Enjoying a recent happy hour with a girlfriend, when she looked at me with a big grin and pointed to a table across the room, where she spotted a man looking at me with obvious interest. I turned around, and the first table I noticed was occupied by four young 30-somethings. As I was flashing them my brightest I-know-I-could-be-your-mother-but-I’m-not smile, she burst out laughing and said, “No, it’s the man over there.” Behind the group of cute young pups was a distinguished-looking gentleman who had to be in his mid-80s, raising his wine glass and looking directly at me with a pleased expression.
Old men love me. They always have, and I have no idea why. This has been true since I was in my 30s. On business trips with female colleagues (often much older than me), they would get the hot young salesmen, while I would invariably be chased down the hotel hallway by Kenny Rogers lookalikes (thankfully before the unfortunate choices in plastic surgery). For years, I felt like some kind of menopausal trophy wife for seniors looking to replace their beloved Bertha, who passed away last year after 52 years of marriage.
Of course, the universe isn’t completely crazy. Like a cosmic match.com, it knows I’ve always preferred Robert Redford over Ryan Gosling. George Clooney, Harrison Ford, Sean Connery. Now those are gorgeous men. I’ve never been a groupie for the boy-next-door types, all Dockers and Polo shirts. But apparently God has a sense of humor, because my fantasies never included being stalked by 90-year-olds with walkers. Yet it seems my time has come.
Several years ago, when I was in my late 30s and living on Maui, I worked at the front desk of the Grand Wailea Spa, where I met a delightful older man (80ish) from Sweden, who travelled the world nine months out of the year. He came down to the spa desk every day for two weeks, and we became great friends while I ate my lunch, sitting in the spa lobby. Eventually, on his last night on the island, we had dinner at the hotel’s Oceanside restaurant and spent several hours laughing ’til our faces hurt.
Walter came to Hawaii once a year for the next three years, and we always went out for dinner, spending the evening getting caught up through hilarious anecdotes of our wildly separate lives. One year I asked him why he kept coming back every year just for one dinner. He laughed and replied, “Because you’re the funniest woman I’ve ever met and I can afford it, so why not?”
“Why not” was answered a few years later, shortly after I moved back to Oregon and Hubs and I got married. Walter called and was prepared to fly to Portland for our annual dinner, but Hubs was having none of that nonsense.
“My wife does not date,” he announced, in no uncertain terms. “It’s not really a date,” I replied. “It’s dinner with a good friend, who also happens to be 85 years old.” “I don’t care if he’s Rip Van Winkle,” he snorted, “You get dressed up, meet him at an expensive restaurant, yuck it up for four hours, then get home after midnight. In 49 countries, that’s a date, and my wife does. not. date.” Walter understood, and we parted ways. But he remains the poster model for Men Who Want Me.
Back to my reality, yesterday I was making a list of our weekend needs and I realized, to my horror, that it was going to require a trip to the local Walmart. On a Sunday. Two weeks before Christmas.
Historically, I’ve always tried to avoid any store that ends in the word “Mart” on the weekends, especially if it’s raining or simply too cold to be outdoors. It seems our entire little town thinks of Walmart as a weekend destination point during bad weather. And two weekends before Christmas? Oh hell, no. The only thing that would get me in there is the complete unavailability of the necessary item anywhere else in town.
Hot and crowded, Holiday Walmart is invariably filled with exhausted moms carting their over-sugared offspring screaming “Mommy, Mommy, Mommmmeeeee!!” with tiny, sticky fingers hysterically air-grabbing some unidentified, coveted toy until Mom caves and forks it over, or until Angry Baby collapses into a 1000-decibel, wailing heap, smack in the middle of the aisle where you need to be. (Um, excuse me, but your sobbing kid is kicking the air right next to my favorite shampoo. If you could reach down there and hand me that yellow shampoo bottle, that would be swell.)
As I clutched my list of can’t-find-anywhere-else-in-town-at-any-price necessities, Kenny took pity on me and offered to drive and load the packages, as long as he could wait in the truck while I did the actual shopping. Sensing that this was as a good a deal as I was going to get, I quickly agreed. The parking lot was predictably jammed, so he let me out at the door, promising to park close by.
45 minutes later, cart heaped with a half-a-dozen overstuffed plastic bags, I wheeled it outside and spied a white truck that looked exactly like Hubs’. I opened the passenger door, tossed in the bags, and hopped in with a bright, grateful smile, at which point the wizened, elderly Hispanic man in the driver’s seat burst out laughing, raised up his hands and looked skyward, exclaiming “THANK YOU, JESUS!” Red-faced, I scrambled out as quickly as I could, grabbing my bags on the fly. He waved goodbye with a broad grin as he called out, “Merry Christmas, pretty girl!”
I laughed all the way home.
So to the old guy with the quick and delightful wit, if you’re ever reading this, thanks for letting me know that even as we all get older, I’m still in the game. Merry Christmas to you too.