I enter the elevator, heading for the writers’ event in an Arts District studio. More than my anticipation of hearing live authors, I’m thrilled to find a lift, since my heart – not to mention hips and legs – had quailed at the prospect of a long, slow climb up the two sets of stairs which had thrown themselves at me as I’d walked in the door. There they’d loomed, gleaming in a metallic, cobalt blue, an industrial-chic effect not totally lost on me despite my dismay (I’m a writer, after all, and ergo, a keen observer). I’d detected them in the blink of an eye, noting the droves of cultured young things scampering up and down them like springbok.
Were I to attempt the ascent, I would have to first grip the handrail like a drowning person grasping at rope around a lifeboat. Then I’d place one foot heavily on the bottom step and pull up the other one to join it. I’d move the gripping hand along and repeat the arduous process for the second step, and so on, twenty times. Stairs, for my age and weight, are no longer to be taken lightly. Indeed, the physical layout of a venue becomes a central concern, far more important than the event itself. Ben Heppner or Pavarotti would take back seats, as ’twere.
In the elevator, I stand near the door. Behind me is a gaggle of young women, laughing and shrieking. Not one or two, but six! It’s like a frat party in that cramped space. I’m just about to turn around and frown them down, old-lady-like, when one voice rises above the others.
“Yes, it’s true! They can’t start without us, even if we’re a bit late.” More squealing laughter.
I’m stunned. This is clearly the event’s welcome guide and the gaggle of gigglers are – incredibly – the writers! She-who-spoke has that welcome-guide look about her; older than the others, with a commanding presence. She may even be in her forties.
I do a reality-check.
“Are these the writers?” I ask, all my preconceptions blown.
“They are,” she replies.
“All of them??”
She cocks her head, brows furrowed.
I don’t mean to be rude; I’m just incredulous. These young women certainly hadn’t been acting like writers, or the way I imagined serious writers would act. Is this how being a thirty-something writer manifests itself? To my aging eyes, the group is barely discernible from a herd of millennials at the mall.
Seemingly, my preconceived notions about writers is entirely false. I’ve noticed before that my 68 years hamper me from distinguishing between ages 20 and 40. This group may as well have been teenagers, so young did they seem. These days, I feel the same about groups of off-duty young teachers. Or nurses. Or lawyers.
Hearing their guide’s louder voice, the young women take the hint and settle down. Most of them make eye contact as their guide speaks with me, but three avert their eyes. Am I just another overweight old lady to them, with pretensions to literature? Have I ever written anything in my life? Can I even read? Do I adore Danielle Steele at home and Hello magazine in the beauty parlour? (um….I do like that last option).
As we exit the elevator, I stand aside to let the giggling herd pass. I have excellent seats in the front row of the small theatre, but somehow it doesn’t matter. The event feels ruined for me, and I make a plan to leave early. I cannot imagine what this group of young people can have yet experienced that would be of interest to me.
Turns out I’m wrong. Their books are brilliant. I stay on and even buy one of the novels on the way out. An autographed copy.