“Lately you have men on your mind….” That’s how my brother’s letter started out. I read the sentence several times and then asked myself: “Is that true?” I could answer yes or no. Am I thinking about men more than before? Before when? If I say 5 years ago, the answer is “yes”. If I say 17 years ago, the answer is “no”, definitely not: at that time I was just divorced and one of the top –if not the top-top- items on my mind’s list was A MAN, any man from the creeps to the crawlies. Continue reading
The dream was very clear. The Gardener’s small, dark green, paneled truck pulled up to the curb. My Mother got on the truck by way of a ramp that dropped down to the street, and moved to sit in the front seat. I felt sad; I didn’t want her to leave so I grabbed ahold of the ramp to stop the truck from departing. The Gardener walked over and looked at me kindly. He was a very tall, thin man with a long, horse-like face that was terribly gentle looking. He was dressed in a very pale beige shirt and pants. I looked into his face. He smiled kindly. “Your Mother has to go now” he said, “and when she comes back she will bring you a big gift.” I let go of the ramp and awoke.
There was a sweet sadness in my chest as I contemplated the blue sky visible through the window from where I lay on the bed. It had been almost a year since my Mother had died and during all that time I had felt her so close that she was more alive to me now than before she passed. I knew the dream meant that she was leaving definitely. The air around me felt differently; there was more emptiness and the warm glow that always accompanied my Mother’s presence seemed to have dissipated. I lay there for a moment remembering the night of her death.
I had seen to my Mother’s care for over eleven years, ever since the first signs of senile dementia appeared, for a time in her home with hired caretakers and then in the nursing home where she spent the last six years of her life. Her mind had gone slowly, almost gently, but definitely so that in the end she neither spoke nor reacted to the stimulus around her. She had become like a small child expressing only two things: her dislike or unhappiness, by lowering her head and refusing to look at anybody, especially me, and her love by climbing onto my lap and pulling her knees up until I hooked my arm under them, holding her as if she were a small child in my arms. She was so thin that her weight was easy to bear, and those moments were the sweetest and most intimate I ever remember having with my Mother: such a gift, but not the last one I would receive from the woman who gave me life. She didn’t ask much of me in those last times, rather she couldn’t, nor did I ask much of her. We sat together, in her room, three or four times a week, in silence, holding hands. Sometimes I would take her ice cream and feed it to her, others I would watch the television for a while just to be present; always I would kiss her and tell her I loved her. But there was one thing I did ask, not of my mother, but of the Powers That Be. More than anything, if it were possible, I wanted to be with her when she died. I did not want to think of her making that last transition all alone (and I couldn’t know that she would be alone, could I, for some say that a dear one comes for us to accompany us on that journey).
I will never forget the night she died. I didn’t know it then, but it was to be one of Life’s greatest gifts. I had been to see my Mother that afternoon and had, as a matter of fact, spoken with the doctor in front of her. She had almost stopped eating and they were contemplating feeding her through a tube. I looked the doctor straight in the eye and smiling in spite of the tears filling my own told him that I did not want my Mother force fed.
“There is no need for any measures except to make her comfortable; her quality of life is minimal and my Mother deserves to die with dignity. She has been a brave woman and I have watched her allow her own Mother to die without interfering. My grandmother took a bottle of sleeping pills when she no longer wanted to live; my mother knew this, and yet respected her wish, doing nothing to prevent her going. And then again when my Father was in the hospital, his heart barely keeping him alive, she was the one that lowered his bed at his request although they were both perfectly aware that the liquid in his lungs would bring about the end. If my Mother has almost stopped eating I have the moral obligation to allow her to go without interfering. I am certain you’ll understand this.”
Tears were rolling down my cheeks by the time I finished, but the smile continued on my face. The doctor nodded, smiled back, stood, shook my hand and left. I looked at my Mother. She looked at me. There was no sign in her eyes of having understood what went on and yet we were together in a complicity that transcended life itself, a complicity of respect; in my heart, I bowed down before the woman who had birthed me.
