I get two scoops, he gets none. And this after twenty-minutes of waiting in line at Earnest Ice Cream. He whispers in my ear, “I can’t. I’m getting naked with a guy in three weeks.”
This friend of mine is fifty-two. He’s slim and active. And yet he’s still ruled by the thought a man will reject him if he fails that f*#king Special K test.
I have a date in three days but I can still eat my ice cream. It’s not that I’m any more accepting of my body. I’m just not as optimistic over how far things will go. It usually ends with “We should keep in touch.” It’s an ironic phrase as it couldn’t be farther away from any semblance of touch. So this is my silver lining: the salted caramel is amazing.
My friend caves. He asks the girl behind the counter for an extra spoon. He digs in, coats his spoon with a portion as large as a five-year-old’s pinky fingernail. He tastes. “Too sweet” is the verdict. He tosses the spoon. There will be no going back for more. I’m not exactly disappointed. I’m not so good at sharing, especially ice cream. Too sweet?! I know he means not what he says. Just like all those we-should-keep-in-touch guys. To rid himself of all that sweetness, my poor friend will go home and do five hundred sit-ups. Then he’ll most likely do the “getting naked” pre-test. And another five hundred ab crunches.
My honey lavender scoop is just as delicious. “I don’t like lavender in food,” my friend says. “It makes me think of soap. Whenever I taste something with lavender, I taste soap.”
Poor thing, I think as I shovel in another mouthful. But he doesn’t need my pity. He is, after all, getting naked in three weeks. All the dieting and depriving will be worth it. The wads of money he shells out for extra sessions with his personal trainer/life coach will instill self-confidence…or at least lessen the self-consciousness.
This is what it’s like to still be single in our fifties. Chronically single. We’ve fought off the middle-aged belly. It never came so we’ve never abandoned hope and gotten into a habit of grabbing a second or third Corona to go with a Family Size bag of Cheddar Jalapeῆo Cheetos. (A friend who has abandoned hope dragged me down the chip aisle at Safeway recently just to show me the bag. He fondled the bag but then left it on the shelf as I shifted my gaze to the rice cake display.)
The obsession with diet and exercise continues. We think it will make the difference. If they like us on the outside, maybe things will progress so they’ll like us on the inside.
I write of “we” and “us” because I am no more enlightened. I am not better adjusted. These two tasty scoops are my ice cream intake for the month of June. I’ve used up my ration awfully early. It’s a good thing June has thirty days, not thirty-one. If I continue working out six days out of every seven, I might cave and allow a second ice cream experience. I can hear the rationalizing ping-ponging about in my brain already. I won’t be on a three-week alert for months, maybe years, maybe never. But my own disciplined approach to diet and exercise shows I still have hope, however f*#ked up that hope is.
My friend’s date will be in Los Angeles, with a guy who lives in Phoenix who hates the cold and will only consider possible travel to Vancouver in the summer—since Vancouver is so close to the Arctic Circle, after all. There are so many holes in this budding relationship but he doesn’t need me to point them out. I know he knows they’re there. It’s all f*#ked up but it’s as hopeful as things have been for my friend in the past ten years.
I toss my empty plastic dish in the trash. I’ve scraped the bottom so many times and there’s nothing more to reward my tongue.
“Good luck,” I say. “I hope it goes well.” I do and I’m a tad envious.
And that too is f*#ked up.