From Cannes to...Kansas?

If you had asked me in January whether I expected, come June, to find myself on a scooter in Cannes one week, followed by a ride on a Honda Valkrie in Kansas the next, I’d say that expectations of such random proportions were reserved for fiction.

Or blogs.

A year ago I attended Cannes Lions (the advertising festival) when I was single, on the heels of a semi-breakup (of a semi-romance) and was struck by the pervasive spring break everything goes fever. I wrote a post about it (Why Do Some Married Men Not Wear Rings?

I don’t want to sound ungrateful or spoiled, and I enjoyed the experience, but perhaps enjoyment reaches an apex of diminishing returns – where the fun becomes painful, not to mention, meaningless. Maybe this is something you experience when you hit 35, or when you’re simply past frivolous ego-stroking flirtations, or both. Amidst tan, bathing suit clad Europeans, tantalizing and sparkly through my Rose´-tinted glasses, I felt more alone – and overwhelmed by the pressure of “You’re so lucky youre single! You can hook up with anyone!” – than I did as a single woman in New York City.

When the opportunity to attend cropped up again, I was nervous.  I was five months into a budding relationship which comes with its inevitable concerns, and I wasn’t sure whether I would be strong enough to weather the temptations and motto of “Whatever happens in Cannes, stays in Cannes,” even though I had every intention of doing so.

And yet, my anxiety evaporated the moment I arrived, replaced with unwavering conviction. As I listened to single friends strategize who they might hook up with and when, a calm gratitude filled me that this time I wasn’t stuck in that funhouse of mirrors. Looking at them, from the outside in (for a change), strengthened my dedication to my boyfriend. I didn’t even have to think about it.  It dawned on me that perhaps I had grown up a lot more (or was more in love) than I had realized. It helped to have a reference – to be in the same environment I had been a year ago – as a marker of my emotional development.

When I arrived at JFK, excited and counting the traffic filled hours until I saw my man, I didn’t have to wait that long. There he was, waiting for me at arrivals. (For those of you who don’t live in NY, New Yorkers don’t pick each other up from the airport. It involves trains and rented automobiles).

I was back at the airport five days after returning from Cannes – on my way to Kansass. To Meet the Fockers.  Yes, meeting the family is always a nerve wracking ordeal, but to me it was magnified by the fact that 1) I had never been to Kansas (or flown on a toy plane that landed next to a tractor)  2) I was a Jewish divorce´being introduced to my potential Christian in-laws, 3) I was nine years older than my boyfriend and even older than his (married with children) siblings.

At this point the question that might cross your mind is: Is she nuts?

Or perhaps you’re kindly thinking: She’s brave!

Fine line between the two.

To which I reply that the older you get, and the closer you get to reaching the daunting midpoint of your life, those questions – and their potential consequences – becomes sorta irrelevant. As does what other people think (although it’s worth mentioning that my mother was excited for me to experience some real life “Little House on the Prairie.”)

And a prairie I experienced.  The morning after I arrived, in 105 degree heat, I found myself poised on the broad seat of a Honda Valkrie, leaning against my boyfriend’s broad back, as we drove out of his parents’ driveway and onto the long expanse of highway. As the motorcycle picked up speed, the wind whipping my face (and the occasional whif of cow maneur), I wrapped my arms around him, my helmet sporadically tapping against his like some kind of love morse code. But I wasn’t afraid. I was surrounded by stretches of green and gold fields, dotted with a neglected farm house or two. Driving through the heartland. What people would call, miles and miles of nothing. But to me, and in my heart, well, I felt the opposite of nothing.

Somehow, amidst all the wind and engine noise, my boyfriend heard me laughing. “What’s so funny?” he said.

“I never thought I’d be forty and riding on a motorcycle through Kansas, with my Christian boyfriend, past Jesus signs!” I called.

“How does it feel?” he asked.

“Incredible,” I said. “I’m gonna have to blog about it.”