Not that this is really what the column is about, but 14 years ago, when I was a slip of a girl living in England, I fell (thud) in love and had my heart broken for the first time. Oh, it was awful; I was so seriously besotted, sure that my feelings were returned, and then it turned out that he was one of those guys who make girls fall for them just to see if they can do it. It was my first exposure to this virulent species of tick, and I've never totally recovered. In fact, we keep in touch, John and I. Saw each other recently.
But mainly I went to England to see the girls. Do you know that English girls are the greatest? Not only are they crisp and witty, with those rose-petal complexions, and all completely mad, but they are definite about things. No shilly-shallying, no ambivalence; these girls give the most complicated of human situations names.
"Well, did he have the boy disease?" Felicity (brunette, stunning) demanded when I related my travails with a certain guy. We were eating spaghetti carbonara in the magnificently cluttered kitchen of Louisa's house in Bayswater, the kind of place where you go through the entrance hall and suddenly think, Wait a minute; wasn't that a Cézanne I just walked by? Anyway, the boy disease?
"You know," said Felicity, "when everything's just great and you're having a wonderful time and then he suddenly becomes very weird and disappears. It's epidemic nowadays. I believe it was first isolated by Natalia Schiffrin, who noticed that if her friends were looking starry-eyed and walking on air one week, they were bound to be hollow-eyed, pale and listless the next. Apparently, boys are being disappointing in droves these days."
"But why?" I wondered.
"No one knows," Louisa (blonde, gorgeous) said. "Perhaps it has something to do with Chernobyl. Now, do we all want chocolate and cream? Or shall we just drink another bottle of wine?"
The next day, I called John, my nemesis. "Delightful that you're here," he said. "Unfortunately, tonight I'm going to the Hurlingham Club, tomorrow I'm off to Regent's Park and on Thursday it's the proms. Lunch, I'm afraid."
"Fuck you!" I cried. "You, the one who broke my heart, can't stop being posh for a minute to see me?" No, I didn't, really. "Lunch will be lovely," I said.
"Fuck him," I said to the girls. "I'm not going."
"Go and be horrible to him, which will make him fall madly in love," Felicity said.
"Felicity is such a man," Sue (Ursula Andress look-alike) giggled.
"No, she's not; she's a woman," I said, noticing her breasts.
"She's right. I am a man," said Felicity. "But you don't know Will Wenham's famous theory?" she asked me.
"It's perfectly simple," said Louisa. "All women are girls, women or men. And all men are men, boys or hairdressers. Stop looking like a dead halibut."
"You've lost me," I said. "Give examples."
"Sigourney Weaver is a man. Jane Fonda is a man. Diane Keaton is a girl," said Louisa. "Jessica Lange is a woman. Mel Gibson is a boy. Clint Eastwood is a man. Cary Grant was a hairdresser."
"How dare you!" I said.
"No, it's perfectly OK. There's nothing wrong with being a hairdresser, and it has nothing to do with sexual orientation," said Felicity. "Very good people are hairdressers. Louisa's father is a hairdresser, and he's a great man."
"My father is not a hairdresser!" said Louisa, shocked. "My father is God."
"Of course he is," said Felicity, "but he's still a hairdresser. He knows about color and clothes and cares if his hair's a fright."
"Perhaps he's a creature," said Sue.
Creatures, it seems, defy description completely and are the best of all.
"He's a hairdresser," said Felicity, "and thank God he is. Most men are boys. Men who are men are probably the best but almost impossible to find."
"Whereas I, though female, am definitely a man," said Louisa, shifting her gorgeous legs coquettishly. "I even have the boy disease; that's how much of a man I am. I get madly interested in someone, pursue him to the ends of the earth, and the moment he shows some sort of interest, I think, Hang on; I'm not sure I really like the way you wear your pinstriped shirts all buttoned up, and the way you breathe gets on my nerves. And I leave him; I can't help it."
"You're a bunch of loonies," I declared.
"We're not; it's an exact science," Sue said. "We've studied it for years. We even know that girls tend to have women for daughters."
"What am I?" I asked.
"You're a woman."
"Well, it's true, my mother was a girl."
"You see, then," said Louisa, "the more you study this, the more your life will fall into place."
It did. I went to lunch. John recently turned 40. His temples are graying. He told me about his love life. "I'm involved with an architect. She was married in May 1986. In June 1986, I kissed her in a garden in Clapham. In January 1987, she left her husband."
"And now, of course, you don't want her anymore."
"Well, it is a bit of a problem." He creased his face into seriousness but couldn't hide the gleam in his eye, and I felt chilled. But then the light dawned. You're a boy, I thought to myself. I can see you in the sandbox, red face, poncy little sailor suit and lollipop, only wanting the other children's toys, taking them away and then losing interest.
On the bus going home, the conductor was tidying his receipts fussily; he was such a hairdresser. So was the waiter at the Indian restaurant who kept realigning the glasses.
The day before I was to leave, a fellow phoned and offered me a trip to St.-Moritz, where I would stay and be pampered in the best hotel; he would take care of everything.
A man, I thought, terrified.