by Ferida Wolff
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 and eased his truck into the 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 there was one man who should not 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 middle-aged 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 whispered in my ear during a phone call to change my dentist appointment. It interrupted my thoughts as I was writing 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. In fact, it was acting pretty much like a bully itself.
“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. I 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 it wasn’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 in space. Was I connected to my sensuality any more? 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 since my teenage days when I bounced from confident to insecure and back again. 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. And at those moments, I am pleasing to myself.
My husband came home in the middle of these thoughts. His eyes lit up when he saw me. “Hi Baby,” he said.
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 is the author of The Adventures of Swamp Woman: Menopause Essays on the Edge and of 16 books for children. She is a contributor to several Chicken Soup for the Soul books and her work has appears in newspapers and magazines. She lives in NJ and her website is www.feridawolff.com