Friday, June 18, 2010

Being an ex-girlfriend

I say this in jest. And yet not. Wednesday this week I brought four quiches and a pan of ginger sablet cookies to the winery as my contribution to the reception of 15 Japanese guests and wine importers and general all-round wine drinkers. Long ago when this date was set we'd agreed that I'd do half the preparation and assist in receiving this particular group (after all I do speak Japanese). And so, even after the break-up, we agreed that we'd still do this hosting together.

I'm pleased -- and proud -- to say all went quite well. Dietary restrictions were accounted for (vegetarian and lactose intolerant), all were fed and watered and entertained in the manner hoped for.

It was weird and a bit tense to be there working alongside JP. And yet it was also extremely easy and fluid. In this context we work well together and always have. Whether it's setting the table, doing last minute cleaning (the windows were more than a bit dusty), dressing the salad, serving, clearing, passing, etc., we divvy up the tasks like the partners we used to be.

He wondered if his importers had noticed the difference in our behavior. And I had to break it to him that they called me 'okusama' (honorable wife) and repeatedly inquired/stated how lovely and relaxed living in such a place must be. I corrected them a couple of times, saying this was his house, that mine was in Avignon, etc., But hey, after a while, it gets a bit tedious. Let them have their dream. The photo sessions after the meal were amusing though -- obviously with the vintner, and then with me, and then between us.

We spoke a tiny bit outside of the situation, JP and I. We quickly got past the how've you been? and the family? and sales? etc., etc., He told me he's been working his way slowly through the Hendrick Harville book on couples -- but found some of the examples pretty extreme (judgement, judgement...). I encouraged him, and made a couple apropos comments as to how interesting it was for me to realize the various issues I have to work on/accept in myself, and that his presence in my life had been just the ticket to bring them to light.

He was a touch miffed that his importer hadn't been more attentive to the relationship between them -- it being now over ten years that they've worked together and seen each other in their mutual countries. They'd barely exchanged a word throughout the afternoon. I agreed with him that it is an ideal to have professional relationships also be friendships, and not always attainable. He was also distressed that the group climbed into the bus without saying proper goodbyes to him (they had to me though.. but I'd followed them out to the bus). I reminded him that he'd been aside looking at the map with the chauffeur, and that in good Japanese style, he should have been by the bus door saluting them as they departed. It was not their habit to come looking for the host to say a special goodbye. Thus a brief exchange between us on the outward appearance of good manners versus true sincerity and affection (tut tut... that could apply to another I know...)

We then got to work cleaning all and everything and putting his house back into order. I then took my cases of wine, my bottles of olive oil and some freshly washed salad (he'd purchased too much) and with a short hug (my initiative, but he responded well to it). I was on my way. No need to extend the visit beyond its purpose.

As I drove home, I mulled over our short conversations, the ease of working together, the fact that yes, the attraction is still there, but so are all the reasons we're not a couple any more. And I left him back there to his house, his family, his mother, his fragile ankle, his strict manners, and all that he has built and chosen.

Erick called me then, and I confirmed that the people arriving at his house were to pay him directly -- thus a profitable evening -- for the cooking class. And I said to myself, goodness, what a truly superb ex-wife and girlfriend I am. Not only do I not harbor bitterness nor torture them nor make them suffer, I even contribute to their bank accounts! Can I rightly be proud of this? Or is that rather perverse?

In any case, it is likely to be me cooking dinner for his wine tasting weekend in July. T'would be a job I would enjoy. Matching food to wine is always fun.


Nathalie said...

You're doing well Madeleine.

Gillian said...

A few years ago a girlfriend came around to dinner. Having dined on a delicious seafood meal, she said to me "...and you can cook as well!.....where is he, the lucky b*****d?" There's still no sign of lucky 'lui', but this could change any time now, I wasn't ready then, maybe I am now.....

"And you speak Japanese as well!....where is he the lucky b*****d!"