When I was about to leave, I hugged her frail body and whispered in her ear how much I loved her. I told her nurse that I would return that evening.
At 9 pm I called the residence. The girl attending my Mother whispered that she was sleeping peacefully and had eaten at least half the food on her tray. I was tired and hungry so I decided that it wouldn’t be necessary to return to the residence that evening. All was peaceful. I could go directly home after having a salad at the neighborhood restaurant where I often ate.
On leaving the restaurant a while later, I climbed into the car and headed towards my house. Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain in my chest and a voice in my head said: “My Mother is dying.” Immediately the logical mind stepped in: “You’re just imagining it because she was so frail today”. I doubted. There was a moment of indecision while I waited at a red light and then I knew: I had to go and see. The residence was only five minutes away and it was 10:50 when I arrived. Strangely the door was still open and the man at the desk didn’t even look up as I entered so no explanations for my late visit were necessary. I hurried to my Mother’s room. She was awake, lying on her side, a bit of spittle with blood on the sheet under her cheek.
“I’m here, Mommy” I whispered kissing her cheek. Her breathing was labored as if there was phlegm or liquid in her wind pipes so I sat her up and rested her against the pillows. The nurse looked in; I told her everything was all right, I was just making my Mother comfortable. She left again. I sat on the edge of the bed as close to her as I could without making it uncomfortable; taking her hand and resting the palm of my other hand on the side of her head, I looked into her face. In a voice as soft as I could muster I told her there was nothing to be afraid of.
It was a little past 11pm. The nursing home was absolutely still. My Mother’s breathing had become steady and whatever was in the way of it had disappeared. We sat there in silence. After a while, she closed her eyes and I allowed my gaze to rest on her beloved face; my breathing began matching hers. Inside of me everything was silent. I was totally at peace, no thought, no uncalled for emotion, no inner or outer disturbance that might have fractured that encapsulated moment. Towards 12 o’clock her breathing –the only sound in the absolute silence of the sleeping residence- became slower and more spaced out. At midnight she breathed one last time and then just didn’t breathe again. I waited for the “death rattle” I had heard about so often. There was nothing: just silence, and two women –one dead, the other alive- sitting, holding hands. As I sat waiting, making sure that she would not start up breathing again, I felt the room come alive with her presence that was no longer in the body, but all around, filling the space, extending outward and inward till there was nothing left but gratitude and joy. My Mother was gone and never, ever had she been more present.
“You made it Mommy, you did it; you really did. I love you so much” I whispered, feeling gratitude and respect fill my chest while the tears ran down my cheeks. They were not tears of sorrow, and I was smiling as if from one cohort to the other after a successful heist.
Now, as I lay on my bed remembering and realizing that the dream had announced the parting of that presence which had lasted almost a year, I wondered at the miracle of Life and Death, and the way in which we know for certain things that the logical mind cannot accept.
By the time things began happening later that day, I had all but forgotten the dream, so I could find no explanation for my sudden determination to spend New Year’s with my daughter in –of all places- Acapulco. As to why this idea was so strange needs some explaining.
My daughter at that time was married and had three children (she still has the children, of course) and I was not on the Favorite People list of my then son-in-law. I remember exactly when I fell from his good graces. My daughter hadn’t been married even a year when she threw him out of the house because of his drinking and coming home in the wee hours of the morning almost every night. Shortly after she asked him to leave, he showed up at my door saying he wanted to explain to me what was happening.
“You don’t have to explain anything to me” I said, not in an unkind way, “it is to my daughter that you owe an explanation, not to me.” And I didn’t allow him in. He never forgave me in spite of the fact that at later moments I stood by him in some very compromised situations, even sometimes against my daughter’s judgment which seemed to me somewhat harsh. Maybe because he’s a Scorpio, nothing since that first incident has ever convinced him that I was actually fond of him.
