Sunday, June 15, 2008

My Aunt Gladys

At 75, my aunt Gladys is still single.
That comes as a surprise to all of us in the family, because, though our dear aunt is not what you would call a classical beauty, she is, and has always been, clean and quiet.

These two qualities, however, were not enough to attract the attention of a man.

Men, vain as they are, seem to prefer style over substance. And my aunt was never the type of woman who would “show off the goods”- as she would put it- in tight dresses, silk stockings or short sleeve shirts. Her wardrobe consisted mostly of fashionable separates in modern fabrics, like polyester and rayon, in a neutral palette of browns and grays.

A fashion magazine might describe it as “Armani meets Prison cell.”

Had been Gladys spanish and with some talent for the arts, she might have ended in some Almodóvar movie. She has THAT kind of face.

The face the camera loves.

Her eyes are dark, big and round, and looking at them people always assume that something terrible has happen to her in the past or that there’s something really, really wrong with her diet.
They are very dramatic.
Her teeth are on the small side, not particularly white - no Kennedy horses on my family- and at night they are almost invisible. But though a visit to the dentist once every ten years is an idea no one should discard, her smile is still able to warm the coldest heart.

My aunt has some amazing cheek bones, a miracle of contemporary reconstructive surgery.

Years ago she was involved in an accident.
A former lover, we think, crashed her face with a BB gun when she appeared by a window of his house trying, jokingly, to surprise him and his wife with an ax during dinner.
Details are still muddy.
She lost half of her face, her favorite ax, and a chip of her dignity when the story ended up in the papers. But, after 8 hours of surgery, two weeks of rehab and a year and a half on probation, she was back being her old, happy self.

After the incident, Gladys took a new lease on life.
Salsa lessons, karate classes and a surprising new interest in the art of taxidermy filled her appetite for adventure. She became a bit of a feminist, cutting her hair in a very, very short style- think Jean Seberg with bigger earlobes- that made her look chic, sexy and, in a strange way, masculine.

But even then, men did not take the bait.

Looking at her you’d never know it, but she has always have a very optimistic outlook at life. No gloomy days for Gladys; no glasses half empty- we joke in the family.
Still convinced she’ll get married one day, she has been keeping her wedding ‘trousseau’ and honeymoon nightgown in a suitcase under the bed for years. The hand painted sheets and pillows, the porcelain plates, the hand blown crystal champagne glasses, and her 78- piece collection of Nazi memorabilia is perfectly displayed in her armoire, ready for when the wedding bells start to toll.

My little nephew, Benjamin, looking at her through the semi-open door of her bedroom one night, while she was practicing a new technique of “stuffing” with the family cat, said to me: “She looks like a weird bird.”

-Yes- I added proudly- a wonderful, exotic, beautiful and very weird bird.

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