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I Could Have Been a Baroness?

October 17, 2007

It made my father cringe that my mother sometimes verbalized her foolish fantasy, her outrageous wish for me to marry Baron Philippe de Rothschild; or someone of his ilk. She probably didn’t know that he was my father’s age and lived in a different country, so there was no way of meeting him. Nor would I want to; I was only 17. I doubt that this 60 something, blue-blooded man was standing on a beach in Calais, or Archechon, looking longingly out to sea toward Africa, waiting to meet moi, a gawky high school grad. Besides, I was dating an officer in the Merchant Navy who traveled between Cape Town and Southampton, England. (Those officers wore dazzling uniforms allowing the wearer to appear far more resplendent than they actually were.) So you see, I had miles to go in the “social climbing” department. My French wasn’t so hot either.

The Baron notion was a running joke between my mother and I, but suspect that deep down she was semi-serious about the possibility. She had to tell white lies to my father when he asked where I was going on one of my officer dates. As much as she turned her nose up at my exploits, she felt there was only one way to go after my, not very selective, foray into dating, and that was up. My father would have probably locked me in my room and thrown away the key to my chastity belt if he had known the truth. I never did learn what story she made up for him. My officer friend (although theoretically still a sailor) was not the kind that had a bad reputation. He was a nice guy; hand picked by me.

The Rothschild’s family name had been bandied about our house for years, as a result of my father being somewhat of an oenophile, but to my mother that family was one she would loved to have been part of (through at least one of her daughters). She was a snob.

Mother also referenced my sister; frequently. My sister who is older, smarter and oh, so gorgeous, and who had gone to a modeling school before entering college. As a result of her modeling training she worked as a photographic model for a while. For me mother jokingly suggested a Finishing School: schools that “finish off” young women, by endeavoring to add a little finesse, some social climbing charm to their obviously lacking, prior education and upbringing. Most of these schools (there are only a few) are in Switzerland and have “educated” ladies the likes of Camilla Parker Bowles and Princess Diana.

I was not ready to start college, so reluctantly settled on “The Modeling School.” The lady who ran it hadn’t a clue that my sister had a sister like me. She must have thought I would be sophisticated and elegant like you know who – she had no idea this horse crazed girl with unruly, curly hair, skinny legs and a personality that relished joking around more than it should – would come to upset her classes.

I did not look anything like a model – except for being skinny – nor did I feel like one. When we had to suck in our cheeks and sashay down the long hall towards a mirror that covered the wall (like a ballet studio), learning how to walk the walk, I couldn’t do it. I would get halfway, make some faces, be a goof ball and the class fell apart. I was hopeless. After the three month course I had gleaned the know-how and ability to get into a car like a lady. The secret to this is knowing how to place your behind strategically onto the seat, then swivel your legs around – using your butt as a fulcrum – until your legs (always kept together at the knees and ankles) are safely in the vehicle. At this point, the gentleman may close the door. The second thing I remember was how to buy the right kind of bra for one’s particular anatomy.

Then I was sent to typing school.

Copyright © 2007

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