30 December 2008

Stephanie Meyer is a vegetarian!

Monday 29 December

Jessy has been reading the 'Twilight' series of books, basically because everyone else she knows in 10th grade has been too, so that means I have had to read the books to see what they are about. I have read 'Twilight' and 'New Moon' so far. I cannot say I like the stories nor can I say I agree with what all the fuss is about. But of course I won't turn down a chance to go to the movies.

This afternoon Mother, Jessy and I rode in the green Cadillac with Roger driving of course, down to Lynnhaven Mall in VB where we watched 'Twilight'. For Jessy and me it was the 2nd time. For Mother it was the first. We have not had many chances to go out with just her, like this, just the three of us as though we are all just girls hanging out. Jessy and I wore skirts and tights and I wore my new short leather patchwork jacket over a pink sweater. Mother, who is normally never anxious about her appearance or how she dresses, was in her room about an hour before she descended, in a very cute glen plaid skirt and navy tights and a charcoal-grey sweater with a pink-grey-gold scarf tied round it, very chic yet conservative, sensible and good-looking-- she looked like a maturely-dressed 18-year-old. Being shorter than both of us she gets that a lot, you know.

'You look terrific!' Jessy said as she stepped down to the front hall.

Lisa came out to the hall to see her too. 'Oo, pretty,' she said, and Mother stooped to give her a kiss. 'Can't I go too?'

Jessy and I were shaking our heads. 'No, sweetheart,' Mother told her. 'I'm afraid its a little too gown-up and also scary.' She looked up at us and we nodded again. 'Very scary. I wouldn't want you to have bad dreams.'

'But I wouldn't!'

She so would and all three of us know it!

The ride down was uneventful. I had heard on Stardate on the radio that Venus, Mars and Jupiter were all visible at about-- yes, wait for it-- twilight, so as we got onto the middle of the bridge we were able to see them all. There was Venus, just above and to the left of the moon, and Mars and Jupiter down low, just as Sandy Wood on Stardate had said. To me that was kind of worth the whole boring ride down. Otherwise all we had to pay attention to was Jessy rattling incessantly about the 'Twilight' story in the hopes of enlightening Mother, who otherwise knew little about it.

At the mall we bought tickets first and then sat for tea till about 7.00. No one presumed that Mother was our stepmother. I am sure no one had any reason to believe she was much over 18 or 19. In the cinema we all sat together in the centre of the row in our skirts with our soda cups. Of course the only boys there were on dates with girls and so Jessy had no one to 'scope out'. Mother only giggled at her.

As I said I am not the biggest fan of the 'Twilight' series of books, mainly because I dislike the character of Bella. She is NOT the kind of person I would hang out with, being too quiet, too brooding, and too reluctant to extend herself a little, grow, change, experience something new. She acts like everyone is beneath her and sort of revels in her status as someone from somewhere else. The vampire guy seems to play straight into her grasp and indeed nearly sacrifices himself for her. The story reminds me of 'Message in a Bottle', the movie that Daddy liked with Kevin Costner as a guy who restores an old sailboat and ends up dying at the end for no good reason. It's a weak story by Nicholas Sparks (who seems to write nothing but weak, artificially-contrived plots) that is weak in the same way 'Twilight' is. Half of what the characters 'have to' be isn't anything they have to be. It's as though they make stupid, irrational choices and then claim it's what they 'have to' do. As a work of literature it is a storyline that depends on perception and feelings, not facts and common sense. Or, as Mother says, it's 'Romantic', as in the 'big-R' philosophical sense. Who would WANT to fall in love with a vampire? You'd have nothing in common. Bella falls for the vampire guy because she doesn't know anyone else and is willing, at 17 years old, after having known him for only a few weeks, to give her human life to live with the guy forever. I don't know a single girl who would do that at that age (my age) with even the very best choice of men. People really aren't quite that passionate. Ms Meyer counts on her young, mostly-female audience to feel the same irrational things she does in order for it all to work. Unfortunately, they do and so it appears to work.

Maybe that's just me. But however charming that vampire guy is, I wouldn't give up my life just to be with him, especially when I have more sensible options. Then again I thought the ending of 'Pirates'/'At World's End was stupid too. It should have been Jack Sparrow, who deserved no better, to be the new Davy Jones, and the nice blacksmith to end up with the Pearl and the nice wife happily ever after.

I started this to say that Stephanie Meyer, the author, is pictured in the movie ordering a vegetarian salad at the counter of the diner in Forks, Washington. And Bella also orders a vegetarian meal and criticise her father for eating steak. Is this some kind of PETA statement, or just irony in the movie? You decide. I'll stick to 'Gossip Girl' which is just unpretentious enough to get away with being stupid.


28 December 2008

The south wind

Sunday, 28 December 2008

The south wind blows up the coast, bringing with it humidity and the threat of rain. This is supposed to be winter-- and it's like weather made for being undressed. It was so deplorably warm today that as soon as we got home from church and brunch I went straight up stairs and got out of everything-- really, for the first time in a long while. I read for a while and then Jessy came in and asked if I wanted to watch TV. She was, of course, entirely naked. I really did think of going down there like this but thought better of it. As I was pulling up a clean pair of panties Mother knocked and came in. 'Hey,' she said softly.

'Hey,' I said. Then she stepped in and I saw her. 'You look cute.'

She smiled a little, almost blushing. 'Well, I kind of took your example from yesterday.'

I smiled. 'Good.'

Her hair was all down and brushed out, thick and lush and blonde well past her shoulders. She had on her nice navy-blue sweater, plain white short shorts, opaque white dress tights, and bright pink socks--pretty much the same scheme we three girls have been wearing since Christmas. On Mother, who has just turned 27, the look is as cute as it is on any of us. She smiled a little shyly and sat on the end of my bed. 'Were you going down to watch the movie?'

I shrugged. 'Not if you wanted me for something.'

She shrugged too. 'I just wanted to visit.'

I smiled and leaned back on the table, folding my arms over my stomach. 'What's up?'

'Well,' she said, 'do you think you would mind if we did not go up to New Jersey tomorrow?'

I shrugged again. 'Hm, I don't think so. Why?'

'Your father wants to have New Year's here. We can go up after that,' she said.

I nodded. 'That's all right.'

'And I can see from how you and your sister are with this weather that you'd probably prefer staying here.'

'I guess. Really, Mother, it doesn't matter at all either way.'

She smiled and me and stood up. 'I would like to see everyone too, but I'd rather be here seeing them than travelling up there. So as long as there are no objections--?'

I smiled at her. 'I'm pretty sure I'm speaking for Jessy too. There are no objections.'

She nodded and went to the door. 'Do remember your father's rule, Janine. I'll be making dinner for about four.'

'Yes, of course, Mother.'

Down in the TV theatre we watched 'WALL-E' and neither Jessy nor I put any more on till dinner. After dessert we took off out t-shirts and returned to as we were. Right now Jessy's watching 'House' reruns and I'm typing this. well-- at least I've put socks on. And the south wind continues.


Christmas panties

Saturday 27 December 2008

Jessy and I were shopping last week and we found these adorably cute all-cotton panties in Family Dollar for Christmas. They are just plain bikini cut, a bit higher on the leg than most of mine, which is comfortable, all-cotton, and they were available in a variety of colours, all with the same print candy canes and snowmen and holly sprigs and snowflakes. We giggled to see them and then decided to treat ourselves to some Christmas cheer. The ones I got are bright green and hers are pale pink. Later in the mall we bought for each other, as sort of a present, a couple pairs of these very high knee socks with a cute pattern of little secular symbols round a white band at the top and along the sides, like the seam in those sexy stockings. We each got a set in bright red and a set in a lighter green. This is pretty much what I have been wearing this season-- I've already washed this stuff three times.

Half of the time since Christmas I have been lolling round this room mostly undressed and the socks, which come over my knee, and the big fluffy light-grey polartec pulli have made a pretty comfortable outfit. The night we watched the video with Gran I pulled on white ballet tights and pulled the socks on over them again and that was perfectly comfortable and presentable for round the house since the pulli comes down almost like a minidress. Daddy said I looked cute-- that was of course before Jessy came down in bright-red boxer shorts under her long navy-blue sweater and looked cuter. Little Lisa came down for the video in her actual ballet leotard and tights, and a new sweater she got for Christmas, and then sent the cute-o-meter off the stops. But it's the Christmas season and I enjoy being able to be warm and cosy and somehow relieved of the responsibility to wear clothes, or at least proper clothes.

We have got church in the morning (and yes already picked out my clothes) and I am not going to stay online at 4.00 am rambling about junk like this!


27 December 2008

God save the queen

Friday evening, 26 December 2008

Someone online asked me this afternoon if I had noticed, or if I appreciated, that I have an 'affectation' of using 'Britishisms' (a term I despise though I knew what he meant). I said yes, I know I do; but it is mostly habit and less deliberate. I spent two years in an English public school (read that, in the US: 'private school') and what I came to appreciate was a culture which was always part of my family heritage and always interested me, but to which I had always been only an outsider. It was one thing to hear about a real-life city being lived in by real-life people that happens to have a 10th-century castle right in the middle of it-- it is quite another thing to actually BE one of those people living there and being able to actually touch the 10th-century castle on a daily basis. It gives you a unique perspective, and it has expanded, not narrowed, my own. I discovered and came to love the routines of being English-- singing the national anthem and reciting a prayer for the sovereign in church (and in school) and driving on the left and calling the 'sidewalk' the 'pavement' and so on. Returning to the US a wiser and older person I honestly found it hard to remember all the words to the Pledge of Allegiance and the 'N' form of the past participle and that I have to look left, not right, when crossing a street from the kerb.

I did NOT 'pick up an accent', as someone asked me once, though at one point before I got there I did consider doing that. I confess it's been a temptation, especially living with my stepmother for so long, but though I am often accused of being a thespian I decided it would be disrespectful to do it badly and so left it to Gwyneth Paltrow who does it much, much better.

Some people will remain convinced it is really just an affectation and that by continuing to use the grammar and spellings I use I am trying to say I consider myself superior to most American people. That is a common accusation I get. My stepmother, being ethnic English and Anglican but raised in Roman Catholic Australia, has had it all her life. The saddest part of it is, as my father says, how everyone in America may be so quick to judge all things British as being inferior, but, as he says, 'not one of them would refuse an honorary knighthood.'

