Three things used to be as certain about me, as death and taxes are about life: I was 5’7-1/2, I had good legs, and I was a redhead.
Now, I am 5’6″ and my thighs hang over droopy knees. The height and leg thing happened a few years ago so, while I’m not happy about it, I’m learning to coexist with my new reality. At least I’m still a redhead, I told myself.
It turns out I was fooling myself.
Last weekend, I attended a pasta dinner, hosted by our state senator and his wife, at the local American Legion hall. I was seated with friends of mine. The mayor and his wife dropped into the hall for an hour or so to greet the voters. When the mayor got to our table, one of my friends asked him if he was happy about the referendum on this year’s ballot regarding extending the mayoral term from two years to four years.
He said that its approval was critical (politicians love the words “critical” and “efficacious”), because two years is not enough time to get anything accomplished. He said that his Republican predecessor appointed people to “very important commissions” right before he was voted out of office, and the terms for those commissions are for five years. Therefore, our Democratic mayor said, those appointees obstruct him at every turn. However, if he were elected to two four-year terms, he’d be able to get things done.
I jumped in and asked if it were possible to get the law changed so that they were appointed for four years.
He looked at me for a beat and then said, very slowly, “Mayors aren’t appointed. Citizens vote for their mayors.”
I bit back my reflexive retort of “No sh*t, Sherlock,” tried to rearrange my facial expression into a pleasant one, and replied very slowly, “I know that, Mr. Mayor. I was talking about the terms of the people appointed to the very important commissions.”
He laughed uncomfortably. “Oh, I apologize. I misunderstood.”
“Well,” I said, “I’m glad we straightened that out. I’d hate for you to tell people about the redheaded moron you met tonight.”
“You’re not a redhead,” said one of my friends. Everyone at the table agreed with her.
“I am so a redhead!” I exclaimed. “I’ve been a redhead all of my life. It’s who I am.” The mayor and his wife took this opportunity to make a hasty getaway.
“Maybe you were a redhead, but you’re not now,” said another friend. “You’re a blonde.”
I was speechless. My final identifier had been ripped away in an instant.
The husband of one of my friends piped up. “She doesn’t want to be a blonde because of the dumb-blonde jokes.”
“Like the one about the dumb blonde who didn’t know that mayors were elected?” another friend remarked.
Everybody laughed. I seethed.