Lately I’ve been meeting people who have a preconceived notion of me. They’ve buttonholed me into several categories: old, entitled white person, golfer, living a life of leisure, problemless, one foot in the grave… Maybe the last is unfair, but sometimes I see the look in the eye.
We stayed in Hawaii this winter for four months. We always said that when we got older, we’d live in Hawaii because we love it so much. One day, we looked in the mirror and said in unison, “That time has come. It’s now or never.”
Our condo is by a hotel on a golf course so my gregarious husband meets a lot of people at the driving range.
“You’re playing golf with us Monday morning,” a new acquaintance of his says one evening as we sit watching the sun set.
I shake my head. “I don’t really play golf.”
He looks amazed. “You don’t? What else do people do here? Well, come with us anyway. My back is bad so I’m only chipping and putting.”
“Sorry, but I’m busy Monday morning. I teach a class.”
He looks at me, trying to assess what I could teach at my advanced age.
I don’t offer any more information. I’m sitting at the beach trying to absorb the fact that someone I’d been talking to yesterday had died five hours later in a car crash. A guy who was only two years older than my son. A guy who was a sweetheart.“What kind of class?” the man asks.
“A writing class. A memoir writing class,” I say.
“Really. I should talk to you. I’ve written a book,” he says.
Oh here we go, I think. Another stranger who wants free help.
“That’s great,” I say with no enthusiasm.
“Yeah, it’s sold over a million copies. It was at the top of the bestseller list.”
Now I’m confused. He obviously needs no guidance from me.
He begins to tell me about his phenomenal success with his self help book.
“Very nice,” I say, wishing I had the guts to tell him he was blocking my view of the sun setting behind him.
“That’s nice you have something to do to occupy your time,” his young wife, a fantastic golfer, says.
“Really?” I want to say. “Occupy my time, as in giving me something to do while I’m in God’s waiting room? No, I’m very much alive and busy living each day.”
But then I think I may be a little defensive, and I stay quiet.
Two days later, I’m in a store and the saleswoman ringing me up says, “So you live in California part of the year and Hawaii part of the year? I’d sure like your life style.”
I look at her and try to imagine what she sees when she looks at me. I settle on: privileged white person living a life of leisure with not a problem in the world. (Again I was probably being defensive and over sensitive, which I need to get over…some day. )
She’s not the first thirty-something-year-old to say this to me so I have a ready response: “You live another forty years, work hard every day and save your money. Then you, too, can have this life style.
I say it kindly and with a little laugh, but it’s the truth for me.