One 'Americanism' I have learnt to utterly deplore is the tendency to so quickly judge everything by American standards. For a country which pretends to be so 'tolerant' and 'open-minded' and 'liberal' we Yanks really are not. We do not really accept other cultures' ways of doing things without at least a little bit of feeling superior to them all, and this is nowhere truer than with the British. Disney and Mel Gibson and so many others have made millions from belittling, disparaging and incorrectly portraying British history and culture, and their ugly assumptions are what Americans have come to accept as truth. I got into an argument once online after mentioning that I had read Churchill's book 'Their Finest Hour' over the summer which clearly shows how the British fought World War Two totally ALONE on about five fronts for nearly three years before the Americans chose to become involved-- and all I got for saying this clear FACT was 'Oh, no, WE "bailed out" the Brits.' ('Well the book was written by a Brit', someone said.) The FACT is that America allowed Mr Churchill's government to suffer immeasurable losses and only got involved in the war when it served American interests to do so-- and yet, even so, the British people extend to America a grateful, admiring respect because they're just that unselfish, humble, and affectionate. It's one of the things that makes them British.

For Christmas, Mother gave to Gran the movie 'The Queen' on DVD, and we watched it tonight. When I say 'we' I mean all of us, even little J.J., nearly three, who played quietly, 'as good as gold', on the floor of the TV theatre down stairs. It is a very well-made, serious and sympathetic portrayal of HRH The Queen as she and her household coped with the death of estranged princess Diana in 1997. Naturally the filmmakers had two options with this story-- the most likely was that they would depict the queen as being cold, ruthless, hateful and spiteful, deliberately ignoring anyone's feelings but her own, sticking to principle at the cost of ethics, and so on. The least likely was that they would depict that whole situation as being so unorthodox and unpredictable that the queen deserves our sympathy for simply not knowing how to handle it. The strangest thing of all was that the filmmakers did both.

The most important statement the film 'The Queen' made was nearly at the end, when the queen explains to the eager and innocent PM Tony Blair that 'This is how I was brought up.' She (played by Dame Helen Mirren) explained that she believed the best of the British people would expect their queen to be somewhat stoic, not easily moved to mush at the loss of one person (who by her own choice wasn't even family any more). The character of PM Blair actually gets mad at one of his assistants and says how 'this woman' (the queen) has devoted her life to quiet, principled leadership, including towards a young girl (Diana) who devalued everything the queen offered to her and spent the last years of her life vocally denouncing it all over the world. The American-style mourning for Princess Di, public, emotional, unreasonable and completely out of proportion to her actual, formal status, even called for lowering the British flag on top of the palace-- though the British NEVER observe that custom even when a PM or king dies, the royal family were prevailed upon to adopt it 'just this once' for someone who had willingly and gratefully left their family and that house altogether. People (and the press, on both sides of the Atlantic) were sending public hate letters to the queen personally. This could have made me cry if not for the strong, almost stoic way in which Dame Helen played her. And when you understand what the actress was going for (yes, we watched all the 'making of' special features too) you must have some appreciation for the queen herself. After all what has made Britain as great as it has always been is the very British way in which they do things. To a Briton there really is no other way to do them.

My father has on his office wall a copy of the queen's formal Coronation portrait from 1953. He says he likes the picture, but we all sort of know better. True-- the queen herself is very pretty, a 26-year-old young mother and wife who ascends to her father's place almost shyly, but willingly-- that's a role model for any woman. But Daddy likes more what the picture represents-- almost 1000 years of unbroken tradition in culture and government without which this country of America would never have stood. America broke free of Britain because of the British way of doing things, and yet it survives for the same reason. After all there can be no unselfish, elected service and leadership without the English concept of 'noblesse oblige'-- the philosophy that the good people do the right thing just because it IS the right thing. It is 'Deus et mon droit' = 'God and my right hand' --God blesses what I do that is right, or, when I do the right thing God is with me doing it too. The point is that it is right because it is right.

The British motto is the Old French is 'Hony soi qui mal pence' -- 'Evil to he who thinks evil of it.' How Americans should learn this! It means that you condemn, you deserve to be condemned. If you judge, you deserve to be judged-- since the truly right thing is so right that only the truly evil could ever condemn it. Or, as Alexander Pope said, 'Whatever IS is right' --because it comes from God. God's will be done-- and God save the queen.


26 December 2008

Boxing Day

Friday, 26 December 2008

The tradition of Boxing Day is that you gather up all the gifts for people who are not in your own immediate family, especially people at work, and go visiting to delivering happy tidings of the season and your gifts. In America most people go back to work. In Britain this has always been a recuperative day, somewhat like New Year's Day is for some people to do too much celebrating on New Year's Eve.

As we have had a family-only celebration of Christmas Jessy and I decided that we would put Boxing Day to its intended use and drop in on those friends whom we knew would be home. So we were busy little bees all morning and afternoon, seeing Rita (of course), Becky, and Rachel. We said our hellos, delivered our gifts, stayed for a cup of tea and went on to the next house. By about two o'clock we were on our way to Josie's house when the brakes in the Regal began making a horrid noise. I was unsure of what it was and pulled off the road to ring Daddy. He told me to drive a little and have Jessy hold the phone out the window so he could hear it. Then he pronounced it bad break pads and told us we were safe to come home on it. We rang Josie and apologised for postponing our visit. She was it was nothing to worry about and that we could as easily come tomorrow.

When we got home Daddy drove the car and came straight in to make phone calls. I asked him how serious it was and he said it was 'dragging a caliper.' So off went the Regal to the repair place and here I sit with no car for God knows how long. Jessy rang Josie (and they talked for half an hour, almost eliminating any need for an actual visit (if not for the gifts) and finally invited her to our house tomorrow instead of our going there. Afterwards I presume we will be relying on Roger and the long green Cadillac again, at least for the short term.

As for our own Christmas, everyone liked everything they got and we all had a good time all day. We had our traditional waffles for brunch (not pork pie as in Britain-- ugh) and a lovely smoked ham for dinner. In the evening Jessy, Lisa and I st down in the basement TV theatre in our nice warm old-fashioned flannel nightgowns and watched BOTH movies of 'The Traveling Pants' (a family gift from Santa) till about 12.30 am. And yes, Lisa stayed up for the both movies-- and then fell asleep in my lap as we watched the DVD special features.

Gran is down with us, staying in her first-floor room, but will go up to Uncle O--'s on Saturday and visit with our other uncle sometime after Sunday. At 80 she is still going well and we are all proud of her for it. One thing Jessy and I have got from Gran was a pair of tickets to the 'Happy Days' musical playing in Philadelphia in late March. Gran always gets us theatre tickets, and not always to the very heady things but to pop musicals like 'Hairspray' and 'Lion King' and 'My Fair Lady'. This makes a fun time for us.

We will be going away ourselves over the next week, returning to the house on the beach in New Jersey for a few days where we had been over Thanksgiving. From there Daddy has a few engagements for himself and for Mother and we 'kids' will most likely play on the beach and whine about going to the mall. That island is always so remote and desolate in winters. (Not that it's not like that here too!)

I look forward to hearing from all my online friends about their holidays too. Till I meet each of you personally online, have a lovely holiday season and a positive and happy new year. :)

--JC (the twit)


'Tis the season

Wednesday 24 December 2008

Now that I have my licence I am the driver of choice for just about everything. I don't mean to complain. I don't mind the odd errand for milk nor even for taking good little Lisa to and from ballet lessons. But Princess Jessy tends to have needs-- a very full social calendar as well as seasonal shopping trips, and the request often comes in the form of 'You have to drive me to Bath and Body Works.' She does not ask Roger so much now. And so I comply.

Daddy has generously lent me the Regal for my use, but he is very clear that it is not 'MY' car and in respect for that I don't load it up with too much of myself. I have two stuffed blue-and-white throw pillows in the back seat which my passengers like to cuddle with and a nice little three-nail cross hanging from the mirror. A canvas beach bag in back holds anything else I happen to collect. It keeps Daddy happy and really I am glad I have an excuse to keep it clean.

Jessy and I, once with Rita and once on our own, have gone down over the big bridge twice in the last four days to Lynnhaven for shopping. Coming back the second time-- Monday, when it was freezing cold-- we were caught out much later than the curfew imposed on me by my conditional licence, but we had no problems and got back safely without attracting any attention from the state constabulary. Daddy scolded me for letting the time pass and for not relying on Roger and the dark-green Cadillac. At the last minute-- Tuesday-- I needed the opportunity to run up to Salisbury for a few things and so did ask Roger. It was odd, riding by myself in a driven car and having him open my door for me. I had on good jeans and a sweater and my Uggs and felt very pampered of course, but it was my first time actually travelling like that and I am sure I did not appreciate it to the fullest. At my request Roger pulled through McDonald's and ordered takeaway supper for me, and I suggested we just wait and eat it together but he declined and drove me home directly. As it has turned out I am grateful that I have had only to wrap and write cards today.

For some incomprehensible reason it has got exceptionally warm this afternoon. I did not shower till after lunch and sat up in my room in my panties doing my wrapping and cards-writing. The panties are new-- Jessy and I saw them at a cheap little shop in the mall and we each bought a pair for ourselves. Mine are bright green with red-white-and-black Christmas symbols, snowmen and candy canes and holly sprigs and so on all over them. They're cute. And I have on my new Christmas toe socks too, which are mostly wide stripes in green and bright blue with a white band round the top decorated with candy canes and which pull up to nearly my knees-- and actually stay up, too. In my room it's 72 degrees and outside it's about 65. There is a gentle breeze, which will certainly go more malevolent, and an on-and-off drizzle which is even gentler. I have one window open and can hear that old ocean, far out across the bay, pounding in steep white waves upon the bar. This is bizarre because on Monday we had a vicious west wind and temperatures in or near single digits. Every night till this one we have had ice warnings in effect all over the area and one of my friends actually slipped on some one night and slid her car into another car causing damage to both of them. The poor Eastern Shore is just not ready for this kind of stuff yet.