Given this situation and the fact that my daughter and her family always spent Christmas and New Year’s with her husband’s parents, my need to spend it with her had neither head nor tail. The strange thing was that I knew this but was absolutely helpless under the onslaught of this sudden obsession: I was even willing go so far as renting a house in Acapulco and inviting her and the whole family if necessary. Even my best friend looked at me quizzically when I explained the plan.
“I thought your son-in-law couldn’t stand you” she said.
“That’s right, but this is what I want to do.”
“That’s probably right too, we’ll see.”
I had no explanation for what was happening to me nor for what I was about to do, but that same day I phoned my daughter in Mexico and told her: “I want to take you and your family to Acapulco for New Year’s.”
Everything she argued to dissuade me was absolutely true, but nothing it seemed could move my decision a millimeter.
“I spend New Year’s in Acapulco with my in-laws and you don’t like them. You know how much they drink. It will be uncomfortable for you. Hector might not agree. If you come before Christmas, we will be going to my Father’s house for the Eve and you will be alone. No, I don’t think his new wife would want you there. Mother, it sounds difficult… But, ok, you come and we will see what we do if you don’t mind spending Christmas Eve alone.”
“Fine,” I was determined without having the vaguest idea what was going on inside of me. I didn’t like Christmas, I didn’t particularly like or dislike my ex’s new wife, I didn’t even like Acapulco… What in the world was happening? It was as if something had taken over my will and was directing the show without explaining to me or anyone else, its intentions. “Just do me a favor and ask Hector if it is all right for me to come to your house.” I had never done that before either; I usually just announced my arrival and took for granted that I could stay at my daughter’s.
“Oh, it will be all right with him,” she brushed off my request.
“Well, ask him anyway, please.”
To make a long story short, she asked him and he said “no” he did not want me staying in his house. My daughter was furious, and something inside of me knew I had expected that to be the answer. Things got more mysterious by the moment. Anyway, I planned to arrive in Mexico before Christmas, ask a good friend (who was in Acapulco) to loan me her apartment and do god-knows-what with myself (see friends, shop…) until the 26th of December when Hector was going to Acapulco to his parent’s house with two of his children while my daughter stayed in Mexico City alone waiting for her eldest son to finish his football training. Those four days I would spend with my daughter in her house and then… I had no idea. So I called my friend in Acapulco to see if I could use her apartment in Mexico City.
“Of course you can,” she answered delighted, “and why don’t you come and spend New Year’s with me in Acapulco seeing as you are not spending it with your daughter?”
The idea was tempting and it took me all of 2 seconds to say “yes”. I immediately made my plans, deciding to fly over on the 25th (after all I had no plans for Xmas so why not spend it on a plane), spend a night in a nearby hotel and arrive at my daughter’s house on the 26th after her husband had left.
Everything set, I called my daughter. Much to my surprise, in the interim all hell had broken loose. Her husband, in an attack of paranoia, was convinced that my daughter wanted to leave him and I was flying over to bring my daughter and her children back to Spain with me, and had kidnapped the children, taking them to his parents’ house and arranging with the police at the club ground’s entrance to not let my daughter through.
“I want a divorce” she told me over the phone, the anger and disbelief still heavy on her voice, “I hate him. I never believed he would try to take my children away. This is the end.” I listened while she explained how she had parked at the entrance to the club until her in-law’s chauffeur drove up with the eldest of her children in the car, and then stood in front of the car until it stopped. When her son got out (a boy of 14) she told him what had happened. He calmed her down.
“Wait here, Mother; I will talk to my grandparents and we will all be out in a minute.”
Sure enough, the eldest son managed to convince his grandparents that nothing was going to happen and they turned over the brother and sister. The ordeal was brief but the harm was lasting. My daughter wanted out. I explained to her about my travel plans and my going to my friend’s apartment in Acapulco for New Year’s.
“Do you think I might go with you, Mother?” she inquired. “The last thing I want to do now is go and stay with my in-laws after they agreed to hide my children and lie to me when I called to ask.”
