I parked my car at the circular, pine-lined driveway, with Van der Loo engraved in the blue Bahia marble in front of the mansion. I walked up the few marbled stairs to the walnut front door, where Jan stood in a houndstooth suit and a pair of Chanel pumps to match. She wore a strand of pearls and diamonds and Barbie-pink lipstick that set off her dark-blonde hair.
“Darling, you are so beautiful,” she said, fixing my collar and dusting my Polo crested blazer. “Okay, honey, please no profanity, sip slowly, and no beating or yelling at anyone if they insult you.”
I smiled. She needed a good old therapist to bring her to the land of the norm, which I was somewhat aware of. “Oh God, then why invite me? You know I can be a riot!”
Me a riot? Never. I was very mannerly. As a child I had an etiquette teacher and a mother who was like an old kidnapped queen. Maybe if she really was, I could return her to her odd land and free myself from her completely.
Jan led me through hand-painted hallways with polished marble floors, crystal chandeliers, and art, maybe by Picasso himself. We walked into a library, fit for the president and his afternoon teatime— with his madam of course, as a man without a madam is only a priest.
“Good afternoon, ladies, this is my dear best friend, Sophie Becks!” Jan introduced me.
“Hello, ladies,” I said. I then seated myself on a dark-blue Victorian chair, and Jan’s maid handed me an old, rustic, hand-painted, gold-dipped teacup filled with English tea leaves along with a saucer.
“Thank you,” I said to the maid.
Laid on fine rose china were petite French cakes along with fruit tarts and tea sandwiches. Looking around at the refinement and fanciest of ladies in suits and pearls, I thought, Dear God, what the heck have I gotten into? We were probably reading Oh Where Is My Daddy Now?
Then an older Botoxed beauty in her Chanel tweeds stood up and announced, to my shock, “We are reading Fifty Shades of Grey.”
“Holy crap,” I said, coughing. My profanity sounded absurd coming from this very formal library of a tea party room. I had thought we’d be reading about the Dalai Lama or something of that sort. But I’d heard about this book and its explicit sexual details, like “Darling, tie me to the bedpost, and give it to me like Julio Iglesias, except with your manners.” Good gracious.
“Yes, we are discussing Fifty,” said one of the ladies, holding up her Royal Albert teacup and saucer. “By the way, I’m Isabella.” Hello there, yes, that’s a tea party sort of discussion, I thought.
Jan looked as if she missed her red Pradas on a Sunday afternoon. Isabella wore this silk shantung pink blouse with a necktie and trousers to match. Her smile was like one of the angels painted on the ceiling in Jan’s library, except the angels actually smiled. Her face needed its own translator. Another lady was in her fifties, a bit proper, dressed her age, and seemed to be wearing all the pearls she had ever owned.
“Sophie, dear, do you care to deliver?” asked Isabella.
“Pardon, deliver what?” I asked. I wished I could have drunk some brandy out of the crystal bottle in the foyer.
“Deliver your thoughts on the book.”
I looked over to Jan, and she turned pink. She opened her eyes as if to say, “Don’t you do profanity.”
Oh great, I thought. “It’s quite simple,” I said. “Any woman who desires a touch in such a way that it defiles her is turned on by this book.”
“Oh my, that’s exciting,” said Isabella. “Go on, dear.”
“See, it’s our nature as women to want respect, but we also crave crossing sexual—”
“Oh lovely!” shouted Jan. “Please let her continue,” intervened the woman in pearls. Jan cleared her throat, wanting to move on to the next woman with boring thoughts and no experiences on the topic.
“Shall you, Becky, tell us your thoughts?” asked Jan.
“No, Jan, dear, do let Sophie finish.”
I looked over to Jan and smiled. I’d never read the book, but I’d heard the effect it had on women.
Like a storyteller, I said, “Housewives crave a mental sexual touch. As we all know, your husbands are to no avail because they’re never around. I mean for God’s sake, they are the Bentleys and Ferraris of your lives, but your sexual desires have been repressed. This is especially true for housewives married to Wall Street brokers, and you are all married to Wall Street men.”I then devoured my tea, pretending to have said too much.
“Oh my, Sophie, thank you for your enlightened speech, “said Jan.
“Go on,” one of the women said. “We have been married for ages, and yes, our husbands are not there ever. Why do you think I can’t smile? Sure, it’s Botox, but I am so ecstatically unhappy.”
I’m destined to be a home wrecker, I thought, but forgive me: I don’t believe in matrimony. “The bottom line, ladies, is simple,” I said. “Sex is very important for your well-being, but married men don’t do what they must. They value their accounts more than their wives.”
“Sophie, that’s what I’m talking about; it’s our lives,” said Roxy or Rosy or whatever her name was.
“Anyway, ladies, I must leave. I have some very important things to address, one being not marrying a Wall Street man ever and another being a very important meeting.” And I excused myself.
Jan chased me down the hallway. “Sophie, where are you going?”
“I have to leave. This not my thing and I’ve got an interview with a stockbroker.” “Darling, why a broker? You just slammed Wall Street men, no?”
“So I can live like every woman in that room. Sure, you’re all unhappy, but who cares? You look like a million dollars, so maybe dressing up to have afternoon tea with middle-aged women who sleep with their husbands’ bankers is something to strive for.” I kissed her on both cheeks, and she hugged me so tightly. I wondered why she wasn’t upset with me for my honesty.