“Oh, I think I’m a little too old for you.”
Upon paying a compliment recently to the attire of a woman who frequented the establishment where I wait tables, that was the response I received. This woman was a fairly attractive individual, at least on the exterior, and the sweater dress that snuggled her form was laden with shapes of snowflakes and the essence of the holiday season. I, therefore, thought it appropriate to place the compliment in her ear, as I’ve found that reiteration of quality appearance is a tasteful, but not too forthright, approach, when initially interacting with clientele who have gathered to feast at the restaurants I’ve worked at.
Her verbal reaction, however, did not appease to my taste of earthly comrades, and neither did the rest of our exchange. She was in constant need of dining formalities, but not when the rest of her party requested such accommodations. If there is one thing a waiter despises, it is asking confidently and cohesively of any additional desires after presenting the food to the table and then scampering off to collect, only to find one straggler who was quite present during the initial discussion, and yet pipes in for “another” upon the waiter’s most recent return. It’s like reminding someone to bring a coat, and then listening to them complain all night about the cold after they don’t.
Amidst my meanderings around this particular table, while I checked the status of effective flavors and spawned waterfalls above the glassware, I couldn’t help but overhear our meticulous friend admit that she was, in fact, 52 years old. With an air of haughtiness that seemed to re-balance the sapphire spectacle she assuredly envisioned resting toward the pinnacle of her form, she sat straight up on her pedestal and proclaimed that her most recent statement, by definition, makes her “worth two 26 year olds.”
With a laugh that only echoed inside the cranium of the thinker, I pondered upon the insecurity laced within the statement. I concluded she seemed intent on seducing herself into the logic that her appearance was still flawless as it had ever been, while simultaneously surmising without discretion that her wit and vigor could not be matched by 10 darling damsels stricken by the configuration of youthfulness, let alone two.
Although our arrangement had been marred from the time the starting gun erupted, that statement brought to light an inkling of insight for this young revelator. There are those who construe their view to see only the hues they want to, limitless in description of their intrinsic majesty, but they form the darkest shades of the day, rain parading in their fight to gain might over the true light-shiners.
My grandmother is in her 90s, my mother in her 50s, and my sister and girlfriend both just turned 30. More than a few of my great friends have daughters who are years away from double digits on the calendar’s 12-step tap dance, and they are all beautiful and intelligent and massively impactful human beings. They do not stumble over one passing day’s welcome mat any more than they do the following the day’s exit door because they understand that age is a scandal innocent of any crime.
Each day I am alive I grow wiser; I share more smiles; I collide with more creation; and I envision less frustration. Each day I take a breath I suspect the intellect that dreams in window frames of absolute interaction, where not a second is spent looking at the fading flesh, but straight through the panes of the saints to your side ... and on to the next set of open eyes.
We grow older by the minute, but only in calculation. My purpose is not merited by a number, but rather by a moment, serving its circumstance thoroughly until its departure is deemed necessary, not because it wasn’t enjoyed and infused within me, but more so to allow the following thought, breath and inspiration their proper segments of duration.
Excuse me, ma’am, I wanted to resolve your confusion. I said your sweater looked nice because that’s the conclusion I came to upon visual analysis of it, not because I was attempting to score your digits. I do not discourage the length of your stay here, but rather congratulate your accomplishment on passing the baton onto yourself for another victory lap. Every day is a gift. I treasure that as truth and live to continue giving them.
And oh, by the way, you’re also worth half of a 104 year old. Hope that fits you well.
Eric Engel, formerly of Tiskilwa but now of Madison, Wis., can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.