28 December 2009

Nancy's buppies

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Our Gran hs made a tradition of sending Jessy and me to the theatre in Philadelphia at least once or twice a year, suspending it only when we were in England (and then making up for it with two shows each year since). This year we were presented with tickets for 'Oliver!' at Walnut Street for this Sunday. It meant that we would miss church, but we had had Mass at Christmas Eve and anyway it's not like we ever miss Mass so much at all. So at 7.30 on Sunday morning Jessy and I were in the back of the dark-green Cadillac cruising up Route One towards New Jersey. I sat in the back as usual and Jessy leaned over the fold-down armrest till she was asleep with her head on my arm. Roger (Daddy's driver) stopped at McDonald's for us to get hot cocoa and that was very comforting.

We collected Gran at our uncle's house in southern New Jersey and owing to some traffic we got into the city at only half an hour before show time. Roger stopped at the kerb and hurried round to let us out. Fortunately there was a bus of pensioners getting out directly ahead, so we were not the reason for holding up traffic in the street. The tickets Gran got were not bad, near the centre of the upper tier. Walnut Street, the oldest continually-operating theatre company in America, is not a large place and you have to pretty much endure whatever's available. The acoustics, however, were excellent, which is a good thing since this presentation actually used REAL children in the children's parts-- they don't always do that, you know.

The show was really good, except for one or two things I didn't like at all. One was that the actor playing Fagin seemed uncomfortable acting in a 19th-century London accent. He sang well, but his first few lines seemed stiff. Then at the end he gave the plea for donations for the theatre and quite adeptly slid out of his accent, kind of as a joke, to speak as himself, and we all laughed. By that point his accent had improved.

The other thing I did not care for was the woman playing Nancy, an actress called Janine Davita. First of all, she was too old. The actress is about 35 and the character of Nancy is 18. The problem is that the precedent is Shani Wallis, playing her in the movie, who was 35 at the time but looked easily no more than 21. The actress in the movie playing her sister, Bet, was 18 playing 16, a closer fit of course. Shani Wallis carries it off because she is naturally petite, well-shaped, youthful-looking and incredibly versatile physically. Most importantly the red dress that Nancy always has to wear in any production of 'Oliver!' stayed put on her, which is more than I can say for what Janine Davita was wearing.

Maybe it was just the angle we had from the edge of the mezzanine, but we could see directly down into the top of her dress. And, since it's supposed to be a real 19th-century dress, and Nancy is supposed to be a prostitute, she doesn't wear appropriate undergarments... so let me say that there was a bit more than modest cleavage showing! Oh, we could laugh and say it's only what the poor woman looks like, so don't hold her responsible for God's handiwork, you know. But some costumer did pick the dress, and they had to have been aware of what it would look like from a higher angle. Worst of all she kept picking up children and holding them close and swinging them round, you know, so that was something the theatre company had to come to terms with as well.

I have mentioned before that my pretty young stepmother is originally from Queensland. And we all know that Australia was settled by Irish emigres, mostly from London, so the accents are similar. What I have not mentioned before is that, when she and Daddy were first married-- actually right after Lisa was born-- Mother had the chance to act in a local/regional production of 'Oliver!' -- something Daddy encouraged her wholeheartedly to do. And, being a talented singer, young, petite, Australian, blonde, and buxom as she is, what part do they give her? --Nancy the teenaged prostitute in the red dress. I am sure that never was anyone cast in that role who was so unlike the character in real life! But Mother, of course, completely rocked the role. I mean, she was stunningly good at it-- all the singing, dancing (something she never likes doing), acting, speaking, emoting, all of it. Of course she is exceptionally intelligent (having a true genius IQ) which is always a good thing. She is infectiously cute, being little more than 5 ft 1 in tall, but has a strong soprano voice and when she sang 'As Long As He Needs Me' she did not refrain from a single note of how it's usually sung. Daddy said he wept to see it (that is his favourite song in the show). And, of course, she fit into the dress.

I think that since Shani Wallis (who was really not as buxom as she looked in the costume, being somewhat bumped-up to have a certain effect) the actress playing Nancy has to be a little obvious in the bustline. This is after all the archetype of the 'hooker with a heart' role that comes up in westerns and other stories over the years since Dickens wrote 'Oliver Twist'. So there is a certain maternal instinct that has to be apparent in the character of Nancy (that sadly will go unfulfilled, as she dies without children herself) and that is best shown on stage by making her look like a young mother, or a young woman who is ripe and ready to be one. She becomes the first mother to Oliver that he has ever own, and by the end of the story he loves her as his own mother since he will never have another mother himself. Indeed Nancy gives her life to save Oliver's, something only a mother, not a mere prostitute, would do. So in a way, theatre companies over the years, since 1963 anyway, have traditionally cast Nancy with a rather buxom young-looking woman in a snug-fitting bright-red bodice (and purple stockings, which also is symbolic).

So you will forgive me if I compare Janine Davita's performance to that of Shani Wallis and also that of my stepmother, both of whom I think were more appropriately cast and better attired than she was. Oh, do not mistake me-- Mother (my stepmother) wore the bright-red dress (and purple stockings) with all the suggestive sexiness she was supposed to have, and the dress was low-cut and it fit just right and with the Cockney accent coming out of her own East Anglia-tinged Australian she appeared to do Shani Wallis (who was Irish-English) better than anyone could have imagined. We have the videotape (now lovingly archived to CD) to prove it. (And may I say that when she screams at the end, as Bill Sykes is beating her to death, it brought up tears of horror and sympathy in everyone present, all eight shows, every time. Mother screams rarely-- almost never-- but really well!)

Jessy was the one who said it to me in the car ride home, after we had taken supper with Gran in the city and dropt her off at her place. 'I think you could play Nancy,' she said.

'Me? No way.'

'Yes, you little liar, you know you would. You can do the accent-- really well actually. And you've got the look for it.'

I shrugged. 'And I'm the right age.'

'You're exactly the right age. And you've got the singing voice for it.'

'Oh, I do not.'

'Yes, you little liar, you do.'

'And whom would you be? Bet?'

Jessy shrugged. 'I would like to play Bet,' I said.

'You saw in that show how they gave her more singing and dancing parts,' I said.


'And you are the right age... and you have the right look.'

'And you have the look for Nancy.'

I looked down at myself. We always dress up for the theatre, at least better than most people do. I wore the black sweater I got for Christmas and a little olive skirt and black leggings (not tights) and my high black boots. It's a good look for me. But I hadn't thought anyone would care too much to look at my figure like this. But, then again, Jessy knows me. 'I'd rather not be cast in something just because of my look,' I said.

'Yes,' Jessy said, 'though that's how they often cast people. And a singing audition. The rest is just... je ne sais quoi.'

I slumped down in the seat and thought. It is true I have sung 'As Long As He Needs Me' as a solo, most notably at the talent show at HOH, after several of us had gone to see a regional production of 'Oliver!' in Norwich. It is true that I do love that show, and know it all by heart. It is true that I can do a really good British accent, several different ones in fact, and, though the Cockney is probably my least skillful, I can certainly learn it. And I am the right age-- the same age as the character-- and I am not so terrible at acting that a company would shrink from casting me due to inexperience.

And, as it would appear, I have the figure for the snug-fitting red bodice, at least more appropriately than Janine Davita does... so maybe there's something in that after all.


Christmas observances at Terncote

24-25-26 December, 2009

Our family tends to over-celebrate most holidays, at least as far as putting events on the schedule. For example, I had two birthday parties, one for my friends on Friday and another for the family-- Gran, and my uncles and aunts and cousins-- who have much farther to travel to be with us. I recall times when I was much younger when I would have three parties, including one at school. And this is typical of us, you know-- why have one party when you can have more. And, of course, this calls for three cakes, which in turn calls for the rowing machine... but I digress.

Once all the shopping and baking is done and the tree is brought inside and trimmed there is candlelight Mass on Christmas Eve, including the singing of 'Silent Night' (the ONLY time that song occurs in the church liturgy), and then it is home again for hot cocoa and Christmas wishes and family thanksgiving prayers, and then Daddy reads 'A Visit From St Nicholas' from the the little book we have had since we were little, turning it round to show all the pictures as though he were a kindergarten teacher, and more often than not making fun of the verses and illustrations that Jessy and I, at least, have seen and heard over a dozen times before. Then the little ones are tucked in and everyone has kisses good-night and Jessy and I promise to not wake up too soon in the morning in order to allow Daddy and Mother a bit more rest than they've got these last few days.

Then Daddy does his magic-- and it's always magic, for always there is more than any one of us has expected, and I don't mean just a quantity of gifts, for since Lisa was old enough to understand the material aspect of Christmas Mother has been adamant that we won't 'buy into it'-- we really do not receive many gifts at all and our parents believe quality is better than quantity, so what we receive, and in turn give to each other, is what we all really want, and not just some stuff to outdo the neighbours, you know. Daddy has developed a certain knack for 'doing Christmas' over the years-- well, it perhaps started with our old house in Delaware with one electrical outlet under each window all on the same circuit, so the electric candles in the windows could be activated all at the same time (and still are, there as here, for the house in Delaware has always been decorated like a showpiece for Christmas). He once made a device in the attic there to simulate a patter of reindeer hoofs on the roof, but he found out that it was a little too subtle and that Jessy and I never heard it. In the past he has created mysterious footprints in the snow or rearranged things round certain rooms and left hints that someone benevolent but not of our family has been here. We always set out cookies and milk for Santa and they are always mostly gone, usually exchanged for a handwritten thank-you note that is apparently NOT in Daddy's handwriting. The year Mommy died I sent a letter to Santa asking him to bring her something for Christmas up in heaven and I received in my stocking a very pretty letter in return, in which Santa said he was sorry for our family's loss, that no amount of extra gifts could ever make up for it, and that sometimes these sad things happen even to very good children like me and the best we can all do is continue to have faith in God and to remember that He loves us, especially when we are so afflicted, and so on. I still have the letter, of course. (It will probably go on display at the house in Delaware some day.) The important thing is that the letter from Santa was NOT done on Daddy's computer. It was done in red ink-- and we did not have a colour printer at that time. It used a font Daddy never uses. And the envelope and signature are NOT in Daddy's handwriting (not Mother's either, as she was still our nanny then). I was nine then, almost to the age when you begin to doubt Santa, and the letter only reinforced Santa's existence to me for another couple of years.

(Jessy says I will grow up and marry Santa Claus and become Mrs Claus. I would be perfectly fine with that-- I would get to help make Christmas wonderful for children round the world, I would be working in charity, I would be able to bake cookies, and it would be one of those unselfish occupations that I seem to be drawn to. There are only two things I would need to change about the way Santa traditionally works. One is that I would NOT want to live at the North Pole. The other is that Santa would have to work out on the rowing machine. How someone has been able to last all those years on a high-fat diet of cookies and milk is beyond me... but it shall stop with me. Get used to it, Santa my future husband.)

