I’m not good at twiddling my thumbs. I could already do every craft ever invented, except lace-making. Bored silly, I finally I accepted the invitation to be another of the Ladies-Who-Lunch. After the first time, I didn’t think I would go again because the only thing more boring than doing nothing is listening to tedious gossip. Not a single literary conversation was to be had with ex-footballers’ wives, women married to doctors, lawyers, business executives, wine makers, and estate agents. After a couple of hours of listening to who was sleeping with whom, I needed to go home and read a book about people whose lives didn’t revolve around filling a day with nothing – which was all I had to do. . . .
So, again I went out with the LWL. And again. And again. I still didn’t know the people were who were sleeping with the other people. To me, they were just names, no one from my world of normal people who had husbands and children and who wanted to sell the books they (I) had written. But it seemed I was now a regular – expected to be at every lunch.
One day I was sitting at a round table for 16 and everyone except me was talking on their mobile phone. I talked to myself for a while but I’d already heard all my jokes. Seems most of the ladies were calling other LWL and asking them to come to us. Great. 31 women on their phones talking to whoever wasn’t there—31 women wanting to discuss the affairs of even more women. For a while I thought everyone was playing away from home but me, but to be fair, most of the LWL in my group were suddenly single (which is why they had time for lunch) or raring to try a third marriage.
Since I wasn’t looking for another husband, for a while I couldn’t understand my role. I was put straight by my ‘Bestie.’ She said with sincerity plastered across her face, ‘I don’t like going out with good-looking women because they compete with me for men. You don’t.’ Then I got it. I was the wing-woman. I was supposed to entertain the table-hopping bores while the single LWL bargained for a bigger house.
I had to give out a lot of sympathy to the losers who were never going to get the good-looking (they all were, trust me) LWL. ‘I’ve asked her out five times and she always says no. Why is she talking to that fat guy?’ Sob sob. The first few times I was polite and kind. ‘Blah blah, don’t worry, you’ll find the right person eventually.’ However, everyone has a breaking point. I started telling the truth. ‘Look, that fat guy is filthy rich and she has two children to support in luxury.’ Men are not as practical as women. Didn’t the hopefuls ever wonder why rich men have good-looking wives?
One day I walked into a bar with a horse and a goat, sorry, with my Bestie, who was used to stopping conversations when she entered any room, and a guy the size of a jockey sidled over. ‘Can I buy youse ladies a drink?’
‘Not for me,’ I said, but he didn’t hear me. He couldn’t take his eyes from Her. She accepted a drink but we’d really stopped off to visit the loo. When I got back, the jockey was saying (because Bestie was off her bar stool and had her bag clutched under one arm), ‘If I could have a woman like you, I would die happy.’
She said in WTTE ‘that’s very sweet and I am sure you will one day.’
I got outside and crunched over, laughing. I said, ‘A woman like you? What does he mean, a woman like you? He saw you across a crowded bar and he read your character?’
She didn’t understand what I meant and so she explained that she was used to attention because she was beautiful. I should have known she wouldn’t see my point, and I suppose I did know, but she had a good heart, despite the depth of her thoughts.
Not too long after that, I was in a hotel having lunch with Bestie and her greatest competitor, who might have been even better looking. Their conversations were very entertaining because Rocky was quite smart and she could get in low hits unobtrusively. I wish I could remember some, because I could use them in books. Anyway, we’d talked for about half an hour over an entrée and the others had muttered about no drinks being sent to the table yet. This was always one of my greatest embarrassments.
I’ve got a ‘thing’ about being bought a drink by a man who presumes that women with women will drink any old thing he chooses to send to a table. It annoys the hell out of me. Yes, I know the drinks were never sent because of me but I’m still allowed to be offended about the presumption that none of the other LWL ever seemed to feel. That’s an aside.
Three drinks arrived after our plates were taken and the waiter pointed to the contributor. The champagne was acceptably French and so he was allowed to come and sit with us for a minute. Often my role was to get rid of these guys but this one began with the right words. He said, ‘I’ve never seen two such beautiful women at one table.’
I said, ‘In a fair world, that would lose you points.’
He said, glancing at me with a wrinkled brow, ‘No one should lose points for telling the truth. They are beautiful.’
Real heroes are gallant even when faced with the more ordinary of my sex. In any event, I had enough fodder for my stories and I hadn’t discovered a real life by lunching. By now I knew enough about makeup to style the plainest woman and enough about clothes to know where to get exclusives at half price. I knew when you wanted a free meal you admitted to a birthday and when you wanted another free meal, you told the birthday girl that she should be treating everyone else.
However, my real life was writing, not sitting around with botoxed beauties. If I couldn’t sell my manuscripts, clearly I was doing something wrong. Were the stories weird or was the writing at fault? I decided I would learn all I could, though of course I thought I knew everything.
As it happened, I didn’t. And so began my love affair with the craft of writing.