They say polo is the sport of Kings.  I disagree with this statement.  In my experience, It seems more like the sport of very rich men with big egos, who are willing to spend a fortune to chase a ball around on horseback for an hour.

And I’ve tried – oh, how I’ve tried – but for the life of me, I just don’t get it.

BR: Blondie, did you see how many goals I scored today?

Me: Umm… two?

BR: No.

Me: Three?

BR: Blondie!  Were you even watching my game?

Me: Oh yes, I was watching.  I was totally watching.

I wasn’t watching.  I was taking a nap in the car, reading a trashy gossip magazine, playing Word Warp on my phone… all to try and pass the time because somehow I got suckered into watching yet another of BR’s polo matches.

Now please understand, I have tried to like polo.  I’ve been to a countless number of BR’s matches, fancy professional tournaments with world-class players, polo parties, polo functions, polo fundraisers… but I just don’t like it.

BR even talked me into taking horseback riding lessons for a while, in the hopes that I would gain a little appreciation for his favourite past-time.  Unfortunately I didn’t learn anything about polo, but I did learn that I am definitely afraid of horses.  And you know what?  Horses can sense that.  And then they screw with you.

Allow me to let you in on a little secret about polo:  you don’t actually have to be any good at it to win tournaments and trophies.  In fact, you could be slumped over the saddle, dragging your mallet through the perfectly manicured grass while your horse is running around in circles the entire game – and you could still win.  How is this possible, you ask?  Because polo isn’t so much a game of skill for the super rich – it’s a game of wealth.  In other words, the more money you’re able to spend on well-bred horses and professional players from Argentina who make up the rest of your team, the more you’ll win.

Therefore winning a big tournament isn’t necessarily a show of your athletic prowess – it’s a show of how much your wallet is able to crush your opponents.

And because of this, you are guaranteed to meet some very “interesting characters” who are dedicated to the sport.

I remember the first year BR played polo in Florida – I came out to watch a few of his games.  Nobody knew who we were, which was fine with me.  One day after the game, an older gentleman approached me on horseback and introduced himself.  He asked me where I was from.  So I told him.

Polo player:  Oh really.  Where’s that, exactly.

It’s not like BR and I are from the boonies.  We’re from a well-known, very cosmopolitan city.  So I couldn’t tell if he was joking or being slightly rude.

Me:  Oh, I’m not really sure, haha.  Where are you from?

Polo player:  Isn’t is obvious?  I’m from New York.  More specifically, DUMBO.

Me: Oh… where’s that?

He scoffed a little.

Polo player:  What, you’ve never heard of it?  Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass.

Me:  Oh… that’s nice.  Do you like it?

Polo player:  Like it?  Sweetheart, I developed it!

And then he literally turned around and rode away.  Towards… well nothing really.  Towards the end of the field.  And I was left standing there, dumbfounded (no pun intended).

Later that afternoon we were invited to watch one of the professional tournaments at the fancy International Polo Club of Palm Beach.  BR and I are not members of said club (BR refuses to join anything) but a few of our friends are.  It was my first time going to one of these tournaments, so I was a little nervous to say the least.  Because let me be blunt: it’s not just a game.  It’s a scene.

Now these professional tournaments can be somewhat entertaining – or at the very least they’re a good excuse to get drunk during the day – but they’re part of a pretty bizarre world.  They’re basically very glitzy, booze-fuelled events where wealth and drunken debauchery and an abnormal number of straight men sporting pink pants collide.

Side note: If you’re interested, Laurence Leamer’s book, “Madness Under the Royal Palms”  is all about Palm Beach society and he gives a very accurate description of what the polo scene is really like.  I highly recommend it.

