an urban girl’s guide
Man in a Bowler Hat,
I feel it my sisterly duty to share with you my secret of successfully meeting some of the challenges which the ‘sturm und drang’ of contemporary urban life presents to us single women of taste, depth, and discernment: The George.
First, this is not a survey of all the Georges out there, you can only ever have one George, this is a select and rarified class of being and no, a George is not your over-helpful brother-in-law who moons after you and drunkenly squeezes your ass at Christmas gatherings.
A George is above all that, in fact, a real George cares nothing for your ass, except to tell you either, “Needs work, walk more”, or “Ass, is O.K., no need for changes.” He knows no higher praise, even if you've logged 1,000 km. a week on your Stairmaster and can crack walnuts between your cheeks. A George will not let you get a swelled head.
Similarly, if you boast that after six months of personal training you have thighs of steel between which you could squeeze a lover like a tube of toothpaste and have him scream for more...George will remain unimpressed and likely say, "Train less, and here, have some more gnocchi."
You see George knows that ultimately it is inner strength a woman needs. I mean, when did an enviable six-pack or perky 'pecs' ever get a girl through a messy break-up, the loss of a close relative, or worse, a punitive tax audit? Never. Trust me, I know.
Herewith is a guide to some of the conundrums A George may help you with, the care of A George and how and where you might find one…if you’re lucky.
A George is efficient, tacit, direct and uses an economy of expression; the shortest distance between two points (his judgement and his direction) is a straight one. Just so you know.
A George is a stalwart, a guide, a grist to your mill, a calming hand at the helm who will, if you treat him right, steer you smoothly through some turbulent waters, effortlessly, quietly and with aplomb. He is not, repeat NOT an inamorato.
But if, on a lonely February 14th, after scoffing that half pound of Quality Street chocolates you bought yourself, then guzzling a bottle of domestic fizz, suddenly see your George romantically through 'champagne goggles’, the fastest way to chill that warm fuzzy fantasy is this: imagine your George trimming his nose hairs over the kitchen sink or reposing on your couch grooming his toenails...in only his briefs. Sober now?
SOME PRACTICAL THINGS A GEORGE MAY DO:
A George is not a ‘handy-man’; he is instead a man who will be ‘at hand’ if you find yourself in need of a keen eye for selecting furniture and arranging pictures. He will always tell you, with prejudice (for his impeccable taste) that he hates the frames you chose, even if, and especially if, he hasn’t yet seen them. Don’t despair! Or cry like a little girl who got a crappy gift bag at her best friend’s birthday party. If you do, you’re missing the point...this is just the wisdom of George, who knows that challenging your smug selection may make you think twice and ultimately make a better selection.
This is also how A George toughens you-up, to be firm and confident in your own taste. Once you have gone through this trial, he will suddenly declare “It’s pleasing.” He will never say, “It’s good”, for there is always more work to be done, and George knows you shouldn’t be over-confident. That’s not creative and George wants to help you find your inner creative.
One point, and this is crucial, A George is always tall; any man less than six foot, trying to represent himself as A George is a fraud- run for the hills girl friend! For he cannot possibly fulfill the mandate of being A George which is to reach that stuff you can’t without wobbling precariously on the top step of your little Dollar Store step ladder, grab your hand in his meaty paw and guide you safely across a slushy, icy street in search of the perfect couch, his broad back be a wind break behind which you can brave the arctic winter vortex, or hang pictures and mirrors, install curtain rods and perform other vertically challenging domestic feats.
I liken the stature of A George to a monument, you know the kind you look for whilst ambling around a Tuscan hill town, never anxious that you can get too lost, as the church’s duomo or piazza's campanile will always help you get your bearings and guide you back to the centre. Every George worthy of the designation knows that he must let you wander, get lost a little on your independent way, then let you find him. That's why all George's are tall, so you can find them and in finding them, you can find yourself; you are no longer lost. A George will never look for you; you must find him. Remember that.
THE HELPING HAND OF GEORGE:
If you want George to aid in hanging and installing high things, be organized! You must be prepared- have all the necessary equipment –A George does not wear, own or even know what a tool belt is. A George would never wear such a clunky thing.
Be decisive about where and how you want these things to be installed, George will consider your preferences silently then gently encourage you to reconsider and ultimately install them where they should be. If you are unsure of the ultimate arrangement, just tweak it yourself, George will return, appraise it and say, “It’s pleasing.” You have taken another step.