It was difficult for me to absorb what had just happened. The circle had closed; my obsession of spending New Year’s with my daughter in Acapulco had just become a reality although all the planning had been done by the Universe and not by me.
“Of course you can come with me” I said, stunned at how Life had arranged such a turn of events. “I have never wanted anything so much in my life. And we’ll be together, and I can hold you, because what you are going through now is not easy.”
When I hung up, I got down on my knees. There was no other way to express what I was feeling. The gift had materialized, the gift was my daughter, my daughter asking for help, my daughter wanting to be with me, my daughter about to begin a new life and needing me there. A Mother for a Daughter: “Your Mother has to go now” the Gardener had said, “but she will be coming back with a big gift.” Yes, but only the biggest gift that a Mother could have.
It is two years later now and my daughter is divorced, making her own life and happier than she had been for a long time. I am packing my bags for in a few hours I will fly to Mexico, my daughter will pick me up at the airport and we will drive together to Acapulco to spend New Year’s again, while her children spend the holidays with their father. I think of Life and dreams, and miracles and gifts, and the strange way things have of happening without my having anything to do with them or even being able to control them at all. Nothing I could have planned would have equaled in love, closeness or quality those five days we spent together two years ago, bonding in a way that perhaps we never had before. Today I have a daughter: thank you Mother.
Dear Brother: I did promise to write you immediately after initiating the GTKM (Get to Know Men) Project that in your letter you so kindly suggested I begin (“Perhaps you ought to make a project of meeting men, lots of different ones just for the fun of meeting them and seeing what they are about?”). So here is my first report. Before beginning, you should know that I was absolutely religious about the preparation for my first “outing” (or should I call it “hunting expedition”?) After all: if I was going to do this, I might as well do it right.
First stop: beauty parlor. The nails got a special treatment, something called a French manicure where the tip of the nail gets painted with a delicate strip of white-white polish and then the rest covered in transparent pale pink. It “shapes” the nail, you see. I must admit that given my lack of practice in the feminine art of looking perfect (like a Barbie Doll) these details tend to backfire on me. For instance, as the white strip is narrower than your real nail length so as to give a more perfect “shape” to the finger aspect as a whole, there is a faint line where the real nail meets the flesh which, if contemplated carefully, is noticeable. No one, of course, at a party and at night with lamp light will see this slight imperfection… usually. But, as chance would have it, the black suede purse that had been in the closet in a plastic bag for the last ten years waiting to be used had gotten tired of being itself and decided to molt, shedding suede-dust like pollen that clung to the shiny finish of the nails and dug its way underneath with a persistence that would have shamed a Chinese dye. Fortunately for my self esteem I didn’t notice till this morning that the “faint” line between the French white of the nail and the real nail-flesh meeting place was black as a garage mechanic’s after a day’s work and required a large amount of soap and a thorough brushing to get clean. What I did notice the night before, however, was the way in which the pale yellow tablecloth in front of me turned unpleasantly black in strips and it took me a while to figure out that it wasn’t the ashes from the cigarette the woman next to me was smoking that was doing the job, but my molting black suede purse. So much for the purse, it went into the garbage can this morning.
After the manicure, I had to sit for an hour in the beauty parlor to make sure I didn’t smear the finish –something I inevitably do whenever I have a manicure because I don’t have the patience to sit there listening to the chatter while they dry. By that time it was 11 a.m. On my way home, I went by the drugstore and bought a small bottle of Channel #5 (tried and true). At home, I ran the tub and stepped into a hot bath. By 11:30 I was in the tub. After 30 minutes of soaking, constantly adding more hot water as the soup cooled, I washed and rinsed my hair, soaped the body well, shaved all the places that were candidates to being shaven, scrubbed legs and arms with the special silk mitt a friend brought me from a Turkish Haman to make sure all the dead skin was peeled off and stepped from the water shiny, clean and pink all over. It took another 20-25 minutes to cream and rub the body; 30 minutes to semi-dry the hair and another 15 to put it up in curlers. By the time all that was done it was around 1:30 and regular obligations stepped in. Dress (any old thing until time for the gown), feed dog, eat, walk dog, try to take nap, not succeed and put movie in DVD in order to at least relax.
