A Wink and a Nod


This afternoon I made my weekly trip to the local Woodman’s, which is a colossal super market near where my wife and I live. Now that we are older and our kids are grown and it’s just the two of us, my wife maintains a list on a piece of paper on the breakfast bar in our kitchen, and whenever one of us thinks of something we are low on or out of, or something we haven’t had in a while that sounds good, we add it to the list.  Then, once a week, I take the list and go to Woodman’s and pick up whatever’s on the list, and a new list for next week’s session is started.

It’s a system that works well, and shopping is a chore I don’t mind doing.

Today, while I was pushing my shopping cart down the coffee aisle, I crossed paths with another man, who I’d never seen before, who I’d estimate was  in his mid-thirties, average height and build, and comfortably but neatly dressed, clean shaven with a neatly trimmed moustache.  I was pushing my cart one way and he was pushing his the other, and as we passed each other, I looked at him and he at me, when it happened.

He winked at me.

I’ve never had a strange man wink at me before, so I was taken aback, not knowing how to respond. I did the first thing that popped into my brain.

I nodded.

I nodded back at him and continued with my shopping.  Our paths did not cross again. But I’m left wondering, why the Hell did he wink at me?  What does it mean?  And was a nod the appropriate response? Or did I unwittingly insult him? Or even worse, lead him on?

The wink.  How should I take it? Should I be offended?  Flattered? None of the above?

I’m 57 years old and have been married for thirty four years.  I realize that I am blissfully unaware of the scene (“scene” – sounds groovy, doesn’t it?) that single people these days have to navigate.  The wink reminds me that it was always a complex minefield but that now, with more open and tolerant attitudes, it’s got to be so confusing and difficult to read signals and process information.  In my day (yep, sometime in your mid-fifties you are given your own “day” to reminisce about), if I was attracted to a girl – wait, is “girl” sexist? –or should I say “woman?” – you’d just ask her out.  And that by itself was incredibly difficult – how on earth you’d go about asking a (female) out these days is beyond me.

Not only am I at an age where I’ve been out of circulation for so long, but I’m also at that age where you don’t want to get caught leering at beautiful women. Because, frankly, it comes across as creepy. It’s too easy to be assigned the label “dirty old man.”

The winker today probably had no motive other than something perfectly innocent that I was too stupid to pick up on.

But then my long neglected sense of vanity speaks up, and I listen.

I’ve lost some weight, it reminds me, and I’m working out every day, so maybe that has something to do with why Mr. Moustache winked at me today.  Who knows? To be clear, I’d rather it was a gorgeous and young blond female of the opposite sex doing the winking, but when you’re my age, you’ll take whatever winks you can get.