The Pink Lady

Columns | Ardalan Maher | February 2009

Dear Diary,

They are harmless relics of an earlier era, from a time when the pace was slower and everything was in black and white, like an old picture show. It almost seems that we need books to understand them, and they need to understand themselves in a new world to understand us. Like the first silent movies, the first airplanes, the first refrigerators, all those things that must have freaked them out.  We probably freak them out in the same way with our strange music, funky haircuts, strange language, and way of life.

I once wore torn jeans to visit my grandmother; as I left, she handed me 200 dollars and told me to buy new jeans as mine had holes on the knees. These little things make me laugh, but deep inside I understand; I admire the old days and look upon the aging with respect.

What started me thinking was what I saw at Billa the other day. I was sitting in the passenger side of a car; the light was red, and we were waiting. I like looking out of windows, particularly car windows, making me feel invisible, a Peeping Tom on other people’s reality.

She was standing alone, dressed in an elegant pink sweater, with the matching skirt, and a purse over her shoulder. The perfect haircut, so perfect in fact, that it made me stick my head out of the window and look for the hair salon. She knelt down and started petting a small puppy tied up outside, a small white poodle. She got up, looking very concerned, reached for the dog’s leash, and extended it to give the dog more play; talking to the little animal as if it were a child.

And at that second, another woman, younger, walked out of the store, untied the leather leash, and led the dog away, unruffled, calm, and oblivious. The old lady looked upset and her face turned ugly for a few seconds as she started giving the younger woman a lecture.

"You don’t know how to take care of a dog!" she shouted to the other woman’s retreating back. The old lady just stood there, blankly, as if someone had just taken away her child. It was a lonely scene. I remembered a quote from the great Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius:

"There are three classes into which all the women past seventy should be divided," he wrote, "that dear old soul, that old woman, and that old witch." The light turned green, and, as our car drove away, I couldn’t figure out which category to put that old woman in.

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