"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Sorry Romances Of Bobbie Flavin–“Why Wasn’t I Told?”

Bobbie Flavin had been brought up in a very traditional, middle class home – church on Sundays followed by a sumptuous roast chicken dinner, roasted rosemary carrots, sweet peas from the garden, and creamy mashed potatoes followed by gooseberry cobbler and Indian pudding.  She was never sure which was most important to her upbringing – the food, the Church, her special aunts and uncles from Fairfield, or her eight cousins. 

This was what romance was all about – the eclectic combination of pleasant, predictable events and things; and the promise of much more.

Her cousin Errol, kept at a distance because of sanguinity, but oh, how beautiful he was – black curly ringlets, tall, imposing, confident, and unimpeachable – was the man Bobbie wanted to marry, to spend the rest of her life with, wedded in love, mother to his children, faithful, dutiful, and happy.  If only she could find a boy like him; and try she did, leaving the nuns and propriety behind.  

She became known as Flagrant Flavin, back-seat lover, a hot ticket easy to be punched, always available on a Friday afternoon.  Not that she didn’t enjoy the sex; but she, like all well-brought-up girls of her generation and milieu wanted more – security, longevity; and, if it were ever possible, fidelity – but the road she was on was unpaved and potholed.

Image result for images sex in the back seat of cars 50s

Now, as conventional as the Flavin family might have been, there were breaches in the moral code.  Her father, decorated war hero, bank vice-president, Kiwanis Club and Rotary Club chairman – a man of propriety, probity, and social standing – was a back-stoop Lothario who bedded the Misses Fanning, Weir, and Fannuci every afternoon while their husbands were at work.  The tellers at First National would not stop if he was absent or speed up if he was there, so he left his corner office with smiles.

Her mother had notorious dalliances with the milkman (Mr. Johnson, a mild-mannered Swede who, after years of a dutiful Lutheran marriage, had ‘had it’ and eagerly made love with the woman on Beliard Street who bought three quarts of milk, a pint of cream, and cottage cheese every Monday and Friday).  Her older sister, Henrietta, cheerleader and well-known in the Mt. Justice bleachers as being the ‘It’ girl was never alone on Friday nights.

There was no more sexually befuddled girl in Eastfield than Bobbie, the Church in one corner and family libertinage in the other.  Her mother, however, wanted to set the record straight.

“What about the Billingsley boy?”, she asked, referring to Timmy Billingsley, heir to an old British colonial family which had settled in Providence in the 1600s.  Indeed Timmy was a striking figure whose New England patrimony was evident in his blonde hair, straight nose, and clear complexion.  Why not him, Bobbie asked? Yet she wanted only bad boys – boys like Paul Pante, son of a clothier and numbers runner.

Her marriage with Vauxhall Martin was not quite arranged, at least not in the patrician sense.  The intended groom had indeed been ‘found’  and vetted by Flavin senior, but Vauxhall had more contemporary credentials – Yale crew, Supreme Court clerkship, and summers at the family compound on the Vineyard – than any father could hope for.  How could she resist? Intermediated as it might have been, there was no denying its appropriateness. 

With Daddy’s help, the couple bought a duplex on 83d Street, an easy subway commute to Wall Street for him, and a crosstown bus to her Harper & Row assistant editorship.   There had been none of the fireworks she had expected, the carnival of exciting friends and neighbors, a whirlwind of late-night suppers at Max’s Kansas City or Dame Margaret’s, or group sex in SOHO lofts.  

Sex had been desultory and more suggestive of fidelity than adventurism; and far more marital than she had ever expected. More importantly, did they love each other? Perhaps not exactly, but who these days ever subscribed to fairy tale notions of romantic transport?

Image result for images group sex

Of course, as her mother had once told her, and despite her urgency to get Bobbie married, love was neither here nor there.  You might plan on romance, but best be prepared for disappointment and tedium.  It was good when all the ingredients were right – social match, intellectual compatibility, emotional triggers – and one had a right to expect something special; but if the tumblers did not fall into place, the lock on a good marriage was impossible. 

Bobbie’s  marriage to Vaux Martin was not exactly bad, but who could have predicted that it would be so tepid and predictable?   Why, with all those impressive credentials had he not an original thought in his head? Had his intelligence hibernated?  And where was that needed machismo and unshakeable male ego?  So it was no surprise that she was quick to look elsewhere.  What is good for the goose is good for the gander, she thought.

Yet after a year of this, brought up as she was, despite the flagrancies of both mother and father, in the spirit of fidelity and committed, longstanding love, she knew that a life on her back with no collectibles was no way forward.  She was dutifully stuck with Vauxhall, and getting older by the minute she was caught in the narrow slats of a hickory deck. Yet, like most women, she wanted security, place, definition, and love.

Image result for Images sailboat Heeling Over. Size: 136 x 204. Source: commons.wikimedia.org

Vauxhall meanwhile had become a moral poster boy.  He was uxorious, faithful, and patient.  A man of very modest expectations, marriage suited him.  Coming home to a warm fire, a drink, and dinner was more than he ever could have wanted or expected.  He was a happy man. While he had had his flings, he soon battened down his hatches and reverted to Old New England propriety and fidelity. 

Both husband and wife were now sailing on an even keel.   Marriage might not have been what Bobbie expected; and although smooth sailing and a following wind was preferable to rough running, she was not prepared for a life becalmed in the doldrums.

St. Paul was notoriously critical of marriage.  if you absolutely must, he said, perform your husbandly duties, be fruitful and multiply, but don’t ask for much.

Image result for images st paul

Little was heard from Vauxhall after the divorce.  Rumor, based only on history and family proclivity, suggested that he had gone back to the Main Line, his ancestral home, and his seat on the Exchange, living alone, unmarried, but settled.  

Similar rumor had Bobbie in Brentwood, living with a well-known Hollywood actor, taking care of their two children with the help of a Dominican nanny, and living the free and easy life of Southern California – just like in the movies – but the truth was she was living in Teaneck.

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