Friday, September 09, 2005

Death And Cleavage

Funerals are, by their nature, glum affairs.

You’ve got some people trying to hold themselves together, some trying to look sad, others afraid they may accidently disturb the solemnity of the affair. Everyone is dressed in muted colors, as if to keep the brightness of Life outside the door. After all, now that the pleasures of this existence have been denied to the dearly departed, it seems in bad taste to demonstrate any enjoyment of what makes living the special experience that it is.

Unless you’re at a wake, of course. Then the logic goes the other way round.

But I’m talking about your common, everyday service, the kind that takes place in a special building built for that purpose. It’s got a handful of rooms, some rather gloomy looking fellows wearing bad ties posted around, and some boxes of tissues. As for the décor, it suggests a church that’s been decorated to look like a birthday cake, or like they phoned up your grandmother for advice on ambience.

Now, among my wife's many admirable qualities is the fact that she was intelligently designed with a rather impressive décolletage. From time to time, in fact, we've had disagreements about the plunginess of a particular neckline. These are arguments that I usually lose, especially if we're going to a rock 'n' roll show, in which case all bets are off and she throws on a little something that makes Elvira look like a boy.

She doesn’t put them on the glass, mind you. But this particular aspect of her endowment is sometimes difficult to disguise.

We were attending a funeral in one of these places not so long ago and we found ourselves standing together outside the room where the service was about to take place when an older woman approached us. She seemed to be in the care of a young black woman who carefully followed her everywhere, very closely.

"Do you really think that’s appropriate?" she asked my wife, looking down her nose at her cleavage.

I should point out that there was nothing terribly outrageous about my wife’s dress on this day. It was a black dress and what was on display was really not that inappropriate. It’s not like she showed up in pasties and a g-string.

We were both momentarily shocked and embarrassed. We looked at each other, wondering if we could have possibly heard her correctly.

"What?" my wife asked.

"That dress," the woman replied, her companion looking extremely nervous. "Do you really think you should be wearing such a thing to a…function like this?"

We were literally speechless. We couldn’t believe that someone was engaging in such rudeness with total strangers. She did seem a little distracted, which would have explained the nursemaid who now looked as if she wanted to crawl into a deep, dark hole.

I don’t even remember what we said to her. This breach of public etiquette had staggered us and we just walked away, wondering what had just happened. Soon we filed into the service and I sat in such a way so that I could stare at the woman. I gave her the fisheye throughout the whole thing, daring her to engage my stare. She seemed nervous and embarrassed and her companion’s gaze kept focusing on things around the room.

What had triggered this? Was she just ditzy? Was it jealousy of my wife's balcony? Had she not noticed that at some point during what appeared to be a long lifespan, women in the United States had done away with burkhas and one-piece bathing suits?

Or was it simply resentment that, somehow, Life had managed to creep into the proceedings, like a weed through a crack in the cement, and she resented the reminder that as each of us is ushered offstage, a new group of cast members takes our place?

Is it simply disrespectful to live in the presence of the dead? I remember a quote of Raymond Chandler's pertaining to the resentment some people had for new writers who had no respect for the old rules. "They have knocked over tombs and sneered at the dead," he wrote, "which is as it should be."

So let me tell you, madam, what I should have said at the time:

My wife's dress was perfectly appropriate.

But even if she had attended dressed as a stripper, I would have preferred it to the living death you seemed to represent.

Let there be cleavage at funerals, and a stiletto heel in the heart of Death. Let push-up bras lift up the soul along with their fleshier freight. Let our bodies be as unbound as that of the dearly departed's. Let the cemeteries be seeded with copulating couples who seek to challenge Death on his own ground. May the buxom, bikinied future shrug you off like a bad terrycloth robe and inspire spiritual erections for Eternity.

Good day to you.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is brilliant!!! Your writing is unique and extraordinary. Thanks.

Sunday, September 11, 2005 1:38:00 PM  
Blogger Count Screwloose said...

Well, thank you!


Monday, September 12, 2005 4:26:00 PM  

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