In the morning JJ and Lisa will be up at about 6.00-- they are never up so early at any other morning of the year. Jessy and I are responsible for keeping them upstairs and in our end of the house till 7.00-- that's the limit Mommy set long ago and which we still keep as tradition. Then making sure everyone is in warm pyjamas or robes and slippers and socks, for the down-stairs of this house is never toasty-warm at that hour, we march down to our parents' room and knock on the door. This year JJ flew down the stairs ahead of us all. The tradition is that we empty stockings first-- there they all are, six in a row, hanging from the fireplace mantel in the small back parlour. They are all hand-knitted in wool yarn and decorated with bells and tassels and Christmas symbols both secular and Christian. Daddy's was made by his godmother for his first Christmas (when he was four weeks old). Mine and Jessy's were made by our Gran when we were infants (I was 2 weeks old at my first Christmas and Jessy was four months). Mother's was made by Mommy for the first year our lovely young au pair (and future nanny and stepmother) was with us. Of course all these have a very special significance, especially Mother's. And then there are the ones for JJ and Lisa, which Mother made, following the patterns Mommy left to her, which were left to Mommy by our Gran. Though it's only a secular symbol for the child's aspect of Christmas the stocking is something that will never be phased out of this family-- Daddy's is as old as he is and is still lovingly preserved and used every year.

We keep Mommy's own stocking, which Gran made for her as a welcome gift for her first Christmas in this family, preserved in paper and linen at the house in Delaware, which Jessy insists she will look after for ever. Of course Mommy is with us every Christmas in spirit, and always will be.

This year we had a horrid little snowfall on Saturday which interrupted the shopping spree Jessy and I had planned but actually did last till Christmas morning, so we can at least say we have had a white Christmas. We took plenty of pictures both out the windows and of us standing in front of the French windows at the back of the parlour with the snow in background. After an hour or so spent opening gifts we had a leisurely brunch of pancakes and listened to traditional carols on CD. Mommy served an early tea and then I helped her with making a pleasant Virginia ham supper.

We are honoured and happy to have with us this year Mother's mum from Queensland, who has been installed in our guest room since she flew in on Wednesday. We have not seen her in over a year. Our uncle and aunt are down from the Poconos and visited with our other uncle and aunt, and Gran, in New Jersey before driving down here for dinner. They never stay at Terncote with us but take a place at a motel in Chincoteague (about 30 minutes away). They stayed in this part of the world through our the Boxing Day party.

For the Boxing Day party we invited just about everyone we know, especially locally, like our friends from school and their parents, to come and crash on us for part of the afternoon. This is a new tradition, suggested by Mother kind of in honour of her mum being here but also because Boxing Day is a Saturday so for once people can actually observe it and not merely return to work like the whole holiday is over, because it's not, not yet, not till Epiphany at least.

At the party Daddy forced us all to sing-- maybe I would rather have not, but this is his way of insisting that we have as much experience before an audience as possible. I mean there were people there from school and everything. Daddy played guitar for Mother to sing 'Greensleeves' and I sang 'To Sir, With Love,' because I had been working on it, and there were a few others like this though the highlight was Jessy singing 'O Holy Night' which sends shivers down your spine. It's like listening to an angel. Daddy says he gets weepy-eyed from it. I do too. This year she sang it with Lisa holding her hand and staring up at her in boundless admiration. Those two really are two of a kind.

I write this Monday morning, catching my breath-- aside from the trip yesterday I was inside this house from church Christmas Eve till leaving for Philadelphia Sunday morning, but it's all been busy so I haven't had a chance to catch up on any of it till now. I truly hope everyone has been having a blessed and happy Christmas... and that we all remember the true reason for the season.


20 December 2009

She's got legs

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Here in the US the girls have a fashion trend of wearing extremely tight spandex-blend tights with no feet which they call 'leggings'. Of course at HOH we all wore school uniform and never had to deal with this. For one thing it's much, much colder in England during the winter and plain spandex-cotton blend would feel about like wearing underwear or a swimsuit round your whole body in winter, which would hardly be warm at all. In England we all wore skinny jeans or just regular jeans when we were not at school, and that was really only practical.

(All right, I am a priss and wore skirts and winterweight tights a lot too.)

I have been wearing skirts and winterweight tights most often since about the middle of November. This is my usual costume for school (and shopping and church and really anywhere else). The tights are not too warm for indoors and do stop a lot of draught outside-- they are really about the equivalent of wearing close-fitting jeans, plus they have the added benefit of being supremely comfortable with plenty of 'give' and almost feel like they're not on at all, except they're warm. I get most of mine from Land's-End. I have lots of colours, mostly dark ones.

Jessy and some of her friends were shopping at Lynnhaven recently and she came back with what they are calling 'leggings' here. I always thought 'leggings' were just leg-warmers, you know, with no top and no feet, just for your legs, like in ballet. Apparently they are either really close-fitting pants or really heavy tights. Girls at school have been wearing them for a while. Anyway she bought some for me as well.

A few weeks ago I heard a girl in the school corridor say, 'I am so tired of not wearing pants.' And I looked, and she had cute black leggings on. So apparently you do not consider leggings 'pants'. They are a thing apart. Most girls wear them with some kind of long shirt that covers up most of the top of the leggings, at least to the very bottom of their bottom. It's considered very bad form to show more than that-- for example you must never show the TOP of the leggings. This is probably because most girls pull them up drastically high on their tummies to keep them up and keep them tight all round everywhere else. I can see the logic of this. Jessy's so slender that only the very smallest size will do for her.

And of course, there is the issue of what to wear under them. Of course I always wear panties under my tights-- this isn't ballet or gymnastics and the tights I wear are more spandex and microfibre and less cotton, so they're not exactly the most sanitary or comfortable thing to wear without, you know. (I really should give less information!) But leggings are mostly cotton, or at least more breathable fabric, because they're meant to take some amount of abrasion, like jeans, and not be fragile, like tights. After all, you have to sit on them. Jessy modelled hers in her room for me and then said, 'Janine, I think we may have actually found the elusive logical reason for thong panties.'

I wrinkled my nose at her. 'Ugh. No.'

She turned, clapped her hands to her own bottom, and looked in the mirror. 'Well,' she said, 'these aren't too bad....'

The black leggings, pulled up on her tummy, revealed very little of her panty lines. I stood there staring at the mirror too. 'Well, if you had flat seams and flat hems....'

'Yes,' Jessy said. Like me she abhors thong panties. She is even more of a priss than I am. 'Well,' she said, 'I do have some somewhere.'

I thought a little more. 'Well,' I finally said, 'you shouldn't be showing that much of them anyway. I mean you're going to wear something over that. A pulli, or a shirt, or jacket or something.'

'A jacket would be cute,' she said.

'Sure it would. Or just a nice long flannie.'

'Yes,' she said.

'A girl's got to have standards, love,' I said. 'Just because the pants fit doesn't mean you have to show all you've got.'

She turned and smiled at me. 'I know. You're right. You're always right about these things.'

I made a smile at her too. 'I'm going to wear mine with the blue-and-white flannie.'

She giggled and then spun round, in her bare feet-- for she had nothing else on but the black leggings and the almost-invisible panties-- and flung open her wardrobe to find a shirt. I went back to my room and chose carefully from my wardrobe for what I would wear in the morning.

Of course you have to wear socks with them too, because they stop before your ankles. I prefer to pull up socks outside them, because I find the ends of the leggings as undesirable as the top. They're really just a skintight body covering between two more important fashion statements-- your shoes and socks and your top. I think that once you embrace that concept, you will choose leggings that are a pretty neutral colour and that don't take away from what else you are wearing. I mean, they're not supposed to be the fashion statement themselves, right? They're just... there.

The first morning I came down stairs wearing leggings, my dad was there to say good-bye to us. I had on the deep-navy leggings and a pale-green-and-white flannie with a white sash tied round my middle as a belt and white socks with my Reeboks. (For some reason only sneakers look good with leggings.) And I had my hair all pushed up with a little white Scünci. 'What's this,' Daddy asked, 'the pixie look?'

'Pixie look?' I wondered. Then I remembered when he had been a performer in the '80s and had been somewhat famous (if I may use that word) for wearing dance tights with long shirts and thick socks (or leg warmers) and ballet shoes, like some sort of modern-day Robin Hood or Romeo Montague, and he had got known for being cute like that, you know. Of course when my dad was in his 20s he was deplorably cute. I suppose there really is nothing new after all.

'It's cute,' Daddy said. 'Just remember to take your pepper spray.'

I blushed. 'Daddy....'

So for the last five or six days at school I have been wearing leggings, not skirts. I admit they are warmer than tights, though not quite as warm as jeans but they are cuter than jeans. I tend to wear a long shirt with curvy tails, which is acceptable. One time last week I wore a polartec pulli, which I had to keep tugging down-- standing up it was fine, long enough to hook over the bottom of my bottom, you know, but whenever I sat down I had to really tuck it underneath myself and then of course it rode up in my lap. But that was manageable and anyway it's a cute look... though I prefer something I have to worry about a little less, you know.

Then, of course, there are the boys who stare at you. Well, I don't mean stare in the way that half the males in the known universe stare at girls. I mean they practically examine you to see what they can see of what they shouldn't be seeing. Leggings tend to invite that-- maybe that's one of the cases in which we girls bring it on ourselves. It is a cute look, and if it's worn properly it's perfectly modest. I mean we all have legs and bottoms and everyone knows that. But to see guys staring up stairways at you, bending down in the class to see up your legs, dropping pencils in the corridors-- it's just horrid. The leggings aren't quite THAT revealing! Maybe they're just hoping to see if they can tell if we're wearing thong panties-- though I can't possibly imagine what importance that knowledge could ever have to some loser guy's life. Why would it matter? I mean, for a real lady, it shouldn't matter what kind of underwear she's wearing because it should never be shown in any way. So I could have on any sort of underwear at all-- even none-- and you wouldn't be able to tell and you wouldn't ever find out. So why should anyone else care?

Even though I'm NOT wearing thong panties with my leggings anyway!


On becoming 18

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Today is my first 'full day' of being... 'legal'. Well-- I must go back.

I was born at 12.04 in the morning, so actually when I woke up yesterday I had been 18 for about 6 hours. Before leaving the house Jessy gave me a little plastic tiara to wear and then helped me do my hair for it. 'You're the birthday girl,' she said seriously.

'This is going to be embarrassing,' I said. 'They're already hating us for the skirts.'

'No one hates you for anything,' she insisted.

At school they (people, mysterious people) decorated my locker with wrapping-paper and stick-on bows and bits of ribbon and a big sign that said 'She's a big girl now!' I still do not know exactly who it was who did it because Jessy was riding in to school with me. Apparently I am one of the eldest girls in the class (as I was at HOH too), since I can't remember anyone else having an 18th birthday yet this year. Jessy got pictures of me in front of the locker, which was really a work of art, and they're on my FaceBook as well as on Jessy's and then they're tagged on everyone else's too. As silly as it looked, it was pretty touching.

