Sunday, September 13, 2009


Last night I was at a party, a kickoff for the fall season of a choir I sing in. Sitting farther along the table was a woman who's been a member for a couple or three years, and next to her, a young (or at least, to me, young-looking) man I'd never seen before. I asked him if he were one of our new recruits. He merely grunted something to the effect of "I hope not!" and sat there with his arms crossed over his chest. The woman-- I'll call her Emily*-- said, "He's with me." He himself offered no further comment, so I turned my attention and conversation to other people.

After awhile I got to wondering if the young man was feeling left out. So I turned to that side of the table again and said to Emily, "I'm sorry, I didn't ask who this is." I addressed him, "Are you Emily's son?" I knew she has a young daughter at home, but maybe, I thought, she also has a boy who's been at college.

He was silent, but "Noooooo!" Emily replied.

"Your cousin?" I tried again.


"Your younger brother?"

"Wrong again!" said Emily. "This is my husband. He's got gray in his hair, for goodness sake! You think I'm old enough to have a son with gray hair?"

"Oh! I'm sorry! Mea culpa, mea culpa!"

"Well, I did get carded not long ago," the husband finally put in, with some satisfaction.

"I'm sorry, I didn't notice the gray till just now. And my little sister has dark hair, too, and she started going gray when she was nineteen." I tried to make excuse-- but I couldn't offer an explanation. Because as annoyed as my choir friend is by my miscalculation, telling her what threw me off would make things even worse.

For how could I tell her I was confused by her husband's attitude? By his body language that seemed to reflect his thoughts and feelings? It was not so much young, as adolescent. He'd been sitting there the entire time with those arms crossed over his chest and a look on his face as if to say, "You dragged me to this but you can't make me have any fun here!" Even when the singing started and everyone else was easy and relaxed, his look and stance clearly and petulantly declared, "This is stoopid. Dumb grownups! I don't want to be here! I'm booorrrrrred!!"

Maybe after teaching junior high kids this past Wednesday I was on the alert for that attitude. But I didn't expect to find it in a man in his forties.

I had to repeat my mea culpa on Facebook when Emily recounted my faux pas at mistaking her husband for her son. Hopefully she is not terminally offended at me and I shall escape with being known as one who could make such a silly social error. Let the jokes rain down upon me, for I could never tell Emily what actually caused it. It's not my business to be bringing issues about other women's husbands up to them and fomenting trouble between couples.

But oh! how thrown off I was by his physical attitude! And how thrown off others may be by mine! I say I want to be respected and honored as an accomplished adult, that it's annoying when people half my age patronize me and call me "Hon" and treat me like an incompetent child. But does my stance, my physical attitude, reflect competency? Or am I slouching around like an adolescent? Am I sitting like a confident woman, or like a little girl? Do I keep my head down like I don't want to be noticed?

'Fraid so. The photographs don't lie. In fact, that's why I use the pictures I do on this blog and on my Facebook wall. They're two of the rare depictions of me when I'm carrying myself like an adult.

It's blinking hard after a lifetime of bad attitude, but I need to learn to do that all the time. Maybe I'll get it down before I qualify for Social Security . . .

Or is that more bad attitude?

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