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

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Love On A Bus–The Decline In The Sexual Fortunes Of An Interested Man

Harlan Alcott had been married early and often, smitten by a young coed at twenty-one divorced at twenty-five, tried again a few years later, and finally after ten years of restlessness and unsatisfactory relationships married his third wife, a woman of patience, reticence, and fidelity. “This will do it”, Harlan said to his friends who wondered whether he could ever remain in a marriage for long.  “Divorce is not worth it.  Better a hound dog than a lap dog”, and the future of his serial infidelities was underway.

At first he was quite particular.  While the girls from the typing pool were seductive and alluring enough – as they approached thirty married men were worth the risk – he made his approaches, careful as they were in an age of MeToo sanctimony, in the executive dining room of Benson, Locke & Flowers and the Laurel Room at the Mayflower.  The women there, having finally broken through the glass ceiling, affected a particular diffidence and disinterest, but as they moved well into their thirties with only professional success to show for ten years on the street, they became just as available as the girls from the fourth floor.  They were less desperate, of course.  Colleagues at Morgan Stanley helped those at the bar and vice versa, so that investments were well-made and –protected so a profitable husband was not a necessity. In fact a man they could easily manage if not control was at the top of their wish lists.

The 20 Best-Designed Hotel Bars in the U.S. | Architectural Digest

Marie de Glenville Lassiter was one of these Laurel Room eligibles. A graduate of Yale, Harvard Law, and not many years from a partnership, Marie was indeed very selective in her come-hither journey to find a mate.  She was of exceptional stock and breeding – the Rittenhouse Square Lassiters and the Lyon de Glenvilles – but had resisted family attempts at arranged marriage.  The men to whom she was presented were lukewarm and predictable. While she most definitely wanted to marry into her class and social entitlement, she deserved more – A Villiers, a Cabot, or a Davenport at the very least.

John Davenport (minister) - Wikipedia

She demurred from her dream and accepted a drink from Harlan Alcott with no strings attached – an attractive lawyer of her milieu who made no attempts to hide the wedding ring on his finger and every attempt to signal his sexual interest.  The affair lasted four months and ended when, mirabile dictu, he returned to his wife.  She actually knew Mirabelle Alcott, a sister at Smith in their college years, a smart, deliberate woman who, like her, had great ambitions.  The affair between her – Marie – and Harlan was as much a vindication of class (she was far superior) as it was about love.  Marie lost out, but only because Harlan found her too predictable, too politically anticipated, and far too timid in bed.

Harlan moved on, cruising the haunts of the well-to-do and famous, not hard to do in Washington where the social class harbored in Georgetown while the Congressional and White House notables were always seen at exclusive watering holes on K Street.  He was a regular, a roué, a common feature around the best parts of town; but he – like the women he pursued – knew that he had a pull-by date; and if he were seen too often and too regularly at the Mayflower and its offshoots he would lose credibility and social allure.

What prevented a more mature, satisfactory sexual  arrangement was a mystery.  He certainly had the attractiveness, male confidence, background,  and physical appeal to bed any woman of his choice; but there he was, approaching forty with only a dutiful wife and two children to show for it.

“I’m barking up the wrong tree”, he said as he looked over the inviting pasture of the Laurel Room on a Friday evening.  He had just summarily defeated his arch-enemy in the court of the Fifth Circuit, next in prominence only to the Supreme Court, had been featured in The Washingtonian as one of the most important influencers in the city; but there he was without a consort for the night or the weeks to come.

Infrequently Asked Questions: When did Rittenhouse Square get its ritzy  rep? | PhillyVoice

All of which prompted an emotional return to his wife.  No more unexplained absences, no more calls from the White House at odd hours, and no more indifference.  He was to pay attention to her, listen patiently to her intellectual roundabouts, show concern over distant family affairs, and nod with commiseration at the death of a beloved uncle.  A common, dutiful husband.

This on-again-off-again, desultory sexual merry-go-round continued for a year or so until Harlan, still out a top candidate, bored silly by his marriage, and incredulous at his bad luck, set his sights lower.  There was room in his sexual algorithm for the likes of Alice from HR, sweet young thing who commuted an hour-and-a-half both ways on the Metro only to collate, review, and file for a few grades above minimum wage. 

Alice was not directly under his supervision, so the MeToo rules of corporate behavior did not apply to this particular confraternity.  If Alice ever were to feel unduly put upon, pressured, or negatively influenced by Harlan or any superior for that matter, she would have recourse to legal action; but like most women in assistant to the assistant to the assistant positions she welcomed not only the boss’ attention but any eligible male above her in the administrative hierarchy.

Harlan took her to – God forbid! – Clyde’s, a cheap, dollar a Mick or Bud happy hour in Georgetown; but that as he knew was de rigeur for first dates, a warmer-upper for an invitation to I Ricci for dinner and coffee back at her studio in Adams Morgan.  At least that was not as insulting as the suggestion from a woman in Accounting to have drinks in a sketchy, up-and-coming, ghetto neighborhood home to pimps and urban adventurers but never associates of Benson, Locke, & Flowers.

Specials | Clyde's American Bar & Restaurant

For another four months, Harlan suspended this disbelief and believed that this Iowa farm girl with a brother in federal prison for meth transport, an absent father, and a mother who chipped on the side to make ends meet, had menscheit and in this romance de la boue he might not find epiphany but temporary satisfaction from his increasingly penitential marriage.  Wrong again he was soon to find out.  Alice belonged in Accounting, had no original thoughts in her head, made love passionately, and fell in love with him but was insignificant, a blip on the radar of his life.

So it was that Harlan Alcott, scion of Philadelphia society, up-and-comer in the Washington power corridors, savvy Lothario and ideal man for millions of women, ended up with Bobbie Boudreaux.  He met her on the N6, lied to her about his marriage (separated and in the process of divorce), assumed that he could finesse the permanence of his relationship with Marie de Glenville Lassiter, and proceeded au fur et a mesure to sleep with her.

It was the perfect, final episode in his sexual trajectory.  A woman who was nothing but a passionate, loving woman who could not do without him.  She had no class, education, upbringing, or particular beauty.  In a way she was but one step up from concubine, paid in cheap jewelry and expensive clothes, but overlooking all this attention for what had become a true, abiding love.  She loved him, and in his way, he loved her.

Iowa Farm: Laws & Regulations | Trusted Choice

The affair happened very late in his life and late enough in hers to be regretted once it was over, a wasted three years; but still an unbelievably rewarding sexual experience at the hands of an older, mature, and experienced man who could make her come five times. “An early Christmas present”, he said, a gift of all gifts, what all men dream of. 

Yet she was still hopelessly damaged goods, increasingly dependent on him and threatening of his marriage,  a hick no matter how noble and to be discarded.

Which left him with nothing but regrets and a stale marriage to which he returned, of course, not inconscient of his age and its reduced prospects let alone the dimming light at the end of the tunnel.

When all was said and done, Harlan’s life had been a good one, although led in fits and starts, with more stumbling than satisfying conclusion, but such as it was.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.