Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Way We Were

Altho' it's so long ago, I can still recall bits of orientation week back then. The women's adviser, whom because I thought that it was about time that I did the recommended thing, I went to see.  She seemed annoyed to be disturbed and told me that my subject choices were rubbish and that I had no future other than to be a school teacher, so should only do Eng/history.
Only ever able to do bits of the right thing, I ignored her advice and did anthrop and Psychology as well as Eng:  in fact is was the former two that gave me both freedom and employment.  And I did philosophy, which she seemed to regard as as an indulgence like McDonald's Happy Meals. 
On the other hand, I didn't do my other choice, archaelogy:  and still regret and yearn for that.
I also remember some of the people I met then, in Orientation week, and I am thinking of D. She was a tallish, rangy convent school girl with short brown wavy parted brown hair.  Not particularly pretty. but when I met her there was something so personal in her meeting that I thought:  this is a very nice person. 
Perhaps I particularly remember her because she kept popping up;  before long her hair was golden, sparkling as dark subject to peroxide initially twinkles, and she and a handsome blond college boy were a dazzling couple.  Before too long after that she had left him. She had left the hearties to join the arties.
She was not one of the most beautiful women around the place.  S.U. was stacked with them:  Tania Verstak became "Miss International" or something, but she was unremarkable around a place where there were many beautiful young girls.  D was quite an attractive girl - aren't most young women? - but just that:  "quite attractive."  I don't think that anyone would have called her beautiful.  But:  she had a huge impact.  She cut a wide swathe.  I wonder, in retrospect, if any of it was due just to the fact that, when she met you, you felt as if it mattered to her.  As it had felt when I met  her.
This was an era in Syd Univ  hot with such as Clive james, Germaine Greer, Robert Hughes ...(and all the other local buzzes).
5 or so years later...her hair like straw...(she looks so used, we used to say in our bourgeois way)...D still had that appeal.
She married  "well", but in fact badly.
She was photoed inernationally. Life magazine.  Or/And Vogue International.. 
As it all fell to pieces - as of course it does if you've grown up in a backwater and you are expected to be riding high waves in a big surf it will -that marriage ended .  Just as Lawrence Olivier chose the miserable option of portraying a demeaning aspect of Vivien Leigh's last hours, so her internationally famous husband chose to record demeaning and degrading behaviours of D.
Reading it, I felt gratified that life hadn't offered me the opportunities that it offered D.
She returned to oz, lived and died, young, in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney.
I feel regret for her.
I feel regret that all her intelligence and all her knowledge, scholarship, intuitions went to nothing, evidently.

8 comments:

The Elephant's Child said...

What a beautiful eulogy for her. And if you subscribe to the belief that no-one is gone while they are still remembered, she is here still. And that characteristic of making people think that they matter is so, so alluring. And rare.

R.H. said...

You get some handy lessons in school from other kids. A boy called Evans was dux of my class in year six. The teacher told him to take the medal around to all the desks so each of us could see it. When he reached where the frumpiest looking girl sat he held it out to her as he did to all of us but suddenly jerked it close to her face. Everyone laughed. Because we knew he loved her, an extraordinary fact.

I'm still astonished.

Frances said...

Thank you, Elephant's Child. Good things to think on.

Frances said...

The idea that someone succeeding academically could actually not only be rewarded, but encouraged to show his rewards to others, is long gone. R.H. I would be surprised if any young knew the meaning of the word "dux".
As for love...ah, it always defied rationality, did, and does, it not?

persiflage said...

This is very evocative. I wonder whether I knew of D and whether Dr P might have known her.
It is good that we have so many more c hoices available to us now.

R.H. said...

Universities seem to have some sort of graduation ceremony. They dress up in a gown and funny hat. It's like getting married.
The notion that opposites attract is nonsense, good looking people marry good looking people and the reverse is the case. Evans was a good looking kid, the girl he pursued was fat and a dunce. Work it out. I can't.
Mind you, I think it's good.

Frances said...

Yes, that's true, R.H., and I agree with you that the anomaly you saw was good and strange.
But, your comment reminded me of Anthony, 14, who was late because he was watching a procession.
"What was the procession for/of?" asked.
"I don't know," he rsaid. "They were all wearing square hats."
Yes, the annual gown and town.

Frances said...

Persiflage: Perhaps Dr P knew the person, Ann Moyal, in my next post.