A couple of my teachers knew it was my birthday and lent their best wishes. At home in the evening some friends came over and Mother hosted the party. There was angel-food cake and whipped white ice cream and Dr Pepper and they made me wear the tiara from school all evening. Lisa was in her glory, sitting through a big-girls' party and being able to be more of a hostess (or, in her case, a presenter) than an underaged guest. She got up and read a poem she wrote-- all right, four lines, and the rhymes were imperfect, but she is six, and it was very touching. (I put the text of it-- and her pic-- on FaceBook, so it won't be here.)

I type this now sitting up in my bed and feeling very tired from a pretty intense day and the only thing I can wonder is what will happen when people read this blog and encounter me on AOL where I usually am. Oh, I am 18 now. I am... 'legal'. People will assume things.

First, exactly what does it mean that I am 'legal'? Legal for what? I may vote next year, but I may not drink. I may get married, move out of my parents' house, get any job I can be hired to, contract a loan, own my own car, drop out of school or enrol anywhere else. These are profound things, but I'm pretty sure (after 16 months on AOL) that the people who say I am now 'legal' don't mean any of these things.

The more important thing is that I don't FEEL any different. This could have been my 16th birthday, or my 15th. There wasn't anything exclusively '18th' about the day at all. I am still in school, still at home, still with the same friends, still driving Daddy's car, and so on. I mean I have never made any plans for any profound changes that would happen on the day I turned 18. Was I supposed to? A few weeks ago Daddy happened to mention that we would 'have to' go to the investment counsellor and have my name added to my accounts as a primary signer, meaning that I would be able to withdraw from my trust fund on my own, without asking Daddy. But I cannot imagine ever, ever doing that. It's all his money-- he put it aside for me, and I always figured that was for when he was no longer with us, not when I turned into a just-18 brat who could claim everything he worked so hard for and buy a blinged-out SUV with it. He hasn't mentioned it since (since he can be as bubbleheaded as I can be at times) and I really don't have any incentive to mention it myself. I really don't care about the money. Mother said, 'It's your responsibility as an adult now.' She knows, because she was a young bride and at one time she had to step into so much of all these responsibilities when Mommy died.

I will put in here that my stepmother and Daddy do NOT have a prenuptial agreement about the money. She could take him for all she could get if she chose... but she never would, because she loves him too much to ever leave him, and that is obvious to us all every day. I wouldn't have a prenuptial agreement either, no matter how much money or possessions or real estate I had. I just would not marry anyone whom I had to worry about in that way. Maybe that's naive-- but now you know why I am such a prig about myself. I would always prefer to be happy and innocent of a great offence, and not live in suspicion and guilt... and nothing you say is going to change my mind about it.

The people who approach me online will be pleased to find out I am 'legal' now. For them, this means that they are allowed to chat with me about sex. They will ask me about my own sexual experience, what I think of other sexual issues, what I want or fantasise about, and most importantly what I want to do online (meaning masturbate) with them. Oh, and I can share pictures with them, especially pictures of me naked or engaged in sex acts.

Does any of this sound like anything I would ever have done at any age? But you can't reason with such people. Because, my being 'legal' is not about what I want or do or say at all. It's about THEM. What they're most interested in is what they can get away with, not what I want. In many ways I cease to be a lady to them-- or a child. Now I am a target, an eligible candidate for their prurient interests. See, that's all it's about. They want to know whether they can apply their nasty, immature, self-centred, illogical and inappropriate fantasies to me or not. They actually believe that because I am now over 18, I have magically changed somehow into a totally different person. On December 10th I was a child who could get them into trouble. If they chatted with me, shared anything with me, even just said hello, I would get them into trouble. I was 'jailbait'.

Now see how illogical this is. Was it ME getting them into trouble? Was I the 'bait' that lured them in? Was I the active party in any of it? Or is it more likely that THEY were to be the guilty party in all of it? Weren't THEY the ones seeking an exceptionally young chick to chat with (as in 'barely legal')? Weren't THEY the ones who wanted to apply their fantasies to me? Weren't THEY the ones who wanted to suggest the topic (sex) and to chat with me online about it? What on earth had I do to with any of it, except that such people seem to believe their fantasies are best 'shared' with someone else?

Now you will know what I believe about this kind of fantasy? It's all one -sided-- if I chose to play along, they wouldn't want the truth about how I would react or what I would say if they should happen to do this or that. They really only want me to fulfill their idea of how it should go. In a way I am just acting to script that I haven't seen yet. So it's very likely I won't live up to their fantasies anyway. In fact I would say that no girl ever would be able to. You'd have to be a total cretin to just follow along with what the guy is saying and do whatever he says, and then I have to wonder where the fun is in that for him. It's like saying, 'I imagine you will take off your bra now and show your beautiful D-sized breasts.' And the girls takes off her bra now and shows her beautiful D-sized breasts. It really would not matter if I were a B or a C, or if I were not wearing a bra at all. He doesn't want reality, he wants me to go, 'Okay, I shall now take off my bra and show my beautiful D-sized breasts.' And he will go, 'Very nice. Now spread your legs and--' and so on.

The sad thing is that 99.9 percent of men who will approach me on AOL with ideas of fantasies will never take the effort to read even two sentences of this blog, so they won't ever know a thing about me. I shall continue to do as I have always done and chose to interact with only the polite and intelligent people who care enough about whom they chat with ti get to know me as a person. And yes, that is many more people than some might think. And no, it has nothing to do with the name of the chat room I am in. I am still a person and still a lady and still entitled to respect. I am not baiting you into jail and I am not responsible for what you want to chat about and what's on your mind. And if you think that because it is now December 12th and I am 18, so that makes it 'legal' to say offensive, rude, impertinent and inappropriate things to a lady you have just met, then you will get the same reaction from me as you would have got on December 10th.


03 December 2009

Day of the skirts

Thursday, 3 December 2009

On Monday I started a little informal sociological study and since then I have counted a sum total of six different girls who have worn either dresses or skirts over the first three days of this week. That's it. Out of 300-odd girls in this school, six of us (not including me or Jessy) wear skirts. A few weeks ago I brought up an idea at the girls' club meeting and we established a new ritual which commenced the week before Thanksgiving. Since Thursdays are our usual meeting days, from now on all club members will dress up to commemorate that. The wrestlers and football players wear neckties and collared shirts; the cheerleaders wear their outfits, the ROTC members wear their uniforms, on whatever days those groups consider important to them... so why should we not do the same for our own reasons.

Four weeks ago at the meeting there was much discussion. I cannot say it was debate, because we were all pretty much agreed on the basic idea. What we discussed was what our 'club colours' would have to be. Some of the girls (Rita and a few others) insisted that we all wear cute little school-uniform skirts like the grey ones Jessy and I wore when we went to HOH in England. This was met with universal approval. I was probably more flattered than I should have been because I still wear my little grey HOH skirt(s) to school here and that's probably influenced them. Really I was thinking we should wear something less conspicuously elitist. We held a vote between three choices and ended up with a green plaid skirt which we will wear with our own navy-blue club t-shirts or sweatshirts, and for cold weather we will wear navy-blue tights. And the rule is that this is what all nine of us will wear every other Thursday, which are our meeting days.

The first week we wore our 'colours' was the Thursday before Thanksgiving and today was the second time. Of course people have been saying things-- we're snobs, we're superior, we're stuck-up-- all of that means the same thing. We've been told that we're boring. We've been told that we're all gay. We've also got that we're apparently sex teases-- however anyone got that idea I dread to imagine. Most of the other girls at school hate it. Most of the teachers like it. Well, they're both to be expected. What was surprising is that the guys-- and I mean the nice guys-- actually approve of it. I've always hoped, deep down inside, that the private-school-girl look was something guys would actually like. It makes you look nice and good and intelligent, and also, I guess, kind of rich-- though amongst the nine of us we represent a pretty complete range of economic backgrounds.

Of course we've all had the skirts altered, especially to have them shorter-- but they are definitely NOT super short nor anywhere close to that. One of the ideals behind the club in the first place is that it's not only possible, but preferable, to look chic but conservative, to avoid extremes in fashion and especially to be modestly ladylike at all times. It is both a way of demonstrating our own dignity as young women and a way of showing respect for the guys we may end up with. (Does a guy REALLY want a girl who usually dresses as though she's ready for hot-and-heavy sex with anyone? What if it's not just her looks? And what kind of guy would find slutty girls attractive? And what kind of girl would want a guy to think she looked slutty? And-- you get the idea.)

It did seem a little awkward when six of us ended up at the same lunch table during fifth period. But, we are a club and we're supposed to look like we are. Several girls came up and asked what we were about. And we told them, though they didn't seem very impressed. I think they were hoping we were trying to look a little slutty, but I couldn't say if they wanted to be able to put us down or admire us for it.

At tonight's meeting we discussed the upcoming plans. They include buying gifts for the two families we've adopted, contributing to the canned-food drive and the winter-coat drive at Catholic Charities, and carolling at the pensioners' home on the 17th (next meeting time). We've also planned a Boxing-Day party for ourselves and families at this house. And the projects in the spring include the fashion show, the bikini show, more car-wash events and more singing. So whilst we are being mocked and made fun of, this is what we are doing. Forgive us for wearing similar skirts to school at the same time then!


Thanksgiving weekend 2009

Our Thanksgiving weekend was very nice. As we have done in the past we drove up to the beach house in New Jersey, which is closer to family. Jessy and I left directly from school, with Roger driving us in the green Cadillac, and we met Lisa, who had have a day, and Mother and Daddy and JJ when we got there. On Thursday morning I helped in the kitchen whilst Jessy played with the little ones. Unfortunately the dining room here is only small, so we set up the other table in the kitchen for the six of us, Daddy's uncle and aunt, Daddy's cousin and his girlfriend, and Gran. Our two uncles were to go elsewhere for the evening-- though we did have a Skype conversation with our cousins after the meal.

Friday was crisp and clear, though I had a bit of a headache from overindulging in turkey and wine and stayed in bed for about half of it. Gran and Daddy's uncle and aunt came back, and with them, our uncle and aunt and cousins, for it was Daddy's birthday. Gran, who was staying with us, made the world's best chocolate cake which Daddy says is the best present he could ever ask for. My headache was gone and I indulged in two pieces (not very big ones though!).

On Saturday the day was a little warmer. Jessy and I had a walk on the beach and then went across town to visit some of our friends from this past summer. At their house we watched 'Twilight' on DVD (since none of us have seen 'New Moon' yet) and had crisps and pizza and soda. When it came time to walk home we were socked that the temperature had dropt about 20 degrees. Jessy and I attempted to brave it and finally ended up running full-tilt against the freezing-cold headwind and even that much exercise was not enough to make us sweat. I swear I went on shivering for half an hour after that.

And then on Sunday we had church on the Island, drove home, and arrived in time for an early-evening supper. It was somewhat warmer and I went online telling people I was in my usual bedtime ensemble, panties and socks and a sweatshirt (sometimes a jersey). Of course I had a nice fire in my room here and plenty of blankets.

Tonight (Monday) has been Mother's birthday. I made a cake using one of my mother's recipes which Mother loves, Jessy and Daddy made dinner (linguine and fish with pesto sauce) and we all sang the song and all. Later Mother's mother rang from Australia (I can never tell what time it is there! --sixteen hours one way or the other).

