Monday 22 August 2016

Dorothy Parker is my Spirit Animal

It’s Dorothy Parker’s birthday.  She’d be 123 if she were still alive and I wish she was around to opine dryly on the election.  She did, in effect, comment on Trump when she said, “If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to”.  One could also apply, “Never throw mud. You may miss your mark, but you will have dirty hands”.  Little hands, in this case.

She’d put Maureen Dowd in her place right quick.  Dowd’s latest anti-Hillary diatribe was especially low as it couched itself disingenuously as taking aim at Trump; the shots at Clinton had an unsettling appearance of friendly fire.

Also just as relevant today, one on the Abrahamic religions that, through public policy, the education system, or terrorism (depending upon the religion and the day) keep trying to force the world back into the Dark Ages: “You can't teach an old dogma new tricks”. 

Parker was a rapier wit, which she distinguished from being a wise-ass thusly:  “There's a hell of a distance between wise-cracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wise-cracking is simply calisthenics with words.”  There was always truth in her words, but she wasn’t above the occasional wisecrack just for the joy of wordplay, e.g.: “You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think.”

Hermione was definitely channeling Parker when she snapped at Ron, "Just because you have the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn't mean we all have”.  Parker’s related lines were: “Their pooled emotions wouldn’t fill a teaspoon” and "Her emotions run the gamut from A to B".

I was introduced to the truth in Parker’s words as a child who was forced to get glasses in the fourth grade.  (Yes, despite being in a large public school, someone noticed I was blind as a fucking bat.)  By the time I entered high school, I was leery of the veracity of her line, “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses” so I have worn contact lenses since the age of 14.

Based on experience, I have since amended Parker’s line to “Men seldom make passes at girls with fat asses”.  (Meghan Trainor notwithstanding)

When I was a bit older, I learned the truth of her quip, “Brevity is the soul of lingerie”.

I write a lot of book reviews so these amuse me: "This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”  “This wasn't just plain terrible, this was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it.”

These remind me of my depressed, agoraphobic mother: “There was nothing separate about her days. Like drops on the window-pane, they ran together and trickled away.” 

If you looked for things to make you feel hurt and wretched and unnecessary, you were certain to find them, more easily each time, so easily, soon, that you did not even realize you had gone out searching.”

Not being a heavy drinker, I can’t relate to this one, but I appreciate its humour: "I like to have a martini, Two at the very most. After three I'm under the table, after four I'm under my host.”

Apropos of the above, I’ve never had enough drink to experience the truth of: “A hangover is the wrath of grapes.”

Parker was also an insomniac: “How do people go to sleep? I'm afraid I've lost the knack.”

This one may account for the fact that I have a purebred stallion but no savings account: “Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves.” 

She never really bought into the notion that Hollywood was a sea of Reds: “The only “ism” Hollywood believes in is plagiarism.”  But she was blacklisted and had an FBI file over 1,000 pages long.  She was born to a Jewish father and protestant mother, and raised on the UWS, attending a Catholic convent school.  She was about as popular there as I was at mine, although, unlike me, she managed to avoid getting the boot.  She was reportedly disciplined for referring to the Immaculate Conception as "spontaneous combustion," which, let's face it, sounds like something I would have said were I as clever.  Although she did not relate to the Jewish part of her heritage, she was active in combating anti-Semitism, and other civil rights causes.  She willed her estate to MLK and the NAACP.  It was, in fact, the NAACP that finally provided her with a headstone inscribed with her chosen epitaph: "Excuse my dust."

I’ve often said that I’ve never been bored for so much as a millisecond in my life.  So I have always appreciated: "The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

Having been hounded by collection agencies most of my adult life, I find myself uttering, “What fresh hell can this be?” every time the phone rings or I fetch the post.

I've used this one, too: “Of course I talk to myself. I like a good speaker, and I appreciate an intelligent audience.”

The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.”  This is inscribed on my bathroom mirror.

All women would do with taking this one to heart at a young age:

In youth, it was a way I had,
To do my best to please.
And change, with every passing lad
To suit his theories.

But now I know the things I know
And do the things I do,
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you.

There's one for when you're having a lovers’ quarrel: “Don't look at me in that tone of voice.”  I’ve used this so often I sometimes forget it isn’t mine.

She was, understandably, a wee bit cynical about love: “Take me or leave me; or, as is the usual order of things, both.”  “She was pleased to have him come and never sorry to see him go.”  After an abortion: “It serves me right for putting all my eggs in one bastard.” 

It is easy to empathise with her frustration at men always leaving her for prettier, less brainy women:

I had been fed, in my youth, a lot of old wives' tales about the way men would instantly forsake a beautiful woman to flock around a brilliant one. It is but fair to say that, after getting out in the world, I had never seen this happen."

"They hate you whenever you say anything you really think. You always have to keep playing little games. Oh, I thought we didn't have to; I thought this was so big I could say whatever I meant. I guess you can't, ever. I guess there isn't ever anything big enough for that.” 

"To keep something, you must take care of it. More, you must understand just what sort of care it requires. You must know the rules and abide by them. She could do that. She had been doing it all the months, in the writing of her letters to him. There had been rules to be learned in that matter, and the first of them was the hardest: never say to him what you want him to say to you. Never tell him how sadly you miss him, how it grows no better, how each day without him is sharper than the day before. Set down for him the gay happenings about you, bright little anecdotes, not invented, necessarily, but attractively embellished."

Lady, lady, never start
Conversation toward your heart;
Keep your pretty words serene;
Never murmur what you mean.
Show yourself, by word and look,
Swift and shallow as a brook.
Be as cool and quick to go
As a drop of April snow;
Be as delicate and gay
As a cherry flower in May.

Lady, lady, never speak
Of the tears that burn your cheek-
She will never win him, whose
Words had shown she feared to lose.
Be you wise and never sad,
You will get your lovely lad.
Never serious be, nor true,
And your wish will come to you-
And if that makes you happy, kid,
You'll be the first it ever did.” 

Which makes this a fitting motto for her to have coined: “Living well is the best revenge.”  

But she was more optimistic about friends: “Constant use had not worn ragged the fabric of their friendship.”  

And this one is just perfect in every way: “Tell him I was too fucking busy-- or vice versa.” 

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