Julia quickly grabbed her towel and shoved it into her bag as she rushed out the door. “Dang it, I’m late! Not today!” Julia rushed out the door and into her car where she drove to the gym for her aqua class.
At the stop light on 12th street she checked her mascara. By 21st street she had finished putting her hair up in a way she felt would be attractive even if it got wet in the pool. She parked the car and walked as quickly as possible to the locker room to change into her suit.
Julia double checked her hair and makeup in the mirror as she inconspicuously peeked at the other women in the class. Her feminine, competitive nature determined that she was probably in the top 20% of the women in the room.
Julia reviewed her checklist. Boobs? Higher than most, lower than some, overall, not too bad. Butt? Ok, not a deal breaker. Hair? A little grey but not too bad. Wrinkles? Yes there are a few, but mainly laugh lines, she told herself. Legs? Shaved, smooth, and cellulite locations registered so she knew how to pose so that it wouldn’t show. Suit? Adequately hides most physical flaws.
Julia was ready. “Here goes” she thinks as the door is opened to let the students into the pool. Slowly Julia walks down the steps and enters the warm liquid classroom. Nonchalantly she looks around the pool to see if he was there. Her eyes pause minutely as they anxiously register his presence. She jokes with several of the women as she starts her warm up routine while she casually drifts closer to her objective.
“Morning Julia!” His voice buoyed her spirits as she acknowledged his presence.
“Good Morning Wes. How are you?” She replied. Geesh, she thought, can’t I come up with better material than that? How do I get his attention?
Julia noticed that Wes seemed to conveniently meet her at the end of the pool frequently and stop to chat. She suspected he was interested in her but questioned herself. It had been 28 years since she had been with any man other than Joe and she wasn’t sure how to proceed. Finally Julia summoned all of her courage, took a deep breath and spoke.
“Hey Wes, I was wondering if you would be interested in having coffee. To be honest, I don’t know many people our age that are single and I thought it would be nice to spend some time with someone else going through this experience too. I thought I might see how many others in here might be interested too.”
Julia knew she was being a coward by adding that last comment but she couldn’t help it. She just didn’t know how to ask someone out. She had never done it before. Her hope was that Wes would take the hint and take the next step.
Wes gazed out the window and paused in his response.
Julia’s heart began to race as he took his time. This is so embarrassing she thought. Julia took a breath in anticipation of sputtering out a comment that would let Wes off the hook when he finally said,
“That sounds like fun. I could use some company.” It was at this point the professor initiated a fast track cross trainer exercise that didn’t allow Julia and Wes the opportunity to speak again.
As class ended and everyone began to file into the locker rooms Julia realized Wes was scheduled with a personal trainer and that there would be no opportunity to speak to him until the next class session. Julia left slightly confused as to the success of her mission.
The following Wednesday Wes was not at class. Julia began to lose confidence in her ability to spot whether a man was interested in her any longer. When Friday’s class came around and Wes still had not returned Julia took another comparative look in the mirror to the other women in class. Her estimation of her own looks plummeted as she became more dejected.
The next Monday Julia avoided Wes as much as possible. She felt embarrassed, and convinced Wes had made no effort to call her. I am 55 years old, too old to start over she thought. Who am I kidding? Men don’t want women like me. They want trophy wives. I’m a used car, she thought. Ok if you can’t afford anything else, but a new car is much better. Her fragile confidence was gone. Every negative image of herself she had ever felt rushed to the forefront of her mind.
By Wednesday’s class Julia determined to hold her chin up and pretend nothing had happened. She made no effort to get closer to Wes but she didn’t avoid him either. She didn’t want to show she was hurt and embarrassed. Wes casually mentioned to Susan that last week his car was in the shop and he had missed class because of it. Julia overheard the conversation but realized Wes had made no effort to tell her. Wes did not speak to her at all.
The following Monday Wes finally approached Julia. “Hey,” he said. “You asked about coffee last week. Do you think tomorrow might be possible?”
Julia was stunned and confused. “Uh, yeah. Tomorrow is ok. I have a class until 1 but after that it would be ok.”