And, of course, school resumes....

22 November 2009

My dad still likes to drag-race

Saturday 21 November 2009

Depending on what car he is driving, my dad likes to drive fast. I don't mean he drives ridiculously fast, like it's unsafe. He just has a habit of going a little more than the posted limits. He says a higher average speed keeps up his times... as though he's racing.

Actually at one time my dad did get a sports-car-racing licence. It has long since elapsed, since he no longer logs any time on race tracks (unlike my uncle who races frequently up in Pennsylvania). But he always says it is one of two reasons why he looks at every driving situation like he would look at a race. He has these sayings, like 'Lane selection is key' and 'Check six for challenges', things like that. The whole purpose of driving for him is to get where you're going as quickly and safely as possible. He says, 'A good race is when you arrive at the finish line alive. A great race is when they can use the car again someday.' The other reason is that he grew up learning to drive when they had the 55-MPH speed limits, which truckers hated because it meant they could not legally average a mile a minute. So like the truckers my dad learned to push the limits a little-- which, yes, kind of made the 55-MPH speed limit sort of ineffective.

We were out this morning in the '65 Wildcat convertible, going up to the music store in Salisbury and on the way home, trying to get back for my all-call at 6.00, we found ourselves in the middle lane needing to get over to the right. And on our right was a 1968 Dodge Charger being driven by a girl-- young woman-- not much older than me, about 21 maybe, with bushy curly dark hair and pretty dark eyes-- Italian-looking, very pretty. I wondered how she had got such an exquisite old car-- it was deep maroon with a black top such as they had then and gleaming chrome wheels, very pretty like herself actually. Maybe it was her father's and he had let her drive it-- unlike my dad who won't let me close to the driver's seat on any of his! Anyway she had a stick shift-- we could hear her going through gears. I sort of envied her.

Daddy ran up through second upon leaving the traffic light. There were cars everywhere-- the mild weather had brought people out for shopping and just plain cruising. And a lot were classic cars-- part of the reason Daddy wanted to take the Wildcat on this trip, you know. And maybe it was why this lucky girl had stolen a chance to drive her daddy's Dodge Charger. She was accelerating mildly out of the traffic light and we pulled even with her. Daddy needed to get over to her lane for an upcoming turn and wound second out a little higher. That big Buick engine ran up and the exhaust growled. The girl, whom I could see now was not alone in the car, heard it and accelerated a little harder too. Daddy laughed.

'I think we're going to miss our exit,' he said, and leaned harder on the throttle.

The girl did too. The nose of the Charger pulled even with the nose of the Buick. Suddenly her whole car rocked back-- she had floored it.

Daddy floored it. 'Uh-oh,' he said, 'there goes the six-pack.'

'The what?' But I was shoved back into the seat with the acceleration then. Both of us roared off up the highway, fifty, sixty-- Daddy shifted to third-- seventy, nearly eighty when Daddy put it into fourth and let the girl go. The big Buick settled in at about 80 for a few moments and then he backed off. Fortunately the girl had made her point for she settled in just ahead of us as we glided into the right lane for the next exit. I knew that under any other circumstances Daddy would have run any guy about his age through 100 or so, whatever the two cars would take. But he was feeling a little protective of the girl in the Charger-- she was only some good man's daughter, as he likes to say, and it would look awful if he were the one who incited her to some horrific accident. If she would not know any better, he would, you know.

Nevertheless he went in to the exit ramp with the big wide tyres whining a little and proceeded to drive us home a little faster the whole way. I know he thinks fondly on the days when he had his first 1965 Wildcat and used to cruise the Boulevard on Long Beach Island with it all summer, attracting girls and the envy of boys as well. I know he got this second Wildcat and had it painted like the first just to relive, even a little, those days of teenaged glory. And I know he thinks Jessy and I find it a little immature, and he probably thinks Mother does too-- but, the thing is, we don't. We find it just one more part of him. You see, my dad has always been 'cool', not in the immature, irrational way like some young guys imagine they are 'cool'. My dad has always been sensible, rational, intelligent, you know, but there is a small slice of him that likes to look good in all situations. In the '80s he was noted as a fashion plate in rock-and-roll. He had the hair and the clothes and the guitars and was seen in places the average rocker was not-- Sotheby's auction, the National Trust sites, art museums and classical-music concerts and at the ballet. He paid attention to his widowed mother and participated in family functions. He hosted (conservative) politicians at his big place up in Menlo Park and gave to charities. He was seen with a number of young women, in New Jersey, New York, and London, where he tended to work in those days. And he made people's careers, not merely as a 'fashion plate' but as someone whose attention and concern-- almost as a father's-- made the difference between a young star making a stupid decision and a young star moving forward like a responsible professional. I never mention names-- not even my own here-- but if I were to, you would be surprised at who he has known and what he has done for them.

In many ways my dad is my hero. There are a few things about him I would not like to see in anyone who would become my husband-- he is very sloppy about clothes, procrastinates little things because of working on big things, spends too much time by himself and overtalks literature, music, art and philosophy, all of which my dear stepmother, who once adored him as a favourite teacher, has found out about him since she married him. But in most important things he is my role model for a man. He is naturally happy, optimistic, encouraging. He is artistic, creative, intelligent-- really a genius. He is warm, thoughtful, generous, affectionate. He is careful and logical, not prone to making stupid decisions for selfish reasons. And he is truly concerned about the welfare of the world, from the healthcare plan to the first club show of the newest starving future singing star.

And he drives the coolest metallic-blue 1965 Buick Wildcat convertible known to mankind, a car that will probably become mine some day (or J.J.'s) because it would never, ever be sold by Daddy or anyone else, if only because it reminds us all of what Daddy is-- a man who sees no great period of time between when he was 20 and when he was 50, because in all that time he has only ever been the same person through and through. He has matured and grown older, but he has remained the same in what really matters.

People have asked me if this is some weird Oedipus complex, and I can only say I don't know. First I have to ask, is there any reason my dad should NOT be my role model? Is there any reason I should not want to keep him company on a ride to the music store? Is there any reason why I should not ask him my most personal questions and then take his advice? Is there any reason why I should not admire him?

And then those people will ask me, if he were not my father, would I want to date him?

Well, maybe if he were still 20. [ha]


19 November 2009

Morning fog

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Overheard from girls in the hallway before homeroom (7.30-7.40 am):

'So I had a glimpse into the world of men today. I was sitting at the back of the bus with all these guys and had to endure all their talk....'

'I am so tired of not wearing pants' --girl in leggings

'I hate this f-ing school.' (She actually said 'f-ing', not the whole word!)

'I have my book. I mean I do not have my book.'

'My God, will they make something edible for lunch?'

'Look how clean my locker is. It's ridiculous.'

'So I'm a part of the devil because I borrowed his socks. Don't talk to me-- I'm the sock devil.'

'Don't tie it too tight. I'll asphyxiate myself.' --girl getting help putting on scarf.

'This room is still locked? Your tax dollars at work.' --Jessy. (The girls' room in our wing has been out of order for about 4 days straight.)

And read as part of the homeroom morning announcements:
'The life of a nation is only secure when those in it are honest and virtuous.' --Frederick Douglass

* * *

14 November 2009

Late-breaking news

Friday,13 November 2009

Well, our school was closed yesterday and today because of the storm. Our local bridge was washed-over, meaning that we can't leave this peninsula anyway. So we've been inside all day today and yesterday-- all six of us. Mother had a fire going in the kitchen and was singing merrily away as she made soup and corn muffins and hot tea and, later, brownies. She loves to be the provider of all good things, you know.

My period came, a week later than usual, which might be a concern to some girls but of course is not to me. I like what Mother calls the 'will of God method' --whatever He wants of me, I'll do; so if I'm to get it late I can tolerate that. I did dig into my drawers (the ones in my dresser!) and took out the silk panties I bought in England, the navy ones and dark-green ones and very pale pink ones. I have on the navy ones now-- they have a gathered waist and gathered legs but the silk is pretty loose in between, making them delightfully soft, almost sinfully comfortable. And at the moment I have on my warm navy-and-cream linen/wool Colonial dress and stays and a woolen cardigan and stockings with socks over them and am quite comfortable in spite of the circumstances.

Caleb phoned the other day from UMES asking if we could get together this weekend. The storm put those plans on hold! But this wouldn't be a fun weekend for either of us. Last weekend he was here for supper and we all played games like Apples To Apples and Trivial Pursuit. I am sure he wanted a repeat of the Hallowe'en party but there would be none of that then. I really think Jessy is right about that-- I'll say no more on it now.

Daddy was changing strings on one of the guitars the other day, in the parlour, where Mother would rather he didn't do something like that. As it turns out I found the broken end of one of the strings stuck in the carpet under the piano. That is-- I found it with the ball of my foot. It has started to go septic and Mother put this stuff on it that's supposed to loosen and withdraw splinters in the hope of getting out the dirt. I have on a big bandage because it hurts and throbs like mad and I have been hobbling round the house on my heel since. Mother kind of got mad about it all and issued Daddy a moratorium on changing strings outside the music room, which he sheepishly accepted. When I first impaled my foot on the string he actually carried me in to the kitchen for it to be treated. Then he carried me up and put me in this bed. I know he feels bad about it-- but then Mother chastised me for going round the house in November with bare feet, so I suppose we're both culpable.

I have used much of this time in bed with the computer to work on my novel, getting it ready. There is still a section in the middle of the end that I need to actually compose, and instead of writing that I find myself stuck editing parts that are already done. Today I began writing through the gap towards the end, and as it turns out I changed too much for the existing end to work. Now I have to decide which version I change to adapt both parts together. Daddy suggested I just write the whole segment over, like a new draught, and see how it flows into the ending. It could be the whole ending gets changed... or I just delete a lot of dialogue I happen to like in order to keep continuity.

The storm continues outside. We were without power from late last night till early this afternoon-- that is, our generator kicked on, which doesn't power everything in the house, just the refrigerators and a few lights and so on (and the AirPort for the computers), but we could see that the hamlet in front of us was out and the whole road was dark. It's just more reason to stay inside. The wind has been howling, on and off, and since this is blowing off the ocean we have a startling high tide battering against our seawall and parts of the lawn are flooded. Fortunately the window in the tower that leaked last year is holding now. Jessy has all her inside shutters closed-- she tries to hide from it and pretend it's not there. I had mine open for a while but the rain and wind bashing against the windows was so scary I really feared the glass would give way, so I have only the bathroom one open now. And I have a nice little fire, and a small pot of tea. So I am content.

I will provide more details as I am moved to!

