This post is in response to what I posted on Facebook yesterday about “losing” my keys only to find them resting on my back tire where I’d placed them for “safe keeping” the day before as I hustled nine millions packages and Lucky out of the car. The AAA man looked like Vin Diesel and had been struggling to get into my car, and when I told him I found them he said, “I love you.” He also told me I looked good in my driver’s license picture which, given the day I was having, was in contrast to the hot mess of crying he met in my driveway.
A few women told me to “keep laughing” because it only gets worse and keeping a sense of humor is imperative to growing older and wiser, and I have to say to those ladies and everyone else: I’m still laughing.
I feel a little universally challenged right now, and though the punch line still eludes me I wanted to share a story about what a hot ticket I am among the older men in my neighborhood. This post was this close to being called Trust Me: I’m Not Hitting on You.
I like to go to the little pool in my neighborhood in the late afternoon for a swim, reading, and a little sunning. There’s a resort pool that has lots of people and waterfalls and activity, but the little pool in the neighborhood is close, quiet and relaxing. Except last Sunday.
Sunday I went to read and then have a marathon catch up with Emily on the telephone. Before Emily called I was doing my own thing and there was a man doing his own thing. Perfect. Because everyone at the pool lives in our little neighborhood we’re pretty friendly there. When Dennis started a conversation I happily engaged with him. He thought maybe he’d fix me up with his son, who’s thirty-three, and asked me my age. I told him I’m about to be thirty-nine and he flattered me and said he wouldn’t have placed me over thirty. We were off to a fine start.
Dennis told me his wife had a stroke five years ago, and wondered if I’d seen him pushing her around in her wheelchair. I told him no, and that I was sorry. “Most of the time she doesn’t know my name,” he said, “But when I come to the pool or play golf I can keep an eye on her through my phone because we have a video camera in the house.” How sweet, I thought; how loving. And of course: how sad.
He joked that she told him he should get a girlfriend, and I laughed. He sat down again, closer to me this time and we chatted. He was funny and we had a few laughs. He asked me a lot of questions and upon finding out that I’m single he said, “What? You intimidate guys?” I didn’t agree about the intimidation, but we talked about the fact that a lot of guys aren’t interested in strong, independent women.
“Guys want a toy,” he told me. “Sometimes smart, opinionated women get the short end of the stick.” I agreed, but asked him the solution, thinking maybe this older father figure had an answer for me. “Be a toy,” he said, “Just be a toy.”
I laughed though I honestly didn’t think it was funny, and despite his bad advice I thought he was nice, and my heart broke for his situation. I offered my phone number and said, “I’m sure you have a lot of friends around, but I live right across the street. Please feel free to call me if you have an emergency and need a hand.”
He left and I called Emily back. I’d missed her call while Dennis was telling me the sad circumstances of his wife’s stroke. I thought it would be rude to interrupt him, so I didn’t. He called me ten minutes later and asked if it would be “Worth his while to come back to the pool.” Oh, sad, lonely guy wants to talk some more. “Sure,” I told him, “I’ll be on the phone for about 45 minutes, but feel free to come back and we’ll chat.”
He came back to the pool and looked like he expected a ticker tape parade upon arrival. He was impatient for me to get off and when 45 minutes passed he put his shirt on and interrupted me to say, “I’ve never seen anyone talk on the phone so long.” I laughed, thinking he was kidding, I mean he has a daughter so clearly he’s witnessed girls chatting it up.
He continued to throw a childlike temper tantrum but stayed while I wrapped it up with Emily, and then we had our first fight based on the fact that we’d completely misread each other. He thought I’d given him my number because I was interested in him. He thought I’d been flirting with him when I was just being my friendly self. He thought all sorts of things that couldn’t have been further from the truth.
He thought the fact that I’ll be here for another six-weeks meant I wanted to have an affair with him, and even as we had our first fight he continued to think that I was “coming on to him.” When he left I said, “I’m available to you as a friend, but nothing more,” and he responded, “I’m here if you want something more. I have enough friends.”
Obviously it didn’t end well.
Yesterday I was back at the pool in the afternoon and he showed up again. He stood in front of my chair and didn’t say anything. “I assume you’re here to apologize?” I said. He laughed, but was clearly not amused. He was sort of there to apologize, but sort of there to further pursue me as an option, and what makes this man think I’m an option is a mystery to me.
