Strong as Gay

      John Stillman, AKA JAck wrangler – “The Marlboro man”

I was talking with a good friend this morning.  We were lamenting on the fact that we were both sort of married to the Marlboro Man, well different versions of, not the same guy, lest you be confused.

You know.  The Marlboro Man!  Rugged.  Strong.  Masculine.  Not bad to look at.  Works hard.  With their calloused hands no less, which always have grease lined-nails and jagged edges.   Yes, they are the quintessential man’s man who know the definition of HARD WORK and have an inexhaustible supply of energy to draw from in order to work– usually ten or twelve hours (on a slow day).

Maybe you know a Marlboro Man.  He probably smokes.  And cusses when he gets mad.   They leave the seat up just for you, ladies.  They like steak and potatoes and they despise casseroles and anything that comes from a recipe.  They like a nice cold one after work.  They like Monday night football and they don’t do chick flicks—ever!  They don’t see dust and above all they never ever cry.

They’re Dodge Ram tough!  They fix transmissions and they fix broken sinks.  They have tools that are too heavy for you to carry.  But mending broken hearts?  That’s another matter.

Ah yes, these steel boned, iron-willed men are what we chose and what we are indeed grateful for.  But sometimes, if life were absolutely perfect, we wonder what it’d be like to at least borrow a man like this:

Strong as Gay

     Yes, I said it.  For just one night, I want a reprieve from reality.  I want to spend time with someone who is characteristically and  fastidiously neat and would be horrified to see urine on the side of the porcelain and would instantly reach for the nearest spray bottle of Clorox.

In this alternate universe we’d have our moment.  My dream date would go down something like this:

First, I’ll go out to dinner to an elegant restaurant with a name I can’t pronounce, attached to the arm of a man who has never publicly belched or farted and knows what a linen napkin is for.  I want to see that Polo pony emblazoned proudly on his shirt in all its embroidered glory.    Yes, this is the steed for me.

I want to smell some nice Givenchy or Hermes with fruity overtones waft across the candlelight as this beautiful man sits there and compliments profusely my long ago-forgotten beauty.  As he gazes into my forty-something eyes, he’ll reach for my hand and hold it softly in his, as I’m acutely aware of how his baby-bottom like soft skin touches mine.  He’ll look longingly into my eyes as he gently inquires how was my day and how am I doing?  Yes, how are you actually doing–he’ll insist on knowing.  Then he will even wait for and even listen to my response. 

Even if it involves tears.

Especially, if it involves tears.

    “Oh dear, dear, dear, dear,” he’ll say as he wipes my eyes.  “We can’t have this.  This absolutely won’t do; your mascara will run.”  At this point, this perfectly caring strong beautiful man will jump up and then kneel down beside me on my side of the table and wipe my tear before it even starts the slippery descent down my cheek.  He’ll lean over and kiss the crown of my head and my heart will just melt.  I will think for a moment what did I ever do to deserve such a sensitive man.

By the time the maître d arrives, the perfect Pinot Noir has already been ordered and the definite possibility of dessert is being discussed.  No, make that relished.  We are laughing as we fork through our shrimp and avocado salad discussing dessert choices.   Next the topic of conversation will slowly shift to the time-treasured topic of:

Hopes and Dreams

     We’ll slowly savor each bite of our pan-seared salmon entrees with asparagus as we spend a good hour discussing the finer details of the above-mentioned topic.   Yes, I’ll try and get a word in edge-wise about what about you and your dreams, but this strong as gay man will have none of it.  We’re not here to discuss me he’ll say; tonight is all about you.  “But it’s not even my birthday,” I’ll insist.  “Shush, shush,” he’ll say, “as you were saying?”  He’ll beg for more details in his compassionate quest.

After dessert, we’ll sit facing one another in his new luxury Mercedes S class Sedan.  As I inhale the fresh-off-the-lot cleanliness of new leather, I’ll surreptitiously notice that not a solitary object exists in his car, save for the most recent copy of Architectural Digest and Traditional Home tucked neatly away in the backseat.  He’ll check his watch and remind me that we still have an hour before the movie starts.  He’ll ask me which movie I want to see more, the one with Sandra Bullock or the one with Hugh Grant.  He’ll tell me he is good either way.

