About two years ago, when I was a grad student and my friend R was unemployed, we would meet once a week in Park Slope for an early dinner and a Grayson. Dinner was carb-free Pad Thai at SkyIce on 5th (it’s our thing, we love it, don’t judge). A Grayson meant a bottle of Grayson Cabernet, a wine we had discovered in the newly opened Wolf and Deer, a perfectly dark and mirrored bar just opposite SkyIce.
We had been to the bar the week it opened, and we were thus gifted VIP cards (you just had to ask to get one, but they made us feel special, not to mention the significant discount, which coupled with happy hour meant very good wine for very cheap. We were both poor then, and when we got the bill, our delight caused many a deliriously hefty tip to remain on the bar behind us at the end of a long evening). The Grayson Cab was recommended to us by Edwin, the tall willowy Mexican bartender with almond eyes and a silky black ponytail, and we never looked back.
Now, I’m not a wine connoisseur. I will never be one, because for me, there is a platonic ideal of red wine which many wines attain, and all are fine by me; I’m just as happy sipping one as gulping down another. The Grayson Cab attains my platonic ideal with aplomb: it’s rich but not buttery, smooth but not silky, substantial but not fruity. But more importantly, a bottle of Grayson Cab took R and I to our platonic ideal. R is a good friend. She’s sparkly of wit, her mind fires on all fronts, she’s hilarious and a wicked storyteller. But after a bottle of Grayson Cab, the differences that made her distrust me and made me try to alter myself to earn that trust faded, and we just sort of coasted in a haze of delight.
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We talked about books we’d read and stories we were writing and sex and jealousy and power and men and women and our experiences in college. We learned how to disagree on those evenings, and keep our cool—so difficult for female friends! We learned how to overcome our distrust of each other. We learned how to bring up painful things, such as “When you’re late, you make me feel like I’m worthless” or “When you brag about work, I feel like you want me to be jealous of you.” There was a lot of “I can’t trust you because you always try to make me feel better” and a lot of “Why can’t you just tell me what I want to hear?”
There was a lot of psychoanalyzing of each other’s family dynamics, and how these played out in our lives more generally. We discussed our unattainable fantasies of our selves and our fears of who we really were, and whether it was better to masquerade as the first or over-admit to the latter. We debated AD NAUSEUM whether there was an objective standard of beauty. She was a master of detail, I the queen of analysis. I made her feel like she “was real,” and she treated me to the incomparably satisfying kerplunk of an analysis well-received.
These evenings felt more important than my work (which, admittedly, was of no great consequence), more significant than the impersonal arguments I would have regularly with my partner about healthcare or economics, and more consequential than the gossip one so often finds at dinner parties. Our conversation would reach that most delicious of tenors: the generalizable personal. And I would think to myself: no one anywhere on earth is having more fun than this. People might be having as much fun, but no one is happier than I am at this moment.
Batya Ungar-Sargon is a staff writer for Tablet Magazine. She lives in Brooklyn.