Friday, July 25, 2008

"Move Over, Don Juan"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

In my dreams, which occur every night and even during the day while I am at work, I often picture myself as a hot-blooded Latin lover. I have hesitated to admit this publicly because I am afraid not only that Antonio Banderas will sue me, but that my wife will laugh and say, "In your dreams."

Now I know I am a regular Don Juan. That’s because I have been classified as "the universal romantic" in a recent study on Mexican food.

The study, which was conducted by my favorite mad scientist, Dr. Alan Hirsch, director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, explored the relationship between Mexican food preference, personality and romantic capability.

According to the methodology, "2,621 literate, English-speaking adults in the U.S. were queried regarding basic demographic as well as Mexican food hedonics." Among the participants, 71 percent were women and 29 percent were men. Seventy-three percent were married.

The food preferences were as follows: tacos, 31 percent; quesadillas, 26 percent; burritos, 22 percent; taco salad, 9 percent; chips and salsa, 8 percent; and nachos, 4 percent.

I may not be in the most popular group, but I am in the best because burritos are my favorite Mexican food and, according to the study, people who prefer burritos are "dramatic, they love being the center of attention. Craving novelty, excitement and stimulation, they are seductive and flirtatious in romance and gregarious, witty and charming in social situations." They also are described as "the universal romantic, compatible with everyone."

"This is great news for your love life," Hirsch said when I called him to discuss the study. "You are such a romantic that your wife will never leave you."

I decided to put our compatibility to the test when I took Sue to a Mexican restaurant called Cinco de Mayo, which means either "sink full of mayonnaise" or "the fifth of May," I am not sure which because in high school and college I took ocho anos de Espanol and I still can’t hold a decent conversation.

The only phrases I know are "Cerveza fria, por favor" ("Cold beer, please") and "Donde es el bano?" ("Where is the bathroom?").

Fortunately, there was no communication problem with our waiter, Marcel Salazar, 40, a handsome charmer who was born in Acapulco, Mexico.

"What can I get for you, mi amigo?" he asked me after Sue and I had studied the menu.

"I’ll have the burrito supreme because I am the universal romantic," I said. Marcel smiled and replied, "I can tell." Then he asked Sue, "What will you have, senora?"

Sue ordered a chicken quesadilla. According to the Mexican food study, people who prefer quesadillas are "dependable and true friends" and "the rock and driving force in the relationship." As for romance, "Quesadilla lovers are most compatible with those who prefer tacos."

When I explained the Mexican food study to Marcel, he smiled at Sue and said, "I like tacos."

I thought, "Uh-oh."

Luckily for me, Marcel, a divorced father of two, has a girlfriend. Besides, he said, "I prefer fajitas," which weren’t in the food study.

I don’t know if he was looking for a big tip or what, but Marcel said he could see why I am the universal romantic. "You are very charming and easygoing and you have a good sense of humor, which women like," he said.

As for Sue, Marcel said, "She is muy bonita – very beautiful." Sue blushed.

"Food preference doesn’t really matter because you two are already compatible," Marcel said. "I can see that you are very happy together, which is muy importante."

"Si," I said.

It turned out to be a very romantic dinner. The food was delicious and the service was fabulous. The margaritas helped, too.

Unfortunately, I was a little short of cash, so Sue paid the bill and left Marcel a nice tip. But I did go outside in the rain to get the car, which I drove to the front of the restaurant so Sue wouldn’t get wet.

When it comes to love, just call me Senor Romance.

Copyright 2008 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, July 11, 2008

"Lost and Found"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

I believe I can speak for most men when I say that most women not only want us to get lost most of the time, but that most of us actually do, which is why most women become so annoyed at our stubborn refusal to ask for directions that they have to tell us where to go, after which they want us to get lost again.

It’s a never-ending cycle, even though men generally don’t ride cycles because there is no room for their wives. That’s why they drive cars.

But now that we are in the summer vacation season, and it’s too expensive to fly anywhere, and with gas prices so high it’s unlikely anyone wants to drive cross-country, people will be forced to make trips to places that are close to home yet far enough away for the driver to get lost.

And the driver will invariably be a man, who will be sitting behind the wheel with a woman in the passenger seat, pointing to a map that clearly shows he is headed in the wrong direction.

Is this an accurate description of a situation that women have been complaining about since the days of Henry Ford, who of course was a guy, or is it a stereotype that, if you will pardon the expression, drives men mad?

To find out, I called Peter Hans, who not only is president of Resort Maps, a Vermont-based company that helps people stay on the beaten path across the United States and in Great Britain, and will soon do so in Puerto Rico, but who also happens to be a man.

In addition to the masculine connection, Hans has a lot in common with me: He went to Saint Michael’s College in Vermont (he graduated in 1983, I got out in ’75), he has a wife named Sue and he has two daughters. He also has been known to get lost.

"The stereotype is absolutely true and fair," said Hans, who has traveled extensively and lived in Europe for 12 years. "Guys are guilty as charged. I have a good sense of direction, but when I get lost, I don’t like to ask for directions."

Once, right after college, Hans got hopelessly lost – and he wasn’t even driving.

"Some buddies and I were headed from St. Mike’s to Boston, but the guy who was driving got on the wrong highway and we ended up in western Massachusetts," Hans recalled. "Nobody noticed because we were, after all, guys."

Now Hans owns a map company. That’s like a guy who flunked math owning an accounting firm. Still, his business is booming. In fact, on the company’s Web site (, there is this testimonial from a man who was visiting Monterey, Calif.: "That’s great! Oh, I love Monterey! Now I have a great map of Monterey!" – Barack Obama, United States senator.

"Sen. Obama liked our product, although I’m sure he wasn’t driving," Hans said.

"As you know," I pointed out, "if another guy were behind the wheel, he could still get lost."

"True, but I’d like to think a map would help," said Hans, who added that he is not taking sides in the presidential election. "We’d like to sell a map to John McCain, too," he said.

I told Hans the story of the guy whose car collided with mine at an intersection last year because he was lost and his GPS told him to turn left going the wrong way down a one-way street.

"I think GPS stands for Guy Positioning System," I said.

"The technology is good," Hans said, "but sometimes the users aren’t."

Interestingly, Hans’ wife thinks that when it comes to navigation, women are even worse than men.

"Most people think men are bad, but I think it’s the opposite," said Sue Hans. "I’m terrible with directions. In fact, I have to look to Peter for help."

"You’re in big trouble," I noted.

"I could have used him a couple of weeks ago," said Sue, explaining that she and a girlfriend were driving around Montreal, terribly lost, when they stopped to ask directions of a man walking down the street. "He told us to take three rights and we ended up back in the same place," Sue recalled. "We kept going in circles."

"Don’t feel bad," I said. "Remember, it was a guy who gave you the directions."

"That’s right!" Sue chirped. "It was his fault!"

The lesson, according to Peter Hans, is that guys should always ask for directions but should never give them. In lieu of a map, he added, and despite the misadventure in Montreal, it also helps to have a wife named Sue. As my wife likes to say, "You’d be lost without me."

Copyright 2008 by Jerry Zezima