Anyway, that day, this particular friend (we’ll call him “Fred”) gave us tickets to sit in his box.  He wouldn’t be there, but he told us to go ahead and have a good time.  So we arrived a few minutes late (in our inappropriately casual jeans and t-shirts) and guess who was in the box?  The gentleman from DUMBO and his wife, as well as a few of their friends.  Mr. DUMBO gave a slight nod in our direction, but didn’t acknowledge that we’d previously met, or that he had just played a match against BR a few hours earlier.  His wife, on the other hand, looked at us like we were a couple of interlopers who had somehow managed sneak into the game.  She was frowning.

We sat directly behind them.  His wife turned around not once, not twice, but a few times and – still frowning – very blatantly looked us up and down.  Finally she spoke.

Mrs. DUMBO: Um, excuse me, but are you friends of Fred’s?

BR: Yes.

Mrs. DUMBO: Oh.  Oh, I see.

She was still frowning when she turned around and very loudly said to her friends, “I don’t know who these people are and I don’t know what they’re doing here.”

So that was awkward.  Not only because we were sitting directly behind her and could hear everything she said, but also because all her friends turned around and disapprovingly looked us up and down as well.  And did her husband care to mention that he had met us earlier and that BR was a fellow polo player?  No.  He did not.

Ugh.  I wanted to crawl into a hole.  But then I thought, seriously lady?  I know your husband’s a “big deal” and everything, but do you have to be so mean?  This isn’t even your box.

Needless to say I drank my way though the rest of that game.

We’ve been back to the International Polo Club several times since then, and over the years it’s become a little more enjoyable.  I’m still not even remotely interested in the actual polo, but I do enjoy all the vodka that’s being passed around.  And the people watching.  That never gets boring.

BR and I have also been to our share of polo functions.  The last one we attended was a black tie affair, where a friend of ours – a genuinely lovely man – was getting inducted into the Polo Hall of Fame.  Now it’s no secret that I find these events more stressful than enjoyable, but I really like “Tom” and his wife, and was happy to attend.

Lance (BR’s business partner and BFF) and his lovely wife Charlotte were also going be there and I was glad they were sitting at our table.

So I made an immediate b-line for the open bar and I have to admit, the party was pretty fun.  Eventually we were all seated for dinner.  Shortly after, the speeches began.  Now I was a little “tipsy” at this point so I don’t quite remember all the details, but one gentleman got up and began to give a speech about… um… polo.  I think his family had been playing for a few generations… or something. This went on for a while (I wasn’t really listening) and then he began talking about a beloved family horse.  Who was dead.  The next thing I knew, everyone was standing up and applauding this horse.  I thought this was a little weird but, you know, when in Rome…

So we all stood up and then Charlotte, who had maybe one-too-many glasses of chardonnay blurted out, “I can’t believe we’re giving a standing ovation to a horse!  A dead horse!”  Then Lance glanced around the room and very loudly announced, “wow, not a lot of Jews here!  Not a lot of Jews.”

But they were right.  There were not a lot of Jews there.  I think I counted maybe five.  And why were we giving a standing ovation to a dead horse.  Did the horse find a cure for cancer?  No.  It was a horse.

But that’s polo.  And try as I might, I still don’t get it.  Even though BR has invested years of his life, not to mention a small fortune on horses, horse trailers, grooms, pros, a farm and his own private practice field… as well as a few disastrous riding lessons for me.  It’s a huge commitment and his polo schedule literally dictates our lives.

But I’m just not that interested.

BR, however, loves it and I’m glad he has an activity that keeps him so busy.  Otherwise he’d just be at home torturing me.

And I would never have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. and Mrs. DUMBO.

A Parisian Screwing: Part 3

Ahh Paris.  It really is a lovely city.  I fell in love with it immediately.  But it was becoming painfully obvious that I was enchanted with Paris much more than Paris was enchanted with me (refer to A Parisian Screwing: Parts 1 and 2).

So BR and I decided it might be nice to venture outside the city and spend a few days in the countryside.  We would take in the scenery and visit a few local vineyards.  We drove out to the region of Champagne and BR surprised me with a few nights in an absolutely breathtaking chateau.  I mean this place was stunning.  It was a beautiful castle surrounded by manicured gardens like I had never seen.  I almost cried when we pulled up.

