Musin’s and Thinkin’s

A Monthly Stroll Down Folksy Byways

with Jack Pendarvis

With my son Rodney’s thirty-sixth birthday fast approaching, his thoughts have turned to his first date. He has his eye on a certain young coquette of the village, and quite charming she is, flouncing her locks and batting her lustrous eyelashes and so on. I believe she is a milkmaid by profession. There’s just one catch: Rodney has not as of yet worked up the courage to speak two words to her. I must admit to being almost as nervous as he is.

I suppose it’s that rushing sound in my ears—the din of the fleeting decades—that causes my old mind to wander back to the courtship rituals of my own youth. I’d like nothing better than to offer Rodney some sound advice, but things are so different than they used to be. Or has nothing changed but the particulars? I like to think that maybe, just maybe, the mysteries of the human heart have remained as steadfast and inviolate as the very stars on which the captains of mighty vessels rely for guidance.

In my day, initial wooing took place under the unforgiving gaze of a maiden aunt, in a small but cozy room called a “parlor,” containing a medicine cabinet, a toilet, a bathtub, a sink, and usually a storage space of one kind or another for washcloths and towels.

Proper attire was of the essence. Girls wore high-button shoes and modest frocks. The fashionable young “gentleman caller” would not dream of appearing without a camellia bud in his lapel. Men and women alike sported leather aviator hats with goggles attached, glittering eye shadow after the manner of Little Richard, whose hits were burning up the airwaves, and glow-in-the-dark plastic Dracula fangs. The aunt usually sat in the tub, sniffing at everyone most imperiously and casting grave glances through her pince-nez, a mountain of foamy bubbles ensuring her womanly modesty. Most homes were equipped with “flying harnesses” such as are still used in community-theater productions of Peter Pan, and many an evening ended with the father of the girl in question challenging the unfortunate young suitor to an aerial battle.

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Jack Pendarvis has written three books.

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