For about six seconds when I was 25 I dated Helmut, a beautiful, sexy German lawyer. I was living on the Lower East Side then, in a fifth floor walk-up loft with a crew of bohemian downtown types as roommates and neighbors.
One night, Helmut and I were walking out for dinner and passed Nan, one of my fourth floor neighbors, in the hall. The next night, I ran into Nan at the candy store on the corner.
“Who was that I saw you with last night?”
“Helmut? He’s the guy I’ve been seeing.”
“I’d have sex with him any time.”
I never knew to do when people said things like that to me, things I didn’t need or want to hear, things it was actually more than a little rude to say.
I mentioned the Nan incident to a woman I knew. “Into the drawer!” she said.
Yes, I was just as confused by that as anyone might be. She explained. She was friendly with (gorgeous, fabulous actress) Gena Rowlands. Rowlands, of course, was married to (gorgeous, fabulous film maker) John Cassavetes. Upon hearing of a Nan-like story in my friend’s life, Rowlands talked about how she dealt with ladies like Nan. Because she was married to a man plenty of women lusted after (myself included!), she often had to hear stupid, insensitive comments such as Nan’s. She never responded angrily or cattily, but would nod and smile. Later, she would write the woman’s name on a piece of paper, put the paper in a drawer … and never speak to the woman again.
I didn’t see myself so able to follow such a drastic course of action, but I liked it all the same, liked the finality of it, the absolute cold-shoulder of it, the refusal to accept utterly bad behavior. I didn’t put Nan in the drawer, but I saw her differently, interacted with her differently.
And I’m happy to say that I’ve only had to deal with a few drawer-worthy folks in recent years. I must be getting better at choosing the people I spend time with … which is, maybe, the lesson Gena Rowlands’ story was meant to teach me in the first place.
is hosted by Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers.