Day 12: Back to school

Six weeks was enough time for the duck-rabbit’s eye to adjust. Things stand out here, now, their outlines sharp: the jagged black shapes the trees make against the bright sky at twilight; the curves of the Priuses silently cruising down the wide streets; the angles of those killer cheekbones; the indentations in those exposed deltoids. This latter quality was particularly in evidence as we walked the elder flopsy-duckit to the first day of fourth-grade. Now, I could engage in all sorts of cheap shots at the abundance of expensive highlights and tanned, taut, improbably middle-aged flesh, but that would be too easy and kind of boring, and also, yes, unkind.[1] No, today, in the spirit of Mr. Fielding, although the language will be mocking, the admiration is, I swear to God, sincere: I want to tell you about a genuine style icon of the schoolyard, a parent whom I’ve never met but with whom I’ve been just slightly obsessed ever since the elder flopsy-duckit started kindergarten because this mother’s impeccable, distinctive style is so gloriously out-of-sync with the prevailing Westside Mom aesthetic.


Umm … yes?

DUCK: Okay, we’ll take it from here.


DUCK: We just think this is one for us.

RABBIT: I hate to say it, but he’s right. This is just not a subject for first-person, confessional musing … (Hastily) Not that that doesn’t have its charms, I’m sure! The point is: this subject requires Duck’s ability for vulgar gawking and my ability for sublime effusion.

RABIDDUCKWIT: (Sullenly) Fine, fine.

DUCK: (Clearing his throat.). Right then. We are proud to present “A short hint of what we can do in the sublime, and a description of Ms Sophisticate Westsider.” This one goes out to all of you dix-huitièmistes out there with apologies to everyone else, who might want to skip the rest of this post.[2] In fact, someone who just read a draft of this dispatch made the compelling point that we, Duck-Rabbit, are quite possibly the only ones in the universe who will find the following amusing, given that we are very likely the only beings in the universe who inhabit the intersection of the Venn diagram that constitutes those who a) know who is being described b) are intimately acquainted with Tom Jones, and c) will get all the sixties fashion references. So be it. It is our duck-rabbit hole, after all. Are you ready, class? Open your copies of Tom Jones to Book 4, Chapter 2:

“Hushed be every cell phone. May the heathen ruler of the winds confine in iron chains both the vacuous talk that fouls the air, and the lip-chapping breath of Santa Ana. Do thou, sweet Zephyrus, rising from thy yoga mat, mount the Western sky, and lead on those delicious gales, the charms of which call forth the lovely Angelena from her chamber, perfumed with non-toxic dews, when on the 19th of August, back-to-school day, the blooming babe, in Lululemon attire, gently trips down fair Montana Ave., where every barista rises to do her homage, till the whole street becomes sugar-free and non-fat, and smoothies contend with lattes which shall ravish her most.

So incongruous may she now appear! and you the feathered choristers of nature, whose sweetest notes not even Katy Perry can excel, tune your melodious throats to celebrate her appearance. From love proceeds your music, and to love it returns. Awaken therefore that gentle passion in every dude: for lo! adorned with all the charms in which nature yoked with art can array her; bedecked with beauty, maturity, sprightliness, knowingness, and modesty—yes, modesty—breathing old-school glamour from her perfectly blotted lips, and darting brightness from her sparkling eyes, the lovely Sophisticate comes!

Reader, perhaps thou hast seen the statuesque dames from Mad Men. Perhaps, too, thou hast seen the gallery of beauties at The Sartorialist. Thou may’st remember each bright Deneuve of the galaxy, and all the toasts of the Marmont. Or, if their reign was before thy times, at least thou hast seen their daughters, the no less dazzling beauties of the present age; whose names, should we here insert, we apprehend they would fill the whole screen.

Now if thou hast seen all these, be not afraid of the rude answer which Lady Gaga once gave to a man who had seen many things. No. If thou hast seen all these without knowing what beauty is, thou hast no eyes; if without feeling its power, thou hast no heart.

Yet is it possible, my friend, that thou mayest have seen all these without being able to form an exact idea of the Sophisticate; for she did not exactly resemble any of them. She was most like the picture of Diana Rigg: and, in hair colour, at least, more still to the famous Joan Holloway; but least of all she resembled the 1970s mothers of my memory, whose cherished image never can depart from my breast, and yet, it must be said, that, if thou picture the inverse of their bare-faced beauty and loose attire, their leggings and oversized CND T-shirts, thou hast then, my friend, an adequate idea of the Sophisticate.[3]

But lest this should not have been thy fortune, we will endeavour with our utmost skill to describe this paragon, though we are sensible that our highest abilities are very inadequate to the task.

