Hard Times

If you don't put something in there soon it'll grow over. Never let it hit six months. After that, it's just a sleigh ride to menopause.

-Anthony, Sex & the City

It seems whenever I begin a sentence with, "I hope this doesn't embarrass you, but" it always incites alarm.

It happened the other day at lunch.

All I was doing was picking up my knife to scrape some offending mayonnaise off the burger I had just ordered.

I knew better than to send it back because, 1. although I hadn't ordered mayonnaise (it never occurs to me that it actually comes on anything without full menu disclosure because it's the most repulsive concoction ever called a condiment), but I hadn't specified NO MAYO, and 2. I'm pretty sure that anything I do send back, to any kitchen, anywhere, gets licked before it makes a return to my table. (And that's if I'm lucky. Usually, I suspect licking is the least of my worriesand man, if I had a nickel for every time I've thought that.)

Still. I wasn't angry. I wasn't about to make a scene. I hadn't complained to anyone, or raised my voice.

But I could see the guy across from me edging away from the table nervouslymentally calculating the distance between the two exits. Which one was closer? Could he make a clean getaway, and assume that I'd pick up the check, or would he be run down for the tab? What was I about to do?

For him, I think it suddenly went from innocent business lunch to horrific visions of Pacino's violent restaurant initiation into the Corleone family business in The Godfather in a matter of seconds (sure, I had just returned from the restroom, but I hadn't taped any firearms to the plumbing ahead of time).

In an instant, he went from respected pillar of the community to frightened rabbit-like all of a sudden he'd been partnered with that "rogue cop" nobody wants to ride with, the one who's days away from retirement and could be capable of anything.

Believe it or not, I can usually be counted on to know what is and isn't appropriate, and beyond that, I regularly get through many social and business encounters without the slightest prospect of violence or gunplay. And although I do enjoy white-tablecloth restaurants, it's not (necessarily) because they provide cover for any illicit acts should I crawl under them. (Certainly not when I'm working at least.) I'm not sure what people think my job is, but that isn't it.

This whole sex & violence image, though semi-widely shared, isn't accurate, and it's definitely not one that's done me a lot of favors (as everyone knows from my brief dance with the criminal justice system and my completely unwarranted-pardon the expression-unfortunate incarceration, of four hours).

My completely accurate defense was-as is true of most things-if something like what I was accused of had actually happened, I'd have written about it. I wouldn't have been able to help myself, because it's not every day you come across material like running over someone. It worked for Bonfire of the Vanities (the book, not the movie of course), so if it had happened, I'd have been tapping away at my computer, fantasizing about how Reese Witherspoon could play the young version of me in the screen adaptation.

The flip side of that image (the one that goes nicely with the angry, temperamental, recklessly homicidal half) is the even more ludicrous Sex & the City standards I occasionally feel expected to rise to (so to speak).


At my age, I'm still encountering the exact same breed of guy that I met up with when I was younger (and hotter), which is the proverbial dog chasing the car-i.e., they all want what they can't have, and if they ever got it, or got near it, they wouldn't know what to do with it.

Dogs don't really know what to do behind a steering wheel any more than an average 40+ man knows what to do with a movie date who knows that trick about the popcorn box with the fake bottom.

I never thought I'd see this in print, but if my girlfriends are to be believed, younger men are the answer.

I'm dubious... yet optimistic and willing.

Heretofore, I've always preferred men with that certain broken-in, broken down, broken-spirited quality you find in the AARP generation-men whose expectations have been lowered far beneath the bar I think I can realistically meet. I like the mileage, the weathered qualitythe ability to sustain polysyllabic conversations.

But I'm as shallow as the next gal and I've discovered it's a miraculously short ride from gratitude to apathy, and if there's one thing I've learned about older men, it's that the laws of inertia apply with a vengeance: bodies at rest tend to remain at rest unless acted upon with equal or greater force.

And my calendar just doesn't accommodate the force necessary that it apparently requires.

I think Elvis put it best when he said, "A little less conversation, a little more action please."

Or maybe it was Eminem, if I'm lookin' to shift demographics here: "Cause what you say is what you say, say what you say/how you say it whenever you sayin it, just remember how you said it when you were sprayin it/So who you playin with huhhuhhuhhuh?"

Just remember, I do card at the door. I don't want to do any more time.