The Olden Days

When our view expands and we drop into silence, aghast, for more or less long periods

For instance, I like men, some men—and men like me, always have. Which has sometimes been a pity, but they’re just not where my deep, deep emotions lie; maybe if my dad hadn’t been such a shammer, I’d have turned out a different way. Shammer: noun. His lies lies lies were his scam, and his aims finally small-time—or mid-time, his head kept comfortably above water thanks to a long-term pension plan.

Don’t ask.

When we’re tied to a task for fear of anxiety otherwise

At Christmas my sister gave me a daily desk calendar from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Today’s artwork image comes from a painting by Edward Hopper called Tables for Ladies. The year is 1930, early in the Great Depression; there’s a waitress keeping busy in the window, a manageress behind a wooden cash register, a sign to welcome single women who can pay. A woman such as I, for now and mostly ever, find myself being.

Me: 90 years ago. I had an income from my family until the Crash last year; I’ve got a liberal arts degree, have travelled widely, and customarily lived in hotels. Now I’ve drawn on connections to get some office work, and am living in a rented room someplace where board is included; the fare, like the work, is bland and repetitive. Still I have to budget very carefully and can’t spare the cost of an extra meal this week—but this restaurant looks solid, respectable, and I’ll keep it in mind.

When following through fails to alleviate our sense of shirking

My father’s mother, in 1930, would have been two, three years away from having him, and a husband gone off somewhere. Just as my parents would in the post-WWII years, she worked for the U.S. government; office jobs are in my blood. Like my mother’s mother, she died young, so I never knew them. Of the pair, considering their different circumstances, my father’s mother would have been the one to see the blackboard sign, step in, and dine alone at a table for ladies—though she was a gregarious person and more likely to have brought a friend along. Even nowadays, even without a pandemic, not every woman would be willing sit at a table alone in an actual restaurant; some places, agreed, aren’t so welcoming but they’ve been few, in my experience.

Of course it always helps to be a lady in public. That’s just fact.

When the bottom drops out of our past and we recognize our era

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