I live in a university town where I am a graduate student in the School of Graphic Design. Like many students here, I spend quite a lot of time on the Internet, which I gather you girls call Elektraspace, so I had come across the Femmeworld site; it's pretty easy to find because lots of girls, well, I mean lots of like-minded girls, have its www address listed among their favorite links and cute little "ads" for it pop up from time to time on some of the girly newsgroups. As I said, I had found the Femmeworld pages months ago, and was immediately enchanted by its freshness and innocence. In particular, I remember a mesmerizing philosophical piece - do you know it? - by a girl named Matthilde, called The Magic of Lingerie which I found rather, um, stimulating and maybe not-so-innocent, (and thought-provoking, of course), but I had no idea where to find such lovely feminine garments in this university town. I also like this Aphrodite Cocktail Bar site a lot, and have even picked up a bit of the lingo, although up until now I have always been too shy to actually say anything.
When I heard through the girly-girl grapevine that the very same Miss Barbara who writes for the Cocktail Bar lives nearby and was giving a party right here in my town, well, I was not going to miss that for the world, so I did everything to wangle an invitation: I received mine last week, handwritten in firm but feminine copperplate style, on a dainty little card of pink deckle-edged bond. It said that only Real clothes could be worn, but not to worry, there would be a whole wardrobe of Real clothes in a goodly range of sizes and styles for girls who owned only bongo clothes, so girls with only bongo clothes should arrive by five so that they could find something suitable. I R.S.V.P.'d right away.
I debated buying a dress for the occasion, (I did not own a single dress, believe it or not), but decided against it: I would go defiantly in my usual bongo outfit and be gloriously transformed by whatever Miss Barbara's changing room might contain! Or not be transformed as the case might be, and give up the idea altogether. The prospect was terribly exciting, as if I were going to meet my fate, perhaps a very good fate. I had trouble getting to sleep all week long, so anxious was I for the weekend to come. On the appointed day I worked on my drawings all morning and most of the afternoon in my little "studio," which is really no larger than a closet, but it has a north-facing window; I could hardly keep my mind on my work - I threw all my sketches into the trash.
Around three-thirty I grabbed a quick shower, prolonged only by the time it took me to shave, a precaution I was later grateful for having taken. Another was to select the least bongo underwear I could find. After I got my hair dry and brushed out (t's quite long), I threw on my usual sweater and jeans, stuffed my hair under a wool watch cap, grabbed my coat and drove over early. Miss Barbara actually lives in a smaller town than where the university is, but it's only a few miles away. Halfway there I realized I had not put on any make-up at all, so I pulled over and used the rear view mirror to put on some lipstick, plum brandy, it's called. And some eyeshadow, too, but I couldn't do any mascara because it was too hard to get close enough to the mirror and anyway the low winter sun was getting in my eyes.
On the stroke of five I pulled up to the address, a cute little white house that looked as if it had been built in the '30's; I was clearly the first to arrive. When I stepped up to the little entryway porch I could see Miss Barbara through the living room windows. She was already in the classic pink satin and black lace 40's gown she has told you about, covered by a frilly bibbed floral-print apron, bustling to and fro in elegant haste getting everything ready - covering the hors d'oeuvres trays, setting out glasses and napkins and ice, starting a fire in the fireplace. She was either singing to herself or to music I could not hear. She executed a couple of dance steps on her way out of the living room, back to the kitchen, I supposed.
I stood and watched for three or four minutes, vacillating between ringing the bell and driving off to return half an hour or so later, but Miss Barbara happened to glance out the window and saw me standing there in the cold, so she dropped everything and came to the door. We introduced ourselves and she graciously invited me in, gently ushering me by the elbow, asking if I had had any trouble finding her place. I replied that her little map had been perfect, quite easy to follow. She took my coat and cap, glanced at my oversized sweater, at my jeans and clumsy boots, raised her eyebrows and smiled, her lips slightly pursed. "Afraid it's upstairs for you, Dear, to the changing room. I believe we'll find something you'll like," she said in an encouraging tone. I didn't exactly feel comfortable about changing my clothes right away in a strange house, so I brushed my hair out of my eyes (a nervous gesture I have) and I asked could I perhaps help out with the preparations, since she was alone, but she smiled disarmingly and said not to worry, I should spend my time getting properly dressed and made up, she could manage downstairs perfectly well and the sooner I was dressed the sooner I could help her properly. She certainly knows just how to put a girl at her ease!
