Welcome back! In case you’ve forgotten (or had a memory wipe) what happened in Chapter One, here’s a quick recap: Superficial woman is left by husband. She becomes obsessed with nightgowns and attempts to move on.
Right, now onto…
Our narrator is dating again. Oh dear. She compares the experience to “being a Christian in the Colosseum. You put on a hell of a good show, but you know that sooner or later, one of the lions is going to eat you”. Now this is a bad metaphor to begin with. Do her dates eat her? But besides that, after a quick Google search it appears Christians were never fed to lions in the Colosseum. They may not have been fed to lions anywhere at anytime, but especially not at the Colosseum. This will come up again. Actually, far too often in the near future. She also says, “After six months of dating, I felt like a Hostess Twinkie”. So, you’re injected with a lot of preservatives? I can believe that…
She next describes her beaus. “There were fat guys, and bald guys, and old guys, and young guys”. Again with the superficiality. Not boring guys and intelligent guys. Or funny guys and unfunny ones. No, she classifies them solely by their looks and age. Nice. And they all had some small problem like alcoholism, deep psychosis, or “a minor crisis about his sexuality ever since his uncle assaulted him when he was in high school”. Excuse me? Is she seriously trying to make a joke out of molestation? That’s just wrong on so many levels.
Throughout this book, she’s implied that she thinks she’s very intelligent. And yet she tells us that she’s not used to how things have changed and she was unused to being served “cappuccino made from sixteen kinds of coffee beansfrom African countries I’d never heard of [emphasis is mine]”. Now, first of all, this seems to be a slight misunderstanding of coffee. I don’t know that most blends have 16 different beans (but I’m not much of a coffee drinker, so let me know in the comments if I’m wrong). Also, for someone who thinks she’s so smart, this seems a weird admission to us.
Summer is approaching. Her ex husband and his new wife are taking the kids for the month of July to Europe. And Stephanie will have them for the month of August. She “had rented a small beach house for the three of us on Long Island. Umpa’s money was not limitless after all”. This confuses me on so many levels. It was enough money last chapter to support her family for the length of her and her husband’s lives but it’s not enough for something more than a small beach house? Also, you’ll see soon that she spends an awful lot of money for someone who doesn’t have a job and whose trust fund isn’t “limitless” and requires budgeting for a summer vacation.
She reminisces about her kids while they’re gone. Including arguing with her daughter about “green nail polish”. Now, her daughter is 13. And as we’ve seen, Stephanie isn’t necessarily the strictest of parents (she lets her kids refer to their stepmother as Mrs. Bimbo, remember). So, what’s the big deal with wearing green nail polish? Am I missing some hidden symboloism with the green? My parents were pretty conservative but they wouldn’t have battled with me over the color of my nail polish. Not even black. They may have rolled their eyes over it, but it wasn’t a big enough deal to fight about. They saved their battles for bigger things like curfews, summer jobs, and grades. So this makes me wonder about Stephanie’s priorities.
After explaining how she’s over her ex husband she tells us “I cut my hair short. Helena [her ex’s new wife aka Mrs. Bimbo] was still wearing her mane like Farrah Fawcett. So be it. Roger loved it. And everything else about her”. Why the hell does she care? The tool left her over a year ago. Why is she so obsessed with how her ex husband’s new wife is wearing her hair? I’m confused by this woman.
Anyway, four days (remember this) before her kids are set to return to New York via Paris, she misses them. “I had seen every movie in town, all my friends were away, and it suddenly made sense to me to meet them in Paris. I decided to fly over on a special fare”. Now, I’m not travel expert, but it seems to me getting a plane ticket to Paris last minute (and I’m guessing she doesn’t fly Coach) is pretty expensive. “I made a reservation at a funny little hotel on the Left Bank, a place someone had told me about, owned by some fading French movie star who served divine food and catered to interesting and elite clients”. Sounds expensive. Maybe if you had waited 4 days for your kids to come and not spent all this money (from Umpa’s limited trust fund) you could have afforded a better beach house.
