A gentleman never shows his scars (at least in public)

Dorothy Wilhelm
Dorothy Wilhelm

He was a gentleman of indeterminate years. We were in the same line at the supermarket. The conversation turned to hip replacement. You might wonder how a discussion among strangers could turn to such an intimate subject. But you have to talk about something, and we’d used up politics.

We had been discussing the relative merit of various sorts of hip replacement surgery. Anytime you get together with a half dozen folks over 70, that’s what you talk about.

Suddenly, without warning, his trousers and shirt parted company, he pulled down his trousers — I’m not kidding — to display an unlovely expanse of fuzzy hip, thigh and a 13-inch scar extending over both. This was an estimate. I didn’t actually measure. I stared, speechless for once. Then I averted my eyes. Then I looked back.

Let me just say I haven’t been that shocked since I dropped my hair dryer into the fish tank. The fish were pretty surprised, too. I was horrified.

It didn’t occur to me until later that perhaps I should have called security, the police or at least the store manager. At least I should have tried one of my tai chi moves.

The fact is, at a time like that, you fall back on whatever worked last. So I called upon my “mother of six” voice and said, in a menacing tone: “You put that away and don’t ever take it out again. Ever. Do you understand?”

He skulked off hastily, looking apprehensively over his shoulder. I’ll tell you one thing: He was no gentleman.

“I think,” Brian my therapist mused when I reported my experience, “that old guys show their scars in place of tattoos.”

That could be true, but after this encounter I’m certainly going to find a grocery store with shorter lines, even if it means driving a long way to get to them.

And I can drive a long, long way because the state of Washington renewed my driver’s license for the next six years. That means this official state document expresses the belief that I’ll be here and driving at age 89. I find that an impressive, even touching, display of optimism. Washington is one of the states that doesn’t retest older drivers just because they get older. I like that in a state.

I managed to elude the scarred gentleman who seemed to be holding small group classes in a corner of the parking lot. I had come to the store to buy valentines, and then completely forgot in the excitement.

Most years, I devote the time between Groundhog Day and Valentine’s Day to whining about the fact that I never get valentines any more. It’s sort of a tradition. Usually the only valentines I get are from the roofing repair company and the folks who fix my Subaru.

One young relative informed me recently that I really shouldn’t be looking for valentines any more, because I’m past the age for romance. I was astonished to hear this, but my family seems to get direct messages about my needs that never make it to me.

No, she said, “You might be interested in someone to go to a play with, or out to dinner, but that’s all,” she said firmly. “It’s really hard to get acquainted with the right kind of people,” she informed me severely, making it clear that I wouldn’t recognize the right kind of people if I fell over them — or ran into them in a supermarket line. “Romance is out of the question,” she finished.

But I’ve been thinking it over, and I believe you need to be resourceful. I have just the right conversation starter. You see, I’ve had that hip replacement surgery, and I have a scar or two myself.

Dorothy Wilhelm is a professional speaker and writer. Follow Dorothy’s blog at itsnevertoolate.com. Contact her at P.O. Box 881, DuPont WA, 98327. Phone 800-548-9264, email Dorothy@itsnevertoolate. com.

New book preview

Columnist Dorothy Wilhelm will be doing a prepublication reading of her new book, “Where Washington Began,” at 2 p.m. Feb. 19 at DuPont City Hall, 303 Barksdale Ave., DuPont. The first 10 people to arrive will receive a free copy of the book.