Dot & Ralfie: Old age ain't for sissies

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Image courtesy of University of Wisconsin Press
Image courtesy of University of Wisconsin Press

2022 University of Wisconsin Press
147 pages

Neither Dot nor Ralfie could agree on how they met, except that it was back when good Lesbian bars still existed, before the internet. Dot recalled — but Ralfie denied — that they met over a pool game and Ralfie wandered away. They both remember a cocktail party when Ralfie first took Dot home with her.

These days, though, "home" is a third-floor walk-up in a Boston neighborhood. It's been a great place. Dot & Ralfie like the neighbors and all, but Dot's 68 and Ralfie's over 70, so three floors of steps are a problem. A big problem, especially when you've had knee surgery like Ralfie has. Especially when you've had a teensy little heart attack and walking makes you winded, as it does Dot.

And so Dot's sister, Susan, has been pushing Dot and Ralfie to move to a senior-living complex, which Ralfie refers to as Maple Grave, because that's what's next, isn't it? Susan is so determined to have Ralfie and Dot move there that she buys a way-off-the-beaten-path Maple Grave apartment of her own, for herself and her lover, Germaine.

But Germaine's not happy: she's more than a decade younger than Susan, and besides, she'd miss her friends back in the city, just as Ralfie would miss the guys at her job at the DPW, and Dot would miss the kids at the school library where she worked. And it would be such a hassle for Dot to see the older librarian that she had a little affair with not long ago. Viola was ailing, and needed Dot's help.

Still, those stairs. What was the next step?

The meme is correct: "Old age ain't for sissies." But what are ya gonna do about it? You're gonna read Dot & Ralfie, that's what.

That's because this is an adorable book. It's funny in all the right parts, good-naturedly grumpy where it needs to be, and wonderfully, wryly sarcastic, but author Amy Hoffman also nudges her readers to think about their own futures and what they might entail. Who will care for us when we only have similarly aged friends to rely on?

To soften the soberness of that question, Hoffman gives readers a handful of very charming characters that fuss at one another, argue, make up, scheme, and fuss some more. It's a little like a Lesbian Honeymooners episode, only much sweeter and better.

There aren't a lot of novels specific to Lesbian seniors who want something reflective of their lives, so seek out Dot & Ralfie. If you're tired of the usual literature, it's the perfect alternative.