Ever so often, people ask me whether I think all men are douchebags. Let me set the record straight immediately by stating that this is not the case. It is my strong belief that there is a douchebag in each and every one of us, and I am most definitely not excluded from this equation. Sometimes it is the man who is the douchebag, sometimes it is the woman, and sometimes, it’s the seventeen year-old girl who is the biggest douchebag in the room.
Let’s backtrack a bit. You see, sometime around Christmas, my teenage niece came to visit me in Paris. The unfortunate state of my love life being a family concern, she immediately began interrogating me on whether I was dating anybody at the moment. Luckily, I was ready, having prepared a perfectly decent option that I assumed would earn her approval and ensure a positive report back to the homeland. As usual, I thought wrong, which is how we arrived to the disaster that now goes down in history as the most awkward night of my life, aka the Date with the Old Flower.
The Old Flower was a slightly more mature gentleman who had earned his nickname due to his age (a ripe 43) and his very bourgeois name that immediately alluded to a blooming blossom. I started seeing him in early December, after he sweetly approached me at a restaurant and asked for my number, scoring jackpot-ranking points right then and there. He was no Adonis – a bit of belly, a bit of a double chin, just a few attributes indicating his age and penchant for fine cuisine. And yet, it’s not as if I’m Miranda Kerr here.. On our first date, he took me to his favorite “secret” spot in Palais Royal (secret revealed – Verjus Bar à Vins), where he ordered an abundance of food and wine and laughed at all my jokes and showered me with compliments. A finance-guy-turned-yacht-entrepreneur, he was sweet and kind and most definitely not stupid, which made it easier to ignore the fact that he would occasionally say things like “Tu est trop mignonne ma petite Marina” (“You are so cute my little Marina”) in a cooing baby voice that is normally reserved for children.
He asked me out again two days later, this time offering to prepare me a “simple meal” which my friends immediately assumed would be pasta. I was curious and he seemed like a harmless fellow (the cooing wasn’t too prominent at that point), so I took him up on the offer. I was told to arrive at 9 pm to his Palais Royal address in the center of Paris, to an apartment located “under the sky”. As I made my way up what seemed like twelve floors of winding Hausmannian stairs, I realized that he hadn’t been joking. The door opened and the Old Flower welcomed me into his apartment, an eclectic loft-like space that reflected his bachelor status and good taste. We had an apéro and he started cooking a “clean” dinner of steak and vegetables, which I was actually quite impressed with.
Nourished by a home-cooked meal and Pinot Noir, I soon found myself having an excellent time, entering into personal territory with our discussions about our former relationships and, in his case, a former marriage. Yes, he was divorced, a familiar predicament, except for this case, his wife had left him years ago when they were both in their early thirties. And yet he spoke of her with great respect, earning both my sympathy and admiration for how honorably he had handled it. The mutual attraction was growing, leading to the defining moment known as the First Kiss.. And boy, was it defining. You see, the Old Flower had a very small mouth, and I happen to have a very big one.. And so, instead of bringing the two of them together, he kind of stuck his mouth inside of mine, resulting in something that resembled reverse mouth-to-mouth CPR. But that wasn’t the worst part.. After this, he swooped me up, placed me on his belly and, peeking inside my shirt, cooed in his trademark baby voice: “C’est quoi ces seins? Ah?” (“What are these little boobies? Ah?”) After this, he performed an act that can only described as motorboating.
Yup. Motorboating. I had struck gold yet again.
Had I been three years younger, I would never have seen the guy again. But I had just turned twenty-eight and had decided that looks and chemistry weren’t everything. En plus it was winter and I was feeling mildly homesick.. All excuses aside, I simply continued seeing him, doing the most in my power to keep our rendezvous public to prevent further mouth-to-mouth contact. On his end, he continued showcasing worrisome signs even in public, cooing and faux-scolding me when I would do something that he wouldn’t approve of. “On fait pas ça ma petite Marina” (“We don’t do that my little Marina”), he would say while wagging his finger at me whenever I would ask for an occasional cigarette or attempt to jaywalk.
The other bothersome thing about the Old Flower was that he seemed to have little-to-no grasp of reality, holding child-like assumptions that some things in life had to be “perfect”. Case in point: on Christmas Eve, my friends got into a fight at dinner, which I recounted to him. He acted as if I had told him that they had slashed each other’s throats, proclaiming that Christmas was a time of “happiness and joy”. He informed me that his own family’s celebration had been “wonderful, just perfect”, which sounded quite bizarre, especially considering that his parents were newly divorced in their mid 60’s. Let’s just say I couldn’t quite picture myself blending in. My best friend, who has a good grasp on these things, proclaimed him to be a pedophile. “No woman leaves her husband in her early thirties unless there’s a serious reason.. And that one is serious enough!”
