As I was saying yesterday, we were seated at a table in Costamuchamoulah, The Frog Prince and I, looking at the previous customers’ detritus, when a waitress took an order at the adjacent table and walked straight past our poubelle de la table, without using her brain cells to think about efficiently clearing our empties on the journey back to the kitchen. Sacre bleu! Would Simone de Beauvoir have let this pass, or would she have whispered a smoke ring from her Gauloise and then blown a gasket? Would she have ordered pint-sized Sartre to take the debris over to the counter? The illogicality of the behaviour would undoubtedly have annoyed such a bluestocking. As an expression of mauvaise foi would she have placed the unwanted crockery on someone else’s table?
Sartre criticised waiters whose movements were too waiter-esque. Goodness knows what he would have had to say about those who neither stand, nor wait, to quote a poet-philosopher that I admire more than the Existentialist. Maybe members of staff are asserting their choice of not working at all. I wonder if Kate Moss worked harder when she waited on tables at The Colony?
So there we sat while my companion discussed the relative merits of the solitary fading beauties in the café. The éclat was when I realised that I had a rapport with the authoress of The Woman Destroyed. I realised that I was not a Woman in Love whose identity was submerged by a male object; neither was I a Narcissist who, according to de Beauvoir, would construe myself as a desirable object. Obviously, I am The Mystic, who invests my freedom in an Absolute.
All too aware of the processes of growing older, my interests are more focussed on The Sorbonne than the sensuality of a sexually inviting sorbet.
The preface to Simone’s novel had proclaimed that she would deal with the growing indifference experienced by the older woman. With critical detachment, she would write a remarkably frank portrait, wreaking revenge on the female predator. All her female characters voice the betrayals they have suffered from their husbands and children.
As Flaubert said:
The monologue is her form of revenge.
Mayhap I will take on her mantle.
She told us what it was like to lose one’s shadow, one’s identity and mourned the loss of that
straightforward, genuine authentic woman, without mean-mindedness, uncompromising, but at the same time understanding, indulgent, sensitive, deeply feeling, intensely aware of things and of people, passionately devoted to those she loved and creating happiness for them…
She went on:
I cannot see myself any more. And what do others see? Maybe something hideous?
Is this angst?
I know how she felt. Why is the Frenchman not paying attention to me? Am I now the safe, maternal escort? I must check this with Brassie and Clammie, with the caution that when Simone asked Lucienne how she would have described her, she received the reply: idealistic.
Then Lucienne asked her: How do you see yourself?
As a marshland. Everything is buried in the mud.
Do you know what? I think I will not measure myself by others’ estimations. The door will open once again and I will have that mince pie if I want it. Brassie will just remind me that it is all about Higher Maintenance and not the Higher Criticism and Clammie will instruct me: Do not go gently into that good night. My words will be of forked lightning and I will never trust in the fairy-tale transformation of the ordinary and the frog who turns into a Prince. I will embrace the solid, faithful Heinrichs- the employes of the enchanted princes, who have served their more flamboyant masters for aeons, but who give you what you see in the most straightforward way. Or then again; I may not! At any rate I will throw an imaginary die and abide by my Existential choice : eat the mince pie now/ eat two mince pies later? Mince pies or men? Mince pies!