When Elizabeth Gilbert wrote Eat, Pray Love, she really meant to entitle it Eat, Pray, Sex. At least that’s what I believe because, really, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? No one wants to read a preachy ending about self-love and then witness Elizabeth glide into a future of masturbation.
We want the passion, the angst, the chance encounter that will lead to a whirlwind romance (and that inexplicably transitions into a long-term marriage in New Jersey). Go figure.
So I have to ask myself: where’s my Eat, Pray, Sex?
Surprisingly, my travels do not involve romance— and what’s worse is that I don’t even care! I’ve become vaginally numb; I notice attractive men all around me but feel nothing for them. In fact, I feel less than nothing because I’m more aroused by Baba ganoush than by muscular biceps.
What’s going on? Well, I think my mind is playing some kind of psychological trick on me. It’s protecting me from me, and teaching me how to care for things that matter most: my body, my heart, my time and my energy—all the things that can be consumed or stolen by others if I’m not too careful.
This territory is new because I’ve never oriented myself in this way before. I’ve always been the ‘Yes to life!’ girl, not the ‘Stay away!’ girl.
So, yes, I am in a foreign land.
Yesterday, I took a Vinyasa yoga class. My teacher was a Spaniard who’s practically a parody of himself: he’s physically fit, has tanned skin and long dreadlocks, light brown eyes and a sexy Spanish accent. He also happens to surf, play guitar, and own his own business. Is this guy for real?
I looked at one of my friends before class and mouthed: “He’s hot!”
Apart from the Spaniard’s good looks, he’s also a very good yoga teacher. His pacing is slow and steady, and he integrates mindfulness into his instruction.
While he led us into Hanumanasana (splits), the Spaniard walked over to my mat. “Or,” he said aloud, “you can take this variation like my friend…” He paused to look at me,“¿cómo te llamas?”
“Julia,” I blurted out.
“…like my friend Julia here.” Then he warmly smiled and walked away.
Did that just happen?
Out of a 50-person class, he publicly asked for my name. In Spanish! I wonder if he realized that he was speaking Spanish. I wonder if he thought I was Latina. I wonder how much I’d be willing to pretend I was Latina if it meant one night with this man.
I settled into pigeon pose towards the end of class and, sure enough, the Spaniard returned to my mat. He pressed down on my hips, wrapped his palms around my ribs, and slowly coaxed me into a deeper twist. I inhaled and exhaled through his adjustments.
No words were exchanged between us after class and it’s just as well—this was an occasion for honoring boundaries, where the professional and spiritual intersect. It would have been very easy to imagine Tantric lovemaking with Spanish subtitles (¡Qué rico!), but it simply didn’t feel right. Sometimes you just have to let these things go.
That night I did treat myself to dinner after that provocative session. I slipped into a white, spaghetti-strapped dress and put on fancier sandals. And for the first time in a long time, I applied eyeliner and freed my wavy hair from its oppressive bun.
I chose a French restaurant for my self-date, a charming spot that was hard to view from the main road. Under an enormous awning, there were small bistro tables covered with flower vases and candles. The rustic décor offered an unmistakable reminder of Paris.
I sat at an outdoor table, and ordered white wine with my salad niçoise. From this tucked away Parisian corner, I could absorb the entire city. There was so much to take in—scooters and cars zipping past, tourists walking, dogs scavenging, incense burning, banana leaves unfolding…I could have stayed there for hours.
By the time I was ready to leave, rain started to fall. It came down hard and unexpectedly, splashing against the sidewalk and rebounding against my feet. Flashes of lightning illuminated the sky, and suddenly I realized a full-blown storm was underway.
It was then that I noticed a tall, attractive man take cover under the restaurant awning. He wore a navy blue polo shirt with a messenger bag slung across his shoulder. He paused for a moment, deliberating whether to stay or continue walking.
He decided to stay.
The server sat him down at the table next to mine and, for my part, I paid no attention to him. (I’m vaginally dead, remember?) Instead, I propped my elbows onto the table, cupped my hands around my chin, and gazed into the street. I simply delighted in watching the storm.
About fifteen minutes later, I realized I had to go pee. I grabbed for my purse, then stood up to find my way to the restroom. On my way there, I passed the man’s table.
“You looked so comfortable sitting there,” he remarked. “I figured this was a good place to land.”
“Yes, it’s quite nice,” I replied.
“Are you leaving?”
“No, not now that it’s pouring!” I laughed. “Good thing I brought my book!”
The man gave me a sort of blank expression. I scurried off to the bathroom.
God, Julia, why?! I thought to myself. Why did you mention a book? Now he’s going to think you want him to fuck off so you can go read Harry Potter.
I pulled myself back together. Okay, you can do this. I looked in the mirror, checked for food in my teeth, then started to walk back to my table.
“So,” I said nonchalantly, “did you order something?”
“Yes, ravioli,” he replied.
“Oh, good! Yeah, the food’s quite good here.”
Silence. We stared at each other for another second, then turned our eyes to the sky when lightning erupted. The sound of thunder (thankfully) broke the silence.
“Would you like some company?” the man asked.