Somehow, I didn’t think I’d still be confused at 51. Of course, when I was 15 and tried to imagine myself at 50, I didn’t think I’d be walking upright, either. Surely at such an ancient age I’d be creeping along like a crab.
The point is, I thought I’d have life locked down by now. But after all these years, there are still situations I don’t know how to handle with grace. Or handle at all, actually.
Example: Last week I wanted two pounds of sliced turkey at the grocery store. The deli employees are nice but rushed. It takes a while to catch an eye, if you know what I mean. When I finally placed my order, a tiny, harried clerk went into a back cooler and returned lugging a huge, unopened hunk o’ turkey. She gloved up, peeled off the wrapper and heaved the turkey up onto the metal slicer. It bounced off and SPLAT—hit the floor.
She yelped and threw both hands in the air. Horrified, I blurted, “Sorry! Have a nice day!” and peeled off like my Nikes were on fire. What else should I have done? Seriously, I’m asking.
Then there’s the question I’ve heard for 25 years: “So, why don’t you have kids? Do you like children?”
In fact, I do like children. I also like dolphins, but I don’t keep Flipper in my bathtub. Since not all appreciate my warped humor, I usually just smile and say, “Well… anyhoo… you know… can you believe this weather?”
Once a hairdresser was determined to cut my hair. I opted to keep it long. She met my eyes in the mirror and said, “You’d look better with short hair.”
“No,” I said. “In college I chopped it off. Very Mia Farrow, except I didn’t look like Mia Farrow. I prefer long hair.”
What about the mom screaming at her kid in a restaurant? I wouldn’t talk to an egg-sucking dog the way she was roasting that kid, but I didn’t know what to say. Or do. So I kept eating, but the spinach pizza stuck in my throat.
Here’s a good one: Someone pops by your house for an unannounced visit. I shriek and slam the door, but that’s just me. Widdle invites them in. He has no false pride and doesn’t care if newspapers are everywhere and laundry is piled on the dining room table. He says, “Welcome! Sit down!” while I flee to the bathroom and bang my head repeatedly on the cast-iron tub.
I never know how to respond when I’m invited to a Tupperware party, purse party, candle party, lingerie party, kitchen items party or jewelry party. On the one hand, I 1) Am extremely shy in social situations and 2) Have all the Tupperware, candles, purses, lingerie, kitchen items and jewelry I’ll ever need. On the other hand, it’s a chance to maybe discover a new friend. The shyness factor usually wins, however, and I don’t go. So don’t take it personally.
What about this all-too-common situation: A dog unrestrained in the back of a pickup truck. Do I call the Highway Patrol? Do I throw rocks at the driver? I’m just not sure.
See what I mean? I thought I’d have life figured out by now. Guess I’m still learning as I go.
Julie R. Smith, who thought age brought wisdom, can be reached at email@example.com.