Which naturally includes women.
"So I'm checking out rehab centers around here and I tell him about one outside Lafayette, and he asks if they've got women there," I tell my friend. "No, I answer. It's for men only. And he says he ain't going if they don't have women. Can you believe it? Who goes to a crazy house to meet chicks?"
Which brings us to the art show that is being exhibited at the New Orleans Museum of Art. It is titled Femme, Femme, Femme, and you don't need Montaigne's command of the French language to recognize it is all about ladies.
Ah, the ladies. Here's a painting by Emile Friant titled "Lovers at the Bridge." He's lying. She knows it but wants to hear more. Look at the mother in Andre Gill's "The Newborn Child." She has a soft but sure way of bringing her senses in contact with your senses. She's the one who could scrub a baby's face the longest without making it cry.
Here is one. "The Golden Wedding Anniversary" by someone named Louis Denechaud. The little girl stands on a chair reciting something sweet for her aged ancestors. The female of the pair is flashing the girl a look, a look of all tenses: past, present and to come. Most mothers know how to use this look.
There's a male component here, too. A gangling brother or cousin of the girl, and he is mocking the earnestness of her performance and the performance of her earnestness. You know him. Every family has one.
So what revelation came coyly crawling over the museum marble to whisper in my ear? To learn something of the unknowable, to peep behind the curtain at the Eternal Other and see what? This time only this: Most women think that the world should work, that there is a right way to do things and if that way is followed, fairness demands favorable results. Most men do not think this. Each attitude shows in how men and women look and act.
This distrust of life and those who live it all around you (e.g. "When doctors and undertakers meet, they always wink at each other.") is the special skill of the male psyche; think W.C. Fields. The distrust of that distrust is a female thing; think Maureen O'Hara.
If you think this pretense is a good quality to have, you would say this is common sense. If not, you would say it's a lack of imagination. If, however, you are bothered by fits of lunacy, you'll probably alternate these opinions. The world should work. Fat chance.
So that's it? you may ask. That's your great insight into women? After all those nights of worship, all those days of frustration, that whole life of curiosity?
The murmurs and mumbles pelt me like termites in swarming season. What gives you any authority to speak to the character or thoughts of women? Well, only the usual plea: a lousy near-lifetime of observation, nearly as long as has been spent observing caterpillars.
It all began on a stunning summer afternoon. My neighbor was a tomboy type from deep Dixie who could spit between her gapped teeth. Naturally, I loved her deeply and secretly, and just as naturally, she knew it. She laughed unnaturally loud when I took a bad spill on my new bike, and I gave chase with Shame running alongside.
Miss Gap-Tooth reached her yard, which rested behind a fence that couldn't be seen over or through, and locked the gate. I bounded up the fence and swung a leg over. Just as I straddled the fence top and made ready to drop over, out of the corner of my eye I spied a large, savage Spitz running at me as silent and deadly as a killer submarine.
Fortunately, my leg was skinny enough that the Spitz's jaws clamped around the dungaree and he came very, very close to undressing me before I was able to fall screaming to the banquette. Dazed and bleeding, I lay on Iberville Street and for the first time wondered at the ways of love. Behind the fence came torrents of gap-toothed laughter.
I have since maintained a lumpy truce with the ladies, a steady, devoted fascination occasionally marred by a dyspeptic disillusion.
My quarrel with all things Spitz is not over.