Among the artifacts in my past life there are several entities I seldom examine any more: music lessons and dancing school, tennis and golf instruction, a private university and a sorority, and a country club.
My memories of the country club are mingled with memories of my parents’ genuine enjoyment having dinner with my sister and me. We ordered freely off of menus with no printed prices as we spoke softly to the waiters who seemed to hover as they observed every nuance of our body language to anticipate what we might want. More water, another roll, extra butter, coffee?
The ladies’ room was chapel-like with its flowers and candles, and the muted light through the stained glass window. Towels were rolled in what could have substituted for offering baskets, and the little individual soaps were used once, and discarded. The simple truth of body functions being attended to in that setting was alluded to only by the presence of tampons in an opaque box that could have held chocolates, and the row of toilet closets that were each enclosed by a carved door with a brass handle.
It was all very polite, and filled with small ceremonies and protocols that we absorbed more than were taught.
I remember all these things because I am relieved that my life — although messy and unconventional at times — has taken me far past the cloistered walls of “the club,” and its rhythms. I married into that demographic once decades ago, and it was a mistake that I did not repeat.
Perhaps it was the early collapse of my reluctant hold on “the finer things in life” that set me free from inlaws who measured their lives in Waterford and Wallace Grande Baroque and summer afternoons spent poolside, courtside, and what ultimately could have been suicide. I haven’t attended a formal dance or tea in years, although I still remember the rubrics of receiving lines and tea tables. I no longer own a tennis racket or golf clubs, or a bathing suit that could be worn without apology in public.
Groucho Marx is credited with saying, ” I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.”
I realize that we once belonged to a club that would never accept me as a member today. And somehow I am encouraged by that.