Enjoying a recent happy hour with a girlfriend, when she grinned and pointed across the room to a man she said was smiling at me. The first table I saw was occupied by four young 30-somethings, and as I was flashing them my brightest I-know-I-could-be-your-mother-but-I’m-not, she burst out laughing. “No,” she said, “It’s the man over there.” Behind the group of cute young pups was a distinguished-looking gentleman who was obviously his mid-80s, raising his wine glass and looking directly at me with a big smile and a twinkle in his eyes.
Old men love me. They always have. 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 forty-year-old sales guys, while I would invariably be chased down the hotel hallway by Kenny Rogers lookalikes (thankfully before the unfortunate plastic surgery) who wanted to buy me dinner and have a sleepover. 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 56 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 of the boy-next-door types, all Dockers and Polo shirts. But God, apparently, has a sense of humor, because my fantasies never included being stalked by 90-year-olds with walkers, bad prostates, and ED.
Several years ago, when I was in my late thirties and living on Maui, I worked as a receptionist/salesperson at a gorgeous, ridiculously expensive day spa in the Grand Wailea Hotel. My job was to book appointments and upsell, to get the well-to-do clientele to upgrade their original half-hour massage to a seaweed wrap, hot springs bath, and 90-minute relaxation massage package. And that was where I met Walter.
Walter was a delightful older man (80ish) from Sweden, who was single and traveled the world nine months out of every 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, he invited me to dinner at an ocean-side restaurant, where we 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 to dinner, spending the evening getting caught up through hilarious anecdotes of our wildly different lives. One year, I asked him why he kept coming back year after year just to go to 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 married Hubs. Walter called and was prepared to fly to Portland for our annual “same time next year” dinner. Hubs was having none of that nonsense.
“My wife doesn’t date,” he announced, frowning. “It’s not really a date,” I replied. “It’s dinner with a good friend, who happens to be a man, and who’s also 85 years old.” “I don’t care if he’s Rip Van Winkle,” Hubs snorted, “You get dressed up, meet him at an expensive restaurant, yuck it up together for four hours, then get home after midnight. In 48 countries, that’s a date. And my wife Does. Not. Date.” Walter understood and we parted ways. But he remains the geriatric poster model for Men Who Want Vikki.
Back to my current reality, last weekend, as I was making a list of our household needs, I realized, to my horror, that it was going to require a trip to Walmart. On a Sunday. In December.
Historically, I’ve always tried to avoid any store that ends in the word “Mart” on the weekends, especially if it’s raining or cold outside. It seems our entire little town thinks of Wally World as a weekend destination for the entire freakin’ family during bad weather. (“Church is out. Grab the kids, pack up Grandma and Grandpa, a few nephews and nieces, and, what the heck, bring your friends, and let’s all go to Walmart! Everybody gets their own cart!” ) And going a few weeks before Christmas? Oh hell, no. The only thing that would get me in there without kicking and screaming is the complete unavailability of the necessary item anywhere else in town, at any price.
Hot and crowded, Holiday Walmart is invariably crammed with exhausted moms carting their over-sugared offspring, while they scream “Mommy, Mommy, Mommmmeeeee!!” with arms flailing, and tiny, sticky fingers frantically grabbing at some unidentified, coveted toy on the shelf, until Mom finally caves and forks it over or until Angry Baby collapses into a eardrum-splitting, wailing heap, smack in the middle of the aisle where you need to be. (“Umm, excuse me, but your unhinged child is kicking the air right now, directly in front of my favorite shampoo. If you could reach down there and grab me that mint green shampoo that, that would be swell.”)
As I grabbed my keys, clutching my list of “Help me, God, why am I doing this??” must-buys, Hubs took pity on me and offered to drive and load up the bags, as long as he could wait in the truck while I did the actual shopping. Sensing that this was as 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 front door, promising to at least try to find a parking space no more than four stores away in either direction. Perfect.
Forty-five minutes later, my cart heaped full with a dozen overstuffed plastic bags (and my inner Zen hanging by a thread), I wheeled it all outside and spied a white truck that looked exactly like Hubs’. Dashing across the parking lot, I opened the passenger door, tossed the bags in the back seat, and hopped in with a bright, grateful smile, at which point the wizened, elderly Hispanic man in the driver’s seat burst out laughing, and immediately raised up his hands, looked skyward, and exclaimed “FELIZ NAVIDAD! THANK YOU, JESUS!” Red-faced and mortified, I scrambled out as quickly as I could, grabbing my bags on the fly. He waved goodbye with a broad smile 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.