Oh no! He's looking at me!
"How old are YOU!?" he asked, cocking his head like a quizzical bird. A crow, or a raven.
It's not a hard question, but I paused. I'm among the senior citizens of the world who are reluctantly getting used to being senior citizens. It's not easy to spit out my real number. So I say, like my mother before me said decades after she really was this age: "I'm 39."
Sadly, this caused more levity on the bus.
"Ok, ok, I'm 71," I confessed. "But," I asked the guide, "Don't you know you're not supposed to ask people, especially American women, how old they are?"
Versions of that issue have surfaced over the past 30 years when my sister Monette Johnson and I are out and about together. It doesn't seem to matter where or when, or which one of is having the worst bad hair day, of which there are many. Here's how it goes.
Oh! You must be twins!
Retail clerk in Medford, OR
You 're sisters, right? Yes. sisters, we confirm.
Whew! I'm in the clear. Then the clerk feels the need to press, About a year apart?
AAARGH! I could cough up a dozen examples of such questions, and my sister could likely recall more, as they excite her pleasure centers.
I should be happy for her that she involuntarily glows when this happens, and doesn't rub it in. But, on my side, the inquiries continue to prickle.
It's our sick youth-possessed culture and celebrity-worshipping media that have some of us clinging for dear life to what remains of our fleeting youth, if even a shred remains.
When I get really old, I know I'll get over it.
Years ago, before my hair was as gray as hers, someone assumed my sister was my mother. I withheld that bit until the most recent incident in Medford (see above.) But she did not believe it.
When is your due date?
How much do you make?
How much did you pay for that?
More than I'm willing to say.
Why don't you have children?
Really, you're asking me that? You ass.
Have you had an abortion?
Perhaps the most private of all areas of inquiry. Could result in waterboarding
Are you a Jew? Muslim? Christian? etc.
Yes, no, or maybe. And you?
Are you a Trump supporter?
If you are, be careful who you tell.
Did you have work done? Asked with a knowing (or assuming) nod toward your eyelids, jowls, nose, lips, breasts, tummy or other unreconstructed features.
If no, be flattered.
If yes, suggest the questioner might benefit from such a procedure, perhaps to sew his or her big mouth shut.
Do you dye your hair?
The last one, below, is for women whose blessed event occurs near the end of her child-bearing years. That was me.
You're a little old to be having a baby, aren't you?
A male stranger asked as I shopped for groceries in Grants Pass, OR, at age 41, eight months pregnant with Chris Korbulic, who turned out to be a magnificent human being.
I was a tad old (others had asked if I knew what causes it), but his deflating question left me speechless.
I can report that Grants Pass, Oregon, in 1989 was home to the world's rudest person. That asshole.
Do you have a rude-question moment to share, one of those "I'm speechless and can't believe you're asking!" moments? If so, please share on this blog or on Facebook, wherever you're engaged.