Look, I get it. You’re fucking old. You have old people problems. [And judging from some of the creams I recall in my grandma’s medicine cabinet, I imagine some of those can get pretty intense.]
Clearly, you’re a little pissed. Maybe it sucks to be old. I only FEEL old on occasion, like when I go to class, or hear teenagers speaking, or wake up in the morning, but I know I’m not REALLY old, so I have very little perspective on this topic.
But seriously, old people, it kind of creeps me out when you’re mean to my toddler.
I MEAN SHIT. You’re OLD, and she’s REALLY FUCKING CUTE.
YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE NICE. Grandmotherly. Warm. A little maybe?
I’m getting ahead of myself.
Maybe you’ve gathered that I have a slightly insane socialite toddler who insists on engaging with pretty much every passer-by in her line of sight. She’s like the Queen of England in her float or chariot or whatever the hell they use over there, smiling and waving at everybody, absolutely SURE they’re all there to see her.
I mean duh.
And 99% of the time, when she toddles up to some table o’ strangers, grins and says “HI!”, their faces brighten and seem to say “holy shit you’re a cute little bandit, aren’t ya?”, which is, of course, the response we’re all lookin’ for.
Occasionally she walks up to people in restaurants and they give her this polite “hello” but then look at me like “yeah, she’s cute, but so is my fettuccini. Somoveitalong.”
And we do.
At music festivals involving blankets and grass (the kind that grows on the ground, people! Get your heads outta the gutter!), she tends to have excellent luck, probably cause half the people are drunk and the other half are stoned, but all are hanging out at a damn hippie show (meaning they’d look really bad giving the shaft to a little toddler).
Or maybe it’s the way she plays it, sidling up and just sitting down beside them, like they’re old friends, staring at their vegan black beans as if she’s never eaten before (until they actually OFFER her some and you’re like “I swear we feed her” and they’re like “yes sure of course, that totally explains why she’s begging strangers for legumes.”).
And as you know, her socialite tendencies have resulted in some pretty remarkable situations.
But check it out. There’s always that one lady.
The mean one.
The one that looks at her like she’s some sort of varmint poking its head out of its grotto as she attempts to sip tea in her drawing room (what’s with the British theme? And what the hell is a “drawing room?”).
(By the way, I say “lady” because I can only recall women giving her the ol’ middle finger, which is even creepier, right, because of all those gender stereotypes demanding women to be all maternal and shit, and old people to be nice?)
But I digress. Again.
Though it just happened the other day, which of course is why I had to write about it. We were in Walmart (I still die a little inside writing that), and Georgia was sitting in the cart. A woman of about 75 walks up next to us and of course Georgia starts her usual “Hi!” or “Hi friend!” or “hello!” but she’s not responding. My mama bear instincts sniff mean old person syndrome, so I start trying to distract Queen Georgie from her routine, but there’s no stopping royalty.
She just gets louder and leans into it this time, with this gigantic smile on her face (which was like the cutest damn thing I’d ever seen), absolutely determined to get this woman’s attention, being so forward the woman can’t possibly ignore her, until she finally looks Georgia right in the face, scowls (and I mean SCOWLS with a death-dagger glare that would wither marigolds), and looks away, visibly hating her, and us.
So of course I’m like “Hey, lady. Are you fucking SENILE? Don’t you see that this adorable piece of humanity just said ‘hello’ to you? I know you’re old, but I’m not above kickin’ your ass right here in the goddamn toilet paper aisle.” (I’m sure weirder things have happened in Walmart anyway.)
But I keep all that inside, cause I realize that would be weird to say aloud, and I may get arrested.
So I look away, a little embarrassed for my baby (which is totally freaking weird, but let’s move on) and try to distract the toddler, who has of course no idea she’s getting the cold shoulder, and keeps trying to say hello. After we leave, the other kids process the whole thing, asking me like nineteen thousand times various formations of the same question: “Why was that lady so mean?”
And pretty soon we’re all ready to throw down.
Cause you don’t fuck with Georgia.
Yes, that would be the Georgia who has completely forgotten the whole thing, having moved on to saying “hello” to the new people in her path, a couple teenagers in the check-out line, who have fallen victim to the toddler and are defiling all coolness by playing a game of peek-a-boo.
But I always think about people like that for a little while after, wondering what it must take to transform a person into that condition. Maybe it was just a bad day, but I doubt it. A bad day doesn’t make you hard against a child.
I wonder what kind of life must have been endured, to turn a human heart cold against the irresistible warmth of a baby. To make it impossible to utter a “hello,” to find even one millisecond of joy in the antics of a little girl, throwing her innocence and smile and trust your way, a complete stranger, even for just a moment becoming your child, your friend, your own.
And it reminds me that if you’re gonna put yourself out, by god you’re gonna get the middle finger sometimes, you’re gonna get the shaft. And it’ll sting to the quick of all you’ve got, for a minute or two or years, and you’ll feel your pride sink into your toes, in that familiar anguish of realizing your love isn’t coming back, and you’ve thrown it all out there for nothing, looking like an asshole, a tool. You handed it all over, and they chuckled at the gesture, waved you on with a twitch of an uninterested hand, left you standing there with your open wound of vulnerability, and shame.
Your expectation a mirror to the pathetic naiveté that led you there in the first place.
The boy who says no.
The friend who walks away.
The joke you told to become one of them, the faces that made it clear you’ll never be.
The family member who’s gone.
The thing you thought you had that you never had.
Old lady, come to think of it, you’ve got every right to turn away, to shield yourself from whatever it is that threatens you, that bothers you, that pulls something up from your gut that you just can’t fucking stand.
You’re alright, doing your thing, teaching us how it all goes, giving us a chance to watch a toddler handle you with the grace of some sort of Zen monk, giving it all to you in that moment, everything she’s got with total abandon – then letting you walk away, free, detached, having gained nothing and lost nothing, her fire still crackling, looking for the next person, to warm, to do it again.
Always, to do it again.
There’s enough to go around, I guess.