But at least she’s enjoying a vacation. I can get on board with that. She even says she’s glad she came alone and that “even if he’d [Roger] been in Paris with me, I wouldn’t have given a damn by then. I could no longer remember why I’d ever been in love with the man”. And yet just moments ago you were obsessing over the hair length of his new wife.
Her obsession with nightgowns has returned. Remember I said her kids were arriving back in NY in 4 days. So, she’s in Paris for no more than that amount of time (probably less because most US to Europe flights are overnight) and she “had brought four of them [nightgowns] with me to Paris”. So, she has possibly more nightgowns than she has nights in Paris? I’m not a clean freak so maybe this is more my problem than hers, but in general I think it’s okay to wear a nightgown more than once between washings. I mean obviously if you spill something on it or it gets dirty in some other way, fine. But for a 3-4 night stay, I don’t think you need 4 separate nightgowns. (We’re on our 17th nightgown mention for those who are keeping track.)
She arrives in Paris (with what must be a cadre of luggage seeing as she’s already over-packed on nightwear). She gets to the hotel and checks in. It was “run by a boy at the desk who looked like a porn star. Very pretty, but half my age, and I realized as he took me to my room, glanced sensually at me, and handed me the key, that he had recently consumed an extraordinary amount of garlic, and deodorant was not something he used often”. Can you start to see why this woman annoys me so much? She’s superficial, judgmental, and self-centered. Grr. And I’m only 2 chapters in…
The next morning she’s served “croissants and coffee the color of tar”. For a hotel she described as serving “divine food” coffee “the color of tar” sounds incredibly unappetizing. Am I nitpicking? Probably. But it’s the only joy I’m getting out of this “wickedly funny” book, so leave me alone.
She goes out on the town, apparently with Umpa’s money. “I have never enjoyed a day more, seen as many exquisite sights, orspent quite as much money. I bought everything I loved, or liked, and even a few things I eventually decided I hated. I found a shop that sold extraordinarily beautiful underwear and bought enough of it to become a courtesan in the court of Louis XIV”. Is that really a thing that was important in the court of Louis XIV? I mean, yes, they were extravagant. But I’m pretty sure even then, while their underwear was extensive, it wasn’t the “bras and tiny underwear and garter belts” that you bought. And I’m pretty sure you didn’t become a courtesan based on your quantity of underwear. History, it’s your friend. Also, Umpa’s limited trust fund seems to be holding out pretty well against Stephanie’s outrageous spending. It sounds less like the trust fund is limited and more that Stephanie’s spending priorities are f’ed up. She can spend hundreds (thousands?) of dollars to fly to Paris, stay for several days, and buy large quantities of expensive underwear, but they can only afford a “small beach house on Long Island” because there isn’t enough money for anything more? She lays out her purchases on the hotel bed and wonders if it “was a sign from God”. No, honey, God is not telling you to buy skimpy underwear. (On a side note, who still wears garter belts?) Then comes the really messed up part. “Maybe my son Sam would love it. It might teach him something. I could hear him thirty years hence… my mother always wore the most beautiful underwear and nightgowns [ugh, enough with the damn nightgowns]. It would give the women in his life something to live up to.” Her son is 8 at this point. And she just told us the underwear was “tiny”. I’m guessing that means thongs, at least for some of it. What mother parades around in her skimpy underwear in front of her 8 year old son? And why the everloving hell would you want him to be comparing his future girlfriend/fiance/wife’s underwear to that of his mother? This is like an Oedipal complex on steroids. And why is she thinking about and concerned with what her young son will think of her new underwear purchases? I can’t even deal with this right now. Excuse me while I make a stiff drink.
After thinking about her son seeing her in skimpy underwear she leaves the hotel and “felt incredibly grown up”. This woman is 41 years old. Please tell me this isn’t the first time she’s felt “grown up”. I’m 24, and I’ve definitely felt grown up. And who says grown up anyway? But I digress. Actually, maybe she’s emotionally stunted at age 18, which would explain a lot… Anyway, she starts thinking about the fact that no one will see her new underwear that she’s wearing unless she gets into an accident. “Like my thoughts of Sam earlier [which were sick and wrong], I could just hear the French gendarmes commenting to each other what fabulous underwear the corpse wore”. Really? You think they’d be commenting on a corpse’s underwear? I would hope they’d be more respectful than that. And that they’d be more concerned with figuring out what happened or alerting my family to that I’d died. But to each their own.
