Today, I share with you an exchange with Fred, a darling of a man who, though I don’t meet very often, remains one of my closest friends. He lives in the faraway lands of Way Up North, and we’ve built a very solid relationship over the years through the power of old-fashioned letters (and gifts). I often share my thoughts about this and that to Fred, and it is a treat to read what he thinks of my little misadventures in the Truly Rich World. Here’s one:
I am writing this missive as I take in the clouds above the Atlantic Ocean. The view is just lovely: Across the aisle is a pair of the chicest things I’ve laid eyes on.
The youngish woman of, I think, 30, has jet-black hair styled to fall loosely around her shoulders. She wears a boxy shirt dress in faded mustard with these oversize horn buttons that are just to die for. The only issue I have with her look is that she is wearing vertiginous heels on our long flight to somewhere. I can’t!
Beside this young thing is another younger thing who is more conservatively dressed. Her long bob (is that a thing now?) is parted on one side, and on her ears are double drop pearl earrings that I suspect are Mikimoto. She wears a polka dot shirt, with a pussy bow around the neck and elbow-length sleeves that end in delicate ruffles. This confection has been perfectly matched with a long fluted skirt that is also peppered with polka dots. The shoes are sensible pumps in the palest beige. You would approve.
Anyway, their well-crafted looks are not the point. I am only setting up the scene for you. The effects of Champagne are clear in the volume of their voices so that I can hear their entire conversation—and it is a gas!
Horn Buttons: “Hi hi hi… You know, I am not ashamed to say that, at this point in my life, the only thing I have truly mastered
Polka Dots: “I know what you mean. I am both envious and proud of your
Horn Buttons: “Well, you’re no slouch yourself. Isn’t this your—what?—fourth
Polka Dots: “I will not say no. Hee
Horn Buttons: “Totally. You get the best parts of a relationship! All the shopping! With me!”
Polka Dots: “Hee
Oh my, God, Fred! I think I have stigmata in my ears! What has the world come to when people speak such nonsense?
I don’t know what’s worse: the woman who is proud to know nothing but how to spend money, or the woman who is happy to be an, ahem, a mistress. And also they are so loud. I paid good money for my seat!
Why didn’t you get yourself a drink? I am assuming you are on board your usual commercial airline, so there would have been an excellent 2005 Taittinger CDC on the drinks list.
Anyway, those women sound stylish and awful. I am very pleased with their perfectly muted palette, but not their mouths.
I’ve also recently experienced blockheads in the wild. Just the other day, at the party of Johnny Junior’s third baby, this cocky fellow (polo shirt, khaki shorts, surcingle belt—you know, the usual) said that he has been in over a dozen fistfights, and won them all! I’m sure that, at a children’s party, you should not say this!
And just the other day, over lunch, this TRL (do you still call them that: Truly Rich Ladies?) said, without irony, that her favorite reading material is the Gucci lookbook! When pressed for a proper book with words, she declared: “The only book I’ve finished from cover to cover is the one about the teenage vampires. I love it!” I almost choked on my crusted scallop.
I really think these misguided declarations are a product of, in the case of your airplane companions, being clueless (Horn Buttons) or brazen (Polka Dots) and, in the case of my party friends, boastful (Mr. Fistfighter) or dense (Ms.Vampire). I also think these people were asleep when life was teaching all of us how to make proper conversation in public.
And, oh, Charlie’s third baby looks like his dad, Old Man Charles, and I don’t know if I should be happy for our friend. I am also back home as I write this—home, as in Manila. But I don’t think you are here.
About the Champagne: I am on a very specific diet that cruelly forbids drinking and that is why I chose to suffer these women sober! But I am now back on dry land, and near the pure shores of our most favorite place. Do you remember?
I can only think of your very terrible luck as the reason for your unfortunate encounters with dense people. Don't you have proper companions in Manila? And isn’t there some rule from the books or that terrible lady that taught us manners over one summer that said you should always take care of what you say, even if that means fibbing a bit.
If I were that non-reading TRL—yes, I still call them that, and you also know that I am a Truly Rich Lady and you are a Truly Rich Gentleman even if you’ve chosen to lead an ascetic life—I would have just brought up any of the overrated classics like Moby Dick. No one would question it, because no one has read it.
And how I miss the days when we had the pleasure of creating beautiful conversations with a lot to talk about or nothing to talk
I’m so sad I missed you while you were there.
Hey, I read Moby Dick, and I would have asked her about that part in that thing in the chapter about Dick. You know it, right?
I think you’re correct about the careful thinking and the fibbing and the staying silent when speaking in public. If I remember right you were the type to stay very quiet, which just means you were always thinking something not safe for
I’m kidding, of course.
On a serious note: You have to tell me where you are heading next. I would pierce the routine of my runaway lifestyle so we can catch up in person, and then you can tell me more about your misadventures with the TRLs. I hear they are wilder these days.
You know this is why I only communicate with you through letters, right? So that my ramblings can remain private? And if any of these were to come out, I know exactly where to send my henchmen. Beware.
As for the TRLs, the circle is still small. Though there are many and more people who have gathered enough coin to knock on the door, the barrier to entry is still high. No one will unlock the gates! And they keep knocking. Loudly.
For the most part, it’s the knockers who are misbehaving. And to tell you the truth, this is the very reason why I am always on a plane, a boat, a train, or a donkey to somewhere else. I have to get as far away from them as possible, but it seems I cannot escape them as they now follow me on the plane! Maybe it's time I get my own.
Am I going crazy? Maybe I will tell you where I am, so I can share my misery with you. Or you can just cheer me up.
Fred, see you soon in the place where the stars shine down on us.