Girl Dates

My best girlfriend and I don’t get a lot of face time together—we live on opposite coasts—but when we are together, we turn into a montage set to a John Mayer song. We might spend the day shopping at some out-of-the-way downtown Manhattan boutiques, get mani/pedis, then go to our favorite garden restaurant for some red wine and Mediterranean food (we share it all, natch) before heading home to snuggle up on the sofa, sip tea, and watch a movie. Or we might go for a hike to catch the ocean view over Santa Monica, take a drive along Sunset Boulevard, then talk each other into some cupcakes (we hiked, after all).

This sort of activity prompts its share of jokes among us—sample text message: “I’m at a cozy makeout table in the back”—and, you can bet, the men in our life—sample remark: “When do you have the naked pillow fight?” But, all kidding aside, I have to admit: I get more romance from girlfriends than from any guys I date.

Now, I could hang this on modern men, whine that they’ve lost all imagination, deduce that we’re giving up the proverbial free milk too easily, etc. True, I bet if we all started donning chastity belts, candy and flower demand would skyrocket. And if we suddenly demanded walks on the beach as a sex prerequisite, there’d be a lot of sand stuck permanently between a lot of sheets. (Why can you never wash sand away?)

But I don’t buy that it’s a gender issue. I’ve had some great dates with my gay, equally planned by both of us, filled with concerts, romantic movies (he was the only person who could see “Bridget Jones’ Diary” as many times as I could), piano bars, and dinners he’d make me at home. A just-a-friend guy and I like to dissect our very separate, never-to-intertwine love lives over expensive, candlelit dinners. A guy I sorta dated (or whatever … trust me, this is no place to get into it) and I started having our best outings—interminable sangrias, hand-holding strolls around my neighborhood, deep conversation—once we determined that we were never going to be a couple. And some of my closest male friends are veritable geniuses at planning platonic outings—to cozy bars and restaurants, Farmer’s Markets, antique shops, two-mimosa brunches.

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The Best Girl Dates in Our Favorite Cities

San Francisco

What is it about blustery climates and our obsession with walking? San Francisco, also a schizo city weather-wise, is gorgeous for girl-date walks. We start the day with a walk/jog/run through the Marina Green, working up a sweat (or just getting some good gossip in). SF is known for its chic and boho styles, so we satisfy our champagne taste with boutique shopping in Pacific Heights, then respect our beer budget with thrift threads in vintage stores in the Haight/Ashbury district. So now we’re broke, but hungry. Popping in and out of wine stores in Sausilito, we sample awesome local vino and nosh on enough free fingerfood to keep up our stamina, which we’ll need once we hit the Castro District for some all-night dancing.

Los Angeles

Forget any and all tourist destinations and get in to nature (yes, L.A. has nature!) You’ll see some of the most majestic mountain, ocean and city views on a hike in Topanga Canyon, which starts with a brutal uphill climb, peaks with a panoramic view overlooking the Malibu coastline and West Los Angeles, and ends with a shady downward trek over a natural waterfall and through a peaceful enclave where LA’s spiritual sect practice Tai Chi. Now you’ll be hungry. Drive down to Santa Monica and gorge yourselves guilt-free on healthy lunch/brunch fixin’s (like Caprese salads, turky/asparagus wraps and stone-cut oatmeal) at Literati Cafe, then stroll the Third Street Promenade for bargain street jewelry and sunglasses (pricy, name-brads represent here, too). Take in a movie at the Arclight Cinemas (where the seats are so comfortable you could take a nap) and finish with dinner at Luna Park, where you can share chocolate and cheese fondue.

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Sexy with a Disability

“You’re ugly.”

I was 12, and I was standing at my school’s snack bar, waiting to buy a sandwich. Next to me was Susan, who, like me, was on break from rehearsing the sixth grade play. Susan didn’t like me. I knew this for a fact, since she once announced it publicly. I don’t know why she disliked me. I didn’t have any classes with her; I never really spoke to her. But it was middle school. She didn’t need a reason.

“You’re ugly.”

She didn’t say it in a mean way. It was kind of offhand, like she was talking about the weather.

“You’re ugly, too.”

I was just as casual, but that got her. She was flustered. I don’t know what she expected from me. Maybe I was supposed to cry?

“Well,” she mumbled at last, not looking at me. “At least I’m not deformed.”

I pretended not to hear. I had won, and she knew it. And I knew it. But she was right. While beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, let’s face it—at 12, in sixth grade, I was deformed.

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