There was a time when Kirk Pynchon felt comfortable flirting with young women. Now, as a dad, he doesn’t want to seem like a creep.
By Kirk Pynchon
There was a time in the, okay I’ll admit, pretty distant past when I could talk, converse, and, dare I say, flirt with a waitress. But like my insistence on wearing Obsession for Men cologne 24/7 all through my twenties, those days are far behind me.
As a parent now in his forties, I can no longer be friendly to waitresses; I cannot ask them any questions about anything … ever.
Any sort of conversation with a young waitress, no matter how banal, makes me out to be a “creepy, old dad.” And nobody likes creepy, old dads.
It’s not even a flirting thing these days, I just want to be friendly. At the very least, I want to have a conversation on what dishes are best, what she recommends, what’s the freshest. But every time I start engaging in a conversation with a young waitress there’s a voice in the back of my head saying, “Dude, she thinks you’re a lecherous old perv. Wrap it up.”
Now, I’m sure (at least I hope, Lord how hard I hope) that this is not the case. I don’t think I’m acting like a lech. I DON’T THINK. But the point is, I can’t be sure, and that lack of being sure is causing me an anxiety that is preventing me from enjoying my rare tuna sandwich on crusty ciabatta with a side of fennel salad.
It wasn’t always this way. I used to be able to talk to waitresses. I could converse, banter, and yes, sometimes even flirt. I could be socially engaging. I was good at it. I enjoyed it. Well, no more. That time has drifted away like the popularity of Al B. Sure! (Goddammit, it is a crime that that man didn’t have a bigger career).
I can’t even ask what the specials are now without getting nervous. And I friggin’ love ordering the specials. Well, that joy is gone. From now on, it’s me keeping my head buried in the menu, avoiding eye contact, and ordering in a completely emotionless, monotone voice whatever is the first menu item I see. If I enjoy my selection, then that’s just a bonus to the fact that I didn’t offend the young lady waiting on me.
I have become so self-aware of this it’s insane. It’s like any question I may have is tinged with old man creepiness. Asking for another napkin feels like I’m trying to get her digits. A simple request of hot sauce, in my mind, comes across like I’m trying to get into her pants. And when a young waitress comes by and says, “Can I get you anything else?” all I can do is look away and shake my head no.
Even when I’m out to dinner with my family, I still feel this way. The buffer of two kids and a wife does nothing to lessen my fear of being perceived as “that old guy who thinks he has game.” In fact, it makes it worse. Talking to a young waitress in front of my family feels like a public expression of an early mid-life crisis, only lamer because I can’t afford a sports car. I’m actually considering having my wife order for me. Better to be perceived as helpless than lecherous.
It’s really a lose-lose situation. Be friendly and come across as depraved or be silent and come across as an anti-social kook. Either way, I’m screwed. At this point I have only one course of action to avoid dealing with young waitresses …
Go and eat at IHOP.
Originally appeared at Babble
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Photo: FlickrCC/Cambodia4kids.org Beth Kanter