No extramarital affairs for me
"I love the word 'affair'," said a friend who's had many more illicit escapades than I will ever know. She had just made her way, with a walker and great deliberation, to the favourite armchair where she sat draped in white terrycloth. She looked through me as if to the scene of some long-ago tryst. Then she looked straight at me with a smile that was equal parts mischief and maternal concern.
"You should have an affair," she announced. "You're cute enough. What are you...fifty, sixty?" The soul-churning difference between fifty and sixty has become a trifle to my friend, who's probably 90 or so, not that she deigns to discuss her age. My age, though, is a call to action---in her view, anyway. "Rona, you're not getting any younger. You ought to curl your hair. Put on lipstick. Buy a better bra than that soft little thing you have on."
I call this friend the Queen of Thirty Rooms because that's how vast her house is, with its teeming collections of whatever struck her fancy through the decades. Her sense of who she is and what she knows (whether or not she's telling) could fill Buckingham Palace. Because the Queen has no fear of causing offense, she gets away with pronouncements that might raise my hackles if they came from someone younger.
Take her critique of what magazines would call "my look." A decent one, I've always thought. Women have been known to stop me on the street and admire my haircut (but no men, I admit). I do wear lipstick (but not a glossy, kiss-me shade of red). And what's over-the-hill about a lace-trimmed camisole? Okay, I get it. No cleavage.
I've never had an extramarital affair, as the Queen well knows. To her this suggests a certain lack of imagination, a habitual derring-don't that I will one day come to regret. God forbit I should end up like a long-time confidante of hers who used to boast---boast!--- about being a faithful wife. When this friend lost her husband in old age, the Queen took her to task: "Now it's too late. You've missed your chance to have an affair!"
By her lights the Queen was never anything less than a good wife to her late husband. She raised their children, entertained his professional associates. Relentlessly discreet about her lovers, she chose only married men who intended to stay that way. She carried take-out food to various hotel rooms so as not to expose her adventures to a hotel employee with a tray and a loose tongue.
There have been times when I might have considered a dalliance had someone irresistible crossed my path. Tellingly, he never showed up. There was room in my marriage for just one external passion---my career. Women of the Queen's generation didn't have the opportunity to throw their arms around a great project involving urgent deadlines, wacky colleagues and an office with their name on the door. Besides, even when my breasts looked pert without a bra of any kind, I never had that air of unjudging openness that invites male attention. To strike any sparks with a man, I had to banter with him and let attraction flourish over time. I couldn't just open my front door, as the Queen once did on the night of a memorable party, and be swept up by a wave of feeling for the stranger on my porch.
"There's no one I'd have an affair with," I told her. She was having none of it. "You're too passive. They don't just come to you. Sit by yourself in a cafe. Flirt. You know how to flirt, don't you?"
Just before I planted a goodbye kiss on the cheek of my most subversive friend, I asked her a question. "Would you give the same advice to your daughter that you've just given to me?" Fond as she is of her son-in-law, she instantly said, "Of course!"
That night over dinner, my husband proposed a more intriguing question: "Would she give the same advice to her daughter-in-law?" Hmm. Now there's a topic for multiple cups of tea and an extra chocolate truffle or two. And tantalizing stories of past amours. But I'll never hear them all, or even all of the most piquant. The most compelling woman is a keeper of mysteries. No one understands this better than the Queen.
Click here to read "Is a husband just a partner in life's everyday grind?" and learn about the outrageous bra that got away.
Posted by Rona April 07, 2010 @ 3:09 PM. File in Between friends