How can I excuse myself from my earlier remarks about your intimidating presence? Please forgive my impetuous excesses, won't you? The intensity and length of your affection for your beloved Frau Elisabeth von Bernburg, the brilliance of your prose, your reluctance to permit intoxicants to pass your lips, the earnest eagerness of your attraction to the ravishing Ramona (whom I also find irresistible!), and, I might as well be honest, her reciprocal eagerness for your company, joined to my relative ignorance of the sincere sorority of Elektraspace, where jealousy never rears its ugly head, made me feel hopelessly inadequate by comparison, and I reacted, recovering Pit-maiden that I am, with fear and trepidation. And, in fact, that event is somewhat related to the cause of my plaintive appeal for company that you overheard and responded to so swiftly. You see, to bring you up to date in a trice...well...maybe a trice-and-a-half...
After you so abruptly departed, Ramona and I enjoyed a romantic date at the Cocktail Bar Cinema presentation (yes, my dearest darling...right here!) of "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," starring Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe, a delightful demonstration of the difference between archetypical (this word, my marvelous Manuela, is enjoying quite a resurgent currency these days!) blondes and brunettes, marred by the somewhat silly notion that two such ravishing pettes were more interested in the silly men around them than they were in each other. Anyway, when the lights came up, I, fearing ultimate rejection from the resplendent Ramona, hastily gave her a kiss and departed. A few days later, I made a brief appearance in these charming surroundings to, let us not mince words, whine about my mistaken apprehensions and Pit-inspired shortcomings.
Taking my leave once again, I took a short vacation to clear my thoughts and resolve, unsuccessfully, as it turned out, my despondency. On my return to this enchanted establishment, I, like yourself, was overwhelmed by the newest developments and my gloom was somewhat overcome. Everyone seems to be equally delighted, since nearly all of the conversation of late has been about Kadoria, Vintesse, Trent, and other Aristasian concerns, as well as extremely illuminating commentaries like the one from Miss Barbara about appearances that I'm sure you overheard; however, I suppose that it was also the case that my appearance remained somewhat serious, causing, I'm only able to guess, a reluctance on the part of Aphrodite's wonderfully breathtaking creatures (if I may shamelessly borrow a phrase from you, my own charming and wonderfully breathtaking companion!) to intrude on what appeared to be my pensiveness. So, reverting to form...I'm ashamed to admit (will I ever get over this?)...I whined aloud. But...with what wonderful results!
Now, my most charismatic and exquisite Manuela, tell me about yourself. I was under the impression that your magnetic presence would never enlighten these environs again, but I presume that your travels to the east met with a success that you had not anticipated; that you deposited the errant Marie-Louise with someone who can give her the proper care and upbringing of which she was in such desperate need, n'est-ce pas? But you mentioned "harrowing experiences..." La! I shudder at the thought of you in any kind of jeopardy! Maybe, if we sat in the booth over there by the palm you could work your Manuela magic to calm my nerves and tell your tale?
Is it still the case that you disdain the more inebriating beverages that Aphrodite's barpette (doesn't she positively dazzle?) is used to serving? If so, I hope that the new pette can come close to Ariadne's inventiveness. I know how much you enjoyed her concoctions. While I am at it, thank you for offering another Blonde Bombshell, but this one will quite do me. I had a few martini's before you arrived and...well...while I'm fine now, who knows what will happen if I have another? As it is, I probably shouldn't drive myself home...maybe I'll just have to get a taxi after I hear your narrative...or...perhaps...
Trembling with anticipation, I remain,
Tootsie here, Toots. So you like our music, do you? But of course! I'm just guessing you don't live in New Vintesse your own self, since you haven't heard our music before. But you can get it, I'm sure. Even if you must go down into the Pit, you can find Miss Hanshaw, Miss Jessie Matthews (imported from Trent, but we Vintesse girls just love her), and all the rest. And once you've heard music from the Province that created the word jinky, I'm sure you'll be our newly won over sweetheart.
