Zoe & Sophia Enjoy Fine Dining and Jazz as the Sublime Consumers of the Lightness of Being

January 4th, 2010

January 4th
Could you PLEASE offer advice to two single women whose lives are suddenly crashing in chaos?  Zoe and Sophia, BFFs for thirty years, find themselves unexpectedly cast into the world of re-creation and redefinition after decades of being faithful wives to George and Marty. They need advice from anyone willing to offer it. For instance, what advice would you give TO your BFF after she screamed in the face of her FIRST Match.Com date?  Any advice you can give to Sophia would be helpful, but this is the advice Zoe gave her.

A week or so into December the holiday spirit lay dampened like a soggy rag at Sophia’s feet. She dreaded her first Christmas without the traditions she and Marty had cherished with their children, Poppy and Colin. Marty now lived with his girlfriend. On the other hand, Zoe dreaded the “season to be jolly,” because she succumbed to George’s nagging to spend the holiday together, pretending the family wasn’t a smoldering mess of bad feelings since her decision to leave George the January before.
Zoe sniffed as she greeted Sophia on the phone.

“You’re crying, Zo, what’s wrong?”

“The kids are calling me about Christmas—they’re angry.”
“Why?” asked Sophia.
“The same old shit, it’s just circling around with the holidays. They are  grown ups and live elsewhere, but the child in each of them is hurting for the past.”
“What do you say to them?” asked Sophia.
“I tell them IF I could have stayed with their father to keep them happy, I would have. But I was perishing. What I could NEVER tell them is that after I read your manuscript, Sophie, I realized life is too short to spend the rest of it with an unfaithful, oppressive, negligent husband who refuses to work because I make so much money.”
“I’m sorry, Zoe.”
“Can I visit you, Sophie? Maybe we could cheer up each other.”
“No,” said Sophia, “I can’t deal with the shit dribbling out of Sparky’s rear end.  Sophia was referring to Zoe’s incontinent dog Sparky, a stroke victim, who neither climb stairs nor handle stress.  “Look,  I’ll come to you.  Do you have any wine?”

“Plenty. Bring your lap top.”

As Sophia drove toward her friend’s house, she thought about their distinct perspectives. Unlike Zoe, she would have stayed married forever to “her” Marty, the loving, quasi-smart, funny man who looked at her tenderly, wrote her love notes, and showed her with daily affection.  But because Sophia could not let go of that Marty, who vaporized when the affair with his girlfriend started, she cried all the time and everywhere, like at the dinner table and while she drove around aimlessly to and from nowhere. Sophia was happy for Zoe because she had distractions, like her fast-paced job and demanding dating schedule. But Sophia was mad at herself for the helpless grief that ruled her and permitted little into her world beyond doing Buddhist meditation in the tanning booth, shopping for Christmas presents she couldn’t afford–and mostly just staring at nothing.

The one thing Sophia was paid to do for years is write, but the newspaper she worked for went belly up, and her singular efforts bore no fruit. After she lost her job, she wrote a powerful, poignant book, the one Zoe finished reading one January night and left George the next morning. Sophia tried to shop the manuscript, but recently three literary agents passed on her work, and Sophia decided that the world rejected her to the same degree as Marty had—utterly and without compassion. Sophia needed a purpose. But when everyone urged her to “get out there and meet people,” Sophia scoffed.

Unlike Zoe, Sophia had no panache for dating. One of Marty’s colleagues moved in for the kill the moment he heard Marty had run off, but that liaison ended after three dates that never went beyond light petting. Essentially, Sophia was a little lazy about the dating scene and incapable of letting go of her feelings for Marty–despite the brutality Marty employed when he dumped her for Fugly, as Sophia called Marty’s girlfriend. Fugly was married (without a prenup) to a famous musician—but she still decided to hook her predatory talons into Marty and his charm. Marty, who was fabulous looking, made the troll-like Fugly feel pretty and important in her own right–a miracle since she was clearly neither–she had just married well.

When Sophia arrived at Zoe’s house, after crying all the way there, Zoe looked at her friend and said, “Well, your crusty nose healed.”
“I know,” wailed Sophia as if this were bad news.
“But for fuck sake, you can’t un-ring the bell on those wrinkles, which are deepening around your eyes.”
“Really?” said Sophia.
“Your love affair with Lancôme is as productive as the one with Marty at this point. STOP CRYING. I can’t be dragging a haggard friend around with me.”
“Okay, Zo, I’ll try. Do you have any silver I can polish?”
“On the kitchen counter. When you’re finished, the clothes in the dryer need folding.”

