love Starbuck's. But when the IBM of espresso drinks opened in my
own neighborhood, I sped right past it, settling for a deli coffee
farther down the road. My friends would bypass this particular Starbucks
as well, despite its friendly barristas and the deservedly famous
brew. Why would so many coffee-dependent women go elsewhere for
their caffeine fix?
Location, location, location.
The town's high school is right next to this Starbuck's branch and
from the day it opened, students have filled the coffee bar's signature
purple chairs. Throughout the school day, teenage boys and girls
spill out the front door and onto the surrounding sidewalk, giddy
with caffeine and sugar and youthful energy.
Actually, the boys don't
seem to drink much coffee. They tend to hover around the tables
where the girls are sitting, laughing, talking loudly and punching
each other in the arms, awkwardly waiting for the girls to either
give them instructions or dismiss them.
The girls do drink the coffee,
a scary amount of it. And the decision between a mocha latte or
and orange low-fat frappucino is not one they take lightly. Any
girl about to approach the counter does so dragging at least two
girlfriends along. Their job is to give advice on how to spend three-quarters
of her lunch money while blowing a five hundred calorie hole in
her daily diet plan.
"Should I get the mocha
but have skim?" or, "Is a soy latte less fattening because
it's too gross to finish?" Each member of this lip-glossed
ad-hoc committee weighs in while the guy behind the counter waits
for the final order. Starbucks must administer the same psychological
tests that airlines do before hiring someone to deal with the public
while holding hot beverages the barrista awaits their final
decision with the patience of a Zen master. It will be something
along the lines of a venti non-fat half-caff cappuccino with extra
whipped cream and sweet-n-low. Then her friends hold their own coffee
reviews until all three go off, cups in hand, giggling and groaning,
"Oh my God! These things are soooo fattening!"
So what busy grown-up has
the time or the patience to stand in this line? And what middle-aged
woman with a normal dose of vanity voluntarily surrounds herself
with beautiful young girls in size 2 jeans complaining about calories
while they scarf down whipped cream and cinnamon buns?
Now, we're a remarkably
well-preserved bunch in my part of the world. Women with kids old
enough to drive confidently zip around town in little tennis outfits.
A lot of them could fit comfortably into their teen-age daughters'
clothes (and, regrettably, some insist on doing just that). There
are, of course, "ladies who lunch" in my town, but most
of the women I know cram a lot into the hours their kids are in
school and inhale a sandwich while they drive around. They work
in the city or they're PTA presidents, yoga instructors, Little
League coaches, graduate students some truly formidable women
juggle all of these and more. We run the world, or at least our
corner of it, with supreme confidence; after all, it's still our
world, isn't it? Hell, we can't be the older, has-been generation
yet! With Tae-bo and botox and the right lighting, it's easy to
believe we're still very happening, very sexy, very young.
That is, until we find ourselves
surrounded by the truly young. Which is exactly what happens if
you patronize the local Starbucks during the school day, which,
as I mentioned earlier, we try very hard not to do.
Over time, I've started to
venture into this stronghold of the unwrinkled. I usually recognize
at least a few of the kids; I know their parents, I've watched many
of them grow up. Really, its kind of nice to see them taking their
places out in the world, even if it's the place I imagined my friends
and I still occupied. The kids are friendly and polite when they
recognize me. Once, the fifteen year-old daughter of my dearest
friend left the gang outside to come over and show me her newly
pierced navel. I did a decent job of hiding my initial horror, I
think. I even managed to remark on how good it looked. It did look
good, as a matter of fact. I told her that if I were fifteen instead
of forty, I might even get one, myself. "You could get it done,
Mrs. Rafferty it would look great on you!" Sweet child.
"Besides, nobody would see it."
She's right. I haven't voluntarily
exposed the skin between my neck and my knees in decades. My mid-section
is the Area 51 of my anatomy the official story is that it
doesn't even exist. Given my preference for comfortable pants and
big sweaters, I could probably impale myself with a tuning fork
and no one would notice.
So I've decided my C-section
scar adds enough visual interest below my navel. And I've decided
there are worse fates than being the oldest customer in the latte
line. Just the other day, I stood there behind two stick-thin teenaged
girls who had no trouble making up their minds. "Two tall skim
lattes, please," the skinnier of the two ordered, "and
no foam!" She turned to her friend and announced gravely, "That's
where all the calories are."
I looked at these two beautiful
young creatures painted-on jeans, faux designer bags, nails
bitten to the quick. Their eyes darted around nervously, as if the
diet police might storm in at any moment and catch them in a flagrant
act of caloric intake. So young, so skinny, so damn worried. They
stepped aside to wait for their drinks. The Zen barrista guy was
ready for my order.
"I'll take a grande
café mocha, please whole milk. And I'll take her foam,
And the Zen barrista guy