The thing about getting older is everybody’s nice to me. Women who are much younger come up and say “I like your style,” or “Great outfit.” Young men smile when passing and tell me I have beautiful hair. Even in the building I live in, where most of us hover around the same age, we’re all relentlessly nice to each other.

After a while it becomes obvious that nice is just another form of invisibility. Compliment paid, courtesies exchanged, move on. I’d almost rather have a street person rail at me–at least that makes a good story. But when a mere slip of a girl remarks upon my “outfit,” she strolls off while I realize she has no conception of what an outfit really is–and that’s the end of it. I’ve been the beneficiary of “Pay it forward,” and I do. That’s what passes for social interaction when a woman gets older. 

My mother once told me she wanted to get old so she could be like Mrs. Hollister, an aristocratic old lady who lived on her block. Mrs. Hollister carried a cane and when cars stopped too close to her when she was crossing the street, she used it to strike their hoods with authority. Now there was a woman who still caused a public sensation by refusing to dabble in being nice. 

Sometimes I think of becoming Mrs. Hollister but unlike her, I live in the era of drive-by shootings. Instead I dabble with the idea of finding someone who would make me a lovely sword-cane, but I’m not quite the right age to carry that off properly. Instead I buy clothes.

We all greet each other in the building where I live, probably because meeting someone in the hallway is almost an event in this place that often feels like a ghost town hotel. Once in a while there’s even a spot of conversation involved, the oatmeal variety, bland and pallid. 

One day I walked through the door to the street and passed a man with whom I’d exchanged taciturn hellos. This time he was pushing something that resembled an infant’s stroller and without breaking stride I said “Nice baby you’ve got there.” 

Obviously he was another person drowning in nice because we’ve been talking in brief bursts of companionability ever since. His face lights up when he sees me and I’ve begun looking for him when I’m out in the world. It’s come to the point where I’m ready to ask him to have coffee.

It’s not easy breaking through niceness to find friends when you’re getting older. The people who nourish my life are ones I met in a past decade or three and few of them are men. I don’t want romance in my life but I long for the excitement and discovery that a new friendship brings. I want to move past platitudes into exchanges of sarcasm. I don’t know about you but I’m effing tired of being nice.