As I approached the grocery store, his appraisal was obvious. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him grin. At me. The vestiges of a once healthy smile poked from his grey-ish gums in random, sparse arrangements. Ragged coveralls hung on his wiry, tobacco-stained frame. Greasy hair sprang from beneath his backwards ball-cap.
After 21 years of marriage, a girl starts to think, This isn’t so bad. Still, I pretended not to see him. I was in no condition to receive these amorous favors.
My uncombed hair flopped around in a messy up-do. A dab of lipstick I’d put on in case I saw anyone – and I really, really hoped I wouldn’t – was the only makeup I’d applied. A toothpaste drip soiled my shirt. Paint splotched my frayed jeans that had a hole forming in the seat.
When I described the encounter to my husband, he said, “But you are pretty. You look great to me.”
He’s sweet, but it isn’t the same as the way Toothless Roy says it. Even if I had mad-scientist eyebrows and gnarly monkey toes, my beloved would croon how beautiful he thinks I am. He must. He promised for better or for worse. Toothless Roy didn’t love me for worse, though. He loved me for worst. He deserved recognition for that.
Men like Toothless Roy are adept at seeing past failure to primp. While it is my civil duty as a lady to act as if I am appalled at this man’s belief that his gaze flattered me, I secretly thanked the good graces of the universe that he expressed his regards. Cat-callers and gawkers serve a purpose. They bolster the confidence of females. The only thing more reviling than attracting unwanted approval is to not draw attention at all.
My beloved missed the magnitude of my observation and tried to change the subject by saying, “I saw a picture of Colt McCoy’s wife online. She’s hot.” Hearing himself say it stunned him into silence. He forgot where he was going with this. “You know,” he resumed, “if you look at her real close, she’s got blond hair like you and blue eyes and a cute nose.”
His face pleaded with me to make him stop, but I ignored the desperation. So he added, “You have all those things.” He then said what Toothless Roy leering at me in the IGA parking lot wouldn’t dare: “Her hair looks naturally blond, but other than that, take a few years off of you and you look like her.”
Any woman can see that Colt McCoy’s wife’s hair is not natural. Any woman can see that I never looked like her, even taking a few years off. My husband was lucky that Toothless Roy’s generosity had smoothed my edges.
Oh, but my beloved of 21 years is clever. He finessed me in a way that Toothless Roy could not. He led me to believe that my blond hair, blue eyes and petite nose are arranged in the same combination as Mrs. McCoy’s. He planted the seed that he’s the 40-something-year-old equivalent of Colt. He convinced himself that he scored big, too, which helps him swallow the for-better-or-for-worse pill. And, in a round-a-bout way, he told me he thinks I’m hot.
Maybe Toothless Roy mistook me for Colt McCoy’s wife. I think that’s what my beloved was trying to say. That’s the kind of error that makes a matron think, “This isn’t so bad. We owe so much to men like Toothless Roy, who help us appreciate what we’ve got.”