Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Between the Sexes: the Middle Years

I've now had at least half a dozen people tell me that I don't look old enough to be the mother of a 12-year-old. It took a while to get over the shock of people of people denying that I am old enough to be the mother of my third child, who was born when I was in my mid-thirties. After it's happened a few times, however, it starts to look like a pattern.

A few days ago, it occurred to me: most of the people who say this to me are men. They didn't say it to me when I was carrying all that extra poundage, either, but they certainly do now. Perhaps they have an ulterior motive. Perhaps "you don't look old enough to have an X-year-old" is the middle-aged equivalent of a pick-up line.


When I last drove home from San Francisco, I had to stop for gas because I was running on fumes. I was wearing a dark green skirt and a tie-dyed t-shirt in shades of blue and green. When I walked around my car after finishing the job, I noticed a man staring at my chest. I gave him a sharp look, and he met my eyes easily.

"I was admiring your t-shirt," he said, "Tie-dyed, isn't it?"

Oh, nice recovery, I didn't say. I just smiled and said "Thank you. Yes, tie-dyed."

All the way home, I wondered whether men are really developing manners as they age. I've always admired the courtly manners of older gentlemen, and thought that their manners were the results of their mamas raising them right. Perhaps, however, men learn courtly manners all their own, simply by their interactions with women.

This could bode well for the future.

There's a particularly fun number at Jazzercise (Shut Up and Drive by Rihanna). The other day, the instructor remarked that the song was not about driving. The woman next to me rolled her eyes and said, "People think every song is about something else."

"Yes," I replied, "you'd think that all that women think about is sex."

In my case, that thought might not be far off the mark.

While bagging groceries, the checkout clerk and I were chatting about learning to care for thick, curly hair. A man with one item (men usually have much shorter shopping lists than women) breezed through to buy his item and said, "I'll leave you ladies to moan about the woes of hair care."

I felt slightly steamed walking out to the parking lot, where I got a good look at this guy. Bad haircut, bad beard trim, beer belly, big butt. 

"You could use some beauty advice yourself, hon," I didn't say.

Then I noticed his truck, a big black number with double rear tires that was altogether too clean to be a working truck.

"That truck's too big for you," I also didn't say.

As I followed him out of the parking lot, I didn't say, "And it needs a tune-up!"

I drove home with the satisfaction of a well-undelivered series of snarks.

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