Wednesday, December 22, 2010
So many ads are between people who are separated - actually most ads - which makes perfect sense as they're presumably people involved in illicit affairs. I mean, if they were on the up-and-up, they wouldn't have to communicate by newspaper, now would they? But there always seems to be this sense of huge separation - like millions of miles apart. When in reality I wouldn't be surprised if the separation was only between, like, Queens and Brooklyn (and in all fairness, I know lots of people in Brooklyn who would consider dating someone on the Upper West Side to be a long-distance relationship, and by "lots of people" I mean "myself," but that's another issue). Rather, this huge sense of disconnect, I think, is more about social distance, or enforced distance, rather than physical.
It does become more clear when you know that the following ads are all from the same day:
London. - Sister, how is ma petite femme? Tell her she is the noblest woman in the world. Don't fail, and address letter to my Post office box, New York. I will see you surely Tuesday, at 9, without fail.Oooh, so many stories come to mind with these! Okay, first first. I think that the advertiser in the first one is in a relationship with "ma petite femme" but can't be with her at the moment for some reason. I know! He committed a crime. No! He's been falsely accused of a crime! He's on the run. Petite femme is his wife who is suffering the slings and arrows of nasty neighbors, but the advertiser's sister - who believes in his innocence - takes in his wife to protect her while she suffers, nobly, in silence. But anyway, he's arranged a rendezvous with his sister - who is clearly made of sterner mettle than the suffering wife - to, I don't know, get food or clothes or something for Tuesday at 9, which is why he contacted the sister rather than the wife. Maybe he's found proof that clears his name!
Anxious to see you, but thoroughly prostrated by weather; away Monday. With love, au revoir. Ridgway.
Where's my handkerchief? My darling is not forgotten. Sorry you feel so badly. Expecting each day to be with you is why I send no word. Spend all my time with you after August 1, perhaps earlier. No. Six.
Now the second ad, Ridgway is prostrated by...weather? Really, Ridgway, that's the best you can come up with? Weather? People get prostrated by things like grief, not weather. Now, I am sympathetic because it is mid-July when this ad was written, and I can't even begin to imagine how miserably hot New York City would have been in mid-July without things like air-conditioning, or even rotary fans, especially given the layers of clothes people had to wear. Maybe Ridgway only survives by staying in her shift (R's a woman, I've decided), lying on a couch and drinking cold milk. Or whatever they did to stay cool back then. Still, if you really love someone, you brave the heat, right? How far away could this other person be Also, why the au revoir? That has such a ring of finality to it. I dunno, I feel like Ridgway is just making excuses to get out of this relationship.
Finally, No. Six, I'm sorry but the sci-fi fan in me comes raging out when I see someone sign him/herself Number Six, but I think that connection has absolutely no merit here. What I actually think is going on is that No. Six is having an affair with this handkerchief person (code phrase of how they communicate) and is waiting for his wife and kids to go to their country house upstate in August before he can see his mistress. They all had country houses upstate. I've read Edith Wharton.
I love coming up with these scenarios. I wonder how often, if ever, I am right?
©2010 Pam Epstein