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In the Flesh: Personal Indulgences No. 11

The old French saying is all too true: After a certain age, a woman must choose between her face and her figure. The added flesh that diabolically accretes to one's middle with the passing years will keep the face attractively plumped out. Cut calories to preserve the figure and the face grows pinched and wrinkled. As with so many issues in life, you can't win, but you can choose. I chose the figure without hesitation, having a well proportioned willowy one, with the great legs I inherited from my mother. My face, on the other hand, is … [Read more...]

Perfume: Personal Indulgences No. 10

No elegance is possible without perfume. -- Gabrielle ("Coco") Chanel When I arrive at my friend Renée's house in Paris, she is knitting a small fleecy white garment. She embraces me, holds it up, and says, "It's for your grandchild-to-be." I'd written her that my first grand was on its way. "You will be a wonderful grandmother," she declares. Frankly, I see no reason why I shouldn't be. I adore children, always have. Playing and adventuring with them is one of my top three delights, and they respond to me in kind. "And your … [Read more...]

A Coffee Éclair: Personal Indulgences No. 9

I am in Paris with my husband. I have convinced him that he wants to accompany me to one of the city's legendary flea markets. It is way, way out on the edge of town, a lengthy pilgrimage on the Métro, past stops with names like La Fourche (the fork, as in a road, which it is), Montparnasse-Bienvenüe, Gaîté, Plaisance. Eventually we arrive. I shop; he watches. After nearly two hours of this, even I--the indefatigable seeker after the old and unusual--get tired. We exit and collapse onto the low, narrow concrete ledge in which the hefty … [Read more...]

Gerry’s: Personal Indulgences No. 8

The dress on my back, the cloth on my dining table--unique, beautiful, old, and absurdly cheap. "Where'dja get it?" the appreciative and envious exclaimed. Gerry's, of course. I came across Gerry and his goods plowing my way home through a street fair devoted, as these events are nowadays, to the peddling of tube socks, junky electronic gizmos, bras and bikinis ostensibly name-branded, off-brand sheets, discontinued makeup and food as likely to kill as to nourish you. It was high summer and the weather was stupefyingly hot and humid; the … [Read more...]

Unhooked: Personal Indulgences No. 7

I've always thought of myself as an addictive personality, but life is forever proving me wrong. Take alcohol, for instance. My father--himself only a social drinker, and not much of one at that--introduced me to an occasional dab on the tongue of very good scotch when I was a mere child, so that, as he put it in his raspy voice, I wouldn't make a fool of myself when I got older. The Scotch tasted foreign and, in the parlance of my tender years, yucky. At the same time it seemed one of the accoutrements of the adult world, a realm I aspired … [Read more...]

The Dress: Personal Indulgences No. 6

It happened in Copenhagen. Hans Christian Andersen tells us that magic and imagination flourish on Danish soil, and the tourism industry builds on that proposal at every turn. My own frequent visits to Wonderful Copenhagen and its environs--for work and play--make me suspect there's some truth in the idea. One Friday, many summers ago, the Danish friend with whom I was staying told me about an upcoming weekend fair of vintage items (one of my fatal passions) and offered to drive me out there--god knows where, to hell and gone--in her zippy … [Read more...]

Slaves to Books: Personal Indulgences No. 5

Bookwormish-ness runs in our family. Over the generations it has seized the soul of my mother, me, my daughter, and my daughter's elder daughter, to name just the female victims. For example, whenever I take the subway with my young granddaughters--which is often, and often from one end of Manhattan to the other--I read aloud to them. Nearby passengers listen, smiling. Occasionally one of them says, "I remember that book from when I was a child." There is nothing like a book. Nothing. People complain about standing in that endless line at … [Read more...]

Family & Friends: Personal Indulgences No. 4

When I was growing up, my mother pointed out to me that, among my aunts, uncles, and myriad cousins (along with any spouses and offspring that had accreted to them), the ones that I liked best invariably had the "worst" personalities, moral characters, and behavioral track records. At least according to the standards of our petit-bourgeois world. This was true, but not entirely true. My absolute all-time favorite family member, my mom's elder sister, Ann, was a saint--all self-effacing and genuine sweetness and tenderness. I adored her and … [Read more...]

The Ugly Baby Fan Club: Personal Indulgences No. 3

Have you considered how rare it is to encounter an ugly baby? Post-six months, that is. But apart from C-section arrivals, the newborn, still supine in its crib or pram, entirely exposed to the gaze of the curious, usually bears for at least several weeks the marks of its struggle out of the womb, a journey it makes provided with no experience to assure it that this, too, shall pass and no concept of future joy. The infant's physical battle scars--perhaps its psychic ones as well--disappear with time, and time, as well as interaction with … [Read more...]

Thread: Personal Indulgences No. 2

People ask where your passion for something started. As if a passion were an unreasonable thing to have and needed to be justified by a specific root cause. For me, the devotion to dance began when I was a child and saw a picture in Life magazine. It was a small black and white photograph of Diana Adams in arabesque, as I later learned to call it, in George Balanchine's compact version of the sublime "white" acts of Swan Lake. As far as I was concerned, the image was a bolt from Heaven. I brought the magazine into the kitchen where my … [Read more...]

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