Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dirty Martinis

Under the dim candlelight of an intimate restaurant, the waiter has just swept in with a second bottle of red. The establishment is posh, yet maintains a warm atmosphere. Beneath the dark wood paneling of the walls and rows of imported liquors is an impressive mahogany bar. The room alone transports patrons to an imagined version of New York in the 40’s- Sinatra is playing in the background. There are no chairs- only plush leather booths. The tables glow from candles in Philippe Stark candelabras. Two bartenders, both deceivingly gorgeous, are mixing drinks. It’s snowing outside and bright yellow taxis passing in the street can be spotted through the floor to ceiling windows in front. The bar is busy. Conversation flows in a steady yet lively hush and there is an air of familiarity amongst guests.

The front door swings open and a rush of cold air, the only reminder of the icy winter outside, weaves its way through the room. A beautiful woman walks in. Heads turns to see the new arrival as she gracefully sidles up to the bar and sets her coat on one of the smooth leather barstools. She strips off her gloves, places her manicured hands firmly on the bar, winks at the bartender and orders an “extra dirty vodka martini.”

This woman is absolutely stunning, exuding an air of confidence and sensuality- but not in a profane way. She is both elegant and relaxed at the same time. She casually raises her martini as if to toast the barman and then slyly slips him a five dollar bill. As she sips her drink, her eyes close and the thin stem of the glass glints as it reflects one of the candles illuminating her face. She daintily lifts the tiny spear out of her vodka and with her teeth, slides one of the plump green olives into her mouth.
She then smiles to no one but herself.

I saw this woman once- or a woman like her- back in New York in 2005. I don’t remember who I was with or the name of the restaurant, but this stranger’s image has remained embedded in my mind.

On my way home from dinner that evening, I decided that I wanted to be “the type of woman who drinks extra dirty martinis”- whoever that may be.

There was one major problem; I hated olives. This was a pretty lofty goal for me considering that I would not only be eating one olive- but I would be drinking a “dirty” drink brimming with salty olive juice and bobbing vodka-soaked olives. Doesn’t sound so sexy now, does it? Either way, I was determined to like olives so for the past three years, at every opportunity, I’ve been nibbling at them; green ones, black ones, pepper stuffed olives, olives with pits, seasoned olives, olive focaccia, olive dip, you name it- I tried it. At first, this endeavor was moderately painful. Just the thought of the vinegary tang would create a tightening sensation in the back of my jaw. I actually ruined some of my favorite meals by incorporating olives. These were the few occasions where I was ready to give up- confining myself to sweeter, more primitive drinks- but I pushed through the pain barrier and as time went on, I began to like the taste of olives. Not long after that, I was looking forward to the occasional plate of olives before a meal.

Then, a few months ago, I finally decided to try my first Extra Dirty Vodka Martini. The event was somewhat like my own private graduation- seeing as though I didn’t tell any additional parties about my endeavor. When the waiter served me my drink, I took the glass in my hand and with all the anticipation and excitement I could muster, I took a sip. I let it the bitter alcohol slide down my throat and warm my stomach. I took a deep breath and then another sip:

It was delicious! Not only was I drinking an “extra dirty vodka martini,” but I was loving it!

Now, I don’t know if I will ever carry myself with the confidence of that woman I saw years ago in New York. I never really expected to. I’ll never know if a stranger has or will look at me the same way I looked at her that night, although I have my suspicions. What I do know is that upon my return to New York in a few months, I’m going to find that restaurant again. I’m going to walk in with all the self-assurance in the world- I’m going to order a dirty martini at that same mahogany bar- and I’m going to toast the fact that although I may never be exactly like the woman I first saw there, I am a better, more complete person now then who I was that evening in 2005. I’d like to believe that if I could be transported back to that moment as I presently am, I wouldn’t be looking at this woman with envy. Rather, I would be making the most of THAT night itself- basking in the present- exuding my own brand of confidence and sensuality regardless of who sat at the bar.

Looking back on all that has taken place from that night until now, I appreciate the immense opportunities I was given to grow. I feel as though I’ve lived so many lives since then and in turn, encountered many different versions of myself. I’ve made a lot of mistakes- all of which I hope to have learned from. I have had ups and downs and I have laughed and cried more times than I can count. I’ve been around the globe and back (a few times) and I’ve felt almost every human emotion there is to feel. I’ve hurt and been hurt. I’ve loved and been loved. I’ve betrayed and been betrayed- I’ve even betrayed myself. I’ve been a good friend and a bad friend. I’ve surprised myself by how smart I can be at times and then I’ve been surprised by my own stupidity. I know that I have so much more to learn and plenty of growing left to do, but I look back at the girl I was three years ago and I’m pleased with who she has turned out to be, dirty martini in hand and all.

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