So Miss Barbara showed me upstairs, where one of the bedrooms was set up like a little changing room, just as she said: ruffled pink chintz curtains on the windows, two little white vanities with ruffled pink skirting and matching upholstered white backless benches, a low white dresser with a large mirror behind it, a bed with (of course!), a frilly pink spread. All the fleemy frocks and underpinnings and cosmetics that she has already told you about in the Cocktail Bar were neatly hung up or laid out on the bed and on the dresser and vanities, not yet mussed up by a gaggle of girls. Miss Barbara told me that all the clothes in the room, from stockings to hats, were Real clothes she had gotten by dint of two summers of fleeming. She invited me to look through the closet, wardrobe and drawers and try on anything I fancied. The only admonition she made was that I open only one pair of size 9 stockings, because all the stockings were still new in their original wrappers, she would rather not have new wrappers opened unnecessarily, and she was certain I was a 9. Then Miss Barbara quietly left the room, gently pulling the door closed behind her, calling out as she went down the hall that she'd be downstairs, if I needed any help or advice just to call her. I was alone.
TO BE CONTINUED ...
Now, I loved Alisilene's Angel-song, didn't you? Here's another.
Perversely it doesn't fall into the almost inevitable verse-verse-middle-eight-verse
pattern, but it is rather charming:
Good night Angel,
Until we meet again here in Heaven
Just one more kiss to end this perfect day
Before you spread your wings and fly away.
And may your dreams be all as sweet as you are,
Good night Angel, good night.
Actually, it is a variation on the traditional form. That is clearer when you hear it. Did you love it? I do hope so. I am almost sorry I brought it here in a way. Not because I don't want to share it with you - I do, dreadfully - but I wonder if it sounds a shade flat without the glorious tune. No it doesn't, does it? It is a simple song, but who can resist the brunette saying to her blonde: "Before you spread your wings and fly away", even if you can't here the beautiful pause and dip of the glorious Trentish dance band on "away".
Good night, Angels, good night.
Still rather nervous, I will listen a while longer...
MISS C. CAT.
That's all right sweetie. What can be lovelier than watching all these rather dazzling blondes and brunettes and hearing their glittering talk?
I also loved Miss Norma's account of shopping for dresses, frocks and gowns. I'm a dress girl myself, 'cause even frocks are beyond my means except for special occasions. Prob'ly it's just a coincidence, but the day before I read Miss Norma's article which talks about Klein's on The Square, Minnie (that's this other blonde stenotypist, we share a sixth-floor walk-up) and me, we went up to Kleins's at lunchtime looking for new dresses. So you're probably asking why two working girls need a new dress all of a sudden so soon after Nativity.
Well, the reason is, there's a trial of this Very Well-Known Gotham Socialite coming right up, the Court Clerk said she put it on the docket for next Monday. If you read the tabloids, you know just who I mean, but I'm not supposta actually say her name, but it's gonna be very juicy, there's lots of money involved, the plaintiff is this knockout blonde who says she was two-timed, which she swore in an affidavit spoiled a promising stage career on account of it ruined her nerves, so this blonde hired a private eye, so there are some quite interesting evidentiary photographs (which is what we call snapshots taken by private eyes), which I saw in the preliminary hearings, so half of Gotham's upper crust girls are gonna be right there in the courtroom, so Minnie and me are assigned to this trial, (we switch places every hour on long trials, and this one's supposta last for two weeks)... [pauses for breath] ... so Minnie and me simply hafta look our best! See, only last winter, Gloria, that's this other blonde stenotypist, ex-stenotypist I mean, she's a real tomato, Gloria met this dreamboat of a brunette defense attorney during a trial. They got engaged by springtime and got married in June, and now I hear she's already expecting a kid! So a girl always needs to look tops since you never know when or where opportunity's gonna strike.
A stenotype machine is a terrific prop for a girl who likes to be on display, it's small and light, on a dolly little black tripod, a girls sits at it, back straight, shoulders squared, one leg folded slightly back, the other out front in a lovely curve determined by the height of her heels and the length of her legs, and she always looks straight out at the gallery and never registers any expression, just looks very aloof, then when the judge and the lawyers and the witness stop talking, all you can hear in the still of the courtroom is the soft click-clicking of her polished nails on the keys while she catches up, you can barely see her fingers moving at all but the paper keeps coming out in a ribbon, like magic. Because of the sound, everyone in the courtroom stares at the stenotypist until someone starts talking again, which sometimes takes quite a while if a lawyer asks the witness a difficult question. Being a stenotypist is almost like being a model posing for a painter, or like being a living statue, it's quite satisfying for a girl who doesn't mind being looked at. That's how I like to think of myself when I'm working, like I'm posing for a painting or like I am a beautiful statue. That's why a girl really needs to look her best if you're a stenotypist. So there was simply no question about us needing a new dress!
