October 8, 2012

Adventures of the Nina Ricci Girl: Ponette goes to Church

Since her parents died, Ponette made a habit of going to church every Sunday. Not because she was religious or anything. She wasn't. Not for a long time. Her non-belief dated back to an observation she made as a seven-year old. The end of the service was highly anticipated because then Monsignore Benedetto beckoned those in wheelchairs and on crutches to come forward and ask to be healed. When nothing happened week after week, month after month, she felt the need to inquire.

"Monsignore, all the cripples come to you and ask to be healed but nothing ever happens. Maybe this isn't working?" Ponette got in trouble for that; in equal measures for daring to question the potential faith-induced miracle and for using inappropriate language.

Regardless of past events, Ponette knew her parents would appreciate the gesture. Propriety and a sense of tradition had been instilled upon her forever, re-introducing this Pavlovian reaction to church bells chiming on Sunday morning at least while she was visiting the country home. And often one needed more than the rising sun to get out bed. It was a pale orange day in Autumn.  Ponette walked through showers of leaves to the village church.

Fred was waiting for her, saving a seat in the back, last row, in the corner. Their places. Always when she was here. The grand entrance worked nonetheless as Ponette chose the side doors leading her down the middle aisle. No use adhering to tradition and honoring her parents memories if nobody saw her. Nods of heads and eye contact reassured her their memories would be retained with the proper reverence.

"My, what a respectful daughter they raised." Yes, as trite and superficial as that.

The smooth wooden pews groaned to accommodate the faithful as those in the last row stood up, stern faces softening for the seconds it took her to pass, perfume trailing behind her. It was the faintest whiff.

Bach's Brandenburg concerto Nr. 4 began playing. In unison, everyone rose.

"Did you know that the Emperor was the only male capable of reproducing in the Forbidden City?"
"Beijing Forbidden City or the gay club in Manhattan?"
"China darling."
"Were all the other men gay?"
"Well, that wouldn't do much good now would it?"
"Why not? That is the nature of being gay; you aren't tempted to impregnate women."
"But technically it'd still be possible. The hunger for power is part of the gay gene as well darling. The emperor didn't want to take any chances."

The Sanctus bells rang signalling an uneven wave of people to kneel. Ponette bowed her head, resting them on her gloved hands. The whispered conversation continued while on her knees.

"Even if gay men wouldn't dream of seducing the Emperor's concubines, they are still able to sire children you know."
"Castration seems rather drastic though. Ouch." Fred shuddered.
"To ensure all offspring are of royal blood, they only had eunuchs. 3000 of them. I mean, seriously, what better way to ensure your offspring are yours? They didn't have Maury Povitch back then sweetheart. I find it rather efficient. I like that."

After the service, she and Fred lingered outside, chatting briefly with acquaintances of Ponette's family.

"Oh my god, that girl is such a cow." Ponette turned against the wind to light her cigarette.
"I thought you didn't know anybody here."
"Well, I don't really know them know them, but when I was a child I did play with that one over there." Fred followed her eyes. A tall sturdy blonde woman was looking prim contrary to what she was wearing. The former voluptuous part of her figure was now held up by clothing that was too tight. "Too much blonde, too much gold and not enough dress."
"If she were one of the Emperor's concubines, she'd be the shit stirrer."
"So what does she do?"
"Children. She has children. Five, six; I've lost count. Her husband's family belongs to the local tree and gardening dynasty. Very plebian." 
"She doesn't look half bad, considering. Well, except for the styling. She desperately needs a make-over."
"I saw her at my great Aunt's funeral. Funerals are really quite wonderful because black suits everybody and brings a degree of dignity to people who have none." Ponette took another drag of her cigarette. "Let's go. I've had enough."

Fred and Ponette hooked arms and strolled to the Garden Café for coffee with whipped cream. They'd be able to sit outside and continue their conversation about castrates, concubines and bad breath. 

photo of the Nina Ricci collection fall winter 2012 courtesy of the Cut

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