Hey, good lookin'
Say, what's cookin'?
Do you feel like bookin'
Some fun tonight?
-Cole Porter lyrics, 1943, from the Broadway Musical "Something for the Boys."
Happy New Year. We are already deep into the 21st century. Some of us have lived longer than others and have therefore witnessed and experienced more changes in behavior, language, fashion, politics, and laws, national and international. We may remember MLK, how he lived and died, Roe v. Wade, the day it passed, the ERA, how it failed to pass, and more recently, BLM. Some of us remember the draft, those that served and died in Vietnam, those who dodged into Canada. Remember the first Women's March after Trump was elected, Biden's inauguration? Sneeze (or don't, you may have Covid) and the moment is gone.
Our time lines differ, fluctuate, morph into a mobius loop of interconnected memories and notable historic events, taunting us, defining us, eluding us.
The enforced slow-down during the pandemic has not decelerated anything; life is lived forward, witnessed in the present tense. Some days it feels like catch-up. As a writer, a professor, a supposedly cultivated, educated, deep-feeling mature person, I've had to study and parse recent events through a telescopic lens, learn new pronouns, and accept them, among many other in-our-face enragements and engagements, if those words are apt, and they may not be given the current linguistic and culturally shifting mood. It hasn't always been easy. No wonder that, occasionally, while listening to time-sensitive music, I am thrown back into my formative, retro teen years, and feel entirely comfortable and happy there, free of judgment or complaint from those who do not know me, or care to know me.
Cultural cues and clues, the contexts and references of a particular generation, are impenetrable enclosed spaces. Forgive me if I am outside your box. Dare I admit, for example, that in this #metoo era I enjoy strange men holding a door open for me? Would I ever have admitted to this even five years ago as I am here today? And even if I admit it, will it make a difference to me or others? Will I be shunned, ignored, pilloried, canceled? Possibly.
Which brings me to my mechanic, Billie, and his wife, Rose. They are the co-owners of Franz Auto in town and keep our old buggy going. The mechanics in the shop are all men, sweet to the bone, they check my tires once a month, and I enjoy chatting to them—chatting, not flirting, or maybe flirting just a bit. Do women still flirt, I wonder? I was in before Christmas, brought Rose a Poinsettia for her desk and cookies for the guys. And though I do wonder why there are no women mechanics around—gay, straight, binary, or trans—I enjoy the gallantry of the mechanics checking my tires, and their stories.
Can't we be old-fashioned and progressive all at the same time so long as our old-fashioned habits do not hurt? Because as I was standing there chatting to Rose, and she was struggling to put a new battery into my electronic key, someone—a man—walked in and said, "Hey, Good Lookin," by way of greeting. That dated line, circa Cole Porter 1943, and re-mastered (masculine word) by country singer Hank Williams in 1951, was meant for her, not for me, of course. Rose didn't flinch. She took it as an affectionate compliment, an entry into conversation, one she might have made herself in our emancipated 21st century. To whit, she was not offended, it seems, as she launched right into a warm conversation which was, dare I say it, heartwarming.