We’ll continue talking about life and he’ll offer wisdom and real words of encouragement when I mention the things that are bothering me.  He’ll lean over and say, “Is it okay if I just hold you?”    This will make me cry and I’ll say, “Of course!”  Then I’ll start crying in that slobbery kind of way reserved only for deaths of loved ones and true break-downs, and he’ll just keep holding me and have a hanky close by on ready reserve just waiting to wipe away my tears.  In between sobs and slobs, he’ll just say, “There, there, it’s gonna be okay.”  And he’ll just lightly kiss the side of my face once or twice but mostly he’ll just hold me.

I will calm down and feel strangely comforted.  I may even feel like this is LOVE.   I’m relieved because I know I don’t owe him anything later for this abundance of kindness and caring.

As the evening winds down, we’ll finally go and see our movie.  We’ll laugh and cry together as we stuff our already full bellies with popcorn, soda, and chocolate.  Yes, we’ll have lots of chocolate.   He’ll probably reach over for my hand just to hold it during the tear-jerker scenes.

Finally, he will take me home.  He’ll look into my eyes one last time and say, “Thank you darling for tonight. It has been such a lovely evening.  You mean the world to me!  Never change, okay?”

We’ll lightly peck one another’s lips as I savor one last time the smells of his car, of him, of a reality that isn’t mine, never was, and never will be.

He will drop me back off at the house of the Marlboro Man.  The house where I live.  The house where there is both duty and love.  Heartache and heart full.  But every now and then, I will pine for the man who comfortably wears pink, has a small stud earring and smells really good, and a heart that goes so deep I think I’d like to drown there for just a little while sometimes.

Yes, we suburban wives of Marlboro need just such a strong man sometimes or at least the dream of one.  Even if it goes up in a puff of smoke.

Post Script:  John Stillman who played Jack Wrangler, aka The Marlboro Man, first worked as a model, than became well-known for his rugged good looks as The Marlboro Man.  He then went on to become a porn star and died from emphysema at age 62 in April 2009.

It’s All Good

Wow, has it ever been a week!  It started on Monday!  I had just gotten my weekly manicure and pedicure at Paradise Salon when I chipped my middle nail on my right hand as I fumbled for my Jag’s keys.

“Lord, have mercy!” I shouted to no one in hearing range.  I was already running late to meet Betsy for lunch.  She always chastises my organizational skills because I never get to lunch first.  How are we going to have enough time to plan EVERYTHING necessary for the Association’s Charity Ball now?  I can just hear her think this as I peel out of the parking lot.

Fine then.   I wouldn’t have even been late if I hadn’t spent the extra fifteen minutes this morning arguing with my husband. When I opened the dryer earlier that morning, a rogue blue sock had tumbled out in a sea of my silky whites.

“WHAT’S THIS?!?!?    Damn it, Charles!  If I told you once, I have told you a thousand times, DON’T MIX COLORS WITH WHITE!”  He just doesn’t get it.  He thinks apologies should just cover everything.  Well not this time, mister.  I want you to learn to listen to me!  Clearly he’s off his meds again.

Lunch was pretty much an exercise in futility as Betts shot down all my ideas for the ball, but giggled that annoying little 7th grade laugh of hers, as she showed me her designer’s plans for the ballroom that all her friends just raved about.

On Tuesday my daughter Crystal informed she got a B- in Honors Calculus.  Seriously?  After all that money we spent on tutoring last year?

“College is competitive Missy.  I don’t know what your problem is, but you need to pull yourself together.”

“Okay, Mom!  I get it.  I know!  Dad went to Brown, as did his father and his father.  I am doing my level best to march lock step in line with your plans for me, so I won’t be the first to break our family honored chain of tradition!”

   Crystal does that.  She has this way of being sarcastic when she knows she screwed up.  Deep down, she knows her father and I only want what’s truly best for her.