Mother was sly enough to send Daddy out for groceries this afternoon and then got me to help her move in one of his presents, an indoor rowing machine. Roger was here for much of the day and helped too. We hid the long narrow box in a closet in the basement and will bring it up late tonight. Most of the day I have been nibbling on chocolate-chip cookies (Gran's family recipe) and sipping hot cocoa or eggnog. Whilst I was online tonight someone commented on that term and suggested it be called simply 'nog'. He asked, 'Is there any other kind of nog?' So I looked it up.

I was surprised to find that with all my family's study in the 18th century we had never learnt this before. The drink dates pretty far back but its modern version is mid-1600s and came over to America in the mid 1700s. It was originally called 'Egg 'N' Grog' and sometimes it was mentioned that it was served in a 'Noggin', a roundish clay mug. So 'Egg 'N' Grog in a Noggin' was sensibly shortened. It was most often an aristocrats' drink as common people of that period never got to actually preserve or save milk or eggs. I was also surprised to find it has always been traditionally made with rum-- 'grog' in Navy terms-- for Daddy has always preferred it with whisky or brandy and has only this year, coincidentally, bought a bottle of rum for it. It makes a pretty heady drink, at least to my tastes, and after two this afternoon and two tonight I am pretty lightheaded!

It is very late now. We have all the stockings hung up and prayers said, and Daddy's traditional bedside reading of Clement's 'A Visit from St Nicholas', complete with silly commentary, has been done and those of us younger than 6 have gone down for bed. I am in charge of conducting Lisa down to see what St Nick will have brought us in the morning-- it is a strict procedure we always follow, in that everyone has to be awake and go down stairs together. J.J. will go into Daddy's room from the other end and we girls will meet them all in the front stair hall. The tree is down in the small centre parlour and we presume all the presents will appear there too.

I will say in here that our father adores Christmas for all its mystery and magic to small children. When we were at Lewes he devised, and actually tried, a mechanical device in the attic above Jessy's and my bedrooms which, set to a timer for about one o'clock, played a recording of bell and hoof noises and actually rattled on a surface so that you could feel it as though a dozen or so feet were prancing along the rooftop. It worked, but it was not loud enough to have much effect. He has also always been very clever with leaving subtle little clues about the house, such as half-eaten cookies, handwritten 'thank-you' notes, spilled ash or soot about the fireplace, or the occasional 'error' in replacing stockings or assigning gifts as though they were arranged by someone who did know us as well as he does. As children we really did grow up in a world full of wonders because he made it so for us. Lisa and J.J. now get the benefit of Jessy and me embellishing everything with our own tricks and our tales of Christmases past. I know that tomorrow there will be some surprise that none of us has expected, and one particularly sneaky father who always assures us, 'I never lie, unless there's a surprise, and then I lie through my teeth about it.' If I didn't know him like I do I'd still find myself falling for it all.


15 December 2008

This is typical

Monday 15 December 2008

After supper Daddy and Jessy met up in the kitchen, each of them seeking some kind of snack for a commercial break. Daddy was in the middle of the Giants game (once that was 'his' team) and Jessy was in the middle of one, or two, or maybe four or six episodes of 'Suite Life With Zack and Cody'. I was sitting at the end of the big table in the dining room, having a cup of tea and reading in 'Country Life' when I heard them through the open door.

Daddy: 'I think I'm going to get a spoon for this. The best weapon for eating is the spoon.'

Jessy: 'I think I'm going to get a bowl for this. The best thing to eat out of is a bowl. The bowl,' she said, like an elementary teacher giving a lesson, 'is actually God's favourite kind of dish.'

Daddy: 'Okay, one-- God doesn't use a bowl. Two-- God doesn't play favourites like that. He loves all dishes equally.'

Jessy: 'Yeah, but secretly, his favourite is the bowl.'

Daddy: 'Don't attribute human characteristics and failings to God. You know he hates that.'

Jessy (laughing): 'Daddy--!'


From Rover to Regal

Monday 15 December 2008

The day dawned cloudy and grey but I would not be dismayed. After an early and thorough shower I dressed in well-worn jeans, my navy-blue sweater, and my dark-brown maryjanes with the heels that are like 1-1/2" and the plain wide belt that matches them (sort of). And I wore my new (for my birthday) patchwork leather jacket with its hood and white (faux) fur trim. Roger arrived to drive us to school. This was arranged, for if I were to drive myself we would have the problem of Daddy getting to school to meet me. I was adamant about going directly from school.

At school I was very anxious all day. I say 'anxious'-- I do not say 'nervous'. It was the excited flutter of a child looking forward to seeing Father Christmas-- um, Santa Claus again, sorry. (I have not seen him as 'Santa Claus' in two years, but it is definitely something I will have to do later this week... of course.) After English I deposited everything in my locker (what care I for homework when there is driving to be done?) got my jacket, and skipped out to the kerb. There was the queue of buses, but no Daddy. Rita and Jessy (those two a pretty steady pair by now) came out, waved to Roger as he pulled in, and then said good-bye to me. I stamped my foot, frustrated. Jessy stopped halfway to the open door. 'What's wrong?' she asked me.

I made a pout. 'Daddy's not here yet,' I said.

'Yes he is.'

I whirled round, seeing the now-familiar blue-and-white Buick coming in from the road. 'Yay,' I said, honestly still doing the little-kid thing.

Daddy pulled up behind the dark-green Cadillac and got out. 'Sorry,' he said over the bonnet. 'I had to get gas.'

I nodded, smiling happily. Jessy and Daddy said good-bye and stepped off the kerb and went round to the offside-- um, driver's side. Then Daddy opened the other door and got in. 'All set?' he asked.

I nodded. 'Ready when you are.'

He nodded too and then laid a hand on my leg, like he often does, like to give comfort. At once he bent his fingers and pinched me-- or, actually, could not. 'What's this, paint?' he teased. 'I thought it was pants.'

I blushed. 'It's just jeans, Daddy!'


I have mentioned before somewhere that my daddy collects cars. His collection is by no means ostentatious nor even very extensive, consisting merely of half a dozen older Buicks, the Jensen-Healey, and an unfinished restoration project of a Camaro convertible. Being sentimental he acquired copies of the first two cars he ever drove, a powder-blue 1968 Riviera and a navy-blue 1965 Wildcat convertible. Both the Wildcat and the 1961 Invicta are fitted with manual gearchange. One came from the factory specially-ordered like that and one Daddy had installed (I forget which). When Mother was our nanny he provided her with a silver-blue 1962 Skylark for commuting to and from university. That is the car I secretly suspected he would endow me with-- but that was not to be.

The car I have been learning on is a 1985 Regal T-Type coupe, all beautifully restored in a soft medium blue with a white hood (okay, roof) and white seats on a black carpet. It has alloy wheels and the 4.3-litre v-6 engine which Daddy says is one of his favourites (like the one in Mother's Skylark till he changed it back to the original v-8) and-- yes-- a 5-speed manual gearbox also was custom-fitted and the car is probably one-of-a-kind.

I have to apologise since all my terminology about the car is so British. It's only been since we've had Mother (meaning our stepmother, who's from Australia) and since we went to England that I began to get even remotely interested in cars and driving. At HOH we had a part-time class in driving and it was all 'propshaft' and 'dampers' and 'silencer' and 'bonnet' and 'windscreen' and I just learned it the way it was taught. Daddy gave me a few lessons in the car park when we were in Norwich, with the grey-green Rover we had there. Now I know some people find switching over from right to left to be a problem, especially when the shift patterns are different. The Rover in England had first gear up by your passenger's knee, Daddy's Jensen-Healey has it next to your own knee, since it's on your right hand, and the T-Type has it back by your hip. But I just look at the top of the gear lever, which usually has a diagram of the pattern, and I do not find it a problem at all to find the co-ordination, whichever hand I have to use.

I will say here that Jessy, who is over a year younger than me, has never driven on either the right or the left-- all she has ever driven has been the garden tractor, motor-scooters, and the junior Formula cars and karts she raced in England, and none of them are specific to any particular side.

Daddy has been the ideal driving teacher, more of a coach than a police officer about it. I cannot say I have not made mistakes and some of them have been almost dangerous and definitely illegal. That is in the nature of learning to drive. What I cherish so much about Daddy is that he is by nature very sweet-hearted and forgiving. He does not expect me to be perfect, at anything, really, and so treats me not with exacting standards but as a pretty decent person doing a pretty decent job. To please him I have done my level best, and I have to say I have learned it all pretty well.

We drove up to the DMV agency in Onancock and Daddy came in with me when I presented my paperwork. They assigned me an examiner and told me where to wait with the car. Daddy came with me (I would have insisted even if they had let me, as a student, drive the car round the building alone, because I was not feeling pretty nervous) till the DMV examiner came. The examiner was about 35, tall, exceedingly slender, with jet-black hair and steel-grey eyes, wearing silver metal-framed glasses and an official-looking black wool overcoat. He seemed like the coldest, severest examiner in the world and my heart rose to my throat. He got in to the car beside me and looked at the clipboard. 'You are... Janine?'

'Yes, Sir.'

'Nice car,' he said, looking round inside it. 'What year?'

I looked at him, trying not to appear terrified, although I really think I could not have looked too flirtatious either. Some girls try that, you know. ' 'Eighty-five,' I said.

He nodded. 'Very good.' Then he noticed. 'It's a stick.'

I nodded. 'Yes, Sir.'

'Why the Delaware plates?' he asked.

'Oh,' I said, not having expected that. 'My daddy collects cars, and that's where they're kept. He just let me learn on this one.'

The guy nodded. 'Very good.' Then he looked at me and smiled. 'Well, shall we go, then? Buckled up?'

I was. He wasn't, and got his belt on. He directed me to pull out and I signalled for it, and we proceeded with the driving course. I was not nervous. I was very smooth with all the changes and especially with the brakes. Daddy had taught me what his father had once taught him and called 'the chauffeur stop'. No matter how hard you have to brake, just before the car comes to a full stop, you lift the pedal and then bring it to a stop from that very low speed. Your passengers will not snap backwards from the sharp stop. I have practised it and can do it almost without notice. Exactly once the examiner indicated one of the turns too late-- it's said they do this on purpose-- and I had to brake hard and come to a full stop which I did to, well, perfection-- if I have to be the one to say it.

