Praise Sweet Baby Jesus’ birthday the holiday season is over. Let us rejoice and be glad. If I drink one more cocktail, eat one more sweet or attend one more party until the wee hours, my brain will leak out my ear in a slow drizzle alerting me, “Enough already bitch.”
I’d love to say I partied my ass off, but alas, she survives in all her robust glory. Santa did not deliver all the gifts. I, for one, did not receive a smaller ass, a book deal, a bazillion dollars or a villa in Tuscany. Asshat. Perhaps I should have sat in his lap promising things I have no intention of delivering like eating right, working hard and exercising.
Last night, a late holiday gift arrived. Downton Abbey returned. I don my pearls and flannel pj’s–it’s a little chilly at night here in the AZ–pour some tea with a little extra and decide that in the new year, I shall become the Dowager Countess. Without the money. And with a day job. And rent. And no servants. I do, however, have friends and family to boss about who are in need of quippy wisdom so there’s that. That, and pearls, will have to do.
What is a Dowager Countess you say? Obviously, dear, you are not an aficionado of the Abbey. Fix that at once. You will be the better for it. You will learn to speak properly, put your napkin in your lap and dress for dinner. And I will no longer feel the need to fan myself in your presence.
By definition a dowager countess, well you know what a countess is so what’s the “dowager” part? A dowager is a widow (check) who holds property or title derived from her dead husband (no check). In American English it means an elderly widow (semi-check depending on the day), especially one who is wealthy (no check) and behaves with dignity (check, dammit). In other words, she’s a kickass chick who knows her manners, can chastise a man and get away with it ‘cuz she’s old and everyone is a bit afraid of what she may say or do and she’s got the money to cut you off. Aside from the money part, she’s me. Thank God I’m in America. Otherwise I’d be downstairs with the kitchen maids just learning to use an electric blender. That part would be true.
The flip side of the American arrangement is we do not rally round widows making it everyone’s responsibility to care for them in mansions with servants until they die. Why the hell not? Because it’s America and we believe everyone has the ability to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, including those of us who spent a lifetime doing little more than playing tennis, flower arranging and calling the club for reservations.
Instead of being cared for by all, having them gather to hear pearls of wisdom, I make my own way. The Chickens live in constant fear of what may tumble from my mouth. And in the new year, little will change. The dowager part not being an option, my resolutions are a bit different from The Countess. Mine include: publish a book, get a project through Mogul Man–remember him? Perhaps I should have put out–things are moving slowly in LA; and get a new job.
I’m moving into a new condo–cute as a bug’s ear–and gearing up for life out from under the widow’s veil. There’s only so long one can stand, clothed in the darkness, before the brain snaps and the voice inside screams, “Enough, enough. I can no longer be the pitied widow.” After a time, you just get tired. Tired of living partly in the past. Tired of always looking backwards for your happiness. And tired of not having enough for yourself–not just money, but life.
Putting a life together at fifty is harder than putting a life together at twenty-two, degree in hand. At twenty-two, it’s expected that you don’t know which way is up and you have but a smidgen of experience. Somehow, out in the world, the 22-year-old experiences are more valuable. I think it’s the twitter skills and Excel. I hate Excel. Small boxes with numbers make my head spin. Older women get stuck in a middle place. We are over qualified for this job but not experienced enough for that one. There is career shaming for women who spent time off the rails at home. There is a bigger price to pay for perfecting your tennis game than cute skirts and new rackets.
Then last night, the Dowager Countess said, “Just because you are an old widow, I see no reason to eat off a tray.” And the heavens opened and I said to myself, “Self, you will not eat off a tray. You will embrace life again.” And I poured another cocktail and realized, I may not have dowager money but I do have dowager attitude. Let’s review shall we? Shit the Dowager says? You bet. After all, she’s here to help.
In conversation with your nemesis: Nemesis says, “I take that as a compliment.” You, the Countess, say, “I must have said it wrong.” Think about it dolls. This could work in so many situations. Business meeting, social, volunteer group. Add it to your quiver.
“I don’t even know what that means, but it sounds almost as peculiar as you look.” To some, this is the only response. You know who you are.
“What is a weekend?” Emphasis on the two words separately–week end. If only the days blurred together from constant frivolity, non?
“No one wants to kiss a girl in black.” Whaaa?
“Don’t be defeatist dear. It’s very middle class.”
“I’m a woman Mary. I can be as contrary as I choose.” Amen.
And then Sorority Sister, who always knows my heart, points out that our dear countess also tells Mary, “And the price of great love is great misery when one of you dies.” The truth is an arrow through the heart.
So will the new year find me sad, in black, fearful and looking backward? No; except for the black part. With pearls and heels and perhaps a sleek turtleneck for the chill in the air. How else am I to disguise the size of my ass? One thing will remain. As always, I will be a bitch of the highest order. Just not of the dowager variety.