The rest of the week was exhausting.  I was dealt an impossible to do list:  Take our oldest son Will’s Tahoe to the shop for an oil change.  A second meeting finalizing the Charity Ball plans.   Take my mother in law to her weekly bridge club.   Deal with the frisky exterminator, what’s his problem?  Finish my Christmas shopping for all 6 of our siblings and their kids!   Unload all the groceries and then realize I forgot the freaking dental flossPeggy, our housekeeper of fifteen years gets sick the week of Thanksgiving!  Great!

Finally, on Friday I had to chaperone Jason and an entire class of second graders on a field trip to what else?  A water treatment plan where we all learned how raw sewage is recycled back into water.  I swear from this day forward, it’s Evian or nothing at all for me.   Then, wouldn’t you know it, when I was at the smelliest part of the water treatment facility, about a half mile from where I had parked, I tripped over a rock, and broke the heal on one of my brand new Jimmy Choos.  I had to finish the field trip by precariously balancing my weight on my good left leg and tip-toeing on the right.

I barely got home in time to watch Days of our Lives.

What’s this?   Right there smack in the middle of our wall screen, our dusty old box TV with rabbit ears from the attic was perched on a card table.

I called my husband at the hospital immediately!  “Page Dr. Clark stat,” I yelled at the very rude receptionist.   You’d think a busy metropolitan hospital could page a neurosurgeon in under twenty minutes.  What if someone had an actual emergency?

    Twenty minutes later, Charles informs me the overhead projector is broken so he took it to be repaired this morning.  “So I set up our old TV in the living room, because I know that’s where you like to sip your coffee as you watch your Days.”

    “Thank you,” I mumbled.  Bless his heart, he really does try sometimes.   I collapsed in a heap on the sofa.  I couldn’t help it.  I started crying.

Suddenly a memory crept up towards the surface of my consciousness.  When I was a little girl, probably no more than seven, I can remember I once fell off my Princess Daisy bike and scraped my cheek a little bit.  My granny Pearl was the one who parted my hair back off my face, wiped the dirt and blood off with her clean little hanky, and kissed my tear-stained cheek.

    “There there, my baby girl.  It’s not so bad.  You’re gonna have days like this,” she softly whispered.

“Yeah, but I’m going to be in the Little Miss Charleston Pageant this weekend and now I’ll be the only one who is ugly.” 

She laughed and laughed.  That made me cry more.  “Child, you’re no more ugly than the sun is freezing.  You’ve got to relax sometimes.  Just go with the flow.    It’s all good!”

  It’s all good.  I try to remember that when I have a week like this one.

I do something next I haven’t done in a really long time.  I probably haven’t done this since my granny used to take me to Sunday school all those years ago all decked out in bobby sox and Buster Brown Mary Janes.  I get out my bible.  I close my eyes and open it up to any old random page.  I put my finger on the page.  I open it up.  Then I smile.

Well, golly gee, I can just hear my granny say, look at the encouragement the Good Lord left for you today:

For we know all things work to the good, for those that love Him and are called according to His purposes.  Romans 8:28

     It’s all good.  Indeed.

Three Days Later (Post a Week Challenge: A Picture is Worth 1000 Words)


How could I ever forget that day?  It was a crisp and cool fall Sunday.  We were all headed to Mass at St. Mary’s Sacred Heart.    It was a devastating time.  Our beloved, no make that my beloved 35th President John F. Kennedy Jr. had just been assassinated three days earlier by that madman Oswald in Dallas, TX.

Pfft!  Just like that, he was mowed down I tell you, in the prime of his life.  He never stood a chance.