'Very good,' the examiner said, and then he was all too willing to overlook my slight awkwardness with the clutch during my k-turn. (No, I did NOT stall it. Not once.) In parallel parking I just remembered what I had been taught, to line myself up with the driver's seat in the other car, turn when my shoulder passes the other car's corner, and then turn back when my front corner will pass clear. I got it to within a foot or so of the kerb on the first try.

'Where did you get your lessons?' the examiner said. 'Nandua--?'

I shrugged. 'No, not at school, Sir. Just... my dad.'

'This is your first try?'

I nodded, looking at him as he looked at me again.

'Very good,' he said. 'Now, out here, and up to the corner.'

I nodded. 'Yes, Sir.'

Fifteen minutes later I had a plastic card in my hand with my photo on it and the words 'Commonwealth of Virginia' across the top. The examiner saw me as we stepped out of the building. 'Good luck,' he said, smiling at me. He didn't look so severe now. 'Be careful, now.'

'Yes, Sir. Thank you.'

'Thank you,' he said, and Daddy and I got into the T-Type then.

On the ride back Daddy asked me all about how my exam had gone, what I had to do, how I did, what the guy said. Finally I got up my nerve and said, 'So, Daddy....'

'Yes?' he asked warily-- as well he might have.

'I was wondering.... Well, Jessy and I, and some of the girls, want to finish our Christmas shopping, and I was going to ask....'

'Here if comes,' he said.

'... if would be all right if we could... go down to the mall. In VB. You know....'

'Wait-- tonight?'

'No,' I said quickly. 'Not tonight. Maybe tomorrow... after school.'

He made a wry smile at me. 'I am assuming you'll want to drive this car to school tomorrow.'

I blushed. 'Well....'

'Drive to school tomorrow, but let Roger drive you down to VB. I would worry about you coming home over that bridge in the dark. And this road can be dangerous. The people here drive like they're asleep half the time.' Then he thought a moment. 'I'd feel better about it if you were able to come home in daylight, you know.'

I nodded, hiding a smile. 'Yes, Daddy. It's all right.' That's my daddy.


13 December 2008

I am not a twat

Friday 11 December 2008

(I usually do not type naughty words. For any word I would normally find impolite or inappropriate I will substitute an asterisk (*) for some vowel so it is recognisable but I can't be accused of using the word myself. This may sound silly-- for I really am, in some way, using the word. But I assure you that this is only in typing, and only when I am repeating what someone else has written or said-- for I NEVER speak such words myself.)

(Unfortunately the word in question has to be written out here because people will too easily confuse 'tw*t' for something I all-too-willingly call myself, as a lighthearted way of remaining humble-- hence my screen name. There's a sad and humiliating kind of irony here. Forgive me, dear Reader, for what I would otherwise NEVER type out.)

At lunch today I sat with the usual crowd-- Rita, Anna, Josie, my sister Jessy, Chris (Christine) and Paulette who changed her schedule halfway through the semester and ended up in fifth-period lunch with us. At least I'm not the only one in 11th year. We sat and talked and as we got up to go three boys were crossing the room with their lunch garbage like a juggernaut and one of them (possibly two) bumped into me. I stopped short, afraid I would knock someone over, you know, and one of them turned round and kind of glared at me. These were certainly not any boys I would ordinarily know, all three of them somewhat grungy with moused hair and oversized South Pole hoodies and dragging-on-the-floor jeans with wallet chains. For too long a moment they just stared at me and I stared back. I wasn't embarrassed but just did not expect to be so coldly received by anyone, least of all anyone male.

I can't consider myself a raving beauty, but I am not wholly unappealing. Today I had on my little navy-blue wool skirt and pale grey winterweight tights and my off-white Irish oiled-wool sweater, and in my good black maryjanes I was about 5'7", certainly not short enough to be overlooked, you know. The other girls, all still behind me for the moment, were dressed nicely too-- that's kind of our thing. If we're a clique, at least we're not closed to new members, and we're certainly a presentable-looking clique! I was not about to be intimidated by these boys and I wasn't going to be impolite, so since they were not saying anything I spoke first. 'Pardon me,' I said carefully.

The boys in the hoodies all sort of smirked at me at the same time. 'Oo,' one of the said, '"pardon me"!' They all laughed-- not respectfully.

'Superior-*ss b*tch,' one of them said then. 'Think your c*nny don't stink?'

My mouth fell open. I had no idea of what to expect. The other girls all gasped behind me.

One of the other ones made that annoyingly stupid hand gesture, three fingers down, two up, yanking the hand downwards as though to brush this all aside. 'That's right, twat. Sh*t,' he said, as though he would shuffle closer to me, 'I could get that good!'

And they all laughed. 'Pardon me!' they taunted me as they all left.

I stood there with my mouth dropt open, even as people passed me on their way out of the room. By the time Jessy and the others got round to look me in the face I had tears in my eyes. Jessy said nothing, the angel-- she just slipped an arm round me and escorted me out. 'My God!' Chris said then. 'What's THEIR problem?'

'Shhh,' Jessy said, soothing me before the words came. 'Come on, sweetheart....'

I moved, stiffly, till my face cooled and my tears dried. All I could think was, what on earth had I ever done to deserve that? But I knew the answer. I had done nothing.

It is sad that here in America, people like this exist so frequently that the rest of us are sort of forced to accept them. They impose on us with their foul language and rude manners and apathy about other people's needs and feelings, and in the interests of 'political correctness' we are expected to 'respect' them as though they are just another equally-valid 'lifestyle choice'. Well (and this may be a terrible thing to say round Christmastime), pardon me, but I don't have to accept that. Those rude boys are not a 'lifestyle choice', they are only ignorant and arrogant, and I don't respect them. And this may sound terribly conceited of me, but I don't CARE if they feel so inferior to me that they have a need to put me down to make themselves feel better. As far as I'm concerned I AM better than they are. I am smarter, better behaved, more respectful of others, loving towards everyone, even people I scarcely even know, and-- hear me well, rude boys --A LOT BETTER DRESSED! If that makes them feel they have to put me down, that's entirely their problem. I've had no hand in any of what they think or feel or do, or anything so wholly unconnected with them.

I am sure I am just blithely naive about all of this. Coming from an all-girls' school in England I would never have had any reason at all to expect this kind of treatment. Any guy we ran into at HOH was simply thrilled, even honoured, to be among us nice girls, and he would treat all of us, even the lowliest or poorest, like the ladies we were taught to believe we were. And maybe it is annoying to other people that I have brought my English ways here to rural eastern Virginia, where the average boy's idea of a 'big city' is Virginia Beach and half the local girls get pregnant by the time they're 21. In my skirts and tights and with my practised poise and good grammar those boys probably assume I am trying to make myself above them-- but it's simply the only way I know by now, and anyway I've been raised to believe it was a good way to be. Call me naive-- but I really do not see why I should be any ruder and uglier than I appear on the average day. I've always thought it's a form of respect for other people to dress myself well and carry myself well and express myself well. My God! --I very nearly called that kid 'Sir' when I said 'Pardon me'!

And is it so wrong for me to expect that, whilst I am 'respecting' their 'lifestyle choices', they respect mine? What is it about American culture that only the ignorant and rude have a right to be respected and accepted? Had I said something to them, like 'You inferior-*ass trash!' how would it have turned out? This is just hypocrisy-- oh, I can't go there now!

The other thing that's got me completely stewed-up about the whole thing is what he referred to be as. He did not address me as any kind of person, but as a body part-- THAT body part, as though my whole identity and value to him is summed up in THAT one, the only reason he has to pay attention to any girl. To him I am no lady-- there is no such thing. I am only another 'twat' for him to 'get' (and I assume he means 'well' and not 'good' for to him I could never be 'good' at anything except maybe giving it to him-- oh, I won't go there either!).

I shudder to think any more than that about it. What would have followed if this had not been at school, or if I had been alone without my friends? Would I have kept myself, or would he have 'got' me (excuse me, 'got' THAT body part)? What could any other girl have expected? And the really scary thing to me is, what would any other girl have accepted? Do these girls here-- not our 'clique', of course, but the rest-- actually tolerate being addressed like that?

I was also stunned to hear Paulette mention their names-- as it turns out she's known them most of her school life. And no, they were not always like that. (And no, before I go on, it was not a racial issue. One of them is called Pedro and they all appeared White to me.) Most importantly, no, not all the girls like them, and most try hard to avoid them. According to Paulette they are mostly in remedial classes, obviously because of their apathy, and none of us are so we never have anything to do with them. Except at lunch. And in the corridors. And after school....

I have prayed it once and will pray it again, that I never have to have anything to do with them again. Please, God, let it be so. Protect and save me. Forgive those who do wrong, even me. And help me to not judge. Amen.

Love, Janine. The twat.


Terncote for Advent

Friday 11 December 2008

As of the first week of Advent (following the fourth Sunday before Christmas, for those who don't follow such things), we put up the candles in our windows. At the Landing, our old house in Lewes, there is an electric outlet under each window, the top receptacle of which is operated by a separate switch down stairs (actually two, one for in front and one for in back, since the house is visible from the Ferry). The 'candles' are actually slender white tubes fitted with small bulbs, gently clamped on the windowsill so the bulb is in the middle of the lower pane of glass. The bulbs are fluorescent and flicker slightly which adds to the effect. Down stairs in the basement the switches are on a timer to turn them on just before dusk and off sometime around 1.30 or 2.00 am.

At Poplar Landing there are 14 lights in front and 15 in back, including the third-floor dormers, the glass porch centre windows and the two casements of the window over the kitchen sink. That's a lot of twinkling candlelight! I remember when I was littler I disliked having that bulb in my room lit all night and insisted that we turn it off. Naturally Jessy, taking my example, wanted hers turned off then too. Daddy rigged up a pretty good shield out of bent metal to hold the light close to the glass and it made each room dark enough to sleep in. But I have to smile at how my parents never even considered turning off the lights or just omitting them from the bedroom windows. It was a tradition, and if I have to say so that house was (and still is) such a showplace in the neighbourhood that there is a definitely element of pride that my parents took had at decorating the house in this modest, solemn and elegant way.

