Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne


One of the “benefits” of working in the front office of Providence Retirement Villa is I receive feedback on every aspect of my lifestyle and appearance, whether I want it or not. (I do not.) Here are the three questions the residents always have for me:

•How old are you? (Twenty-five)

•Do you have a boyfriend? (No)

•Why not? (Miscellaneous reasons, none of which will satisfy them)

“There’s more to life than having a boyfriend,” I once told Mrs. Whittaker as we walked up the rain-slicked front path to her town house, her arm hooked into mine. “I’m right where I want to be, helping you all.”

“That’s true, Ruthie, honey. You’re a good worker,” she replied to me. “But boyfriends are a very nice part of life. I once had three at the same time.” She shuffled inside, her walking stick clicking on the tiles. Just as I was thinking I’d misunderstood, she said over her shoulder, “They knew each other, so it wasn’t awkward. Boy oh boy, I was exhausted. You’re prettier than I was, why don’t you try doing that?”

I was left on the doorstep, fighting the urge to ask some follow-up questions, primarily:


It’s likely Mrs. Whittaker could still get more action than me, and she’s eighty-seven. I think about that conversation a lot.

While my boss, Sylvia, is on her cruise, I get her desk with the good view. I’m emailing maintenance, and I’m also grappling with my daily three P.M. wave of melancholy. I save a yogurt for this exact moment. Sitting at my usual desk is Melanie Sasaki, the temp. She doesn’t understand the concept of pacing oneself, so she eats her lunch at 10:30 A.M. I can hear her stomach growling as I peel open my snack.

In a desperate outburst in the silence, she says, “Ruthie, I was thinking about you.”

I wish she wouldn’t. “Let me just finish this email to maintenance, then we can talk.”

I know I sound like a prissy jerk, but to survive these next two months as acting office manager, I’ve been trying to enforce a quiet-time policy. When Sylvia is here, I never speak to her if she’s typing. Or clicking. Or unless she speaks to me first.

Hey. I haven’t been this relaxed in years.

Melanie would probably talk while under a general anesthetic. “Let’s make you a dating profile.”

I break my own silence rule. “How do you know I don’t have one?” She’s teasing me, I know it. The residents of Providence are, generally speaking, brutally honest with me. But it’s always well intentioned.

She says, “You don’t even have an Instagram account, so you’re not exactly the type to put yourself out there. Am I wrong?”

She’s not. “Let me just finish this, Mel.” Quiet Time Shields Up.

I reword my request to maintenance from a where the hell are you guys to a more diplomatic as per my last email. There’s only so much DIY I can learn from YouTube.

When that’s sent, I find a Word document titled “RUTHIE_ PROFILE” in my personal folder. According to the file history, it hasn’t been accessed since I wrote it in a weird lonely moment last year, when online dating felt like a good idea for about thirty seconds. Maybe it’s not that bad? A workable base draft for a dating profile that will find me my Mr. Right? If Melanie wasn’t staring at me, I’d read it through my fingers.

Can I Take You Home to My Churchy Parents?

I’m a very old soul (24 going on 124). I’ve only seen one penis firsthand (briefly) and was not impressed enough to seek out another (probably should, though). Seeking patient, safe cuddle-bug soul mate to tell me when my cardigan is buttoned crooked. I live and work in a retirement villa. At this rate I’ll retire here, too.

Okay, so the only update to this I’d make is I’m now twenty-five going on a hundred and twenty-five.

Like she’s my impatient supervisor, Melanie asks: “Are you done now?”

After deleting that incriminating evidence, I counter with, “How’s that new resident profile you’re setting up for me in the system?”

Melanie purses her lips like, Spoilsport. “I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to utilize my true talent. The one I can’t put on my résumé.” She pauses for dramatic effect. “Getting peeps all loved up. If you only knew who you had here sitting across from you, you’d be jumping on this chance.”