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   n o r m a l

--- S H A R O N   G L A S S M A N

Every once in awhile, I get the feeling I should try something normal. You know. Do the things the way you hear everyone else does them? But somehow, things never turn out that way for me.

I guess that's the way things go when you fake it.

Like this: I had to go to Boston for the weekend, so I called up a guy I knew who lived there; a guy who had told me to call him if I ever came to town. It wasn't something I'd normally do- getting somewhere and calling a guy who had told me to call him. But it's something I imagine the rest of the world does between the Superbowl and sips of milk.

So, now it's three o'clock in the morning and I'm making out 20 feet up a tree with a second year Harvard MBA named Arkansas on the night before my cousin's fiancée's bridal shower. And there's a dent in my little vinyl purse where I leaned on it funny on the way up.

You know, I think there are two kinds of normal: the normal you think everyone else thinks is normal and what's normal for you. For me, tree kissing is normal. There's something about that whole "sneaky-with-a-dash-of-nature" thing. It fits my idea of romance.

What's not so normal-for me- is that this guy, Arkansas, he's a blond. Giovanni, the guy who turned out to be 15, not 18- he was a blond. Paul, the guy who forgot he was living with another woman- he was a blond. And Matt, the cat-and-turtle-lover who hatcheted the kitchen phone to pieces when the six stopped working- he was a blond, too.

It took awhile, but I finally realized blond men are my black cats of love. And knowing that, I shouldn't have called Arkansas when I found out I'd be coming to Boston. But if I told you why, would you think I was-

Look. Tomorrow, I'm going to another bridal shower. Floral skirt, dented vinyl. Over there, by the flatware, someone- I bet she's a neurosurgeon- will be perforating a paper plate with a knife and lacing little pink ribbons from each gift into it to make a hat for the bride. Or is that a bouquet?

So, given the choice between heading back to my cot at the Howard Johnson's now so I can be fresh and fully awake for chicken salad at an hour I relate to as "breakfast", or risking another blond man disaster, I'll pick the blond every time. And if you don't think that's normal, well, never mind.

Arkansas drinks gin. That's how we met... at the bar at my friend Sarah's wedding in Philadelphia. Him, the tall blond Southerner ordering, "Gin tonic," in a room full of suburban brunettes ordering, "Stoly straight up with a twist." Me, the 4'10" redhead wearing the green flapper dress to a black and white wedding.

Arkansas said, "H-i-i-i-i!" Like a Southerner, turning the word into a sentence. I said "hi" like a New Yorker, ready to take the whole thing back if I'd made a mistake. Arkansas told me his name and asked me mine. I told him mine and promptly forgot his. The band started playing a Lindy. I said, "I've never danced a Lindy before." Arkansas said, "I've never been to a Jewish wedding before."

So we danced. A Lindy, sort of. And I tried to clue Arkansas in to Hava Negilah.

That's when the hip-hop dancers hit the floor. The mother of the bride had seen them perform at the bachelorette party in Manhattan and had trained them down on Amtrak to perform between sets by Sy's Hi Entertainment Band. Which could be normal, if you're New York, and Arkansas, dancing our way through the wedding, and into the Black Banana until it closed.

By then I knew that Arkansas studied money at Harvard. He invited me back to his room to drink champagne and listen to "Anything but the Girl." I thought, "Really nice for a guy who lives for numbers," but my gut just told me, "Anything but." So Arkansas smiled and he drove me home and he said, "If you ever get to Boston, why don't you give me a call?"

So, now it's 3:30. Arkansas and I are making out in our tree. Couples cross under us, squished together like they can feel us overhead. Maybe they're chilly. It's kind of cold out here on the Common, but I'm feeling all right. I've got Arkansas, plus this irregular Brooks Brother's blazer that I bought on sale at Filene's this afternoon that I'm wearing with these black New York leggings and hiking boots. I'm thinking no one can see me, the New Yorker, up here in the tree. I'm in New England camouflage.

I'm in New England camouflage, and I've never made out in a tree with a guy who has a Southern accent, or an MBA, before. It's much more interesting than I'd expected. It's just that this morning, I read this op-ed in The New York Times telling men that they should look at women with the same "appreciative glance" they'd use on a new Porsche or a swell sunset.

My mind is running footage of tomorrow's bridal shower- and then the wedding. I see the bride being presented a the altar. She's veiled with a canvas sportscar cover. Underneath, her face glows; it radiates. The model leaves the showroom floor. Does anyone ever really talk about love?

Is this normal?

At eight hours to shower time, Arkansas looks at me and he says, "You know what ah want?" I see the glow of a red 944 in his eyes.

Look, I like Arkansas, I told you, I think he's surprisingly compassionate for someone who lives for numbers. I've loved his stories about growing up in the country, and I love the way he's taken me to the weirdest places he knows in Boston because, for him, I'm probably the most eccentrically normal person he's ever met. But I just don't want to be somebody's Porsche. So I tell him: "One night stands on the night before your cousin's fiancée's bridal showers are bad luck."

I tell him: "It's an East Coast thing."

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