At Terncote here in Virginia we have the same system. Daddy actually had other lights made exactly like the ones he made himself for the Landing and the window sills and electrical outlets are set up the same way. (In fact the period-authentic sash windows are identical-- one thing in common that this 1720s-style towered manor house and that 1740s plantation house share.) But though we have many more windows in each facade here, we do not have them in the ends (the towers), because Lisa's room is in front up stairs, and it would look odd with the first-floor windows lit and the ones above them not. So the candle lights are in only each inside wing, that's three windows each side, each floor, and in the two above the front door. We do not have them in back here (though the specially-switched outlets are there) because there isn't really anyone out there to see them in this season. All of the windows with candle lights in front are in galleries, not rooms, except the three in the big parlour (which is under my room). So those can be left on whilst people are trying to sleep.

When we were saying good-bye to the friends who came for my birthday, I got to look at the house from in front after dark. I must say it looks very well. From the road you can see straight up the lane at the two wall sconces outside the front doors and all 14 lights. This is because the masonry wall is cut down for the width of the front entrance wing and the inside wings and our sapling trees along the drive are not yet big enough to block the view. The yellowish colour of the stucco glows warm in the low light and makes the place look welcoming even on a raw, cold night. Above the end towers are dark (except for Lisa's window as she got ready for bed the night I looked) and the centre one is almost invisible if the sky is dark enough. It's definitely not the way it looked for our Hallowe'en party!

I will say here that Daddy and Mother are no believers in illuminating the facade with floodlights like so many people are. As Daddy says that's only foolish as a security measure. The correct thing is to have the view from the house unobstructed-- that means shining light AWAY from the house, not ON it. Our emergency and motion-sensing lights shine down at the ground along the foundation, not at the windows, so we are able to see what's going on out there.

The other Advent tradition that we have always observed is that we NEVER decorate for Christmas, nor even buy, nor even shop for, a tree, till after church on the fourth Sunday. In some years this has been on Christmas Eve itself-- yet Daddy will not relent. Christmas is Christmas and Advent is Advent. Then we have a pleasant, relaxing evening of setting up and trimming our tree. I asked Mother where we would put it this year. At the Landing it always went in the big parlour-- because we had only that and the keeping room (family room), and we were more likely to have a fire in the keeping room which would have only dried out a live tree. She thinks it will be easiest to set it up in our little square parlour on the first floor of the centre tower, straight back from the entrance foyer. We will rearrange the small sofa there and maybe put away one chair, and we will hang the stockings over that fireplace which doesn't get used often (only once that I know of, so far) anyway. So we will have the big parlour for entertaining.

We don't know how much entertaining we will do this season. We are four and a half hours away from our next nearest relations (my uncle and his family in southern New Jersey) but everyone has been issued a standing invitation and Gran has promised to come visit us over Christmas. Gran has her own room here, as she did at the Landing, though so far she has only stayed over here a few nights. I look forward to inviting my friends here as well-- they too, by my parents' permission, have standing invitations to visit during the school break. The season promises (or threatens) to be colder and harsher than the last few years, but we still have plenty of cut trees, driftwood, and lumber left over from the construction and so we'll be cosy and warm.


10 December 2008

The rumour mill gets another one right

*** Since it is my birthday this week I am putting in this blog in which I come out feeling really good about myself and looking really good to others as well. The reader will know I am not as conceited as this blog by itself might make me seem. ***

From October 2008....

There was a conversation, before the Hallowe'en party, that I was told about. I was not in on it-- but it was about me, and especially about my sister, and part of it got back to me. I am sure I will never hear about all of it. But I heard what I did hear through very reliable sources and since it says something about me, and about my sister, I will relate what I know of it.

Anna, Josie, and Chris were all having lunch or tea somewhere and Chris happened to mention she had been over to see me that time I was sunning and showed up on the back step of my house in time to see me coming up from the yard. And I was wearing panties. And that was all. And Chris said she thought it was incredibly cute, both because it was kind of brave and also kind of innocent, like it didn't mean anything except that I was comfortable and happy. Basically she had got out of it what I hoped she would.

Someone else, probably Anna, who's just ladylike enough to be modest, said, 'But if you could hang around in your underwear all day long, wouldn't you?'

And then Josie, who's outspoken enough, said, 'Oh, I already do.' And everyone laughed, you know.

Anna would have admitted that she knew Josie does. We've all heard about that too.

Not a long stretch of logic after this they got into the subject of being naked also, which none of them were against in itself, though they admitted they never really had the chance to do it as much as we do here. And then Josie mentioned that my sister Jessy had admitted masturbating. Now I know Jessy is naive and I'm sure she trusted her friends, but this is why a lady doesn't mention things like this, even if they are true and she intends to be honest, as Jessy does. The whole purpose of this conversation was to evaluate Jessy's claim that there's nothing wrong with it. Josie admitted that she does it. Anna blushed-- meaning she does or has at least thought about it. Chris said she was embarrassed to admit it, but that is an admission in itself. And finally pretty Paulette, who was there too, spoke up and wondered why it had to be such an embarrassing subject. She said, 'After all, it's natural. It's a way to learn about yourself. And it solves the problem in a safe way.'

They all agreed with that, calling it 'safe sex' and admitting 'it could be worse.' I really think they admired Jessy for it. Well, who wouldn't?

I heard that some time in this conversation Paulette also said something like, 'Lounging round in your underwear or even less, indulging yourself as much as you want? --I'd do that all the time if I could.' And people laughed, you know, hiding their embarrassment by laughing at someone else.

That was what I was told about this. I won't say by whom. But later in the month Becky and I were strolling out of the building together and she mentioned she had heard 'an awful rumour' about me. Naturally I asked and she said, 'Well, someone said you're always naked in your house.'

I laughed out loud. 'Well hardly always!' I said.

Becky blushed. 'I don't think I could ever do that,' she said.

She's not the slenderest thing in the world but she's hardly odious. And being comfortable naked is hardly about what you look like anyway. I definitely don't think I'm that pretty to be showing off myself, you know. I said, 'If you're alone in your room, who cares?'

She nodded and then thought more about it and nodded again. 'I guess that's true. Though I heard you do it in front of people.'

I shrugged. 'My family. They don't mind. Besides, it doesn't hurt anyone.'

'No, I guess not.' She thought a little more. We were at the end of the drive and buses were meeting people. She turned to me and then said, 'I feel like I can tell you anything.'

'But of course you can,' I said.

Of course 'Becky' is not her real name and I have recently heard that she doesn't know she's kind of a star of some of these blogs. I repeat this only because from what I say here no one will ever know whom I was really talking with about it. She said, 'Well, the way I heard it, your sister does it too.'

I laughed. 'Oh, Jessy started it. She loves being naked. So does little Lisa. It's harmless. Daddy even says so.'

Becky blushed again. 'Your DAD knows?'

'Of course. He lives in the house!'

'He's SEEN you?'

I laughed again. 'Becky! He's our daddy!'

'Oh Lord,' she said, 'I don't think I could EVER do that.'

I smiled and put an arm round her. 'Don't be afraid of yourself,' I said softly to her.

She nodded. 'Do you ever get... urges?'

'Of course.'

She looked at me. 'You know, like... real urges?'

I smiled at her. 'Of course.'

She nodded too, blushing. 'I heard that....'

I rolled my eyes. 'Oh, Lord!' I laughed. 'Is this the thing going round about Jessy?'

Fearfully Becky nodded.

I put my arm round her again and we walked a little down towards the kerb. 'Jessy,' I said, 'is just a healthy girl who's too honest and too innocent to keep her mouth shut.' I stopped and looked at her. 'I'm sure they said she indulges herself, right?'

Becky nodded.

'Well,' I said, 'all I can say is, how do we condemn her for it when pretty much all of us have already done it ourselves?'

She looked at me-- a brave thing to do when you're uncomfortable admitting something. 'We don't condemn her,' she said.

'No. We don't. So why is it a big issue? Besides,' I said, 'it could be much worse.'

Becky nodded. 'She could be doing it with someone else.'

I nodded. 'And she isn't.'

'Are you sure?'

I made a face. 'If there's anyone I know, it's my sister. I mean, look at her-- this whole thing came out because she tells the truth. Do you think she would lie about being with boys if she would admit this?'

Becky laughed. 'No.' She smiled at me. 'I'm glad she's not. I like your sister.'

'Well everyone likes her,' I said.

'Well, I mean... I kind of admire her. And you.'

'Me?' I laughed. 'Don't waste your--'

'Janine,' she said, 'stop it. You know what I mean. And we both know I'm not the only one.'

I blushed. 'Okay....'

'You have fans here, Janine. My God, you come from England and live in a faery-tale castle and dress so pretty and you're still sweet....' She blushed then, because we both knew what she meant by that and it was a cute way to have put it. 'You're a princess, Janine. Everyone thinks so.'

'Becky, I am not--'

'And you're even modest about it.' She smiled and then leaned in and hugged me. 'You're my heroine,' she said.

I had tears in my eyes. 'Well, I love you, Becky.'

She nodded and looked at me. 'And I love you. You're like the best friend I've ever had.'

Her mother's car drew up at the kerb but I leaned in and kissed her cheek. Now there would be a rumour to get started tomorrow! But I felt strangely emptied of the whole thing, like I had nothing left to hide and no pressure to hold it in. One casual visit from a nice friend had led to the whole rumour mill passing things round about my little sister when they weren't even bad things. Of course the girl masturbates! Of course all the girls giggling about it have done it too. And it all served to illustrate the point that, of all the girls we know, it's probably all any of us have ever done. When the boys hear of the rumour they can snigger all they want. They know they're not getting anything else from us, at least not yet. Maybe that's why I'm not blushing at all whilst writing this.


Something in the atmosphere

Tuesday 9 December 2008

After about four days of absolute frigidity it has abruptly gone unseasonably warm. Riding home in the back of the car we felt the air-conditioning on! 'Roger,' Jessy called forward, 'are you feeling okay?' Then we both giggled. Roger only replied that the climate-control system operates on a thermostat-- it's above sixty-five inside the car and it provided cooler air.