While watching the movie, I checked in with my body. I was not actually nervous, frightened or even excited. Nothing was moving, and yet I knew the moves necessary for “getting dressed up” and stuck to them religiously. Interesting. At exactly 5pm I stopped the movie and returned to the bath room, removed the curlers, brushed hair vigorously 75 times, shook head and began to tease the parts that needed volume. It took the better part of an hour to get the hair in the exact wave towards the sides and curls on the face that I wanted and spray the whole thing with hair spray. I used two kinds of spray: first the softer one so that I could still push and pull the curls and waves into place while it dried and then one I had bought during my stay in France and which brazenly announces itself as “béton” or “concrete” and works more or less in the same manner: nothing was going to move from its place that night no matter how much I danced! Make up was an elaborate chore, beginning with liquid base (light so it doesn’t show in the creases), a bit of cheek color, darken the eyebrows slightly, blue-green shadow under eyes, white on lids, dark brown mascara, and lip liner with pink fill in to give the lips a full, sensuous effect.
Once that was done I put on my black satin bra, donned a new pair of pantyhose, slipped the long black, sequined over-blouse onto my shoulders, pulled up the black satin pants-skirt and wriggled everything into place. Diamond earrings, a sapphire and diamond ring (both inherited from my mother) and a rhinestone necklace with imitation black jade stones to enhance the neckline.
The end result was incredible: I stared at myself in the mirror and felt sorry for the Greek, the man with whom I had a sort-of-not-totally blind date (blind 100%; date, not totally). I turned, batted my eyelashes, seductively smiled at myself over my shoulder and almost fainted with joy. It had been so long since I had dressed up that I had forgotten the effect all that primping and painting could have on the general appearance. Beware men!!! Here I come! I heartily laughed with myself and, giving one more twirl, marched triumphantly to the door and out to the street where my “ride” was waiting.
My ride was not my date, although I half thought they might come together because they were friends and the couple who picked me up had orchestrated the date. My date, the Greek of unknown age, weight, looks and wealth (although known to be rich), was not present. All the better. I could ask questions if the subject came up. It didn’t so the mystery remained.
Anyway, the GTKM Project actually began with the husband of my new friend, María. He was a pleasant gentleman of approximately 73 years, not bad looking for his age, with grey-white hair and a grey-white beard and mustache to match. I wondered why people with fading hair like to make such an abundant show of it, but that is just my opinion. Raul turned out to be pleasant, and an intelligent and opinionated talker. We talked of some of the current events in the country and I noticed that every time he would give an opinion as a definite statement of fact, I would —quoting a friend— “draw on my fine knowledge of language and say nothing”. It was not an aggressive silence; rather I felt as if I was just open to listening to whatever followed as what had been stated had been done so in such a way as to allow for nothing other than a frank denial, a solid argument to the contrary or silence. Neither of the first two seemed possible so the third was what I chose spontaneously.
A brief explanation: Choosing to say nothing is, in my case, really surprising. I have been a natural arguer since my teen years when my father and I would sit up till wee hours of the morning “discussing” important world matters, philosophical queries and the meaning of life in general. It was what we did together, discuss ideas, share ideas, confront ideas (actually, he confronted and I had better agree, I soon found out, but I was allowed to develop my own way of seeing it, as long as it did not conflict with his too much and he could be right). I learned then and there, if I was ever to be the “man” I wished to be (my father, of course) I had to learn to be right, either by superior knowledge or by superior capacity to argue the other person into the ground. “Arguing” or if you wish, “discussing” important matters, fundamental, essential truths, was a masculine way of being. This was my training, and usually enjoyable as long as I did not actually contradict my father. The training was effective and for the rest of my life I have virtually been able to talk anyone under the table no matter what the subject.
