Sunday, August 15, 2010

I Put My Dockers On One Leg At a Time

A lot of readers of the present series (about my being too good-looking for my own good) have written to ask if my extraordinary power over women has ever gotten me threatened or even beaten to a pulp by a jealous husband and boyfriend, as that time at a deafening Cuban restaurant on Lombard Street in San Francisco when a honeymooning young bride, transfixed by my handsomeness, told her new husband that she had to “powder [her] nose,” but instead came over to where my girlfriend and daughter and I were trying to make ourselves heard over the braying of our fellow diners, gave my daughter her wedding ring, and said she’d known from the first moment she’d laid eyes on me that her marriage had been a disastrous mistake. My girlfriend was obviously accustomed to this sort of thing, and only smirked indulgently, but you should have seen the look on the face of the might-have-been cuckold as he stormed over to find out what was going on. Though he was obviously disappointed by his bride’s perfidy, he found it understandable in view of my pulchritude, and we might have become friends if the two of them hadn’t been due to fly back to Grand Rapids the following afternoon, he to resume work as a quality assurance specialist at an outdoor furniture manufacturing firm, she to work as a substitute teacher while pursuing a master’s in education.

That no jealous husband or boyfriend ever so much as took a swing at me I can attribute only to the fact that I apparently exude a sort of confident masculinity that makes men want to be my friend as much as it makes their wives and girlfriends want to be my lover. And now, if you will, on with our narrative.

Between the ages of 25 and 60 very briefly. Women never stopped hurling themselves at me, and I got a lot of jobs, and then promotions, I almost certainly wouldn’t have gotten if I’d looked like the actor John C. Reilly, say. I was married and divorced four times, and managed to remain on very good terms with all my exes, each of whom I continued to cherish, even though we’d discovered that we were two different people. Almost effortlessly, I kept ascending the corporate ladder, earning ever more money, making it possible for me to take early retirement on my 60th birthday so I could devote myself to rock-climbing, windsurfing, philanthropy, and my half-dozen gorgeous grandchildren, one of whom has special needs — as who, if we’re being honest, does not?

The most remarkable thing to me has been how little age seems to have reduced my allure. Only this afternoon, when I went into the Dollar Tree three doors down from the gym, for raisins, smoked oysters, padded envelopes, an extremely presentable redhead of perhaps 35 asked me, while I examined the hardover books on offer, if I’d read anything good lately, in a tone that made clear that my tastes in literature were of secondary or even tertiary interest to her. I nonetheless pointed out that I’ve been delighted with four books I’ve bought there in the past couple of months — Chang-rae Lee’s Aloft, Anne Lamott’s Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, J.D. Wetherell’s Morning (which made me want to stay on the exercycle a lot longer than my usual 30 minutes today), and Ron McLarty’s Traveler — she suggested we get together one evening soon to talk about these and other books, and gave me her phone number. This in spite of my being old enough to be her father! Then, when I got back to my car, I found a pair of panties under the driver-side windshield wiper, with a business card safety-pinned to them.

Sometimes, in the face of this sort of thing, it’s difficult to try to keep a realistic sense of one’s self. When I find myself believing my own PR, I remind myself that I put on my Dockers one leg at a time, just like any other early retiree, and that there are at least as many things I’m not good at — handyman stuff, racquetball, cunnilingus, math — as things at which I’m frankly incomparable.

Honestly, if you ever see me in Dockers, you have my permission to shoot me on sight. Or a sweater.

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