Wheeee, that was fun! The neurotic campaign of harassment I waged against one very patient photographer was worth it (to me) in the end: I was not ugly in The Washington Post, and everything worked out fine. Except...
See, just before the new year I succumbed to a seven-year itch and installed cable in my apartment for the first time since Y2K. As part of my Comcast "deal" ("you pay us on time; we serve you when we're not busy scratching our butts"), I had to replace my home phone and DSL with digital cable service. Which meant a new home phone number. That I forgot to un-list.
At about 9:00 Sunday morning my phone rang. I don't use the phone a lot so when my line does light up I feel obligated to answer. I think it's a guilt issue; voicemail feels like such a cold shoulder.
The nameless number on my caller ID was not familiar. Neither was the voice that asked for me by name. He introduced himself politely and told me he'd read my little piece in the paper. "And I wanted to tell you," he said, "not to worry about the wrinkles. It gets better with age."
The man asked me to join him for brunch that day. I politely declined and said I already had plans. He asked if we could do it another time. Then I did the thing I don't like to do: I lied.
"Actually, I'm involved with someone." My face flushed as soon as I said it. I really, really, really hate to lie.
He declared my boyfriend a lucky man. He also said something about wanting to be a racecar driver... I'm not sure how that fit into the conversation, but there it was. I wished him luck with that, and bid him goodbye. He was a nice man. Calling a stranger takes cojones.
I knew my Mom would get a kick out of this.
"What did you say when he asked you to brunch?" she asked. I could hear her not breathing while she waited for my response. She never wants to miss a beat.
"I told him I had a boyfriend."
"Why did you do that!? Give him a chance! He might have been someone fascinating!"
I could already see this escalating into an argument so I played the one card guaranteed to nip it in the bud:
"Ma, his name was Christopher."
She paused. "Oh, well okay. We can let Christopher go. But if Joshua or Moishe calls, for God's sake pick up the phone!"
(For the record, I do not discriminate between Christophers and Moishes; I'm not that kind of Jew. I was merely trying to dodge a pointless fight.)
At that moment my call waiting beeped and again I answered blindly, like a fool. Christopher said that while he totally respects my (fictitious) relationship, he was wondering if we could have a coffee -- just as friends. I told him I'm very busy at work and barely have time even to see my... (God, forgive me for lying) boyfriend. And actually that part is true if you replace "see my boyfriend" with "read last month's Glamour and soak in the tub." Christopher asked if he could call me again a little while down the road. Since I'm as good at saying "No" as I am at ignoring a ringing phone, I answered, "Alright..." in a tone that implied, "Really, don't," and though I'm truly flattered I hope that was the last of that.
That night, while my friend Dave was sleuthing out the origin of Christopher's mysterious phone number (it was a Baptist church in Silver Spring -- I figured he'd called after services; pessimist Dave said he was probably homeless), my phone rang again. This number also came up without a name, but it was a D.C. exchange. Of course by now I knew better but curiosity tipped my hand.
"Is this Danielle?"
"Yes..." I sort of growled.
"My name is Kenneth Lang. I'm writing a book about women with really unique, interesting types of looks, and how their appearances have made their lives interesting..."
I didn't have anything better to do at the moment so I played along. "And what type of look do I have, then?"
Go ahead and say 'Jewish,' buddy. I fucking dare you to go there.
"Well, you just look... different. Unique."
I paused a second longer than necessary. This guy was so not writing a book, but I was dying to see how far he'd draw out the charade. "Alright, I'll bite. What do you want to know?"
My unexpected willingness unnerved him.
"Well... um... would you say your life has been... um... interesting?"
"That's kind of a vague question, Kenneth," I replied without a lick of humor. "Could you be a little more specific?"
"Well I can tell by your voice you're kind of... what's the word..."
"Yeah. That's it. So maybe this isn't..."
"I guess I'm a tough interview, huh Kenneth?"
He blew a frustrated sigh. "I guess you are." I'm not sure what else he was expecting, phoning a stranger with some cock-and-bull story about a book he'd never think to read, let alone write. I figure he had imagined the scenario playing out more like this:
Kenneth: "So, would you say your life has been interesting?"
Danielle: "Why yes, yes it has! I meet all sorts of interesting people every day. I eat interesting food, wear interesting panties and even sleep in an interesting four-poster king-size bed at 5824 Beach Street, apartment 204! Also, for your reference, my Social Security number is 123-45-6789, I bank at Wachovia, and I am worth 50 million dollars. Say, Kenneth, how would you like to come over right now and have sex on a pile of money?"
Unfortunately for Kenneth I wasn't feeling generous -- not with my time, not with my booty, and not with my 50 million bucks.
So Sunday is over. And while I would like to milk my 15 minutes the same way I celebrate my birthday for a full seven days, duty calls and I must get back to earning a living. That four-poster bed won't pay for itself.