Are you as uncomfortable at cocktail parties and big charity events as I am?
You can usually find me in a corner, hiding. I'm just terrible at small talk. I'm not too good at big talk, either. I'm a walking disaster. Strange things seem to happen to me.
Years ago I attended one of those big Hamptons charity events and found myself under a crowded tent which was the size of Hampton Bays. I somehow got separated from my wife, the beautiful Judy Licht, and I was walking around, totally lost.
A man whom I swear I have never seen in my entire life came over and said, "Jerry, you're looking great!" Then he gave me the kind of hug you wouldn't give anyone until at least the third date. And then he said: "Stay healthy. Never eat foie gras."
"Foie gras?" I said, thinking this was some sort of a code word or a weird dream I was having. "Foie gras!" he answered and walked off to hug and warn another stranger.
What is with this hugging stuff? It used to be, when I was a kid a million years ago, that the only time men hugged other men was at funerals. This was followed by an awkward conversation about the condition of the body lying there.
"I'm so sorry for your loss, but he (or she) looks very good." Then would follow a conversation about what a great job the undertaker had done with the dead body.
I remember that when my first wife's grandfather died. A woman came into the funeral parlor where he was lying in an open coffin and she started screaming the dead man's name.
Then she screamed, "Look at him! Look at him! He looks so natural. He looks like he can get up and walk."
That's when I whispered, perhaps a bit too loudly, "If your grandfather so much as moves a muscle, I'm out of here." In retrospect, it's wiseass remarks like that which can ruin a marriage.
As it turns out, I'm really at a disadvantage in large groups of people, be it a wedding or a funeral or a big-time Hamptons event.
I'm inept at conversation. I don't recognize anyone. At most of these events Judy walks next to me and whispers the names of people as they are approaching us. "That's Jim and Mary. We were at a dinner party with them two weeks ago."
If I'm feeling frisky I might say, "Is that Jim or Mary with the mustache?" That's when Judy says, "You are an idiot."
That all showed up one night at a charity event when I ran into a woman whose name or face I couldn't recall. Judy greeted her with a big hug and the woman said "Jerry" and turned her head to be kissed. I turned, tripped, kept myself from falling by accidently putting my hand on the woman's breasts, and kissed her partially on the lips and partially on her nose. When I get nervous, my kissing aim sucks.
Which brings me to my problem with double-kiss women. I was brought up at a time when, upon greeting a woman acquaintance, one would give her a single innocent peck on the cheek. Those women who were not interested in being kissed would, upon meeting a man, extend their hand and ward him off, settling for a soft, limp handshake.
But these days I'm dealing with the new, liberated, double-kiss woman.
One night I was at a party and saw a woman I've known for years. The minute our eyes met she quickly turned her face.
Not having all that much confidence in my relationships with the opposite sex I immediately thought, "She hates me. She's turning away from me."
After the longest three seconds of my life it dawned on me that she wanted me to kiss her cheek. I stumbled forward and just barely brushed her cheek. That's when she whiplashed her head and presented me with the other cheek. This threw my timing off and I fell against her and my kiss landed on her ear. I felt her gold earring on my lips, going into my mouth.
"God," I thought, "if she had turned any faster I might have accidentally swallowed her earring."
The thought of swallowing and possibly choking on an earring at a cocktail party and the four glasses of wine I had consumed made me giggle uncontrollably.
"What's so funny?" she said. Before I could answer, she snapped her head away from me. I was about to kiss her for the third time when I realized that she had dismissed me and was presenting her face for a kiss by another man.
I went for my fifth glass of wine, determined that, for the rest of the night, I was not going to kiss another woman nor hug another man.
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