A Boca Tale
You're baby boomer and beyond. A divorcée with a fat bank account 'cause you knew when to pull out of the market in the '90s. But when you pulled your old bell-bottoms from your college trunk a couple of months ago and the fit wasn't even close, you started doing the math. Lots of subtraction: a few grand, a few waist sizes, and plenty of years, to be sure. But hey, bell-bottoms are back in, after all. They're just called flair.
Welcome to my generation, ladies and gentlemen! Here, borrow my Nelly CD. No, nobody twists anymore. We'll have to teach you to bump and grind.
Actually, come to think of it, those crow's-feet around your eyes aren't exactly marching to today's tune either, now are they? Nip, nip, tuck. A couple drops of silicone and your daughter-in-law will look like a plain Jane sitting next to you at the bar. Time is the nemesis of humanity, but you can buy your way out. The solution is skin-deep, but in a superficial land like Boca Raton, where no one bats a well-mascaraed lash at the complexity of existence, you'll go far!
Or at least, this is what I told a baby-boomer friend before we ventured north from Fort Lauderdale on I-95. Around 8 p.m., we arrived at the bar of Maxwell's Chophouse (501 E. Palmetto Park Rd.). We were greeted by a genial dark-haired man in a suit. Protocol. All the stools were occupied so, while standing, we ordered two glasses of merlot and scanned the patrons. We analyzed a few blond women at the end of the bar: mid 40s, natural looking, scarfing a plate of fried calamari like they were at the Ale House. Not our target.
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Then we realized we were overlooking our next-door neighbors. Just to our left were two more scalps sprouting blond radiance. These women were wrapped up in conversation that could not be deciphered on account of one's thick European accent and the other's raspy three-packs-a-day whisper. Clearly, they were in their 60s, as were their well-dressed dinner dates. When a white-coated waiter approached and informed them that their table was ready, the raspy voice of one blond helmet replied, "I guess I'm going to have to carry my own drink to the table." Sensing conflict, the waiter immediately whisked it away. She turned toward us as she stood to leave. "Here, ladies," she whispered, "grab these seats." For a moment, I thought Joan Rivers was lurking behind that trampoline-like epidermis.
And we did. Not long after, two more stools next to us opened up. They were filled by a heavy-set woman in her early 50s whose light-pink collagen-puffed lips contrasted starkly with her dark tan, creating the image of a real-life Miss Piggy. She was wearing a tight pink-and-white zebra dress. Her ample bosom, perhaps real, was nearly popping out of the top.
Hmm, how to ask her about those lips?
Suddenly, my guide became very excited. She directed my attention to the other end of the bar: "There they are: the Boca rites." Five women came in all full of themselves: two bleached blonds, a lustrous brunet, a dyed redhead, and their frumpy friend. I couldn't determine their age from my vantage point. My guide said they were in their 50s at least and added, "And you know they're all interior decorators."
The brunet and the redhead, who had long, straight, styled hair, were throwing back mixed nuts and wasabi peas with graceless swings of their arms, as if they were fans at a baseball game. Short well-dressed men started crowding around them as diners at nearby tables watched the spectacle. Maybe they would be my "it" girls. Their tight faces had clearly been in the hands of professionals. But they were so engrossed in conversation with Miss Piggy at that point that I was deterred.
So we left Maxwell's and breezed through the neighborhood, where the crowd was a little too young for our mission. While there, one Albanian man in his mid-30s latched onto me at the bar at Gigi's Tavern (346 Plaza Real), his hands groping as fast as mine were slapping them away. I asked him about the women in Boca and plastic surgery.
He replied that a lot had done it but that he preferred my natural enticements. "Boca," he said, "is about the way you look, the car you drive, and the house you live in."
I asked if the women were bitchy.
"Yes," he replied, "very." Understandably so.
