Highlights included the following:
- Upon arrival, being served a glass of champagne in the kitchen by a cheerfully drunk Russian fellow who kissed my hand and then toasted, "To the lovely ladies present!" As the evening progressed and he became progressively more inebriated, he became more and more affectionate. As he finally left the party in a whirling, stumbling blurr, I said to The Spouse, "I was starting to think he was going to hump my leg." The Spouse replied, "I think he did hump my leg." He then relayed a conversation he had where the Potential Leg Humper declared, "Yeah, we all die. But love lasts forever!" When The Spouse took the opposite view, that love does not last forever, and that this is actually a good thing for it enables us to love again after a breakup or the death of a loved one, PLH squinted at him blearily and replied, "I LIKE THE PHILOSOPHERS. ESPECIALLY THE CYNICS. YOU KNOW . . . CICERO."
- Getting the whole story from our French friend who had the swine flu this summer. Seems the illness lasted only about three days in his case, but then he was obliged to quarantine himself (on strictly an honor system as no one official or medical ever followed up on him) for a further ten days. Thankfully, this occurred in Paris. "But you must have had to venture out at some point, no?" I asked him. "For . . . I dunno . . . toilet paper and milk?" But no, it was his parent's Paris apartment, and his mother (who I have met and adore) is a champion provisioner. He wanted for nothing. For ten days.
- Discovering I was the oldest person at a party once again. The Spouse is only four years younger than I am. And our Slovak friend's new boss, an extremely charming and flirtatious man from Vienna, is probably in our ballpark. But it just cracks me up whenever I realize that I am old enough to be the mother of the majority of the people at these events. Doesn't seem to bother any of them. The only real drawback was that I did not know any of the music played last night. But it wasn't unpleasant music.
- Meeting an adorable young French woman who works for Givenchy in Moscow. She explained that one of the perks of her job is getting samples of the products. "But, I have over two liters of perfume now," she said. "I'll never use it all." Sadly, I neglected to get her card before we left. Because I would be really happy to help her with her perfume problem.
- Juvenile puns and riffs on the names of two Russian banks: Sber Bank (which I cannot help but rename "Sperm Bank" whenever I see the signs) and MasterBank. Those provided material for a good ten minutes worth of snickering.
We went out for dinner before, and then, as it was still too early to arrive at the party, we stopped at a coffeehouse. While standing in line, we realized that the two guys in front of us each had a "murse." You know, a sort of man-purse. Theirs were large and rather ornate. Way more girl-y than any of these. One had silver ornamentation even, like what one might find on a saddle at the All-American Quarter Horse Congress.
Now, The Spouse also had a bag with him, but his was a 15-year-old, army green, Eddie Bauer messenger-style bag. No one would ever call his bag a "murse."
You also need to know that in Europe, and especially in Russia, my gaydar, normally pretty reliable, is wildly inaccurate. The fashions . . . the body language . . . It all results in a conviction that many men here, while ostensibly macho, are in reality no more than 50 grams [a shot] of vodka away from tumbling into bed together. We have even developed a sort of short-hand for this game of speculation where we mutter comments to each other about the lessening amounts of vodka we think the subject at hand would require before shedding what remains of his inhibitions.
We were doing this in line at the coffee house.
"Whaddya think? 50 grams?"
"What on earth could he be carrying in a bag like that?"
"I'm sorry. No straight man would pick a bag like that."
"And those SHOES!"
Yes, we were being catty.
Just then the barrista completed our coffee orders and set them on the counter in front of the two murse-carriers, one of whom turned to us and said without a trace of accent or irony, "I think these are yours?"
You'd thing we'd learn. Once, while standing in line at a McDonald's in Buenos Aires, The Spouse considered what he deemed to be a December-May romance in front of us and commented to me, "What? She looks like his mom!" At which point the woman turned and shot him a look that would freeze water. Although heavily pregnant, I had to stand in line while he excused himself in search of a table as far away from the counter as possible.
It is not like English is some obscure tribal language involving clicks and whirrs.