It’s Saturday night and I’m waiting on a table of twenty adolescent girls celebrating their friend’s sixteenth birthday. The parents of the birthday girl are sitting with friends on the opposite side of the restaurant, ostensibly to give the teenagers some privacy. From my vantage point I can tell the adults are already bombed on martinis.
I smile to myself. Carmela and I divided the party between us. Pulling rank, she took the adults and I got the kids. Carmela figured that the teeny-bopper table would be more trouble. She was wrong. The girls are polite and well behaved. It’s the parents who are pains in the asses. I chuckle as I watch Carmela being run ragged by her table of intoxicated parents. Karma always finds a way to bite you on the ass.
“Excuse me sir?” the birthday girl says, motioning me over to the table. “I think we’re ready to order now.”
“Very well Miss,” I say, pulling my dupe pad out of my back pocket. “If you don’t mind I’d like to take everyone’s order in the order they’re sitting. Makes things easier.”
I take the birthday girl’s order and proceed to each girl in turn. Three girls order nothing. Four order a salad. When I’m done writing down everyone’s requests I realize four teenage boys could easily put away the meager amount of food these girls asked for.
“How about some appetizers?” I ask. “Calamari? Mussels? We have nice little pizzas.”
The girls politely stare at me like I’m a middle aged Anti-Christ.
“Very well ladies,” I say. “Would anyone like some more soda?”
All the girls raise their hands. I’m not surprised. They’re sucking down Diet Cokes like they’re going out of style. Caffeine addicts probably. I bet they all smoke when their parents aren’t looking.
I head over to the POS computer and start inputing the order. The birthday girl’s mother walks over to me. A forty year old redhead with a rocking body, an emerald pendant sparkles in the middle of her well toned abdomen. Matching green lace peeks above the waistline of her hip hugging jeans. I’ll bet her thong underwear’s rising out of the back of her pants. What do the kids call it today? A whale tail? I’ll have to wait until she turns around to confirm my suspicions. The mother smiles as she approaches me, revealing an impressive set of white teeth. This woman’s got smolder. Suddenly I feel desire drain the blood out of my brain and redirect it someplace else.
“Yes Madam?” I ask.
“What did my girls order?” she asks.
I tell her. She shakes her head.
“I figured as much,” she says, slurring her words slightly. “Half of them are anorexic or something.”
There’s no good comeback to that so I keep my mouth shut.
“It wasn’t that way when we were in high school,” the mother asks. “Was it?”
Eating disorders were around in the Eighties, but something tells me not to shake this woman out of nostalgia’s amnesic embrace. “I ate my parents out of house and home,” I reply.
The mother leans close to me. The smell of her expensive perfume fights the good fight against the odor of alcohol metabolizing out of her lungs. “How old are you?” she asks.
“What year you graduate high school?”
“I graduated in ’85,” she says. “You’re only a year younger than me. You look like you’re 32.”
“Clean living,” I reply, grinning.
“High school feels like yesterday. Doesn’t it?”
“It sure does,” the woman replies. “Did we go to high school together?”
“I don’t think so. I went to an all boys school.”
“That must’ve sucked,” the mother says, drunken sensuality thickening her voice.
“It had its ups and downs.”
The woman stares at me. Suddenly a look passes across her face.
“I can’t believe my daughter’s sixteen.”
“And you look too young to have a sixteen year old daughter,” I reply gallantly.
“Thanks,” the mother blurts. “You’re very cute.”
“Thank you madam,” I reply. “I hope I’m not blushing.”
“Un-uh,” the woman says coyly. For a second I think she’s going to grope me.
“Would you like to order some extra food for the table?” I ask, suddenly all business.
My question and attitude snap the woman out of her reverie. “Yeah,” she says, waving her hands, “Order them some appetizers.”
“Any particular ones?”
“You pick,” she says. “Enough for all of them. I trust you.”
“You’re welcome madam.”
The mother suddenly leans forward and plants a kiss on my cheek.
“Thanks for the compliment.”
I covertly watch as the mother walks back to her table. I was right about the underwear thing.
A short time later I deliver a mess of appetizers to the sweet sixteen table. The girls groan in protest.
“Not my fault ladies,” I reply. “Compliments of the birthday girl’s Mom.”
“Look at all this food,” one of the girls gasps.
“We can’t eat all this,” another says.
I drop off the food and make a quick getaway. To my surprise the girls devour the appetizers. They must’ve been hungry after all.
When they finish the apps I walk over to the POS computer and signal the kitchen to fire the entrees. Günter and Guillermo are nearby, drinking espresso and surveying my table. Sly smiles hang off their faces.
“So how’s your table?” Günter asks.
“They’re well behaved young ladies actually,” I reply. “No problems.”
“Did you see the girl’s mom?” Günter says. “The redhead? What a piece.”
“I saw her.”
“I wonder if her daughter’s gonna turn out to be a hottie like her.”
“She will,” Guillermo says. “You can tell.”
“Some of those girls are smoking hot,” Günter says. “Where were they when I was in high school?”
I look over at my table. The birthday girl’s a gangly awkward looking teenager. Many of the other girls are in the same boat. Some of the girls, however, have bodies that have clearly outpaced their ability to handle the attention they attract. One busty girl looks like she’s twenty-three. I pity her father.
“So Guillermo,” Günter whispers, “Do you think those girls shave their chochas?”
“Probably,” Guillermo sighs. “At their age they’re already having sex, practicing fellatio….. “
“Practicing?” Günter snorts, “They’re fucking virtuosos already.”
“Maybe they trim their bush into shapes.” Guillermo says. “Like in fancy gardens. What are those called?”
“Topiary gardens,” I reply automatically, immediately wishing I hadn’t.
“That’s great,” Günter says. “I should tell my girlfriend to do some lawn maintenance.”
I feel an urgent stab of anger but tamp it down. I’ve been a guy for almost forty years. Everything Günter and Guillermo are saying I’ve said or thought at one point or another. I’m no stranger to locker room talk, drunken macho bullshit, or the mud of the male pigsty. To get all righteous now would be the height of hypocrisy. Every guy who’s ever lived has wrestled with the dark side of the flesh’s urgings. But as I encounter desirable young women who are young enough to be my daughter, my perspective is starting to change. I’ve started to ask myself if I’m part of the dynamic that make the young women like the ones at my table loath to eat. Every picture of every naked woman I’ve ever seen looms large in my consciousness. What’s my responsibility in all this? Am I part of the problem? I think about the surge of desire I felt for the young girl’s mother. Was that right? Who knows? I’m experienced enough to know it was certainly human.
I look over at Günter and Guillermo. Are they sexual deviants? Predators? No. As long as their imaginations stay in the realm of bullshit and talk they’ll be all right. They’re actually not bad guys. Pigs yes, but most men fit that description at one point or another, including me. In the battle between the sexes, everyone’s guilty of war crimes.
“Say Guillermo,” I ask. “How old’s your daughter?”
“Sixteen,” he says sadly. Karma always finds a way to bite you on the ass.
“You poor man.”
“My friend,” Guillermo says. “I’m in my own private hell.”