|Freaky Meeting You Here|
|Written by Wendy Doscher-Smith - BT Contributor|
Our correspondent runs into her ex at a pizza parlor, and has some second thoughts about her old stomping grounds
A truly disturbing incident of epic proportions happened to me some weeks ago, so naturally I am going to write about it. Then, Friday, another disturbing incident of epic proportions happened to me. Both incidents occurred right here in Miami, although they could have happened anywhere. And a bonus – they’re related!
Incident number one: I saw my ex-boyfriend in a pizza shop.
While that may not sound like as big a deal as say, finding fictitious WMDs, and might have registered as little more than a “Hmmm, well, isn’t that something” moment with most other people, I am not most other people.
The weird thing is, I’d seen this person only one other time since we last spoke. And it was years ago. To be precise, ten years ago, which is such a long stretch of time it has its own name: a decade. And it was in the same pizza place.
Now, I don’t know what is in the pepperoni in those pies -- I don’t eat meat -- but I think it’s a safe assumption that something mystical is at work. Or maybe it’s mere coincidence to run into the guy you lost your virginity to, invested five years of your life in, and thought (when it became apparent the relationship was over) that you would at least exchange holiday cards with, in the same place you last saw him.
Maybe. Except this is a neighborhood I don’t frequent. (More on that in a minute.) But first, what of these two chance meetings with the Ex? The first one was awkward. Not, by all appearances, as much for me as for the Ex, who seemed terribly anxious and could not wait to flee. I think I introduced him to my husband. He snarfed down a piece of pizza and ran.
This last time, he seemed a bit more at ease. But he also seemed like more of a fraud. The first time his hair was still long, as he had always kept it. This time it was short and, somewhat eerily to me, a bit thinning. He also seemed -- what? shocked? surprised? -- to see me. Or more likely he was thinking about the dough of his just-ordered pizza rising. Either way, the first thing he muttered was: “Nice tattoos.”
After a few minutes of chitchat he pulled out his wallet and showed me a picture of his kid. I couldn’t care less about babies and I’m not a good liar, so all I could muster was: “Wow. We’re old!”
Now for the second Incident of Epic Proportions. As I write this, perched high on my desk chair, rear end balanced atop piles of clothing, I am thinking once more about The Day. My birthday. It just happened. Ouch. I believe a random zipper just snagged my bare-bottom flesh.
I think I speak for most women when I say that birthdays lose their appeal after age 25. Maybe 30. Because that is the very age women, in this culture anyway, lose their social value. It might sound sexist or not fall softly enough on some Pollyanna’s ears, but as the cliché goes, it’s “sad but true.”
You can fight it all you want, but three things will never change: Death, taxes, and attractive women past their mid-30s being told they “look good for their age,” as opposed to simply looking good. Of course, for men, it’s a different story. Men only get better with age. (Oh, those handsome wrinkles!)
I had a feeing I would not age with any grace, and sure enough, it’s been an uphill battle. And I only just turned 38. So unless I drop dead, there is more of this to come.
But I’m not here to discuss the aging process and to argue with delusional freaks who insist I’m wrong. They can rant on the Letters to the Editor page. Instead -- since, at times, I identify with this city more than anyone or anything else -- I’m here to reminisce about Miami’s aging process.
Since I was born in 1974, in what was then just good ol’ Coral Gables-based Doctor’s Hospital and is now HealthSouth Doctor’s Hospital, I’ve seen a mighty wave of change. While the 305 basics have remained the same -- great weather, terrible drivers, shallow people -- neighborhoods have changed, as shifting demographics have forced folks to settle in areas alongside their “own kind.” Of course, I prefer living away from my own kind. Not that I have a kind. (I’ll just say this: White people scare me.)
Anyhow, one thing I’ve been wondering about Miami lately is this: Is there a hip ’hood? You see, I’m confused. For example, when I was a miserable pre-teen -- and then a miserable teen -- attending public schools for spoiled, rich, evil children (Southwood Junior High and Palmetto Senior High), The Falls shopping center was the place to go to see movies, mill about, and cause trouble. Of course, this took place in South Dade (not Miami-Dade), pre-Hurricane Andrew, pre-Pinecrest incorporation, pre-Parrot Jungle’s move to the concrete Jungle Island alongside I-395. In other words, I’m discussing ancient history.
After I graduated from the University of Florida in 1997, I took a reporting job for the Coral Gables Gazette. At that time it seemed Coconut Grove was the place to go. Although Coral Gables seemed to be a decent enough spot to waste your paycheck, as well.
However, looking back, I think Coral Gables was always an insular, conservative, wealthy community. I suspected that at the time; now, years and many Miami neighborhoods later, I see I was right. I think youth had me fooled. Youth and proximity. I also remember some bars like Hooligan’s in the Dadeland area being popular. Odd.
But here’s the thing: I can’t deal with going south of downtown Miami anymore. Frankly, it gives me the creeps. I’m not sure if this is because it reminds me of my miserable childhood or because it seems, for lack of a more original phrase, incredibly lame. It’s all suburbs and Little League and yawn, yawn, yawn.
Not that there’s a lack of those things north of the Brickell line. It’s just that I can get away from them more easily in an area like Midtown or Wynwood or North Miami, where there is a thriving arts community.
But was southern Dade always a bastion of boredom? The neighborhoods south of downtown Miami used to teem with some young or edgy life, no? Now when I visit them, they seem mere tidal pools of ennui.
And you know who still lives there? My shorthaired, proud-new-father-shocked-at-the-site-of-tattoos-Ex. And big surprise: We have never exchanged holiday cards.
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