I wasn’t having a bad day, or even a bad hair day. I had not been up all night drinking and smoking crack. For a man of 45, I thought I could pass for, say, 50. I spent my youth at the beach before sun block existed, and my wrinkled, leathery face reflects that. I just didn’t see it coming.
I was in a Salvation Army store in
You have to understand that at that time, and still today in most thrift stores in South Florida, Wednesday is Senior Day, when you get a 50% discount if you are sixty-five (read: 65) years of age or older.
I’m sure my jaw dropped, and my face, I’m sure, looked as if I had just taken a bite of compost. “No!” I exclaimed, while thinking, that’s right I said NO, you little minimum-wage earning, lowlife hussy.
Immediately after that, I rushed home and looked in the mirror. Maybe I should moisturize, I thought, but I never followed up on that. I was two decades behind Senior Discount Day. Clearly, the cashier had vision problems.
That was seven years ago, and since then, from time to time, I am asked not only in thrift stores, but restaurants and other businesses, if I am a Senior. Even worse, and more often, I get the Senior Discount automatically, without being asked. I have become complacent with it. I have learned not to obsess about it but instead, be happy that I got a discount, often a big one.
One thing that irritates me: It has never happened to Other Bill. He is two, sometimes three, years older than I am (depending on the current month.) He did not grow up at the beach. His eyes don’t droop, and he has plenty of collagen left around his eyes and cheeks. But last week we were out and stopped off at Wendy’s for a quick burger. We ordered the same value meal but paid separately. I noticed that his meal cost less. And I knew why. I have gotten the 10% discount at Wendy’s several times. I wasn’t going to say anything, because I do what I can to protect Other Bill, especially if it involves silence and doing nothing.
But then he asked, “How come mine was cheaper?” He had to go there.
I raised one eyebrow. “Do you really want to know?” I asked.
He said, “Yeah.”
I looked at him with pity. I knew this was going to sting. I put my hand on his shoulder. “You got the Senior Discount,” I told him.
It was his first time. He’s still not over it. The first time is difficult. You think it’s a mistake.
I could have said, “I don’t know.” But it had been seven years from the first time I had been shocked by it, and my misery loves company. My misery, in fact, wants an audience with stadium seating.
His jaw dropped, and he turned maroon. I tried not to gloat while he was busy switching back and forth from being appalled to wondering if he should bitch-slap the cashier.
There comes a time in every gay man’s life when he has to just quit trying. You cruise someone in the bar in your twenties and take home what you want. In your thirties, you check someone out, and maybe they’ll check you out, too. In your forties you find younger guys who are “into daddies.”
In your fifties, you should just stay home in bed. There are no younger guys “into granddaddies.” You should just order delivery pizza every night. Shop via Internet. Like it or not, you are The Elephant Man. You are invisible to kids in their twenties. People in their thirties might smile at you from a distance, but when they see you up close, you literally vaporize. Men in their forties are trying so hard to look like they’re not fifty that they don’t have time to look at anything but the mirror.
When you’re fifty, it’s time to give it a rest. Game over; give it up. You stop looking at men in their 20’s and 30’s, because if they see you looking at them, they look as if they just took a bite of compost. Ew. Lumpy old man just cruised me! Maybe you can wink at a guy in his 40’s, but if you wink at a guy in his fifties, he is like: Ew. I want someone younger!
I say this because today I got the one-two punch. It’s a Thursday. At 2:30 pm I was in a different thrift store. Thursday is Senior Day there. I am 52. I took a six dollar shirt up to the front of the store. The cashier was an older, white gay man, I guessed in his late sixties. He rang it up for three dollars. Didn’t even ask.
Great. Just great.
I’m used to it now. I even do things to make myself look older. Instead of shaving my head, as a lot of my younger gay brethren do these days, I’m letting it grow out, just to see where the hair ends and the baldness begins. I intentionally walked crookedly and slowly up to the cash register. I wanted the cashier to think that maybe I was recovering from a stroke. Hey, it’s fifty percent off, baby.
I was pleased to get the big discount. It’s like the rush a shoplifter gets after getting away with a heist.
After I left there, I went to the grocery store and bought some stuff for dinner, and, as always, I got in the line with the cutest bagboy. I don’t mind waiting. I could take a decent amount of side glances at him since I was wearing my sunglasses. This bagger was in his late 20’s or early 30’s and was just drop-dead gorgeous. Nice head of thick, brown hair, cut beautifully; bulging biceps and sharp hazel eyes. His taut pecs rose above and to the sides of his tightly-tied black apron, and he bagged my groceries with military precision. I paid the cashier, and then the bagboy said to me:
“Do you need help getting that to your car, sir?”
Do I need HELP with that! I thought. What IS it about me that says “Medicare Patient” to you, you delicious-beefcake-minimum-wage-earning runt? (He was short, but who cared? He was Adonis.)
So I’ve reached The Point. I’m staying in bed. I am not going to bother to go to the gym anymore. I will eat at McDonalds after a thirty-year boycott. I will start taking blood pressure medicine. I will sit home and look at Internet porn while wishing I could afford some Viagra. I might even stop bathing.
I am Senior.
Hear me roar.