Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mandy Stories

  • My mother taught me certain modes of behavior, also known as "manners." Times change, but habits acquired when you are a child are difficult to shed. I am not the least bit unhappy that most of what Mom taught me I still practice, although not everyone feels that way, and occasionally someone is downright unhappy.

    The force that caused more discarding of these habits than any other was of course the women's liberation movement.

    "Ladies" has been replaced by the somewhat pedestrian "women" except in the case of the occasional "ladies and gentlemen." This is regrettable primarily because there is a distinct difference between the two terms even if it is not discernible by certain  ladies  women.

    It was in the 1980's and I was past forty when I finally was able to walk on the inside (without being aware of it every second) when with a female companion.

    I almost never stand these days when a woman enters a room or rises from her chair. (After all, who knows whether she's a lady?)

    I still hold a door for a woman, but plead innocent of any wrongdoing on the grounds that I still hold a door for a  gentleman  man too.

    Oh yes, Mandy. Well, one of the funniest comments on my  sexist  outmoded behavior was made by Mandy. One lunch hour in Chicago a few of us, all women except yours truly, went to Hamburger Hamlet for lunch. When we exited we had a busy street to cross, and stepping off the curb triggered its Pavlovian corollary: I took the arm of the nearest female, a young woman named Nicki.

    Now Nicki was, I think, twenty-three or twenty-four years old and much amused but not the least bit offended by this. As we reached the other side, she turned to me, smiled, and asked "Why did you take my arm?"

    Mandy, perhaps six feet away, supplied an answer: "In case you felt the urge to hurl yourself in front of the nearest oncoming car."

  • One Saturday or Sunday at my house Mandy said "Come on, Donnie, let's play a game of Trivial Pursuit."

    At some point I was looking across the table at her and she was reading the question she was about to ask and was smiling gleefully. Things went roughly like this:

    Mandy: "If you were in Europe and saw a car with a sticker that read "HE" what country would the sticker be from?"

    Donnie: "Oh, jeez, I don't know, Mandy. I don't know anything about those stickers."

    Mandy, eyes aglitter: "Go ahead, Donnie, give it a shot."

    Well, a challenge is a challenge. I went into a huddle, perhaps even a trance. Somehow I found myself thinking about my childhood stamp collecting days and instead of no answer I had two alternatives:

    · Swiss stamps often (always?) bore the word "Helvetia," the old Roman name for a large portion of what is now Switzerland

    · Similarly with Greek stamps and "Hellas," basically Greek for Greece
    Throwing a mental dart I hit the former and answered "Switzerland."

    Mandy's eyes got big and her jaw dropped.

    "What . . . .? How . . . .?"

    I cracked up. Real Trivial Pursuit players know that when your opponents want to give up you should let them. (Also, when in doubt say "Paris.")

  • Mandy and I split and several days later she called me. "The tickets for the concert arrived but if you don't want to go I will understand."

    We had promised her daughter, Beth, who was perhaps eight years old, that when Whitney Houston appeared at Poplar Creek, a local outdoor theater, we would take her to the show.

    I said, "No, that's OK, we promised to take her, let's do it."

    Came the day and I picked the two of them up a little early, and we went somewhere to get something light to eat before the show. Whitney gave a great performance, and the three of us were happy as I drove them home. Sayonara.

    About a week later I received a letter from Mandy comparing me unfavorably to pond scum.

    Your guess is as good as mine.

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