October 4, 2015 by kmwelden
Much of my job entails working with volunteers. I help to run a tutoring programs that requires—quite literally—thousands of volunteers across the Denver area, so we aren’t really in the habit of turning volunteers away unless they have violent crimes or like, child porn, come up in their background checks. The other week, I had two women born in 1929 wander into my school unannounced from the retirement community down the street. Nineteen. Twenty. Nine. Neither of them had cell phone addresses or email addresses. “What’s the best way to contact you?” I asked, as politely as I could. “Hmm, let me think sweetheart,” the more able-minded one said. “I think maybe you could call The Home, and someone could come find us in our room. Unless we’re not in our room. We could be at an activity. There are lots of activities…” The conversation went on in this vein for quite awhile.
Alas, this post is not about my two 85-year-old tutors. This one is about Largressa.
I was covering a site for another coordinator this week, when I had the pleasure of meeting this large, black, yellow-jumpsuited, silver-haired woman who walked with a bedazzled cane. She was loud, and commanded the attention of any room she entered—in this case, she commanded the attention of a tiny, 3rd floor, 85 degree attic, where our reading center is located. She was funny. She was in her 60s and quick to tell you in great detail about her numerous health problems, but also quick to remind you that those didn’t slow her down. She sang hymns almost constantly (normally I am very, very pro separation of church and state, but I made this exception with zero hesitation). Need I repeat: bedazzled cane. I was enchanted, and immediately began plotting how I could get her to adopt me.
At some point after lunch, there was a lull in the tutoring schedule. It was just Largressa and I, and we began to chat about her life. This is when I figured out that Largressa is not only fly as hell, but maybe the coolest lady I’ve ever met. And a maneater.
“Men know me,” she said. “And if they don’t know me, they want to know me. I mean, look at me.”
She recently broke it off with a younger man who made the grave mistake of, as Beyonce may say much more eloquently than I: “liking it, but not putting a ring on it.”
“And I told him,” Largressa continued, “I like you, but I like me more.” She did not have time to wait around for this guy to figure out what he wanted out of their relationship. “I’m not that old, but I don’t have time for games,” she said.
And that’s when it hit me that this woman knew more about dating and confidence and self worth than I ever would. I needed to learn from her. Because amen, Largressa: I’m not that old, but I don’t have time for games.
She continued with earnest, egged on by my rapt attention. (Though, in hindsight, I think she probably would have continued talking even if I had left the room completely. She talks a lot.)
“I like to be upfront with men,” she said. I am the queen of non-confrontation, so I immediately began surreptitiously taking notes on my cell phone. “I walk with a bedazzled cane. I have to use the electric wheelchair at the grocery store. I get my hair done every Thursday and it costs $75. Will any of this be a problem?” She leaned forward as she said the last line and looked me dead in the eye, and I wondered if any man has ever dared to tell her that any of those things could be a problem.
I began to consider how this could fit into my own life. “I wash my hair as little as possible. I don’t own an iron. I am prone to fits of irrational anger, and I nearly always drink way too much at Happy Hour. Will any of this be a problem?”
Largressa didn’t seem to be too upset about her recent breakup. When I referred to the ex as a “scrub,” which is a term that was most certainly not a part of her generational lexicon, she wholeheartedly agreed. “I’ll catch another one like I catch the bus,” she nodded.
Our conversation went on for the better part of the lunch hour, and by the time I left work that day, I felt a little more levity in my own attitude towards dating. When Largressa offered me a ride home, I declined, opting to walk the mile home and listen to Mindy Kaling’s, Why Not Me (coincidently, another bad bitch of female empowerment) on audiobook. It was a great walk home, and I felt like it was a successful day at work. I made money, sweated out three pounds in a boiling attic room, and made a new friend who gives great relationship advice.
Alas, my shoes were too tight, so I took them off and walked barefoot all the way home.
I’ve been known to take my shoes off and walk down public streets… will that be a problem?