Many years ago, my mother, who was Caucasian, had an ongoing flirtation with an older African American man who worked at the same nursing home she did. She was a nursing assistant there at the time, and he was….I don’t quite remember. What I do remember is that he came from Mississippi and his name was Johnny V----. He drove a big, white Cadillac, and boy was he a smooth operator. Oh, and he was married too. That didn’t really matter, though nothing ever came of their flirtation. They simply admired each other openly and entertained their fantasies without ever acting on them.
Recently, I had one of those sudden sinking feelings that hit you in the pit of your stomach. I realized that, on my birthday next week, I’ll turn 47—almost 50. I began to wonder where all the time has gone and, in answer to my puzzlings, made a mental list of what has happened to me in the course of almost five decades of living. It was a long, meaty list, of the sort the average woman of my age, race, and class might have. Still, in my mind, 50 is a big number and doesn’t quite fit my image of myself.
I must not be the only one for whom the number doesn’t fit the image. Walking along a busy downtown street the other day, on my way to buy a quick to-go lunch, I noticed an older black man pulling out of an off-street parking lot just ahead of me. He was driving a shiny, new silver Cadillac and we caught each other's glance for a flash of an instant.
I could feel it coming. He pulled slowly out of the lot, leaned casually out of the window, looked me up and down in my tight-fitting jeans and sleeveless tee, and crooned, “How ya doin’, Little Miss Blue Jeans?”
I kept on walking and said nothing in response. Instead, I fumed inwardly. It’s been a while since a stranger has hit on me in public, and I wasn’t really prepared. “I’m 50, for God’s sake,” I thought to myself. “I’m heading into menopause! Shouldn’t a woman be free from all this attention after a certain point???” But then I thought about my mother and her flirtation with Johnny V----. It's not always the case, but sometimes strangers and casual acquaintances are simply showing us their admiration, and it doesn’t hurt to nod in recognition of that fact. The fellow drove on, and I eventually cooled off. In fact, I feel a little better about turning 50. But I wish I’d smiled back at my Cadillac Man.