Thursday, March 11, 2010


When I was a kid, my maternal grandmother, "Kitty" Dowd, moved in with us after she was widowed. I liked her a lot and she liked me. She was easygoing, told good stories, smoked, and sometimes used bad language. After Mass on Sundays, she'd always check in with her bookie. She was great at aphorisms and remains the most quoted member of my family, even though she died over forty years ago.

For example, when anyone would complain about life's unfairness, she'd say, "There's no justice in this world. And good thing, too. Otherwise, we'd all be hung from the yardarm at dawn."

I do recall her looking at me one day after one of our conversations about I-don't-remember-what, and saying to me through wreaths of smoke, "Ah, but you're a queer duck."

True, Nana, truer than you knew. Or maybe you did.

I was watching a scifi program recently and the plot involved two couples. The guys are good looking guys and the women are, by any standard, very beautiful. But this queer duck realized, once again, that while the men have a vividness and three-dimensionality as physical beings --the cut of a jaw, the thickness of a shoulder, the timbre of a voice, the rhythm of a walk-- the women seem to me like talking surfaces. Shiny but without blood or fire.

And although the men are clearly entranced by them, it escapes me why that is so. One of the women is a beautiful but rather calmly masculine character, a military scientist. She at least is likeable, self-possessed and interesting. The other one was all ringlets of hair and too much smiling and blinking and a sibilant British accent and (to me) skinny white shoulders, etc. The power to attract is clearly there for the man. But not for this one. My radio does not get that station at all, one that almost all the men in history have been listening to obsessively.



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