“At eight o’clock I am ready. The dress and the shoes fit perfectly (12 and 7). The shawl is Roman (2 feet wide and 6 feet long). I dried my hair, which I had washed 3 times, with the BaByliss 1600 watt hair dryer, and combed it 2 times in all directions. The results are astonishing.
I sat down 4 times and got up again 4 times which explains why at present I am standing up and do not know what to do. Sit down, perhaps.”
From The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (translated from French to English by Alison Anderson) p301, Chapter 17 The Travails of Dressing Up.
I cringed at the angst and uncertainty the character (Renee) portrayed in this short passage. She is a 54 year old concierge and is getting ready for a dinner invitation from one of the wealthy residents of her apartment buidling in Paris. He is new on the scene and quite debonair. A retired Japanese businessman who shares her penchant for Japanese films and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.
The same angst has been seen in the teenager residing in my house. He spends ages showering, grooming, sizing himself up in the mirror. He leaves a trail of cheap deodorant when he finally departs for school or a social event, finally content with his appearance. He always asks for my approval re his sartorial choice. I feel blessed to be consulted and savour the moment, always commenting in the affirmative – of course (perhaps that’s why he keeps asking me).
He has a girlfriend, despite his tender age (14). Though he argues that she is a ‘girl’ who happens to be a ‘friend’. He becomes quite coy when speaking to her on the phone. She is very polite. We have not yet been introduced in person. Her name is Ari (short for Ariana). They met on the bus en route to school.
We have all been there. And some are returning:
Middle aged contemporaries tell me of their experiences surfing the net looking for a mate. One divulged her angst at being seen naked by another man, at her age (this was a respectable few dates in). I thank God (or whoever it is up there watching over us) that I have been with my ‘mate’ for over half my life now and we are still happy with each other, warts and all.
I salute them their courage.