Adapted from I See You Made an Effort: Compliments, Indignities and Survival Stories From the Edge of 50.
My computer was moving sluggishly. A year ago, upon pressing the start button, my machine swiftly jumped to attention. Now, a black bar inched across a dull gray expanse, then the software failed to load altogether. It was going to take a stroke of genius to get it working again. The Glendale Galleria Apple Store is staffed by a crew whose average age could be summed up as: if you have to ask, you’re too old to want to hear the answer. My Genius sports a headband, which artfully musses his hair. He is wearing a name tag that reads, “AuDum.” I ask him how he pronounces it.
Annabelle Gurwitch is performing at NextTribe’s New York City event, Screw Invisibility: Watch Older Women Change the World on October 3rd.
“Is it a creative spelling of the first man, Adam? Is it a Sanskrit chant—Auuuduuuum? A percussive sound?”
“No. It’s pronounced autumn, like the season.”
“Are you in a band?”
“No, my mother gave me that name.”
“You belong to a generation of great names,” I tell him.
AuDum’s name is an instant clue that my Genius and I are separated by decades in which progenitors have gifted their offspring with intriguing names.
AuDum begins talking about his mother, and I hold my breath, wondering if he will say that she is my age. Thankfully, he says she’s a bit older, 62. She’s a speech pathologist who lives in Albuquerque and he admires her work. I am charmed by his obvious affection for his mother. He has been well cared for, I think, as I notice that he has good teeth. Braces? Maybe not, but definitely regular dental care. As he examines my computer, he tells me my hard drive is dying.
“But it’s so young—it’s only a few years old.”
He explains that computer years are like dog years times three, making my computer only slightly younger than I am.
“AuDum, how old are you?” I ask.
He is closer in age to my son than me by a decade. That’s when he suggests a radical move.
He wants to strip my computer down completely, and then carefully, slowly, and deliberately, he will reload my hard drive. In order to make this work, I will have to agree to do everything he says, even if it sounds a bit unusual.
Annabelle Gurwitch Does the Genius Bar
“In order to give something, we have to take something away,” he tells me. Is he quoting the Bible, or a sacred Steve Jobsian aphorism? I have no idea, but he had me at “reload.”
I nod my assent, swallowing hard. He tells me to take everything off.
I remove my data silently and swiftly. He begins his maneuvers and I break into a sweat. Is it a hot flash? Oh God. But, no, it’s something else. I have fallen in love with AuDum Genius. The story of his affection for his mother, coupled with my being totally dependent on whomever can repair what has become my most essential appendage, has endeared him to me. His hair might be a little greasy, but the teeth are good.
Dear God, I just want one night of Genius sex!
But where would we do it? At his apartment? No. There might be hairs of unknown provenance on the soap, black towels, and sheets that haven’t been changed recently. Plus, one of his roommates might be there, and no one can witness this act.
Our bedroom is a minefield of erection killers, just ask my husband.
My house? No. What if he accidentally puts on one of my kid’s t-shirts, strewn around the house as they are? We also have kid artwork hanging everywhere, and it just seems wrong that we would sneak by the watercolor rendering of a dinosaur pooping as we head into the bedroom.
On top of that, my menopausal brain fog makes it impossible to keep schedules straight, so there is a good chance I would pick an inopportune time to hook up, and AuDum would arrive just in time to witness our nightly ritual of haggling with our teenager over homework time versus Internet time. Plus, at any given moment, a pair of Spanx might be crumpled in a ball at the foot of our bed, a tube of hormone replacement crème on the nightstand, or one of the many pairs of tweezers I hide around the house might have migrated under a pillow. Our bedroom is a minefield of erection killers, just ask my husband.
We cannot go to a cheap hotel. A cheap hotel does not figure into this or any other fantasy I have at this age. It will need to be pricey. I really can’t afford an expensive destination, but it’s the only way. Yes, I’ll need to dip into our savings. Hopefully, I can write it off as a business expense, which it technically is: the business of getting old. Once I find the correct establishment, I’ll go up to the room first, and AuDum will need to wait for a brief interval to avoid being spotted by anyone I know. This will give me time to get ready, and I need it.
About the Underwear
It’s been 18 years since I’ve taken my clothes off in front of anyone other than my husband, my gynecologist, and women in the locker room at the gym. I’ll really need two or three weeks, if not months, to get my body affair ready. I will also need to purchase new undergarments. I own bras and panties that are nice enough for 16 years of marriage, but fall under the category of “underwear,” and for an affair it will really need to be “lingerie.” Plus, I will need to get the full Brazilian, which I tried once when I was pregnant but it was so painful that I left with it half done. My single friends tell me that bare is the new black for men, so I hope the computer gets repaired quickly, as I will need to start attenuating myself to the hairless penis through pornographic Internet surfing.
