Dinner and a Date: The Start of Ms. Maple’s Hair-raising Adventure, Part 1
As an American woman living in one of the more trendy towns, I am very aware of the pressures of beautification and appeal. Admittedly, as a late middle-aged woman, I am not under the same pressures that the average twenty something is subjected to and (thanks to Demi Moore) your forty somethings also have to contend with. My pastures, one might say, are less green; these days the hills have less bump to them, more roll. This does not, however, depress me. Instead, I tend to look at the aging process with a detached eye, aware of course, of the changes and transformations but adamantly refusing to get mushy eyed or frantic. Botox will never track its steely tip across my forehead, in fact, although not ‘sexy’ my creased brow and thunderous frown is well loved by me, expressing itself frequently and at the slightest suggestion of ill breeding or poor taste. I have a distinguished air; my head is held high, lofty. I do not think it would be going too far to say that I hold within me a stately grace, an effervescent yet detached air befitting the portrait of one of the ladies hanging on the walls of the Museum of Fine Arts.
It was with that lofty air and regal look which I took with me on what I would like to describe as a meeting of the minds. That, however, was not the way my niece Samantha put it.
“You need to get out of the house. Stop puttering around with your cats.”
“I would like,” I replied quite calmly, “for you to kindly keep my feline creatures out of your discourse with me. And to ease your mind, please know that I do in fact ‘get out of the house’, I often go to Coolidge Corner to shop and dine.”
“Oh Auntie, for god’s sake. There’s nothing exciting in Coolidge Corner. Besides, that’s not the type of going out I’m talking about.”
“Yes well, although I am glad you feel there is nothing happening in Coolidge Corner, more relieved than you can know, I do not appreciate you downgrading activities I find stimulating,” I choked up suddenly, “ I mean amusing— I mean that I enjoy. Eating and strolling and, and shopping… for clothes.”
“Are you alright, Auntie?”
“Yes, of course. Why wouldn’t I be alright?” (Read Ms. Maple Gets into a Really Sticky Situation in Coolidge Corner to understand her ‘unease.’)
“I don’t know, you just sound sort of strange. Stranger than usual anyway.”
“Is this why you called me, to insult my activities and accuse me of being strange?” I felt my confidence well up again, feeling I avoided a sticky situation.
“Now, now, Auntie. I called you because there is someone I want you to meet.”
“Very well dear, bring her over Sunday for tea.”
“It’s a man, Auntie, and he wants to take you out to dinner tomorrow night at six o’clock. It’s all arranged. I’ve told him all about you. He’s very excited…”
“Why, does he suffer from ADD or something? I have heard they can be very excitable people.”
“Auntie please! He’s very nice. We work together and I have known him a long time. He is around your age, divorced, and he does not get out that often either, and I think you two would be perfect together. In fact, if you really want to, perhaps you can go to Coolidge Corner and have dinner.”
“No, no, I do not want to go anywhere with that man much less Coolidge Corner.”
“Oh, come on Auntie— besides, he really likes strong, independent self assertive women… He feels that a… a self possessed woman, such as yourself, Auntie, is a rare species these days.”
“Yes, yes he does. Did I mention he owns his own Victorian in Brookline Village?”
He picked me up promptly at six, a short man with an obvious toupé. I did not hold it against him, but I did resolve to slip into the conversation later in the evening how one needn’t try so hard. He took me to a Chinese restaurant he frequented and we forwent the bar area choosing instead the secluded, romantic (and I felt) much more adult side. After several minutes of pleasantries in which we discussed further pleasantries of Boston and the surrounding areas of the city, the conversation started to become more personal, aided in part by the red wine we were both drinking, that and the fact there was really nothing more we could say about Brookline Village.
“So,” he said, leaning across the table and pulling himself closer to me, “Samantha says you are a woman who speaks her mind. That’s a fine quality to have.”
“Yes,” I said, feeling the wine spread through me. “I think it is imperative for a woman to not mince words. But in this culture it is more important for a woman to be physically attractive than for her to have a solid head on her shoulders. It is too bad,” I added, taking time to finish the wine in my glass (we had the bottle, and he promptly poured me more) “because as you know, it is the children who suffer.”
“Yes,” he said edging closer, “always the children.”
“I mean, what do you need more?” I asked, my vision clouding slightly, the air was warm, and the seat I sat on seemed to rise up quite pleasantly underneath me. “A mother who can do the cha, cha or a mother who can, who can, uh, not do it?” I was downright dizzy.
“Clearly,” he said.
“Thank you,” I said. “I’ve made my point.”
“Ms. Maple, you are quite a woman. How is it that no one has gobbled up a morsel like you?”
“Well,” I said taking the question quite seriously. “I have always been an upstanding citizen even as a girl, and I was raised in such a fashion so as not to leave my morsels lying about for people to gobble at. But,” I added slightly confused, “one needn’t, not try so hard.”
“Indeed?” he said.
“Yes, indeed,” I said with great conviction. “Shouldn’t we order?” I sensed I needed food desperately. I picked up the menu and began to fumble through it. Eventually, I turned it the right way round.
We opted to forgo the traditional full dinner and ordered appetizers instead. It was a chic thing to do, and the idea of finger food calmed me more than the prospect of handling knives and forks.
The food was marvelous as was the second bottle of wine which accompanied the food. It was a long time since I enjoyed wine; in the comfort of my home I am a connoisseur of tea.
“Ms. Maple, your theories of female beauty intrigue me.”
I tried to think back as to what my theories had been. Reaching a mental block I nodded vigorously and chuckled. “Yes, beauty is a state of mind and in my state of mind I find that beauty is a, a—”
“A fallacy or at least a lie. I mean why is it that this culture feels women must remove their body hair. Women are naturally beautiful creatures they do not need to be stripped of their outer fur,” he said.
“Oh my, well you have very interesting theories. I have recently discovered a book called Venus in Furs which I found in the most delightful shop. ”
“I am intrigued by you as well. I would like very much to bring you to my home where we can have a nightcap and I can show you something which I think you will find to be very,” he lend closer to me again, “very enlightening.”
I had a literal nightcap at home, which I wore in bed, and it was quite capable of keeping my hair in place. However I knew he could not be referring to it. “I am aware,” I said completely at ease with my slurred words, “that you mean more than you say.”
“Shall we?” he asked, getting up from his chair.
“We most certainly shall.” I paused and stretched myself across the table, my head cocked, my right eye focused blurrily on him. “As a man of wisdom you have pleased me greatly with your grand discord and vote of confidence for the female species. Samantha has done a fine job of bringing two sharp minds together tonight, and I look forward to being enlightened further. Let us take leave of this establishment and don our nightcaps until the wee hours of the night. Take me to your Victorian!”
“Right away Ms. Maple! Right away!”
© Coleen T. Houlihan