June 17, 2007

The other night I called a friend from a taxi. I told her I'd just done an interview over dinner, and she immediately interrupted. "Where'd you go?" she asked. "Asia de Cuba," I said. "Ooh, I love that place. What did you eat?" I could have interviewed Brad Pitt - she wouldn't have cared. I said I had the barbecued salmon. There was a mournful sigh. "And?" I paused. "Mashed potatoes," I said, "with chunks of lobster."

It was like phone sex. I knew she hadn't had carbs in a while, and talking about potatoes was driving her wild. I decided to take it to a really naughty level. I mentioned dessert. "And then," I said, lowering my voice, "I had..." Her breathing got heavier. "Go on," she said. Slowly I uttered three tantalising words. Dulce de leche. She moaned. "With the coconut cake?" Uh-huh. "Did it have the icing?"

Before I could answer she cut me off. "Stop," she said. "I've had enough." It had become food porn. There really should be a food sex line. Women could talk to a stranger about food for as long as they wanted. And, unlike the women who operate phone sex lines, these women would enjoy it. They'd ask, "What are you eating?" or "What are you chewing?", and it wouldn't sound gross. For an added charge they'd recite recipes. The phone bills would be astronomical.

Very few men like talking about food on the phone. If I say to a man, "I've just ordered dinner," chances are he'll say: "Call me when you're done." A woman, on the other hand, will want to know where I ordered from and what I'm having. We'll go on for so long, my food will arrive, I'll pay the delivery man and we'll continue, giving a running commentary as if it's a sporting event.

"They didn't give me enough extra ginger. Oh, here it is. The yellowtail looks funny. No, wait, it's good."

The only question a man ever really seems interested in asking over the phone is: what are you wearing? Last time a guy asked that I put him on hold. I said I was having a neck spasm and was on the other line with my chiropractor. Because I know when a man asks what I'm wearing, he's bored. But when a girl friend calls and asks what I'm wearing, it's another story. It's exciting. Multilayered.

There are things to consider: hair, weather, function and so on. Men think we talk about them all the time, but we don't. What's there to say? I met this guy, he's great, I like him. Unless there's a problem, there's nothing interesting to discuss. When it begins to go sour, then there's a topic. Lip gloss is a different story. Joanna will call me from the beauty shop to tell me she's in love. I'll have to know the details. Is it a tube or a wand or a pot? Shiny and sheer? Matt or glossy? What does it smell like? Is it sticky? And the words "You can't lick it off" are so much better than the stuff guys come up with. It's valuable information.

When Joanna offers to set me up with a man, I doubt it will work. When she offers to set me up with a lip gloss, I trust her implicitly. Sometimes I worry about how much I enjoy talking about lip gloss and food. I know there are other things I could be talking about. Politics. The ozone. Making poverty history. But a conversation about icing is so satisfying. There must be more to life than this... but maybe not