The basic story line of The Old Man Who Flirted with Young Waitresses is set forth in the novel’s first-person prologue:
“When I was sixty-three years old, I impregnated nineteen-year-
old Terry Mezzogiorno. She was unhappy about it. I was unhappy about it. My forty-three-year-old girlfriend was unhappy about it. It turned out that Terry’s ex-boyfriend, at the time in prison, was unhappy about it. My mother was unhappy about it. I felt that I had been thrown – or had thrown myself – into a deep pit. I couldn’t see the light. And I didn’t know how to dig myself out. And yet, as they say in Chinese philosophy, “From good comes bad. From bad comes good.” Consequently, I have quite a story to tell.”
Roberto Mastroianni is the protagonist of the novel. He is, as already indicated, its first-person narrator. He is sixty-three-years-old, a retired professor of English literature, and lives with his domineering Italian mother, eighty-year-old Luisa. He is, when the novel opens, a mamone, or “a mama’s boy.” He spends is life in limbo wandering between Boom-Boom’s Café, hanging out at his best friend Dino’s liquor store, working sporadically on a novel called Tough Guy, and dating his girlfriend, ex-stripper Julia. The status quo of his life is turned upside down when he begins a relationship with nineteen-year-old Terry, a waitress at Boom-Boom’s Café.
It is Terry who seduces Roberto. She is just using him for sex and a little companionship while waiting for roughneck Johnny Dalton, her boyfriend, to get out of prison. Terry is on the wild side. She ran away from home and her wino father, Garibaldi, at the age of sixteen.
When Johnny comes out of prison and finds out Terry is pregnant with another man’s child, the situation becomes complex and difficult. Terry continues to profess her love for the abusive Johnny.
A satisfactory resolution of the novel’s central problem is eventually achieved. I won’t spoil the book for you by giving away the details of its ending.
Roberto Mastroianni. As already indicated, Roberto is the protagonist of the novel. He is a retired sixty-three-year-old professor. He and his pals flirt with waitresses. It’s all pretty innocent. Then Terry Mezzogiorno gives him a note that says: “Why don’t you put your money where your mouth is?”
Terry Mezzogiorno. She’s nineteen, wild, and impulsive. She ran away from home she was sixteen years old. She has a tattoo of a butterfly on her left breast. She eventually falls in love with Roberto, even though he’s old enough to be her grandfather.
Johnny Dalton. He’s Terry’s boyfriend. He is in prison when the novel opens. He wears a black leather jacket and drives a Harley. He’s cocky and self-confident. When he finds out that Terry is pregnant with Roberto’s child, he wants her to have an abortion.
Luisa Mastroianni. Luisa is Roberto’s mother. She’s dominating, but loving. She provides a stable home base for Roberto, and, later, Terry.
Dino Leone. He’s sixty-two, owns a liquor store, and is Roberto’s best friend. Dino is a lady’s man. He acts on his impulses, and is almost stabbed to death by his long-suffering wife, Simone.
Julia Davis. Julia is Roberto’s long-time girlfriend and an ex-stripper. She is also a talented avant-garde painter. She provides Roberto with both sex and nurturance. However, she ends her sexual relationship with Roberto when she learns about Terry.
Fortuna Russo. Fortuna is from New York. She’s a law student, and considers herself to be a psychic. She does a belly dance for Roberto in a motel. This leads to sex, but no commitment. She’s in love with her law professor at Columbia. She makes an important statement on a folded slip of paper. Roberto opens the message toward the end of the novel, and it plays an important part in resolving Roberto’s conflict with Johnny Dalton and Terry.