Dear younger women,
I know you mean well. Really, I do. But do an old guy a favor and stop smiling at me all the time.
It doesn't make me feel good. It only makes me feel old.
When you get to be my age, maybe you'll understand. Forgive me for saying this, but at 59 you won't look as fabulous as you do today at 20 or 30. You'll be walking down a crowded street, one beautiful summer's day, looking as fit and fine as you're able in your suddenly middle-age-appropriate attire, and the handsomest of twenty- or thirtysomething Romeos will flash you "the smile."
It'll be a fine smile—welcoming and earnest—but it won't be the smile that you wish for. The young man's thoughts will not be carnal in any way, shape or form. You could be his mother. He knows that as well as you. The guy's just being friendly and respectful.
In other words, a lot like the way you and your young sisters handle running into this particular geezer when we cross paths every day.
Please don't take this the wrong way, but you'd actually be doing me a favor by just ignoring me when you're passing by. I can handle being invisible. What I can't handle is pity. When I see that you're just feeling charitable towards an old man ... well, I guess I can't believe I'm that old man.
I wasn't born with white hair, high cholesterol and a not-yet-fully-funded retirement account, you know. That's the person you see when you're flashing your pearly whites, but he's not the guy I see. And I'm not sure he's ever going to be.
Most of you seem like nice young ladies and the last thing I want to do is make you feel bad about trying to make an old guy feel good. Plus, it's not as if I'm looking to hook up—even if you were (inexplicably) interested in such a thing. I'm married. I love my wife. I'm not available.
You see, the worst thing has happened to me: I've become a cliché. All of a sudden I'm that guy who just cannot be happy unless every woman on the planet between the ages of legal and prime wants to have a roll with him. Perhaps you won't feel this way when you're approaching the 60-year mark, and if not, then I'm happy for you. Who knows? Maybe you'll enjoy a young man's benign attention as you pass each other in the Whole Foods parking lot. The brief encounter might actually lift your spirit rather than darken it.
But guys can be incredibly stupid. Oftentimes age brings us not so much wisdom as nitwittedness. At this stage in life—to me, at least—the most painful thing about a young beauty's passing smile, well-meaning though it may be, is its complete effortlessness and lack of consequence.
Let's be honest: It's easy for you to flash an inviting nod my way in the park or at a restaurant or on a city street because it's safe. I'm safe. Which is the whole point.
I didn't used to be. You may find this hard to believe, but there was an actual time and place (admittedly, this was a long time ago, in the 20th century) when making eye contact with a man like me could have led to something else. That goes double for actually flashing him a smile. Because it might very well mean that you are interested.
Which, of course, you aren't in the slightest, in the year 2016.
This whole letter thing isn't going very well, is it? You young ladies have got to be thinking, Who is this old guy? Why's he so cranky? All I did was smile at him outside the bagel shop this morning. What's his problem?
All good questions that I cannot answer any better than I already have. Which is why you'll need to wait a few decades before figuring it all out. Don't rush though. And keep smiling.
Just not at me.