My love of chocolate is obvious. It is a relationship that, like the substance and even love itself, is sweet, warm, comforting, and at times magical and seductively, intoxicating surprising.
Anticipating another dateless Valentine's Day, on a recent Wintry night, I decided to be my own secret admirer. Comfortably curled up on the sofa under my Snuggie, I pampered myself with a new a mug and a new flavor creation: Chambord spiked Raspberry Hot Chocolate, finished with a flourish – hand whipped, stiff peaks of fresh raspberry crème, made with heavy whipping cream, pureed raspberries, and brown sugar! With, of course, a raspberry on top, added for good measure.
Rich, chocolate with the lovely ribbon of fruity sweetness was a surprising twist that took the flavor above and beyond my everyday. Savoring each drop through to its sweet finish, the drink felt cozy yet luxurious and languid like the blanket under which I lay in repose, a modern, brown-skinned version of Goya's "La Maja Vestida."
The set-up, with the rich treat, was the perfect way to unwind from a long work week, during which no less than two snow storms dumped about 15 inches of the white stuff, sending fleets of snow plows into the streets, burying my car more than once.
Plowed and covered in snow, armed with my red shovel, I had dug my car out each time.
That's why the notion of relaxing, being still, warm and dry, was the one and only place I could see myself or wanted to be on this night. Other Fridays could have found me in New York City, perhaps dining with friends, or just being out on the town, meeting new, fabulous people, entertaining the prospects of finding love. But recent attempts to "get back out there," as my mother would often prod, had fallen flat for the most part.
Sipping a second round of warm chocolate from a white glazed, ceramic mug with a thick red rim, I recalled a few ghosts of dating meet-ups past which had included introductions arranged through friends, family and work associates. But one particular incident stood out in my mind as I nursed my beverage. It happened some three years ago on my one and only foray into the strange and anonymous universe of online dating.
The notion of online dating had never really appealed to me. In my mind, the whole endeavor seemed sort of sordid, and smacked of the party telephone lines made popular in the 80's. Online dating sites were, for me, too similar to the conference call rooms in which random strangers, loitered and stalked for hook-ups with others who were equally desperate. Back then, the interactions seemed so pitiful, aimless and impersonal.
I had seen and heard my high school friends make such calls. A few had become hooked on the "technology" and would gather with other girl friends at their homes to make the calls. Back then, groups would clamor around a touch tone or finger-dial telephone to make calls from which they would awkwardly switch between multiple phone lines, talking to one person to the next laughing, flirting and generally having fun.
That's what it was all about: teenagers looking to have fun. Girls baited and teased the inevitable creepy old guy or unwitting dolt, who was a bit too excited and forth coming at having more than one hot young thing with whom to indulge in conversation, never mind, and never knowing that each and everyone was woefully underage.
In stark contrast, it was not until recently that the notion of meeting and marrying a real and normal person, a future husband in fact, seemed possible. It was because of my newly and seemingly happily wed, co-worker, had met his new spouse via an online service that helped me overcome my objections, and got me to try the approach while I was still living in Southern California.
And so it was with that hope, and a huge chunk of lingering reticence and reluctance, that I assumed the alias, "Cocoa Ganache" and wadded cautiously out into the World Wide Web. I took my new moniker out for a spin on couple of sites, creating accounts, writing and posting personal profiles in which I included details about my love of chocolate.
Over the next few weeks, I got a few responses from secret and not-so-secret admirers. A babe in the woods, I posted my information on one site which turned out to be nothing more than an internet hotline for those looking for spontaneous sexual encounters. Subscribers to these sites were quite frank about their intentions.
One respondent in particular wasted no time and had no compunctions about telling me in very, very graphic language of his interests and intentions. After a few truncated pleasantries and an introduction of himself as a Northern European professional and ex-pat, living in the U.S., this fellow followed up by asking with undue excitement whether "Cocoa Ganache" was my porn name. Cause if I were into that, he said, it'd be very hot. Whatever Cocoa Ganache was, though, he said, he was willing to try. When informed it was simply a nod to my passion for cooking and chocolate – I was especially fond of high-end truffles at the time -- he was undeterred. Unabashedly, he suggested we meet for an impromptu rendezvous during which he intended to show me some tricks with his spatula.
His notes were written in stilted commercial English probably learned abroad and that no doubt mimicked a similar accent his speaking voice might have. When I explained that I would prefer to be treated as a lady, he asked bluntly, in decidedly more explicit language, "Do you want to [do it] or not?"
The liaison was short lived, very short lived. But it wasn't the only. Cocoa Ganache also attracted other, similarly bold courtesans, if they could be called such. Another of the more brazen in the bunch was a beautiful, young Asian man with rippling pectorals, rolling abs and spiky, black hair that partially masked his face as featured in his profile, and on online pictorial. From one frame to the next, he showed his true self as an exhibitionist.
With an apparent need to bear his soul – and everything else, in a close up no less – he posted a series of three pictures of himself standing in front of a bed in a bedroom. Upon opening the second file, in which he was nude, the angle and of the closely shot image had the effect of someone hurling a Frisbee almost without warning at my head. I ducked for cover from the picture that seemed to extend out, almost in 3D.
"Whoa!" I yelped dodging the surprise visual. I then burst in to laughter, realizing what I had seen, amused by my naïve, knee-jerk reaction. Flush and flustered, I felt like a schoolgirl, as I quickly closed the web page and logged off of the site not wanting to linger. Unsolicited and caught completely off guard, I never went back to either of those guys; neither did I go back to the sites, figuring it all to be too much for my maturing sensibilities which prefer old-fashioned courtship and in-person contact and connection. "I'm too old for this," I thought to myself with light-hearted resignation.
I still laugh at the realization of how silly the entire experience was, even more so when I recall myself hunched down in front of the computer screen, nearly hitting the deck, belly first to avoid a picture! And I can't help but giggle at myself and how absurdly seriously I can see the world at times.
On this night then, happily sipping my sweet treat, I was reminded to not take myself nor many of the things in my life so seriously. And even though these days I prefer to keep my "Cocoa Ganache," offline, as I looked down into my mug, I contemplated whether it was half empty or full and was assured that my life is quite full.
(c) 2011 Valerie Williams-Sanchez