As longtime readers of Patum Peperium are aware, when Mr. P and I became Catholics, we might as well have taken the veil as well, because of the chilling effect of going Catholic had on our social life. Thankfully, some friends were able to overlook the enormous social gaf of going Catholic and our friendships remained intact. One of those loyal friends has done something admirable in local circles. As a result, last week a proper invitation for a party in his honor at the nicest home in our hamlet slid through our mail slot. After reading the invitation and removing my jaw from the floor, I called Mr. P. I told him about the party. He did not take well to my thinking that I required a splendid new outfit and a Jaguar to attend the party. In fact his response was quite terse. "Nuts!. We'll go looking as we always look." "How do we always look?" I queried. He said, "Like we've just flown in from Penobscot Bay."
To understand Mr. P's instructions, you need to understand the complete sartorial disaster Mr. P was when I met him. His satorial disaster stemmed from the fact he was raised by liberals who were addicted to new thinking and until he met me, he dated liberal women who were addicted to new thinking. So, naturally, his clothing reflected new thinking and, at times, he looked quite idiotic. But, for a complete sartorial disaster, he had 4 things going for him that most sartorial disasters did not : He was incredibly good-looking, wore the greatest glasses --British social security issue-- owned penny loafers, plus he was a poet. Since I had decided the day I met him that he was the man I was going to feed out of the same crib for life if, I could arrange it, I brought up the issue of his poor dress on our second date. Mr. P agreed that he was a mess. I asked him if there was one man out there that he had as his sartorial guide? He said "Yes". Who?" I asked. "Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan" he replied "Who's that?" I asked. "You don't know who Daniel Patrick Moynihan is and you are from Connecticut?" he shot back quickly gaining the upper hand in our relationship. Unfazed by his midwestern snobbery, I replied, "No, who is he?" "He's one of the last great liberals. He's a liberal who has the ability to see what is wrong with liberalism. And he's a Senator of New York which is the state right next to Connecticut." "Is he a Republican?" I asked. "Hardly!" "No wonder I don't know who he is. I never pay attention to Democrats." Mr. P drained his drink and went on to explain (very slowly I might add) that when at Princeton, the school rounded him up and sent him on a bus to meet some movers and shakers on Capitol Hill. One of the movers was this Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. After meeting him, Mr. P decided that someday he would like to dress like him.
Since I hadn't a clue as to who this Daniel Patrick Moynihan was, I had to do some research. Guess what? Except for his political party allegiance and his teaching stint at Harvard, Senator Moynihan was my kind of a guy. He very fond of Penobscot Bay Maine, old wooden sailboats, country living, and, most importantly, specialized in, as Mr. P had told me, a tattered sartorial elegance. Mr. P was a natural for tattered sartorial elegance. One afternoon about a year after our second date, Mr. P and I were married with Mr. P sporting new tweeds that Daniel Patrick Moynihan would have just loved to have tattered about.
About 3/4 of the way through our first year of married life, I had to go out to the West Coast for more than a month. It was during our telephone chat the night before my return home, that Mr. P decided to inform me, his wife, that he had turned in his marvelous British social security issue spectacles "for a more updated look". Slightly horrified and slightly intrigued I asked, "What did you chose?" "You'll see." he replied. "Oh and I decided to grow a moustache and beard in your absence." "Really?" I responded. It was about this time that I started thinking leaving him unattended for extended periods of time was not a wise idea on my part. "Yes." he replied. "How do you look?" I asked. "I don't like it. I'm going to shave them off before I pick you up at the airport." "Noooooo!" I cried "I want to see how you look." "Well, maybe I won't." he replied.
The next day I disembarked from my plane along with my colleagues to greet a grinning Mr. P who was waiting at the gate and holding a large bouquet of flowers. But the size of the bouquet could not hide the fact Mr. P was sporting George Burns' eyeglasses and Hitler's moustache. Mr. P had not waited for me to see him. He had shaved off his entire beard and most of his moustache but had left a little Hitler one, as he explained, to make me laugh. I didn't laugh. I wanted to kill him. But I liked him too much and wasn't able to go through with it. It was when we were in the car headed home that I gently inquired about his new glasses. "What made you think George Burns' eyeglasses were an updated look?" I asked in my most loving tone. "They're not George Burns' glasses." Mr. P replied flatly. "Yes they are." "NO, they're NOT! They are Yeats' eyeglasses. "Yeats' eyeglasses?" I said slowly recalling the photo Mr. P had of Yeats on his desk. "Yes, I can see how you would think those are Yeats' glasses." I replied, dropping the subject.
