January 7, 2012

Sarah Grieve

TO OLD MEN

No, you cannot borrow my t-shirt. How about
instead of standing there looking shocked, you do
your fucking laundry?
—The Twitter page @shitmydadsays

While my father doesn’t use that type of language, he makes
              similar demands about dress: guys who wear bowties
can’t be trusted because bowties are as insincere
              as a bouquet of baby’s breath or bringing store-bought
fruitcake to Christmas. For him, a baseball cap
              can only be worn backwards after catching seven innings;
just two men in the history of basketball, Wilt the Stilt
              and Slick Watts, had heads round enough to sport
sweatbands; and suspenders belong on men over 40
              or no one at all. I often think these things when I meet men,
making mental lists of their faults: the gaps in their teeth,
              the wheeze that escapes when they exhale, and I wonder
if old men have it right, if the catalogues created
              in the easy-chairs of their retirement are less self-indulgent
and more sage because nine times out of ten I don’t answer
              the call for a second date. It isn’t because the guy’s hair
is too long or his car needs to be washed or he holds his fork
              like it’s a twig used to poke at chicken carcasses. Despite
his ability to fix the faucet and calculate the tip in his head,
              I don’t call because in his joints-aching, reading-glasses-wearing,
stick-it-to-you days, I can’t envision that guy turning up
              the volume on the television just to yell over it, “Athletes
should never be allowed to wear baggy uniforms
              because the league should have some goddamn standards,”
and there should be standards and all announcers
              should call the game like Vin Scully or Johnny Most
but most today can’t, which leads Justin’s dad to tweet,
              “Do these announcers ever shut the fuck up? Don’t ever say
stuff just because you think you should,” and it is that quiet
              between questions, the ability to let conversation collect
like raindrops in an open basin that most young guys
              fail to understand and that’s what I want and what most
old men know: how to speak with a pop like wood on a ball
              and how it takes them less than 140 characters to say
what they mean and how tying a tie or buttoning a shirt
              has a purpose and should be done correctly, and if it is,
if it all matches up, then you might have something to say.

from Rattle #35, Summer 2011