Friday, November 19, 2010

Une Petite Histoire














































Today's post has nothing to do with what I had planned, but after reading the comment following yesterday's piece on cocktail dresses (see below), it brought back long, not forgotten, but stowed-away memories. 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You say "For those who do not receive enough cocktail party invitations to merit one of these.. what are your thoughts about hosting a small/large cocktail party by yourself, without an escort? I mean, if one finds oneself at 55+ happily single, and way more often than

 not, excluded from many seasonal social functions because of the perceived awkwardness of attending sans beau. I suppose they assume that solo, I am unable to talk, laugh, and make an otherwise valued contribution to the gathering. What say you, Wise One?

November 18, 2010 8:59 PM


Normally, I don't like to get too personal in this space, mostly because my intention is to entertain you, not bore you with memories and experiences. But, it's the exceptions that make the rule, or something like that.


The question and comments from Anonymous (and reiterated by Carole) struck a chord that played in my head through the night and throughout the morning. This is a story about my mother.


She was a young widow, in her early 50s, when my father died suddenly. I was 10-years-old.

 (She was a femme d'un certain age when I was born.) She was tall, slim and beautiful, several times mistaken for Greta Garbo when she shopped or dined in Manhattan.


She never really recovered from losing the love of her life, but beyond that, she never understood the consequences of being a widow -- a woman without a partner. A threat, competition, a predator, all the characteristics she was incapable of being seemed to have mysteriously become part of her persona.


First the real estate agents started calling to see when she would be ready to sell our house. Then abruptly all the invitations to dinners and cocktail parties stopped. With the exception of two close friends, one a widow, the other with a husband who traveled most of the time, she was completely cut out of all social gatherings. 


She was deeply hurt to discover women, and couples, she thought were true friends, were not -- not in her current situation. 


To answer your question, Anonymous, that's exactly what my mother did. She was on her turf, the hostess, and she threw large and small cocktail parties. One of my favorite 

souvenirs is passing hors d'oeurves on silver trays at her parties.  She wore one of her great 

cocktail dresses or palazzo pants, a white shirt and jeweled Papagallo ballerinas and most important, she had a grand time. Sometimes she did cocktails and a buffet, but I can tell you, she knew how to put on a party. In those days, her friends were slugging back Martinis, Gimlets and Manhattans like there was no tomorrow. My mother liked Martinis. (I learned how to make them when I was eight.)

Little by little, she was invited to a few cocktail parties (maybe it was payback, but she didn't care) and the occasional sit-down dinner. 


One thing she learned from her experience as a widow was that if another woman's husband had intentions of straying, he didn't need an extra woman at table to push him into the act. Married men contacted her directly.


I had the same experience as a 30-year-old divorcee.


It's not my area of expertise to give advice, but what I shall offer here is the benefit of our combined experiences. Give parties, go to parties, talk your married women friends into dinners out with you (at the very least lunch), be open to meeting all sorts of new people (I don't mean to be banal, but sometimes we close down), and if some of you are married or with a partner, make sure you never, ever forget your girlfriends. One of my closest friends, a recent widow, whose husband was very sick for a very long time, told me she never neglected her friends and as a result they have not since neglected her.


A final note: My two best French friends, both married, do not feel it's necessary to have a boy/girl/boy/girl table. Often single women are invited and the men are charming with them and their wives are equally so.

















Since it is practically impossible to add art to my ramblings, let me suggest the value of owning a tuxedo. You can wear it at your own parties, other's parties, out to dinner and the jacket looks superb with a gray flannel or black pencil skirt and the pants with just about anything. A major investment with major dividends.(You might think twice about wearing it the way Ines de la Fressange has, above, without a little something beneath. That could be a way to make your girlfriends nervous.)

30 comments:

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

Great post and so very true. I spent a long time pretty much alone until I finally remarried my present husband 10 years later. Diane

MEG MITCHELL said...

This issue needs to be talked about a lot more. I had a single friend who was told that unless she brought a date to a dinner party, she wouldn't be invited. The hostess didn't want odd numbers at her table.
I love that you gave a great suggestion for single women to have their own soirees.
Great post. Meg

wendy said...

What a giving and brilliant idea for your Mum to reach out to others in that way-although they should have served her. After all, she was the one who had lost her husband and trying to raise young kids on her own. Sounds like a terrific person!!

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

What great advice!
I so agree that we not neglect our friends...and your mom sounds like an amazing hostess, you have honoured her with this post.

I like the personal flavour here....

Marsi said...

Good grief, the ways and means by which people can be dreadful to one another staggers me. Your mother is a goddess among women, Tish, and the acorn falls not far from the mighty oak.

Love,
M.

Pearl said...

I would love to meet your mother and congratulations to her for ignoring "etiquette" and fading into the woodwork like a Victorian doll. Ugh. I found when I turned 40 and single that several things happened: 1/ certain married couples stopped inviting me to dinner or parties, apparently because I was now too old, even though they were same as as I was; 2/ single women and gay couples (male and female) remained available friends... except for certain straight women with male partners--and it was the women who stopped being present, not the guys; 3/ no one knew single men they could introduce me to. Since that time I have gotten my own dates or simply told people I was coming alone. Sometimes I have invited a woman friend, too.

sharon said...