Love to you, and you look simply mahvalous in that red boa! --
Let's see, where did I leave off? Oh, yes, of course, I had locked my keys in my car Monday morning! Well, wouldn't you know it, but the car I had blocked belong to none other that the hospital directress, Dr. Methuen! I had counted on leaving early to go shopping for stockings, but, unluckily for me, Dr. Methuen had to attend a late morning meeting across town, so I had no sooner arrived and donned my white coat than I heard myself being paged to report to the head office. Being a reasonable pette, the good doctor was about to write off my lapse to one of those days, when she asked for my keys. "Um," I stammered, "I locked them in the car, Directress. I was rather preoccupied with Hestia matters, I am afraid. I am terribly sorry." She regarded me narrowly, her gaze seemed to linger on my lipstick for an just instant, then dart to my nails for another, and a flash of annoyance flickered but died in her intelligent green eyes; she maintained her perfect composure, but stood up at her desk, smoothing her skirt with a light, elegant sweep of both hands. "Naomi," she addressed her blonde receptionist calmly, "please call Dr. Oglethorpe to let her know I shall be half-an-hour late to our meeting, then call the hospital locksmith to open Dr. G.'s car." To me, "Dr. G., I trust this is some momentary lapse on your part. I have never known you to have been late, nor to have done anything inconsiderate, such as deliberately blocking another's car. Please do not let this be repeated. Good morning." I was dismissed, went down to the clinic, but it was a slow day, so I left early. On the way home, I stopped at Brady's Department Store and bought a dolly new Kadorie clock radio, so that I would not oversleep ever again. Oh, and five pairs of New Lady stockings.
Look! Here I am waking up Tuesday morning to the strains of Harriet James and her Orchestra, with Helen Humes singing I Had The Craziest Dream. In one of those strange Aristasian coincidences, I had had the craziest dream! I dreamed I had become a full-time, ever-melting, bubbly Kadorie blonde housewife, living a blissful matrimonial existence in a dolly little suburban Kadorie house with white picket fence and rambling roses, just like in the song. Well, I smiled and stretched, wished dreams could come true, and rolled out of bed to face the reality of yet another day at the hospital. I decided to wear that rather tight-fitting black suit to work this time. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I awakened after the very same dream.... And oh, yes, before I forget, early in the week I received an Elektrapost letter from M., excitedly telling me she had found the perfect dress for Alicia, and that it was on its way. I thought it safe to buoy Alicia's feelings a bit, so I told the child it was coming. She purred with happy anticipation.
Well, pettes, I already told you it's Friday again, and that Alicia suffered another crushing disappointment. Here's what happened. Round about three, Nancy called me at work, saying another fleeming package had arrived. Could she and Alicia open it, please? Yes, of course, I replied, confident that's M.'s unerring taste in fashion would prove unerring again. How wrong I was! When I arrived home, I found Alicia in tears, all puffy and splotchy-faced from having been crying for some considerable time. Now, Alicia is only eight, but she can be a Very Big Girl at times: the first words out of her mouth were, "Mom, I understand that it is hard to get real dresses for little girls, and I know that cousin M. is trying her best, but I can't help my feelings, I hate the dress!" and she broke out in heart-rending sobs. Nancy displayed the dress for me as if it were a pathology specimen in a stainless-steel tray. It was a flimsy affair, a high-waisted peasant-style dress in worn, though colorful cotton. It was supposed to be gathered about the shoulders, contadina-style, but the elastic was sadly frayed and had parted, so it could not even be worn without a repair. Alicia refused to try it on for me. She buried her blotchy, swollen face in her arms and continued to sob, her little shoulders twitching spasmodically: she was inconsolable beyond all remedy.
The situation was made all the more critical for Alicia because M.'s package also held a wonderful pink cotton dress, beautifully constructed, with pleats on the front of the bodice, which Nancy had tried on before I got home, and which nominally fit, rubbing salt in Alicia's wound. Fortunately, it fit me better, so I "liberated" it for myself, providing a modicum of relief for Alicia's disappointment. The package also contained two perfect little Quirrie aprons and a pair of Kadorian two-toned block-heeled shoes which Nancy seized, as they were too narrow for me.
But what a quandary I was in now! M. had said she had found the perfect dress, yet here was the evidence to the contrary -- a sad, worn out garment which Nancy put on, in an ultimate effort to cheer up Alicia, declaring it to be a swell Raggedy Ann dress for Halloween. What would I write to M.? I had gotten into the custom of going over each fleeming item, more by mutual consent that for any other reason, as this helped M. with questions of sizing and individual taste. I could not dissimulate, so I related precisely what I have told you here, darlings! (But I omitted to mention Nancy's remark about its making a good Halloween costume.) It was with a heavy heart that I watched my letter shoot off into Elektraspace.