So anyway, me and Minnie took the Lexington Avenue express up to Klein's at lunchtime where I found this absolute wow of a wool dress in exactly my shade of blue, with matching hat, on the Size Ten Table for only $8.98! And they fit so well when I tried them on (right there in the aisle, just like Miss Norma says, but of course I was wearing a slip and nobody looks anyway, by tacit agreement), that I decided to wear them back to work, so I had the salesgirl snip off the tags at the register. Minnie didn't find anything nice in her size, so she'll go back tomorrow. The stock at Klein's turns over that quick!
Since there wasn't anything on the docket 'till two, we had time for a leisurely luncheon. 'Course, we can't go to restaurants where the menu's in French, not on $18 a week (which is what a County stenotypist gets), so we hoofed it over to the Schraft's on Broadway and Twelfth, (Schraft's is a chain), where a girl can get a pretty fancy luncheon for eighty-five cents, so we splurged. Minnie had her little pocket Brownie camera with her, she takes it everywhere, she says you never know what or who you might see, and one time she got a shot of a bus that crashed into a trolley and sold it to the Daily Mirror for five bucks! They didn't use it, though, 'cause there was a worse crash later the same day on the Queensborough Bridge, so they showed that one instead. So anyway, just when the burgers were served, Minnie snapped this picture of me in my new blue dress and hat. Don't I look swell? Do you like my hat? I won't be able to wear the hat in court, though. Stenotypists aren't allowed to wear a hat when they're working.
Now I must tell you something. I was at Miss Barbara cocktail party, and saw Miss F, but didn't speak to her for fear I should get stuck into a "literary" conversation and end up with a reading assignment! She's very tall, and has dark hair, almost black, and very dark eyes. Once she almost caught me looking, but I pretended (quite successfully I'm sure) that I was examining the portrait of a mother and child which was hanging on the wall behind where she was sitting. She was dressed very tastefully - not in a cocktail dress, of course, but in a dignified suit. Well one wouldn't expect a LIBRARIAN to wear a frilly dress! Her stockings were of a rather plain sort, not very sheer, but she did have on some pendant earrings which were rather daring I thought.
The funniest thing about Miss F that night was that she turned out to be surprisingly gentle with children. Miss Barbara's little one, an adorable boy of 3, came down from the nursery and announced to one and all that he was the Lone Ranger! At which point he started to gallop about the house in his cowboy hat and toy gun in a holster. I would have thought someone like Miss Featherington would disapprove of such a thing, but she smiled beneficently on the boy and asked him what his horse's name was! I couldn't believe it - who would have thought that a strict brunette librarian would have an indulgence for little boys? Well I suppose Miranda has already sensed that there's more to Miss F than strictness and authority.
But in case all this makes any of you girls eager to visit the library and check out a book or two, just so you can get a glimpse of Miss F., be warned that she will likely engage you in a discussion of your current reading material, and you'll come away with something classic, mark my words! I haven't ventured into the library yet, but I'm thinking about it.
Oh, Miranda, I overheard several of the ladies talking earlier today. They were talking about a fancy cocktail party that one of the ladies had, and it sounds like they had a lot of fun. But, whispering the main thing I heard, but I can't tell, is that someone you know was at the party, and that she told nice stories. No, no I won't tell. Oh, it was a real nice fancy cocktail party, with everyone in up-to-date clothes. That's what I heard anyway. No wonder this place was so empty the other night when I walked past here the other night. All the ladies were off at a party!
I've never heard of a book called Vicky Wakefield either. Maybe she's not a nurse, but I bet you are right, she must wear some type of uniform. A person named Vicky Wakefield, well she sounds like she must be a sophisticated career girl. I bet her first name is actually Victoria, but everyone calls her Vicky for short.
Ohhh, here comes the Bar Mistress, does everyone want Ovaltine? I know I myself would love some, but can I have a cherry along with one of those cute stirrers with it. It makes a glass of Ovaltine look so grown up. I can pretend I'm drinking one of those drinks I see the ladies drinking, the one called a pink lady. Of course, ovaltine isn't pink, but I can pretend can't I?
Oh dear, look at the time. I better not get an Ovaltine today for I need to get home before it gets any later. I'll come back tomorrow though, as soon as school lets out. See you then!
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.
And here are LOTS of delightful girly places to go
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