Sunday, October 05, 2008

Does this attitude make me look old?

This past Friday I hustled down to Racine to visit my long-lost friend M, who came back to Wisconsin for business. Other friends joined the fray, martinis were consumed, photos were taken, and off we hustled to the kind of dark, sticky-floored dive bar that puts the smoke-stank in your hair so badly you can’t wash it out for days. I typically avoid hole-in-the-wall bars like these. Mostly because once upon a time, a homeless man walked up to me and picked my nose in just such a place, while another foul-scented bum at the same bar quite randomly slur-threatened to murder my friend: “I’ll kill you! I’m gonna kill you!”

Good times.

After we claimed our table and ordered drinks, our friend R introduced us to a British man she fancied, who apparently frequented this pub. Introductions were made, and I have no idea how the subject came up, but we arrived at a place where he asked how old we all were, and I stupidly (and arrogantly) said, “Guess!”

(Look at how cocky she is, still high from weeks of people saying she looks too young to be an author!)

The look in his eyes was not encouraging, so I quickly changed my mind. “No, don’t guess. Don’t answer that!”

Too late. “Um, you’re thirty-eight?”

Perhaps it was because I was wearing my chunky new Mrs. Roper necklace—no doubt adding years to my ensemble. Perhaps it was the fact that I had just regaled him with the scintillating history of my family (which is what comes out of my mouth when you ask about the origins of my last name, it appears. “Riley—are you Irish?” “Yes, but my husband’s last name is actually an abbreviated version of a Norwegian family name, and let me tell you about my family genealogy because you don't look like you've had your weekly Bored in a Bar yet.”).

Taking the Mrs. Roper necklace for a test-drive.

You know, this is probably what did it, because after I wrapped up my little speech, he said, “Wow, you have a lot of time on your hands, don’t you?”

I bristled. “No, but I have smart and thoughtful relatives.”

So yes. Thirty-eight. Later, he defended his guess with, “I only thought you were older because of the maturity level you displayed in mixed company.” (I was one of the few at the table not making fun of his accent, smoking cigarettes through my nostrils, or rapping.) Or something like that. And hey, I got a free drink out of it, delivered with an encouraging, “This is guaranteed to take YEARS off you!”

But 38?? I know and love many thirty-eight year-olds, my husband included. But I have many, many, MANY years to get there! Let’s not rush things, ‘k? (And stop laughing, J. I can define "many" however I want to!)

So this, plus the creepy old guy who kept demanding we play Molly Hatchet on the jukebox, put me in a mildly foul mood when one of my British friend’s ‘mates’ sidled up to me and slurred, “I consider myself something of a writer, too.”

Here we go.

“I write poetry. Here’s one I’ve been working on.”

He launched right into your classic rhyming ode to love, including stars and moonlight and a babbling brook and what have you, forgetting his lines and interrupting himself twice with, “No wait. Hold on. Just a minute. That’s not how it goes.”

He wrapped up his rather lengthy performance with, “I wrote it for my mother. So what do you think?”

He was expecting a little melting, a little swooning, someone a bit less ornery (due to the whole "Would you like a can of Ensure to go with those age spots?" bit and all).

Poor guy didn’t have a chance. I took a deep breath. “First of all,” I said, “I hate poetry that rhymes.”

“Well, it’s really not a poem, but more of a lyric. A song poem—”

“Dude? Listen. I’ve heard better poems written by third graders. I know you meant well, but this poem is really generic and tells me nothing about your mother. I totally think some boy already wrote it for me when I was eight.”

It was pretty brutal. But I would have been nicer had I not been feeling all crotchety and covered in liver spots. I'll write later in the week on my game plan for addressing this issue, plus my review of every wrinkle cream I've ever used. (Space permitting.)

For now, I will leave you with this photo of a broken coffee carafe that greeted us at the dive diner we stuffed our faces at the following morning. (Yes, it came with the plastic 'heat-saving' cup insert. Ingenious!)

(Off-camera, to the left: a father and husband wearing South Park pajama bottoms. I would have taken a picture of that too, if I felt I could have gotten away with it.)


  1. okay, while i find that entire evening completely horrifying for many different reasons, i really couldn't get past the part about how some dude picked your nose and some other dude wanted to kill your friend.

    i mean, weird shit happens to me in bars, but not LIKE THAT.

    but ASIDE from that, if i were you, i would've punched age-guesser and poetry-reciter in the face.

    so kudos to you for being nicer than me.

    and you look fabulous. clearly.

  2. See??? Wisconsin is FULL, chock FULL of entertaining people & places!!!

  3. That necklace doesn't really scream Mrs. Roper unless you've got strands upon strands of it draped across your "bosom". Oh...and a caftan.

  4. I can't get past the smoking in bars and diners. You don't want to try that in California or we'll have you handcuffed in no time!

  5. Yeah, well don't feel bad. I was at Kohl's and the clerk at the checkout asked me if I get the senior discount. SENIOR?! (And this woman was at least 75 herself!) I have no idea what the senior discount is, but I'm pretty sure that I'm YEARS away from qualifying. At least I hope so...damn.

    BTW, Jess, somebody visited the link to your blog that I have on one of my blogs and they raved about how funny you are. I replied, "Well, duh." No, I didn't, but I'm glad that others have discovered your wit.

  6. Hey, Jess - just tried sending you an e-mail but it failed.

    My book club is reading Driving Sideways for November - hope your offer to join us via phone stands. Let me know!


  7. Dive bars are the ONLY place to go when you want your nose picked by someone who is not you.


    Someday you'll be pleased when someone thinks you're 38. I promise.