He was just doing his job … waiting on our table at a nice restaurant in San Jose. He didn’t mean to commit such a faux pas or rain on my parade. But I had to wonder if he lived under a rock or had been raised by a pack of wolves because what man (actually, what person) in their right mind would attempt to guess a woman’s age?
I didn’t ask him, “How old do you think I am?” in that fishing-for-a-compliment way that lets people know they are supposed to respond with, “Not a day over 30!”
He just came right out and said: “You’re 50.”
I was having dinner with one of my favorite couples, good friends of mine who are obviously and significantly younger than me. When the waiter was taking our drink orders, he said, “How nice … you guys are having dinner with your mom!”
So I indignantly said, “Did you just say I’m their mother?” which should have been code for him to begin removing his foot from his mouth. He didn’t take the hint and instead said, “Well, yes. I mean, they look 25 and you’re 50” to which I replied, “What the fuck?” which was frankly, all I could think to say.
We all laughed hysterically and I tried to be a good sport, even as I gave him the finger. But seriously, dude … who asked you to comment on my age?
Part of me thought it was funny, part of me was insulted and part of me wondered why it mattered either way. I’m not 50 – I’m actually 53 and I’m proud of all my years. I may not love the wrinkles that seem to multiply overnight or the dimples in my thighs but I’ve earned them. The scars that zigzag across my abdomen from C-sections and intestinal surgeries are proof that I’m strong and tough. The crinkles around my eyes are proof that I’ve smiled and laughed a lot. The deep lines in my forehead are proof that Botox doesn’t really work.
So why should I care that some stranger told me it was obvious that I was 50? At least he guessed younger than I actually am. Maybe I should schedule a follow-up visit with the plastic surgeon who performed eyelid surgery on me a few years back and tell him that he was right when he told me that lifting baggy eyelids wouldn’t be enough.
I know what you’re thinking now: that I’m one of those women who turn 50 and heads straight to the plastic surgeon. But that surgery was medically necessary because my eyelids were so droopy I literally had no peripheral vision. For real: Blue Cross even paid for it.
I refused the total facelift the doctor recommended, because I’m really not vain. Okay, so maybe I had my boobs lifted back up where they used to be during the same surgery and yeah, that part of the surgery was elective (and Blue Cross adamantly refused to pay for that part) but pregnancy, breastfeeding and gravity had done a number on my boobs. Their perk had left the building ages ago and they kept flopping out of my bra whenever I bent over. In my opinion, fixing that shit was medically necessary.
I’ve had a few other moments like this one in the past few years.
Some of the people with special needs who are my friends and students can be bluntly honest.
I keep a list of the things they say to me because they are hilarious and true.
A few gems:
You shouldn’t wear that dress because it makes your tummy bubble.
Your hair looks weird today.
Those lines on your neck look like a lot of necklaces.
When you hold your arms up, it looks like that thing that hangs under a chicken’s beak.
Then there was the time I told my hairdresser that I wanted to grow my hair longer so I could donate it to Locks to Love. She said, “Honey, they wouldn’t take your hair.”
“What’s wrong with my hair?” I asked her.
I like my hair. It’s thick and shiny and holds a curl. The only issue with my hair is that the older I get, the darker it gets. I don’t have gray hair, but it keeps getting browner. Which is fine (I love brown hair) but I was born a blonde and I would like to stay a blonde, so I highlight it every six weeks.
“There’s nothing wrong with your hair,” she answered. “It’s just so full of bleach that it would fall apart if they tried to make a wig out of it.”
Well … isn’t that special. What I thought was one of my last remaining natural features is actually over-processed straw. Do I look like an aging, bleached blonde strumpet or something? Would people rather be bald than wear a wig made from my hair? Perhaps I could star in a Lifetime Television movie: Roots: My Mini-Series.
This conversation reminded me of the time I tried to adopt a kitten from a local animal rescue organization. They had advertised their desperate need for people to adopt dozens of precious kittens so, in an effort to do my civic duty and to find a friend for my barn cat, I went to their adoption event. As I turned in my application, the agency rep asked me where the kitten would live.
When I told them the kitten would live in my barn – which is heated and cooled and has multiple cat doors and is already inhabited by a 13-year-old cat who has thrived in there – they told me that I wasn’t fit to adopt this kitten.
What will you do with all these kittens if they aren’t adopted, I wondered?
They told me they would have to euthanize them. They would rather kill a kitten than give it to me? Did they look at me and say, “This woman is an aging, bleached-blonde, kitten abuser if I ever saw one“?
I digress … the kitten has nothing to do with the waiter telling me I’m 50.
So, yes. I dye my hair. I’ve had half-medically necessary cosmetic surgery. I visit web sites about non-surgical facelifts and buy useless crap online that is supposed to make me look and feel younger.
I look in the mirror and tell myself that 50 is the new 30, that I still have some swag, that there is still some small measure of “hot” left in me (besides hot flashes, thank you very much, menopause). And then a waiter blows my cover. Because I look every bit of 53 and I shouldn’t care. But I do.
To his credit, the waiter spent the rest of the meal solicitously hovering nearby, replenishing my Budweisers before I could ask (yes, the King of Beers is my preferred beverage and his remark made me very thirsty), bringing more bread and repeatedly asking if we needed anything.
Each time he came to the table, we made jokes … ”Oh, now you’re being nice to me,” and “You must have told the ladies in the kitchen what you did and they advised you to attempt redemption”… and we could tell he was truly embarrassed at his unintentional gaffe.
I bet he’ll never make that mistake again … and just in case, I told him he should never ask a woman when her baby is due unless he is 1,000% sure she’s pregnant, either.
The real reason that his comment bothered me is because when I heard it stated out loud – you’re 50 – I had one of those “life flashing in front of your eyes” moments.
Hearing a stranger say the number made it real, a fact … my life is more than half gone. In a split second, I saw myself as a girl, as a bride, as a new mommy and thought how the years have added up so quickly and now … I’m on the downside of life’s roller coaster.
So when strangers tell me how old I am, they remind me that I’m getting closer to the end of this crazy ride that is my life. And I’d prefer they not do that.
The waiter did redeem himself. At the end of the meal, he brought me a slice of birthday cake, complete with a candle, and said, “Happy 21st Birthday.” I laughed, blew out the candle and made a wish. My wish was that the waiter will turn 50… and develop male pattern baldness and erectile dysfunction.