TO BE CONTINUED
Those were the questions before me, Miss Barbara, because I am about to move into the most adorable little Trentish bungalow, and I want it to be as real as possible. I thought you Cocktail Bar pettes might like to read some letters about the subject, so here they are. Now, I will pass around the room, but Manuela, please don't spill your Manhattan on them. And Ramona, darling, be careful, because I want to tie them all together when the evening is over, in a little pink-ribboned bundle. I think Miss Fox and Barbi will especially like them, but they will have to say for themselves. As you read each letter, you very well might think how lovely it is to live in a world where everything is so important and significant, down to the very pans you use to cook dinner (as opposed to the Pit, where nothing is important, even national elections, college educations, etc.)
But about woks... Like a great many things in my house, I had a sudden rush of feeling that it doesn't belong on Culverian soil. I can do without it, and the other zillions of kitchen conveniences that only get used once in a great while inhabiting my kitchen. The question I ask myself is: "Would a girl in Quirinelle own one of these?" Then I think back on all of the gathered images in my newly created image sphere, to think if I have seen this thing (whatever it may be) in the real world, and then I get rid of it if the answer is no. I do this because I am trying to create in Culveria a reflection of what the girls at the Embassy have created there. It is difficult to explain, but there is a kind of magic when one is in a room that is completely real in all respects. You truly are transported body and soul when everything you see takes you to that same heavenly height that listening to Miss Matthews does, for instance.
One funny little story about this matter has to do with a pepper mill. I adored freshly ground pepper, but gave my mill away when I realized that Quirrie housewives surely shake rather than grind their pepper. Then, guess what I saw in a Quirrie magazine, the very same week? An advertisement for a pepper mill! It was funny, really, and I just chuckled to myself and thought, "well, if the Fairies will have me grind my pepper, they'll send me a real pepper grinder at a fleem."
Another time, in the middle of the hot summer, I was putting ice over my coffee (which I need every morning or I am worthless), because hot coffee was too hot for an overheated me. I wrote Miss Trent asking if iced coffee was racinated, knowing that if she said no, I wouldn't drink it any more. Imagine my delight when she wrote back assuring me that it was.
Of course, if I were a bongo, nobody could tell me what to wear, drink, eat, cook, etc. And I would make those decisions based on whatever I thought would give me the most pleasure. But the irony is that when you go looking for pleasure, based on individual tastes and predilections, that butterfly never does land on your shoulder, does it? Nothing ever seems quite delicious enough or perfect enough, because every choice is based exclusively in the individual desires of one atomized creature, and the basic essence of Maid is spiritual not physical, and her deepest desires are toward connection not toward separation.
The pleasure and pure delight I felt at hearing that I could drink my beloved iced coffee was far, far greater than any Silly could feel who was drinking it one day because it pleased her, and not drinking it another because it didn't.
But I do think Miss Barbara is right -- a wok would be a big anomaly in an ordinary suburban Quirrie kitchen. But think, in Trentish and Kadorian detective novels, at least in the ones taking place in San Francisco or Los Angeles, Chinese housegirls are frequently mentioned and a number of apartments are actually decorated in oriental motifs, a legitimate west coast style, and sometimes very expensive, too, when one considers the cost of real folding screens, lacquered chests, black, carved dining room furniture, etcetra etcetra. A pette who had spent considerable time in the orient, as a newspaper bureau chief, for example, might very well have returned to L.A. not just with a Chinese housepette, but with a Chinese cook as well! Her friends might find her a bit eccentric, perhaps, but quite interesting. She might even invite them all over for an authentic Chinese luncheon, followed by canasta, and the blondes would giggle over using the chopsticks and would pick up their forks, whereas the brunettes would take a few sidelong glances at their hostess' technique and dispense with the flatware. So, by this laborious route, I can justify a wok in certain Normal households even in Trent and Kadoria. Besides, I imagine that in Amazonia woks might possibly be found more than occasionally.
MISS ALICE LUCY TRENT:
On the wok quesch: well, it is by no means clear-cut. I used to use one but we no longer possess one, and I am not certain that I should like to replace it now. Similarly, we do not possess a pepper mill.
