Remember those glorious days, long before online dating and Facebook, when you never knew where you’d stumble into your next romantic liaison? It could’ve been at an art gallery, a beach volley ball game or, swear to God, while driving on the Freeway. (He was on a motorcycle. I was enroute to an assignation. Don’t ask!)
Back then, we didn’t look for love on Tinder or Match.com. We looked with our eyes and, more often than not, found it everywhere. I distinctly remember complaining to a friend in those halcyon days, “I’ve only been with seven guys this year.”
If someone had told me then that I was more likely to meet a unicorn than an attractive, reasonably sane man after I turned fifty, I would’ve smacked them. By that age, I imagined I would be safely ensconced in marriage or happily cohabitating. Who knew that I, Ms. Party Girl 1979, would be spending Saturday nights alone with my cat watching Dateline?
I deeply resent the effort required to “hook up” these days. First you have to fill out an online questionnaire that asks more about your dating habits than your Aunt Rosalind. Chinese food or Italian? Smoking or non-smoking? Circumcised or au naturale? You get my drift. Then they want photographs, a personal essay and a credit card!
Having gone that route, I resigned myself to be officially retired from The Dating Game. I figured I had more than my fair share of romance when I was still estrogen based. Why be greedy?
So, there I was, standing in line at Whole Foods, waiting to pay for my Panko Encrusted Tofu Florentine, Pistachio Kale a la Romanov, and BBQ Spare Ribs. When something slammed into my butt. It was a grocery cart.
“Sorry, ma’m. I didn’t see you there,” said a large, disheveled man. The line was long and hardly moving. How could he not see me?
“Are these fat free?” he asked.
I followed his gaze to an assortment of small pastries wrapped in cellophane.
“I don’t think so,” I said and turned my back on him. I was getting a weird vibe.
“You work here?” he asked, a bit too loudly.
I was wearing a hat and coat, standing in line to pay for my lunch, why would anyone mistake for an employee?
“Sorry, ma’m. I thought you worked here,” he repeated.
Okay, I thought, the poor man has some form of cognitive dysfunction, I thought. He’s harmless. I’m in Whole Foods, for God’s sake. Nothing scary can happened here other than a wedge of cheese costing more than sofa. But then his voice boomed again.
“Are you two together? You would make a cute couple.”
The man in front of me, who up until that moment had been no more than a parka with legs, swiveled around. He was startlingly handsome and wearing the kind of horned-rimmed glasses that scream cool. I was mortified.
“Want to date?” he murmured under his breath.
“Sure,” I said, “I’ve met people in stranger places than this.”
I was using sarcasm, my fallback in an embarrassing situation, hoping the loose cannon behind us wouldn’t fire again. Still. I was secretly thrilled to be the recipient of a pickup line, even one delivered under duress. The awkward moment ended as the cashier hollered, “Next!”
Mr. Cool went his way. I went mine. But in my peripheral vision, I was aware that we were both heading to the same dining area. Pretending not to see him, I grabbed a stool by the window and replayed the incident in my head while picking through my kale. Should I have said something? Was he just being ironic? I judged him to be significantly younger than me, but not so young as to break any statutes. And how did I know if he was even available?
Maybe this was just a funny story he would tell his wife… or husband. Ya never know. I evaluated my ensemble. Maroon turtleneck, ancient cardigan, sweat pants, old lady running shoes. All topped by a grey beret and unwashed hair. No makeup. Not even lipstick. What was I thinking? After pondering the recycling instructions on trash receptacles designed to make even the most diligent environmentalist toss themselves into a landfill, I marched over to Mr. Cool’s table.
“You know, that guy was right,” I said. “We do make a cute couple.”
He didn’t flash a wedding ring or a police badge. So I sat down and chatted with Mr. Cool just long enough for him to jot down his name, phone number and email address on a Whole Foods napkin.
“Call me,” he said as I walked away grinning with kale between my teeth.
Hooking up at my age? I half-expected Rod Serling to pop out from a display of avocados and announce “You have just entered the Twilight Zone.”