Recently, I had the privilege of having tea with a true Mad Woman. In the early 60’s, Mia graduated from Brown, moved to Manhattan, and went to work as a copy editor, and then editor, for one of the major publishing houses. She spent twenty-five years in publishing and loved every minute of it. I had heard of most of the authors that she worked with, had even read a few, and nodded and sipped my tea when she made literary references that I should have known, but didn’t.
More than literature Mia loves gossip. She regaled us of stories of who slept with who, who was gay and in the closet, who was gay and out of the closet; who married for money, who married for love, and who liked threesomes. I was slightly uncomfortable hearing a true blue blood WASP call gay men queers; but she is a woman of her times and can be forgiven.
I asked her if she ever worked with Jackie Kennedy, who was an editor like Mia; she hadn’t, but did tell a funny story of growing up in the same social circles as the Bouvier's. When Mia was a little girl, she went to a birthday party that Jackie was invited to as well. There was a pony for the bigger kids to ride and pony and cart for the younger kids. Jackie wouldn’t let anyone else, including the birthday girl, ride the pony so they were stuck riding in the cart. She said they were mad at Jackie for hogging the pony. In the six degrees of separation game, this was a close as I was going to get to American royalty.
As I sipped tea and listened to Mia, my mind wandered, her couch was comfy, really comfy, down filled and brocade, not big and so deep that I feel like a kid with my feet dangling, the way modern couches are designed. I had the worst urge to lie down and put my feet up. I berated myself for not concentrating on her stories of starting her own antiques appraisal business, after she retired from publishing. For a decade she was paid to rummage through, the cupboards and closet of the toniest and most exclusive houses of the Hamptons and the Upper East Side. The loot and booty she evaluated was impressive; sterling silver candelabra that she could hardly lift, dresses designed by Coco Chanel and the finest porcelain made. Jackie Kennedy and fine porcelain…yikes, I was out of my league but enthralled with her stories, her intelligence and willingness to answer my questions.
She broke gender barriers in the publishing world, started a business, earned and managed her own money. She is an independent lady. She paved the way for ding dongs like me.
Mia didn’t set out to be a trailblazer, most women don’t. She knew what she wanted independence, freedom and to use the brain that god gave her. I spent a wonderful afternoon with an incredible lady.
She has invited me over for lunch of lasagna, wine, gossip and books. I can’t wait to spend some more time with my own, True Mad Woman.
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