We arrived just in time for dinner.  We were shown to our lovely suite and decided to freshen up and change before heading down to the fancy restaurant.

But just as we were heading out the door BR got a business call.  I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Finally he told me to go ahead without him so we wouldn’t miss the last seating.  I was reluctant to go by myself but I went anyway.

Now, I don’t usually enjoy sitting in restaurants alone.  Especially very fancy, Michelin-starred restaurants in a castle.  I get a nervous and start to feel a bit self conscious.  Then I start to think about all the embarrassing things I’ve done in restaurants: I’ve tripped in my heels, fallen into waiters, fallen down stairs, accidentally set my sleeve on fire with the candle, choked on my drink, knocked multiple drinks over, accidentally gotten a straw stuck up my nose because I somehow missed my mouth… the list goes on.

But it’s always easier to endure these social mishaps when you have someone else with you.  At least they can laugh with you afterwards.  When you’re alone, it’s mortifying.

So I went down to the fancy restaurant sans BR.  I waited for a couple of minutes until a waiter approached me and said something to me in French.

I stared at him blankly.

He cleared his throat, repeated himself, and then clasped his hands behind his back as he waited for me to respond.

Me: Ummm… pour deux?

He smirked a little.

Waiter: I see.  Right zhis way please.

He took me to my table which was set far more elaborately than I was used to and asked me if I would care for a glass of champagne.

Now ordinarily I would have said yes – since we were in the region of Champagne and I assumed it was proper etiquette to consume the local beverage – but there was no price list.  This place was super fancy and I didn’t feel comfortable ordering without BR.  So instead I said something which I would soon regret.

Me: Actually, can I please see a wine list?

He smirked again.

Waiter: Huh-huh-huh… but of course.  Un moment s’il vous plait.

He returned not with a wine list but rather a wine encyclopedia.  It was an enormous book.  It probably listed – oh, I don’t know – a million wines.  And it was surprisingly heavy.  So heavy, in fact, that when he placed it in my hands I immediately dropped it onto a side plate and some cutlery which made a big clank and in my nervous rush to pick it up I knocked over a wine glass and a bunch of other cutlery onto the floor.

The restaurant was small, so that little episode caught the attention of all the other patrons, most of whom happened to be elegant Frenchmen in perfectly tailored suits.  They were frowning.  Awesome.  But I couldn’t just give the wine list back after requesting it. No, no, I had to somehow carefully place it back onto the table and then actually attempt to look through it with the self assurance of a seasoned connoisseur.

The waiter raised his eyebrow, smirked again, and very condescendingly said, “take your time.”

OMG, where the F was BR.

So I sheepishly went through the motions of pretending to peruse all one million wines until the waiter eventually came back.

Waiter: Madame, have you made a decision?

Me: Ummm… actually I think I’ll have that glass of champagne after all.

Waiter: Huh-huh-huh… of course you will.

I wanted to chug that glass of champagne.  Actually, I wanted to chug the whole bottle.

Finally BR came and sat down with me.  But before I had a chance to tell him what happened the waiter returned and presented us with a couple of fancy menus.

Now, with the exception of bread, cheese, wine and pastries… and fries… I am not a huge fan of French food.  My unsophisticated North American palate, not to mention my ultra-sensitive GI tract can’t really handle it.  It’s a bit too fussy.  So I was searching the menu for something that I could, A) swallow without gagging, and B) digest.

BR: What are you going to have?

Me: I think I’ll start with scallops and then I’ll have the lobster.

BR: Are you sure you don’t want the chicken?  That looks good.

Me: No, it’s too fussy and full of garlic.  The lobster looks pretty safe, I’ll just have that.

BR: I really think you should have the chicken.

Me: But I don’t want the chicken.  I want the lobster.

