“Let’s do lunch”, when uttered in LA, can take on many meanings but rarely does it stand for “let’s get together and break bread”. It’s part of that LA lingo that miffed me for a long time and that took a while to get used to. When still new and alone here in the City of Angels and somebody proffered what my naive European ears mistook for an invitation, I would perk up only to be disappointed when the woman or man in question never surfaced again.
“Let’s do lunch” is mainly a parting greeting, a polite way of saying that the time spent together, whether socially or work related, was ok but there was no need to see each other again.
But I did do lunch today with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while and who was eager to try a Westside hotspot I had already visited a number of times and where the food is indeed excellent. So, in between running errands (another common LA speak for “driving around not necessarily with the purpose of getting in and out of the car to achieve anything in particular), we met at said hotspot where getting a reservation after dark is a Sisyphean task but where having lunch is within grab of most humans. With the patio already full and the dining room near capacity, we opted for one of the communal tables, a practice that has become commonplace at every informal restaurant and that I actually enjoy. You never know who you might end up chatting with.
In between “gnocchi with shiitake mushrooms and smoked trout” and “squid with lentils and romesco sauce”, I caught the eye of a girl at the end of the counter who looked vaguely familiar. With my notorious lack of face recognition skills, it took me a while to place her as a famous model, which might be why a procession of other beautiful women stopped at her table to pay homage. That is when I took a good look around the room and noticed that I, in particular, had to be the oldest person in there.
I have sometimes written about the plight of feeling physically inadequate in a city where most women my age have experimented with Botox, derma abrasion and surgical knives at some point or another but you can go long stretches of time without being reminded – in my neighbourhood, surrounded by normal people, or at work where I mainly interact with normal people, for example. But all it takes is a jaunt into town proper, or stepping into a trendy location, be it an ice cream parlour, hairdresser, jeans store or restaurant. There it is – your wrinkles feel suddenly out of place, the hair color three weeks past its sell by date is inexcusable – that feeling of being physically inadequate resurfaces. Never mind that nobody around you is checking out your grays, busy as they are checking each other out.
Today, though, we seemed to be surrounded by effortlessly beautiful men, ten to twenty years younger than us. Fashionable stubble, funky hats, torn jeans, gleaming teeth, I felt like I had been dropped in the pages of the latest Vogue. Those frites didn’t seem like a good idea anymore.
It was an aging actor with street credibility who came in to save the day. The wrinkled jowls hidden behind large black shades, he plopped his bulky body right across from us, man purse strapped around his barrel chest. With an air of vague boredom, he ordered a salad and, left alone by his male companion who took a phone call outside, I couldn’t help noticing he also wasn’t quite sure where to look and, I am sure, not for fear of recognition, but I’d like to think because he was also overwhelmed by such physical bounty. He chowed down his salad staring at the only two age appropriate women in his vicinity.
Dessert was skipped and when we re-emerged on the sidewalk, my friend and I started evaluating the pros and cons of plastic surgery. For us, I mean.