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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Polly 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comWhile I was home for Thanksgiving I asked my grandmother for an update on her best friend Polly, truly one of the most elegant and preternaturally poised women I have ever met. Polly was always immaculately dressed in the height of fashion, even while vacuuming. Once at one of Polly’s famous dinner parties my mother wandered into the kitchen to see Polly in an evening gown and full heels laughing and flambéing some complicated dessert for 12 people, not a bead of sweat marring her perfect makeup.

Polly could also hold her liquor like no one else I have ever met.

When she was in her twenties, a cousin stayed up all night with Polly, then in her fifties, drinking cocktails. Although my cousin considered herself no lightweight, being of hardy Scott ancestry and all, she couldn’t even begin to keep up with Polly. The next morning, my cousin crept to the kitchen to get some coffee. Quivering with the worst hangover of her life, she heard a sing-songy, “Good Morning!” She looked up through her bloodshot eyes to see Polly descending the grand staircase, fresh as a rose, hair styled perfectly, ready to spend a full shopping day at Neiman’s.

My grandmother described a typical cocktail party with Polly. The two of them would outlast their husbands, killjoy sissies who would retire at 1:00 AM. My grandmother and Polly would continue to talk and drink and laugh well into the night, until at last one of them would regretfully leave for home. (The husbands knew to drive a separate car.)

Either my grandmother or Polly, whosever house it was, would say, “Why, it’s much too late! I must follow you home. You couldn’t possibly drive home by yourself.”

Once they arrived at their destination, one would invite the other in for a nightcap.

After a few more drinks and the other would leave for home, the other would exclaim, “Why, it’s much too late! I must follow you home. You couldn’t possibly drive home by yourself.”

And they would repeat the whole scenario, back and forth, until before they knew it was dawn.

I, who have had basically to renounce alcohol bitterly and unwillingly because of debilitating, blistering hangovers inquired, “Didn’t all of the alcohol and cigarettes ever make you feel bad the next day? Even just a little bit?”

My grandmother tossed her head and replied, “Nevah!”

Polly survived three husbands, all of whom apparently died from exhaustion trying to keep up with her. She met her latest husband in an upscale assisted living facility, where competition for men was fierce because the ratio of men to women in that demographic is about 1:8. Leave it to Polly to land the one eligible man in the entire facility.

Polly remained very involved with her college sorority, and as an adult traveled to chapter houses around the states, advising the girls on issues of etiquette and fashionable domesticity. One remarkable fact I never knew was that her sorority created fund as well as a sort of an underground railroad for women in abusive marriages, including several sorority sisters who had married Saudi men who they met while the men were abroad studying in the United States. These men were seemingly Westernized, charming and exotic with large allowances, but once they were married and back in Saudi Arabia it was Not Without my Daughter. Their plight was ignored by the State Department and these women had nowhere else to turn. Their sorority sisters would give money and pull strings and even hire mercenaries to rescue these women back to the United States. Now that’s sisterhood!

Pitiful stories of mistreatment as well as pleas for the US Government to intervene in child custody issues between US women and Saudi nationals had become such a problem that the State Department in 2003 issued an advisory brochure detailing what is in store for American women who marry Saudi nationals. The State Department posted the brochure on its website, but removed it shortly for revision due to pressure from the American Muslim Council, who protested that it was prejudiced and derogatory. The new revision has yet to be posted.

Curiously, the Saudis themselves had no problem with the brochure.

Another interesting fact about Polly was that one of her great-uncles was taken by the Comanches from the family's West Texas ranch when he was boy. His family wasn't able to ransom him for a few years, and when he finally was returned it was against his will. He had gone fully native by then and for years kept trying to run away back to the Comanches. When he wasn't trying to escape, he would spend the rest of his time out on the porch staring wistfully into the horizon. He never readjusted to life among the whites, and eventually drank himself to death.

Comments:
Nice story. I had a few encounters and drinks with Polly when I was a youngster.

Being one of the "alienated youth" of the era, I avoided any contact with adults like the plague. Polly seemingly penetrated my barrier effortlessly.
 
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