In this picture, Sam was wearing his new wool blazer I had gotten for his 35th birthday bash at an after Labor Day sale from Bergdorf’s.  So was John Michael, who much to Sam’s credit allowed both me and my mother to call our own boy John John as well.  Our sweet John John looked quite dapper in his new pea coat and cap.  And of course, there was Mary Cat.   We called her Mary Cat because John John couldn’t say Mary Catherine when she was first born, and he just called her Mary Cat, so the name stuck.  Yes sweet Mary Cat with her black patent leather shoes and white bobby sox and her pink wool petticoat and bonnet.  Her right little white-gloved hand firmly grasped her daddy’s, while her left hand tightly clenched her little purse I had given her for birthday the previous May.  Her legs had to have been freezing and her little mouth was pursed as she bravely fought back tears because her routine-as-clockwork mother wasn’t with her.

See we were supposed to have our portrait made after Mass that day.  But everything fell to pieces.  Or maybe it was just me.

A half hour earlier, Sam had zipped up my black Givenchy dress and as he did so kissed the nape of my neck.  It’s only because I was wearing Channel.  He always gets frisky when I put my hair up like Audrey Hepburn and I put a dab of Channel behind my ears.  I had just powdered my nose.

But my eyes were swollen, swollen I tell you!  I looked positively dreadful.   How could I go to mass looking like this?

I felt Sam’s hand try to go up my dress.  I smacked him, smacked him hard, I swear I did.

He looked stunned.  It was the first time I’d ever rejected his advances.

How can you even think of that at a time like this?  Don’t you know our President has just been assassinated?  I’m still mourning.  Please!  Leave me be!”

Sam got the message.  He didn’t touch me again that morning.  He helped get the kids ready instead, a real first for him.   I tried to clasp my pearl necklace around my neck.  My thumbs were sore from having prayed the rosary I don’t know how many times the last three days.  Somehow I slipped up.  I don’t know what I did, but my string of pearls spilled out all over the bathroom linoleum.

When those damn pearls spilled out everywhere I think it scattered the remaining pieces of my sanity right along with it.   I started sobbing uncontrollably.

When I looked up Sam, whose strong butcher’s hands were freshly scrubbed clean just for church today, was standing in the doorway with our little John John and Mary Cat.  It was clear to me then, as it is now, they would never ever understand me.  I was fragile.  Too much so, I think.

“I can’t go,” I told them.

“Aw come on Janey!  You’ve got to pull yourself together.  America has to go on.”

“You just don’t understand.  You don’t get it do you!   Don’t you know those commie bastards are probably going to nuke us for sure now?  What about the rights for colored people?  Who’s going to take up the fight for them now?  What about women Sam?  What about me?”  I carried on for at least a half hour.

It was all too much.  My outburst had sucked up all his remaining thoughts and feelings.  I was crying hard now.  I needed to be held.  John John just stared shell shocked.   Mary Cat began to whimper.

The hug never came.  Sam scooped up the kids and shouted, “Come on, let’s go!”

We’ll wait for you at the curb for two minutes!  If you can’t pull yourself together, we’ll go without you,” Sam threatened.  How dare he?  He’d take the car and make me miss Mass for our President?  You know not.

     Then I did something totally spontaneous and uncharacteristic.  I grabbed Sam’s Tower Skipper camera with its monster flash.  I opened the window and snapped their picture as they waited for me. I could tell Mary Cat was still upset about my outburst.

And then I slammed the window shut.  I lit up a cigarette and kicked off my heels.  I plugged in the Kirby and started vacuuming our flat, starting with a hundred cultured pearls.  I’m not sure why.

All I know for sure was that by the time Richard Nixon became president, I was already a divorcee of two years.  I never got another pearl necklace again.  I cried every day starting that Sunday until Christmas of 1963.  John John and Mary Cat started prep school when I married my second husband Bernie, a lawyer who specialized in estate planning.

But sometimes when our current President gives his State of the Union address, I tear up a little.  I think of President Kennedy the ghost who still resides in my heart even though he’s been gone for more than half my life.  Mostly I think of Sam, sweet Sam.  He tried, but perhaps he butchered one heart too many.  He just never quite knew how to handle what he called my pervasive sadness. 

This was our last family photo.  And I wasn’t in it.   And I have to confess I’m glad Mr. Ruby shot Oswald.  For he ruined everything I ever truly loved!