Zoe knew mindless tasks would calm Sophia, and she saved them up for her visits. As Sophia busied herself with silver bowls and pitchers at the kitchen sink, Zoe sat at the table, turned on Sophia’s lap top, punched in Match.Com, and began filling in profile information.
“What are you doing?” said Sophia.
“What do you want for a password?”
“What do you want in a man?” said Zoe.
“I don’t know. Someone like Marty, I guess.”
“Don’t tell me you want a selfish narcissist who leaves you for a younger, rich woman in another twenty years. Shit, Sophie, you’ll be half dead by then.”
“Whatever, Zo. I don’t wanna to date,” she said, wandering off to sort laundry as another wave of escalating sobs overtook her.

Zoe ignored her friend as she uploaded photos and typed in answers to all the questions. This wasn’t difficult since in the thirty years she’d known and loved Sophia, she learned everything there was to know, including Sophia’s neuroses, her fears, her dreams and even her sexual fantasies, which frankly, Zoe viewed as fairly uninspired.

Suddenly, the face of a man and his written profile appeared on the screen.
“Sophie, your first match just popped up.”
“What does he do, Zo,” she called from the laundry room.
“He’s a writer, like you.”
“Read about him to me.”
Zoe began to read what the guy wrote: “My mission is to make my life and the world better. Call me crazy, but I’m an optimist. Recently, I discovered Buddhism and shifted my perceptions away from intellectualizing everything to tapping into my emotional side. Life is improving. Now I accept and forgive myself, treating emotions as lasting seasons and valuable guides, rather than diversions or flaws to fear or suppress.”
“I’ll take him,” called Sophia.
Zoe squinted.  “He’s not a choice on a menu, Sophie. Don’t you even want to see what he looks like?”

Sophia walked from the next room to look at the screen. Greeting her was a tanned, salt-and-pepper-haired man,  in a blue shirt whose eyes and smile reached out of the screen in such a way that she felt as if he’d kissed her.
“No, I mean it,” Sophia said, “I want him.”
“Okay,” said Zoe as she typed an email to the guy she named “Mr. Transformed” even though his real name was Douglas.  And because Sophia’s uploaded photos showed a face from happier times, the guy wrote right back. After a few email exchanges with him, which Zoe wrote because Sophia wanted no part of the deal, Douglas set a date to meet Sophia at a jazz club in Boston the following Saturday night.
When Zoe told her about the date, a pathetic expression spread across Sophia’s face as she asked, “Zo, can you come with?”
“Sure,” said Zoe, “I’m swamped with Boston guys wanting to date me. We’ll do a double.”

The following Saturday evening found Zoe and Sophia dressed in low-cut, slinky tops, tight bottoms and Pashmina scarves. They looked fantastic as they left Portsmouth and drove 80 mph, down I-95, passing Newburyport and other Massachusetts towns.  Sophia carried a pocket-size version of Pema’s Chodron’s Buddhist teachings to read, just in case she couldn’t calm her nerves on her first Match.Com date. Zoe drove and they both soulfully belted out songs playing on a Mary J. Blige CD. Everything was fine until MJB, as they called her, started singing about how “You can’t keep a good woman down.” Something about those words made Sophia start to flail her arms and scream the lyrics, violently straining against her seatbelt.
“What the fuck is wrong with you, Sophie?” yelled Zoe, whose view of the road was obstructed by Sophia’s spell.
Sophia turned to face her and screamed again, “YOU CAN’T KEEP A GOOD WOMAN DOWN.” She did this repeatedly until Zoe finally screamed back.
At that point Sophia burst into contrite tears and said, “Why, Zo?”
“Because I spent my entire marriage nurturing people, listening to their fits, and juggling every breakdown children and a husband can suffer.  Now that I’m free, the last thing I need is a best friend from planet nuts who can’t keep her make-up on long enough to make it to her first fucking date. So, PULL the plug.”

By the time they walked into the jazz club, Earl Klugh and his side men were just taking the stage. Loitering near the entrance were two men waiting for their dates, Douglas and Zoe’s date, Vernon.  Both men nodded approvingly and smiled sensuously when they figured out the two long-legged, pretty blonds were the dates they awaited.  Douglas was a handsome, intelligent, loquacious Jewish man in his late forties, and Vernon was a drop-dead gorgeous and charming African American man of the same age. The music was so fantastic that pithy conversation wasn’t necessary during the show.  But afterwards, the four agreed to have a night cap at Vernon’s upscale house across the river near Harvard Square. It was a few days since Zoe or Sophia had eaten a proper meal, because apart from Chex Mix and Nutella, they forgot to eat.  Fortunately, Vernon thought to provide peanuts with the powerful Martinis he mixed for his guests. Otherwise, the whole evening could have been a disaster.

