A recurring theme last night, while hanging out with Kevin, was the question of how to behave in public. Specifically, how different would we behave if we were filthy rich.

The evening began with a viewing (my second, Kevin’s first) of “Iron Man”, in which ultra-rich corporate executive and weapons dealer Tony Stark gets the awesomest toy ever, a red-and-gold suit of flying armor. He’s also got a self-aware computerized butler called Jarvis, and holographic and touch-screen controls for said computer. Even his off-the-shelf toys are envy-producing: an Audi R8, a Bentley limo, various personal jets (I think I counted two different types but am not an aeronautics buff enough to identify them) complete with on board stripper-stewardesses and requisite pole, a Malibu mansion. And backed by the confidence that billions in assets can provide, his cocky manner becomes charm.

After the movie, Kevin and I went to dinner at Montage. The crowd there, even early, is largely made up of young and beautiful people, and I had serious eye contact with a breath-taking brunette who reminded me a bit of Alyssa Milano. But I could not get up and approach her, strike up a conversation. As I related a story from last week to my friend, which was about a similar situation of brief contact with an attractive and possibly interested Asian woman, Kevin berated me and (jokingly) threatened to strike me about the head and face for failing to follow-up.

His theory, which he himself is unable to put into practice without jeopardizing his marriage to the lovely M, is that one should discard all care and worry, and just act. He suggested that such an attitude was a perk of being über-rich. Merely pretending to be a billionaire would produce the same results. I digested his ideas as I devoured my green pesto mac and cheese and cornbread. This idea was not new to me, but still I seem unable to manage the leap that would let me attempt it on a regular basis. Is there some trick I could use to put myself in the right mental state?

It is perhaps a measure of my depressed mental state that when I think “act like you don’t care” my first thought is not of the freedom that having an unlimited bucket of money, but instead the sense of looming inevitability that comes with knowing you’ll be dead in six months. That’s just the first place my mind takes me, lately.

We continued talking about this idea for the rest of the night, and when we reached Papa Haydn’s for dessert, Kevin became a bit more show-y and assertive, and I followed his lead. A little bit. I still felt self-conscious and inwardly was a bit shocked at some of the things he said or did, but, honestly, afterward, what was the harm done? He said, out loud and where she could hear it, that the hostess was cute. He asked to be seated in the section where the cute waitress was serving. He joked about not tipping the waitress when she needed her pen back. All harmless and fun. Although perhaps socially transgressive and perhaps the staff and other customers were uncomfortable. Who knows? Maybe they were secretly enjoying it, maybe they were offended.

Either way they are not likely to forget it soon.

When I joked, “Would I look like this if I were rich?” Kevin stated, flatly, “No.” I laughed and said, “Yeah, probably. I really like this t-shirt.”

He said, “But you’d probably wear clothes that fit you better.” Yes, probably so.

The most taboo thing I did was pick my fork up by its tines and tried to eat with the handle. And even then, I felt awkward and had to stop after just a few seconds.

But I laughed and had fun all evening. I think Kevin did, too.

At the end of the night, when Kevin drove home, and I sat and reflected on the night, I remembered having a lottery ticket in my pocket. A ticket I had not checked to see if it was a winner or not. Likely, not.

But wouldn’t it make a great story if, all throughout the evening, I had had on my person, stuck away in my wallet, a piece of paper worth millions? It would be like the story of a callow farm boy who is, secretly, a prince, heir to a royal throne.

I still haven’t checked the ticket. I might not for a while. Maybe it is the trick that will allow me to act with more freedom and less crippling forethought.