WATERTOWN, Mass. Al Durange, a 79-year-old former commission drapery salesman, is used to being ignored by young women who stand waiting to board the 71 bus from here to Cambridge, Mass. every morning as he sits on a nearby bench. “I try to come up with something new each day,” he says of his overtures, “but I’m getting old, so I may be repeating myself.”
“If I said you had a nice body, would you hold it against me?”
And indeed, when Durange said “There must be a hole in the sky because an angel just fell to earth!” as Carla Benedetti walked up to take her place in line on Wednesday, an audible groan issued from the lips of Mike Scalzzi, a twenty-six year old man who has been trying to get to know the dental assistant for several months. But Benedetti gave Scalzzi a cold shoulder and turned to Durange with a big smile and asked him how he was doing. “Made my day,” Durange told fellow retirees over coffee and bagels a half hour later, “even though I didn’t hear what she said.”
After this week’s “Super Tuesday” primaries in which the field of Democratic contenders was narrowed to Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, who would be 79 and 78, respectively, upon taking office if elected, old white men are suddenly back in fashion after years of being derided as out-of-touch and grumpy. “There may be snow on the roof top, but there’s fire in the basement furnace,” Durange’s friend Ted Bolsom says, hitching his pants up above his navel to make a crude if metaphorical point.
“You better get a new battery in your pacemaker if you’re gonna chase a millennial.”
What is it, this reporter asks several young women at the bus stop this morning, that makes old white males suddenly so attractive? “I like Al, he wears this cool flesh-colored body mod thing in his ear that none of the guys I meet in bars have,” says Tiffany Bogaard, a customer service assistant at a Cambridge copy shop. When told that the object in question is a hearing aid, Bogaard blushes and says “I talk too much sometimes anyway.”
Biden and Sanders are survivors in a field that originally included several women, a 38-year-old gay man and both males and females of color, as well as an alien visitor from the THX 1138 spiral galaxy, Marianne Williamson. The winnowing process on the Democratic side sets up an election in November in which two aging white males will go head-to-head, recalling antler-rattling battles between bull moose in rutting season.
But that doesn’t trouble Benedetti, who accepted Durange’s invitation to meet him for an “early-bird” dinner at the Town Diner here Wednesday night, where he used his senior citizen discount to treat the young woman to a sumptuous meal of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, over-cooked green beans and apple crisp. How was your date, this reporter asks Benedetti this morning, drawing a sly-smile from the comely brunette. “It was fun,” she says. “He does this thing where he pops his teeth out–it’s hilarious!”