Walk the line

Soi 4


CHEAP EATS "It's hard to find people to eat pork bellies with me," he said, over pork bellies, and I thought: I'm your girl.

This was my second date of the day. I'd had a chef salad for lunch in another town, with someone else, and was not his girl. I could tell. Still, we walked down the hot sidewalk and into a famous bar with trophied animal heads all over all the walls. I'd always wanted to go there, and liked it inside, so I asked if he wanted to stay, have a Coke, or something. Stare at a moose.

"No," said the guy whose girl I was not. He had better get going, it was the weekend, hard week, and he wanted to be home, had things to do. Long drive.

My therapist wants me to speak on the topic of dating at a conference on gender identity issues. I suppose that I can take this as a compliment. Maybe I will, and maybe I will speak at this conference. Or, hey, hell, maybe I'll write an actual restaurant review! It's been a while ...

The pork bellies were delicious. Thick, crisp, fatty slices of fried pig in a dark, salty sauce with Chinese broccoli. The duck came with celery and lychee, the Chinese fruit, which is way weirder to the teeth, tongue, and taste buds than any animal organ that I've ever eaten. The name of the restaurant is not important.

My date insinuated that I must have some kind of skinny gene.

I speared another square of almost pure fat and, chewing on it, both literally and figuratively, reckoned that hmm, maybe I did. Plus there's the soccer ... sometimes two or three games in one day, ooga.

Really, I don't know a lot of people who like duck.

"When I was a kid," I said, "my brothers and sisters used to pass me all their pork fat and chicken skin."

My therapist thinks I am articulate and well-spoken, but he's never been on a date with me. I actually said that — about pork fat and chicken skin — on a date, and knew almost immediately that I wouldn't be seeing this guy again, even though there was no doubt in my mind that I was his girl.

It was cold outside, after dinner, so he gave me his coat. We walked to a book store. I picked up a book that I have but hadn't read yet and said, "Did you ever read this?" So he bought it. I wondered if I looked cute in his too-big coat, my hands lost way inside its dark sleeves.

I'm trying to understand guys who like girls like me. The best thing I've heard, so far, is that they love femininity, and that I represent a very complicated form of femininity, and therefore they love me. Except they don't, because — and this is just a guess, but it's one thing to eat pork bellies with a pretty woman, I'm guessing, and something else entirely to envision them engulfing a pile of table-scrapped fat or three chickens' worth of chicken skin.

I can understand their problem with the image. Honestly, I get it, only not quickly enough to not hand them the picture.

It's like: they want you to watch football with them, but do they want to watch you play football? Probably not. What we have here is a balancing act. Everyone knows you have to walk a line — everyone — and that's hard. For all of us. I begin to suspect that for girls like me and for the guys who go for us, there's not a thin line. There's nothing at all beneath our feet. Try to look graceful, and act balanced, while free-falling away from yourself. Or toward yourself. Or both at the same time.

I get motion sickness. Last night, to distract myself, I opened the book that I have but had not read, and I started to read it. The name of the book is not important.

My new favorite restaurant is Soi 4. It's just a couple of bucks more than other Thai restaurants, but definitely worth it. Especially if someone else is paying. The short ribs are fantastic.

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