* * *

01 November 2009

Turning treats and tricks

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Daddy came round in front of the house with the green garden tractor and the 'stagecoach', a little wooden enclosed wagon he built for Jessy and me when we were small to take us round the yard at Delaware and the nearby beach park and neighbourhood. Down the front steps came Lisa (an angel) and JJ (Robin Hood), with their little canvas bags for treats, and Daddy alit from the tractor, in his 18th-century black coat and tails, and opened the door for them. The 'stagecoach' is cosy for anyone under about ten years old, with two facing seats and a door each side and fixed windows and plenty of room for blankets to keep war. When we were smaller we used to love riding in that thing. I remember once Mother (when she was our nanny) managed to squeeze into it during an unexpected rain-- she was about 17 then, but having always been petite (she could wear a girls' 16 in some things!) she was able to duck her head and snuggle right in with Jessy on her lap. Of course now she is too big for that, so she will accompany Jessy and me, and Josie, walking behind the tractor. Mother wore one of her Colonial outfits, blue and brown and off-white, with a cape more for comfort and warmth than looks, though of course it's period-authentic. Josie came in a really cute Batgirl costume that she bought and wore with black tights and high-heeled boots and a mask that she and Jessy modified to look really cute. And her cape was functional as well. As for Jessy and I, we were soon freezing. We went to the six houses of the little development in front of our house and then a little up the road to a few more, but the houses are few and far between here and with the tractor Daddy was quickly able to outpace us. (JJ always prefers to go faster-- 'Go fast! Go fast!' he cheers from inside the coach.) By about 7.30 it was fully dark and had started to rain, and then we girls, and Mother, were hurrying along under umbrellas (which Daddy kept in the stagecoach) and skipping along the rough tarmac of the road to get home.

I had to clean one of my shoes which I had dipped in a puddle, which really got me mad, but with a bit of white polish it did clean up well enough for us to go to the party at our friend's house. Roger drove the three of us in the Cadillac, so there was no need to take off our wings. Alighting in front of the house we must have been quite a sight-- two white angels and black-and-grey Batgirl. Two boys we know from school pulled up at the same time. 'Oh,' one said, 'I might have known! What else but angels?'

We all laughed. But the party went like that, people admiring the costume, admitting they had expected no less of Jessy or me, and then taking the time to look over the costume again. No one else was dressed in anything so... vulnerably feminine. There were plenty of devilettes, vampiresses, and underaged witches, but nothing so truly creative as a ballet-leotard angel. So, I guess for that reason, we tended to get some attention. I really did not mind so much-- I guess it's fair to say that you don't get dressed-up for a costume party unless you expect some attention. But in all this was a good crowd of people and nothing truly terrible happened.

Well, maybe one thing happened... terrible or not depends on how you look at it.

All nine of us from the girls' club were there. Paula and Rita were there with dates. Other boys came to meet us there. There was dancing in the recreation room and plenty to eat (and nothing alcoholic to drink). Some parents had come merely to socialise with each other but they all honoured the no-booze rule and kept to themselves in the room with the TV on. And I met a guy named Caleb who was dressed as a police officer and proceeded to talk with him most of the night.

Well, I can't say we talked all that time. It started out as talking. We each had a few glasses of punch (teens' kind, meaning it had soda in it). I reminded myself to be careful because if I'd had to pee it would have meant taking off the entire costume. So I kept myself to two glasses. Round the time the second glass ran out Caleb and I found ourselves sitting in a sofa in the corner of the basement room. My wings got all scrunched-up, but they're durable. (All angel wings are, once you've earned them.) Jessy was not far away, Rita and her date were somewhere, Paula's date was probably hitting on some other girl, and most of the other people within speaking distance (in the crowded room) were not people either of us knew. We had been talking about peanuts, believe it or not, and other things that people have allergies to. I said, 'It's not that I'm allergic to them. I can eat peanut butter. I just don't like having nuts in my mouth. It's the feeling of them.'

Caleb said, 'And it's such a pretty mouth.'

I looked right at him. 'What?' And he kissed me.

It was not a bad kiss. Well-- that is an understatement. It was a really good kiss. I stared right at him-- I had not closed my eyes at all-- for about five full seconds. He only stared back. I guess he assumed I wasn't complaining, because he leaned in and kissed me again.

Now anyone who reads my blog knows I just don't get picked-up. In fact I tend to despise guys who come to a party with the idea that they just have to pick up some girl. If it's one thing I absolutely hate, it's being treated like just some girl. But Caleb wasn't treating me like that. There were plenty of other girls there-- the girls probably outnumbered the guys close to two to one. He could have had any of them. He chose to talk with me. And it had been real talk, too, not that cheap, insincere kind of talk that guys indulge you in that's sort of foreplay to asking you for a date or making out. Honestly-- the comment about my mouth was the first indication I'd had that he thought of me as anything other than a cute little angel all in white.

I shall not say too much here now, except that the kissing wasn't bad at all and I felt rather drunk with it. In fact I actually allowed a good deal more than I usually do even on a fourth or fifth date (just saying) and it wasn't all bad. I confess maybe the angel costume lent me some security-- he could feel but he couldn't have, you know, because though it covered me very sleekly and snugly, there was no chance on earth he was going to get any of it pushed aside where he might have wanted to. I was an angel, and I was safe.

I shall also not say too much except that when I got home I had to get out of everything pretty urgently.

This dastardly, very un-Janine-like behaviour came to an abrupt and welcome end when Jessy happened to come by and see me. Even if she had not seen my face she could not have missed the costume. I saw her wings looming up over Caleb's bushy hair and suddenly gasped. 'Jessy!'

She gasped too. 'Janine!'

'Oh,' I said, to Caleb, 'I'm sorry.' And I sat up.

She reached for my hand at once and helped me out of the too-soft couch and towed me at once off across the room to another corner. Once assured of some privacy she turned round and folded her arms in front of herself and just looked at me.

I went red. 'I'm sorry,' I said.

She tapped her foot and drummed fingers on her arm.

'Really, hun. I am sorry.'

She narrowed her eyes at me.

'It was just-- Well, he is really nice, and--'

She cleared her throat, took a breath, and sighed impatiently.

'Jessy!' My eyes were wet. 'I really am sorry.'

She rolled her eyes. 'I'll text Roger now. He'll be here in ten minutes.'

I nodded. 'Yes,' I said. 'Of course, Jessy. Is Josie coming with us?'

'I won't wait for her,' she said, and then took my arm and escorted me, away from Caleb, across the room to the stairs.

In the light of the kitchen up stairs I had to blot my eyes. I asked after the bathroom and spent a long five minutes just pulling myself back together. I really did not feel myself at all-- because I was at least partially numb and because I felt like I had been acting like someone else. I had embarrassed my sister who adores me and looks up to me. That kept my eyes wet a little longer.

When I stepped out Jessy was waiting in the hall. 'He's here,' she said.

I nodded. 'Yes, Jessy. Thank you.'

We went out, said our politest good-byes, kissed a few of our friends as we often do and got outside. I did not get to say good-bye to Caleb and I'm pretty sure Jessy would not have wanted me to. Roger stepped up and opened the door. With our wings still on we sat in the back and clicked the seatbelts. When the car was away from the house she turned to me. 'I'm sorry, Janine,' she said. 'I shouldn't have judged you.'

'Did you judge me, Jessy?'

She went a little red. 'It's just that I have never seen-- never seen you-- doing that--'

'I'm sorry,' I said, and took her hand. 'It won't happen again.'

She shook her head and then had to blot an eye. She was weeping, more than I had been. 'No-- it's all right. You don't have to put on an act just for me. You have to just be yourself.'

'I'm not sure I was being myself,' I said.

'He's a nice guy, and he likes you,' she said. 'It's only normal. You're eighteen-- almost. Things happen. I can't be that naïve.'

'Jessy! What are you saying? Are you saying that I would--'

'I don't know, and I don't want to know.'

'Jessy!' I squeezed her hand and she looked at me. 'I would never. You know that.'

She sniffled. 'I know you wouldn't. I just saw where his hand was--'

I giggled. 'Jessy! I'm still dressed!'

She looked down at me in the costume. 'Such as it is.'

We both laughed. 'He wasn't going any further... and I really did like the kisses. Other than that....'

She nodded then. 'All right,' she said. And she held onto my hand all the way home. And we held hands going up the steps to the house too.

Mother wanted to know all about the party and I gave her the abridged version, mentioning particularly how I had met a really nice guy who is a year older and going to UMES where Stephen goes and that he wants to become a police officer. Daddy seemed to approve then. He didn't need to know where Caleb's hand was. Rushing up stairs I found Jessy was already on FaceBook, so I think I was probably too late to ask her not to blab about it. This blog is a little safer for me, for all sorts of reasons-- not the least of which is that I have left out a lot of unflattering detail. And that is why I choose to mention it as I have.

* * *

Haunting Terncote

Friday, 30 October 2009

For Hallowe'en this year we again decked out the whole castle and hosted Lisa's class-- twenty-four first-graders-- plus three of little JJ's friends, associated parents and young siblings, and a few of our friends from the girls' club, mainly to help out, for a party centred in the basement party room. The 'party' room' is an institution with Daddy, dating back to his first band, when they had a modest little raised bungalow in Surf City with an annexe added to the side for a recording studio and the whole ground floor given over to surfboards, guitars and a private pub with a bar and stage where they played parties before they got big. Ever since then every house he has had-- except the one we have now in Surf City-- has had some kind of facility in the basement for hosting a major bash. At Terncote the basement rooms are all the same sizes as the ones above because the walls here are all structural concrete block in the way that all-brick houses were built 250 years ago. There is a billiards room under the dining room, a bar with tables under the small back parlour, a big party room under the big parlour, a video studio/theatre under Gran's room and an art studio with a kiln (built into the base of the fireplace stack of course) under the north (Daddy's) library. There is a dumbwaiter to the kitchen and a pretty little powder room off the TV room and storage for most of whatever we don't store at Poplar Landing, clothes and costumes and decorations and all that.

The decorating took most of the the last two weeks and the weekend. This being the Series, Daddy made sure the TV was on in the video room. The billiards table was covered with a plywood top and tablecloth and served as the main food buffet. It's mostly supper things, sliced meats and cheese and pepperoni and celery and carrots, applesauce, cranberry sauce, crackers and chips, and, of course, cake and cookies. Mother made up most of it-- this is how she is, rarely ever calling a caterer. Once upon a time she said she was the world's worst cook. Now she is known throughout the community for cakes and cookies (and they are NEVER made from a box mix!).

Daddy took charge of lighting and special effects, draping spiderwebs from walls and doorways, fitting flashing lights with motion-sensors, moving small speakers here and there to have eerie sounds everywhere, inside and out. The whole house was kept dark from the outside but for the front-step lights and one ghostly-looking orangeish light high up in the tower, and then he had spotlights rigged behind the roof so that the silhouette of the house seemed outlined in a bluish glow. Some people said it looked like the most haunted house in Virginia. Jessy started saying it was the Screaming Shack.

Mother and Jessy and I set up games round the whole place, like stations where three or four kids can stop on their way through the place and figure out puzzles or tricks, or draw something, or sing something, or get tickled or scared (only a little), or whatever. A few other parents would help with shepherding kids, leaving Jessy and I to be hall monitors and Daddy to being a greeter and security agent. And Roger lingered outside to supervise parking.