It just so happened that my seventeen-year-old niece was coming to visit me in Paris and the Old Flower was excited to meet her. Upon her arrival, she began eating her way through the city. After she was done with all the macaroons, she consumed the pains au chocolat, then the crèpes, finally demanding steak frites. At this point, I was feeling the financial strain of her #nocarbleftbehind extravaganza, and so I decided to take the Old Flower up on his offer to take us out to dinner, simultaneously giving me the opportunity to introduce her to a man who actually had a checking account and showered. He made a reservation at a meat restaurant and invite us to come over for apéros.
I warned her in advance that he wasn’t particularly handsome, that his English was suffering and that she might find that he has a stronger resemblance to her parents’ friends than to mine. The only difference was her parents’ friends were cool and the Old Flower wasn’t, which she realized the minute moment we climbed “to the sky” and he swung open the door, goofy smile on his face. He poured both of us wine and asked her what she would like to drink. “A Moscow Mule”, she responded, immediately yielding a shocked look of disapproval. Clearly, he had expected the answer to be more in the realms of chocolate milk. She tortured him on for another five minutes, making him squeeze her out a lemon in water while telling him how evil I had been by depriving her of food. At some point, the Old Flower turned to her and, using his trademark baby voice, told her that she was lucky to have me as an aunt, pinching me on the check for good measure. I shuddered as she stared at him as if he had three heads, an evil glimmer in her eyes.
Eager to get back to Snapchat universe, she demanded the Wi-Fi password, which is when the Old Flower seemingly disappeared. I was sipping my wine when I suddenly noticed him in the very corner of the room, performing a beautiful variation of the yoga cat flow pose (face down, butt in air, 7-month-pregnant belly out), as he attempted to locate the password under the TV. Knowing that this would completely destroy the carefully preserved peace in the room, I used all my willpower to withhold myself from choking and resumed conversation with niece. Too late. The child turned around and collapsed in laughter, which she disguised as a wailed sob as I rubbed her back and unconvincingly told him she was just hungry.
To fix matters, the Old Flower generously took out a huge bratwurst and sliced it up for us, arranging the cold cuts in a pretty circle and proclaiming it to be the best delicacy in France. We had a few pieces just to be polite, and the OF quickly scarfed them down the rest with his hands, occasionally pausing to lick his fingers and pinch my cheek or wiggle my nose back and forth. “T’est trop mignone ah ma petite Marina!” I resist the urge to bite him while the niece observed, fascinated by what had become of me.
After the apéro de merde, we headed to the restaurant, where they asked us to wait at the bar, which neither of my starving companions were particularly happy about. To kill time, the niece ordered a glass of white wine. While I don’t advocate teenage drinking, I know for a fact that the legal drinking age in France used to be sixteen and is now eighteen. I also believe that there is less harm in occasionally allowing then to drink in your presence, rather than piquing their curiosity and having them go haywire the minute they leave for college. The Old Flower, who, to his credit, hadn’t been sixteen in long time, stared at her as is she had ordered an eight ball. “I’m not comfortable condoning his behavior,” he announced. Before I could say anything, the teenage monster informed him that this was nothing, as she was planning to have shots and head to Silencio after dinner. I giggled nervously and wondered if I could fake bratwurst poisoning to escape.
We finally sat down to eat. As we were ordering, I realized that little Spawn of Devil was requesting the entire menu. There were oysters, scallops, steak tartare, the long-awaited steak frites.. A feast fit for a king was heading our way. The Old Flower didn’t seem to mind, and we almost started enjoying ourselves as we made our way through the delicacies. After questioning her about school and tennis and plans for the future, the Old Flower inquired if she had a boyfriend, which she affirmed. He then asked her what they like to do together. I don’t know what exactly he was expecting to hear, but she gave him a blatantly honest answer that made him turn twenty shades of red and made me wish for the earth to swallow me alive. And yet, for the Old Flower, this seemed to open a gateway into something else entirely.. The conversation turned to New Years Resolutions, which is when he decided to casually mention that his resolution for the year 2015 was to have a lot of sex. Really? The 43-year-old dude was telling a 16-year-old, who he believed wasn’t allowed a mere coup de vin, that his goal for the year was to fuck a lot?
At this point, I was starting to get nauseous, a feeling that was exacerbated by the fact that the Old Flower kept repeatedly running the palm of his hand down my face and pinching my nose. At some point, he asked my niece to turn away and shoved his entire mouth into mine. At this moment, I knew that no cozy dinners or eclectic lofts or feeling of easy comfort were worth it. Through her bratty behavior, my niece had exposed the true creepiness of the Old Flower, and I knew I could never get rid of the memory. After thanking him repeatedly for footing our King’s Feast, we ordered an Uber and escaped, convulsing in laughter. While I received numerous messages from him in the following month, I knew I could never go back.
So yes, sometimes its the seventeen-year old girl who is the biggest douchebag in the room. And, sometimes, it is very necessary to see the situation from her prism in order to realize that settling for perverted people isn’t yet necessary.