When I was in my twenties, the international director of business development for Playboy magazine wanted into my pants. I met him at a press conference that I was covering for the paper. I didn’t think we had much in common. But then I got my heart broken, big time—a loss that defined me for months, if not years. I was seeing white with the pain. When Playboy called, I said sure.
He took me out to dinner and brunch and even high tea. I am now and have always been a sucker for being taken out to a nice meal. I am not complicated that way. I admit, it did occur to me that I was being romanced by a guy who had easy access to Playboy bunnies. But mostly, he seemed like an emissary from the world of grown-up adults with money.
Playboy was fifteen or twenty years older than I was, and I remember he talked about his mother in a way that made me uncomfortable. But he also knew things. He knew how to shop for a coat in SoHo. He knew how make plans for Friday on Monday. He knew how to make me feel like I was the smartest, funniest woman he had ever spent time with. Maybe I was. But I doubt it.
One night, he pulled out all the stops. He took me to dinner and then an opera at the Met and since I didn’t live in New York, he got me a room at his gentleman’s club in New York which he did not, repeat not, force his way into with me. We were meeting up for dinner with two of his friends.
“I should tell you,” he said outside on the restaurant. “My friends are Matt Lauer and his wife Annette.” But you see, I didn’t watch TV.
“Who?” I said.
“Matt Lauer. The host of the Today Show?”
I had never heard of him.
Annette was late. Playboy and I sat down with Matt. He struck me as kind of shockingly uninteresting for a man whose job was to host America’s conversation. But he lit up when he spoke about his wife. He was smitten. Head over heels. Still, when he talked about her, it was as if she were a child.
“Annette is doing so well with the 4 am wake-ups.” This about a woman whose job, as far as I could tell, was to be nice to Matt Lauer. She woke up at 4 to… give him a kiss? Then she went back to sleep. What did it mean, she was doing well with it? That she went down for her naps without a fuss? I remember thinking it was awful that he spoke about her this way behind her back.
When she arrived at the restaurant, she said wonderfully archetypal rich-model-wife things. She said the lighting in the restaurant was bad. “Don’t you think it looks like Miami?” I had never, at the time, been to Miami. She offered me a chance to touch her scarf, made from the neck wool of rare baby llamas, or some such. “Isn’t it soft?” She nibbled at a salad, refused dessert, and then demanded that we take a cab the three blocks to the Met. Matt and Playboy wanted to walk. I refused to take sides. She huffed, and we went to the ladies room.
While we were washing our hands, she touched my elbow and offered me her best life advice: “Always complain, Michelle. Always complain.”
… (to be continued)