At home we went up stairs to our rooms as usual and got out our homework. Mother was out with J.J. getting Lisa as usual. I actually started a fire, just a little, to take the lingering chill off the room, but by the time they got back Jessy and I were both less than dressed and I'd had to open a window. We heard our little sister come in the front door from up here and a few moments later she was trotting up the gallery to her room. I waited for her to call 'I'm home!' as she often does but instead was greeted by a shy voice from the side door. 'Janine?'

'Yes, sweetie,' I called.

'Is that--?' From my dressing area she peered round into my room. 'It is!' she sighed.

'Yes,' I said, realising she had smelt my fire. 'Nice and cosy in here now.'

She stepped in, in just her socks, flowery panties and white camisole top. Observing that I was sitting at my table only in my pale green panties she giggled. 'You have a window open!' she observed.

'Of course.' I smiled at her from my table. She padded over and stood beside me and we both looked out at the eerie mist that hung over the ocean. 'You can hardly see anything out there,' I said. 'It's like the end of the world.'

She shuddered, only a little. 'That's scary.'

I put my arm round her and pulled her close. 'It's not,' I told her. 'We know the ocean is out there. We just can't see it right now. It's only our same old ocean waiting for us to go see it again.'

She nodded then. 'Mother says there's tea,' she said.

'Yes. Well let me finish this stupid worksheet first.'

'Stupid worksheet,' she giggled. 'What is it for?'

'English. On some stupid story.'

She giggled again. 'You hate homework, don't you?'

I nodded and turned to the worksheet, with her still in my arm. 'When it's on something I already understand, I do.'

A light knock came on my front gallery door. Without a thought I called, 'Come in.'

The door opened and Daddy stuck his head in. 'Oh. Hello. Your mother says there's tea.'

I nodded, smiling at him. 'Thank you, Daddy.'

He looked round, just his head beside the door turning this way and that. 'It's nice in here,' he said. Then he looked right at me and smiled. 'There's a fire down stairs too.'

'Excellent,' I smiled. 'Well, we'll be down.'

'Excellent.' He went out.

I looked at Lisa then. 'Should I put something on or not?'

She giggled, looking me over. 'Do you want to?'

'I'm on the fence about it.'

Jessy appeared in the other doorway then. She was-- as we might have expected-- totally bare. 'Hey,' she said, seeing Lisa standing close beside me whilst I was trying to work. 'Are you two going down for tea?'

I shrugged. 'I will... in a minute.'

'I will!' little Lisa said, and went round behind me and skipped-- really-- across my room to collide with Jessy for a hug. 'I missed you,' she said.

Jessy and I laughed. Then Jessy looked up at me, with this little girl hanging on her, and asked, 'Are you--?'

I nodded. 'I will. Daddy says there's a fire though.'

She nodded too, understanding, and went out with Lisa.

I got done the stupid worksheet on Stephen Crane (whom I hate reading), pulled on some white socks and a red t-shirt, and went down the front stairs to the kitchen room, which is in back beyond the dining room. Sure enough the fire was very cheery and Mother had tea on. Jessy came down in a long blue t-shirt which she uses to sleep in and God knows what on underneath it-- we couldn't tell. Lisa was still in her underwear too. And this is how we had our tea with Daddy and little J.J. and Mother.

Sometimes I meet people, like online, and they think there is something inappropriate about this. I can't think of one reason why it could be. My father and stepmother adore us and accept us no matter what we look like or wear or do. We are good girls and comfortable with ourselves, we are not judged, we are not scolded for exploring or enquiring or exercising ourselves as people. A pleasant afternoon tea like this is just what we deserve.

Afterwards I wandered through the unlit house, watching the night come on. Only five rooms in this whole house face west and sometimes you can miss the sunset. Out on the ocean the mist was thinning as the air cooled. I wrapped my arms round myself and shuffled through the big parlour to the side stairs and went up. In my room the fire was dying. I put in another little birch log and warmed my bare legs in front of it. Jessy came up, obviously with Lisa in tow for I heard both footfalls on the stairs and then Lisa's giggling. That girl will giggle about anything. It's a high-pitched almost sickeningly-sweet chirp that wrings a smile out of you no matter how else you can feel. It's the giggle of a happy, well-loved child who is unafraid to be herself in any situation. In Jessy's room they giggled again. I heard the bed bounce and Lisa shrieked-- Jessy likes to throw her on the bed and then press the bed with both hands, making her bounce-- 'bounce the baby on the bed' as Daddy used to play with us. Lisa still likes to think of herself as a baby sometimes!

I sat at my table and typed a little in this. Outside, the sky went dark and the air grew colder. The mist was turning to a raw rain. I leaned back in the chair and closed the window. With a sigh I turned myself to the stupid Stephen Crane story in the book.


09 December 2008

What's under that skirt?

Friday 5 December 2008

Today I wore my little pleated grey wool skirt from HOH, and whilst dressing I kind of got thinking about something that will probably seem really silly to most people-- that is, most people who have never had to wear school-uniform skirts before. I have been corresponding with a nice girl from New Jersey, not far from where we used to live, who goes to a Catholic school and who told me she 'has to' wear boxer shorts under her skirt because of the boys. I didn't get that at first. She explained that when she was younger she used to wear a second set of panties outside the pantihose to help hold them up (we skinny girls will do that) and now that she is bigger and better shaped she still wears boxers, even with winter-warm tights when you don't need them for anything else. Well, I can understand that, for one thing, no one wears slips any more and it is the next best thing-- the skirt will not cling to your bottom. (Sometimes I'd really rather have the slip.) But then as my friend says the boys don't have anything to look up at.

This second point is the one I take exception to. For one thing, if anyone can see up your skirt when you're going up stairs or sitting in a chair, your skirt is too short. That should be the guiding principle. Maybe an attractively short skirt is a good thing, but if it is so short that you have to worry about modesty, then you are being sort of an idiot. Attractiveness should never compromise modesty. In fact I think it could be argued that when a lady compromises her own modesty, she kind of ceases to be a lady, or that the definition of a lady is one who upholds her own dignity whilst still being pretty and appealing to others.

There is another side of it, however. To me, being a woman, even a lady, includes a certain amount of vulnerability. A lady is always physically vulnerable. She is not as strong and is not always as securely dressed as a man, for example. She may not be able to run as fast, or as far. She may not have the arm strength to throw a good punch. The rest of her body may actually get in the way of her ability to really fight back. These things are in the nature of being female. But in all these things is the reason why she is attractive to men. A true gentleman does not seek to compete with a woman-- he seeks to complement her. He is her other side. If she is weak, he is strong. If she is vulnerable, he is her protection. It is not the role of a gentleman to take advantage of a lady's vulnerability. Instead he is supposed to value it. So long as she is protected and respected, she is a lady to him. If he were to reduce her to a common skank, she would be less attractive to him and to any other man. No man really wants a skank. So it is in any man's interests to treat a lady with respect, even with love.

All real gentlemen, of any age, know this. All ladies know it too-- we know what makes a guy a gentleman, and we all know we have to have a certain amount of trust in men in general, all men, for any one man can compromise us. I should say any man can try. A lady's modesty and dignity and reputation is never compromised by anyone but herself. Accidents happen-- a lady's skirt may blow up too high beside the bus, for example. But is that her fault? And should a gentleman take advantage of the rude manners of nature and catch a peek at what's under her skirt? Of course all men might look. But do they consider it an opportunity to learn more about what she would rather not let them know, or do they see it as an accident and think nothing more special about it?

I don't wear the boxer shorts under my skirt. I never did, not even at HOH, or should I say not especially at HOH, since it was a girls'-only school, so who was to care? Now at this big regional public school I still don't. My skirts are fashionably short but not immodestly so. As for cling I use static-guard and all is well. I know how to keep my legs together when seated and how to keep my back straight when ascending stairs. Without sounding conceited let me say that I also know how to have fun, make jokes, laugh out loud, get up and sit down and even move more than that, and I don't compromise my dignity-- and that means that my skirts don't end up being too short. Maybe it is just how I was raised. My mother was a perfect angel with Jessy and me when we were little. In her sweet way she was always teaching us how to sit and stand and say hello-- she used to have us curtsey at the altar and not genuflect, something our stepmother, when she was our nanny, learned from her too. Mommy was always telling us how to be ladies, giving us examples, praising us when we did well, and we were always thrilled when we pleased her. Being so close in age Jessy and I were inseparable-- in some ways we still are-- and we looked out for each other, like at dinners and dances and any events where we had to be at our best. Our parents were never ashamed or hesitant to take us anywhere. As we got older and especially after Mommy died we kept it up just to maintain our family's reputation. So, however crass this may sound, it is part of our obligation to our father, and the memory of our mother, and now to our stepmother too, to turn up on time, look pretty, act properly, and have a good sense of humour about it. I simply would not dream of doing anything else.

The best thing is that teachers, both men and women, most of the girls, and especially all the boys seem to have more respect for a girl who wears a skirt. Daddy likes to say, 'God is in His place and all is right with the world, when young ladies choose to wear skirts and dresses.' It is a position of power and strength, and also of great responsibility. Such is the art of being a young lady.

All right... so today I wore winter-weight tights, navy blue, and my heeled black shoes (not the maryjanes) with the skirt and a plain off-white/cream Shetland sweater. It is not earth-stopping, I know, but it's what I feel comfortable in, both physically and for my reputation. Nothing clung and nothing showed that should not have. Everyone said I looked nice today, all the usual girls and even Sean, Ryan, Jeremy, Paul... and Brett... so I suppose I was doing something right.


04 December 2008

Becky visits Terncote

*** This was from late September or early October but remained in my journal till past its date and is now included here.***

My friend Becky rode home in the car with us after school today. Roger arrived as ever about five minutes after all the buses, including Becky's, had left and opened the door for us. Becky has never seen us leave and didn't expect that we had a personal driver. She sat in the middle with Jessy and me, commenting as you might expect on the car which is not showy or complex in any way, rather like my parents (as I have said before).

