When I was young I didn’t like the way elderly types smelled. I was tutored by a 70something retired guy when I was 11 or 12 or thereabouts (my grades when it came to math and science were always poor as I cared only for English and history) and I recall sitting in his study and wondering “what’s up with this guy?” He smelled like something spicy and withered and mildewy. Like rotting bread. Plus he had bony, crinkly, liver-spotted hands.

On top of which I didn’t like him personally — he was snappy and brittle-mannered. I only lasted three or four sessions with the guy, partly because he was soon letting me know that he found me slow on the pickup and therefore irritating. Except the main reason I wasn’t paying close attention is that I couldn’t stop thinking how funny he smelled and how much I wanted to get out of there. Eff you, gramps.

Ever since Sutton came along in mid-November of ’21, the aroma thing has been my greatest fear. I’m terrified that she’ll think of me the way I thought about that bent-over, white-haired scold who smelled like an attic. I’m therefore always careful to wash scrupulously when I’m visiting her, and to always wear white musk cologne or Aqua Velva after-shave in her presence.

Hence my feeling of enormous relief and elation last weekend when I was carrying Sutton in a recreational park and she said, “Poppa, I like your hair.” The color or the texture, I presumed she meant, but perhaps also the scent. It was one of the best compliments I’ve ever gotten in my life…wow!

One of my earliest girlfriends (the summer after graduating from high school) told me she loved my eyes, and a certain Manhattan girlfriend told me back in ’79 or thereabouts that she liked my washboard abs and to never let my mid-section get flabby. But until last weekend nobody had ever complimented my hair. I’ll never forget this.