We fled from the aggressive latch-on to the plastic-surgery promised land: Pete's (7940 Glades Rd.), a high-priced restaurant and bar notorious for its plus-age cruising crowd. Although it was mid-September, the place was already decked out in elaborate Halloween décor -- which was eerily appropriate. Packed wall to wall with patrons, the three bars were churning out drinks to people -- many of whom had undergone facial enhancements that left them with permanent expressions of cat-eyed boredom and high-cheeked disdain. A tall man, clearly in his 50s and clearly wearing hair plugs, asked me to dance while Billy Jean played. I told him that I wanted to get a drink before I danced... and slipped away. I cupped my large glass of wine like an alcoholic getting her fix as I stood in the only open space in the bar: near the dance floor. I was relieved to see that the man who'd propositioned me had opted for a woman at least 25 years my elder.
My guide, however, could not get a spare moment to sip her vino. Indeed, she would do well to acquire an ounce of the Boca-rite bitchiness and learn to say "no" when a man asks her to dance. A short stumpy chump completely lacking in personality, perhaps a mute, took her hand the moment she finished spinning around the floor with a thin leathery oldster who seemed to be wrestling with her. As she strutted to Michael Jackson's Thriller, she was careful not to touch him, and she looked off over his shoulders alternately, so as not to make eye contact. I studied him from afar and noticed, horror of horrors, that between the third unclasped button of his half-open shirt hung a gold charm that spelled his name vertically: L-L-O-Y-D.
After the song ended, I pulled my companion to the safety of the bar. As we were having our second drink, we observed the crowd. We noted a tall grizzled man with a finely trimmed mustache circling the bar like a shark in a business suit. Most likely, he had walked over from the hotel in the business park next door looking for a one-night stand. At this point, it seemed he was just trying to find something decent to salvage the night. My guide pointed out a woman and said: "Look, her mouth goes back to her ears. She's definitely had two face-lifts." The woman indeed had a snout-like boca raton. I could not tell exactly how old she was -- at least 65. Next to us at the bar was another tight-faced vixen of indeterminable age with long black hair; she was bouncing like a teenager on the lap of a man who could have been 40, could have been 60. Behind her, sitting at a high-top table, was a woman whose eyes had been pulled so tight that she looked like an extra from the musical Cats. The surgery did obscure age, but what it left in the place of well-earned laugh lines was preternaturally smooth.
Then disaster. L-L-O-Y-D showed up behind my guide's chair, rested a hand on it, but couldn't seem to muster the courage for a smirk or a grin, let alone a word of introduction. She slipped away to the bathroom and came back with a woman who was well over six feet tall with long, curly, blond hair -- Alice in Wonderland after eating the big pill. She works as an assistant in a plastic surgeon's office, she explained, and has had a face-lift herself.
"Why do people do it?" I asked. "Why did you do it?"
Her response was accompanied by no facial gestures: "Nobody wants to get old, and nobody wants to look older. So if you can do it, then why not? I went to my high school reunion last year, and everyone looked so old. I couldn't believe how old they looked."
She said she would turn 54 soon. "In fact," she said, "I've had Botox done too, on half of my face. It's very expensive, but when we have Botox parties [a phenomenon in which people gather to drink, socialize, and observe the radical effects of the botulinum toxin that a doctor injects into their faces], I get some if there's any left over. I'm still waiting to get the other half done." I looked closely at her face and tried to discern which side had been treated. I guessed wrong. "No, it's this side," she replied. Oopsy.
Moving on. The women in this place couldn't hide the work they'd had done, but what about the men? "Yes, we get a lot of men in. Mostly for liposuction around here," she said, moving her hand around her midsection. The men did indeed seem to be working that trim yet unexercised look. What about face-lifts? "Definitely," she replied. "But we pull the skin from the middle of their cheeks, so they start growing hair in their ears. It's true." Curious indeed.
Oh, the folly of youth regained. I asked her opinion of the scene at Pete's. "It's a place where older people get together to have fun," she answered. Interesting; I thought that such a place was called a bingo palace. I thought older people danced to Sinatra. Instead, tucked in tight clothing, the dancers -- grandparents, no doubt -- were grinding to a two-man band's rendition of Kylie Minogue's Can't Get You Out of My Head. When the band busted out a keyboard rendition of Nelly's Hot in Herre, and the dancers mouthed along "so take off all your clothes," I deemed it time to leave.
I wondered as I walked to the parking lot: If the silver generation is wearing the button-nosed mask of youth, who does my generation have to guide it through this fast-changing world?
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