The Senator’s Wife

30 06 2008

Long, long time ago, the term “The Senator’s Wife” was used by me and a few friends as a destination.  We’d look, usually at a party and feeling superior and witty, at some poor woman who had in her carriage and her style that certain je ne se quoi, that certain aura, and we would dub her The Senator’s Wife.  What made it so?  What were her qualifications?  They were indistinct, generally, which gave us great latitude in our judgments.  Physical attributes ranged from a ramrod posture to the perfect coiffure to the fabulous musculature in the back.  She could have high cheekbones, incredibly high forehead, and, in the dark, a plastique tone to the skin.  Tom Wolfe called the grown up versions “social x-rays”, and over the course of a life, their heads may appear to enlarge as their skin tightened and they may become “equine”.  But then, at 19 or 20 or 25, they were the physically fit models of propriety, training themselves to look perfect as their arms were draped through the tuxedoed arm of the Senator.  The perceived mental attributes, however, were harder to determine, caught in glances and poses, with smiles and laughter, and when one of us would spy a candidate, we would watch closely for something, anything, that would give us a clue to the ambition to become The Senator’s Wife.  Confirmation of their status could take a minute or an evening.

To make sense of becoming The Senator’s Wife, one needed to know who the senator was, and he was usually fictional.  Maybe Redford from The Candidate, but not Alan Alda’s Joe Tynan.  Style and power, wore the suit well, someone who needed a Helpmeet De la Renta to make it complete.  The bodice ripper cover, too, served as a model, with heaving bosom and shivering pecs.

We became skilled enough for awhile that we developed the phrase into a full-fledged character, and in quick fashion, we shortened our targets to “TSW”.*  Eventually we tired of it and it is a concept that is filed away and used very infrequently, usually internally because I no longer share the genesis of the TSW with anyone.  Synonyms included “arm candy” or “trophy wife”, but I always preferred TSW.

*shortening nicknames to an acronym or to a shortened phrase was part of all these games as well.  Once a doughy paralegal we (another variation of we) worked for was christened “Skippy”.  He became “Skip” in no time, “Skipper” as well, and then we moved into second syllable names — “Pee”  “Pie” (so many flavors) and finally, “Pi”, which quickly became “Three Point”.  No one but us could ever catch the derivation (3.14…), and, as above, once attained we quickly moved on…

And so what?  I think the joke was that we were so far removed from the reality of the characters we were creating for our entertainment — whether the senator himself or, really, the prospective wife — that we were satisfied with the two dimensional world we were creating.  We were actors after all.  We tried personality quirks on for size all the time.  No one of us could ever consider attaining that particular goal in real life, but part of the game was wondering what sacrifices you would have to make, what parts of your personality you would have to adjust, in order to become The Senator’s Wife.  Our superiority came from the ability to anoint from afar (and quickly forget, given that most of this occurred at parties), and catching the same wave, and laughing because you felt you the other special few “got it”, “got you”, and so all was right in your world, even if it meant demeaning others.

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