December 28, 2007

Humiliation

I should’ve gotten my hair cut. I know that now. I felt this the moment I sat down at the table in Verlaine and saw the disappointment in her face.

“How old are those photos of you?,” she asked. She was talking about my profile pictures on JDate, the dating site where pussy Jew boys find their cantankerous, scolding mates.

“What?”

“You look older than the photos. How old are they?”

“Just a few months old, three of them, anyway,” I stammered, confused and still struggling out of my coat. I couldn’t understand what she was driving at. I sensed her disappointment and I was still coming to grips with my own disappointment in her. Luckily the lights were set low in Verlaine, otherwise she might have noticed that my face burned.

She looked skeptical.

“Well, you look much older.”

“How much older?”

“Ten years older.”

“Ten years!”

“You’ve aged badly.”

“Really?” Although this exchange sounds pleasantly chatty, I was reeling. I thought that I probably should leave. If I had a shred of personal dignity, I would have. Instead, I ordered a martini.

“I’m brutally honest,” she said. “Most people aren’t, but I am.”

I wanted to be brutally honest, too. She wasn’t nearly as pretty in person as she looked online. In fact, her face looked monstrous to me. I wanted to tell her this. It would have been liberating to say it out loud, because one never says things like that out loud. She would have understood; brutally honest was her thing. But sadly, like the others before me, I’m a pussy. I stand on the shoulders of my ancestor pussies. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Instead, I sat there, idiotically, holding my martini in an old hand that might even have been trembling.

“Well,” I said, pretending to relax into this horror and calling up the dregs of any kind of charm left in me, “I’ve never heard that before. Nobody’s ever said that to me.”

“They were probably just being nice. People don’t usually tell the truth.”

“I’ve dated plenty of people your age,” I insisted. “And I’ve never heard that. In fact, I’ve heard the opposite. People always say I look younger than my age.

She shook her head. Strenuously.

“They were just being nice. You’ve haven’t aged well at all. Do you smoke?”

Then she suggested that these younger women I once dated had undoubtedly broken up with me because I looked too old. We were into our second round of martinis. Why was I still sitting there?

Courting further humiliation, I wondered in what ways I looked older than my age.

Tracing a finger across the discrete areas of her face, she explained.

“You have bags under your eyes –”

“–I slept badly last night.”

“You have bags under your eyes, deep marionette lines on either side of your mouth, and deep furrows in your forehead.”

“But everybody says I look younger.”

They’re lying. But you can take care of those lines.”

“What? Botox? I won’t do that.”

She laughed.

“You will,” she said.