How I Met My Wife
There was a young married couple at Wells, Rich, Greene who decided to make me their matchmaking project. They felt I was just too cute and mensch-y to be single. And since they had been happily married for a year, they wanted me to experience the joys of matrimony, too. (Never mind that they got divorced two years later.)
Of course, I had no interest in helping them fulfill their project. I was perfectly happy pursuing the mindless, hedonistic, semi-decadent life of an advertising bachelor in the Big Apple. I was 27 years old, wild, happy and free. Wells, Rich, Greene was paying me far too much money and I was putting it to very good bad use.
When most of my friends were renting great apartments for the hefty sum of $300 a month, I was the first one to break the $400 a month barrier. I found myself a gorgeous one bedroom apartment in a classic 1930′s building on 56th Street and 1st Avenue. My bachelor pad was on the 17th floor with two balconies, a fireplace and a floor to ceiling bookcase built into the wall that actually swung out to reveal a hidden bar. Since the building went up in the middle of prohibition, they had to do clever architectural things to hide their liquor. This bookcase was a great conversation piece. And, since there was still prohibition against weed, it was a fabulous place to hide my stash.
If I needed to get anywhere fast, no problem. I kept a red, 1964 TR4 convertible in the building’s garage, right beside my 650cc BSA motorcycle. I was having fun, and the last thing I was looking to do was get tied down in a “meaningful” relationship. To me, partying was meaningful, drinking was meaningful, and getting stoned and having mindless sex was meaningful. Then this couple came along and ruined it all. They introduced me to Carol Trifari.
It wasn’t an actual date. We hadn’t met or talked to each other on the phone. It was sort of a semi-fix-up. They had told her about me and they had told me about her. What they said about her was, and I quote: “She’s beautiful, she’s smart, she comes from a rich family, she’s got a winner kid – and she’s a little fucked up.” Now I was intrigued. This didn’t sound like most of the girls I had been dating to that point. Carol Trifari sounded “complex.”
In a devious semi-fix-up plot, the couple invited Carol and me to a screening of an MGM movie at a little theater in Manhattan, but neglected to tell us that the other one would be there, too. So, there was no anticipation, no primping, no posing and no pressure. When I arrived at the theater, there were about fifty people mixing and mingling outside as we waited to get in to see the movie. That’s when I saw a striking brunette in a red jacket and black mini-skirt. Hmmm. As she stood there talking to a big dumb guy, I sauntered over to join the conversation and after a few minutes, it became clear to both of us that she was Carol and I was Howie.
She told me that she was working in the research department at BBDO, but that she really wanted to be a copywriter. She said she had put a little portfolio of spec ads together and she had an appointment the next day with a guy named Nat Russo at Gilbert Advertising. “Nat?” I said. “I know him very well, I used to work at Gilbert and he was my copy chief.” Acting like a big shot, I told her to be sure to mention my name. Then she said she had another interview the following week with a guy named Leon Meadow at Doyle Dane Bernbach. “Leon?” I said. “I know him very well. DDB was my first job in advertising and he’s the guy who hired me.” I was pretty sure I was making a big impression.
But as the large group started to file into the theater, she drifted away from me. And when I sat down, I noticed she was sitting next to that big dumb guy she was talking to outside. Oh well, maybe I wasn’t the big shot I thought I was. I turned my attention to the screen as the movie started. To my dismay, it turned out to be some kind of experimental “art” piece, shot entirely on a seamless white background, with young overacting non-actors.
It was the most boring movie I ever saw and it was ultimately never released. As I fought to stay awake, I subtly glanced back at Carol who was sitting three rows behind me. She was staring straight ahead looking mortified as the big dumb guy was out like a light, snoring his head off, and drooling all over her lovely shoulder.
When the movie was mercifully over, we were all invited back to Julie and Gary’s apartment where we were treated to cocktails and canapes. That’s when I innocently asked Carol for her telephone number and she gave it to me. Dammit! What I didn’t realize at the time was that this was the beginning of the end of my perfect bachelorhood.
Over the course of the next few months, we got to know each other very well, and I got to know her daughter Cristina, a vivacious little 5-year old girl. We became a threesome and as the Fall arrived with a bracing chill, I loved driving the three of us up to the country with the top down in my TR4. Carol would rest her head on my shoulder and Cristina, huddled in the back seat, would squeal with glee as my car scattered the leaves of crimson and gold. I didn’t want to admit it, but I was falling in love.
The seminal moment in our relationship came with Winter and the first snowfall. Carol, who was an expert skier and had skied all over the world in faraway places like Portillo, Chile and Val D’ Isere France, kept saying to me, “You have to go skiing. You’ll love it, I know you will.” I had never skied before and I really didn’t like the cold. But she kept pressing me. “Please, can we go skiing, I know you’ll have a great time, oh please…” Finally, I relented.
We reserved a hotel room for three nights in Sugarbush, Vermont, got in my car and headed north. And headed…and headed…and headed. We got caught in the middle of a raging snowstorm with temperatures dropping to 26 below zero (no exaggeration.) The snowflakes were rushing straight at my windshield making it hard to see so we had to creep along the turnpike at 15 miles per hour.
When we finally arrived at the hotel, it was the middle of the night. I shlepped our bags up to the room feeling grubby and tired. I was not a happy puppy, but since this was our first romantic trip away together, I didn’t want to sound like a whiny Jewish guy. Instead of complaining, I jumped in the shower to wash away the day.
When I came back into the room, Carol was already under the covers looking warm and toasty. As I climbed into bed, she reached out, put her arms around me and pulled me close. Then, with a twinkle in her eye she said, “Don’t you just love skiing?”
Posted: June 16th, 2012 under Advertising.