At the house-- which she raved over-- we went up to my room and actually did some homework. Becky likes my room-- I'm sure it's unlike the bedroom of any other girl my age in the country, you know, but I like when people say they like it. I love the whole 18th-century thing myself-- my mother got us all interested in historical reenactments of that period, the clothing, the culture, the architecture, the history, and all. And when we moved from the cosy Colonial-reproduction house on the edge of Delaware Bay, the one that fooled people who thought it was really built in the 1740s and not 250 years later (they even asked us to included it on the Colonial house tour!), where I had a lovely, authentic little bedroom furnished by my parents, to this place somewhat larger and more expansive where I got to choose my own bedroom set, I asked for the same Quakerish milk-painted stuff like what's in the house at Lewes. The main differences are in the colours (darker), the size of the room (a little bigger), and that I have a fireplace and my own bathroom. I have no TV, no stereo, nothing modern, only a couple of electric lamps and whatever would have been completely appropriate for a 1720s English manor house occupied by less than Peerage. So I am kind of flattered to think other people my age would actually like such old-fashioned stuff like I like. So I'm not the only one who likes it after all.

It's been getting chilly recently and I lit a fire, just a few of the birch logs that came from a place up the road and the paper and kindling needed to get it going. The sun was almost out and I'd wanted to show her round the place a little, the lawn and the jetty where Jessy and I sun ourselves, but there was a stiff breeze and it wasn't exactly pleasant out there. Becky got up and went into my bathroom and then Lisa came in-- fortunately still in her romper dress from school as these days Lisa can be in anything, or even nothing. She called 'hello' rather politely as she knew I had a guest and then realised my guest was in the bathroom. Then Becky came out with her eyes wide open. I looked up ready to laugh.

'Janine,' she said in an almost-hushed voice, 'your bathroom is... beautiful.'

Lisa giggled. 'It's a bathroom!'

'Yes, but....' Becky looked over Lisa for a moment and then said to me, 'You can sit there and look right out that window and see the ocean. It's... like the bathroom in a fairy-tale castle.' Then she got red. 'Is this your little sister?'

Lisa looked up, sitting on the end of my bed facing us. 'Yes,' I said, 'that's the good little sweetie.' At that she hopped down and came over for a cuddle at my chair. 'And this is Becky from school.'

'Hi Becky,' she said, just as adorably as you can imagine.

'Hi, Lisa!' They both smiled at each other. I think Lisa was impressed that Becky knew who she is... but then all my friends do even if they haven't met her yet. She's kind of a celebrity in our high school for that reason.

For tea we sat in the little parlour in back, where Mother had the doors open till just before we got down there, in spite of the fire there too. Becky sat closest to the French windows and seemed to stare off at the sky above the garden wall while people talked to her. At least once she got caught not even listening. Then she apologised, 'I'm sorry. I've lived on the Eastern Shore all my life, and I've never been able to sit in a house and see the ocean sky like that. It's all around us here, I know that; but to have it so close, and right out your windows....' She looked from Mother to me and at Jessy and Lisa and back to Mother and then me. 'It's just so beautiful here.'

We all smiled at her. 'You can come over any time,' Jessy said, 'till you get sick of the place.'

We all laughed. 'I wouldn't have thought you're sick of this place,' Mother said to her.

Jessy shrugged. Even when she's dressed it's a cute gesture. 'Well, used to it maybe.'

'God,' Becky sighed. 'I could never be used to it!'

We all smiled at her. 'Well,' Mother said to Becky then, 'you'll just have to come over and visit the girls more often.'

Becky looked from her to me with her eyes wide. I nodded happily. 'You might as well,' I said, 'so long as you're willing to get used to us.'

Jessy giggled at that. So did Lisa. Becky only blushed, considering herself highly favoured, although she has no reason to feel that way because she's a perfectly nice friend in her own right... and I am very happy to know her.

Needless to say she stayed for dinner.


A very pressing problem

*** This is from a weekday morning in October but remained in my journal till past its date and is now included here. ***

I was in my bathroom patting on makeup when Jessy came in, on the excuse of looking for some thing or another out of my cupboard. ''Hey,' she said, leaning past me and swiped up the eyeliner.

'You need to get your own of that stuff,' I said.

'When do I ever go out?' She stopped behind me in the doorway and seemed to watch me go on. I certainly wasn't watching what she was doing and for a short moment believed she had gone out. Then she asked, 'How was your night?'

I shrugged. 'How is any night?' This is how we tease each other, turning questions back on each other. It's half in fun and half to practise what Daddy calls 'practical sarcasm'.

'I don't know....' She seemed unsure of what to say next. 'Did I hear your bed moving last night?'

My first reaction, which I wish I had not had, was to blush. 'Did you?'

And of course she saw my blush. 'Janine....' She giggled. 'Was it really that--?'

'Oh, like I'm going to tell you that!' I turned and waved her away like a bug. 'You've never--?'

'Oh, all the time,' she said simply. 'But I didn't know your bed squeaked that much. You must have been--'

'GO,' I said strongly, and she giggled more and went out. I turned back to the mirror but by now was so red that I'd have to wait to apply more stuff. The bed is pretty strong-- nearly brand-new from the custom woodworking shop and though it's made traditionally, with joints that are not glued so they can come apart for the thing to be moved, I have a regular box-spring and mattress on the ropes. I always thought it was pretty solid and quiet. I can only imagine what Jessy was doing up at about 2.30 in the morning when I was solving a very pressing problem in the sanctuary of my own bed.

Should I now start sleeping with the gallery door closed? And what would be the point? We've never hid from each other the fact that we both do it. We've each even done it in front of the other before. It's natural and normal. I guess I just don't care for being evaluated on the intensity of my--

Oh, I'd better not finish that thought!


Sharing the bed

*** This was from a Friday in October but remained in my journal past its date and is now included here. ***

I can never sleep much more than six hours in a night without waking up with a headache. Fortunately my body knows this and I will wake up before the headache comes on. I usually get the headache only if I've been sick and unable to get up automatically, or if I choose to roll over and go back to sleep when I know I shouldn't, which has happened more often than I care to admit.

Last night I went to bed too early, partly due to eye strain as I have been reading this book about a guy who sailed round the world (a true story) whenever I am not doing something school-related or with the family. I managed to shuffle in to the bathroom and brush my teeth and then I got out of everything and got into bed properly. It has been chilly most nights, but last night there was an ominous-looking fog and it stayed warm, so that my fire was almost unnecessary. I just happen to like how it smells, making the room seem cosy.

There was thunder in the night, an odd thing this time of year. Somewhere out over the ocean a front was rolling in. Once I turned over in bed and pulled the covers up round my back. I was not cold but felt insecure. Another time I rolled back the other way and came face-to-face with another pair of eyes.

'Janine,' she said in an urgent whisper.

My eyes opened wide. Little Lisa (five) in her old-fashioned flannel nightdress hovered uneasily at the edge of my bed, half shivering either from cold or the fear of the storm. Thunder rolled out on the ocean and she quaked on her feet. At once I parted the comforter, blanket and sheet away from the side of the bed and she scampered in.

I know most big sisters would not do this. I was naked-- which is always weird when you have to have someone else under the same covers, although I have done it before with each of my sisters. But little Lisa looks up to me, almost like a second mother, and it is flattering for her to ask me to shelter her from whatever scares her. It's as though God is calling, 'Janine! You have work to do.' The other thing is that Mother and Daddy's door is about 45 feet down the gallery and across the mezzanine from Lisa's door and that's a long way to walk in the dark when you're five and scared. It is an easy thing for me to admit her into my bed. And the other thing is that she is warm, a soft, fuzzy flannel lump to snuggle up behind.

I shifted backwards, to give her one of the pillows, and closed the covers over her. Lisa settled right down, for a moment tensing again as more thunder rumbled, and I wrapped my arm over her and pulled us closer together. She sighed. She would be safe and sound now.

Lisa usually gets up before either Jessy or I-- most little kids do. But I had had that extra sleep too early at night and awoke the moment she stirred. For a few moments we denied to let the other know we were awake, and then she rolled onto her back and stared up at the muslin canopy of my bed. Then, almost as though she could not believe where she was, she turned and looked at me, with our faces about six inches apart. 'Hi,' she said.

I smiled at her. 'Did you sleep all right?'

She nodded eagerly. 'Did you?' I nodded too, like she had, and she smiled again. 'Is Mother going to make waffles?'

It was Saturday. I felt like I'd slept three nights together. 'I don't know,' I said. 'Want to check?'

She nodded like that again and started to sit up. I peeled the covers back about halfway and let her out of the bed. She put her feet down and then stopped, like she had thought of something else, and then turned round and leaned way in to kiss my head. 'I'm sorry I came into your bed,' she said.

I smiled at her. 'It's all right. I'm sorry you didn't like the thunder.'

She shrugged, like that embarrassed her. Then she said what she'd really wanted to say. 'You're a good big sister.'

'Awww.... And you're a terrific little sister.' Then I squirmed over to that side of the bed and we hugged. 'I love you, sweetie.'

'I love you too, sweetie.' We both giggled at that. She has never called me 'sweetie' before-- Mother calls all of us that but Jessy and I tend to reserve that for Lisa or each other.

'Now go down and find out if there are waffles. I think I will put something on first.'

Lisa giggled again. 'Aren't you chilly?'

I snatched back all the covers and pulled them up to my neck, dramatically. 'Not any more.'

She giggled again, wholeheartedly, and then scurried out to the bathroom in the gallery.


Daddy over dinner

*** This is from October but remained in my journal till past its date and is now included here. ***

My Daddy has the silliest sense of humour in the world. He is not really cynical or disrespectful, but he has the kind of wit that can see something funny in almost everything, even the most serious situations. One of his favourite things is to mock road signs along the side of the road. The other day he came home saying he has seen a sign up on Route 13 somewhere: FREE HORSE MANURE.

Naturally we all laughed at that-- over dinner, even little Lisa after she was told what horse manure was-- by Mother of course, who then tried to come up with perfectly sensible reasons why anyone on the Eastern Shore might actually WANT 'horse poopies', as Lisa called it. Little J.J. got it immediately and actually asked how they collect it. 'Do they put a diaper on the horse?' he asked.

