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My Damsel-in-Distress is Broken! Reflections on being a born-again Tweener.
Some of the inevitable phases of aging are gradual, like the redistribution of weight that moves everything slowly downward. Other signs of impending old age are fast and furious, as if someone flipped a toggle switch. Overnight, you go from perfect vision to having to borrow your best friend's "cheaters," when you meet for lunch. The latter arise and smack you in the face when you least expect it.
Several years ago, I realized I had suddenly become a "tweener." Not that wonderful age-range that spans the brief-but-joyful years between ten and teen; no, something much less blithe of spirit. I was suddenly too old to get help or attention for being cute and young, and too young to get the sympathy vote that brings us the assistance we often need.
The first time it slapped me was while I was shopping at the local Home Depot. I've always been a DIY gal, and have had many memorable experiences where I was able to teach the guy in the orange apron something new about a specific tool he'd never used or heard of. I was always satisfied with the service there; someone was always nearby, offering to help me find something, or to answer a question. Then it happened. Suddenly, with no warning, my Tween years struck.
They arrived on a day I was buying a particularly awkward, heavy steel water tank for my horses. Horses aren't little animals; you can imagine the size of their water dish. I spent some time studying them on the upper shelf in the garden section of old HD. No one stopped to ask if I needed help. I glanced around, but orange aprons merely passed by without pausing. Undaunted, I selected the right-sized tank and dragged it off the shelf.
These tanks are not something you can sneak away with. They're loud. They bang against things. They make the thunder-noise. They clatter and bump and do their best to draw attention to themselves.
You might think, as I smacked my ankle with that tank, that I'd leave it where it was and get one of those orange flatbed carts HD provides. No. That's just not me. By the time I smacked that tank down on the floor without drawing the attention of a single orange apron, I was committed to the fight. I decided to see how far I could go with the thing before someone would give in and offer to help.
I dragged it across the floor toward the garden-section check-out. It made a terrible ruckus. Other shoppers stopped to look. I admit, I might have been a little less quiet than I usually am. By now, I was curious: what would it take to get the attention of the handy-dandy Home Depot man? There were plenty around. They were busy helping the blond 20-something in the Daisy Dukes. She must have needed lots of help, because three of them were assisting her. Not one broke away to help me with the stock tank.
That was my first realization that I was a Tweener.
Two years ago, my husband and I hauled a couple of horses to New Mexico for a long ride. We had barely left our town when one of our week-old tires blew on the trailer. I wasn't worried; we had a new spare, too. We had the drive-up trailer ramp to make changing it easy; we had the lug wrench. Unfortunately, we did NOT have the ginormous wrench necessary to remove the single bolt that stored the spare tire on the trailer.
We unhooked the trailer and my husband headed off 60 miles to the nearest town to buy a new tire. There I sat, in the heat of our Arizona summer, beside the highway with a fully-loaded horse trailer and no truck in front of it. Two horses peeped their noses out the window as cars and trucks passed.
Not a single person stopped. I moved my upside-down bucket closer to the road to be more visible, carefully watching traffic for safety reasons. I was clearly a female in distress. Not a single truck slowed ... not a car pulled over. It was 110 degrees. No one stopped.
When my husband returned, I unloaded on him. "Nobody even stopped to ask if I needed help! They could see I was here with two horses, alone with a flat tire, and not a single person stopped!" He looked at me, wrench in hand, and calmly said, "I own ya, and I didn't want to stop, either."
It was a great epiphany: not only was I a Tweener, but my damsel-in-distress was broken.
The humiliations of middle-age weren't finished with me, yet. A couple of months ago, my beloved and I were again on the road -- headed north to a classic car show in Prescott, where my husband's band was scheduled to play. To our surprise, the skies opened up and rain fell from them. It had been dry for so long, I hadn't used the windshield wipers in months. My husband turned them on and we watched, bemused, as the wiper arm crossed the windshield dragging the rubber blade far behind it. The desert sun had killed the wipers. I convinced my "we'll just drive through it," husband to stop at a car parts shop for replacement blades. Blades in hand, we continued on in the rain, running late for the show.
On break time, my husband asked me, "Did you get the blades on yet?" No, I said; that was his job. I'd purchased them; he could attach them. (Besides, I didn't have my "cheaters," and couldn't read the fine print on the enclosed instructions.) My darling chuckled and returned to the makeshift stage. At next break, he returned. "Did you put them on yet?" he asked. "No," I repeated. Soon, the show was ending. The rain was pouring down. We had a 90 mile drive ahead. I held the wipers out to my husband and gestured to the car. "I don't have my tools," he said. I said to him, "Back in the day, honey, I would just stand by the car, looking at the wipers, and some guy would come over and install them for me!" He shrugged. "Get to it!"
That was it. We were at a car show, for crying out loud. I was on a mission. I approached some young guy in a Model A. "Hey! Do you know how to put these on?" I asked, waving the wipers in front of him. "I think so," he said. "Come with me!" I ordered. He silently complied. Within minutes, he had those wipers on -- no tools required. I thanked him profusely and, rain-soaked, he headed back to his car.
I smiled at my husband, and said, "I still got it!" At that, he gently patted my arm and said, "He probably just lost his mother, dear."