WILSON: Tommy Jones and dating in the 21st Century

The members of the Circular Congregation Breakfast Club met at Sarah’s Diner nearly every morning for hot coffee, good food and ill-informed conversation about some of the most unnecessary topics of discourse.

Tommy Jones, by virtue of his youthful age of 82, was the elder statesman of the group and his opinions were respected, venerated, and usually ignored because they got in the way of a good argument over nothing important. Tommy acted as the steady rudder in a tumultuous sea of undocumented opinions. The rest of the Congregation were better described as adolescent boys blowing bathtub bubbles in that same tumultuous sea.

However, over the course of the past several months, Tommy’s role within the conversational circle transformed from referee to subject matter. Tommy was a widower and, until recently, had been on a decade long hiatus from companionship. However, that changed one fateful morning, when he met a young lady (at 82, Tommy considered all ladies to be young) in the produce section of the grocery store.

As a newborn hopeless romantic, Tommy started explaining to people that he met his lady friend on a stroll through the garden because, “Hooking up by the tomatoes,” didn’t have the right ring.

The two began a months-long, verbal courtship behind the digital safety veil of Facebook Messenger. It started out awkward, stumbling and mired in generational confusion about the purpose of emogis in everyday conversation. Face-to-face, Tommy was an excellent communicator.

His lady friend was no more adept at 21st Century dating, than Tommy. During their first digital conversation she asked, “Are you a player?”

Tommy was concerned about how to respond to such an inquiry. As a respectable and moral gentleman, Tommy wanted to answer honestly and sincerely. However, he felt he should project an image of having a suave and debonair edge (this advice came from an ad on Facebook). However, deferring to the wisdom that comes from being an Octogenarian, he decided his best answer was to admit, “I have no idea what a player is.”

She responded with relief, “My granddaughter told me I needed to find out if you were a player…but she didn’t tell me how to do that…or what they were.”

From those first few stumbling and misspelled threads of text, sprang a senior romance unlike any that had come before. Experiences, common interests and a willingness to sit around every night attempting to communicate by means of strings of words without proper punctuation, brought the two together – making them the main topic of conversation at Sarah’s Diner.

“How’s your girlfriend doing?” Harrison Winkle asked while inhaling a full order of biscuits and gravy. “Have you two started to see each other, or are you still talking with your fingers?”

“She’s not my girlfriend and she’s doing fine.” Tommy didn’t like the term “girlfriend,” but also didn’t like “significant other,” “companion,” or “main squeeze.” However, society and the Oxford Dictionary hadn’t come up with a respectable title for “amorously seasoned adults and their last, best, opportunity for romance and passion.”

“Have you two actually been on a date, yet?” Mort asked, because someone asked that question at least once a week and Mort thought it was his turn.

“Not yet, but we’re getting close,” Tommy always answered. The ease of dating from the comfort of his recliner held a certain appeal.

“Do you need any pharmaceuticals?” asked Firewaker, out of concern for Tommy’s performance capabilities. “I can get you some of those little blue pills. They’re pretty expensive, but one of them will trip your trigger for four hours.”

“The beige pills are half the price,” offered Jimmy. “They come three to a pack, and everyone knows three is better than one.”

“Nope,” chimed in Big John Hudson. “There’s a serum made from all kinds of organic stuff. You put three drops on your tongue in the morning and three drops at night. You’ll be climbing the Empire State Building like King Kong. I get it from Bangladesh.”

Tommy decided to pay for his meal, leave a reasonable tip for Sarah, and flee to the comfort of his recliner to contemplate the complexities of dating in the 21st Century.

Larry Wilson is a mostly lifelong resident of Niles. His essays stem from experiences, compilations and recollections from friends and family. He can be reached at wflw@hotmail.com.

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