Vernon put on some romantic R & B tunes while Zoe carried the conversational ball for two. Sophia was more like tree fungus as she silently clung to the side of the couch listening to Douglas talk about his amazing agent, who had just brokered for him a great book deal with a major publisher. Eventually, Sophia’s nose grew numb from the martinis, and at one point, when she did try to speak, her mouth was so full of peanuts that bits of them shot out at the other three on her first words.

After they gazed at her with startled eyes,  Sophia quit trying to talk, and instead she sat silently trying to wipe away the masticated nuts that drooled from her lips and stuck in her hair.

After an hour of “polite” conversation, Vernon and Zoe slipped from the living room like a couple of lizards. For another half hour Douglas talked on about his marvelous book deal–before he noticed Sophia sat silently glaring at him.  So, to warm her up, he asked her if she wanted to dance. Sophia foisted herself off the couch, wobbling back and forth for a moment, before stumbling into the arms of Douglas.  He immediately thrust his tongue down Sophia’s throat and groped her buttock. When he began to rub his hard-on against her pelvis, she pushed him back slightly and tried to talk.
“Ahhh,” she began, “I’ve written a book too.”
“That’s nice,” he said as condescension and disinterest struggled for supremacy. Then his hands cupped her breasts and began a rough fondle.
“Don’t you want to know what my book’s about?” she asked as she ripped his hands from her bosoms, which were encased in her new $7.00 push-up bra from K-Mart.
“Yeahhh, suuuure,” he murmured between short, hot breaths. Next, he started to moan, drowning out the sound of Zoe and Vernon returning to the room. Then Douglas took Sophia’s hand and placed it between his legs, and she grabbed hold of his boys and squeezed really hard.  Next, her whole body whirled backwards as she glared into his eyes and screamed, “YOU EITHER GIVE ME ENTRÉE TO YOUR AGENT OR GET YOUR FUCKING HANDS OFF OF ME.”

Zoe rushed over to save her unhinged friend, encircling her in loving arms. Douglas grabbed his coat and vanished out of the door. Vernon half-heartedly invited the women to stay the night, but they declined.

As they walked toward their car on that cold December night, Sophia turned to Zoe and said,

“That went well.”


“Is that a Buddhist thing, Zo?”
“Sounds like,” said Zoe.

With Zoe behind the wheel speeding back to NH, the two extraordinary, middle-aged, single women sang MJ Blige’s hit MY LIFE at the top of their lungs, off on another adventure as the Sublime Consumers of the Lightness of Being.

To be continued…But please—send your advice. Can’t you tell they need it?

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  1. Joan Debow
    January 5th, 2010 at 12:48 | #1

    I hate to think what would have happened if Mr. Transformed was allergic to peanuts. Note to Zoe and Sophia: avoid eating peanuts for fear of causing a date to go into anaphylactic shock and always carry an epi-pen in case you’ve forgotten!

  2. January 5th, 2010 at 15:25 | #2

    Good advice, missy. Another point to query…would Sophia actually have engaged Mr. Transformed had he given her entree to his agent? I’m not sure she’s balanced enough to know what she’s doing or that she’s detached enough from her toxic ex to be very productive in the sack. What do you think?
    Rock on, Sugar!

  3. AMI
    January 5th, 2010 at 22:05 | #3

    Seriously?!?!!? Men are the same at every age (bad news for me.) There are so many disinterested (unless you count horny as a synonym for interest) and self-important pricks out there… I just assumed that the ratio of assholes-whose-barely-disguised-‘a-hole-is-a-hole’-attitude-toward-dating to genuinely interested prospective partners leveled out in direct proportion to the need for Erectile Dysfunction scrips. Guess I was mistaken. In my opinion Mr Transformed really should have set up a lunch between Sophia and his agent, or at the very least contact info for her trouble (after all, who wants pompous penis rubbed on her leg at the end of a date?)

    Can Sophia and Zoe have a young, vivacious (read: sexy) female side-kick whose apparent youth and naivete hardly conceal her cynicism and razor edged wit? She can be long-distance, only popping into the story at intervals from her own exploits in say…Texas??

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