As we did last year, Jessy and I dressed as angels. It's the costume my mother designed, bless her heart, when we were just little. Mother-- our nanny then-- had one too, and she used to go with us treating, The costume is just white tights and a white dance leotard, white ballet slippers, and a cute little white cotton jacket that looks like the cover-up girls in the Regency period wore, buttoning once at the chest, with half sleeves and a little rounded collar, which is worn mainly to hide the straps of the wings, which Daddy made out of fibreglass strips and beautiful gossamer tulle, light as a feather (as angel wings should be) and like 40 inches wide. Lisa's, of course, are smaller. This year I got a new white leotard as my old one is worn and also a little tight (though I blush to say so). Thank God I still wear an S (though just barely). The Capezio leotard is lovely, fully lined in front of course (because, the first rule we learned told us, ballerinas don't wear panties!) and sleek and shimmery. I always have on a bra under it, but the heavyweight, lined spandex and of course the little cotton jacket make it less unsightly, almost invisible really. Jessy, of course, gets a leotard with the so-called 'soft bra' and has nothing else to worry about. How I envy her.

Of course girls from the club came over as well-- they were invited-- and some brought dates. This was sort of a surprise in some cases-- as a kind of breach of protocol both Rita and Paula had not rung ahead to let us know they were each bringing someone, but we always have room for one more. The oddest part was that I had to open the door to a guy I'd never met before in this angel costume. The guy's eyes went all over me like I was a pinup. It made me blush (I wish it had not). 'Hello,' I said politely, 'and welcome--'

'Janine!' Paula mushed. 'That's the costume? My God-- you are gorgeous!'

I laughed at that and stepped back to admit them to the front foyer. 'It's just the usual thing. About the only thing I wear for Hallowe'en at all now.'

'It's cute,' the guy said. Paula introduced him and I showed them to the front stairs to have then descend to the party. Later I was down there and encountered Paula's date as he was leaning on the bar looking a little lost or left-out. Paula-- the adorable twit-- had got into a chat that didn't involve him somewhere. 'Good party,' he said to me then.

I turned towards him after going sideways through the doorway (because of the wings). 'If you're a first-grader,' I said.

He laughed. 'Paula's right,' he said. 'It is a great costume.'

I shrugged. The wings bounce when I do that. 'I like it,' I admitted. 'At least it's comfortable.'

He asked about the wings and I told him how they stayed on, though of course I would not open the little jacket to show him. I always get a V-neck leotard, not a 'princess' cut like Jessy gets. The jacket covers it up mostly, though it's the chest coverage I care about. I helped myself to a glass of 'adult punch' and stood there talking with Paula's date till Paula came back. Then her date asked after the lavatory and I gave him directions. Paula turned to me at once. 'I think he likes you,' she said.

I smiled at that. 'I think he's your date, love.'

She shrugged. 'We're just friends. He said he wanted to see the place, so.... You don't mind?'

'Mind that he wants to see the place? Of course not.'

'Do you mind that he likes you?'

I shrugged at her. 'Is he in eleventh?' She nodded. 'Well....' I thought and then said, 'He's welcome to like whomever he likes.'

She laughed. 'Really I'm sure it's the costume anyway. My God-- I wish I'd worn that!'

'So maybe next year you will. I'll be away for this by then.'

'Oh, yeah, right. Wow....'

When her date returned I left them, and not ten minutes after that I saw him chatting up Jessy. She seemed much more interested in him than I was. I wonder if there could be anything in that.

Little JJ had wanted to wear something with tights too-- from having seen all of us working on costumes all month-- and Mother made up a Robin Hood costume for him, a very pretty green cotton tunic and cute folded cap worn with a leather belt and, of course, green tights. Daddy spray-painted the child's ballet shoes green to match. So JJ galloped round the whole house like that, weaving a short plastic sword (it's supposed to be a Roman once, but Daddy painted the hilt to look like wood) and announcing he would 'rob the rich and pay the poor'. Several people indulged him and he soon had a little canvas sack full of candybars and spare change. I think he made about six dollars on the night. I broke a nail trying to get paper donkey-tails out of the donkey poster and dropped a full beer mug (of punch!) on my foot, saving the mug and bruising my toe. Nevertheless I will go out with the little ones tomorrow. 'Tis the season, and all that.

* * *

23 October 2009

When Daddy gets mad

Wednesday 21 October

My dad almost never gets angry. I said this to someone once and the other person said, 'What does he have to get angry about, with his money.' That was very impolitic and I was offended. I do not think money has much to do with it at all. For one thing, many people with money are greedy and want more. My dad would probably rather get rid of some (and he does, to charity, but I won't go into that now). It's just that he has a positive mental attitude about most things. And if that's connected to money at all, it's that a positive mental attitude leads to money and not that money leads to a positive mental attitude, if you know what I mean.

Even so, I have seen him get mad a few times. Well-- more than a few times. He tends to become frustrated and irritated about injustices-- especially when they're directed at us or other she loves. He doesn't seem to care about other people's opinions or actions against himself. He says, 'Consider the source' --you know, because my dad is not an idiot and anyone who would think my dad is an idiot would be an idiot. An idiot's point of view is not worth considering. But he becomes simply warriorlike when something threatens his family or our happiness. I remember at our old house in Lewes when he woke up in the middle of the night and fired a live round out of the musket at two burglars who were creeping through the front yard to the house and then chased them round into the preserve and back along the beach with two Queen Anne black-powder pistols. One got away and one ended up in the pool, where he held him till the police came. And he pressed charges for 'trespass with criminal intent.' When I was in 5th grade the teacher assigned a paper on heroes and I wrote about Jesus, quoting all these miracles and unconditional love and the teacher said 'That's not what I had in mind' --and made me write another paper. Mother (our new stepmother then) marched in to school and insisted this was prejudicial and unfair and when the school administrators refused to take a 20-year-old stepmother seriously Daddy went in and read them a riot act. After all Mother had legally adopted us-- we were her children by then too. The result was that Mother dared the school to let her withdraw us and teach us at home, and when the school again suggested she was not capable of that, Daddy marched in and signed us out in one afternoon. We then were taught at home (by Mother) till we went off to England three years ago now.

The thing about my daddy is that when he says he's going to do something about it, he does-- and if you don't believe he will, you should watch him whilst he does it.

And of course I have seen him throw a hammer or a hatchet and over-rev the yard tractor and utter a few choice words and rant on about some awful politician. He was trying to hit a particularly nasty raccoon once at the house at Delaware and out of frustration fired the musket off at a tree, and the ball snapped the limb off about 15 feet off the ground which then landed on the fence and about 10 feet of it had to be replaced. And of course this made him madder-- I won't say what happened then (although the raccoon went on to live a long happy life, probably snickering every time he came back to the vegetable garden).

But at least once his frustration was exciting, even fun. This past summer we were out in the ski boat, just Daddy, Jessy and I, on Barnegat Bay. Daddy was taking us over to Tuckerton for lunch at Stewart's Root Beer stand. We were both in bikinis and Daddy was in some wild multicoloured shirt like something from the 50s. I was sitting in front and Jessy was half-lying across the back seat, right in front of the motor that made it hard to really hold any kind of conversation. I know it looked like my dad was some super-cool older guy with two cute chicks in swimsuits with him-- this is one thing we like to lend him and he's always happy to hang out with us like this. Anyway we were in the middle of the channel about halfway there, doing, I would say, about 35, when some fishermen in a 19-ft Whaler kind of pulled up along side. They only had us by about 5 MPH or so and it was not a big deal-- not every other boat out there has to be in a race, you know. But we were closing on a marker and the guy in the other boat didn't know that passing on the right, approaching a marker, means he has to either get in well ahead of us or go round behind us ('duck' us as it's called in sailboat racing). This guy figured he was important enough to cut in close and show us who really owns the bay.

Well, this set off Daddy, because of the principle of the thing. The Whaler cut in, much too close for comfort, about 20 yards at 35 MPH. Daddy snarled. I heard it. 'Idiot,' he said, and then pushed down the throttle. On the Sidewinder he had moved the front seats closer together and the throttle is actually on the left of the driving seat, down near the floor, so I could see it. He put it right down with his knuckles on the carpet. The big Buick engine roared up, the bow lifted, and Daddy swung it out to the left to pass him-- in the proper side of course.

The guys in the Whaler cheered, like they were happy to have a race. At once the guy driving it cut over in front of us-- where they should have been if they had been alone in the channel, but if someone is overtaking you the rule is that you hold course and speed-- not move over in front of him and speed up. So, it was a race.

The Whaler had a new outboard on it, and it was fast, but nothing beats the ski boat. We were up to 55 in about 5 seconds. I held on. Jessy squealed back there. The Whaler was no longer holding with us, but of course Daddy wouldn't let it stand with just a victory in name only. We were still accelerating-- 60, 65. Trimmed out flat, we were doing about 72 by the time he lifted the throttle a little. It was pretty scary up till then, but finally I laughed. I knew what he was doing. Of course we were in the proper lane of channel traffic and still obeying all the rules-- out in the middle of the Bay there are theoretically no speed limits. Daddy held it over 60 all the way in to the Tuckerton turnoff. Finally when we were idling up the long meandering back channel to Stewart's he said, not too loudly (because from a motorboat everyone else can hear everything), 'Sorry. I just got mad at him.'

We both giggled. 'We know,' I said.

'I just figured he kind of deserved that,' Daddy said.

Jessy leaned forward then, kneeling on the floor behind the two front seats. 'Can you get mad again like that on the way home, Daddy?'

I don't think any root-beer floats Stewart's could have had could have made that afternoon any better than that.


Because I can

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Daddy has been talking about putting up the pool for the year, which means draining about a third of the water, putting in that nasty pink chemical and covering it over with a lattice of PVC pipe and the big grey tarp. As with last year this depresses me. I can never let go of a summer. Yesterday was cool and cloudy in the morning but cleared into a sunny, warm afternoon, but Jessy and I were out doing errands and did not get home till after 4.00 when it was too cold for a swim. This morning I vowed I would not miss an opportunity like that. As soon as we got home Jessy and I stripped off and dove in.

Daddy was out raking leaves and pulled up with the yard tractor and the trailer-- with J.J. riding in it-- at the garden gate. I was in the middle of my constitutional 25 laps when they came up on the terrace. 'Oh,' Daddy said, 'what's this?'

'They're doing it again!' J.J. said-- little master of the obvious that he is. He hates when we're naked. He thinks there's something missing-- which there is, and not just our clothes. He is at the age when he is exceptionally proud of being male and thinks girls are silly and prone to immature, unmanly pursuits like swimming bare in the pool in front of him. I know Daddy encourages him in this attitude-- it's how he builds his gender identity, the same way Lisa builds hers by dawdling in the bathrooms when Jessy and I are getting dressed and mimicking us in pursuits like swimming bare in the pool. Daddy always enjoys teasing us-- at our age there is much less that he has in common with us and he just wants to stay a part of our routine lives. I know that deep inside he longs for when Jessy and I were just The Twits, those silly little girls he had so much fun with before nature made us grow up and leave that phase behind. He is our dad and to him it's not so much of a phase-- it's something he misses. So I think we do persist in what we do round here just to make sure he doesn't feel we've changed. After all it's only our bodies that have changed. We're still his twits.

