“I mean I can’t cook.”
“You can’t cook…why, good Lord, Sally Jay, I thought every girl knew how to cook.” He looked at me, his little Floradora Girl, and gave me a wry sort of some-women-are-made-for-only-one-thing smile. Then he shook his head hopelessly.
“Marion de Wald cooks,” he said grimly. “She does all the cooking and looks after two kids as well.”
I tried to remember one minute that whole week end when Marion and I weren’t either feeding people, or cleaning up from doing it, or preparing to do it again. And presumably she never stopped doing it. But I couldn’t quite see why just because she did, I should. I mean, here I was practically fresh out of the egg, everything was so new to me, and here was everybody telling me to stop drifting, and start living in this world; telling me to start cooking, and sewing, and cleaning, and I don’t know what. Taking care of my grandchildren.
I sat in the studio lost in thought, watching the evening get darker and darker and colder and colder, unable to move. Finally I roused myself and went to look for Jim. I found him wandering aimlessly around the kitchen, peering every now and again into one of the empty cupboards, hoping as if by some miracle to find that particular one filled.
“What is it, Jim?” He looked so forlorn.
“I’ve…I’ve already invited them to dinner on Thursday.”
I took a deep breath.
“O.K.” I said. “Which is the stove and how do you light it?”
Sally Jay Gorce wants more out of life. She wants to travel and see the world, experience things, meet people, laugh a little, and have a good time. Problem is, she’s only 13. She runs away, again and again, hoping to get to Europe, where certainly things must be more interesting than in New Jersey. Finally, her wealthy uncle sits her down and makes her a deal. If she’ll stop running away, stop frittering away her potential, and settle a bit, stick it out until she finishes high school, then graduate from college, he will generously fund her through 2 years in Europe, no questions asked. How can a wanderlust girl say no to that? She can’t. Sally Jay commits herself to life at home, stops giving her parents trouble, finishes high school and college, and then she’s off on an all-expense paid trip to Paris, which is where we meet her. Doing the ‘walk of shame’, coming home in the morning in an evening gown, after yet another wonderful night on the town. She’s involved in a relationship with a married man, interested in acting, hanging out in bars and clubs with people that she sees as sophisticated and exciting. It’s the perfect balm to her too-quiet New Jersey childhood.
At a cafe in Paris, she meets Larry, a stage director she knows from her time in college. She falls instantly in love, and decides she must break up with her married lover, and get back into the theater. So we are drawn into the life of Sally Jay, sort of a predecessor to Bridget Jones, but she more closely reminded me of Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. This is the story of an American girl in Paris, who wants to experience life, and relishes it to its fullest. Of course, drama ensues, some of it quite sinister and disturbing. Her relationship with Jim, from the quote above, is somewhere in the middle…she falls into a relationship with him, though she’s not terribly interested, doesn’t want to find any kind of future together, doesn’t want to settle down. He, of course, very much does. He wants her to settle down a bit, become the wifely type, cook for him and host dinner parties. Marry him, keep house. Not. Her. Thing.
NPR has a series in their All Things Considered called, You Must Read This. I heard someone talk about The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy, and I scribbled it onto a piece of paper and put it on hold at the library. I’m glad I did. I’m not sure about the sinister elements of the book…they seemed to come from left field, as did the perhaps too-pat ending. But otherwise, I really enjoyed the time I spent with Sally Jay Gorce. Give it a try.