the past to describe a friend who happened to be a girl that I would really like to find another more appropriate semantic designation. We're out in the West Village at Jane, a restaurant I've walked past a hundred times but never tried, and it's wonderful. I gather she must eat there pretty regularly, as they keep bringing us nice little treats compliments of the house, and I don't think she's told them it's my birthday.

She's trying to explain to me a chain of title problem she's working on for a film production company her firm represents, without being able to name the company, the film, or any of the people involved in it, and I'm confused, because I'm still not sure I understand what chain of title is in the first place. I hope it won't sound arrogant if I say that it's refreshing for a change to be across the table from someone who is so clearly smarter than I am, but it makes me wonder a little bit what she's doing with me.

I know she appreciates my writing, she's said as much when she's read my stuff. She's a poet, so we share some creative interest. We make each other laugh. Like I've suggested, being with her is easy. And the chemistry is undeniable, but without the overwhelming compulsion there was with Bonnie. But she's a lawyer, and I'm a barmaid. I live with two roommates in the twenty-something, subway-challenged Irishpubniverse of the Upper East Side, and she owns an apartment of her own in Brooklyn Heights. And she's only a couple of years older than I am.

I like to think that I have a pretty solid amount of self-esteem and self-respect, especially compared to many of the other women I know in New York. I don't often wonder why someone is dating me. "You're the prize," my father told me when I was upset over Bobby Taormina asking someone else to the junior prom instead of me, "not them. Remember that." It's easy enough to believe when every single time I work a shift at the Bar, I get flirted with, hit on, complimented, asked for my phone number, propositioned, and even occasionally proposed to. God knows that's one of the perks of the job, the constant affirmation that I'm desirable.

But I wonder, have I been conditioned all these years to think I should only be the prize for men? I've been attracted to women for years, but I have comparatively infinitesimal experience understanding what would make me attractive to them. I don't know what Jenny is looking for, and while I would never ask a boyfriend that, I wonder if it's the kind of thing a woman can ask her girlfriend. I'm not familiar with the rules, and there's no "Lesbian Dating for Dummies" in the Sociology section of the Strand.

So as I sip my complimentary dessert wine, I resolve to continue trying to go with the flow and not worry so much, but it's not easy. I look at myself through this woman's eyes and all I see is a girl who doesn't know where she's going yet, and no idea how to get there. Jenny, well, she's already on her way, if she's not there already.

Why, I wonder, didn't I ever wonder whether I measured up to the men I've dated - even when they did their best to make me wonder?

We wrap things up at Jane and take a cab back to her place on the other side of the East River, where she's promised me a birthday surprise awaits. First, though, we take her rather energetic puppy for a walk around the neighborhood. We hold hands, and it feels comfortable, domestic, and natural. When we return, she hands me a wrapped box, and when I open it, I shiver. It's black, made out of sheer silk, and gorgeous.

No man has ever given me lingerie. I rarely even indulge in it myself. It never occurred to me that a woman would give lingerie to another woman as a gift. And Jenny has never asked me any questions about what kind I like, much less seen me in what little I already own. But if you'd asked me to pick out the sexiest, most elegant, retro nightgown that someone could give me to make me feel sexy, beautiful, and desired, my imagination couldn't hold a candle to this one. It's spectacular, and before Jenny can stop me, I've run off into the bathroom to put it on.

When I come back out, Jenny is scooping food into Puppy's bowl. She looks up and sees me in the gown, and a bunch of kibble lands on the floor. Puppy bounces around and yips excitedly, scattering the kibble all over the room, and before I can finish laughing, Jenny has crossed the room and pushed me up against a wall.

"I've never seen anyone so beautiful," she whisper-growls in my ear, and then kisses my neck. She pauses, runs a hand down my cheek, and looks in my eyes. "Sometimes I'm amazed you even want to be seen in public with me." I'm struck dumb by that alone, but what I see in her eyes is so true it takes my breath away. I reach out and draw her to me, and when we kiss she presses me nearly through the wall. Her hands feel warm through the silk, and we slowly free ourselves from the wall and kiss our way to her bedroom.

"No, I'm keeping it on," I say as she tries to start undressing me, and I swear she whimpers.

I'm the prize.

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