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Panty Banter
by Karen Russo

After a brief dating hiatus following my two back-to-back "serious" relationships totalling six years, my male banker friends have been pretty good about introducing me to eligible men.

"I just want to date," I tried to convince them. "I don't want a relationship."

They obliged, setting me up with the biggest player they knew. My friend Louis introduced me to Bill, my very-quickly-ex-fling, with these words: "I guarantee you'll have a fun time," he said. "I can't guarantee you'll go on a second date."

I was up for the challenge. Or so I thought. I had no idea how good a player can be.

Overlooking the fact that I could look over Bill's head without standing on my tiptoes was challenging. Ignoring the fact that he boasted about his Harvard education by decorating his apartment in "H's" was tough. Even worse was that his only goal in life was to make money. To top it off, he ignored me when I spoke. This guy was NOT what I wanted and I knew it.

Still, I kept answering his phone calls, going over when he wanted and allowed him to show up at my apartment, drunk -- of course -- in the middle of the night.

But Bill was not a complete jerk. What I did like was that he was a fantastic kisser, or was it that he said I was a fantastic kisser? He is a hard worker, funny and good looking, with beautiful blue eyes and prematurely grey hair that curled around his temples. He was affectionate in public and skipped work to spend a day with me at the movies.

The first weekend we met, we spent nearly 72 hours straight together. The following weeks continued in much the same way. His friends were confused by his unusual behavior, which included introducing me to his parents, taking me shopping for family Christmas presents and sending me "I miss you" emails when I travelled out of town. Even his father was surprised to meet me, explaining that Bill had not "brought a girl home in a long time."

Was this guy -- this "player" -- turning into my boyfriend? I wondered. Was it possible?

Absolutely not. Once a player, always a player. Soon enough, he stopped calling.

A few weeks later, I rang him on a Friday night to tell him he looked like someone on television. I pretended I was cool with the "friend" thing, plus I figured he'd be out and I could leave a breezy message. Surprisingly, he answered. One thing led to another and the next thing I knew, my feelings of being rejected by him manifested themselves in the form of a diatribe about how reckless he is with people's feelings. He became quiet, sounding despondent, then said he'd had a really rough week, wanted to eat his dinner and get off the phone with me. I felt horrible.

I had plans to meet my friend, Woody, at the movies and had an hour to kill. I lived downtown and just a ten-minute walk from the theatre. It should have been no problem getting there on time, except that I decided to buy a bunch of flowers and head to the Upper East Side to cheer up the depressed Mr. Player.

I struggled for a moment with the varieties. What is a masculine flower that says, "I care about your feelings-but-I-don't want-you-to-think-I-Like-Like-you? "

Roses? Too romantic.

Carnations? Too cheap.

I decided upon tulips and picked out two bunches of orange with yellow stripes, then flagged down a cab. I was panicked about the time, and thought of turning around twice. But then I thought how much something like that would make me feel better.

I got to his door and pushed the buzzer. No answer.

He's probably assuming someone pressed the wrong buzzer, I thought.

Again, I depressed the button.

"Who is it?" he asked.

"Karen," I said.

"Who?" he asked.

"Karen!" I yelled.

The buzzer hummed. I arrived at his door and knocked.

"It's open," he said.

I walked in. He was sitting on the couch, staring at me while sitting next to a skinny blonde.

I was dumbfounded. I could not speak.

Finally, I blurted out, "I felt really bad about what I'd said. I brought you some flowers," practically throwing them onto his coffee table.

My voice was shaking. I think I was shaking.

"This is Veronica," the bastard said.

I introduced myself. She had a weak handshake.

"You shouldn't have done this," the asshole said.

No fucking shit, I thought.

How did I get here? I wondered. What sort of masochistic test am I putting myself through? Am I in a movie? Is this a spoof on my life?

To top off my pathetic show, I pulled out the champagne bottle of Cisco Brewery beer that had sat in my fridge for weeks. I don't drink beer. He does. Seemed like a nice idea.

The Blonde was sweet and invited me to sit and join them for a drink. She even made room for me on the couch.

You've got to be kidding me I thought. This is my life?

Thank God I actually had somewhere to go.

"I can't," I said. "I'm late to meet a friend." Boyfriend, dammit. Why didn't I lie and say boyfriend?

"Do you want a drink?" Veronica asked.

Napoleon just stood there with his hands in the pockets of his faded light-blue jeans -- the ones I told him I disliked; they made him look shorter. Good.

I think I ran out of the building. I don't actually remember anything until I was on the corner, furiously trying to hail a cab. I was so desperate that I actually asked a stranger stopped at a red light to drive me downtown. A yellow taxi stopped just then. I told the cabbie everything. He told me I should've thrown shoes at the guy. He offered to drive me back there. "We'll have four shoes between us," he said.

I called my friend Julia for support. No answer. My sister. No answer. Joanna. No answer. Julia. Christina. Joanna. Julia. Julia. Julia. No answer. No answer. No answer. No answer. No answer. No answer. Where was everyone in my crisis?!?

Woody wanted to kill me when I arrived at the movie ten minutes late, but when we said good-night he gave me the best gift of the evening: a big hug and a kiss on the forehead.





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