She finds her way to a little cafe. And she sees an attractive man reading a paper at a nearby table. She starts speculating about him, “and for some reason suspected he was either English or German. he had that kind of cool look about him. I knew he wasn’t French”. English and Germans have a “cool look about” them? I thought that was the French. Maybe the English and German tourist boards paid Danielle Steel to put that in. Either way, she’s able to tell an awful lot just by looking at him, including that it was “chemistry, perhaps” that made her fascinated with him. They have yet to make eye contact, they haven’t spoken, she knows literally nothing about him, but there’s already “chemistry”? I call bullshit. She goes on to say that “even reading the Herald Tribune, he was sexy”. I’m trying to imagine what sexy reading looks like without any nudity… Anyway, she finally narrows down his nationality, “as I watched him sip his wine, I realized he was American”. Apparently Americans have a distinctive sip when drinking wine. I was unaware of that until now. You learn something new every day. “I had come all the way to Paris and was fascinated by some guy who was probably from Dallas or Chicago. Pathetic.Talk about wasting the price of a ticket”. Uh, excuse me? Didn’t you come to Paris to see your kids sooner? Eventually, she and the mystery guy make eye contact “for a brief time”. When he goes back to reading his paper she is disappointed because he “could have come over to say hello, or offered me a glass of wine”. Why? Because you looked at each other for a bit? I’ve made eye contact with a number of men and never expected them to buy me a drink. Especially in a foreign country where she has already commented that he doesn’t seem to speak the language well. Maybe he didn’t notice her American sipping and thought she was French and thus there was a language barrier that would be hard to overcome. Or maybe the whole goddamn world doesn’t revolve around her.
After he leaves she starts thinking poorly of him. Maybe he’s “another deadbeat like the ten thousand men I’d met in the past two years. Probably an alcoholic. A child molester maybe“. What’s this chick’s deal with being flippant about molestation? Twice in one chapter. And of course her perception skills are fine tuned. “There was no doubt in my mind that he was married” followed almost immediately by “[h]e looked lie he’d break my heart, or walk out on me one day like Roger”. So, if you’re sure he’s married why are you concerned about whether he’d break your heart? As someone who was recently divorced by a man who may or may not have been cheating, to you being married should be the end of the question. If you have “no doubt” that he is married, then that should be the end of it. She also asks, “How many lions does it take to eat a single Christian?”. So, she’s sticking with that metaphor? Well, I think that’s a pretty easy answer. One. It’ll take a while, but I’m pretty sure if a lion can eat a zebra or a gazelle, they can handle a 90 pound woman. Whatever, moving on. She then “walked past him indifferently”. She doesn’t know this man! And how do you walk indifferently? She has literally not said a single word to this man. Why is this such a big deal? “Our eyes met for a fraction of a second as I walked past, knowing I’d never see him again, and forcing myself not to care.” Why should you care? YOU DON”T KNOW HIM! I’m not a violent person, but this woman is making me want to slap her.
She leaves the cafe and walks back toward the hotel. She notices the man walking behind her some time later. “He marched right by me into my hotel, and I wondered how he knew I was staying there, or why he cared. He was probably waiting for me in the lobby.” THE WORLD DOES NOT REVOLVE AROUND YOU! Sorry, I don’t mean to keep yelling at you. Is it possible that this man you don’t know is also staying at the hotel that came so highly recommended to you and is probably in the same neighborhood as the cafe? And trust me, I’m sure he doesn’t care where you’re staying. This woman… she’s driving me insane. She enters the hotel and the man is getting a key from “the porno star at the desk”. She’s really effing judgmental. Apparently she gets completely mental when the mystery man finally speaks to her. “I was so undone just looking at him, I couldn’t even hear what he was saying. If nothing else, he was great to look at. Instinctively, I looked for a wedding ring, but didn’t see one.” So, first of all, after having lived for 41 years and having been dating for 2 years, she still comes completely undone when a man speaks to her? Whatever. Secondly, just moments ago she had “no doubt” that he was married. And she should have been clearly able to see both of his hands while he was reading the paper at the cafe and never thought to look for a wedding ring then? I don’t understand this woman.