What will AuDum Genius and I talk about? Best not to let it slip how pissed off I am that my son is getting a C in PE and that he’s definitely not going to Ming-Na Davydov’s bat mitzvah if he keeps it up. Or that I need to get a mole that’s changed shape checked on a part of my back that I can’t see and would he check it. Safe topics might include movies or books, but not films about senior citizens falling in love at resorts in India, anything with Meryl Streep, and no mentioning that I am currently reading a book titled Why Men Die First. I could suggest a late-night supper from room service, but he’d have to read the menu to me or I’ll be pulling out my reading glasses. Note to self, don’t say, “In my day,” out loud, also “Nowadays.” “Nowadays” is a touchstone used by aging persons to describe things that happened “in my day.” “Touchstone” is also a touchstone for AARP territory. Talking is out, drinking is better.
A more pressing issue is, what’s the right position? I’m not comfortable with someone ogling my ass if I can’t observe the reaction, so doggie gets a thumbs down.
While I wait for him, I’ll put on mood music. Since he’s about the same age as my nephews, I should put on some dubstep, only I hate its incessant thumping sound. I’m sure it sounds good if you’re sucking on an ecstasy pacifier at a rave in the desert, but I would rather have my spleen removed and filleted in front of me than be high in the middle of a sweaty crowd ringed by porta-potties. But if I put on something like Cat Stevens, or God forbid, Marvin Gaye, I risk dating myself. I’ve got it: Jazz. Jazz has always been the perfect soundtrack for doing stupid things. But my son and his middle school band play all the standards, so jazz is off-limits.
A more pressing issue is, what’s the right position? I’m not comfortable with someone ogling my ass if I can’t observe the reaction, so doggie gets a thumbs down. Missionary seems too “same old, same old.” It has to be something where I can achieve maximum attractiveness and get the most bang for my buck, so there’s really only one choice. Movie sex. Up against a wall. Glamour Magazine calls it “Stand and Deliver,” while in the Kama Sutra it’s “Climbing the Tree.”
Up the Wall
He leans into me, pressing my back hard up against the hotel wall. I tilt my face slightly upwards, always a flattering angle, while his tongue traces the arc of my neck. The wall can be the perfect excuse for not completely disrobing; in fact, a wrap dress would be ideal, providing easy access while covering my posterior. He pushes the layers of my dress open and moves his hand up my thigh. I order him to take my panties off slowly, so as he kneels down, I’ll have time to reach for the small tube of vaginal lubricant I’ve hidden in the folds of the wrap dress and quickly insert a dollop.
Balancing on my good ankle, I wrap my leg around his body as I reach for him, but I’ve forgotten about a condom. We could take the 30-minute AIDS test and forgo it, because there’s no way I can get pregnant, but he can’t know that—it would take away an element of danger—so I hope he’s got one or the hotel can send one up quickly.
‘Yes,’ I whisper, ‘I mean, yes?’
The only thing is, it’s really tough to get the up-against-the-wall thing to work: Our heights have to be just right, and he’ll need a certain amount of upper body strength, which he might not have developed working at the Apple store. I’ll also need to keep my right leg aloft, and I’m not sure I can do that either. If I can find a hotel room that has a rock climbing wall—we are in Los Angeles after all—I could anchor myself on a foothold. Yes! I wedge my heel into a foothold a few feet off the ground and pull him inside me.
“You’re good to go.”
“Yes,” I whisper, “I mean, yes?”
His voice is louder than I expected. I look down and see that I’m gripping the counter tightly. My mouth feels dry and my heart is pounding.
“My shift is over,” he says, rotating my computer so I can see the folder he’s created for my retrieved documents. He has named it “Old Annabelle.”
I catch sight of AuDum heading towards the exit. Out of his uniform, he looks different. His pants taper down his calves and stop just above his ankles in a way I find unflattering in someone past puberty. He gives me a little wave, and I can tell by the tentative and reluctant quality of the wave and his red high-top Keds that we will not be hooking up. AuDum leaves. I feel a bit sad but also extremely relieved.
Since you went away the days grow long, soon I’ll hear old winter’s song. /
But I’ll miss you most of all, my darling, when autumn leaves start to fall.
Annabelle Gurwitch is the author of the New York Times bestseller I See You Made an Effort and most recently, Wherever You Go, There They Are: Stories About my Family You Might Relate To. She’s currently at work on a new memoir Vodka & Gelato: My Year of Empty Nesting. You can find her at annabellegurwitch.com