I picked the subject up again the following day. I sat Mr. P down and said "We need to talk." I explained to him that when I'm not around and he needs to buy himself some article of clothing, he must look to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan for wisdom. "Before you pay for a thing, no matter how small of a purchase it is, you must ask yourself, what would Daniel Patrick Moynihan do?" Mr. P, largely relieved that this was "our talk", agreed to ask himself this question every time. Sadly, with the collapsed state of liberalism and the collapse of the Democratic party, there have been many times over the last 17 years when Mr. P has not felt like asking himself "What would Daniel Patrick Moynihan do?" So he didn't ask. The results were not pretty. In fact, most of them were odious.
So, imagine my apprehension in a time of war, when last weekend Mr. P agreed to my assesment that he required new shoes and, as he said, "maybe a few other things" for the party and our upcoming trip out East. I was too busy with the children and their emerging social lives to accompany him on his shopping venture. So I gave him a big wifely kiss and counseled, "Remember, we want to look like we've just flown from Penobscot Bay and forget about Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi. What would Daniel Patrick Moynihan do?" Mr. P departed, nodding his head.
My apprehension only doubled and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up when I spied Mr. P returning a few hours later with several shopping bags of purchases. "Your saleslady friend was on duty at Brooks Brothers. She asked me if I needed help. I told her I needed to look like I had just flown in from Penobscot Bay." "Oh...good...great...ah...what did she advise?" I asked slowly. "She took me right over to the racks of red pants." he answered. "She did? I said. "Yes...she's right...red pants are all over Penobscot Bay." he responded. "Did you get a pair?" I asked. "No, because she said I had to wear bucs with them. I'm NOT wearing bucs." he said. "OK, ok...no one is going to force you to wear bucs. Sooo whaat did you decide?" "I decided I already had plenty of pants to wear. But I did need some new French cuffs." he said, pulling out a lovely pink dress shirt. Now, that was a very good decision by Mr. P and the hairs on the back of my neck started to settle down. He continued, "And, because you are so fond of them, I bought some new silk knots." and handed me a glass vial full of perfectly adorable silk knots. I sighed and turned the vial around and around, just admiring the vibrant colors. Understanding he was on very solid ground Mr. P said, "Oh, I picked this up because it looks like something your grandfather would have worn." and pulled out a blue and red check dress shirt. "It does." I sighed again, and, my knees started going wobbly. "Then, I decided I needed a new bathrobe." At this point words could only stumble out of my mouth, "You..you...you...do...need a new one..don't...don't..you...what...what...what... did you...choose?" "This!" he said and with a flourish revealed a blue seersucker dressing gown. "A seersucker dressing gown? For you? To have coffee with me on the porch in Maine? With the ocean as our backdrop?" I said, having to sit down on the couch. He then said, "Yes I did. Though I did have to draw the line at your friend's suggestion of a raspberry pink, lemon yellow and peach madras bowtie with matching raspberry silk knots." This was too much for me. "Oh, draw away." I replied absent-mindedly thinking of Mr. P in his dressing gown, sipping coffee, and reading Chaucer on the porch in Maine. "Exactly! Raspberry pink is much more Nantucket than Penobscot Bay" he replied. I nodded (weakly). "Oh, and this is for you" he said tossing me a silver tank watch with a grosgrain ribbon strap. My weakened arm just managed to catch it before it hit the ground and when I saw what it was, my mouth dropped open. I said, in a most delighted but done in tone, "This watchstrap is one of the same ones I had at finishing school for my Snoopy watch. I loved that watch. It had a little tennis ball that went around for the seconds. Oooh thank you, honey." I said about to slide off the couch but before I did, I queried. "Did you get any shoes?" Mr. P, completely confident at this point said in his most husbandly way, "Yes. I did exactly what you told me to do. I went to the shoe store and looked at all of the assembled shoes. I thought long and hard about what would Daniel Patrick Moynihan do?" "What did you decide he would do?" I said, grasping for air. "I decided he would have chosen the monk strap.." "Not the single monk strap?" I whispered almost breathlessly. "Yes, the single monk strap. I knew you'd like that. But.." "But what? How can there be a but with a single monk strap?" I said quickly coming back to life. Mr. P, adjusting his tone to regain the upperhand said, "BUT...I decided he would have chosen these instead." opening the shoe box and holding up a penny loafer. I swallowed hard. "A penny loafer?" I whispered. "Yes, a penny loafer." he said smiling. I looked at them, I looked at him, and then I swallowed again. I looked at his seersucker dressing gown, the silk knots, the French cuffs, the dress shirts, the watch, the penny loafers and whispered, "I don't know know what to do."
Mr. P, looking at me in a manner that Ulysses must have looked at Penelope upon his return home said, "You must ask yourself, what Mrs. Daniel Patrick Moynihan would do?"