A woman knows she’s at home in her neighborhood when she ventures out without first checking a mirror. The to-do list is more demanding than one’s reflection sometimes, and that’s how it was for me some years ago on that October day.
One-hundred people had RSVPed yes to our home that night. We had kept up our fall party for over a decade under the event title, “The Somewhat Annual Rib & Wing Ordeal,” the somewhat our coverage for the years we couldn’t get our acts together to entertain the masses.
Late in the afternoon, I stopped in to the convenience store one block from our house. We needed twenty pounds of ice, so I dragged two ten-pound bags from the store’s standing freezer and boosted them up on my hips like two cold babies. Why was the place so busy? Two lines of people snaked back from the front counter, and two of the store’s four Muhammads manned the cash registers.
I scurried into Muhammad #2’s line. How long would this take? Only one hour until go time and I still needed a shower. I waited my turn, assessing the rack of cell phone accessories near me. Not a bad price for phone chargers. It never hurt to have an extra, but maybe the quality of these—
“Ma’am? Ma’am?” A man’s voice jerked me back to the moment, and I shot a look around for anyone else who might fall into the “ma’am” category. Only two of us in a whole slew of men.
“Ma’am?” Muhammad #1 said it again, pinning me with his gaze.
“Oh, me?” I said, my eyebrows jumping. Several customers shot looks my way.
The man pointed at a teenage kid at the front of his line. “This young man is telling you you’re a beautiful woman.”
The boy grinned at me. Wait. What? He had been trying to get my attention? All business paused for a second, other eyes trained on me now. I bested the kid in age by at least thirty years. What was I wearing again? I glanced down. Oh yeah. Ratty yoga pants, stained t-shirt, flip-flops, dirty hair in a ponytail, no makeup.
“Wow,” I called over to the kid. “You just made my day.”
The teenager bobbed his head, his smile stretching wider. He finished his transaction and ducked out of the store.
I bit into my upper lip to hold back a laugh.
The previous week I had bemoaned the years that were telling a new story on my face all of a sudden, and the skin above my kneecaps that had decided to be lazy now. But a compliment from a kid buying snacks—and Muhammad who acted like it was the most natural thing in the world to relay that compliment across a busy store—changed my day.
Gravity and the years coming at us are unavoidable, but if some young pup in a convenience store thinks an older lady in her unwashed state’s got it goin’ on, who am I to judge?
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*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.