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

Monday, August 28, 2023

The Sad Story Of The Congressman And The Beautiful Intern - Lolita On The Potomac

Margie Osborne had been born and raised on an Indiana farm and moved to Washington after junior college.  She had been a modest student but a strikingly beautiful young woman – the epitome of the Midwestern farm girl with cornflower blue eyes, blonde, flaxen hair, peaches-and-cream complexion, and a bright, engaging smile. 

Perhaps more than anything she had ambition and a sense of anticipated accomplishment - she knew that she would be a success wherever she went; and it was only a matter of choosing the right place. 

New York was too intimidating, Los Angeles too California, and Chicago a place of traders and stockyards; but Washington with its cherry blossoms, unhurried sophistication, and easy opportunity seemed right for her.  She went without prospects and quickly found a small shared basement apartment on Dupont Circle.  It was tight and dark, but this was Washington, and she felt sure that it was only the first stop on her way to the top.

Margie was certainly not the first young woman to leave the farm, and once settled into the Washington routine, she found that she was but one of many.  Girls like her from Iowa, Montana, and Arkansas who wanted more out of life than barnyards and overalls had come to the city, hoping they would be noticed, promoted, and even married.

Washington, however, was not Hollywood where an attractive woman could be spotted on Sunset Boulevard and offered a screen test.  Here, one had to reveal oneself, make oneself known.  Internships were the ticket – appointments at jobs no more than gofers, but close enough to the hems of power to make secretarial work more than the tedium it would have been in publishing or investment.

Washington is a dowdy city – shockingly so for any foreign diplomat coming from Paris or Rome where looks, style, and bella figura are expressions of wealth, power, and influence.  Here in America’s capital, influencers have no time for Armani or Givenchy.  Theirs is an off-the-rack power where one is judged by bills legislated, dams built, and presidential access; and so it was that Margie Osborn, a woman of stunning beauty and a natural, innate style, was noticed. 

Her modest educational achievement and her lack of urban sophistication and know-how were no obstacles. Washington is a city known for its absence of sexual sophistication where Congressmen come out of the farmland and take homeliness as a given.  They come to town with great sexual ambition but without an iota of taste; so when Margie showed up in their offices looking for an internship, they noticed.  Despite all the MeToo censure, the sentinels on watch for unwanted sexual intent, and the new zeitgeist of propriety, no man could turn away from this apparition of loveliness.

Congressman Percival Hobbes, a popular representative of his southern Indiana district for four terms, had come to Washington with a desire to make a difference.  Politics was not just a way of life, but a calling.  He more than anything wanted a post on an influential farm committee where he could not only see to the interests of his constituents, but for the agricultural community as a whole.  However, he had never succeeded, and shuttled from one minor committee to the next without landing in his Elysian Fields.

After three terms he had resigned himself to the insignificance that only a minor politician from a minor district could know.  He had neither made the fortune of his more savvy and less morally-motivated colleagues, nor enjoyed the perks of elected office; so when at the fag end of an unsatisfying career, and when the stunning Margie Osborne walked into his office, he knew that his time had come.  About to retire with a comfortable pension and independent income, censure was not an issue.  Besides, a man who had endured such a long, dutiful, and sexless marriage was owed some favors, some good luck at least, and here she was. 

Of course, having been ignored by women since he was a teenager – a geeky farm boy with no more sense than pigs in a pen – he could not be sure about anything to do with women.  He only knew that if they could be attracted to the likes of Henry Kissinger, an overweight, jowled, misshapen Eastern European, then there had to be truth in what he said – ‘Power is the greatest aphrodisiac’.

Although Percy Hobbes was no Kissinger, a Congressman was a person of power and, ipso facto, a man of sexual allure.  That was at least something to go on.

What Percy, so naïve about women, could never understand, was how powerful they were – how disabling they could be, and how co-opting of a man’s integrity.  An unread man, he knew nothing of Hedda Gabler, Cleopatra, Emma Bovary, Rosalind, or especially Sister Carrie who from the moment she got on the train out of the farmland and responded to the advances of Charles Drouet never looked back - women who understood their seductive power and savvy intelligence and used them.

He had no way of knowing, therefore, that this innocent beauty from his district was a woman like them, a woman who used diffidence as a tool of intrigue, never as defense; who had no sexual compunctions, no inhibitions, no sexual brakes, and no regrets.  Percy had no idea what he was getting into.

She got the job and soon after she settled in, she noticed Percy’s interest and knew that this rube, this unsophisticated sexual neophyte was no match for her.

In perhaps the greatest love story of all time, Vladimir Nabokov wrote of ‘nymphets’, girls surprising in their unschooled sexual seductiveness. There is such a thing as natural sexuality, said Nabokov, not sexual desire which is common to all, but something more primitive, more innate.  Lolita was a nymphet and so was Margie Osborne; but Margie had ambition as well as sexual consciousness; and she was a very dangerous woman for the likes of Percy Hobbes. 

The affair began clumsily but ended without consequence – political consequence, that is; for Percy’s emotional equilibrium had been badly upset by it.  As any older man knows, sex with a much younger woman is existential.  Life with her means vistas, happiness, renewal; and life without her means one of profound sadness and regret.  He retired from Congress, went back to Indiana and in a self-penitential exile, returned to the pigs and cows of his youth.

Margie, on the other hand, was on her way.  Percy had been the necessary stepping stone to advancement.  Not that she used Percy as a reference, but word always gets around in Washington, and she became known as a woman of strict confidence, political awareness, and rectitude; and it wasn’t long before she left interning, became a Senate aide, and eventually married one of the powerful Wall Street bankers who had lobbied her Senator. Marriage, even to a money genius and scion of an old American family, was not enough for her; and she became one of the Street’s best known investors.

She often went back to her small town in Indiana and was welcomed by her family and friends who still knew and remembered her only as the sweet young thing, prom queen, and most beautiful girl ever to graduate from Stillwater High.


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