The restaurant was the kind of place where you expect to see someone famous. Starchy, deferential waiters serving rich, fat men in pink shirts. My date (rich-ish but not fat) was an ex-boyfriend. The ex-boyfriend. My first love. Fortunately, I am now so old and it was all so long ago that we are allowed to have lunch with total impunity. My husband, rightly, couldn’t care less. This ex and I are hardly likely to fall into bed, 20 years on, after a lunch spent boring on about our children’s schools. Admittedly, this is partly because we are still so entrenched in our ‘I am nice and your are horrid’ battle that we always end up rowing. (Secretly, I am sure he knows that I am nice and he is horrid. He will admit it before this decade’s out). Last time I saw him I stormed off in tears after a particularly brutal verbal assault over a bowl of lurid green garlic soup.
Anyway, there we are staring at the stiff menu and, with a suggestive cock of the head, we are offered wine. It is a bright daffodilly day outside and who in their right mind wouldn’t have an icy glass of white?
‘What is the house white?’ I want to know.
‘It’s a Chardonnay,’ the waiter says and I grimace. I hate Chardonnay. It looks like the urine of someone who never drinks water. And it smells like whisky.
‘Yuk, no.’ I say. I order a nice glass of Pinot Grigio as nature intended.
I see my ex wince and smirk.
‘What? I hate Chardonnay.’
‘That’s ridiculous! You can’t do! There are many fine….’
He was about to go on but I interrupted him. Unbelievable. He was seriously going to give me a lecture about how the Chardonnay grape is to be found in many wines to which I am quite partial.
‘You are not going to tell me about the Chardonnay grape being in Sancerre and Chablis, are you?’ I sighed, bowing my forehead to the tablecloth in agony.
‘I am just saying that you might be missing out on a wine that you would enjoy,’ he complained.
‘No, you’re not. You just want to make some annoying point and force me to drink wine I’ve already said I don’t like,’ I told him (and who wouldn’t?).
What is it with men? Go out for lunch with a woman and say you don’t like Chardonnay and she won’t bat an eyelid. A woman is perfectly happy for you to drink the wine you like and enjoy it, thank you very much. Every man I have ever lunched with (and, as I say, I am very old now so this is no small number of blokes) has objected to my saying I don’t like Chardonnay. Sometimes I’ve even had a glass of whatever type of ethanol they think I should be drinking just to shut them up. They seem desperate to point out that while I may say I don’t like it, actually, in some other form, or if I realised my own idiocy, I do.
Why? Men want to choose the wine. They want to pore over the list, swill their glass around, taste the money. It makes them feel masterful and no silly girl with her ill-informed preferences is going to get in their way.
My wine came. I drank it. Very nice too. My date was forced to have the Chardonnay as a matter of principle and I bet it was vile, though he couldn’t admit it.
Last night my husband staggered in with glazed eyes and his tie half undone.
‘Nice evening?’ I asked, meaning; ‘Pissed again, I see.’
‘I have been drinking 1981 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild premier cru Grand Classe Paulliac,’ he said.
I looked up from my screen in a withering way. ‘Gross. I hate red,’ I said. Well, I do.