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  • ENA


    Excerpted from
    Cancer Schmancer
    By Fran Drescher

    Well, by the time the fifth season of The Nanny ended and our hiatus began, Peter and I, and the whole cast and crew, breathed a sigh of relief. We could escape from each other and all the pressure. Peter packed up and went to New York, while I stayed in L.A. We took separate coasts for that hiatus and spent the next months free from it all. It was during this period that I allowed myself to really feel single.

    There I was, a forty-year-old woman, and I'd never really dated. I began to make new friends and branch out from the married couples Peter and I had known for years. This helped me discover who I was outside of the marriage. Somehow I fell in with a group of Europeans who were very social. They were always throwing parties, and I was always game to go.

    For the first time, I felt like I could be whoever I wanted to be. Free to decide everything for myself, without feeling encumbered by my nagging inner voice always trying to do what was best for those around me. I was someone with no experience being on my own. Zilch! I never went away to college, never even went away to camp! At the age of nineteen I moved out of my bedroom in my parents' apartment in Queens and in with Peter. But now it was time to have some fun.

    It's not that I was wild-God knows, nobody would ever describe me as that-but I was "open." I wanted to meet new circles of friends and I appreciated whenever I was included. I used to tell everyone, "I'm hard up, invite me!" I remember my English friend Kat, a well-known interior decorator whom I'd been friends with for years, was entertaining some Italians who were visiting L.A. We all decided to take a hike in the mountains together.

    Well, one of the three men, Vincenzo, was so gorgeous. I mean, like right out of La Dolce Vita. Black wavy hair, dark sunglasses, and dazzling white teeth. He was olive-complected and dressed casually in whites and tans. He had an adorable Italian accent and spoke limited English. Perfecto!

    There we were on the hike when Vincenzo and I started to hit it off. "I see Nanny in Italia," he said. "It call La Tata."

    Smooth move, I thought. Talking about one of my favorite subjects.

    "I like sound of you voice," he said.

    Does he realize the show is dubbed in Italy?

    "You much more beautiful and younger in person than TV."

    Well, no language barrier here. Honey, come to Mama! By now I'm work in' my mojo, getting that whole thing going and I'm checking out his legs, his clothes, the way the tendrils of his hair spill over the white collar of his shirt, even his fingernails. And after careful inspection, I'm still interested.

    After the hike we all wound up at a beachfront restaurant for margaritas and then at my apartment just to hang out for a while. Despite the place being so small, they all loved its white, airy look and felt very comfortable. One by one everybody had somewhere else to go. Everybody except Vincenzo, that is.

    Now, remember, I was new to dating and not very experienced. Oh well, better late than never. I gotta admit, I was feeling a nervous flutter in my stomach when I closed that front door on the last visitor and turned back to the room to see Vincenzo sitting on my couch, arms spread across the back, smiling from car to car. That looked like an invitation if ever I'd seen one, and so I sat down next to him. Within moments we began making out. But where does "making out" end at this age when you've got your own pad and can no longer use your parents as an excuse to cut the evening short?

    On the other hand, what was I worried about? If I wanted to, I could have sex with him. I could do whatever I wanted. I was a grown woman. But I was really a freak. With little or no sexual experience other than with my husband, I was literally feeling my way through.

    I know it sounds weird, but my marriage to Peter had sheltered me from the mid-1970s through the mid-1990s. I was like Rip Van Winkle, sleeping right through the sexual revolution. I used to feel like a bore, always being part of an ol' married couple when the whole "Me Generation" was sleeping around. A therapist once told us we were "too young to be in such an old relationship." Well, it sounded good at the time, but actually nothing could have been farther from the truth. In reality, we were too old to be in such a young relationship. Both of us were emotionally immature, under-developed, and lacking insight.

    Well, as beautiful as Vincenzo was, I can't say he was a very good kisser. I'm sorry, but for me the quality of the kiss means everything. Oy, it was all wrong. The mouth was too open, too much tongue, not enough lip. And then he started biting me! Can you believe that? Was this supposed to be sexy?

    "Vincenzo, quit biting me," I said. "I wear very revealing clothes on The Nanny and I can't be getting bite marks!" A few things began racing through my mind: His friends left him without a car. I really didn't want to be doing this anymore, but what to do with him? Should I just sleep with him and get it over with? Or reject him, hurt his feelings, and then have to deal with him during that awkward waiting-for-the-taxi-to-arrive period?

    Is that crazy? I mean, what a baby, what a dope I was, actually considering sleeping with a man who promised to be a lousy lover just to avoid making him feel bad. There was my problem staring me right in the face: To what lengths would I go, how much was I willing to sacrifice, just to make others happy?

    Suddenly sanity took over and my inner voice said, You don't want to go through with this? Don't And I heard myself saying, "This isn't going to happen, you have to go." Wow. I did it. And it took only forty years and a lotta therapy to get there. What was far more important to my growth than sleeping with Vincenzo was being able to tell him I wouldn't.

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