They were friends, MaryAnn, Linda and Shirley. Secrets were kept from the rest of the world but not from each other. Experiences, good and bad, were sorted out, victories and successes trumpeted, and occasionally tears flowed as they spoke quietly of dying dreams. They were young women of the seventies, cloaked in the excitement of a new city, a new time, a new freedom.
MaryAnn, from New York City, Linda and Shirley, from Minnesota. They generously shared the heights and depths of their lives with me. They were the three Musketeers. I was the fourth friend….the singles guy.
MaryAnn was tall and willowy with a talent for sarcasm. She would never be described as beautiful but it was easy to see into the future when she would be declared ‘a handsome woman’. Linda was effervescent, almost charismatic. Her face was round and peasant like, until she smiled. When she smiled the only fully visible beauty of the three of them appeared. Linda’s smile was lifting. Her smile was real, unpretentious and the most remote observer could sense a good heart through that beautiful smile.
It almost seemed that Shirley was created as a contrast to her two friends. She would never be described as ‘handsome’ and her smile was unremarkable. She presented a pedestrian, ordinary face to the world. Her personality was laconic, almost moribund, rarely upbeat. It seemed that Shirley strove to be unseemly, drab, attempting to be invisible. She wanted to be subtle, in the background, and she succeeded. Few knew her secret. Under the baggy and formless clothes was a near perfect body. The few who possessed this prescious knowledge had been chosen carefully.
MaryAnn, Linda and Shirley, bright women, forward looking, each destined for success in their chosen fields. Unfortunately, they would fail in their search for someone special to share their lives with. Between failures, their phones would ring and on the other end of the line would be their peripheral friend, their periodic visitor, the singles guy. I would minister to them collectively over drinks at one bar or another, and laugh with them about the most recent playboy that Linda had jettisoned, or all of us would commiserate with MaryAnn as she described a disastrous third date with an accountant who drunkenly tried to seduce her in a limo that likely had cost him a week’s salary.
Shirley was less available and her failures were fewer. Her abruptness bordered on disdain, and those who attempted to find the woman beneath her less than artful veil were expected to display a quick wit, emotional depth and that rarest of qualities among men, sensitivity. Good looks were not high on her list, but humor, sensual awareness, and emotional depth were. If a suitor was not possessed of these qualities, Shirley would dispatch him as kindly and hastily as possible.
All shared the pain, myself included, when the most recent ‘nearly perfect man’ declared he wasn’t ready for commitment. Laughter and time healed the wounded and soon it was time to look about for a new prospect. I helped with the laughter and the healing as best I could. In return, this lost soul, the singles guy, was allowed to share intimate moments with each of them. Separately, by invitation.