Sunday, October 05, 2014

A "bookish" roundup

I was frequenting this brunch place in town, not because I like brunch, but because that bread. It's this odd mix of fluffy and wholesome, with all the grains and such I like, and none of the ones I just sort of tolerate. I figured it came either from the place or, more likely, from some special Central European bakery, perhaps a wholesaler, I'd have no access to. And... today I discovered said bread at Wegmans. $5 a (huge) loaf, or $3 for half, but still a better deal than the $13 (now $15) for the brunch. There are also soft pretzels that look... familiar, but those I haven't tasted to confirm. 

It's quite possible (I have my reasons to suspect) that everything the place sells comes from Wegmans, which is on the one hand disillusioning, but on the other... I mean, eating out always means a markup. They probably don't want customers to know their stuff comes from the supermarket, but they, I don't know, curate it? I'd have never found this bread otherwise, and it's amazing. ("Seven Grain Bread," for those in Wegmans territory.) And it's on the whole a good thing for me personally that I can recreate the meal I so enjoy. But this may well spell the end of a briefly-revived stint as someone who does brunch.


So I was trying to cross the street just now with my husband and our dog, and we were at a crosswalk without traffic lights. It wasn't particularly dark out yet. There was a car coming, but quite far, and on a 25mph road, so I stepped into the road - I think we all did? - and made the 'we're crossing' gesture. The car slowed down in a way that indicated the driver saw us, then sped up, only to more abruptly stop once we were definitively in the crosswalk. As the driver passed, he shouted a sarcastic, "You're welcome!" from his SUV, as if he'd done us the biggest favor in the world, allowing us to cross where you're supposed to, the way you're supposed to. And... I know I'm newish at driving culture, but is this a thing? You're supposed to thank cars that allow you to cross in a residential area, in a crosswalk?  

When I'm driving, I stop for pedestrians (without making a thing of it! they have the right of way!) and sometimes get a gesture of appreciation, but by no means usually, and I by no means expect one. I suppose maybe it's weird when a pedestrian thanks the driver who stopped first, but not the one on the opposite side of the road, but I've had this happen exactly once, and lost exactly no sleep over it. So, to be clear, this guy was in the wrong, correct?


A guy I think I went to college with (name sounds familiar, don't know if I'd ever met him, had no preexisting opinion of him, but it's a huge school) wrote this week's Modern Love. It reminded me of a novel I read not that long ago, so much so that I kept wanting to congratulate the female author on creating such a convincing heterosexual male protagonist. 

Anyway, what interests me is this:
I was amazed to have gotten this far. As my friends were sick of hearing, it made no sense to me that a gorgeous woman in her early 20s who spoke four languages and had lived on three continents was spending her Saturdays with me, a 31-year-old bookish type from Pittsburgh.
“How old are you?” one asked, which put our substantial age difference — something we had not yet talked about — suddenly under a spotlight.
(You can tell this is someone from UChicago because of the "bookish type" self-description.)

Anyway, a pairing of "31" and "early 20s" doesn't seem all that outrageous, although there's often a life-stage difference between 20 and 24, one far greater than between 24 and 31. I would say something about how you never see 31-year-old women with several-years-younger men, until I remembered several couples I'm friends with who fit that pattern.

What struck me, then, was how much of a thing it is, for a 31-year-old man, to be dating a younger-but-not-indecently-so woman. This isn't just, for him, a thing that happens once you're an adult, and are socializing with people who weren't necessarily in kindergarten the same year you were. It's part of her value. It's not enough that she's beautiful - she's a catch because of her not-31-ness. And yes, this absolutely did strike me because I, too, am 31. I'm surprised-but-not-really that even men as young as 31 would find same-age women excessively ancient. That a woman of legal age could be, in some meaningful sense, a younger woman to someone 31.

So I've watched some "Millionaire Matchmaker" in my day (and so I nominate myself for the alumni award for Least Bookish Type, literature PhD notwithstanding), and there, the men of course want younger women, but this will be for one of two (stated) reasons. One is that it hits them at a haggard 57-ish that they'd like kids. The other is that they just prefer women under 25, 30, 19, whatever, which is the trickier issue. These same men will also claim they want to settle down. (Yes, I understand that it's probably semi-scripted and actually an interwoven series of ads for cupcake and flower companies.) One put it... best?... when he said his perfect woman would be 29 and three quarters forever. The late-middle-aged man in question looked like a cross between Eric Cartman and Donald Trump.

It seems, in other words, a gamble to be appreciated for your youth. For your beauty... well, beauty may fade, but is more subjective. A man might cease to find a woman beautiful without her having changed in appearance, or might continue to be attracted to her because he still sees her as she looked when they met. But a man who settles down with a woman because she's such a great distance from the age at which he thinks women cease to be interesting... I mean, she will, barring unforeseen disaster, turn that age.


Flavia said...

It was the beauty thing that got to me (though I think the beauty and the age thing are related). Otherwise I quite liked the piece, but his insistence, OVER AND OVER AGAIN about how gorgeous this woman was really grated on me.

I mean. . . there were other reasons you liked her too, right? Maybe?

I wanted to like the dude, onaccounta the writing and all, but this obsession with the woman's beauty made me think him much smaller, shallower, and more self-regarding than I otherwise would have.

Phoebe said...

"I wanted to like the dude, onaccounta the writing and all, but this obsession with the woman's beauty made me think him much smaller, shallower, and more self-regarding than I otherwise would have."

Yes. Agreed. Also, there was the anxiety angle - he suffers from a condition, i.e. isn't merely neurotic, which makes the reader inclined to cut him some slack. But then, what to make of the fact that the thing he's anxious about, in the piece, is... that a woman he thinks is out of his league won't like him? Either we take that to mean, he's anxious, so he assumes any woman he dates is out of his league, or... we take him at his word, and this is classic male entitlement. It seemed like you were supposed to root for him to Get The Girl, but... why? Not that people must stay within "leagues," but... if her appeal is that he can brag about having gotten her, maybe it's best if he doesn't succeed?