How cool Tish that you've been making martinis since the age of 8!! Love it. Good post, well spoken.
We invite single friends to our dinners, never had a problem with that.
Sharon

metscan said...

A great post Tish! Women, men with a handicap of some other form, can be dropped out from "the societies" too. Obviously your mother was a wealthy widow, as she had the money to throw off parties and wear expensive outfits. And she had her fine looks and was around the perfect age ( as a single woman ) to throw these parties.
The situation might have been totally different in different circumstances.

Belle de Ville said...

Obviously it doesn't surprise me to read about how any widow or divorcee becomes a persona non grata as soon as The Man is no longer part of the picture.

But I will never, ever, get over how I had the most active social life and then it was reduced to zilch after I was widowed.

I was too young to entertain as a single woman then (16 years ago) but I'm not now. I am very impressed by you mother's aplomb, Maybe I should follow her example and hostess a little soiree of my own...I have the palazzo pants and sparkly flats!

Jeanne-Aelia Desparmet-Hart said...

VERY familiar! You can also count out the friends who want to side with the ex at a time of divorce. Been there. Out of my 8 very best French friends, 6 are single- never married, divorced, widow- and all entertain all the time and never worry about the boy/girl balance. I have been to dinners where theere was one man only with 5 or 6 girls...Having said that what a FANTASTIC mother you have! "et telle mere telle fille". LOVE this post, bravo for daring to address the subject. Merci chere Letitia.

Rubiatonta said...

Wouldn't you think that by now we'd have evolved past the "Noah's Ark" mentality (two by two by two)? I went to a party recently, and I think I was the only singleton there. Not that I minded being invited, pas du tout, but it was a bit discomfiting to be the odd person out.

LPC said...

Absolutely. Throw a party. Throw a lot of parties. And the smoking is a great idea. I have a velvet 3/4 Jaeger jacket that's about 30 years old. I love it. Wear with black pants, white shirt, pearls, black hair bow, et voila.

Shelley said...

Wonderful story! Thanks.

elise said...

Dear one,

My cousin who is 41 just lost her husband. The post you have written is timely and I will send it to her. Thank you for stepping outside the box to address a difficult topic. It will help many people.I thank you that you've given of your heart most generously.
elise x

Gema said...

Wonderful post and also blog!
Is really true what you say.
www.lomasit.com

Spiral Style said...

Thanks for your thoughtful and thought provoking insights. I shall make more efforts to include singles when I entertain.

Beth Hazelton said...

Love it! Thank you for sharing your amazing mother with us...I love these ideas. I love the idea of hosting a cocktail party for friends and should make a point to do so for married, single, and widowed friends.

TK Kerouac said...

wonderful story, your mom was a gem. And heres to the bravery of women going through a divorce.
Never forget your girlfriends. Twenty of mine and my daughter went out as per my last post, and 80% of them are solo.

knitpurl said...

Tish, a comment written above by Elise, "Thank you that you've given of your heart most generously," says it all from me. Sorry to be posting so late on this --exciting and definitely encouraging to read responses.

Loved that you tied in a fashion thought too!

Bon weekend, xoxo, C.

Hill House Ramblings said...

Wonderful post Tish and so true. Your mother sounds like a woman who knows how to land on her feet with style and grace. I bet her parties were marvelous and something to behold!

H.H.

Duchesse said...

Any widow- whatever the age- might benefit from my friend's mother, widowed at 50: she said she never turned down an invitation.

And like your Mother, who sounds wonderful, she gave parties.

As for the kind of man who seeks outside companionship, he is likely to prefer a married woman- less risk and equal interest in concealment.

julia said...

I hope should I ever be without my husband that I will handle the solo woman act of life with as much style and grace as your Mother. Your lovely blog/story was even more special today.

Stephanie said...

I'm so glad this is being discussed. I really never thought about this but how rude to exclude someone because they are single! When I was first married, we had a group of friends we socialized with often, all coupled off and married. It didn't turn out well at all and since then I really prefer to have a wide mix of friends, single, married, whatever...the more different and interesting, the better. We are having thanksgiving dinner here with my best friend, who is dating someone, but he has to work, so I eagerly scooped her up for the dinner and I can't wait now. I know it will be fun with her there.

I have found that most of the time, when we couple up and go out with other couples or attend a dinner party with other couples, the women can be insecure and jealous, not to mention territorial about their husbands...clingy even. I can't stand that. One of the women is so drop dead gorgeous but she is the most insecure of the bunch and she has no inner monologue on the subject, she voices all her insecurities and it fades her beauty so fast.

Sorry to have written a novel here! This was a great post Tish.

Stephanie

Anonymous said...

Hello, you site is very funny he told me to cheer up .. Merry Christmas.

Lily Lemontree said...

A truly excellent post! Such sage advice!

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, may all your wishes come true!

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Barbara Bussey {The Treasured Home} said...

Wow, I'm going back in time, it seems! We don't have to be experts to share our perspectives. I enjoyed hearing yours and will think twice, when making up a guest list!

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