A warning, A George will get the job of hanging stuff done, he never admits defeat, but his methods may be less than orthodox, again I remind you – he is not a handy man. But a gentleman who will lend a hand, there’s a difference! So, if a nail is not banged-in entirely straight, but the thing you need hanging is secure, just shut-up about it already! Let it go! Job’s done, and that’s the point. The philosophy of George in this regard is, "If it doesn't fit, force it. If it breaks, it wasn't meant to be." He is a fatalist. And another thing, A George will not plumb your toilet, or futz with anything less than four feet above the floor. That’s your section.
In selecting furniture, he will convey you to select, urban destinations but again, be organized. A George will not take you willy-nilly to the wilds of some suburban hinterland unless of course there is something of economic and aesthetic merit to be found there. If George undertakes this expedition, don’t push the envelope, and bore him with a side trip to The Body Shop in search of your favourite Cocoa Butter Body Lotion, then suggest you lunch at a greasy hamburger stand. This kind of activity is anathema to your relationship-do it at your peril, as you might not see your George for a good long while afterward.
When you and George are out perusing furnishings at select locations and you see what you think is the couch of your dreams and express same to George, he will respond with, “Harrumph,” I know no better way to spell or express this cryptic vocal gesture, it is what it is. Then he will wander-off, hands folded behind his back; this is a classic George gambit, he will stop and consider with some interest, another couch, which is diametrically opposed aesthetically to the one over which you expressed such enthusiasm, only to say, “This one is good... I can stretch out on this one...I like to stretch out...”.
You may think this a rather obtuse declaration as your choice had no consideration for the length, or indeed the breadth of which your George could ‘spread himself out’. Don’t be confounded by this declaration, it only means that George is getting to like you and not entirely disdain the habitat he is helping you to create. So, just respond with a smile and an affirmation like “Yes, I can see that”, then turn your focus back to the couch you want, “But, what do you think about the other one, should I go for the grey or the cream?”.
You have passed again! Your George now knows that you have reached that level of confidence where you know exactly what you want and will not be side-tracked. If there’s anything A George dislikes, it is a woman who will not learn to be herself and independent. A good George will then say, “Buy the cream, it is pleasing,” and you will, happily. As that is what you’d already, quietly, decided.
A George’s guiding and helpful hand does not stop there though, oh no! If when your purchase arrives, and you find yourself overwhelmed, confused and very teary over the whole damn thing and think it just won’t fit, call George, he will come, simply push your packing boxes out of the way, orient your couch where it should be (where he knew it would be), say with a little smile “Alright, now?”
You will nod, dry your tears, feel like the over-emotional idiot that you are and say with a sniff “Yeah, thanks,” then he’ll go, where we don’t know, and don’t ask, he is not your George exclusively. He has other work to do, so don’t be possessive.
Many of your George-assisted purchases will require manual conveyance at some point in the expedition. Your George is load-bearing and will oblige with a reasonable burden, those which don't require bending deeply at the knee, or stumbling awkwardly forward before falling flat on one's face. A George always likes to be balanced, metaphorically and actually, so two fairly equal loads, one for each hand, and not, on each shoulder, will be managed seamlessly, without fuss. You must carry your share, don't forget that. Never stand, one hand opening the door, load-less, while texting your girlfriend with the other hand as George conveys your purchases, because if you adopt such a posture and the attitude that goes with it, George will not in fact be conveying anything, anywhere, ever again, including you.
In this world of fuel-saving economies, you will notice that much of the smaller home furnishings you purchase for your compact, rental abode are 'flat-packed' and need assembly. This is true now of more than just the 'big box' Swedish brand that rhymes with Crimea. Almost everything needs assembly and therefore the mind of a Leonardo to decode the cryptic 'not quite successfully translated into English' directions, Rorschach/Gestalt diagrams, and the bewildering array of bits and bobs, screws, wing nuts and knobs which are meant to hold the entire edifice together.
What the Holy Grail is, that you need to find amongst all this overwhelming stuff, is the Allen Key. There will be one- find it first and give charge of it to your George, who will stand placidly by while you lie on the floor (A George will never lie on the floor, ever), arranging all the pieces, hardware etc. like a young Dr. Frankenstein with her first 'Build Your Own Monster Kit'. Then at the appropriate juncture, your George will hold/steady Slot A whilst you insert Tab B, then deftly apply the Allen Key in the correct rotation to secure your progress, as a kind of benediction for the rest of the enterprise and acknowledgement, if not admiration, for your achievement thus far. A George, will never, ever undertake the responsibility for assemblage himself, that's your section.