“Great, how about we meet at the Java hut about 2 then?” Wes looked confident and self-assured as Julia wondered if she had been wrong all along.
“Sure, see you at 2.” Julia walked to the locker room wondering what she had missed. I don’t know how to do this anymore she thought. Well, I’ll just have a cup and see what happens.
Tuesday brought with it excitement, fear and anticipation. During her macro class Julia was incapable of concentrating on economics. She spent the time instead contemplating how dating had changed so much in thirty years. Or at least she thought they had. She wondered what the rules were now. She felt the basic laws of attraction hadn’t changed but just didn’t know what the finer points were any more.
For instance, Julia had heard reference to the third date rule. It terrified her. Was that really an accepted truth? She hoped not because she wouldn’t follow it. Sex, she realized was not a topic she was ready to think about. Besides, it’s probably not really a date after all. Julia thought that Wes just assumed it was a casual meeting for coffee. Not a date.
Julia got to the Java Hut a little early on purpose. She walked up to the counter and called the girl over. “I’m not really sure how to order from here but I have a first date and don’t want to embarrass myself.” She explained. “Can you tell me what to order? I like just plain coffee with cream and sugar. What comes close to that without all the fancy coffee shop lingo?
The barista suggested that Julia order a cappuccino with maybe a shot of mocha to look like Julia knew what she was doing without being too pretentious. Julia turned to make her way back to the table confident in her decision to ask for advice. She heard as she walked away, the snickering of the barista as she complained, “What is it with all these old people not knowing how to order a simple coffee. That’s the second one today!”
Julia had just reached the table as Wes walked up to her and pulled the chair out for her. “Why hello Wes, Thank you.” She exclaimed as she sat down.
“What would you like Julia?” Wes asked. Julia repeated the order per the young girls’ suggestion, and sat back to sip her coffee.
Slowly Wes and Julia began to talk. They discussed the class. It wasn’t long before they were laughing at the antics and jokes that Mary Jane entertained the class with on a daily basis. MJ, as she was known, was in her 80’s and had a raunchy, rowdy sense of humor that had Julia convinced that several of the women in the class had peed in the pool a little bit laughing at MJ’s jokes.
They both voiced their conviction that Jenny‘s grandchildren couldn’t possibly be as perfect as she professed. In fact, Wes was convinced the children were the youthful terrorists that most do their best to avoid in restaurants or on airplanes.
The conversation began to be more relaxed and more jokes and laughter developed as the two finally started to relax. As the conversation flowed and the coffee disappeared, Wes asked if Julia wanted another cup and smiled as he went to refill the cups. When he returned, he offered an admission.
“I’m embarrassed to say this but I came in earlier and asked the girl at the counter what to order. I drink Folgers not this kind of stuff. She thought I was an idiot but she helped me anyway.”
Julia looked at Wes in stunned silence then erupted into a fit of laughter as she admitted that she had done the exact same thing. Julie went on to tell Wes what she had overheard the girl saying as she walked away and both Wes and Julia laughed and talked easily for another hour. Finally nature and coffee were being felt by both and they excused themselves.
When they returned to the table the awkwardness had again returned as they both realized how late it had become. They were both enjoying themselves but didn’t really know how to end the date.
Wes went quiet. Then slowly leaned forward and placed his hands onto the table. “Julia, I have to admit,” he began, “I haven’t been on a date for 32 years. I really do not know how I am supposed to behave but the fact is that I really enjoyed our time together today and want to do this again. I was so glad when you mentioned coffee but didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I’m actually pretty clueless and I wasn’t sure if my instincts were still good or even what to do next.”
Julia looked into Wes’s eyes then slowly leaned onto the table herself. Her hands lay next to his on the table almost touching his as she said, “I think your instincts are ok Wes. I would love to see you again as well.”
Wes gently slid his hand over until he was touching Julia’s hand.
Maybe I’m not too old to start over. Julia smiled to herself as she felt the fear and nervousness slowly begin to fade.