When I was a little girl I used to crawl in between the legs of the kitchen table and sit there listening to my Grandma and my Aunts who were gathered around the table gossiping away. I always hoped that I would be able to eavesdrop on some fascinating transgression of the family black sheep or perhaps a shared confidence about their sex lives or even the neighbors' sex lives ...but did I ever get lucky enough to hear a morsel of salacious or forbidden gossip??? Hell no.
No such luck!! All I ever managed to overhear was an endless discussion of their aches and pains, their excruciating sufferings of the "female kind" (whatever they were...) and the dire pronouncements of their Doctors about their assorted conditions. I used to wonder to myself in desperation if it were possible that old people (anyone over 30) had nothing else to talk about or think about than bunions, burping or billiousness. My God, I would think to myself. How many different antacid tablets could there be and could they really be so different and if so, how could they all fail so miserably to cure even a small case of seemingly Universal Bloat? Sigh. (undaunted by this failure all of my aunts always had a residue of strange white powder in the corners of their mouths from endlessly chompfing on mysterious white tablets).
I know now that they were not cleaning up their act because they were protecting the tender ears of the interloper hiding under the table .....now that I have reached, nay far exceeded, the ancient age of 30 I know the awful truth........the simple fact is that when old ladies get together the thing they seem to get the most glee out of sharing is an endless discussion of their ailments. I remember I used to detect a subtle note of one-upsmanship on the part of the Aunts......it seemed to me that each one gloomily vied to be the one who was in the worst shape. What a strange competition I thought at the time. I'll NEVER be like that when I grow up ! Oh yeah? Fast forward 60 or 70 years.....
I watch in fascinated horror when my friends and I get together how books, TV, social engagements, the state of the world and even discussions of the neighbors sex lives are given just token recognition and dismissed in favor of the only really interesting and important subject.......our decrepit and ever deteriorating physical state. Naturally, my friends and I are much too educated, sophisticated, advanced,liberated and enlightened to compete in the sordid fashion of the Blumenthal sisters.......HOWEVER, I could not help but gloat a bit recently when I was diagnosed with the most esoteric ailment I had ever heard of and realized with horror that I could hardly wait to casually drop the term "Blepharitis" during our next get-together. In case you were wondering (and how could you not?), Blepharitis is a an actual disease of the....are you ready for this??? ......the eyelashes......it is a kind of dandruff of the Eyelashes which causes itchy eyes, gummy eyes and generally pain-in-the-ass-uncomfortable eyes.
I was told by the Opthomologist that I had to wash my eyelashes daily with Baby Shampoo and I do so dutifully each morning with a little cotton swab feeling like the world's biggest nut and hypochondriac. Fortunately, this seems to be working and, feeling a little bit sheepish about exploiting this strange condition, I think I am almost ready to give the baby shampoo to my neighbors, who have just had a baby, and put the title of Owning the Most Esoteric Disease up for grabs. Oh, Grandma, Aunt Jenny, Aunt Mary......forgive me for making fun of you......little did I know I would be stricken with Blepharitis as my punishment.....
The New Yorker covers: March 17, 1934
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