By the time I got out the sun was beyond the roof of the house and a shallow shade was cast over the terrace. I was actually shivering. Mother sent Lisa out with two towels. Despite the mid-autumn chill I really didn't want to go in. For a while I sat in one of the chaises, staring at the sparkling aquamarine water of our precious pool, seeing how it went greyish in the coming twilight and reflected the even deeper grey of the salt-water bay just outside the garden wall. Out over the ocean, the sky remained crisp and clear for another half-hour and then went a brilliant purple-orange that was really stunning. It looked like the reddish-orange sky of Destin, the cloudy planet in 'Empire Strikes Back', deep and dense and distant, like you could jump off and dive into those clouds and then go sailing out over them for ever. I swear I got chills down my spine just thinking about that.

Lisa came out a little while later and found me reclining back in the chaise, with my gaze still up in the sky and the towel still wrapt round me and my hair still damp.

It's going to be a long winter.


17 October 2009

Speaking of sisters who love each other....

Saturday, 17 October 2009

I was sitting here on my bed typing and my little sister Lisa (who is 6) came in with two Oreo Cakesters on a plate and a glass of milk for me. 'Here you are, big sister,' she sang.

So I took this offering from her, shared one of the Cakesters with her, and invited her to sit with me on the bed. (She doesn't have on any pants either today!) So now I have someone to snuggle with under the blanket, before the fire, on this cold wet day.


Janine, the protectress of chastity

Friday 16 October 2009

Today I had a strange opportunity to find out a few things I'm not sure I wanted to know... but I am glad I know them.

I was walking the corridor in school towards lunch and happened to come up behind my sister... just a few steps ahead of me. I recognised her by her hair, of course, when the hall was crowded, and as it thinned out I found myself feeling envious of her again. I adore her hair-- it's thick and curly, natural blonde of course but very dense and deep golden colour, in curls that are as big as your two fingers together, flowing off her temples and past her ears and down well below her shoulders. Today she was in just jeans (nice snug ones) and a plain pale-blue pulli with a little black tanktop over it, and her black heeled maryjane shoes, not much differently than any other girl at this school really. I was in a skirt... as usual, not much differently than I usually am.

Jessy got about five yards ahead of me and did not know I was behind her. She has a very cute little prance, holding back her head a little, walking not quickly at all but almost as though she doesn't know how prissy she looks. She tends to walk slowly like she has all the time in the world. I tend to walk fast and it was hard to keep behind her. Guys at school tend to ignore me-- oh, they do look, and then they recognise (or assume) that I am just a stuck-up priss and avoid me. They usually find some way of putting me down-- I am too short, my nose is too long, my hair is a mess, whatever-- basically to avoid having to admit they feel inferior to me. Jessy doesn't come off as stuck-up. In fact guys are absolutely mesmerised by her. Well--

I went round the first corner after I realised she was in front of me and two guys spun their heads round at her so fast they bumped into each other. I sort of bumped into them and got round them. Two other guys were standing in a doorway and glanced at her as she passed. One of them said something I won't type here. The other said, 'Any day, man, Any day.'

'Not much there,' the first said-- I had just reached them then.

'The rest is worth it,' the second guy said.

'You got that straight.' They saw me then and went back into their classroom. I don't think they recognised me as her older sister-- I think they just tired of the scenery. Once Jessy had gone by there wasn't anything else they cared to look at.

In the front hall on the way to the lunch room a guy was standing with his girlfriend and turned to watch Jessy go by. The girl stopped talking to him, waited, and then said, 'Honestly, you can be such a pig sometimes.'

I hid a laugh at that.

Right before the lunch room doors there were two guys coming the other way. 'Well hello, precious,' one of them said to her.

She blushed (she told me later) and just smiled a little, to be polite. The other one turned and said, 'Well don't be scared, honey.'

She was past them to the doors. The first looked back at her and said, 'Mm, hm. Just as good from the back.' I was just about to where they were then and they turned back round and saw me there. 'Well, hello, precious,' the first one said.

I laughed. 'Good line,' I said. 'Used that lately?'

The second one laughed out loud. I was past them and went into the lunch room. A guy near the end of the queue turned round and stared at Jessy as she approached, looking her up and down as though she were a model or a horse to buy. She stopped, glanced over her shoulder, tossed her hair a little and started over to our usual table where her friends already were. The guy turned and watched her go. Jessy has a terrifically cute little bottom-- I have often said she is built like a ballerina or a gymnast and her muscles are toned from years of dance classes, working out and swimming. My bottom is good too for the same reason, but with Jessy, being as slender as she is, every curve of her body is more conspicuous. If a guy does not mind small-breasted girls she is absolutely the most gorgeous thing in the whole school.

I find that is often the case, which is probably why I am a little jealous of her. I have the opposite problem and because I dress so modestly, not choosing to show off what only God can claim responsibility for, I look like I am trying to hide myself. But Jessy cannot be accused of showing off at all for she has so little it would seem like a silly accusation to make. Instead she is blessed with sheer beauty, a pleasant happy face, indelible yet modest smile, brilliant blue eyes with long thick lashes, that hair-- oh, that hair! -- and a trim little middle a guy could just about close his hands round. What I presume is the real attraction is that she is petite, like that-- she is cute but also seems vulnerable, breakable, and-- dare I say it-- submissive. I don't know why but guys always seem to prefer a submissive, even stupid girl, someone they can quickly and easily dominate physically and then emotionally since, I guess they assume, it's the same thing. Strange as it seems to girls like me, many guys seem to believe that they are so irresistibly desirable that any 'sane' girl would do anything just to bask in their attention. We hear it all the time-- any time they assume a girl is too 'stuck-up' they will come at us with, 'I have what you need', as though we should be desperate for someone, anyone, to give us that experience. They don't realise that a girl doesn't always think like that-- in fact very few of us do. We want guys for emotional reasons, often social reasons, but even when we have them we rarely need the sex, at least not straight away. We get the guys of our own dreams and then become very careful, lest we break the bubble. We believe that if our guys love us, they will let us proceed on our own schedules. And that's another thing-- a woman's schedule is not subject to what a man wants. It comes from nature, or from God. Some girls are ready for sex at 14. Most-- in fact maybe 95 percent-- are not. Some of us are not ready for it at 18.

I'm not ready for it, and I happen to know for sure Jessy won't be before I am unless she happens to be married first (which is a distinct possibility). But these guys won't ever be sensitive enough to what a woman wants to be aware of that, or the reasons why. Sometimes I amuse myself with imagining what my sister would be like in the clutches of some awfully amorous guy and what he would do when he got her to what he thought was the point of no return. She would lash out in a fury that he would never forget. You just don't mess with Jessy-- and the LAST thing you want to do with her is to assume she wants what you want just because you want it. She is NOT submissive at all. In fact she is a lioness... and you just don't mess with one of those or it's the last thing you ever do.

Jessy stopped to sit at the usual table and right before they all saw me coming two more guys came by and stopped right behind her. I held my breath-- I could tell by the guys that this wouldn't be good. 'Hey,' one of them said to her, 'you're, um, Jessy, right?'

Josie and Rita looked up and saw me then. All our eyes went wide.

'Yes,' Jessy said to the boy then.

He was not bad-looking, actually almost cute, and would have been really appealing if not for the extremely baggy jeans and South Pole hooded sweatshirt. 'Yeah, well, um, you want to go out sometime then?'

Jessy got a little red, and then she saw me. I hesitated, suddenly looking round the room for anyone else to talk with so I didn't have to step past this and interrupt. 'Oh,' she said, 'well, um-- I mean-- What's your name, then?'

The guy told her, and then began some facile attempt at introducing himself, saying he was into ska, liked 'boarding' and wanted to go to New York 'where the real action is.' I realised she did not know anything else about this guy at all, and all he knew about her was her name. I do not know how he had got that information.

This unfortunate encounter was doomed to be just another instance of 'possession by attention' so I stepped in to bail her out. 'Hey,' I said, and stopped right beside her.

She turned at once as though she had just seen me. 'Hey,' she said. 'We're sitting here, then?'

'Sure.' I turned and pulled out the chair next to hers lest these two guys take up with her at the table as well.

Jessy turned to her new admirer and with the most gelatin-sweet smile you ever saw said, 'Well, I'm sorry, but I really should eat. Maybe we'll chat later.'

'Oh, yeah, right. I got you then.' And he turned to go.

His friend immediately slapped him on the back as though he had made the most admirable conquest. 'Gettin' into that!' he said.

'D*mn straight,' the first idiot said. 'I'll be getting deep into it.' And they were gone away then.

'Sheesh, child,' Josie teased her as we sat down. 'You really know how to pick them!'

I laughed. 'Well what could be said is that they really know how to pick Jessy.'

She looked at me. 'Did he say what I think I heard him say?'

The other girls laughed. '"Deep into it",' Rita repeated.

'Oh, can you wait?' Josie teased. We all laughed then.

Jessy went bright red. 'I really don't know him at all,' she said. 'He just came up to me, and--'

I rubbed her back. 'You did fine, love. Welcome to the wonderful world of rude guys.'

She was still blushing. For a moment she leaned over as though to lean on my shoulder. Then Josie suggested we all go up for something to eat.

I do worry about my little sister. I know I often go on about how gorgeous she is, as though I have some kind of weird attraction to her. Well, my attraction to her is that she is a kind of role model to me, she is beautiful and virtuous and clever and sweet, and she is my sister, so naturally I adore her. She is my closest relative and always will be. And I know she admires and respects and feels attracted to me in the same way. We are each other's soulmates. And I will always worry about her, how she is doing in school, in her job, and in her love life. And if I can protect her from harm and evil I will.

The idiot in the South Pole shirt is about the worst example of a guy I can imagine that would show interest in her. He is evil-- probably put up to it by peer pressure, not his genuine feelings. He sees Jessy as a potential conquest, a shot at having a nice blonde virgin all to himself. This is the kind of guy that makes me want to get out the bow and arrow and go hunting, like Diana, the goddess of chastity, to find this guy in the woods and put an arrow where it'd make him never be able to abuse another girl again.

The lesson is simple-- if you mess with my sister, you have me to deal with. Good hunting.


14 October 2009

The Gothic Virgin

Tuesday 13 October 2009

There is a girl called Sarah who sits next to me in one of my classes and who is what is commonly called a Goth. She wears all the black clothes and the ugly black bulky boots and keeps to herself a lot. Since I have got to know her a little I have never seen her with any boys in any kind of relationship that you could call a relationship. For that matter she seems to be such a loner that I do not see her with any girls either. As part of class activities I have had to meet her and to work with her on projects and have found she has very pretty eyes-- behind all that dark makeup-- and she has a pretty smile-- if she would do it more often. It makes me wonder why anyone would want to present herself the way that she does when a more flattering makeover and the right clothes would get her all the best attention anyone has a right to.

Anyway we have already progressed to where we say hello to each other in the corridors regularly. A few people whom I do not know well have asked me, 'You KNOW that girl?' When I say that of course I do they will say, 'Isn't she a little weird?'

I laugh at this, the way I laugh at anyone who judges my friends before knowing them as well as I do. The other day I answered someone, 'She's only unique, the same way we all are.'

