HEY, BABY

HEY, BABY

From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause

Hey, Baby

Woman begins by resisting a man’s advances and ends by blocking his retreat.

Oscar Wilde

I was waiting in line at the gas station when a truck pulled out from the other side of the island. As it passed my car, the driver, who must have been in his late thirties, if that, leaned out of the open window and said, “Hey, baby,” directly to me. Then he grinned, eased his truck into traffic, and disappeared.

Time stopped dead in its radial-tired, all-wheel-drive tracks as I processed what had just happened. My first thought was that the man shouldn’t be on the road because obviously he had a vision problem. Then I wondered if he was making fun of me, giving a thrill to the little old lady in the sporty Honda. Maybe he had a thing for older women? Or perhaps it was a random act of kindness, in a macho sort of way. My feminist indignation flared only to be squelched by my girlish delight. After all, I hadn’t been whistled at or made the object of a sexist remark in many-a-year.

Was it possible that I could still be a “baby?”

The question stayed in my mind for the rest of the day. It followed me into the supermarket, inserting itself into the produce aisle between the broccoli and red leaf lettuce. It interrupted my thoughts when I was writing, and it came out in the middle of a scene for my latest children’s story when all I wanted to attend to was how to get my main character out of the clutches of the schoolyard bully.

“Go away,” I told it. But the question remained. Was it possible, in my late fifties, to think of myself as a “baby”?

This was annoying me. My feminist roots bristled at the idea that I was even thinking about this for more than a nanosecond. Who cared what some guy in a truck rudely called out?

But itwasn’t that, not really. What I was grappling with was my own sense of self. Did I feel like a “baby”? I used to. I used to know that my body was alluring, that my walk was confident. My smile used to be inviting. When I talked, people were drawn to me and my conversation. I had a sense of myself. Was I connected tomy sensuality anymore? To myself?

That truck driver didn’t know what he had stirred up. As I simmered the soup for dinner, I took stock of my life. What I saw was an accomplished, creative, strong woman with many friends and a wonderful family. Some days I felt more desirable than others, but that hadn’t changed as I matured. What I realized was that I am a “baby” as much as I choose to be. When I am loving within myself, it shines and is attractive to others.

My husband came home in the middle of these thoughts. His eyes lit up when he saw me, and he said, “Hi, baby.”

I wrapped my arms around him and silently sent a thank-you to the driver who recognized the “baby” in me when I had almost forgotten her.

Ferida Wolff

More stories from our partners