The oddest recurring phenomenon in my married life is that ladies seem to like me more than when I was single. It’s crazy. I’ll be standing in line at the grocery store sporting a beat up Led Zeppelin t-shirt, my dirty ‘house’ jeans, and flip-flops, my hair a wafro of disaster, beard out of control… and the lady behind the counter will end up smiling at me in a way that, had we both been in a bar fifteen years ago, I’d walk over and buy her a drink.
(Okay, I’m actually not that cool. It’s much more likely I would have quivered in place, all terrified, until she left the bar. And then I’d lament and buy myself a drink.)
Anyway, this ‘look’ I get nowadays happens more often than I would have ever imagined. Which, in truth, is still not that often, but it’s a whole lot more than before when it happened, well, NEVER.
I got a healthy dose of this effect some years ago at the bar with my brother. He was already married and I was still single. We were just hanging out, bullshitting with each other, and it was like every woman in the place was finding a reason to talk to him. I was the proverbial chopped liver, bewildered on bar stool. It was difficult to comprehend because we’re basically the same damn person.
The only major difference was the ring on his finger.
But that’s a pretty big difference, isn’t it? The ring indicated that he was safe, where I was not. He could be flirted with and left behind without guilt. He wasn’t going to buy a drink or ask for a number, whereas I might have.
You all get this, I assume? You’ve all experienced something like this? I’m not crowing. I’m a scraggly, beardy, stocky bastard and I know it. I have no illusions. If I took off the ring and put on some decent clothes and combed my fur, the grocery store clerk shoving my box of baby wipes past an infrared sensor wouldn’t even look up at me. I know this because when I was single I did all those things, and they didn’t.
When I declare that ladies seem to like me these days, seem is the operative word.
But it’s a good lead-in to this story.
Yesterday I was walking into Walgreens to get some chips to go with sandwiches when I got home. Just as I was about to enter the store, a young lady came out from between the cars in front me. She was wearing ear-buds and rocking out to her music in her own little world. We accidentally startled each other and she gave me one of those smiles like I mentioned above. I slowed down and let her walk into the store in front of me.
Once inside, I started toward the chips aisle on the other side of the store, and she continued to walk in front of me. After a second I thought she must think I’m being creepy, following her around the store. So I got self-conscious and considered turning down an aisle. But then she turned down an aisle, so I just kept on toward the chips.
At that point I practically forgot about her. The only smiley young ladies that matter to me in this world are my two daughters and my lovely wife, yo. Period.
So I grabbed a family-size bag of potato chips and started heading back toward the cashier when I spotted a big tub of cheese balls in the chip aisle. I stopped. I like cheese balls. I mean, I really like them. I don’t eat them very often because, you know, they’re not actually food, plus there was the one time when I ate like a million of them (my pregnancy cravings were worse than Nic’s) and it wasn’t good… but every now and then I still get a hanker for a puff of cheese.
If you don’t get that reference, please step back in time right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3jgo5ea_zc.
So I headed back down the aisle and picked up the tub. It was like a huge football of puffy orange goodness. I cradled it and started walking toward the cashier, feeling sweet about life, but then I stopped again. I had these bullshit potato chips for the girls, but some supremely awesome cheese puffs for myself? Not fair. I put the potato chips back and started contemplating what superior snack I could get to match the cheese balls.
But I couldn’t concentrate. I found myself staring at the cheese balls in my hands. I held the tub out in front of me and started spinning it in the air, saying, “Yes, yes, yes,” as the golden puffs of beauty bedazzled the space before me.
And then I looked to my right.
That smiley young lady was standing at the end of the aisle, one earbud pulled out to hear me chanting to my cheese balls. She started cracking up with laughter.
I’d like to tell you I was embarrassed, but I wasn’t. In my mind I was like, “That’s right, honey; I’m a goofy, dork of a father and husband who loves cheese balls. Booyeah!”
I went up to the cashier to find another young lady. She seemed rather unhappy with the world. Kinda disheveled. Kinda stained shirt. Kinda frowny. Without looking up, she delivered in monotone, “Did you find everything okay?”
Hoping to brighten her day, I said, “Well, I found these cheese balls, so life just got a lot better!”
She looked up, totally deadpan, and said, “Whatever.”
Clearly, she doesn’t know a cheese ball when she sees one 😉