A George does not 'do' instructions, no matter how much you plead or wine (caution: pleading and wining will only get you a view of the back of his retreating head). Instructions and arrangement of assembly are yours; George knows this is good for your character and cognitive skills, something to ward-off Alzheimer's. Ignore this at your peril. Once constructed, A George will appraise the edifice in a silent circumambulation, giving it a little jiggle here, a small bit of pressure there; A George may not do instructions, but he can find an assembly fault like a hound finds a fox. Then, if all is sound, George will likely say “I will put it here, that's where you want it". Then convey it to his designation.
You will be happy, as where you wanted to put it probably wouldn't have worked anyway.
How ever much A George possesses an acute appreciation of sartorial aesthetics, this does not mean that he is interested in helping you with the expansion of your wardrobe, a make-over of same or an overhaul of 'your look'. In short, he does not do dress shopping, nor will he attend a trunk show-that's your girlfriend's section.
He will, when called upon, venture an opinion on the colour, cut, quality of cloth and overall appeal of something you're wearing, In fact, he may venture an opinion whether or not he is called upon. If in his surmise the situation warrants it, like helping you avert the unwanted attention you'll attract by parading around in hip-hugging, skinny jeans a size too small, or risk breaking both your ankles while wobbling to work in those adorable red patent, strappy six-inch wedgies you bought after a few too many cocktails on a Friday night, or wearing 'puce', no one ever looked good in puce. Just don't ask him "Does this make my ass look fat?” We covered that in paragraph three.
Jewellery is also his section, you will solicit his guidance, if for example you're wearing something that looks too glitzy, trendy, or worse, cheap; or commit a faux-pas like wearing big drop earrings (no matter how expensive) with metal-frame glasses, which is entirely too much 'face furniture' and George will tell you so, only less tactfully.
Similarly, a change in hair colour or cut will be noticed by your George; a youthful bob, a sleek chignon, a few cheeky gold, or red hi-lites, will likely elicit, "It's pleasing". A stony silence means, “Get back to the hairdresser a.s.a.p. -salvage what you can.”
A George knows better than to openly express criticism about a woman's hair, he knows this is very sensitive territory, where only fools and angels tread. It means tears, and Georges, like all men (new age excepted, feh!) hate tears, especially on their watch.
As for the sartorial splendour of The George himself, well all I can tell you is that it is a discreet uniform, and these are its features:
Shirts-no patterns ever, except a blue stripe. No short sleeves or button-down collars, no French cuffs (warrants jewellery, Georges don't do jewellery, not even a watch. I suspect his unfailing accuracy at time-keeping indicates a biological clock set to Greenwich Mean Time). The only exception may be a ring, they are permitted, but only a hefty 'knuckle-duster'- no pinkies.
Since Georges like to blend into the background, like chameleon lizards or underworld spies, their colours are chosen seasonally, blue in winter, sage in spring, white in summer, taupe in autumn, black anytime. Either Oxford cloth, or 200 thread count Egyptian cotton-NO BLENDS!
Pullovers; V-necks, black or dark blue, no patterns. A hundred percent Merino wool, NO BLENDS!
Also, no scarves or ties, or baseball caps...just a black felt homberg in winter. No suits, just a classic blue single-breasted blazer, brass buttons, welt pockets, one vent. Trousers, what else, grey wool worsted, no pleats. Casual attire consists of seasonal shirt, pullover, black jeans (sans pullover in summer). Fall to winter, his outer-wear is a charcoal wool, trench-style overcoat, black, lamb-skin gloves, and no puffer or bomber jackets. Shoes are black brogues or ankle boots depending on the season, end of story.
You will never, ever have to confront the sight of your George's knees, or for that matter, ankles, or calves in summer, as he would never do such a thing; wearing shorts is out. Bermuda shorts should only be found on Bermudian policemen, in Bermuda. Treating one's friends to the view of one's naked legs can only do irreparable harm to the balance of power in a relationship. This is The Law of George.
Nor will you ever see George in sandals (oh, the horror). George feels that a gentleman's feet are best kept to themselves and not exposed to the light of day, and I heartily concur. Likewise, A George never wears or possesses such things as 'running shoes', espadrilles or even worse, flip-flops.
You may have noticed that there is, in this age of biking, jogging, spinning, aqua fitness, and 'hot' yoga, a curious lack of sporty attire in The George's wardrobe. That is because, as far as I know, A George does not 'do' sports, running, jumping, bending, perspiring or feel the need to demonstrate his buoyancy, which he assures me is excellent. The nearest thing to sports equipment I've noticed my George to possess is a riding crop. But I'm not sure whether or not it had, strictly speaking, an equestrian purpose...some things are better left as mysteries.