They end up in the same elevator going to the same floor (of course). He says, “Nice night, isn’t it?”. To which she thinks “The words were American. But I could have figured that much out from the Oxford shirt, the khakis, and the loafers”. I wasn’t aware that those particular words were specific to Americans. Or that words could be American. I suppose she means the accent, but shouldn’t she have just said that then? Also, I wasn’t aware that Oxford shirts, khakis, and loafers were endemic to Americans. I’ve never worn them. Nor can I remember seeing anyone wearing that outfit and I’ve lived in America my whole life. The get off on the same floor and surprise surprise their rooms are right next to each other. She wonders whether he’s going to try and seduce her (which doesn’t sound like it would take much). She thanks her lucky stars she’s “wearing the pale blue lace underwear and the garters” because she “knew he’d be impressed when he saw that”. Now, I don’t have much experience in this department, but are men generally “impressed” with underwear and garters? Aren’t they more concerned with getting them off? Correct me if I’m wrong. “It was impossible not to think of him with his clothes off. I wondered what kind of underwear he wore. Probably Jockeys. Gray or white. Calvin Kleins. And knee socks”. So, a tighty whitey guy with knee socks. Ooh sexy.
They end up not having sex (which makes this 49 pages into a romance novel without any bodice ripping, sex, or really any romance). She does give him the benefit of thinking he is “not a registered sex offender” again throwing that around rather casually considering how horrific it actually is. The next morning, it’s rainy so she has an umbrella when she ends up in the elevator with mystery man again. “I knew I could hit him with it if he assaulted me, and was fiercely disappointed when he didn’t”. This woman has some kind of serious mental defect if she’s wanting some man to assault her. I’m not much of a feminist but this woman makes me want to burn my bra.
Anywho. The pair decide to visit the Louvre together. On the way there they introduce themselves. His name is Peter and he works for a bionics firm. According to Google, bionics means “The study of mechanical systems that function like living organisms or parts of living organisms”. So, not difficult to understand in the abstract if not completely understanding how it works on a detailed level, right? “He explained briefly what the company did, and it sounded like Swahili”. Wow. Just wow. Oh, and “he hadn’t gone to Harvard or Yale [as she had thought before actually meeting him]. He had gone to Princeton.” So, still Ivy League. Was that really something we, as readers, needed to know? Will it be important to the story later? I sure hope so (sarcasm). While she’s telling her introduction she wisely “left out the scene on the satin chairs [her husband telling her he’s leaving]”. Why would you tell someone that story when you’ve just met them? No wonder you haven’t had a successful date in 2 years. I’m starting to sympathize with the old, bald men with minor sexuality crises that had to sit through a dinner with her.
They seem to have a good time together. She’s going through her likes, dislikes, etc. And then it all falls apart. “The rest he could see for himself. And perhaps, if pressed, Roger would offer a reference.” Why the hell would you want your ex husband to give a reference to your new boyfriend? He left you. For a younger woman. And by your own understanding because of your looks. What makes you ex husband a good person to give a reference? And why the hell would your new boyfriend want it? This woman is insane. Oh and by the end of the night “I even told him about Roger and the scene on the satin chairs, and his telling me he didn’t love me”. Why? Why the hell would you do this? She finally concedes, however, that her new beau “seemed like a normal person”. Really? What gave it away? The fact that he has acted like a perfectly normally person this whole time while you’ve acted like a crazy stalker? But that was short lived. The chapter ends with this gem: “He was polite, pleasant, sexy, intelligent, well behaved, handsome beyond belief, and nice, or so he seemed. Obviously a sicko.” So, not a normal person, then?
To sum this all up, she’s met a new man who she believes may be a child molester or a “sicko”. And we’re 46 pages in without any sex and very little romance (and what was included was ruined by the neurotic, self-obsessed narrator). There have been 19 nightgown references so far (at least it’s slowing down).
Adios until Chapter Three!