I think both can be justified, and there is also a certain virtue in avoiding them - it really is a decision based on one's own style. I think I should not want to have a pepper mill on the dining table even if it was regarded as a kitchen utensil.
I certainly like exotic cuisines of most kinds and can cook curries and some Far Eastern dishes. I think a lot depends on how one regards these things. A real kitchen should normally be replete with real solid cooking utensils, saucepans, frying pans and such. A wok, if it is there should be regarded as a bit exotic and outlandish (of course there are woks in Amazonia. Where do you think they come from?). I was told of some bongo saying that nearly all his friends from undergraduate days were on their sixth job, their third spouse but still their first wok. I think it is this that makes one dubious of them. They are commonplaces of deracinated people who have no culture; it seems highly significant that the only constant thing in their lives should be a piece of alien culture.
Well, no one would criticise your wok, and If Miss Barbara keeps hers in a Kadorian spirit, that is fine. I think each of us will find those things which she feels she can and cannot have. Each home has its own particular chemistry, and for an Aristasian it is not just a question of "obeying rules" (though where there are rules we do obey them, of course), but of creating the work of art that is our particular Hestia. Just as a girl does not dress for what feels most comfortable, but for what looks right, and that is what she wants to do, so one equips one's home for what makes it the perfect artistic expression of one's own particular realness.
I wanted to say about woks that YES! that is just what I wanted to say, that one must look at them as so unusual. Aunt Bea might try an exotic Chinese food recipe she read about in the newspaper, but it would be exotic. Maybe even a little bit of reading about the culture of China might put her more in the spirit of it. It must be done with a strong sense of how very different the Chinese are from us (gosh, they can even cook an entire dinner without any meat!). So, it is the spirit of the thing that is most important, just as Miss Alice Lucy said.
But here is something even more important! I have just thought of the most wonderful name for woks: Frying saucers.
Each night at dinner that week the girls and I chattered speculatively about what cousin M. in New Quirinelle might send in her next fleeming package. M. had confirmed that she would start looking for a suitable dress for Alicia; she warned me, however, that racinated little girls' dresses were often quite hard to find at the fleems. This notwithstanding, Alicia became acutely expectant; one night, at bedtime, she begged me to tell her just what sort of dress she might be getting. So I gave her my copy of Woman's Day; I suggested she look for pictures of little girls wearing dresses, (there were several) and told her that the dress she would get would be as nice as any she might see in the maggie.
Sure enough, Friday's mail brought the next fleeming package. This time, the Fairies had sent a black cloche hat with a rhinestone clip in front, a red half-slip, a finely knitted black suit with delicate black beadwork round the collar and front edges, a Kadorie mink stole, one pair of brown gloves and one of white, but, alas! No dress for Alicia, who had to console herself with the brown gloves (which were too small for me or for Nancy). Well, the black suit fit me precisely (M. had enlisted a pette my size at the fleem, who kindly agreed to model it for her, so she knew it would fit). I put the skirt on over the red slip and the jacket over a bright red silk blouse. Though the skirt was cut straight and narrow, I was pleased to discover I had no trouble moving about in it, as the knit had quite a bit of give, but despite this (or because of it), every movement visibly outlined my own curves through the taut fabric. I felt it was a bit too sensuous and revealing for a professional pette to wear to work, but the thought did cross my mind.
Little Alicia softened her disappointment at not have gotten her dress by playing dress-up with hat, mink stole and brown gloves, stepping right out of her tomboyishness just as a blonde steps out of her clothes before bathing, leaving them all in a jumbled, satiny heap on the floor, forgotten until the next morning. Here is a picture of Alicia modeling hat, stole and gloves. Anyone can easily see that Alicia is completely absorbed in an ancient little-girl ritual, not fretting at all about her new dress not having arrived.
