My Former Self

By Lauren Cohen

Met an engaging guy who happens to live in the same high rise (I rent; he owns) as me. He seems intimidating and amazing – well versed in the arts and sophisticated.

I feel chosen and special when he invites me to dinner followed by jazz.  I’m 22 and living the urbanesque single girl life in my junior one-bedroom apartment on Rittenhouse Square in downtown Philadelphia.  First place of my own with an unobstructed view of the park if positioned in a highly specific, awkward and uncomfortable position.

The first date is tonight. To appear refined, I invite him for wine and hors d’oeuvres as a “predate.”

I have wine glasses (housewarming gift) and an empty fridge. What do I serve and how can I portray that I’m a practiced hostess?

Aha! I decide to visit the fancy cheese store I’ve never set foot in and will create “the perfect spread.”

Why did I invite him over? And why am I desperate to impress him?

As I enter the store, I feel excited. Worldly grownups frequent cheese stores.

I can hear my high school English teacher in my head talking about the symbolism of thresholds. I giggle to myself that I could have one foot on the sidewalk and one foot inside the cheese store and just stand there. An epic and fake dramatic moment bridging childhood and adulthood. But I have the self-awareness that blocking a doorway and posing would be irritating for patrons and quite odd behavior.

Purchases: stuffed olives, two exotic cheeses, pâté, crackers, grapes and fancy napkins. I should have asked what’s good but felt intimidating to communicate with the butchers. So maybe cheese stores don’t employ butchers, but it had the same vibe. Too stressful.

I wear an all-black turtleneck minidress with too shiny boots and attempt “sexy creative.” Do I look fabulous or like a street walker? Or both.

I contemplate no underwear because recently read that it will make me appear free and interesting. But is that cool or gross. Decide against it.

He knocks, strides in and takes a seat looking handsome and comfortable. More so than me. I decide not to share that this spread was put out hours ago and we may be at risk of food poisoning.

He spreads some pâté on a cracker.” This is PERFECT! What is this?”

“Oh – the pâté? Glad you like. I made it!” Did I just claim that I made the pâté? Please don’t ask for the recipe.

“I cannot believe you prepared it yourself!”

Can I escape this? No, too late.

“It’s terrific. Is French cooking a hobby?”

“No. Pâté is actually the only dish I make.”

Who only makes pâté? Redirect, Lauren. Redirect.

“I want to learn more about you. You’re the one that is so interesting!”

The relationship did not last. And I never told him about the pâté.

My former insecure self. Youth is wasted on the young.


Lauren Cohen is from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania and lives in Los Angeles. She was the girl wearing a red leather jacket and Navajo jewelry in a sea of tweed. People watcher, mom, wife, museum goer, boot collector, coffee drinker, animal lover, explorer, used book and thrift shop fan. Loves laughter and to pay it forward.

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