Gerald and I are conversing by the coffee station at the start of shift.
“My friend’s daughter’s ten and she’s already menstruating,” he says.
“Ten?” I gasp in surprise, “isn’t that a little early?”
“Unbelievable ain’t it?”
“Man, girls are hitting puberty younger and younger,” I say shaking my head. “When I was a kid girls didn’t start till twelve or thirteen.”
“I read somewhere that all the hormones injected into meat and dairy products have something to do with it,” Gerald replies.
“Ten is too young.”
“They think that in twenty years the onset of menstruation could be around six years old.”
My stomach turns. Children should be allowed to be children. What’s this world coming to?
“And you know some six year old will get pregnant.” I say sadly. “When I worked in health care I saw girls knocked up at twelve.”
“Boggles the mind,” Gerald says dryly.
“At least when I have daughters there’ll be some microchip technology so I can track them,” I say.
“The second some boy tries something the chip calls my cell phone and delivers him a 10,000 volt shock,” I fantasize.
Think I’m twisted? Talk to any guy who has daughters. They’d install one in a second.
“Good thing they didn’t have that back when you were a teenager,” Gerald laughs.
“Yeah,” I say ruefully, “but back then the girls were teenagers too.”
Mercifully the door chimes, ending our conversation. I walk up to the hostess stand.
Waiting in the entrance is one of the most beautiful girls I’ve ever seen.
“Hi,’ she says brightly, “Are you looking to hire a hostess?”
Sometimes a girl is so lovely a guy becomes stupid.
“I certainly hope so,” I reply.
The girl smiles winsomely. A trim brunette, dressed in a professional but sexy outfit, she has a face that could launch a thousand ships. She looks to be about twenty two.
I realize that I’m staring.
“Let me get you an application,” I say yanking myself out of my reverie.
I leave the girl to fill out the paperwork and grab some more coffee.
“Wow!” I say refilling my cup, “She’s cute.”
“Si, si muy bonita,” Maria, the busgirl, says smiling. She knows I’m a happy guy.
Cup in hand, I waltz back over to the hostess stand to see if the girl needs any help.
“All done,” the girl says handing me the form.
“That was fast,” I say looking over the application.
“I’m seventeen. Is that going to be a problem?” the girl asks.
Suddenly I feel some kind of internal portcullis come crashing down.
“You’re how old?” I ask.
“Seventeen. I just graduated high school.”
“High school?” I blurt.
“I’m worried I can’t work in a place that serves liquor until I’m eighteen.”
I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach. Seventeen? I was TWENTY when this girl was born.
My face betraying nothing I say, “If you’re only a hostess it’s ok. You just can’t serve alcohol.”
“Oh good,” the girl replies.
We chat a few minutes. She’s looking for a small job before she starts UConn in the fall. I tell her the owner will call her if he has something available.
He won’t. She’s too young for the rough and tumble of our bistro. It would be cruel.
The girl thanks me and departs. Normally I cast an appreciative look when a beautiful woman walks out the door.
She’s seventeen for Christ’s sake.
Walking dejectedly back into the kitchen I announce,
“That girl was only seventeen!”
“Really?” Gerald says surprised.
“Must be the hormones in the milk,” he observes.
“Hey – you a dirty old man or what?” Maria adds laughing.
I slowly beat my head against the wall. “Seventeen, seventeen,” I groan.
“I hope her Dad had her microchiped,” Gerald quips.
“Thank a lot New Guy,” I reply.
I just turned thirty seven. I feel old. It’s a sensation I’m experiencing more and more.
Something tells me it’s only going to get worse.