As for hair: all Georges are well-groomed and clean-shaven, as they have nothing to hide and a well-shaven cheek bespeaks a steady hand and an orderly mind (no after shave, ever). And please, restrain yourself from trying to influence your George to follow fickle fashion and grow facial hair, no matter how full or discreet, like the silly 'soul patch' which just appears as incompetent barbering. A lone mustache just looks evil and a full bushy beard, the mark of a disorderly mind. You wouldn't want your George's mind to be less than orderly, now would you? Think of the consequences to the harmony and order of your own life and those of other innocent Georges’ charges the world over! If you want a cuddly, hairy face to keep you company, just get a male Bichon Frise, that's what they're for.
Which brings me to another practical function of George regarding pets and the choosing, keeping and eventual demise of same. Early in my association with George, I owned a precocious puppy who managed one morning to escape my care. He was gone for hours, only to be found several blocks away, as flat as a pancake beneath a municipal disposal truck. George came to my 'emotional rescue' placing a supportive hand on my shoulder, whilst I tossed Finnegan's squished remains into the truck (oh, don't look like that, it was handy and for disposal after all). Then, as he turned to leave, said, “I'll be back Thursday."
And he was, only to take me to the city's animal hostel where he strode purposefully and unmoved, past the jumping, eager, pleading faces and plaintiff yelps of hopeful canines, straight to the feline section where indolent, insolent cats of every stripe and colour, swished their tails, purred ominously, and gave me an indifferent appraisal.
"I don't really care for cats," I objected, a protest which fell on deaf ears as George stopped, dead in his tracks, decisively pointed at a large black Persian with jade-green eyes and said, "Him...take him." And I did. Beelzebub has been with me now for two years, barely tolerates my presence, fully occupies all three dimensions, is content and has never been outside, which suits us both. I think Georges may have a feline soul, perhaps this is the key to unlocking the Zen of George...more on that anon.
I enjoy alcohol, spirits of all kinds and wine in particular, and feel I possess a discriminating palate and an economic, ecologically responsible approach to the supply of my domestic cellar. That is, I like to buy my 'vino da tavola' 'house wine' or in plainer terms 'affable plebeian plonk' (always smooth and pleasant, never crude, or rough) in litre and half bottles. So, sue me!
This practice has been the constant chafe in the otherwise smooth conduct of our acquaintance. George never fails to register his disgust at my practical economy by ‘Harrumphing’ loudly, refusing to be seen in the same aisle with me as I make my selection and stand at least two metres ahead as I negotiate their purchase.
He will deign to conduct them to the car, as he is nevertheless a gentleman. But, on this I am firm! George does not run my life (well, not all of it) lines must be drawn, stands must be taken. I will buy my wine in litre and half bottles. End of discussion.
As for George's preferred quaffs, they consist of bourbon, of barely legal age in the double digits, vodka: Russian, and wine: red and old world. No surprises there. Never, 'coolers' of any vile description (they are all vile), girly cocktails with silly names or American beer, which George regards as an oxymoron, only Canadian or British micro-brews.
When dining chez moi, I just leave George to procure his own beverage, which may be a lingering bitterness on my part over a remark he made early in our relationship when presented with a glass of my 'house red'. He advised that since I was a fairly good cook and knowledgeable about cuisine, I should "Learn about wine, at least". So, I did. I went on a delightful one-week mini-course to the Napa Valley but will not give George the benefit of my knowledge as I'm being petty...so there.
As I stated earlier, Georges are tacit creatures; Georges do not engage in gossip, politics of the social, professional, or governmental kind holds some interest. Never talk about sports. Ditto 'the weather', either local or global. Light banter about a current movie, play, television program or latest restaurant opening is welcome. A brief grunt over the stock markets, state of the economy, crime or real estate is permitted. And a slightly longer grunt over foreign perfidy and the development of civil strife overseas is tolerated.
In fact, your George will let you prattle-on undisturbed about many of these topics as long as you don't do it so loud as to interrupt his own flow of thought or the expectation of elaborate interlocution on his part. Georges, like cats, do not care to expend any more energy than is strictly necessary in maintaining communications and relations; in fact, I can get more engagement from Beelzebub by just scratching behind his ears, or tickling his tummy.
For the record, I have never scratched George’s ears or tickled him anywhere. Georges do not like to be touched. They have a strict boundary of personal space like the Maginot Line, breached only by the annual peck on a cool indifferent cheek (his, not yours) at the festive season. Otherwise, back-off sister.
Conversationally speaking, Georges are interested in talking about ideas, their ideas, so be interested. Ask a few pertinent well-timed questions and you could extend your 'George exchanges' to at least ten minutes, twelve if he's feeling effusive.
