The One That Got Away: A Vignette.

Bernadette was one of those girls with good basics. Not stunningly attractive, but the kind that, as they say, “scrub up well”.

She might have looked better in heels, because she was not a tall girl, but she appeared to prefer flats for ideological reasons. She dressed quite well, and was intelligent and easy to talk to, if you kept off certain topics. I could see the influence of a stable home and a mother who knew how to help a daughter be presentable.

She was certainly not a bad student, but it didn’t look like academia was likely to be her career. She was the kind of girl who tends to go high school teaching and eventually takes the “mummy track”. Once, her academic competence would have implied that she could provide a good, bookish, cultured home for her children. But she was still, ostentatiously, “not ready to settle down”.

Instead, she was still in mourning over her second class degree, awarded for a thesis involving the translation of a text from an Asian language. Her supervisor had commiserated with her, “never mind, it was a difficult passage”, a remark which, like so many of the most dampening one hears in life, was intended to be comforting.

We shared a religion, and moved in similar social circles, and she seemed, ironically, to be attracted to the more traditional style in men. She had gone out of her way to talk to me, and asked me the kind of questions a girl does when she is interested in you, about my family for example, how many brothers and sisters I had. But she had been bitten by feminism at some stage in her university career and the effects had yet to wear off. For example, she once told me that she didn’t believe in “femininity”.

I remember sitting next to her at a dinner and dance, and some man must have commented on a girl’s appearance. In any case, she complained that it was “sexist”. I asked if she would have a problem if a woman commented on a man, such as “Peter” opposite where we were sitting. No, she explained, because that would not be “looking at him sexually”. With all the pomposity of a young man, I intoned:

“My dear girl, if your father had not looked at your mother sexually, you would not be here.”

That made her pensive, and getting nowhere with me or any other man that night, she went quiet and seemed a bit sad, which I was sorry to see.

She grew a bit more hard core as time went on, and cut her hair quite short, butching up a bit, although her basically female figure kept her quite attractive nonetheless. She took to dancing with other women at parties to cause a bit of a stir. She liked to say that “they” “can’t handle it”.

Anyway, I took up with another young woman, and that all went pretty smoothly. By this stage, I had had enough of women who made life unnecessarily complicated.

A couple of years later I saw Bernadette in a car park in the government area of town. We stopped to exchange some words. Gone was her unhappy expression. She had let her hair grow out a bit and she was wearing a maternity dress. She was heavily pregnant.

“My husband has to go back to do a rewrite on his PhD … one problem examiner, but it should be OK … we are off to Brisbane soon.”


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by moresee11 on July 30, 2015 at 8:24 am

    “prefer flats for ideological reasons” can you explain. never heard of wearing a particular type of school for ideological reasons other than men expecting their wives to look as demure as possible and not allowing high heels or masculine shoes like sport shoes. I wear flats because I believe they are more feminine and men find women in flats less likely to be the angry man hater.


    • Well, moresee11, I suppose it depends on the social context.

      And, of course, this is just a story.

      But, yes, I did know a girl who wore very low heels (sandals, I seem to recall) because she didn’t want to look too feminine.

      As for what men expect of their wives, mine doesn’t wear high heels, except on special occasions (she is fairly tall). But she wears feminine styles, like court shoes. The only thing I require her to do is to wear skirts or dresses when she is out with me. I dislike women in pants.


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