More than a difference of opinion

I met two women today. The first was a woman whom I met this afternoon at the pool; the other was a woman whom I met later at the apartment. The woman at the pool (Carol) is a resident of Buttonwood Bay Club; the other (Mercedes or “Mercy” as she is nicknamed) is an employee of our estate agency who was here to change the lightbulbs throughout the unit. As you might justifiably expect for any number of reasons, there were palpable differences between the two women; but there were also a number of noticeable similarities.

Carol, although she is I recall 77 years of age, is undeniably good looking.  I suspect that in the correct evening apparel, Carol, with her tan and cropped hair (and her volume of shimmering jewellery around her neck and on her fingers), makes a stunning presentation. When she arrived at the pool she carried with her an inflated device (circular tubes at each end of a platform upon which she later reclined face up in the pool for at least 30 minutes); and she had a handsome striped beach bag in iconic blue and white colours.  Clearly she was accustomed to the strategic performance of dwindling by and in the pool. She knew for example precisely how to secure herself in the deep end of the pool adjacent the ladder while she absorbed the rays (and I think she dozed though I could not see for certain from my position on the chaise at the other end of the pool).

Mercedes (whose name I prefer – with the addition of the French pronunciation – in lieu of her nickname Mercy which I find too abrupt) is probably about 40 years of age. She arrived at our apartment door with a voice of conviction. Initially I could only hear her voice, not see her, as she made her entrance. She is what I call a full figured woman which frankly no doubt partly explains my embryonic attraction to her, although I later identified the allure as the tone and mettle of her voice which revealed an indisputable element of assurance and forthrightness.

Both women have reportedly been around the block.  Carol has been married four times; Mercedes has been married thrice. While Carol has nineteen grandchildren (who I am presuming include those from several if not all marriages), Mercedes laughingly expressed the hope that her two children (girls) will not have children as early as she (that is, at 20 years of age).  I imagine however that on balance Mercedes will one day be as gushing a grandparent as Carol already is.

The singular similarity of the two women is their extraordinary resolve and evident conviction. This frankness and outrightness is reflected not only in their unhesitant voices but also in the obvious scope of their accomplishment.  Here however things begin to diverge somewhat. Carol said she spent her working career in marketing. She says she likes people and is not afraid to say what she thinks.  My perception, having most commonly known business women in law and real estate, is that she is bright and unwavering.  Mercedes, who has but a high school diploma, is clearly as resolute, having held two jobs and raised (at least partly on her own) two girls. She tried to get a college degree but failed mathematics.  She says she’d like to return one day to complete the ambition. My conclusion was that anyone who had been through that much duty and obligation had already merited a reward of an indescribable description.

A moderate disassociation of the two women derives from their background. I am guessing that Carol, though she may not come from an upper class family, does come from a family of at least middle class means.  She informed me that she (and possibly her 80 year old husband) own their condominium here and another rental unit in Tavernier (at Ocean Pointe).  She made a point of commenting that her children have an upscale home.

Mercedes, while as indirectly acute about her financial status, painted a very different picture. She is the daughter of Cuban immigrants who came here to escape poverty and authoritarianism in Cuba. Her father arrived here in the 1960s; her mother followed about 10 years later.  Mercedes was born here in 1979 (making my earlier guess at her age about correct). Although Mercedes is American by birth (and proud of it) she is also clearly proud of her humble immigrant beginnings.  She has no desire to return to Cuba; she persists in her inherited perception of Cuban as a foul place to exist. She said the worse thing the Cuban government did was to allow the internet which then permitted youth to see what life could be like elsewhere.

I didn’t approach the political form directly except with Carol who is an unabashed Trump supporter.  There is a very good chance that Mercedes is as well (again for any number of possible reasons, including conformity, media persuasion and outright conviction based upon the obvious acuity of both women). I did however begin to lose my approbation of Carol’s determinative approach to life (which she characterized as conventional) when she began touting what had all the hallmarks of Republican conspiracy theories (including for example the assertion that schools have somehow co-opted parents by persuading children to act singularly and remotely from the erstwhile status quo to which people like Carol and I were accustomed). I tried to contradict Carol on that particular point but entirely without success; she would not be moved. Unwittingly I believe she disclosed that one of her grandchildren, a 16 year old boy, is “transitioning” and has even changed his name from a male label to a female one.  She did nonetheless acknowledge in answer to my exploration of the child’s undertaking that he may have other deeper personal issues and mental/emotional challenges which have predicted this seemingly antisocial enterprise.

When addressing Mercedes’ involvement with her children it was by contrast a manifest decision on her part to tell her girls that they make their bed, they sleep in it.  I got the impression that Mercedes had had enough in life to address without thinking beyond the necessities of existence.  This sparsity of strength of anything more glamorous than survival, combined with her single-mindedness to keeping going at all cost, afforded at least the appearance of a more robust conception of the future the universe and what it holds for our youth.

Interestingly upon reflection Carol told me she likes to watch Hallmark movies on television. Though I share her preference for diversion (and aversion to violence) on television, I think her penchant speaks more loudly to her avoidance of what she considers the harsh realties of the world beyond. Not that I believe Mercedes is more intellectually capable of handling the apparent obstructions of life, but I had the unmistakeable reaction that she hadn’t any conscious campaign to impose her beliefs to diminish those of others. No doubt, as I previously suggested, both women will eventually prove themselves to be loving grandparents for their issue of any description whatever they may be, he/she/they.

Comically Carol and I composed a speculative view of me as a thin man instead of the fat man I proposed I was; but we both concluded that whatever my appearance, what mattered was what was inside.  Which brings me to my own conclusion of this amateur analysis; namely, if the two ladies were to dress themselves in similar clothing and were settled at a similar table in a similar environment, they would be difficult to distinguish except by their age difference.  They are both intelligent, good looking and inalterable. And I suspect they have both endured more than they care to recall.