When things were not going well between my mother and father, she says, his best friend took him out to help him buy her a gift. An academic type, my father could have a very robust and seductive conversation on anything from Imperial China and the State Cult of Confucius to the connection between Marxism and the science fiction of H.G. Wells. But the art of romancing a woman with presents that would tickle her fancy eluded him.
Previous gifts to my mother included an Indian arrowhead he had excavated himself on a dig in the Southwest, a piece of turquoise from the same dig, and a silver necklace that wouldn’t lie flat. He desperately needed an upgrade in the luxury gift department. But his friend thought what my parents needed was to get their libidos buzzing.
My father picked out some intimate apparel. Or, rather, his friend did. Black, cheap, sleazy stuff, according to Mom. My mother is a chic woman, and being raised by nuns does not necessarily make you naughty or kinky. (How to explain the Kama Sutra I found in her drawer after she married the Italian trumpet player?) The black sleazy stuff did not improve their relationship, and, in fact, my parents soon—as soon as I was born — separated. (“Why, why that when he knew I’d rather have opera tickets?” she lamented.)
Underwear is very, very tricky.