So reacting with a silence that extended even to my mind certainly was not my habit. However, I noticed that this was what happened as I listened to Raul spout off what he seemed to consider “the final word” on the political situation in Spain. Given my quiet position it was also possible for me to notice that my open, listening silence seemed to confuse Raul who then would weaken his own statement by saying that it was not necessarily true but just one possibility. This had never been my experience when I tried to argue the point and get the other person to see it my way and this was fascinating; it actually made me feel extremely powerful.
I remembered having recently read a woman author (a Jungian psychoanalyst) who spoke of her female clients as persons who have not developed a strong female ego with which to face life, but rather a pseudo male ego that never really allows them to integrate and individualize. Somehow, this female-ego/male-ego stuff tied into my own experience and seemed to have a lot to do with my previous argumentativeness (identified with Father-ego). It seemed to be my pseudo male ego that would come out having to be right, even more opinionated than the male ego it confronted, that had previously led me to argue way into the night. That evening, confronted with the male ego’s need to be right, my now very feminine ego found no reason to argue, saw the logic in the male discourse, while at the same time perceiving three or four other arguments that could have been just as true, and understanding that none were actually The Truth. The feeling of inner freedom was tremendous. There was nothing unnatural or contrived or even purposeful about my silence: it was one hundred percent me and done with love and tolerance for the other.
Something in me as a woman seemed to be perfectly able to let the male ego “feel” it was right, without having to believe it or not. Something in me was so absolutely at peace with the way of things that being right was simply not a necessity any more. If my image in the mirror had convinced me that I looked top notch, this subtle, deep and very strong self love and respect grounded me in the essence of my being. My first contact with a “man” that evening had centered me in my womanhood and reminded me of how painful and frustrating the first 49 years of my life had been because I was trying to live up to a pseudo male egoness.
We arrived at the place where the American Club of Madrid was offering the gala dinner-dance in honor of Columbus Day (called “Day of Hispanicness”, in Spanish) fifteen minutes before the doors opened and proceeded to the cafeteria to have something while we waited. My friend went outside to smoke a cigarette and I invited her husband to a cup of coffee (they had paid for my ticket to the gala dinner, so a 2 euro cup of coffee was nothing but a symbolic gesture). From Raul there was no new invitation to “serious” discussion” and our conversation flitted comfortably over more superficial areas and eventually died.
Second observation for the evening: men, or at least this one in front of me, are not good at idle chatter. Again, I thought of my father. He was considered a plus at a dinner party due to the fact that he could do the “social” thing and have a conversation at any moment on any subject AS LONG AS he had a couple of drinks in him. When his doctor forbade liquor after his first heart attack, my father became a very silent person and actually began to avoid all social occasions saying they bored him “stiff”.
At that moment, I remembered a lesson my Mother had given me: “If you want to get a man interested, ask him questions about himself; all men love to talk about themselves”. I realized that the evening was a good occasion to put that advice to use and began questioning Raul about his business. I think I listened but the fact is I remember nothing of what he told me. He did, however, seem pleased that I had shown an interest. He, of course, asked me nothing about myself. Observation number three: men are not interested in what you do and do not really want to hear about it, especially if you are important in your realm of endeavor or have made some kind of name for yourself other than as a beauty queen. Once again I remembered my mother. She once complained bitterly to me: “I have spent my whole life asking men what they do and all kinds of questions about themselves, and they have NEVER asked me one thing”. She was right. Later that night I would have more proof of her rightness.
When the doors to the cocktail area opened, my “date” appeared. I put it in quotation marks because he had not actually ever contacted me. The chain of events was as follows: my flat mate had told me about The Greek and asked if I would be interested in meeting him; I had said “yes”. Then she had told her future Mother-In-Law that I would be interested in meeting The Greek. The “future” had arranged it and my flat mate had relayed back to me that Ronnie (his name) was delighted and he had invited me to the Gala dinner. He never called to confirm the invitation. The “future Mother-in-law” and her husband had arranged to pick me up. So I had never spoken to or heard from my “date”. This, in itself, should have prepared me.
