You know that ubiquitous and yet rarely asked first-date / party-small-talk question - If you could have lunch with anyone, real or fictional, dead or alive, who would it be? For reasons that are entirely unclear to me, I've been thinking about that question lately. Perhaps it first came up after watching an episode of Murder She Wrote and wishing I were sitting down for a piece of apple pie at Jessica Fletcher's kitchen table.
So I put together a list of the five people I'd love to grab a sandwich with - my fantasy lunch dates. And since J.B. got me started, let's begin with her.
If you know me well at all, you know that I am a devoted Murder She Wrote fan. I have watched every single episode of all twelve seasons, and many of them, twice (or more). I imagine I might have been Jessica in a different life - one where I was straight, from Maine, a high school English teacher, and unnaturally gifted at observing seemingly unimportant details. At lunch, we would discuss her latest mystery and my latest short story. She'd pat me on the hand and encourage me to keep on writing, and when I got up from the table to find myself being arrested for a murder I didn't commit, J.B. would postpone her upcoming book tour and devote herself day and night to my release. She would visit me in the little Cabot Cove holding cell and convince Mort to let her slip me some apple pie. Once the real killer was caught (It was her brother! He confessed everything through his tears!), we would laugh about how fun it all had been, and she'd invite me back for another visit before she rode away on her bike. She would promise that next time would be calmer, but I'd know that I wouldn't visit again because next time I would definitely be the murder victim.
I was not actually a big Kelly Kapoor fan on The Office. I found her annoying, and not in a Wow! That actress plays annoying so well! kind of way. Just in a She annoys me kind of way. So I wasn't jumping onto Hulu to watch The Mindy Project when it premiered a couple years ago. But thank heavens for my sister and her obsession with sit-coms. After much badgering, I finally started watching the show and, with thousands of other cult-like fans, became a Mindy Kaling devotee. Besides being funny, the woman is a force. Sure, she has natural talent, but it's obvious she worked very hard to end up writing, producing, directing, and starring in her own successful television show before she turned 33. We'd meet up at McDonald's and order Big Macs and Diet Cokes, and Mindy would recount some of the ridiculous things happening in the writers room and give me the inside scoop on her and BJ Novak. I would almost shoot my drink out my nose while laughing not twice, but three times. And while beforehand, I'd been afraid that her success and killer wit would be intimidating, we'd end up chatting like besties and extend the lunch to a shopping trip on Madison Avenue where Mindy would tell me I was only allowed to purchase things with sequins on them.
Sometimes I write letters to Dear Sugar (aka Cheryl Strayed) in my head when I'm struggling. And then I play back to myself what I think she'd say, what kind of firm but compassionate nudge she'd give me in the right direction. I imagine reading her response telling me that I'd known what to do already, that the answer was in the question, and nodding in realization. In person? Our lunch would begin tentatively, me afraid of being less than my most honest, true self, and her, watching and perceiving everything. And then I would tell her that I really wanted to just order the cheesiest thing on the menu, and she would tell the waiter "Two of your most cheese-filled items," and I would then share all my sadnesses and my fears and my jealousies and my hang-ups, and she would furrow her brow and speak impossibly eloquently about my human-ness. She would lift me up and admonish me, and both would feel like love. After I finished my second dessert, we would hug and I would be healed. And when I turned to thank her, she would be gone.
I've wanted red hair and freckles my whole life, and it is one hundred percent because of Anne (with an e) Shirley. I was convinced for quite a few years that if I had been born with freckles and red hair, I would have been feisty. And oh, how I wanted to be feisty. Alas, you can only be who you are. But I have definitely surrounded myself with feisty friends (freckled if possible), and Anne would be no exception. Of course, from the moment we clasped hands and greeted each other on the front porch of Green Gables, we would know we were kindred spirits. There would be no question about that. We would eat tea cakes and drink raspberry cordial, and Ms. Shirley would fill my mind with such fantastical and whimsical whirligigs of thoughts that I would practically float out of the room if there weren't a roof. Before I left, Anne would press me to her bosom and promise to write. I would wonder for a brief moment if she meant something...different...when she called me her bosom friend, but I would reject the thought even as she vowed to love me forever. And monthly for the rest of my life, I would receive letters, sometimes six, eight pages long filled with stories and fantasies and ramblings about life on Prince Edward Island. For a few days after each letter, I would walk around with my head in the clouds and say exactly what was on my mind but in a delightfully endearing way so that even the grouchiest person couldn't help but love me.
Well, that's a change. My relationship with Jesus is too long for this post. It's too long for another post. It's probably too long for this blog. But I'll give a quick summary by saying that regardless of whatever shameful (in my opinion) things that his name has been used for, I have generally positive feelings about the man himself. And, however I feel about him, I don't think anyone can argue that he hasn't left a serious mark on history. I'd host Jesus for a simple Kosher meal (he was Jewish) and spend just a few minutes basking in his warm and loving glow before I got down to business, aka question-asking time. I would probably have index cards just to keep things straight, and I'd ask about how it felt to be him, whether he wanted all the attention, what made him afraid, what made him angry, what he never got to say. I'd ask him what he thought of a bunch of things now - cloning and gay marriage and birth control and poverty and feminism and war and so many other things. The lunch would run long, but he would assure me it was okay. I'd spend a few more minutes basking in that warm and loving glow before he left. Afterwards, I would write a tell-all book about our meeting and get my own talk show. It would involve a lot of hugging.
As I was falling asleep after reading a draft of this post to my wife a few nights ago, I popped up.
"Oh my god," I said.
She mumbled in response.
"Okay, besides Jesus, what do all my other fantasy lunch dates have in common?"
She thought for a second.
"Yes!" I exclaimed. "They're all women writers! I didn't even realize!"
I have determined that it's actually an excellent first date question. If you want to know what's really in a person's heart of hearts, ask them to name five people they'd like to join for lunch.
So who would your five people be? I promise I won't psychoanalyze you too much.
p.s. Just in case you wanted to know how many times I've talked about Murder She Wrote on this blog, it's three: here, here, and here.