Some men like fast cars and fast women. I was never the girl for them. When I moved to Los Angeles from North Carolina I didn’t even have a car and walked two miles to and from work for two years before I could afford one. Fresh out of college and unsophisticated, I fumbled through several meaningless and sometimes heart-breaking relationships.
By the time I was 27, I still hadn’t had much luck with men. My television-marketing career was adequate, but I was countless rungs from the top of the corporate ladder. I had dreams of travelling the world, cruising the PCH in a shiny red convertible, shattering a few glass ceilings and one day meeting the man of my dreams, but there was no sign of any of that on the horizon.
I decided to take my aspirations into my own hands. I had two weeks of vacation time and four years of High School French. Anxious about traveling alone, I put feelers out to friends and friends of friends to see if anyone had a taste for croissants and adventure, albeit with decent hotels lined up along the way. I found a travel companion in my cousin’s wife’s sister. Though we’d only met once before, we reconnected at LAX and headed to Paris, Le Mont Saint Michel, Langeais, Avignon and Cannes.
We met several interesting men along the way: gentlemanly Brits with heart-melting accents at the Louvre, adventurous Irishmen with gem-stone eyes in Normandy, and amusing Italians with hefty wallets in Monte Carlo. And the perpetual attention from the French men we met along the way? Well it had me considering becoming an ex-pat and recklessly accepting what I’m sure was a disingenuous offer of an extended stay in unseen country chateau.
So the trip to France briefly fulfilled my need for adventure, but when I got settled back into my job, client dinners and dining at home alone, it again became obvious that something was missing. As I was driving home from work in my dusty black CRX, having just had a date cancel at the last minute, I thought, “If I could do anything right now, what would it be?” The one thing that kept coming to my mind was cruising up the Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible. So I drove to the Mazda dealership, traded in my Honda and drove off in a cherry red Miata. A wise financial move? Not exactly. But the lease payments were less than my car payments, granted I’d have nothing to show for it after four years, but with the wind in my hair and the sun on my face, it seemed worth it.
My friends called the Miata my “man magnet.” Everywhere we went, we did attract attention; dark sunglasses and short skirts, blonde hair and aspirations flying in a tangle, Bon Jovi and Aerosmith screaming out from the speakers, sunshine seemingly innocuously kissing our skin.
A week after I got the car, I met my France travel companion at Yankee Doodles on the Third Street Promenade to share photos and memories over a pitcher of beer. This was well before the immediacy of digital photography and we had to wait to use the all the film on that last roll before we could get our photos developed and relive our adventure. The bar crowd grew while we laughed at our poses by Jim Morrison’s grave and sighed dreamily at the views from Eze Village. Various men stopped to talk and moved on after a bit as our attention went back to reminiscing.
But two guys feigned more interest than the rest. They stayed. They looked at some of our photos and listened to the stories. We finally gave up our table and went downstairs to play pool. I left that evening with a potential date, the magnetic field in my little red car fully charged.
A few days later I got a call at the office and an invitation for dinner on Saturday night. But I was going to the US Open in New York that weekend. He suggested the following Friday, but I was heading to the Pigskin Classic in Anaheim. The weekend after that I had a wedding in Monterey. “Do you ever even want to go out with me?” he asked in frustration. “Well, yes, it’s just a really busy month.” I looked at the clock in my office. “How about now? Can you get together in half-an-hour?” We agreed to meet at a bar midway between us. I nicknamed him C.G. for “Cute Guy,” not wanting to share his name with my friends for fear of adding another failed relationship to my list.
But like the night at Yankee Doodles, C.G. didn’t wander off. He stayed. We shared our first kiss leaning against that red convertible.
Two years later we were married. The Miata came in handy once again as we were barely down the aisle before well-meaning relatives or nosy acquaintances started asking when we were going to have children. “We’re on the ‘Miata Family Plan’,” we told them. We had two years left on the lease and there was no way we were going to put a car seat into a two-seater convertible. And though we’d only just started talking about having children, the week the lease was up, the stick turned pink. We turned in the “man magnet” and bought a Camry.
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