Until recently, the world was governed by aphorisms, shared words of wisdom accepted by everyone as truth. The ones I remember most came from my best friend, Dina, who died about ten years ago. She was a little older than I, a Lithuanian Jewish refugee who had spent her teens in a German work camp in Poland. She emerged with a zest for life I have not seen in anyone else, ever. The Nazi’s had taken away her parents, her brother, her chance for an education and her youth. She was not giving up any more. The past was past and whatever time she had left was to be enjoyed.
A talented sculptor and art teacher, a voluptuous beauty, a great cook and an unbeatable poker player, she had a wide circle of friends, mostly men. Some, I assumed, were lovers as she intended to make up for lost time. She was always encouraging me to have affairs, recommending one man or another. When I protested that I had a husband I loved and no need to look elsewhere, she would scoff : “Have fun! Enjoy life!” Men find you attractive! (Who? No man ever came near me. I had an omnipresent husband the size of a Michigan State linebacker) “Don’t waste life,” she would warn me. I guess if I had grown up in a Nazi prison camp, I might also want to keep my dance card full.
One of he things I loved most about her was her stock of wise sayings, aphorisms she had learned at home or concocted from her own experiences. Fortunately, several have stuck with me. “Three heads can’t sleep on one pillow” was one of my favorites, meaning it’s impossible for an outsider to know what goes on in someone else’s marriage. She and I had a friend who slept with every important man in Stamford, from the ex-mayor on down. We all felt sorry for her sweet, long-suffering husband only to discover that he encouraged her flings and they were what kept the marriage going.
Another one I liked was: “She exchanged a pair of good shoes for dancing slippers.” It was her way of describing a mutual acquaintance who had left her reliable spouse for a notorious womanizer, a man who taught watercolor painting (among other things) to rich, neglected wives. Still another favorite described an insatiably greedy friend as having a “hollow toe,” meaning that her need for “things” was bottomless – could never be filled.
The aphorism of hers that I found most disturbing was “Every artist has only ten good years.” I covered that subject in Post #37 and will deal with it again in a talk I’m giving at UConn in April about Marc Chagall.
Will let you know when and where as we get closer to the date.