Hey Good Lookin’ Who’s that Man Gyratin’?
In this era where youth is king (and queen) and aging is met with consternation and disdain, the best advice I can give to anyone suffering from existential age angst, is attending Karaoke night with an Elvis Impersonator. Please understand that this advice is not solely based on my abnormal proclivity towards those who choose to impersonate the King but from experience of one momentous night at the bar of the Spirit of the Suwannee. I think that I could have been the youngest in the bar, though my son will gladly tell anyone that I am old, just born after the invention of the wheel, though I’m not old enough to have an AARP card…. Yet.
We walked from the camp to the bar, leaving Jack the Adventure Dog behind in the bus with treats and Underground Garage playing on Little Miss’ XM radio. Going through the doors, we were dumbfounded to see this place was packed. Older women with puffy Loretta Lynne doos piled higher and deeper upon their heads belted out Patsy Cline tunes on stage while “Elvis” stood dutifully by the karaoke machine. They exuded confidence and an incredible amount of saucy sass, it was apparent they were beyond comfortable in their own “aging” skin. I found myself raisin’ my glass with some hootin’ and hollerin’ for these fine grand dames of the Suwannee.
A man dressed in black with a gleaming silver belt buckle the size of a tea saucer took the microphone handed to him by the King, and proudly exclaimed that he was 80 years young. Every woman over the age of 70 left their seats and went to the dance floor, each clamoring to get close to the stage. Mr. 80 paid homage to Hank Williams (the first) with a rousing rendition of “Hey Good Lookin’”, singing it loud and proud all the while swinging his hips with a few well placed gyrations. This left the women swooning, smiling and giggling like schoolgirls. Now, if I were a snarky young’un I might find it all absurd, but I’m not a young’un and what I found was strangely comforting, hopeful and familiar.
The evening would take a bizarre turn when a woman with quite a southern lady name, which I will refrain from putting on the Internet, decided she wanted to be my friend. After a few too many mint juleps, she staggered to where I was sitting and asked me to dance. The Driver, laughing, suggested that I should join her on the dance floor. So I did, why not, it’s not everyday that an unknown woman asks me to dance. Out on the floor, she drunkenly tells me that her husband died last year, she’s just recently turned 77 and the ladies at the Daughters of the American Revolution don’t like to invite her to parties. (I begin to think I might be in a scene from The Help). Stunned by these admissions, she grabs my hand and swings me around with a jitterbug dance move. Awkwardly for me, the King decides it’s time for him to sing “Only Fools Rush In” to which the Southern Lady gives me this sad lost lonely look and begs to dance with me for this one song, it reminds her of her dead husband. Reluctantly, I acquiesce and look over to the bar where the Driver is sitting, my cheeks red with embarrassment while he’s just watching with great amusement. Typical.
Meanwhile, Southern Lady is in tears and I’m not sure what to do so I look up at the stage to see a line of the Loretta Lynn wannabees hoping to catch the attention of their dream imitator to possibly sing a duet, while a hanging American Flag waves gently under the air conditioning vent. I look back at Southern Lady, tears streaming down her face, she says, “I know all those ladies think I’m crazy for dancing with you, but I don’t give one hoot. You’re so nice, I think I love you.” Somewhere deep in my mind I hear the words: Beware the drunken Senior Southern Belle (truth be told, my mind was screaming that the moment she came up to me in the bar). With that I thanked her kindly for the dance and headed straight back to the bar, told the driver it was time to go and slipped out before she had a chance to find me again.
Returning to Little Miss to hit the hay, I lay on my bed wondering what the hell did I just witness and participate in? Between the clamor, enamor and demeanor, there is no need for angst. We will eventually look very different in 40 years, but one thing is for sure, the collective we don’t change too much from our younger days.