We all went on laughing as Daddy went off on just about every possible application of it--

- 'Free? Free? Do you mean the guy down the block is charging a dollar a pound?

- 'Well of course it should be free. Set it free! Freedom for all horse manure!

- 'Do you think I need MORE of it? I get horse manure just walking outside! I'm constantly getting it from everyone all day!

- 'And what would be the procedure here? You would go up to the door, and ask him, "Hello, you're giving away horse manure? Can I have about seventy pounds, please?" And would he shovel it for you, or would you have to shovel your own? And do you have to bring your own shovel? What would people say if they saw the shovel in the back of your car? "Oh, that's just for the horse manure."'

- 'What if a cop stopped you on the way home? "What's that you've got there?" "Oh, this truck is just full of horse manure."'

- 'And when you got home, what would you say? "Honey, I'm home! And I've got the horse manure! Where do you want it?"'

Needless to say we were all giggling like idiots... except Mother of course who tried to giggle intelligently while pretending to disapprove of the topic at the table.

This is not out of the ordinary for Daddy at all. On any trip, or when he comes home from having been on the road somewhere, he will comment on nonsensical road signs along the way. Some of his favourites are:

Daddy: 'Yes, absolutely, fire him. House is the worst town councilman we've ever had!'

Daddy: 'That's not fair, making fun of them like that. They can't help having a learning disability.'

Daddy: 'Do they do tricks?'

Daddy: 'Why is that there? He won't hear us if we honk.'

Daddy: 'What is that, a suggestion for travellers who are bored of every other topic of conversation? -"Well, what do you think of church?" -"Well, I suppose it serves a necessary function in society...."'

Daddy: 'Well is it, or not? That sign gives no information.'

Daddy: 'Was that a contest? Subtitle: ROAD SURFACE VOWS TO TRY HARDER NEXT SEASON.'

Daddy: 'Why is it always only ONE man, and the rest just standing around with Thermos bottles? It should say "MAN working".'

And his all-time favourite:

Daddy: 'Let me get this straight. Grown adults, climbing in trees like little kids, and getting paid. I think I want that job.'


15 November 2008


Tonight, Saturday 15 November 2008

People on AOL really drive me crazy sometimes. I have been hosting the 'Naked YF At Home' chat room for a while now, at least since it was summer and the 'Home Nudist' room was usually full, mostly of non-nudists who come in trolling for pics of our naughty bits. The 'Naked YF At Home' room was started as an overflow place, hopefully for girls about my age who do as I do and want a safe place to chat about it where there is an active bolt-holder who will boot out the naughty people. However after all this time I have concluded that there are no girls about my age who like lying outside or lolling about the house naked and like to chat about it, and that there are really only men who like to fantasise about seeing, and probably doing a lot more than seeing, a girl about my age doing that.

One of the questions the men seem compelled to ask me is what the male members of my family think of this. They tend to assume that my male family members 'like' to see me, usually hinting not so subtly that my being naked round the house inevitably arouses my father and brother in a sexual way. I then explain that my brother is 2-1/2 and really doesn't care what we look like, clothed or not (the exception is in my blog, 7 October). And I explain that my father now has three daughters and certainly knows the difference between the relationship he has with each of us and the one he has with his beautiful young, very legally married wife.

Nevertheless the men online all claim that I am lying or living in denial or else that Daddy is 'less than' a 'real man' because he doesn't find naked teenaged girls attractive. I always say that no 'real man', no Christian, and no GOOD parent would have any even remotely sexual attraction towards his own child. That's just sick, and I tell the men online who assume it is true that it's just them assuming that because they think weird sick stuff like that is sexy, or else because they would be guilty of it themselves and they don't want to feel like the only one who might be wrong. It's what my father calls the 'Hilary Clinton school of morality' --to blame the other party for what you yourself are guilty of-- but that's another issue altogether.

One guy online this afternoon, however, put it to me like this: 'I bet if you sat on your father's lap you'd find out.' This comment got me very distressed. I didn't like thinking about it in any way and yet I couldn't seem to forget about it. Finally tonight, after supper, for which I put on my robe (and socks of course), I ascended the steps to Daddy's little office in the third floor of our tower and knocked on the open door.

(I am of course not sure I have all my dad's words right, but I went over this and it's as close as I remember.)

'Hey,' he said, looking up from the computer screen.

'Hey,' I said, closing the robe round myself, and sat on the edge of the sofa there.

'This is just email,' he said, and leaving it on the screen he turned in the chair to face me. 'What's up?'

I shrugged, looking out the window at the black sky. It had gone dark more quickly because of the front coming in. It'll be raining in a few hours. 'I kind of had something to ask, but I'm not sure about it now.'

He nodded, leaning back in the chair and looking at the window too. 'Well, you don't have to feel uncomfortable asking me anything, but if you do, then don't ask me till you're not so uncomfortable about it.'

I shook my head and then bravely faced him. 'Do you mind it that Jessy and I are like this so much?'

He smiled. 'Like you were this afternoon, and, yesterday? No.'

I shook my head again. That wasn't the question I'd really wanted the answer to. 'Does it....' No, I couldn't ask it that way either. 'Do you like seeing us like that?'

Daddy smiled more, and then looked down, sort of at my knees in the robe. 'Well, I do,' he said, 'but I'm not sure it's how you think I do. Or, how you are afraid I do.'

I made half a smile then. 'What does that mean?'

He looked up then, not quite at me, and rocked a little in the chair. 'All men like to look at pretty girls. All men like to see naked girls. But there are two ways of looking at them.'

I was listening. 'Okay....'

'Some men are easily excited by anything that reminds them of sex, even if it's totally inappropriate. Like these guys will catch a glimpse of their own daughter in the shower, and then they turn away and go, "Oh, man, I want to look but I can't!" And they turn away in a second, like it hurts them to see her in there.'

I laughed. 'But you've seen us like that, even in the shower, and you always turn away too.'

'Of course I do, but it's not because I'm afraid to look at you.' He smiled. 'It's because I'm teaching you that that's what a gentleman would do, any gentleman, not just your father. It's form of showing you respect.'

I nodded. 'I know,' I said. 'You always show us respect.'

'You're my child,' he said. 'Would I not respect you?'

I smiled. 'No, you always would.'

'I would. But I would respect anyone's daughter if I inadvertently saw her naked in the shower or something like that. I would just think, that's some good man's daughter in there; if I have any respect at all for women, or for men and fathers, I don't treat her like a sex object. She doesn't belong to me, and there's no agreement about it.... It would just be a cowardly kind of Peeping-Tom thing to take advantage of the opportunity to see some poor girl like that against her will. Even a husband.... Would you marry a guy who stood there ogling you in the shower?'

'Ew, no.'

'Well, then, see? But you know this. A gentleman never imposes on a lady. I mean it's hardly noble.'

'No,' I said. 'It's not. It's like the opposite of noble.'

'And it goes both ways. If you choose to be naked in front of me, because you trust me and respect me, I have to show you the same level of trust and respect back. It's not about me and what I want. It's about what you feel comfortable with. And if that's what you feel comfortable with in front of me, I'm just going to respect you for showing how much you trust me. Does that make sense?'

I nodded. 'Yes, of course. I mean, it's not like we think you would treat us any differently like that, because we're still your daughters.'

'Well, yes. And you do know me, Janine. I have always treated all your friends the same as I treat you, with the same kind of respect. I mean we laugh and joke around a lot, but really the fact is still that I'm still a gentleman and you are still ladies, and there is always a line to be drawn; but believe me, Janine, it's not because you and your friends are potential... I don't know, "conquests" for me, but precisely because you are not.'

I nodded. 'I know,' I said, feeling much better about this whole topic now.

'I mean, you know, I can't watch porn. I can't watch it at all.'

'Daddy--!' I giggled-- and blushed.

'I mean, I have seen some of it, not so much watched it, really--' he saw me looking wryly at him-- 'other people's bachelor parties, when I was younger-- okay, Uncle Rick's-- and it always makes me think that that poor girl there is some guy's daughter, who used to have her school pictures taped on the refrigerator and brought home cardboard cutouts of the Easter Bunny and had a beautiful new dress for Confirmation and curls in her hair and dimples in her smile. How could I ever think of someone like that as a sex object?'

I smiled, but I had tears in my eyes from that. 'I know what you mean,' I said.

'And I know people talk about your stepmother,' he said, 'being so young and beautiful and all, and that I must be some kind of perverted old fool. But I swear to you, her age had nothing to do with it at all-- I might have married her if she were ten or twenty years older than she is, because I married her because she's such a good teammate and so unselfish and so positive of a person, and that's what I needed seven years ago and that's what I want for the rest of my life. And the fact that she was committed to staying a virgin until marriage didn't make me want to rush things at all, not how people said, but it did make me value her like nothing else in the world. It takes a special kind of woman to commit to something like that, and that's something that she and I have always tried to impress upon you, and your sister, you know.'

'I know, Daddy. You know how I feel about that.'

'I just hope you will keep to it.'

I nodded. 'I promise I will.'

He sighed. 'And so, in answer to your question, I do like seeing you and your sister's bare bottoms out there--' I laughed then, still blushing-- 'because you represent to me two happy girls, good girls, who aren't afraid of anything, especially not their own family. There isn't anything sexual or inappropriate about it, not to me. I know what naked girls look like. I've seen a couple of them myself, you know.' He smiled a little.

I know there were probably more than two, more than Mommy and our stepmother, because of what I have heard. No matter how hard a parent tries, if he is well-known enough someone will have said something about him that he wouldn't want his kids to hear someday. (At least Daddy is no Billy Ray Cyrus!)

'It's just that I would be a bad parent indeed, Janine, if you DIDN'T feel comfortable lying out there like that. It's your way of showing you trust me, and this family; and I always draw myself up to anyone's trust in me. It's just what I feel is right. It's noble, it's respectful, it's gentlemanly, it's Christian. What kind of father can't be trusted by his own child to accept her as she is, unconditionally?'

'Yes. I know, Daddy.'

He smiled at me. 'Besides, you know, you and Jessy are just so cute--!'

I laughed and pretended to swing at him.