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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

No Blue Hair, Please

By Janet Thompson

After my second divorce, as a newbie I brazenly answered an irresistible ad in a weekly, alternative Denver newspaper noted for its unusually clever singles ads.

John’s was so imaginative I was immediately hooked. He described himself as a distinguished, mature man, a writer who liked movies and intelligent conversation.

His surprising criteria for a prospective lady friend were a mature woman who enjoyed the same, had no entanglements and he specified, “no blue hair, please” (the hook for me). He requested a handwritten response.

My handwritten response on high-rag-count, discreetly proper, buff notepaper stated, “I, too, enjoy movies; delight in intelligent conversation and my previous entanglements are now disentangled.”

Specifying the “hook,” I also declared, “Miss Clairol and I are dear friends.”

Phoning, he invited me for conversation, wine and cheese. (In the late 80s in Denver, it was unlikely to meet undesirables through a singles ad).

John appeared comfortably relaxed, of average height and indeed was distinguished-looking. I observed a shock of snow-white hair, a silk cravat at the throat of an open-collar, preppy-patterned shirt under an academic style blazer above khaki trousers and boat shoes.

With his white mustache, deep vertical forehead wrinkles and lively blue eyes under bushy eyebrows, I saw a combination of Hollywood bon vivant and eastern, financially secure, leisure-loving academic. He was at least 15 to 20 years older than I, maybe the age of my parents. I would describe John as the most “worldly-wise" person I've ever known.

We visited senior matinees and art house movies twice a week. At either home, we enjoyed wine, cheese, avocados and conversation. He loved avocados, a certain brand of jug wine, water crackers and triple crème brie.

John said I should first critique the movies we had seen. I would and only after I did, would he tell me his impressions. It was daunting for me to disclose mine. (My reviews were usually lame). I now watch movies more knowledgeably than before meeting him.

I finally learned from John the correct use of “lie” and “lay.” His being a writer, it vexed him sorely when I would misuse them. Every time I want to use either word, I stop and think first, reminded of John in the doing.

Many times after our sojourns, he wrote and mailed me a little note. One I saved described me as having been “a remarkable companion, intellectual foil, conversational nourishment provider and hand holder in the dark recesses of Denver’s cinema slums.”

John told many engrossing tales about his Hollywood screen-writing life between the 30s to 50s. He authored during the McCarthy hearings but disclosed little about that sorry period. He wrote poems, stories and plays all his life. I was captivated by some he shared.

A native easterner, he subscribed to the New Yorker magazine so I gleefully thumbed through the most interesting articles and fun cartoons.

We watched TV in horror as the Tiananmen Square massacre unfolded live. We discussed movies as varied as Sex, Lies and Videotape, White Men Can't Jump, Pretty Woman and When Harry Met Sally. He knew Nora Ephron well and the movie became a constant theme between us: whether men and women could be "just friends" or would eventually have to become lovers.

I felt tongue-tied at comments like, “until they have been lovers, a man and a woman are strangers.” This, and then he would expand on it by penning a note to me. Some of his greetings were: “Dear Person.” If he sent the note the next day after we saw each other, it might be “P.S.” A paragraph might end with, “Seque to - ” followed by “But will we?” Or it might be prefaced with “(Stage direction: He takes a deep breath – Then -)”

Having just disentangled myself from the entanglement I had assured him of, I wanted to be just friends but glanularly, he needed a lover.

John continued putting ads in the singles columns. One reply finally produced a JoAnn and he started seeing her. In writing, I became “The Other Woman” or “Dearest Other.”

January, 2003, in answer to my Christmas card, JoAnn sent me a note with no return address saying John had died around Thanksgiving. I never knew her last name so I couldn't share my innocent memories with her, making me feel empty.

* * *

He always made this college drop-out feel his intellectual equal.

In heaven, is he still collecting singles ad replies? If not suitable compositionally, do they still go into his round file?


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

A remarkable story, well told. Does it ever occur to you that this tale might make an intriguing movie? It did to me.

I was on pins and needles until the end. My hope was that you and John were living a happy life together -- writing, critiquing old movies, and enjoying life. But, the story was not mine to tell. It's your story and you are blessed to have these fond memories.

Friends like that are an absolute treasure. You are richer for that time you spent together. Thanks for sharing with us.

Yes, thank your for your tenderly expressed story. That you wrote it down at all is already a wonderful thing. Like Yvonne, I hoped it would end with you and John together. But you tied it up in just the right way.

I too, have had man friends who enriched my life - made me a better, broader person. Men who became a memory of something like your John.
Good writing!

What a great vivid story. And I love your attitude. I was taking in every word.

Only people lie and only chickens lay...

Where is everyone today? I expected to see a lot of chatter here, due to the excellence of your writing. I don't get it.

I envy you your memories.

Loved this post - so well written but also brought back memories of "dating again" in middle age - 'will we - won't we' especially if one had only had one lover in life - it was a scary but exciting time and you captured it beautifully Janet, well done.

Janet....Since I am new to this, I have been backing up to read stories from as far as early 2013. I thought your 02-06-14 story "Quarantine" was so well written and extremely interesting. I will watch for more stories from you!

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