Maybe it's because I'm turning 40 this year, but I've been spending a lot of time thinking about decisions I've made in the past. I mean, really, it takes only one or two bad decisions to change your life.
Let me rephrase that: It takes being caught only once or twice to really mess up your life. I'm sure if you are anything like me, you are just stymied by the thought that you're still alive. Yes, from all the stupid shit I've done, I should be pining for the fjords. I didn't really expect to make 25, let alone 40. Shit!
Truth is, at 40, I'd like to have a nice candlelit dinner with someone I'm in love with. Of all the nonsensical things I've done in my life, the dumbest were botching a couple of great relationships. Wouldn't it be great to go back and make it work with that one who got away? The one who would dress up in bird masks with you and let you make the bed into a giant nest of dirty clothes? Even if I could rewrite that chapter, chances are I'd still be alone on my 40th; she would have left me in her early 30s. I mean, how many times can you dress up like a bird and have sex in a nest, anyway? Caw! Caw!
To see a recipe for C.M. Redding's crab-stuffed mushrooms, visit our food blog Chow Bella.
I guess if you're going to be 40 and alone, it's best to be 40 and alone with no baggage. Chances are, I've made the right decisions.
The story of strutting around the bedroom naked in nothing but bird masks brings me to an ex named Liz. She might have been the one that got away (or in this case, flew away). I was 24 and full of potential. I was still young enough to leave rose petals in a trail leading to a string of love notes.
When I was 24, I was just beginning to hone my skills in the kitchen. I had in my possession some cookbooks borrowed (stolen) from my mother, and I amassed an array of dishes and old pans from Goodwill with which to practice. Liz loved that I cooked and that, each night, I'd have the table set with candles and a new kitchen creation. I loved the fact that she was an ex-gymnast who could make a great salad and still do a headstand in the bedroom. God, do I know what it's like to be a pommel horse!
Liz also loved me because I was a liberal guy who would put up with and listen to all her bullshit about palm reading and spiritual energy. Please, please, please never underestimate the power of taking a date to a palm reader. If a woman thinks you're into palm reading, then great sex is in your future.
Just keep in mind that you don't want to tell any of your guy buddies that you get your palm read. There is no quicker way to have your sexuality challenged by admitting that you visit a medium. It's almost the same as flying to Vegas for two nights with your buddies — and checking a bag.
I guess Liz and I started to drift apart after one particular dinner with her best friend. First of all, be wary of the best friend. If you really like your woman or guy, then you must stay in full-on kiss-ass mode. If you have an opinion about this "important person," then keep it to yourself, or the relationship may go downhill quick.
Liz was excited to show off my cooking prowess to her best friend, Julie. Julie was the sophisticated type, no doubt a debutante raised by means — and it showed. Liz suggested I make my crab-stuffed mushrooms in a béchamel sauce. The mushroom dish was one of my best standbys, and it was the first semi-fancy thing I ever learned to make on my own. I even had to look up béchamel in a dictionary. (It means white sauce.) I can't tell you how many times I've opened meals with my crab-stuffed mushrooms.
During the appetizers, around a perfectly set table with candles, wine, and some gentle Coltrane playing, Julie started talking about past-life regression. I was trying to mind my own business as Julie went on and on, super-excited that her guru had recently done a reading with her. She apparently had just discovered that she was a Sioux in her past life, and that all her children had been killed. Julie then went on to use that idea as a foundation for her relationships and beliefs on being single and not having kids. Let me just say that I want to believe in the idea of past lives, but I just couldn't believe the conviction she had behind her — she took this as truth.
I nearly spit out my 'shrooms laughing before I was practically cut in half by four death rays shooting from Liz and Julie's eyes. Talk about having an elephant in the room! If elephants could fly, I would have sprouted wings. I could feel their eyeballs piercing my soul, sucking all my past lives away. I tried my hand at civilized conversation: "How could one logically believe in such things as past lives? How does one 'read' a past life?" I'm open-minded and all, but I couldn't seem to let this go. I think the words "crazy" and "delusional" — and maybe even "abused by a cousin" — may have slipped out of my mouth.
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From the way Liz was throwing dishes around and yelling after Julie left, I think I may have hit the nail on the head. Liz ranted: "I thought you were a hippie. You even had your palm read with me!" I told her there is a difference between "hippie" and "stupid."
Liz did go on to thank me for dinner, even though my behavior was deemed inappropriate. I think those crab-stuffed mushrooms held the relationship together for the final six months; she had me make them all the time. As I reminisce on that time in my life, I know I was dead-on about her friend being crazy. That old saying about birds is also dead-on: Birds of a feather flock together.
Turning 40 makes you reflect on your life — that's for sure. In retrospect, I'm glad I had the presence of mind to let the nutty ones fly the coop. I'm also proud about the birds I've come to call my flock. Personally, I prefer being one of Disney's inappropriate blackbirds from the classic Dumbo: "I've seen a dragonfly and I've seen a horsefly / I've even seen a housefly / but I've never seen an elephant fly!
I still miss having crazy bird sex, but oh, well.