Georges love music; my George has an extensive collection of records and cds, and as he refuses to stick things in his ears, except for medical or hygiene purposes, does not own an IPOD or a Blue Tooth. His preferred musical genres are jazz, bel canto opera and of course, Wagner...any Wagner...ALL of Wagner... (I loathe Wagner).
George loathes musicals, but enjoys the tunes produced for them. What he finds particularly preposterous is the dancing; he says it creates an absurd impression of the subjects involved. For example, he points out that Jerome Robbins would have us believe that the youth gangs of New York energetically bound and prance about the gutters, back alleys, rooftops and vacant lots of the West Side, en pointe, and can pas-des-deux like nobody's business; Hispanic gangs excepted; they of course, Flamenco. And all might slit their granny's throat for a sawbuck, but they'll do it gracefully.
And contemporary productions are no better. It is George’s belief that the first word in the title of the musical, ‘Phantom of the Opera’, perpetually plaguing our local theatres, refers equally to the quality of the drama as it does to the pleasure of the audience afflicted with its banal drama. On this subject George's mind is made-up tighter than a hotel bed tucked-in by Martha Stewart herself. But unlike a hotel bed, George's mind is never changed and if you think that you can be the proverbial 'irresistible force' to move that 'old unmovable object', you've got another think and a big headache coming!
You may butt your head against the stolid reasoning of the George on any topic over which you care to differ, he will not be moved. But, and this is further evidence of the wisdom of George, he knows this is good for you as in the head-butting process you will become your own unmovable object, able to withstand any comers with a placid demeanour and self-satisfied smirk. Oh yes, Georges smirk, I've glimpsed him doing it, but he doesn't know.
Do not be misled into thinking that all Georges hate all theatre, quite the contrary. George is elated by Shakespeare, made ponderous by Pinter, is bored by Brecht and as for Chekhov, well everyone is bored by Chekhov, except those who can experience him in his mother tongue; I have it on good authority from George, that in Russian, he's a real scream.
THE WHERE and WHY OF GEORGE
By now you are probably wondering, "From whence and from whom, issues forth all the world’s Georges?". I don't know, that is I can't be certain as George never discusses such things and if asked, just folds his hands, and makes an obscure remark about my hair, the placement of an ottoman, where do I think our minds go when we die, or the ‘al denteness’ of the pasta we just ate. So, I am left to rely on conjecture.
Obviously, all the Georges couldn't have just 'sprung from the head of Zeus', could they? Perhaps they, like certain other superior beings are their own sufficient cause? I do think that their natural habitat is urban, although they will venture into the country, I don't think they ever migrate or colonize there. I have two single girlfriends who live in the country and have never, despite their need for one, ever had a George. I, myself, lived in the country for several years and had never, ever seen or heard of A George either. A rural setting just wouldn't be right somehow.
So, where can one find their George? Again, I am at a loss, as I cannot for the life of me trace my initial introduction to my George to any one time, place, person, or event. I've asked all my friends, who are sure they've known George 'forever’, but they can't have and are bereft of any more details.
Perhaps he just appeared when I moved back into the city, newly on my own, in need of a little help and guidance, perhaps on that Thursday evening when I was caught in a spring deluge, my umbrella blown inside out, just after the cab I tried to hail sped by, splashing me with sewer overflow? Was that George, who shoved my broken 'brolly' into the rubbish bin, grabbed my hand and guided me across the street to the subway?... I honestly can't remember.
Do all the Georges know each other or are they independent agents?... I think all Georges know each other and hold an annual conference on the eve of the vernal equinox in Greenwich. Just to check the accuracy of their timekeeping. Don't ask me how I know this; it came to me in a dream.
As to the ‘where’ of George...I haven't seen or heard from my George for quite a while. I thought I spied him in the line-up at the movies last Saturday night, but it turned out to be a much older man, and last week I swore it was he just ahead of me in the rush hour crowd walking towards the subway, but when I caught-up, it wasn't. Oh well, I guess he's just busy with other engagements.
Speaking of which, tonight I am going to my best friend's engagement party and am waiting for my date to arrive, we met at a mini wine course in the Napa Valley. Beelzebub is lolling around on the bed after having scoffed the last of his sardines. He is watching me from that peculiar angle cats achieve when they twist their bodies upside down, yet their heads remain upright, their wide and innocent eyes have a look that says "What? What's so funny?", practically daring you not to laugh at their comic antic.
The doorbell is ringing, 6:30 exactly, Benjamin always keeps such good time. I let him in and see that he is wearing the coral, Oxford cloth shirt with button-down collar I bought for his birthday, a blue blazer, and black jeans. And I think to myself, “Mm, he is pleasing.” Beelzebub swishes his tail and purrs.