What bothers me most about getting older is losing that glorious, elastic authority which I used always to use to shame men out of behaving boorishly. This afternoon we came through the park and passed the boules courts along the riverside, ruled off with low fences like dust baths for human sparrows, and I was collecting blossoms from the various flowering trees, the Spring has waited so long. The park was full of drug dealers and pregnant women and dogs, everywhere dogs. It all seemed glorious and I collected eight different kinds of blossom. Finding a second bush with the same flowers as a sprig I had already collected, I went up to it to make my little sprig kiss a sister flower still attached and growing. Saying, “Sistah! Hey sis!” and making smoochy noises. Then at the next hollow where the table tennis tables are set up I found another bush with the same flowers and went over to it, making kissing sounds – my companion said, mildly, “Are we going to be doing this all the way home?”
Alongside the boules courts we passed a man unzipped with his back turned, right there among the people, women, children, men, dogs, he had barely bothered to shunt himself into the bushes and it seemed so arrogant, so rude. I stared at him, turning my head as we walked past until he looked up and then I could say, witheringly, “I can see you!” He stared back, a complex expression crossing his face. I believe I read him perfectly. I said to my companion as we walked on, “You know – this is perhaps the most galling part about getting older. I lose that natural kind of authority of gorgeousness. Ten years ago he would have gone, Oh my god, that beautiful woman! and I have disgusted her! I’ve lost status in her eyes.”
He murmured appreciatively and slung his arm around me. But I didn’t want his compassion, I wanted his incomprehension. After a few dozen more steps I nudged him. I was grumbling. “You do realise that now would be a great time for you to say something beginning with, wait but Cathoel you are a beautiful woman?” He laughed. “Jeez,” I said. “Didn’t they teach you anything in Boyfriend School?”
“Cathoel,” he said, “you are still a very beautiful ~”
“Nope!” I put up a hand. “Do not use the word ‘still’!” But he wasn’t done. Unperturbedly he carried on, “~ and you will probably be beautiful until the day you die.” “Ahh,” I said, my breath sailing out of me like a breeze, and then I felt my body relax and my face grow warm and I snuggled back under the crook of his arm, where I like to belong.