Yesterday, the reality that I am the subject of men’s gossip (what's the term?) had become readily apparent. As I passed a gentleman of a solid professional demeanor with a moderately roughneck exterior, he commented on my freshly prepared lunch.
“You sure do make the prettiest salads.” His words sounded as a cross between a love-struck schoolboy and something altogether feminine--men do not typically use the word 'pretty' to describe many—if any—things. And something about the nuance of his voice told me that this man had not uttered the word ‘pretty’ much at all in many decades. I may have blushed while I pushed a ‘Thank you’ through my grin. I had a hunch he wasn’t talking about my food.
The previous day, a silver-haired tall drink of water kept me company in the kitchen as I prepared my famous after-workout salad: always with cherry tomatoes, topped with tuna, salsa, and balsamic vinaigrette, all in a bright red ceramic bowl. “Your salads are so pretty. I’ll bet they taste as good as they look.”
“They sure do…thanks.” I smiled at him, trying not to think about the graphic double entendre, which he may or may not have intended. I like to think he did not, that he is just speaking awkwardly as I am prone to do. Silver Hair has fancied me for well over a year now, but has kept a respectful distance. We know enough to know it'd never work. Looking back, however, I wonder what he would have done if I looked him dead in the eye and said “Are you sure you’re talking about the food?”
I know there was at least two other men who will occasionally and repeatedly mention my “pretty salad” as I am making it. I have been a hardy salad eater going on two years now and I have heard many comments from both men and women admiring my lunch for its health and beauty. But there is something else going on...
It was at least a year and a half ago when I had lost weight enough to venture coming to work in a form-fitting shirt to show off my newly discovered waist. Of course, I know it was not my waist that held the gentlemen's interest.
The air of professionalism was rarely breached when the breacher know not who he may offend. But for whatever reason that day, the old man with the resemblance of a basset hound thought he’d try his luck. As I would cut up cucumber for my daily salad, he was usually the first to comment on the fresh aroma that filled the kitchen. Basset was a talker, a bit of a cut up, and a fresh one at that.
This day he was parked near the microwaves along with Silver Hair waiting for their frozen aisle specials. I didn’t even know Silver’s name at the time, but he seemed likeable and polite and perhaps a longtime work-friend to Basset. My daily salad made, aromatic cucumbers present and commented upon, I walked passed these two on my way to my desk.
“Now, now…hold on a minute!” Basset’s southern drawl rolled from his throat. I walked backwards knowing something funny was about to happen, twisted to face him, with salad in hand between he and I.
“You know…” he searched for the right words, “That’s an awful purty salad you got here.” Looking down, his eyes were clearly not on my lunch.
As he was a bit shorter than I, I stooped to get my face in front of his. Down and back up, I snaked my body as I said the first words that came to mind, “Well to-u-u-ugh…!”
As I turned to leave, I shot a glance at Silver to see his eyes were as big as saucers.
Basset got fresh with me and I got fresh right back. Why did it not occur to me that that story wouldn't make the rounds?