Monday, November 28, 2011

Whoa, I'm Hot!

By Deborah Sharp

Like so many other missteps, my self-delusion involved alcohol.

It was a warm night in my hometown of Fort Lauderdale. The waiter at a waterfront restaurant placed a second draft beer on my table.

''It’s on the bartender.''

I stared at the glass in disbelief. I thought maybe a sweat droplet or a stray mosquito had lodged itself in my ear. I must not have heard him right. The first George Bush was in office the last time a man bought me a drink.

It wasn't always so. In my day, I was a looker. Not “Get-This-Gal-A-Vogue-Cover!’’ gorgeous, but pretty enough that construction workers hung off scaffolding and yelled stuff as I passed by.

It's been a long time, though, since I've heard anyone shout, ''Ooooooh, baby, how'd you like to hold my hammer?’’

I peered at the free drink like it was a terrorist's cocktail. ''Do I know the bartender?''

''He's new,'' said the waiter, oddly evasive.

Dim memories surfaced of clubbing with my girlfriends when all of us were single. Free drinks would stack up, like planes trying to land in Atlanta. I'd often take a sip, nod thanks at the guy who bought it, and leave the remainder sitting on the bar. I took the attention for granted; never thought about the day it would stop.

But it did. And I don’t miss it, for the most part.

Yet, all those memories came rushing back when the waiter delivered that beer, on the house. I was flattered. I felt twenty-nine again.

''Tell me the bartender’s name.'' I'm pretty sure I batted my lashes. ''I want to be sure to thank him.''

Long pause. ''Actually,'' the waiter looked embarrassed, ''the free beer was a mistake.''

Everyone in the bar must have heard the crash of my ego plummeting back to earth. Turned out the new bartender mistakenly poured a second beer I hadn’t ordered. Instead of tossing it, the waiter brought it over. On the house. In a way.

So, I'm still fifty-plus and invisible after all, merely the beneficiary of a new bartender’s learning curve. I drank every drop.

And as I did, I wondered: Why can't we spread those free drinks around? Take a cocktail from the line in front of some young, nubile thing, and pay it forward to someone old enough to be her grandma. One more free drink means nothing to a gorgeous girl in her twenties. But to the formerly pretty, now middle-aged and dowdy?

Well, let's just say that one draft beer on the house – briefly – made me believe I've still got it.

How about you? Any ego-deflating moments you'd care to share? Look at it this way: It's all material.

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