Ronnie was standing at the reception table talking to “important” men, if one is to judge from the way they all patted each other on the back and expressed their pleasure in meeting again. All were older men (I mean around my age) except Ronnie who looked like the oldest of all. One glance and I calculated at least 80; his voice seemed to confirm this as it had the beginnings of the typical 4th age hoarse unsteadiness, somewhat as if something or other had come unscrewed and rusty in the throat. We were introduced, we shook hands and he continued talking to the people around him. I people watched, observing the garments, hairstyles and shoes of the other women. The beauty and style of some of the younger ones was a delight to the eye and I feasted heartily without the slightest twinge of envy.
I don’t remember much about the cocktail hour except that we were fed multiple and quite tasty hors d’oeuvres, and stood around a high table (one of several) indulging freely. I drank a Coca Cola and then nothing. The Greek asked me once if I would like a glass of wine; I refused: “I don’t drink” I said quite simply.
“Not even wine?” he inquired.
“No, not even wine.” With that he either knew I was an alcoholic or thought I was weird. Either way was the same to me. I remember asking him a few questions about when he had arrived in Spain (with the American military bases), and why, with which he gave me a rather long summary of the bars and nightclubs and restaurants he had opened after arriving here and to date, mentioning that he had been young (“When I owned the nightclub I was barely 25; nightclubs are not really my business. I am a restauranteur”). I nodded my head: “Of course, of course”. My flat mate, her boyfriend, and her future Mother-in-law had all challenged me to find out Ronnie’s real age which he had admitted to no one. If, as he assured, he had arrived in 59 or 60 (with the American bases) when he was around 25, that would make him barely 75, possibly younger. So he was either very “worn” for his age or he was lying. This surprised me. I am not familiar with men lying about their age or being so interested in hiding it. I was piqued, but there was no further information and I could think of nothing legitimate to ask in the few moments we talked that might yield more details. I did take it upon me to later look up the establishment of American Military Bases in Spain and discovered that there had been movements in that direction as early as 1945, and definite establishment around 1950-51. This sounded more like what I had observed physically: the man was around 83-84.
Finally, after an extremely long cocktail hour and a half, we were ushered into the dining room. The set up looked like what one expects for a wedding with a principal table for the “officers” of the American Club, and then a series of numbered round tables for eight people. Our table was number 21. When we arrived there were already two young women sitting there. One was a plain looking, rather homely Danish girl without makeup and somewhat drably dressed; the other a more attractive girl from some country in the Eastern European block the name of which slips my mind now. Before the dinner was served, the two empty chairs at the table were occupied by another youngish woman, this time from Madrid, and a very thin not unattractive Spanish woman most probably in her mid forties, perhaps pushing fifty. My date, Ronnie, was left sitting between the fortyish woman and me.
I remember making one or two feeble attempts at talking to The Greek with little success (so little that I can’t even remember what I asked him) and then I turned to my other side and made some comments to the future Mother-in-law. Ronnie promptly struck up a conversation with the fortyish-old which, given the level of noise in the room, I was not able to hear or participate in. They either had something in common or she was better at looking interested in his spiel than I was because the rest of the time he was present at the table, he spent talking to her. When my conversation with Mother-in-law ran out, I looked to the fortyish-old and smiled.
She introduced herself. “Victoria Something-or-Other; restorer of antiques. What do you do?”
I began to explain The Work of Byron Katie and how it went about questioning stressful thoughts and finding peace. Half-way through, Ronnie interrupted.
“Why do you have stressful thoughts?”
Interesting question, I thought to myself while I searched for the answer.
“Well, I don’t really any more, but I used to…”
“I do Yoga, I not only do Yoga, I live like a Yogui. No stressful thoughts. You should try Yoga.”
“Very good” I countered, feeling my crest going up, “but if you have a stressful thought in the middle of a restaurant, for example, you can’t very well do yoga there, can you? But you might be able to ask yourself four questions mentally and…
“You have to live like a Yogui. Victoria restores antiques.”