I was honest with him and brutal at times. “You’re married,” I told him, “And you have a daughter older than me.” This was a kind way of saying he’s old, though why I was being kind at that point is puzzling. I told him if I wanted to have a six-week affair it would probably be with a thirty-year-old. He took this as me saying I was entertaining the idea of an affair with him, because in his mind why wouldn’t I?
He told me he couldn’t believe how aggressively I was flirting with him, so clearly I’m interested. He told me a woman doesn’t act the way I was acting if she’s not interested in a man. And then I started to cry. Yes, I cried. In the middle of our second fight.
I told him I’m just friendly. I told him I’m a natural flirt and have bartender blood and seriously don’t mean anything by it. I told him that I make friends at the grocery store and that it makes me sad beyond belief that I’m living in a world where a woman can’t be friendly without a guy taking it as an invitation. “But you gave me your number.” The tears turned off and I turned friendly into feisty.
“Dennis. Seriously? Are you out of your mind? I gave you my number for an emergency. Because your wife is sick. Seriously.” He didn’t buy it. “I asked you if it’d be worth my while to come back to the pool and you said yes.” Oh god lord. “For conversation, Dennis. For conversation.”
He told me he isn’t interested in conversation and asked if I’m afraid of a one-night stand. I told him he didn’t know anything about me, but was treading in dangerous territory. Our second fight didn’t end too well either and he left for the casino.
I was irritated. It wasn’t just about Dennis, but about the fact that people can be so misunderstood. My gestures and good neighborliness were not advances of any kind. I will continue to be friendly, and am not going to let one old horndog stop me from being me. But the thing is, I am often misunderstood in a variety of arenas, and my tiff with Dennis made me think hard about that. It made me go down the ugly road of wondering if I can be understood, and if any of us can really understand each other.
He was at the pool today when I got there. I asked how he made out at the casino and he told me he lost, to which I responded, “Pay back’s a bitch!” I had one of my thirty new books that I’d gotten at a half-off used book sale today, and just wanted to read. From my new stack I chose a book of essays titled HERE LIES MY HEART: Essays on Why We Marry, Why We Don’t, and What We Find There. It’s full of great essays about intimacy, infidelity, living alone, and why it (marriage or not) might be worth it. It was an appropriate choice for a legion of reasons.
He tried to engage in conversation but I told him I didn’t have time for his BS today. A little while later he came to sit two chairs away and I kept reading, hoping (snort!) he wasn’t misinterpreting my actions. Not realizing that his sunglasses weren’t hiding the fact that he was looking in my direction I said, “Hey Dennis, can you tell me where the nearest post office is?”
He told me, and also told me where the closest good Chinese restaurant and pizza place are. I’d opened the door and he wanted to talk more about my rejection of him and his misreading of my “signals.”
“I’m really sorry,” he said. “I realize I upset you and that wasn’t my intention.” We talked about how gravely he’d misinterpreted my actions, and ran through the whole, tedious thing again. He said but you said this and you did this and then you did that and basically it came down to the fact that Dennis believed I was playing a game with him and playing hard to get. He was still looking at me as an option, but I set him straight. Again.
With his ego bruised he said, “You know. I wouldn’t even have hit on you if I knew how old you were.” “Right?!” I said, “I mean….I’m younger that your daughter!” “No, he said, “That’s not the problem. I like girls 25-30. You’re older than I usually go for, but you’re terrific and I’d make an exception.” He told me to stop intellectualizing everything and just “be a toy.” I mean, maybe, but not for him. No way.
Clearly my neighbor is delusional. Or I am. He told me I’d be surprised how many younger women are interested in older men because they have money. He told me he gets hit on every day at the golf course. He told me the infidelity rate is 40% in Naples. I told him I think that’s sad for a number of reasons I went into it in depth, and he told me it’s reality so I should get used to it. He told me he believes in god and I mentioned the commandment about adultery. I asked him if he’s cheated on his wife and he was honest but started with a question, “You mean before or after her stroke.” The answer was yes to both. Without knowing about Dennis’ devotion to god, Emily texted me: Dennis is sinned spelled backwards!
