“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.