Now that I look far more haggard than I ever looked “put together” even in my best moments, there are a few things that have become certain. This includes the disappointing fact that I am no longer flirted with, by anyone even gas station attendants looking for an extra tip. I comfort my ego by thinking that this is because I am so obviously married, a fact anyone can pick up on by noticing my glittering wedding ring. The truth is if you checked me out you would probably miss the glitter altogether but what you could never miss is the middling overhang, that thing that I used to call my waist when I was eight. Since then I have called it affectionately my pouch, but then I had a baby and it never went back to being just a pouch it is now imperfectly huge, like a bunny burrow my daughter used to live in, then left leaving it eviscerated and at the same time puffy. Occasionally I get a look from someone who hasn’t seen me in a while… it’s a look that speaks loudly and clearly, “My god she let her self go,” as if it was a choice and that I had anything to do with it.
More disturbingly I have noticed an opposing correlation. The less and less members of the opposite sex flirt with me, the more and more people of both genders ask me for advice. I know, why would anyone ask me for advice about anything other than which Danish is better, cream cheese or blueberry? “I don’t eat gluten,” would be my response to which they would look incredulously back in my direction seemingly asking, “How can a chubby person not eat pastry?”
In the same sort of way people always seem to think I can help out their son, cousin, or friend who wants to be a filmmaker so every few months I end up sitting down with someone just starting out to give them my “advice.” The truth is I don’t have any advice, as I have not yet achieved what I really want to. This is really too embarrassing to admit, except in my blog so I usually show up to these meetings, disheveled, dose up on caffeine and tell them to pursue their dreams and try and give them a few practical tips from a most impractical person along with some inspired realism peppered with my best fake smiles and encouragements, when inside I am thinking “Get out while you still can and become an accountant,” but I won’t allow myself to speak that truth as it would be unfair to the fictional version of myself that is both successful and solvent.
So this is how I turned up at my usual coffee place last week to meet my husband’s friend Jamie’s nephew who is applying to film school in Canada and making short films on the island. He was a strapping lad, who had probably been out of school for a few years trying to get into film school and into “the industry.” We went through the usual and the particular. He through out a budget and a story idea, and what he was planning to achieve and how long it would take him. I told him bits and pieces of what I knew about funding and casting etc. etc. Then he asked me something that almost made me choke on a figurative cream cheese danish.
“Have you ever done any acting?”
Hmmm I thought to myself, that was not a usual question. Why would he ask me that, it was like asking me if I had eight legs instead of just two.
“No, I haven’t actually except for student productions when you act, direct, do set design, makeup and Kraft Services all at once while barefoot and with a two dollar budget.”
“I know what you mean, but would you consider acting?”
I took a long swig of coffee and then the ever so egotistical, I am really still eighteen, thoughts crossed my mind— Is he flirting with me?
I tousled my hair, buying time, and then answered, “Well I might consider acting if it was the right role.” It was my best Nicole Kidman impression.
He had previously told me about the film he wanted to make about a young twenty year old man who has a psychotic break and his relationship with his mother. He was going to act as the main role as well as direct. I probably should have seen it coming but I didn’t, so then he asked,
“I would love to cast you as the mother.”
I immediately stopped hair tousling, and then licked the bottom of my coffee cup trying to cover up my shock.
“Oh as the mother, as YOUR mother?”
At this point my mind went reeling into a stream of consciousness rambling horror.
“Definitely not flirting, not flirting at all. How can I be your mother, you have a mustache? You are bigger than me. I can’t play your mother, I don’t even have grey hair and I still get my period, I’ll have you know. How can this be happening. Mother of a grown man. Ewwwww. A grown man with a mustache.“
Our conversation ended soon afterwards, with me missing out on what could have been the role of the century.
Later that day I was checking out at the grocery store with all my provisions for my real child who is three not twenty and does not have facial hair yet, hopefully never. The cashier recognized me or my ATM card when I was checking out.
“Oh my gosh, Luci Spurling, how are you?”
Fine I thought, as long as you don’t ask me to act as a middle aged woman.
“You don’t know who I am?”
“It’s Chernelle’s mother.”
“Oh my gosh, Hi, its been a while, I haven’t seen Chernelle in a few years but I chatted to her on email the other year, how is she doing?”
“Chernelle is great, did you know she is a grandmother now.”
I started to madly search for the dark chocolate I had purchased in my grocery bags.
“Grandmother?” I looked at her with an expression as if I had just witnessed the miracle birth of Jesus Christ.
“Did you say Grandmother?”
I stuffed a block of chocolate in my mouth, to ease the pain that word caused to reverberate through my entire body.
“Wow,” is about all I could muster. The packer offered, “Would you like me to take the bags out to the car for you?”
“No I am not crippled, nor am I a grandmother, nor will I play one onstage or in anyone’s crazy fantasy.” I murmured half to myself, my speech distorted through chocolate squares.
The following day I went to fill up my car with gas, full service of course as that’s how old people roll.
The gas man leans on the car hood and leans into the window to say to me, “I can’t believe she hasn’t given out yet.”
My immediate thought is – My god not again, he is talking about me. Then I realize he is talking about my car. My offended expression changes into one of laughing acceptance as I hit the side of the old jalopy with my hand and say, “They don’t make them like they used to.” We smile like two old crows sitting on a park bench watching clouds float by.
“So How old is your car anyway?” the gas man asks me.
“I am not sure, I have lost count.” I reach over and pull the registration out.
“1996” I say proudly, “Nineteen years old.”
As I tapped my fingers on the dash, and wound my fingers around the worn grooves in the steering wheel, that fact really started to sink in. Nineteen years old. My damn car is older than the mustached young actor who wanted me to play his mother. My god I am old.
It is not actually just my own age, or being called “Mame,” that is hard to accept. As the gas topped up on the car and I drove off I realized that I was having problems accepting that Eva would eventually grow up, she would stop going everywhere with me, and that some day she will be almost twenty. And when she is twenty she might decide to date an actor, she might even consider one with a mustache a decision, which will certainly give her mother grey hair menopause and a heart condition.
Until then I can only accept mortality, age and the metaphorical ticking clock of the crocodile in Peter Pan. In the meantime I can enjoy Eva at three sort of the perfect age, if only I could press pause.
I bought Eva a crocodile sleeping bag for Christmas. She hates it, and has banned all camping equipment and toys with teeth ( or ticking clocks for that matter) out of her playroom, bedroom, or bathtub. I may follow her inspired example and live eternally in denial, and treat my daughter like she is three years old forever. Hey maybe that’s my own mother’s secret 🙂