Saturday, January 19, 2008

Ladies Who Lunch

Tomato Roma Soup with a parmesan toast at the Seattle downtown Nordstrom café is the coda to my monthly Saturday haircut. My appointment ends around lunchtime, and I stroll over to the store, wander about through various departments trying to avoid the shoes--I failed today, and have a new pair and a dinged up budget--avail myself of the Women's Lounge, and then round out the ritual with soup.

I love it. It's a perfect match for my knockabout clothes and battered Saucony shoes and no make-up, topped with a killer new coiffure. Soup drives right down the middle between comfy and coiffed.

This particular café features a long leatherette banquette with six two-top tables in the middle of the room. It's a high traffic area, and the only people ever seated there are solo women, who always sit on the banquette side, with their shopping bags serving as mute companions on the facing chairs.

I've never seen a man in this area. It's the Ladies Who Lunch section, period, and the types are the same. There's often one elderly woman who has a paperback book, reading glasses, and wears her knitted cap throughout lunch. This type orders a sandwich and a large cookie with black coffee, and she packs up half of each to take home.

There's the Overdone Type. She will have too much make-up on, have too big hair, too much jewelry, too ostentatious clothes, too much food, and be too demanding of the waitstaff.

My favorite is the Proper Lady type. She's in her 80s, and lives alone, since her husband died many years ago. She still keeps house, still goes to church on Sunday morning with her offering envelope filled out in spidery script, and comes to Nordstrom on Saturday with her pocketbook, her outmoded but well-maintained skirt suit, her pearls, her pumps and nylons, and her handkerchief.

She has a salad, tea, and a fruit tartlet, and she savors every bite. She is the one who engages me in conversation and murmurs "oh, my!" as I answer each of her questions, as if I'm the most interesting and exotic person she has ever encountered in her long life.

I was seated next to a Proper Lady today. She had never seen an iPhone and was completely puzzled and fascinated that I would photograph my soup and then send the picture to a friend.

I liked her. Of the three types, she's the one I want to be when I grow up, although I have nothing in common with her. I don't have a husband, so I can't be a widow. I don't tithe, so my spidery script will have to fill out something besides an offering envelope. And God knows I would sooner stand on my head and spit nickels than willingly don nylons.

But she was curious. She was out in the world, she was her version of All Dolled Up, she was looking around, she was registering and observing, and she was brazen enough to chat up a perfect stranger.

Well done.

She's my hero today.

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