When The Barista Thinks You’re Interested…

Elizabeth Thomas

Sometimes you have to laugh to keep yourself from crying!

“You look better now than you will ever look again,” says a female author in an NPR interview with Terry Gross.  I’m in the car, listening to an audio book on writing. Leaning into the rear-view mirror, I consider the lines on either side of my mouth, the dark circles under my eyes, the way my hair needs a salon visit and think, “This does not bode well.”

I get it though.  Most of us look at last year’s photos and unless they were taken while we were falling out of bed and hung-over, we can appreciate how good we used to look.

This reflection began earlier in the evening while at the local Dunkin Donut drive-thru. The barista was getting my change.  He’s barely sixteen and cute in a way he will never be cute again.  I say, “May I have my receipt please?”  He lifted his head out of the register and turned towards me. His face was a deep shade of red and his eyes bulged like balloons about to pop.

“Did you just ask me if I was single?” he stuttered as I reached for my change. Our fingers brushed and we both jumped back as if splashed with cooties.  The coins fell to the pavement. “Receipt, receipt,” I say.  Then, “Just keep it!”

All the way to my appointment, between spits of laughter, I try to imagine what he was thinking, what he is probably telling his friends.  My face colors, but it is as much from attacks of the giggles as from any embarrassment.

At sixteen, I too worked at Dunkin Donuts. Back then, the uniforms were not the comfortable t-shirts and jeans they wear now.  Girls wore hairnets and uniforms – short, pink dresses. Many an older man would order donuts from the top tray of the window case, enjoying the necessary stretch of the waitress, as much as any jelly stick or glazed. We girls scoffed at their behavior, these men gross and ancient, though they were probably younger than I am now.

Like most sixteen-year-olds, I yearned for the future, couldn’t wait to grow up. I’d try to imagine being forty-three years old when the world spun into the 2000’s. My friends and I figured it would be like the Jetson’s – life in outer space, robots to do the cleaning and to pour our wine. We couldn’t envision it except through cartoons or Stanley Kubrick.

Now, the year 2000 has come and gone. I will be fifty-nine this month. I eat well, exercise and most days, feel pretty good. I suppose I am “grown up.” Forty-three sounds young to me now.

And most days, I do not mind my aging.  Yet when I think of that young barista, how he thought I was hoping he was single…I start to laugh all over again. I laugh so hard, I cry.


About Elizabeth Thomas

Elizabeth Thomas is a published writer, performer and educator. The author of two poetry collections and a book on writing, she has read her work throughout the United States and in 2009 taught ‘Poetry as Theater’ in the United Arab Emirates. Much of her energy and time is devoted to designing and teaching writing programs for all ages to promote literacy and the power of written and spoken word. As an outstanding advocate for youth in the arts, Elizabeth Thomas is a coach and organizer with Brave New Voices: International Youth Poetry Slam and Festival.

17 thoughts on “When The Barista Thinks You’re Interested…”

  1. Jane Blanshard says:

    Elizabeth, That is wonderful! But what hit me is that you are younger than my oldest daughter! Love, Jane

    1. Elizabeth Thomas says:

      Thanks, Jane! I think I missed your recent birthday. Yes? Happy Happy Birthday to you 💜

  2. Jackie Kenany says:

    Oh the things I would do differently…But aging gracefully is an art in itself. Well written Elizabeth, you are a credit to women and the the spoken words of a creative mind.

    1. Elizabeth Thomas says:

      And to you, Jackie! Much love 💜

  3. Thank you so much for your reflection. I was struck by how often we look back and remember how good things were, or how great we looked, only to find ourselves a year or two later looking at a picture of ourselves from the very moment we were looking back and thinking, oh, if only I still looked THAT good! So important to appreciate where we are and how we look & feel in the present! And to keep the perspective that all those changes are like badges we get to wear accounting for our experiences, a life well lived! Thanks Elizabeth!

    1. Elizabeth Thomas says:

      Yes, but I just wish the badges didn’t poke so much!

  4. Marisa says:

    Youth IS wasted on the young

    1. It’s so funny you say that because I’d love to go revisit certain events of my life but I’d want to stay this age, with the wisdom of my experiences!

      1. Elizabeth Thomas says:

        Yes!!! There are a couple events in particular I’d love to visit with today’s knowledge and maturity. Maybe that is why I’m so entertained by time travel books and movies!

      2. Elizabeth Thomas says:

        There are definitely a few places I’d like to revisit with the knowledge and maturity (well, maybe) I have now. That’s probably why I love the idea of time travel so much. I am a sucker for those kind of movies. There was one with Christopher Reeve and Jayne Seymour. I think it was ‘Somewhere in Time’. Every once in awhile it’s shown on AMC. Loved it!!!

    2. Elizabeth Thomas says:


  5. Rebecca says:

    Great writing, Elizabeth…I can truly relate. I am loving the age I’m at now. I was sitting with a 24 year old this afternoon, discussing her wedding plans. I shared a bit of insight with her and she said “Oh, I wish i had your confidence!” and I replied ” I wasn’t like this at 24…this confidence took years and tears to acquire”. It all goes by very quickly, and i so remember the days when ________ fill in the blank 🙂 Love you!

    1. Elizabeth Thomas says:

      I like that…years and tears…absolutely! Love you back!

  6. Martha Stepnowski says:

    Elizabeth, i laughed right out loud and then some. Probably took him a half hour to get over that, and look how he inspired you. What’s up with those pictures when you look back and say, “Is that even me?” And aren’t we lucky enough to have lived multiple lives?

    1. Elizabeth Thomas says:

      Martha…yes, we are lucky! I feel blessed in so many ways. And yes, inspiration is everywhere. Even Dunkin Donuts! xo

  7. Michelle Cox says:

    This really made me laugh — thanks for sharing!

    1. Elizabeth Thomas says:

      Thanks for the kind comment!

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