That Monday morning I awakened an hour late -- my clock appeared to have not been wound, perhaps, or the sun was inexplicably delayed in its rising ... or something. I lost another half hour taking more care (and interest) in dressing and primping -- I tried on and rejected two outfits before selecting a belted suit in tan linen, with trouser pleats over the hips and pocket flaps at the waistline -- a solid brunette choice, I reassured myself. As I drove to work in the fast lane, I thought, "La! This is certainly proving to be a far more racinating summer than I bargained for!" By now a full hour-and-a-half late, I swung the car a teensy bit sharply into the hospital parking lot, running one rear wheel over the curb and lightly grazing a signpost. The lot appeared to be full, so I parked behind someone else, possibly blocking her in should she leave work before me, a contingency rather unlikely to happen, I was sure. I checked myself in the rear view mirror to make sure my hair was still the same raven hue that Gladys had made it last Wednesday: it was, no new blonde streaks -- at least not in my coiffure. Then I checked to see that my fire engine red lipstick was perfectly applied: it was not, so I spent a minute, or three, touching it up, then firmly pressed my inverted lips together in primordial feminine fashion, smacking them noiselessly, sighed, grabbed my purse, forgot my keys in the ignition and locked myself out of the car. "No matter," I thought, "this way I'm not likely to lose them. I know just where they are."
Brenda, a chrysalis
TO BE CONTINUED
But now, I am astounded by the changes in Elektraspace, mostly for the good, I admit, but your situation, sweet child, disconcerts me. Hardly home I could no longer contain myself and rushed over to the Cocktail Bar, sorely missed despite my numerous adventures and harrowing experiences on the road. But what do I find? Chaos! A beatific blonde like your charming self pining away unchaperoned and unpinched in the Cocktail Bar simply does not fit in the order of things.
How did this come about? I haven't yet given myself a moment to
dip into the ever so convenient Archives to acquaint myself with developments
after my altogether rushed parting. Which seems ages ago. And apparently
it is. I wonder if you would care to reveal what transpired, and perhaps
you'll let me procure another Blonde Bombshell for you, that is if you
don't find my company too intimidating.
As to girls and chubbiness and skinniness. You will notice that in real magazines, and in all of real culture, girls never want to get too chubby or too skinny for that matter. Both are looked down on (but especially the latter, for how unattractive to have nothing womanly in your figure. Even the flapper pettes have something to them). A girl doesn't want to be bony, even if she is slender. If a girl is on the chubby side, unless she is rather obese, she doesn't seem to mind. In fact, the "robust girl" is an archetype, and you often encounter her in the real world, quite content with her type. When young, she is "the outdoorsy" type, and there is always a certain type of boy who "goes for her." When a young married, she becomes the maternal type, and when older, the round grandmother type.
In the Pit, a culture emphatically antagonistic toward femininity, girls no longer have a variety of archetypes to consider when when they size up their appearance. Healthy and robust girls do not have the "healthy and robust girl" archetype in their image-sphere to tell them that their size is part of their identity, their role. I often think how terrible it is that an entire nation of girls puts a nation's worth of effort into achieving one goal: making themselves smaller. And why? Not to fit into that charming little cocktail dress (which has been a time-honored reason for temporary dieting... a reason based on wanting to be more feminine, more elegant, more glamorous), but because they want to fit into a flattened out notion of what is attractive. One idea about why this is the case is that in a culture based exclusively on substantial (quantitative) values, in a culture that completely rejects the truth of essential (qualitative) femininity, a girl is left only with her physical self. See, she only has substance, the flesh, upon which she can create her identity, because her essence, which of course is her femininity, has been stripped away from her.
But about muscles. The reason girls harm themselves with silliness about eating is similar to the reason others (sometimes the same girls though) will want to build muscles. Because their cultural conditioning hasn't only told them that femininity is a terrible thing, but that it isn't a thing at all, it doesn't exist except in the most trivial and manufactured ways. So, if femininity is trivial, and masculinity is normal and neutral, then girls with girl figures will want to sculpt their figures to match a more normal look. Too round? starve yourself. Too little girlish in your figure? Build muscles.
The most curious thing I have found, from listening to many girls
talk about this subject, is that no matter what a girl looks like, in the
Pit, she doesn't like her appearance, especially her physique. She may
be the envy of all the other girls around her, but she will hate her figure.
The primary poison of the Pit is its hatred
of the feminine and all things associated with it. This hatred poisons
girls every day, making them believe that their basic essence is non-existent
or at best trivial and silly.
Some one has described Aristasia as "one long conversation". Well, Aphrodite is rather like that. If you want to catch up on the conversation so far, the Archive is the place to do it.
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