Wednesday, October 15, 2008


The other day I was sitting in a local restaurant (I swear to heaven I'm about to turn into a big old spinach enchilada with extra guacamole) sipping on a large strawberry margarita(I swear to heaven I'm about to turn into a big old lush). My neighbors at the next table were a pair of elderly sisters. One of them got up to use the restroom. After a while, the other one turned to me and said, "The food here is good, isn't it?"

"Yes, ma'am," I said and smiled.

As her sister approached, she stood up, ready to leave. She smiled at me again and asked, "You ready for Obama to be president?"

I pondered my answer for a minute--a hesitance weighted by my own assumptions; she was a white woman, southern if her accent was any indication, and I thought the question might be some sort of trap or excuse to let me have it. Finally, I decided to frame my honest answer as light-hearted, "Yes, ma'am. I'm definitely ready for a change." Ha-ha, I thought, a "change" quip.

She nodded and said, "Well, it has to be him. McCain's too old."

I raised an eyebrow. Surely, it was a trap. An "old," southern white woman saying John McCain was too old? Not only was she going to nail my ass for supporting Obama, she was going to get me on ageism too.

**Really, some of the e-mails and stories I've read about McCain-as-unfit because of his age have been quite disturbing to me.**

So, very cautiously I asked, "You think so?"

She waved her hand. "Oh, honey, hell yes. That'd be like me being president and I know my mind slips. You can tell his does, too. Have you listened to him?"

This time, I smiled for real. She proceeded to tell me about how she respected his military service and gave me her own descriptive sketch of what he'd endured as a POW. "He's been through a lot. That's the only reason I have sentiment for him," she said, then patted my hand and told me to have a good day.

Her sister hung back, taking long pulls on her soda. Once the talkative sister made it out the door, the soda-drinker turned to me. "I don't care what she says," she announced.


"I don't have sentiment for him. You know why?"

I know plenty of reasons I don't, I thought. Aloud, I said, "No, ma'am."

She looked around, then bent close to me. "He dated on his first wife. Did you know that?"

I nodded.

"I wouldn't care who it was. It could be my own grandson. If he dated on his wife, you know what I'd tell him?"

"No, ma'am."

"That I have no respect for him. No respect for anyone who dates on their wife!"

And then, she swept out of the restaurant.

You never know what conversations you'll have deep in the heart of Texas.


Joan Kelly said...

Now that a deep part of my heart is in Texas (twin just moved to Austin), I liked hearing about some old ladies there. I spent a lot of time in East Texas growing up, too, because of my mom being from a tiny town in that part of the state. I have a mixture of sentimentality towards Texas because of that, and understanding of why my mom went as west as she could - the coast of California - to get away from it.

On the topic of old - I haven't either been paying attention (likely) or been around people who say disturbing age-ist things (also likely, as I've been not-around most people lately), but that sucks that it's been going on.

I do have fears about McCain dying if he were to win, because of his age and possible health issues, and then Palin being president, if they won the election. I have to say though that with her in the number two position, I would be afraid, period. If an 18 year old dude were president and Palin were VP, I'd worry about him getting hit by a bus or struck by lightning or just anything.

I notice that fear makes the ugliness come out of me, if it's going to come. I don't know if that's what's up with other people hating on older folks or John McCain's oldness or what. It does feel shameful to me that often old people don't have to do or be anything besides not-young-anymore for people to be ugly towards them.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Elle - this post made my day. Like Joan said, fear makes the ugliness come out and I have been afraid these past few days. Conversations like this give me hope - thanks for passing it on.

Anonymous said...

you never know what to expect in texas.

elle said...

Noemi, you're soooo right.

And I'm glad y'all liked hearing that story! Joan, some of the worry I understand, but some people act like death MUST be imminent and he MUST be a step away from dementia because of his age and it comes out in pretty nasty ways.

Anonymous said...

omg, this post is awesome! those ladies sound like my kinda people!

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...