“Yes, I know, she just told me and…” but Ronnie had turned back to Victoria and was again telling her something that she at least appeared to be interested in. A while later, when Ronnie left the table, Victoria turned to me.
“He is not my husband,” I interrupted, “he is supposed to be a date, and he doesn’t seem to be that either.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry; I thought he was your husband.” The interesting thing was that the moment she said that, I could see perfectly why she had made that mistake. Who else would ignore a beautiful woman, interrupt her conversation, and not be interested at all in anything she said in spite of sitting next to her but her husband! Logical my dear Watson. Anyway, to make a long evening short, Ronnie, shortly after dinner asked me if I wanted to dance:
“Do you want to dance?” I looked at him, waiting for the straight-forward question to sound like an invitation, “Because if you do, I don’t mind.”
“Hmmm, not exactly my type of music…” I muttered, stalling…
“I dance to all kinds of music.” Every moment I liked this man less.
“…but I wouldn’t mind.” There was no way I wanted to even insinuate a drop of enthusiasm. The music was playing what I call the “modern jig” where the two partners “jig” on the dance floor, never looking at each other much less touching one another. We “jigged” for a while and then sat down again. It was pathetic and not getting any better so when Ronnie got up and left (I presumed he had gone to the men’s room) I actually felt relieved and began talking again to Victoria, this time without interruptions.
The truth is that Ronnie never came back to the table and I spent the remainder of the night in a very pleasant conversation with Victoria and the future Mother-in-law, and admiring the singer’s capacity to pour her extremely well-rounded body into a black sequined top and pants that looked more like a snake-skin than a snake’s skin itself. Project GTKM was obviously over for the night and I could relax. At one point, I went into the other room to ask for a mineral water at the bar and saw Ronnie conversing with two black-suited men. I made believe that I hadn’t seen him and he might have done the same or really not have seen me. As we were leaving he caught up with us half way down to the parking lot, clumsily shook hands with me, mumbled something I didn’t catch and headed for his car. So much for Greeks!
So that is my first report and I have to confess that the GTKM Project has more or less landed in the bottom drawer of my Interest Cabinet, along with Gala Dinners, social events, Barbie Doll women and Freudian psychoanalysts. And I know that men are half the population of the world, but let’s be honest: half that population is married, the other half is gay, the other half is only interested in themselves and the final half is definitely for the time being, or as far as I can see, uneligible (too fat, too thin, too old, too young, too unshaven, too tight-assed, and so on.)
But, never fear dear Brother, I have not given up. Although I did not sign up for the gym (one of the curricular possibilities you suggested), I did hire a male, very attractive, young, knowledgeable, kind and loving Personal Trainer. He is all of 30 years old and has a girlfriend, but his innocence and good will are absolutely enchanting and he is doing marvels for my body. I know that this has nothing to do with what you had in mind for me, but listen: sometimes things just don’t come all in one package and today, if I pull together everything I have, I actually can build the equivalent of a good lover-husband. If you don’t believe me, just contemplate the following recipe which I have concocted (no pun intended) for my women friends who are in the same situation:
RECIPE FOR HAVING A MAN AND A SINGLE LIFE
1 Internet Romance, slightly warmed over
1 Male friend on internet (also) who likes to discuss important matters such as politics, religion, spirituality, existence, philosophy, good movies, interesting books, etc.
1 Gay male friend for going to the movies, theater, concerts, dinner and whatever.
1 Personal Trainer for all the touchy-feely you need.
1 Kind, patient physician to listen to your aches and pains and tell you what to take for them
1 Very good Dildo for you know what.
AND THE SECRET: Take each ingredient separately, one at a time. Never, never MIX them. If you mix them, you get something called MARRIAGE, and frankly, if you haven’t tried it by now, don’t: it can be fatal.
Still, every once in a while I really miss having someone walking beside me, holding my hand.