Home Opinion Columnists Dorothy Swart Fleshman's columns Seeing myself in anotherís face
Seeing myself in anotherís face
She was a teenager with blonde hair sitting in the booth beyond me with her parents and just younger brother, as blonde as she.
She reminded me of myself when I was that age, blank behind her eyes as though she were somewhere else, almost oblivious to those around her.
She savored her ice cream in mini bites, just as I, as though to make it last longer, one of her few pleasures.
The booths were filled by happy, jovial folk, perhaps a social engagement after church or maybe a respite from a chartered bus tour, but this young blonde girl was alone in a crowd, her face expressionless, and I would never see her again to talk with her and urge a sweet smile that I knew lurked there.
She never said a word during their meal or engaged in any connected animation.
Her hank of hair fell forward as though to shield her from ... what?
How many other young women had I seen hiding behind their veil of wisping locks? Was it just a passing fad for them as they kept brushing away the curtain to contact with real life? Not so with this young girl sitting just beyond me, I considered. Something more serious may be lurking here.
Our glances had met now and then as happens in a restaurant when you are facing each other. Did I register with her? Did she wonder if I were fathoming her secret? Could she have even sensed that I wanted to reach out to her, to change her withdrawal from human contact to one of happy participation? Did she know that our souls were meeting for one brief moment and then parting forever? I felt sad to see her so.
They left together, the four of them, to continue on with whatever had led them to this place of respite, and I was left with the reminiscence of the little girl I may once have been.
. . .
It’s fun, when you are approaching 87 years old, to sit and watch the men go by.
You have to be my age to get a kick out of the power of it, because I can remember when it was the other way around. There was even a song written about watching the girls go by.
The males would gather in their little groups and compare their findings as the young things walked by them, bending their heads together in consultation or outward bravado. I’ll bet they still do to some degree, but their counterparts are more open about it themselves which loses something in the transition for my generation.
Our females were also observant but more secretive about it in the early days. Making my selection of a husband all quiet effective strategy.
Now that I am too old to enter the chase, there is no harm in comparing the various attributes of each age of mankind, documenting them mentally in observation.
“Nice eyes. Eyes are very important.”
“Bright, warm smile.”
“Takes off his cap when entering; holds the door for others.”
“Wears his clothing well, regardless of need.”
“Treats everyone with respect.”
Then there are the negatives:
“Pants at half-mast.”
“Disrespectful to someone.”
“What will he look and act like when he’s old?”
It’s funny about that last question.
When I was young I never thought about getting old, either for man or woman. We would always be the same ages as we were right then.
We never thought that hair on the heads of young men would go from their heads to their upper lips, chins and jowls, hiding their handsome faces. We never thought they would relinquish the driver’s seat to their female partner or give up their role as “head of the house.” This leaves room for a later digest on how females look and act, too, doesn’t it.
So many changes over the years about which we never contemplated.
The handsome young men would always be young and handsome. They would never be slump-shouldered, pot-bellied, or overbearing. They would never get sick or lose their protective ways.
In the same way, we women would never gain unwanted weight or sag where we shouldn’t sag. We would never be disrespectful to anyone. We would never be careless about our clothing. We would always be beautiful with youth.
And, neither of us would forget how it was to be young, full of enthusiasm, active, and know all there was to know. We would never sit alone and pine for days gone by. We would never need to wonder why we had been “put on the shelf,” so to speak, or that our knowledge would go unheard.
We would never lose our place in life.
On the other hand, we could now, and probably will, both male and female, sit and let others wait on us with love and affection or plain duty.
And, of course, we older women can sit and watch the men go by, returning their favor with something like justification.
And, just remember!