We were seated at a table in Costamuchamoulah cafe, The Frog Prince
and I. We were 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 engaging her brain cells to think about
efficiently clearing our empties on her perambulation back to the
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 divine poet-philosopher whom I admire more
than the Existentialist. Maybe members of staff are asserting their choice
of not working at all. (I wonder if my new neighbour 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
focused on The Sorbonne than a sensually 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. Peut-etre, Hillary’s revenge
Simone’s character 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
Is this angst? Is it Hillary looking in the mirror?
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
friends, Brassie and Clammie, with the caution that when Simone
asked Lucienne how she would have described her, she received the
Then Lucienne asked her: How do you see yourself?
As a marshland. Everything is buried in the mud.
Eh bien, I might as well have the mini-mince pie, or the full-size
version. This frog companion is not going to turn into a prince,
though stranger things might happen in the next week in global politics,
though I doubt it. The voters are about to cast their dice. Alea iacta erit.
Eat the mince pies while you can. La Nausee might ensue. Next week
we will be divining entrails, but it will be too late to choose otherwise.
I suppose we always long retrospectively for the road not taken and that
is the human tragedy.