Notes From the Edge

The Tyranny of Availability

April 23, 2010

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The Tyranny of Availability

“I had a wonderful time—but this was not it,” is what I contemplated, then discarded, saying to the lady who had hosted the ‘hat-party’.

The lady in question was Kristina Szekely, the equivalent of Majorca’s Matthias Kühn. Both started from scratch about thirty years ago and now dominate their respective real-estate enclaves. Kühn’s bashes, though big on silicone celebrities, are no match for last week’s mix of Ascot, Toulouse Lautrec, and Palm Beach, revisited by Las Vegas.

It was the first of several lavish affairs clearly serving PR purposes I’ve been invited to since arriving in Marbella.

“Do you have a card?” If confessing I forgot to take any along, I’d be thrown a look of disbelief—“what are you doing here?” being the innuendo.

Given the age average, the ratio women to men tends to be about three to one. Still. I’m a little vexed to attract next to zilt male attention.

May I immodestly say that I look like a teenager (okay, only from behind, due to my figure) and like forty (face-wise, genetic injustice considering my merry habits helping). Though gloves might be a good idea in not so distant a future, I would in Paris (even in Manchester) elicit, if not a spark, at least a twinkle.

But Spaniards are not flirtatious. On and off, I’ve lived in this country for twenty years starting in my twenty-something’s. What I first interpreted as gallant reserve I soon recognized for what it was: sheer indifference. (Italians at least, bother to bullshit. Yet they too are men’s men in the end.)

Latin lovers? A myth? Depends whether you call the French Latin. Contrarily to Jeremy Clarkson’s opinion about the Renault Clio V6 in a bend—“In typical French fashion it just gives up! A bit like the French did with the Germans”—in my experience they certainly make it worthwhile stumbling on high heels, one’s thighs strangled by a tight skirt, eye-lashes fluttering ma non troppo. 

Where was I? Yes. Marbella et tout ça.

Latest invitation to date: dinner at Ferdinand and Elisabeth Bismarck’s.

Other than being deeply fond of them, I rejoiced at a chance to meet “normal people.” With gusto, I dressed with care. My lustrous tunic silk, unwearable in Majorca’s zero-chic-casualness, matched shoes and earrings as did my shoes the handbag. I delicately curled into a taxi direction Casa Vanessa.

No car in sight at its gate. “Typical,” teased Conradin (the father of his ex-wife’s children, as some would say!), “you confused lunch with dinner…”

Shit, I thought. Having known the Bismarck tribe for most of my lifetime, I walked into the door all the same—in order to apologize.

Enjoying a quiet television-tray-twosome, they were surprised to see me standing there in full party regalia. Whereas Ferdinand seemed amused, Elisabeth did not. “I left you three messages on your mailbox,” she grumbled. “Don’t you ever listen to them?” I retreated without ado.

Thanks to my husband’s good humor (‘no going home dressed to thrill as you are!) we headed to the Marbella Club for a drink. A funeral might have been more fun, sorry Rudi Schönburg (not around).

Anyway. Having on the spur of the moment found the situation quite funny, I started fuming about the tyranny of availability.

Why, as my father would say, become “the slave of one’s freedom?” Right he is! You are scolded for switching the diabolic device off when not wishing to be disturbed; then you get snapped at when calling someone who, having neglected to do likewise, is sleeping or whatever. (Apart from which Elisabeth, for instance, could have called our land-line number. But then again, who still bothers writing these down?)

Equally exasperated, at least to me, is the SMS mania. For question and answer situations, admittedly the cheaper and shorter way. But I have friends who send a hundred word messages, expecting an SMS in return (they don’t answer their phone—fair enough)! Still: if people want to say something personal to someone, why not take the risk of a dialogue instead of flattening their fingers-tips on silent digits? What does all this tell us about our times? 

But back to the sunnier side of the Marbella scene: like in Gstaad, everyone seems to be fluent in three or more languages. There are no Majorquins and hardly any Germans around. The former, with their retrograde and militant separatism can go to Greece, if I may say so. The latter, stay home unless wearing decent shoes.

Apropos going home: when we did, a while ago, I watched a moving documentary about Simone de Beauvoir. I harbored misconceptions, associating her to feminists in the Virago sense. How wrong! The quintessence of what she said—or of what I captured: “We are not born women, we become it.” In her sing-song voice, wearing a turban and a pearl necklace she adds, “I never contested the differences between men and women—I merely contend they are cultural, not natural.”

Is there any simpler way of putting it? The more life flies, the more I too believe that men and women are more alike than the Venus vs. Mars psychobabblers claim.

Dear sirs: no offense meant!

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