#20) The British Banker
After my experience with Molly, I swore off wasting my time with ultra-femme straight women who were experimenting. This was back in 2010, so if you follow this series, you know that didn’t last all that long, but I did try. I decided it was time to cast a wider net, and not confine my dating to the slice of women who were considered femmes. Instead, I was vigilant about looking for women who were gay, period. Not straight and questioning, not bisexual and dabbling in both: for my next dates I focused only on gay women.
Claire had winked at me online a year before, and I had ignored it. She wasn’t what had been my type. In her online photos, she had short brown hair, and looked and dressed more masculine, or butch, but in the spirit of my new adventure in openness, I returned the wink. She wrote straight away, saying she too was leaving Wall Street in the coming months to focus on raising her two children. She described herself: athletic, feminine, kind, real, intelligent and sexual. With that final descriptor, I decided to give it a shot.
Given my ambivalence, I suggested we meet for a drink rather than a meal for our first date. We agreed on a popular wine bar in Greenwich the following Thursday. I walked into the bar and scanned the crowd until I spotted Claire. She was recognizable from her photos: short brownish-red wavy hair that landed just above her shoulders, blue eyes, British-hued pale skin, and a stocky build. She had come straight from work, and was wearing black slacks and loafers, and a white Façonnable shirt. Admittedly, I had a closet full of Façonnable shirts, remnants from my years on Wall Street, but I had never worn them for anything more social than a trading floor uniform.
Despite my initial hesitation, over wine and charcuterie, I really enjoyed my time with Claire. She had grown up in a small town a couple of hours north of London, in a working class family with little means. Despite the old caste system in place there, she had managed with her academic and athletic talents, combined with sheer tenacity, to get a full scholarship to Oxford and to graduate at the top of her class. I was so impressed with her story! Add to that, she was clever, witty, and let’s face it, whatever she said with that sexy British accent just made it sound so much better. I found myself engaged and taken in.
But there lacked the certain sexual tension I felt on many first dates. I told myself this was part of my journey of exploring different types of women, and experiencing them in new ways. Who knew what the right first date should be? Maybe the spark could grow over time? I wasn’t really sure I believed this, but I was open to giving it a chance to see where things could lead with a second date.
We agreed to meet the following week for a midweek dinner again in Greenwich, this time at an upscale restaurant overlooking the Sound. It was a warm August evening, and as I handed the valet my key, I noticed Claire was in the car behind me. We embraced warmly, then she opened the door for me to walk into the restaurant. As we walked through the bar area, I heard an enthusiastic Hi Amy!, and turned around to see it was Molly having drinks with a handsome investment banker looking dude. I was mortified. Molly grinned and waved, as if seeing an old friend. Her date smiled in my direction too—thank goodness I didn’t know him! I uncomfortably waved back, wishing I could sprint through to the safety of the maître d’ table. Suddenly I was sweating, and felt the blood rush to my face, which I assumed was flushed red.
Claire sensed my discomfort, Alright? I smile-smirked, not wanting to respond but aware that I had to, Just an old friend. Claire mused, Well, she sure seemed happy to see you! We left it at that.
As fate would have it, the restaurant was full, with every table occupied. I was hoping our reservation was for a table off in the corner somewhere, where I could safely enjoy the date in hiding. No such luck! The maître d’ walked us to the left side of the main room, to a booth against the wall, where Claire signaled for me to take the inner-seat. Usually this was an issue that required communication between two women—not so easy as the assumed heterosexual mores of men taking the outer seat. With Claire, for my first time actually, it was quite clear who was playing which role.
Unfortunately as we took our seats, I noticed a sign nearby for the restrooms. This meant anyone in the bar area who needed to freshen up would pass by our table. I was half-hoping, half-praying that Molly’s drink and date was a quick one, and she had left already. Either way, I sighed in relief somewhat, knowing I was facing outward, and could simply be immersed in conversation and pretend not see her if she did happen by.
Claire and I ordered, and were enjoying our appetizers, absorbed in a discussion about our Wall Street days. Her life in investment banking was so much more staid and civilized than the trading floors! We regaled in my descriptions of former colorful colleagues, and just as I was about to share one of my classic stories of Arleen’s trading floor pranks, I noticed a person standing at our table. From the corner of my eye I could see the pastel dress, and knew it wasn’t the waiter. Oh no! Ugh! Molly stood patiently and smiled, I just wanted to say hi. How are things? I pretended to smile back. I could feel my face getting flush, and knew the protocol was to introduce Molly and Claire, but I desperately did not want to, nor did I know what I would introduce her as.
Once in a while the Universe throws you a small token of luck, and a few tables over I heard a woman loudly beckon, Is that you Molly? A garishly dressed Connecticut trophy wife was frantically waving her left arm, despite the weight of a huge, chunky gold Rolex. Clearly this was a client, and without further ado, Molly forgot all about me and moved seamlessly toward the woman, as if she were a long lost best friend. I turned back to Claire, flashing an uncomfortable and effortful smile, Sorry for the interruption, I would have introduced you, but…Claire interjected, saving me the embarrassment, Where were we? Ah yes, Arleen and the prank!
We spent the rest of the evening enjoying a lively conversation. I am such a sucker for wit and charm, and Claire was so interesting and different than anyone I had dated before. Her stories were rich and engrossing, and mostly ended with a twist that made me alternatively sigh in surprise or laugh alongside her with joy. We had our main course, then ordered a dessert to split, not so much for the food, but to keep the table and the back and forth stories going. Neither of us wanted it to end.
Soon we were one of the few tables remaining, and the summer light ceded to darkness. We paid the check and departed. The valets had apparently called it a night, so we grabbed our keys, which had been abandoned on a rack, and walked toward our cars. We laughed, only in Greenwich! Claire walked me to my car first, and I was uncharacteristically unsure of what to do next. I felt connected to her, but not attracted to her.
With almost all the women I have dated, by the second date, at the very least, there is a kiss with some variety of desire to close out the date. Claire, I suspected, could sense my hesitancy, and took my hand and walked towards me, placing her lips on mine. We kissed—more like an amateur junior high level kiss—I felt guilty, but I just did not feel it. Yet I liked her, and enjoyed her company. I found her intriguing and fascinating. So I closed my eyes and tried a second time, doing my best to return the passion of her kiss. The kiss lasted for a minute, although it felt much longer, until she pulled back and mused, Next time I want to cook for you! I was grateful for the lightness, You’ve found my weak spot!
For the third date, Claire invited me to her home for dinner. I drove to her small Connecticut town, and found her house on a quiet, wooded cul de sac—remote