BR: Blondie, just order the chicken.

Me: What’s wrong with you.  Why are you being so bossy?

BR: Why are you being such a Diva!

Me: What are you talking about?  I don’t want the chicken because it’s full of garlic and I’m going to get cramps!

BR: So you decide to choose the two most expensive things on the menu?  What, do you think just because you’re in a castle you can order scallops and lobster all willy-nilly?  Ooooh, look at me, I’m in a castle!  Lobsters for everyone!

Me: What do you mean “most expensive?”

BR: What do you mean “what do I mean?”  I’m looking right here on the menu!

Me: Where?  I don’t see any prices!

BR grabbed my menu.  At first he looked a bit confused.  Then he looked irritated.

I guess at super fancy restaurants it’s customary to give the gentleman the menu with prices and the lady the menu without.  Hence the misunderstanding.

Me: Look, I would gladly order the chicken, but the lobster is the only thing on this menu that’s not going to rip my stomach to shreds.  Is it really that expensive?

BR: If it’s a diamond-encrusted lobster then no, it’s not expensive.  Just tell the waiter you want the chicken without the garlic.

Me: I can’t tell him that!  I already embarrassed myself with the stupid wine list and I knocked a bunch of stuff off the table!  He already hates me!

BR let out a long, agonizing sigh.

Me: And besides, I didn’t Know the lobster was more expensive because I don’t have any prices.  I just figured it was all-inclusive or something.

BR: All-inclusive?  All-inclusive?  Where do you think we are, fucking Mexico?!   No.  We’re in a castle.  In France.  In a Michelin-starred restaurant!

Me: Oh.  Right.

BR let out another long, agonizing sigh.

BR: Alright Blondie, you win.  Order the lobster.  But you will not be eating again for the rest of this vacation.

So the waiter came back and I ordered the scallops, then the lobster.  And another martini for BR so he wouldn’t be so cranky.  BR ordered the chicken.

Then my scallops came but there was a slight problem.

Me: Oh no.  I don’t think I can eat these.  They’re raw.

BR: Blondie, I don’t care if those scallops are crying out on the plate and pleading for their lives.  You’re eating them.

Me:  I can’t, I’ll gag!  Please don’t make me eat them.

BR: Blondie!  Those scallops cost more than your mortgage payment!  You’re eating them.  I don’t care if you barf them back up, but you are putting them in your mouth and swallowing them.

Me: BR, please!  I’m begging you, I can’t eat a plate of raw scallops.  Why don’t you eat them, you like sushi!

BR:  Blondie, I’m a Jew.  I don’t eat shellfish because it’s not kosher.  I’m not a selfish Christian like you.  You are eating them.  Now chop-chop.  Down the hatch.

So I took a big swig of champagne and reluctantly put one in my mouth.  I reluctantly began to chew.  Oh my god, oh my god, oh my godsooo grosssooo slimyoh my god I’m gagging…

My eyes were watering and I began chewing as fast as I could while trying not to breath.  I was also grimacing which I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to do in a Michelin-starred restaurant.  It’s kind of like sticking your tongue out at a Picasso.  But finally I swallowed it.  Thank god.  Only several more to go.

And the rest of the dinner went pretty much like that.  What was supposed to be a romantic dinner in the French countryside very quickly turned into the dinner from Hell.  BR was drinking heavily to try and numb the pain of spending a small fortune on a meal that I could barely eat.  I was drinking heavily to try and keep myself from barfing up a plate of raw scallops.  The waiter hated us.  And I’m pretty sure every other patron in the restaurant did as well.

And although we did truly enjoy our trip to Pairs, nearly three weeks there proved to be a bit much for us.  By the end we were exhausted.  We got into one of our first big fights.  I honestly don’t remember what the fight was about, but I do remember that for a good year afterwards BR would refer to Paris as “the city of hate.”

I’m still trying to convince him to take me back there again.

Oh well.  C’est la vie.