“Yeah,” I said.
I was talking to my cousin on the phone. She’d just come from a law school friend’s wedding in the Bay Area, an intimate affair up in the hills of Berkeley where, during cocktail hour, the bride had come up to her with a conspiratorial twinkle in her eye.
“There’s someone here I want to set you up with,” Ginny said, “He’s one of Harry’s best friends and my absolute favorite of all his friends.”
Ron had been Harry’s fellow Math PhD at Berkeley and after graduating some years ago, found a job as a research something-or-other at a biotech startup. My cousin didn’t know it at the time, but he’d been engaged before and then unceremoniously dumped, then reengaged, then dumped again, all by the same girl.
“That’s a lot of baggage,” I said. I liked to clean during our calls and was now dusting the top of my dresser.
“I know, I know,” my cousin said, “But Betty. This man was THE funniest man I’d ever met.”
“Whoa,” I said, “He must have been really funny.”
My cousin had, over the past year or so, gone on dates with some really funny guys – one with whom I’d set her up and another who aspired to be a stand-up comedian. For various reasons those relationships didn’t work out, but what started and kept them going for their respective durations was that the men were funny. And as my cousin is no bore herself, both parties felt engaged.
“He smelled really good,” she said of Ron now, “Like my favorite candle.”
She was mingling at cocktail hour as single people are expected to do at weddings and spied an opportunity to catch up with the bride, who was chatting in a relaxed manner with a rather short man with a thick brown mop of unruly hair.
“M!” Ginny said, her eyes lighting up as my cousin approached, “This is Harry’s good friend Ron.”
Very short introductions were made and then the bride, her job done, excused herself to talk to other guests.
Ron smiled nervously up at my cousin who wore a navy pantsuit and four-inch heels. She smiled back.
“So you’re Ron,” she said, observing that he had soft eyes and a very strong chin, “Ginny was trying to pimp me out to you.”
And just like that, a laughter and pop-cultured filled conversation unfolded, where both parties – with the help of a glass or two of wine and sparkling lights and the all around aura of love, not to mention the sweet air of Berkeley’s forested hills – were doing their very best impressions of their very best selves. That is: charming, light-hearted, quick to laugh, and most importantly, optimistic.
They talked about Beyoncé, the VMAs, their respective histories with the newlyweds, math and law and of course, the way he smelled. (My guess is that my cousin led the conversation).
“Bey? Like ‘Beyoncé?” Ron said, amused, “This conversation has really come full circle.”
“No, no,” my cousin said, and spelled out the name of the candle.
At this point, another taller, equally eligible bachelor-cum-Math PhD joined the conversation. His name was Dean. He had spied my cousin at the wedding’s start and was on a mission to talk to her. When her conversation with Ron showed no sign of letting up, he grabbed a fresh drink and gamely approached them.
“He was,” my cousin admitted, “much taller and objectively better looking than Ron.”
But she was now a slightly older and wiser woman with ample experience dating men in the upper echelons of both physical and mental stature, the mores of whom were often disappointing.
“But I was already really into Ron by then.”
Dean successfully joined their conversation, which eventually led to a discussion about dating, during which Ron had made my cousin laugh so hard that she had to commend him.
To Dean she said, “You’d do really well dating in LA.'”
And she meant it.
But to Ron she said, “But you would KILL it.”
And she meant it.
Shortly after this little stick ego-crushing dynamite was lit and stuck into Dean’s ear, he stalked off.
“I can’t believe it,” he later said to Harry, “The best looking girl at the wedding starts talking to RON of all people and then she tells me he’d do better dating in LA than I would!”
Tall, tender egos.
“So Ron’s great,” my cousin said, “I just felt like, ‘Wow! I am so into this conversation.’ Like he’s a math PhD, but was so humble and interesting and articulate. I felt like I could really just talk about anything with him and it’d be a great time.”
“He sounds pretty cool,” I said. By now I’d moved on to refolding some clothes.
“The only thing is,” my cousin said, “I think he’s either exactly my height or just slightly taller.”
My cousin groaned, “I know, I know, it doesn’t matter right?”
“It really doesn’t.”
She paused, weighing her attachment to “The Checklist” against the chemistry she’d felt with Ron. Feathers to gold.
“Okay Betty,” she said, “So you really could be with a short guy?”
I put down the shirt I was folding and looked to see if the door was closed. Not that anything I said about my past crushes was either surprising or upsetting to Tom.
“You have terrible taste in men,” Tom likes to say, before adding, “Until I came along, of course.”
But I, being one year older and therefore more world-weary, had some life lessons to impart.