John Calvin was a French theologian, but this has nothing to do with that.

Yesterday I found myself at a bookstore stocking up on birthday gifts for Meredith (Henry Huggins! The Boxcar Children!), as she will be turning six on Wednesday. Before leaving, I decided to stop by the magazine rack and check out the latest Bust. (This may or may not be important: I was wearing a denim flared skirt which is probably no longer in style, a lime green (kind of tight because it’s been a rough winter) t-shirt, my fuschia shoes, and my Superhero necklace.)

A man approached, and I use the term Man sort of loosely, because he looked to be in his early thirties, and I still don’t really consider myself a Woman at almost forty. I typed this entire entry referring to him as Man, but I will now change Man to Calvin. Just because.

Calvin: So, is Vogue a French magazine?

Me: Well, I don’t believe this particular issue is written in French, because I can read it. And I don’t speak French. And it looks like the cover says British Vogue. My vote is Not From France.

Calvin: You’re right. It’s just that I was recently in France, and it quickly became clear to me that fashion really does begin in Paris. The people there are so beautiful. Walking muses.

Me: Interesting. I’ve never been. (Starting now, the words I stick in parentheses will consist of the stuff I was thinking, but didn’t say.)

Calvin: One of my very favorite writers writes for Vanity Fair magazine, and I believe he also contributes an occasional article to Vogue.

Me: Christopher Hitchens?

Calvin: Yes!

(At this point, I was 83% happy that I could scream out Christopher Hitchens’s name and be correct. That rarely happens! (15% of me just sort of wanted to grab the Bust (no pun intended) and run. 2% of me is pretty much always thinking about nothing but string cheese.))

Me: My husband is a big Hitchens fan. (Notice how I dropped the Husband thing just in case Calvin was flirting! You’re welcome, Jeff!)

Calvin (Not deterred in the least! Perhaps my brain was more appealing than my butt! That is not a bad thing!): Hitchens is a wonderful writer, and I love that he comes from a place where free speech isn’t encouraged! I mean, you’re paying your tithe to the queen and all! HA HA HA!!!

Me: Jeff (I’m now calling my husband by name, because we’re all friends here, Calvin!) recently read To a God Unknown.

Calvin: Do you mean God is Not Great?

Me: Yes. (Shit. Wrong answer. Oh well. At least I was able to bring Steinbeck into the mix, which means this Superhero necklace is really doing the job! Dostoevsky! Rachmaninoff! My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard!)

Calvin: As much as I like Hitchens, I was disappointed in that book. I much prefer The God Delusion. (He then held up a copy of The God Delusion. Seriously. I suddenly felt like our entire conversation had been scripted like some sort of unexpected infomercial that I hadn’t signed on to do. (I had string cheese in my purse, but I didn’t pull it out. Looking back, I probably should have.))

Me (not really wanting to go down the religion road with Calvin): I’m not familiar. Actually, my very favorite Hitchens book is The Missionary Position! (It’s the only one I’ve read!)

Calvin: Ah! Mother Teresa! Mine will always be Letters to a Young Contrarian.

Me: Actually, I loved that one, too. (I never read that one, but suddenly I’m pretending I have. I’m like that sometimes.) You know, one of my all-time favorite quotes came from an interview I saw with Hitchens several years ago. He mentioned that a good writer will always beat a cliché as if it were a rattlesnake.

Calvin: He definitely knows how to avoid the banalities!!!

Me: (Okay, Calvin. Uncle.) That he does. Well, enjoy your Vogue! (Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it.)

Calvin: Oh. Er, okay.

(Apparently, I’ve still got it, Ralph Malph.) ‘ ‘ ‘text/javascript’>

20 thoughts on “John Calvin was a French theologian, but this has nothing to do with that.”

  1. Ok, first off, thanks for the link to Bust (which I NOW assume is a – ahem, gentleman’s magazine). I was thinking you were going to show us the cover of a magazine about sculpture when I clicked the link…AT WORK! I am now flagged by my employer’s I.T. department and I expect to be told to clean out my desk at any moment.

    Second, was that dude half as creepy as you made him sound? Sheesh. If all men come across that way, what is a reasonable way to start up a friendly conversation with an intelligent woman in a non-threatening way?

    Ah, nevermind. I’ll just stay here inside my own mind. Besides, everyone knows me here.

  2. Boxcar Children! I *loved* those books when I was a kid. I’ll add those to the “books I liked, thus you Must Read Them And Like It” list I have (in my head) for my future children. I’m planning their literary life before they are even born. Such is the fate of a child who is born of a big reader (me) and one with a Masters in English (my spouse).

    (Also, I suspect I’ll be singing Vogue for the rest of the day now, but your hilarious post was worth it.)

  3. Awesome! Banter and repartee at the very tip of your tongue — a skill to be much-admired.

    Quite a few years ago when I was being flirted with for sure, I dropped the “husband” reference as fast as I could and, blam, the moment was over.

    Learned a lesson though — next time I held onto it a little longer just so I’d have more of the experience to savor.

    Of course, I wasn’t holding copies of the Boxcar Children at the time — that might have been a bit of a giveaway.

    Happy two days before your birthday, Meredith!

    Oh, and don’t go reading your mom’s blog for the next day or so, OK? There’re a couple of spoilers in here ;-)

  4. String Cheese. Such an important tool in a smarty-pants conversation. Don’t underestimate it.

    Oh, how I giggled at this post.

  5. Oh, you definitely have much more interesting pick up opportunities/conversations.

    I had two men 30+ years my senior, ask me out after I had JUST DISPENSED PERFORMANCE ENHANCING MEDICATIONS TO THEM!

    Actually, at $15/tablet, I should be flattered…

  6. I had a really hard time reading the rest of your post after “My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.” I was too busy dying of laughter!

  7. I’ll be watching the St. Louis area Craigslist for a missed connection from Calvin. What a great story.

  8. I love Christopher Hitchens! My children have “God is not Great” and “The God Delusion” to thank for our sleeping in every Sunday morning.

    The Vogue opening was odd, though. Good that you mentioned Jeff.

  9. Well, ookay then. What a conversation to strike up with a total stranger! Or am I totally lost and am just a dumb ass? (Love the side convos you were having with yourself!)

  10. Itching for Hitchens? Sorry, couldn’t help it. What kind of man reads Vogue anyway? Most men here are lucky to read magazines at all, and then it’s mostly just sport & tits. Sorry. SORRY!

    But v. impressed by the sounds of the Superhero Necklace – but did you have the WonderWoman Bra on to go with it, and is this what lured Ralph Malph over in the first place, hmmmm?

  11. Oh come off it, you look really hot for an almost 40 year old lady. You’d pass for 33 any day and you have the best taste in shoes of anybody I know in the internet world. So there. In fact could you take me shoe shopping to show me how its done?
    p.s. My cat looks exactly like yours sans the diarrhea but we found out last week she has fleas.Boo.

  12. Oh damn. How I wish we lived close! I would stalk you until you became my friend. (which would happen when you realized how “awesome” I am, or you just got tired and gave in, I’d be cool with either one bytheway).

    This post made me giggle too.

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