The Sophisticate, then, the only daughter, I speculate, of West-Coast glamour and East-Coast polish, was a small-sized woman; but rather inclining to tall. Her shape was not only svelte, but extremely delicate: and the nice proportion of her jacket promised the truest symmetry in all her clothes. Her hair, which was red, was so luxuriant, that it might have reached her middle, before she cut it at a razor sharp angle—think Mary Quant—a red Sassoon bob in a sea of beachy waves; and it was now blow-dried so gracefully in her neck, that few could believe it to be her own work. Her eyebrows were full, even, and arched beyond the power of amateurs to imitate. Her nose was exactly regular and her mouth, in which were two rows of ivory, was red and soft. Her green eyes had a lustre in them, which all her softness could not extinguish., and, exactly answered Dolly Parton’s description in those lines:—

Your beauty is beyond compare
With flaming locks of auburn hair
With ivory skin and eyes of emerald green

Her cheeks were of the rounded kind, which the curve-hugging line of her pencil skirt discovered. Her complexion had rather more of the lily than of the rose; but when spinning or Pilates increased her natural colour, no vermilion could equal it. One might cry out that surely she followed the strictures of the celebrated Gwyneth:

Add some cream blush … on the apples of cheeks. Pick a color similar to the color your skin changes to when you flush after some good exercise.

Her heels were high and finely turned: and here, if I was not afraid of offending her delicacy, I might justly say, that the height of the heel served to tilt her pelvis just so, such that the finest hourglasses of Blackman, Bardot, et al were outdone. Here was a silhouette which no Spanx nor air-brushing could match. The softest leather might indeed be supposed from envy to cover that figure which was much more supple than itself.—She was indeed,

            The Thinking Person’s Crumpet.

            [i.e. the preferred choice of a person of discerning taste]

Such was the outside of the Sophisticate; I cannot say whether this beautiful frame is disgraced by an inhabitant unworthy of it. For, indeed, I do not know her. All I am certain of is that I will never see her do the school run attired in Juicy Couture, flip flops, or Daisy Dukes. And in a sea of boho beach chic (and when one is, one must make abundantly clear, oneself barely rolled out of bed, and attired in unwashed jeans and an inside-out T-shirt), one can only gaze, awestruck, at her unflagging commitment to formal beauty. As to her character; to speculate would be a kind of tacit affront to our reader’s understanding, and may also rob her of that pleasure which she will receive in forming her own judgment.”


RABIDDUCKWIT: Well, I must say that was not bad.

RABBIT: Yes, we captured her quite well, don’t you think, Duck?

DUCK: Dunno … seems to me you used an awful lot of words to make the point that she was indescribable. I mean, surely, this is why we have camera phones.

RABIDDUCKWIT: Bloody hell, what are you, my inner critic?

DUCK: You’ve got it the wrong way round, mate. You’re the critic. That’s the problem, innit? I’m your inner enthusiast. I just want to enjoy life’s simple pleasures. Be in the moment instead of tap-tap-tapping away at that laptop. You should try it some time.

RABIDDUCKWIT: Oh, I will, I will. In November. I have it on good authority that an excellent technique for finding fulfillment in life is to defer experiencing any simple pleasures until you’ve achieved all of your goals. (Rabbit nods vigorously.) Then and only then do you sit back and enjoy life. Until then, you just put all joy on hold. (Rabbit can be seen mouthing this phrase silently to herself like a mantra.) It’s a completely foolproof system for achieving long-lasting happiness. God, it’ll be great when I achieve all my goals and can finally relish those simple pleasures you speak of. Can’t wait!

[1] Also: for the record, some of my best friends are blond. And oh-so-toned. And, like, the smartest people I know. Have I mentioned that life is unfair?

[2] With the exception of readers (by which I mean reader) with kids at the same school. Let’s be frank, I mean you, Chris. And, if you dare to suggest that you don’t know who I am talking about, I will say that you are a liar. Either a liar or singularly unobservant.

[3] Actually, I think she most resembles Carol Rance from Episodes, but I have a strong feeling that only Natalie and Jonny will know who I mean.


2 thoughts on “Day 12: Back to school

  1. claire says:

    My lord that’s a spur to pull oneself together and at least do half an hour of pilates a week. Oh that someone would write about me like that! I think I have to accept I’m out of the running til we start completing in the ‘looks like she’s lived a good life’ stakes.

    Do you have any sense of what she’d think if she read it? Flattered? Baffled? Litigious? From all the poise that emanates for the description I’d predict ‘unruffled’.

    • “Oh that someone would write about me like that!” Don’t tempt me! I could totally write about you like that! There could be a whole series titled “Why Are My Friends so Vexingly Beautiful?” with an ode to each of you.

      I have thought about what she’d think if she read it since, when my blog goes viral, as it surely will, that could be a very real possibility. Again, I don’t know her at all although circumstances are such that I might get to know her this year … which I feel ambivalent about … what if she has a really terrible voice like Lina Lamont in Singin’ in the Rain? (Actually, that would be AWESOME.) Would it ruin the illusion that she is sailing, swan-like, through her own Buñuel film, while the rest of us are in an episode of Parenthood? (Parenthood actually films regularly at our school, so I mean that literally.) But, yes, I concur with your prediction that she would be unruffled. Also, I think she would be unsurprised. I suspect that she is familiar with being the object of adoration from afar.

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