The girl then said, 'But you're so straight and prep, and she's so....'

'What?' I asked with a smile.

'Weird.' And that wasn't meant as a good thing.

Monday afternoon I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something that I always like to do. Jessy was going to Josie's-- they have the same history class and are partners in the group project. Josie's mother picked them up at school and off they went. I was dangling my car keys from my fingers and watching them go when my friend Sarah happened to be walking by. I turned, just perceiving her out the corner of my eye, and she made a smile at me and said, 'Hi, Janine.'

She always says hi to me because I am one of the few people who say hi to her. 'Hi, Sarah,' I said. Then something occurred to me. 'Hey. Do you need a ride or something?'

She stopped. Two people right behind her had to dodge her. For a moment she just stood there staring at me, like she couldn't believe I'd asked that. She had on a little black miniskirt over black-and-white tights in a skulls-and-stripes pattern, a long-sleeved black jersey and over it a loose black tanktop decorated in an abstract design of silver and lime-green gel pen, about three chains of varying styles round her neck, black leather wristlets and those horrid high platform boots with buckles up the back of her leg. Her hair (today) was dyed partly turquoise-blue and the rest jet-black, pulled off to one side and left hanging ironed straight like a cartoon of a witch. And, of course, there was that makeup-- bright pink here, pale blue there, black here, there, everywhere, with her pretty lashes done wickedly thick and separate almost like little spikes coming out of her eyelids. By contrast I was only in my pale tan pumps and navy tights and a plain white sweatshirt pulled down low over a khaki skirt.

'I usually just walk,' she said to me.

I shrugged. 'I know,' I said. 'But I go right by you.' --meaning where she lives. I've seen her walking along the road. She lives down along one of the shore access roads where almost no one else from school goes. Why I have never thought to offer her a ride when we've been friendly in school for a month till now is anyone's guess. --or just a sin. 'I'm going to B-and-G's,' I said. 'I mean-- I could murder a Dr Pepper right now.'

She laughed. (When was the last time you saw a Goth girl laugh?) 'I probably could too, but I don't have any money--'

'I'm buying,' I said, and then turned from the kerb. 'Come on.'

She shrugged and then looked about herself, as though she were nervous about being seen going off anywhere with a natural-blonde priss.

In the Regal I put in the clutch to start the motor and she said, 'I didn't know you drive a stick.'

I shrugged. 'My dad insisted that I learn.'

'This is a cool car,' she said, looking round at it.

I suppose the Regal is very unlike her-- it's a light blue metallic with a white top and white leather seats and there's nothing even remotely Goth about it. I admit she looked really odd sitting where Jessy usually sits. But I always accept friends the way they want to be accepted. I believe that's a form of Christian love. 'It's technically my dad's,' I told her. 'He collects Buicks. This is the one he lets me use.'

She smiled. 'My dad won't let me have one,' she said.

'Well,' I teased her, as we started off, 'you've got those boots. He probably thinks you can walk home in those.'

She laughed. 'I....' But she stopped.



I laughed. 'No, tell me.'

'I've never met anyone like you.'

I shrugged. 'So? I've never met anyone like you. It doesn't mean we're not friends.'

'Yes,' she said, and smiled again, as though really proud of herself all of a sudden. 'It doesn't.'

I drove and she sat there, staring out the window most of the time and occasionally looking down at my leg. I don't think she'd ever seen a priss in a skirt drive a stick before. Actually I am pretty good at both-- being a priss in a skirt and driving a stick. At one light we pulled up next to some boys in a pickup truck and they, of course, looked down at us. I had my window open a little and they leaned out. 'Hey!' they yelled. 'You girls looking for a party?'

It was not even three o'clock! --what kind of party would that be? I ignored them as the light had gone green and we drove off. Beside me Sarah laughed. 'Not your type?'

I laughed too. 'Not yours?'

We both laughed hard then. Fortunately the guys in the red pickup truck turned left. After another minute Sarah asked me, 'You don't date much, do you?'

'No,' I said.

'Why not?'

I shrugged. 'I don't feel a need to be attached to someone who isn't really a part of my life. And anyway no one ever asks me.'

She made a sound like scoffing at me. 'I can't believe that,' she said. 'You're a....' And she would not finish.

'I'm a what?' I asked, pretending I would be offended.

'Nothing. Well-- what is the expression? You're... a regulation hottie.'

I laughed out loud. 'Oh, you are too funny!'

'What?' she asked, looking worried.

'Sarah... dear Sarah. I am NOT a "hottie".'

She shrugged. 'I would have assumed guys would think you are.'

'No. Guys don't like intellectual chicks. You of all people should know that.'

She shrugged again-- she does it a lot. 'Some guys do. I know guys who do.'

I nodded then. 'I guess you do. Anyway, as I said, I do not care to date.'

'Okay,' she said.

At the B&G we got out and went through the shop, choosing soft drinks for ourselves and stopping at the counter. Sarah started to open her black-and-grey canvas bag and I stopped her. 'No, love,' I said. 'On me.'

She got a little red-- if you could tell. 'Thank you,' she said softly.

In the car we opened the drinks before I started the motor again. 'You don't date either,' I observed.


'Why not?'

She shrugged again. 'I guess I would rather be friends,' she said. 'And anyway no one ever asks me.'

I lifted an eyebrow at her. 'That surprises me too.'


'I would think most guys would think you are hot.'

She made a face. 'Not around here. These guys are....'

I held up a finger. 'Don't be cruel,' I cautioned.

She smiled. 'All right. I was going to say "unenlightened".'

I nodded. 'Yes. There's that, true. But some are all right.'

'I suppose so.' She looked at me a moment. 'So what is this about this so-called girls' club?' she asked.

At last something I wanted to talk about with her! 'It's just a group of girls,' I said. 'We get together and plan things, and raise money for charity.'

She nodded. 'It sounds like one of those sororities in all those movies.'

'Like in "Greek"?'

'Yes. I don't really watch it, but--'

'No, neither do I, not any more.'

'So it's a club for all the pretty girls. The....' And she stopped.

'The prisses?' I smiled.

'Well... yes.'

'I don't look at "priss" like a bad thing, you know. In certain ways, it should be the very best thing. Well-- you know.'

She nodded. 'I know what you mean.'

We met eyes. 'Do you?'

She nodded and sipped her YooHoo. 'You're all the good girls.'

'We are, Sarah. I mean-- that is sort of the whole point.'

She turned and stared out the window. An older guy got out of a pickup truck, sort of stared at her as he went into the store, and then gave up on her. I imagine most men treat her like that... from appearances. 'I used to be a good girl,' she said, as though I were not there.

I smiled a little. 'You're not now?'

She shrugged. 'No.... Well-- I still am--' She got red. 'Parts of me are.'

'The important parts?'

She turned and looked at me. I could not be sure but her eyes seemed wet then. 'Yes. Those parts.'

I was suddenly moved to reach over and pat her hand. 'Well that's something that matters, then. So long as you keep yourself.'

She nodded and met my eyes again. 'That's what I keep telling myself.'

I smiled right at her then. 'You're not wrong,' I said softly to her.

'People don't believe that I am,' she said.

'I would have believed it, even if you didn't say.'

'I would have believed it about you too.'

I laughed. 'I should hope so!'

'Yes, but you-- you could have anyone. They must be ready to kill themselves over you. You know, which one--'

I was nodding. 'I know. But none of them will.'

She made a smile then. 'You know, you're really not how I expected you'd be. You seem... stronger.'

'I am, hun.'

She smiled more, right at me. I don't think any other girl has ever called her 'hun'. I call everyone 'hun'. Just then she caught sight of the little cross dangling from my mirror. 'So, you're Christian, huh?'

I nodded. 'Of course.'

'I used to be.... Now-- I'm not so sure.' She looked down. 'You'd probably say I'm going to hell then.'

'No Christian would say that,' I told her.

She looked at me again. She felt awkward, being with me, but she was also very brave. She doesn't shrink from the obvious-- she doesn't live in denial. This is why I respect her. 'Well... people have said it.'

'Your family?' She nodded. 'Other people?' She nodded again. 'Sarah, people do not judge. I mean-- they do, but they shouldn't. They must not. We're all here to love each other.'

She nodded again. Now she did blot her eye. 'I just wish....'


'Nothing. Really, nothing. Can we-- Can you just take me home?'

'Of course.' I started the motor and we headed out. I knew mostly her way home as I have seen her on the road. Almost to our turn she pointed and I turned down a narrow road, bordered with the wild tall grass that's all over along the oceanside, riddled with mosquitoes in summer and seething with cicadas and locusts on hot nights. Her house is a small white bungalow on a raised foundation with a three-car garage out back where her father repairs small engines as a hobby and sometimes as a job. A little black dog ran out to greet the car as I turned in.

'Sorry,' Sarah said, looking away for a moment. 'It's not much, but--'

'It's nice,' I said. Truly it looked like the many houses on Long Beach Island and in Lewes where I grew up.

'It isn't, but....' Then she turned to me. 'And sorry about before. I just....'


She stared at the cross on the mirror. 'Nothing. I shouldn't have--' She blotted an eye. 'You are....'

I waited and then she finished herself.

'You are a good friend,' she said.

I smiled at her. 'So are you. I'm sorry if you ever thought I wouldn't be.'

'No,' she said. 'I mean-- I did think you would be... just not....'

I frowned. I don't like to make her feel uncomfortable but sometimes she stops like that and I really think she should finish her thought. None of her thoughts are irrelevant. 'What?'

She met my eyes then. 'Just not to me,' she finished.

I smiled and took her hand in the car. 'But I would be,' I told her.

She nodded. 'I know. And thanks.'

We smiled at each other. 'See you tomorrow,' I said.

'Yes.' She squeezed my hand and got out.

I watched her stoop down and greet the little dog, pick him up and then turn him towards the car to wave his little arm at me. I laughed and waved back, like to a child. Her mother came to the door then and waved at me. I hooted the horn a little as I reversed out.

Sarah isn't weird at all. That's the tragic part-- that she thinks she is, and yet she is totally normal. I have not yet asked her about her reasons for doing the whole Goth fashion thing, but I learned something about her this afternoon-- that if not for the black clothes and bizarre eye makeup and hairstyles, and if not for those boots, she could be one of us. She could be any other member of the girls' club. Oh, I don't think I will 'convert' her or anything like that. But there is something just under her surface that's trying to claw its way out, and I think she wants to be free of something. It's said many Goths are just in hiding, and if no one comes looking for them they will stay under cover, burrow even deeper, and close themselves off to the world. I don't believe that's ever a good strategy, for Goths or for anyone. It could be said I hide from the world too-- I'm the priss, the 'good girl', with this facade of my father's money and reputation and the house and the shiny blue car and the beautiful sister and our nice clothes and English education and all that. But anyone can know that about me-- I don't even wait to be asked (such as with this blog!). I know some people are not so bold. They need to be asked, to be drawn out, to be welcomed into the world. And as part of that process they need to face why they have been in hiding. It's how the divisions are mended and the injuries are healed.

I will ask Sarah.