Friday, March 23, 2012

Endearing Things Women Do 2

In an effort to apply—but not over apply—perfume, some women will spray a cloud of vapor into the air in front of them, wait a moment for the droplets to dissipate slightly, and then walk into the cloud.

Endearing Things Women Do 1

If a woman's hair is of a certain length—in the vicinity of her chin, for example—and she wants to place a telephone to her ear, she will often tilt their head to one side so that her hair flips away and the phone can be slipped underneath and placed directly against her head.

Somewhere I have a picture of a former girlfriend performing this gesture while making a dinner reservation from our hotel room.

Although I have never discussed it with any of its users, I suspect this time-honored maneuver (I have seen it in movies of the 40s and 50s) is taken as much out of vanity as practicality. The goal is to hear better while preserving the condition of a quaffed head of hair. The result is a cocked-head movement reminiscent of a wolf turning to listen to a distant sound. The woman's eyes dull as she strains to hear the faraway person, and she continues to list a bit to one side until the conversation ends, at which point the woman pulls the phone straight downward, avoiding any contact with hair, and, finally, returns her head to an upright position.

I take a small measure of delight whenever I see this.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Reasons of Love

There are very few books I can say truly changed the way I look at life and the world, happily and forever. Harry G. Frankfurt's thin volume The Reasons of Love (Princeton, 2004) is one.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A 61-year-old Looks Back on Joyce Maynard

I have always admired the title of Joyce Maynard’s famous essay “An 18-Year-Old Looks Back On Life,” but before today, I had never actually read it. Maynard is three years younger than I am, and her article, written during her freshman year at Yale, was the New York Times Magazine cover story on April 23, 1972. As legend has it, the piece drew the attention of the reclusive J. D. Salinger. The two exchanged many letters, and when summer came, Maynard left college (never to return again), moved into Salinger’s Cornish, New Hampshire home, and began a ten-month-long relationship with the 53-year-old author of The Catcher In The Rye.

It is easy to see what appealed to Salinger about the essay. Maynard is very bright and a remarkably observant writer—especially for someone who was only a college freshman. The piece is far more embedded in a particular cultural period in the United States (the late 1960s and early 1970s) than Catcher, but the offbeat sensibility of the author is not unlike that of Holden Caulfield. Maynard writes entertainingly about pot smoking (she didn’t), the Unitarian church, Leave It To Beaver (I was also a fan), her senior year of high school at Phillips Exeter Academy, and the antiwar presidential campaign of Eugene McCarthy. Maynard had already written several pieces for Seventeen magazine, but “An 18-year-old Looks Back On Life” made her a celebrity. She went on to have children and write many books, including a memoir of her relationship with Salinger, but this article, written in youth, will probably always be her most famous publication.