He told me—for the umpteenth time—that he’s good looking and in good shape and has money. I reminded him that he’s married and old and I’m not interested. I wanted to suggest a good look in the mirror to old Dennis, but I’m not that cruel. I wonder if he’s immune to seeing his spindly legs or round belly or his hair that is startlingly white and poufy. I almost asked if he uses a blow drier on his doo, but will save that, if necessary for fight #4.
He left the pool and I stayed for a while, and when I left a different white haired man was peddling toward me on his beach cruiser with his Yorkshire Terrier in a basket on the back. He wheeled right at me and came on strong, I mean, friendly.
Ron asked me where I’m from and where I live though as the conversation progressed I realized he’d already known these things because the girl with the Subaru that had Montana plates for awhile stands out as much around here as a white, convertible Benz does in Montana.
Ron is from Wisconsin and his Yorkie was wearing a Blazer’s collar and is named Willie Davis after a Green Bay Packer. Not giving much of a shit about sports I wasn’t impressed, but I chuckled though I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about being too friendly.
He asked me if I cook because his wife doesn’t cook and he told me he’d love to talk to me some more. Then he told me he couldn’t stop staring at my teeth and I thanked him and he said, “Your smile is so lovely.” I told him I needed to go take my dog for a run and it had been great chatting. “I’d love to chat some more,” he said, “I almost knocked on your door one day. I wanted to know the girl who drives the Subaru.”
Huh? He elaborated that you just don’t see cars like that around here and he was curious about a woman who travels. Yes, clearly a woman who travels is into old men. Clearly. Clearly these old dudes have no idea that I don’t care about their money or their sports or whatever it is they think they have to offer me, and girls driving old Subarus with expedition-size travel boxes actually like guys who wear concert t-shirts and shorts that used to be pants. Guys with non-coiffed hair that grows over their ears but that’s often under a baseball cap. Guys who have jobs you can’t easily explain—not doctor or lawyer or accountant—and who can handle a girl being friendly without getting themselves in a tizzy over a denture-less smile.
At some point during our conversation I noticed that Willie Davis the Yorkie was air humping in his basket behind Ron’s back. I wanted to take a picture, but ya’ll are just going to have to use your imaginations with that one.
Meanwhile, a guy (my age) who I bought furniture from three weeks ago is still emailing me from “craigslist 3756491372” and I think he might be trying to ask me out but he’s skirting around it by saying things like “Are you still engrossed in your book?” and “Wow! Nice night. You should take a break.”
It was interesting that I went to the home of someone my age to buy furniture from considering my demographic is a small one down here, and when my friend Carter and I were at lunch last week we had a hard time finding someone who was confident taking a photo with an iPhone. Brian was nice and good looking and funny, but what scared the shit out of me was that he told me—without embarrassment, shame, or hesitation—that he completely redecorates his house every six month. Completely. Twice a year. (See above description of guys I usually go for…)
I was there for awhile, touring his house that looked like a furniture store with so many things coming and going and we had an instant camaraderie going so I asked if the reason he was redecorating was because of a break up. “I haven’t had a girl living here in 5 years,” he said, again with no shame. Not that there should be, but I really wanted to know why the constant redecorating. “I’m not gay,” he offered though I didn’t ask. “All my friends think I am, but I’m not.”
Hot off the press: craigslist 3756491372 just mentioned he’s thinking about going to a local restaurant tomorrow. With nothing to lose, and because I enjoy a good banter (especially the weird ones) I asked him if he was asking me on a date. His reply, “Easy now… I may just ask you back to my place!!”
I am not lying. Not about any of this. I wrote back that he’s as bad as the old horndogs in my neighborhood. I didn’t remind him that when I was at his house the only room I didn’t get to tour was his bedroom because, he told me, he has guns in there. I know. Sounds scary, right? But he’s a cop. Or at least that’s what he told me.
Added to my important list of things to do: buy fake wedding ring. And keep laughing.
very good. you’re a really great writer Jamie. i can sympathize with your problem. yeah, why should we stop being outgoing and friendly and adorable because old ballz sometimes get confused? keep laughing 🙂
thanks, katie! the experiment in being myself continues! it’s funny….i didn’t even realize how this post fit perfect with the theme/title of my blog: “Sorry I’m Not Who You Thought I was.”
Unreal, except that it is! Very good writing, Ms. Jaime.
So real and true, Margarete! Thanks!