It's not ALL about age or money - it's the graphic way you chatter about your sexuality in the middle of a crowded restaurant.
By RUTHIE BLUM LEIBOWITZ
"Excuse me," the waitress hesitantly interrupts. "I just wanted to say that you're like...well, you're all so...I mean, you remind me of an episode of Sex and the City."
The four women at the corner table simultaneously pause their heated - steamy - conversation, lift their heads as if on cue, and smile at the young girl who minutes earlier had brought them their coffee and croissants.
"Well, I'll be damned," Neta smoothes her jet-black, shoulder-length, perfectly blow-dried hair and purses her lips to check the state of her lip-gloss.
"That's the nicest thing I've heard all week," Liat beams, sucking in her stomach and tugging her tight shirt over the top of her even tighter jeans.
"Bless you, child," Tali takes half a bow, her bleached-blonde curls bouncing for melodramatic effect.
"Can we get some more water here, please?" Sheli snaps imperiously through the cigarette lodged between her teeth.
"Sure," the waitress does an about-face, afraid she has worn out her welcome.
"Whoa, what's up with you?" Tali kicks Sheli affectionately under the table.
"The hutzpa of that girl," Sheli exhales a mass of smoke through her nostrils.
"Hutzpa?" Neta laughs. "She was paying us a compliment, for crying out loud."
"Some compliment," Sheli taps her fingers nervously on the saucer of her demitasse, her French manicure gleaming in the sliver of sun through the window.
"Of course it's a compliment," Liat reprimands her irritating friend. "What she meant to say was that we appear attractive and glamorous and sophisticated."
"Let's not forget swimming in money," Neta adds, crossing her legs to make sure her new high-heeled boots are prominently on display.
Sheli smirks a sigh.
"No, seriously, Sheli, what's bugging you?" Tali wants to get past this glitch in their klatch so she can return to boasting about her most recent romantic escapades.
"What's bugging me is the age thing," Sheli lowers her voice to a pitch she reserves for intimate - private - matters. Such as her weight.
"What the hell are you talking about?" Tali loudly mimics her friend's whisper.
"Those women on Sex and the City are, well, older women," Sheli says, rummaging through her purse to locate her compact.
The other three burst out laughing.
"Uh, Sheli, I hate to break this to you, honey," Liat giggles condescendingly, "but the women on that show are a good 10 years younger than we are."
"They certainly don't look it," Sheli pouts into the mirror she is now holding in the palm of her hand.
"That's right," Neta reaches over the table to grab a packet of Sweet 'n Low. "They look at least 15 years younger."
"Hey, speak for yourself!" Tali pretends to take offense. Sheli genuinely does.
"Can we change the subject?" she snarls.
"Are you premenstrual by any chance?" Neta suggests kindly, employing the unwritten code to explain - and excuse - any female malaise. Or bad behavior.
"Peri-menopausal, perhaps?" Liat sing-songs a bitchy addendum.
"What is the matter with you people?" Sheli scolds. "You're starting to sound like a bunch of middle-aged Polish ladies."
"That's because we are a bunch of middle-aged Polish ladies," Liat doesn't let up. Her enjoyment at twisting this particular knife is born of envy; since Sheli is a true beauty.
"Hey, speak for yourself!" Tali again feigns hurt feelings.
"I was speaking for myself," Liat says, disingenuousness intact.
"Well, I think we all look pretty good, considering," Neta looks down at her feet to admire her boots for the 10th time in the past hour.
"Nothing that a couple of face-lifts can't handle at any rate," Liat says, glancing sideways at Sheli.
"Nothing that a couple of juicy affairs can't handle," Tali jumps in, manufacturing a window of opportunity to steer the discussion in the direction of her sexual exploits.
"There she goes again," Neta teases. "OK, let's hear who you're doing these days."
Relieved to be off the subject that is threatening to leave its ruinous imprint on the rest of her day - and always a sucker for titillating gossip - Sheli lets curiosity replace self-pity. "Yes, we want to hear all the details," she says.
"This calls for a second round of coffee," Liat adds, as she and the others shift their gears - and bodies - into hyper-concentration mode.
"Will that be all?" the waitress asks from a distance, careful not to be intrusive this time.
"Just the check," Neta answers.
A flurry of wallet-opening and lipstick application ensues, putting a more abrupt end to Tali's tales of the bedroom than she would have liked. To compensate, she summons the waitress.
"Come here a minute, sweetie," she gestures. "We need you to clarify a point of some contention."
Puzzled and slightly nervous, the girl does as she is told. Sheli groans silently.
"Don't start this again," she elbows Tali, who purposely ignores her plea.
"When you said we reminded you of the women on Sex and the City, did you mean that we look old?" Tali challenges.
"Well, no," the waitress stutters uncomfortably. "Of course not."
"You see?" Neta taps Sheli triumphantly.
"Did you mean - rather - to say that we look glamorous and sophisticated?" Liat suggests gleefully.
"And rich?" Neta adds.
"Well, not exactly that, I mean, you are, you do..." the waitress blushes profusely, wishing she had kept her mouth shut earlier.
"Leave the kid alone and let's get out of here already," Sheli mumbles, her mood reverting to black.
"Pray tell us, then, exactly what you did mean," Tali insists.
"Never mind," the waitress says, avoiding eye contact with her interrogators. "It's nothing, really."
"Oh, c'mon," Neta coaxes. "Humor us. We can take it."
"Yeah, right," Sheli says, getting up to leave.
"I meant it as a compliment," the waitress says, hoping this will suffice.
"Let's hear it, then," Tali presses.
No match for this group, the girl realizes she has no choice but to answer.
"It's the graphic way you chatter about your sexuality in the middle of a crowded restaurant," she says.