Despite what my friends and anyone who hears my outgoing message might be led to believe, this date did not come about after Rachel admiringly slipped me her digits at Jamba Juice.
Esquire was the matchmaker. And like an overbearing grandmother, the magazine seemed to actually believe that if I just followed its advice, I could get this stylish, smart thirty-two-year-old British woman, this star of The Mummy and About a Boy , to fall for me. Or maybe my editor just wanted to see me horribly humiliated. In any case, I was given an advance copy of " Things You Don't Know About Women" and positively assured that I would have no trouble securing Rachel's heart, mind, and body as long as I stuck to such diligently researched nuggets of wisdom as Trite but true: Chicks dig hot cars and Calluses, yes.
Manicures, no. There's only so much a man will do for his job. When I pick up Ms. Weisz pronounced "Vice" , I introduce myself, though, truth be told, we actually met a few years back, when I had fourth-row seats to the New York stage production of Neil LaBute's The Shape of Things.
I made what I thought was some excellent eye contact with her. Still, it seems she can't place me. In the play, she starred as Evelyn, an alluringly sadistic art student who seduces and then eviscerates a hapless Paul Rudd.
Since then, she's portrayed similarly intense, ambitious women Confidence , Runaway Jury whose common characteristic is that they eat men for breakfast. This does not put me at ease.
I nervously hand her a bouquet of monochromatic tulips as recommended by Esquire. For me? Are you serious? I am, she tells me, the first non-Japanese journalist to ever present her with a gift.
I turn her attention to the tulips themselves. And she seems to genuinely appreciate them, though I do keep in mind that she's an actress.
And a good one. I lead her to my cherry-red Olds. If ever there were an opportunity for serious mocking, this would be it.
Worse, she's no stranger to cool cars: In London, she owned a seventies Jaguar Sovereign. I suppose that sounds quite sexist, doesn't it? Do you think women are good drivers? I drive to the restaurant and drop Rachel off at the curb. As I start to turn into the lot, I realize--shit! It appears to be some sort of funeral home.
I downgrade my expectations for the evening from wild sex to the avoidance of litigation. Rachel gets back in the car and smiles the whole thing off. Still, I need to recover. So, again following the edicts, I bust out a mix CD I've made her.
As instructed, I did not include Journey. Instead, I tried to combine my own tastes with what I knew about her past: She was born and raised in London in the seventies I threw on the Who and the Buzzcocks ; her parents divorced when she was a teenager the Smiths , at which point she rebelled Wire ; she later went to Cambridge Billy Bragg , majored in English lit Pavement , and founded a theater company Neutral Milk Hotel.
And, of course, I threw in a little Jay-Z--because when in doubt, that's what you do. I assume she's referring to the sentiment, not the shiny disc itself. I love Billy Bragg. I love Sleater-Kinney; I think they are just amazing. And the Smiths are probably one of my favorite bands of all time. Hmm, I think Paul Rudd introduced me to them.
He's really into music. He would bring his guitar and sing backstage every night. Now, in " Things You Don't Know About Women," it states: If a woman says you would get along with her boyfriend, that means she wants to sleep with you. Nowhere, however, does it explain what it means when a girl compares you to Paul Rudd. I'm not sure what to think. We arrive at L'Orangerie, a gilded French restaurant so aggressively romantic, it looks like the Hollywood set of a gilded French restaurant. It has huge murals of chteaus and a flower arrangement the size of my New York apartment.
Or as Rachel puts it, "It's incredibly posh. So far, Rachel hasn't emasculated me. In fact, she's been incredibly gracious. So where'd all these bitch roles come from? Playing tough is a real stretch for me, but somehow I've been cast as all these tough American girls. And what does she think of us strapping American guys? We actually don't date in England. You go out with a guy, and you never know whether it's a date or not. Also, I think American men listen better than English men.
A good suggestion. I listen intently as she goes through the menu. Seeing that she's an actress, I'm sure she'll request at least one tofu substitution. I'm wrong. This ordering chemistry has me giddy. Under normal circumstances, Rachel and I would slowly proceed to learn each other's hopes, fears, and dreams in a trickle of first-date small talk. But the fact is, I've only got a few hours to seduce the lady, so we're gonna need to accelerate the sharing.
I whip out a copy of Esquire's survey of American women, which asks the tough but critical questions. They're a bit crass for a first date, yes, but I'll just blame my editor. Rachel: Yes. It's more comfortable, especially if you have to run for a bus or something. In London, it seems like you're always running for the bus. Me: Under what circumstances would you flash your breasts for the camera? The choices are: if you just felt like it, if you were drunk, if you were drunk at Mardi Gras, or if you got points on the back end.
Me: Okay, but can I remind you that you did pose naked with a live snake this weekend? The most common answer was a ten. Me: Good answer. Are you more likely to check out the bodies of other men or women? A relief. After all, this is a woman who has worked with some of the best-looking leading men in Hollywood: Jude Law, both Fiennes brothers, and the annoyingly irresistible John Cusack. As much as I want to know whom I'm up against, I don't necessarily want to cast myself in such attractive shadows. I had this scene with him in Confidence , and he just came up and, totally unscripted, touched my breast.
It was great. But I shake off the thought; improvisational groping only flies if you've got Oscars. I stick to feeling out the competition: Is she still close with any of her former costars? Now, for those of us who, aesthetically at least, skew more toward Peter Jackson than Jude Law, this seems like good news. Unfortunately, I have a feeling she's alluding to her closeness with one director in particular: Darren Aronofsky, the director of Pi and Requiem for a Dream.
Yes, she tells me, they're still together and have been for about three years. It's a significant obstacle. But at least I know she digs Jewish men. I'm left no choice but to try to buy her affections with some of the gifts Esquire has provided me. The first one she unwraps is a Pucci scarf. I think women really like to be given things that they see in the store and admire but would never buy for themselves.
Things that are beautiful but totally unnecessary. I hand her a card with my verse. Unlike the CD or the flowers or the Pucci scarf, however, this gesture appears to alarm her. All Rachel can say is, "You've got very unorthodox handwriting. Maybe it'd be better if I fess up: I didn't actually write the poem; it's Bukowski. Mickey Rourke, now there's a guy with charisma.
Mickey Rourke? Now I'm confused. What kind of man does she like?