Our Auntie Mames

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, May 23, 2017

It seems that many Chinese, mostly young, aspiring entrepreneurial women, worship Ivanka Trump as a goddess, as someone who embodies “Have it all feminism.”  Charmingly called Yi Wan Ka in Chinese I can understand, Ivanka’s lifestyle, independence, business acumen, beauty, and obvious influential power made her more than just admirable.  Her daughter also sings in Chinese.  You can’t trump that.

Yet I defer to more shockable, eccentric, bourgeois, nonconformist, way-out women like Rosalind Russell in the 1958 movie, Auntie Mame, or to my aunt Frenchy from New Orleans. I cheered her loucheness or slightly disreputable derring do and rakish manner even as my Texas Baptist mother warned me I would go straight to hell if I listened to her.  We probably need more bad examples like Frenchy today.  You just don’t find a lot of suitable Bohemian types anymore who throw up their hands and scream, “Live! Live! Live” like Rosalind and not “Buy! Buy! Buy!” like Ivanka or who wear boas around their necks and keep real live snakes under their beds like Frenchy.  Yet I suspect that, here in the foothills, we have several Auntie Mames and Captain Fantastics, some probably even more avant garde.  In fact, I know several that, like Donald Trump’s taxes, I will disclose later.    

Frenchy taught me all about romantic love, reading from decadent poets who talked about things almost as bad as in the Biblical Song of Solomon.  Did you know she once ransomed a young girl from a cat-house on Bourbon street, enlightening to me as a youngster since I already knew that men also had to pay to get out of a dog-house.  Frenchy told me I only needed to know a few words to understand women, especially Oui, and crucially, Je suis tellement desole mon amour, (I am so very sorry my love.)  To this day I still mispronounce them.  Yet they didn’t help very much when I excitedly repeated them to incredulous, bovine-eyed but pretty Texas girls from places like Luckenback and Cut ‘n Shoot.  I later found I couldn’t understand women using any known language.  Oui!

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Frenchy dressed in post-brothel chic and proudly slashed the brightest red lipstick across her face like the red letter “A,” sometimes even managing to get some on her lips.  When she died, Frenchy had on more bling and ropes of pearls than Cleopatra, all of it faux, I’m sure, but, as in life, on her it looked tres natural.  Her husband, my Uncle Bryant who looked a lot like a taller Clark Gable in Gone With the Wind, slipped a pint of Jack Daniels under her folded hands in the casket, thinking, I’m sure, that the passage to the next life might be a bit rough for her. 

Another I knew, Alice V, hiked the Appalachian Trail, sailed away on a chartered yacht to the South Pacific with a “a perfect specimen of a man,” probably swarthy at that, and, at 87, wore the slinkiest, sexiest red dress I’ve seen to a cocktail party.  She was mobbed.  Alice complained that all her husbands inconveniently died, one in a train wreck on her honeymoon.  I also met Eve, a prophetic name for a temptress, who gave the most wonderful eulogy to her lover, a naval aviator, after his death, all in front of his wife and family who tearfully embraced her afterward.  A shameless flirt, Eve received a letter of reprimand from the ladies social committee at the retirement community where she lived.  She framed it. 

Yet here in the Carolina foothills, we’ve got a lot of irresistible, charming, rousing Auntie Mames and Rhett Butler’s, some named Rosemary, Virginia, Pat, Mary’s from A to Z, Jim, Bill, Mark, and  . . . ?  Their lives make what we consider an adventure today seem pretty darned tame. We should treasure them all and even follow their bad examples more.             

– Milton Ready

Tryon, N.C.