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Finding Mr Rightstein by Nancy Davidoff Kelton is a memoir of her journey – with all the love, hope, sadness and loss that life brings with it, and that time may heal. Here is an excerpt –
My close friend and upstairs neighbor, Wendy, a fashion designer, gave me clothes from her latest line. Frequently right after my marriage ended. One night, she brought me a lovely black dress. I took it to my neighborhood tailor to be hemmed. He sat on the floor pinning it up. Since he opened his shop eight years before, I brought in whatever needed altering. As I stood on the stool in front of his full-length mirror, turning as he pinned, I mentioned I was separated.
“You should come in sometime without your dresses,” he said.
My neighborhood tailor wasn’t just pinning my new cute black one. The putz was now under it.
I walked out of his shop in my half-pinned black sheath and went to a tailor down the block.
I wore my new black dress without the pins to a New School faculty reception at the university president’s 11th Street townhouse. After speaking with the few instructors I knew, I stood in my usual spot near the dining room entrance where the wait staff emerged from the kitchen carrying platters of food.
A bespectacled man with thin stringy hair, positioned in the same spot, started talking to me over the crabmeat canapés. His pants came almost up to his chest, indicating he had a very high waist or no clue where it was. He reminded me of the dorky boys at camp socials and bar mitzvahs, who asked me to dance while the cool guys asked the cool girls. Some things in life never change including the kind of guys I attract.
Encouraged by therapist and my unofficial therapists, my close female friends, to converse with everyone who did not look like a hardened criminal, I continued talking to him. The high-waisted instructor, a CPA by day, taught accounting at night and had relatives in Buffalo, my hometown. We had two surefire topics: chicken wings and snow. He asked me to dinner.
On Friday evening at Monte’s, an Italian restaurant on MacDougal Street, we exhausted the two surefire topics over the relish tray of carrots and celery on ice. Our classes got us halfway through dinner, but my love of teaching and his wanting to quit didn’t help. My reason for accepting his dinner invitation was not because I expected to have fun, but to prove to Mildred, the girls, and myself that I could get out of the house.
When it became clear we had nothing more to talk about, I said “This is not personal, but the babysitter is taking SATs tomorrow and asked me to come home early.”
It was personal. Very personal. But he bought it.
After dinner, he also bought cranberries and apples at Jefferson Market.
“What do you use those for?” I asked.
“Chicken salad. It gives it a kick.”
I bought apples and cranberries, too. I also bought a chicken. I boiled it the next day. And added the fruits. Yum!
My dorky date showed me that everyone has something to teach us, and proved to me that I could grow and learn if I continued reaching out and wearing my invisible OPEN FOR BUSINESS sign.
Seven months after my husband and I separated, I had dates with two different men.
Ben, a friend of a friend, had a nice-looking face and a nicer-looking camel, cashmere coat. He took it off in the West Village Mexican restaurant where he decided we would eat. I couldn’t tell whether he had a strange physique or very strange body language—one shoulder seemed higher than the other—but the way he moved and sat, he looked as if he was on a coat hanger.
He sniffled a lot and was more than a tad effeminate. And more than a tad eager to split the check when I asked how much I owed. As Tevye said in Fiddler on the Roof, “It’s a new era, Golde.” Dating was different nowadays. If I wanted a man to treat me, I’d best not offer my share.
“Did you like the food here?” I asked as we got up to leave.
“Not bad, but not the greatest. And you?”
“It was fair.” I would not have suggested Mexican food. The dinner did not go down well. “This restaurant would not be a repeat.” I felt the same way about Ben.
At my door, he pulled me close and put his lips on mine. It made me a little tingly. How weird that I enjoyed Ben’s kiss, much less allowed it when the only thing that turned me on all evening was his camel cashmere coat.
The second man, Stuart, was the first psychotherapist I saw after hours. He had been an NYU classmate. We had taken Abnormal Psychology together. Stuart got an A. I got a B.When I bumped into him on West 9th Street coming out of his office, his arm was in a cast. He had broken it, but claimed he felt no pain.
“I’m on Percodan and something else,” he said, smiling a big one.
Probably many things else.
Before I personally knew or dated shrinks, I assumed they had the tools to live a balanced life. I also assumed, like playing tennis with a better player, by being in their company, I would get better faster. Maybe “cured.”
Stuart invited me to a movie for the following Saturday night. I said “yes.” My friends would be with their husbands. My daughter would be at her dad’s. Week after week, Mildred reminded me to stay open. Going on dates was a ‘win win situation.” What did I have to lose?
During the movie, Stuart made several trips to the men’s room, each time returning with white powder under his nose. He wiped it constantly, making loud nostril noises.
I said nothing until we walked out. Then I asked, “Are you doing coke?”
“Uh huh.” He smiled. “Good stuff, too. It’s a different high combined with my pain killers, you know what I mean?”
I didn’t. I nodded, anyway. Stuart was a shrink.
He went on. “It’s tricky getting it up the old nose with one working arm. Wanna try a line?”
I shook my head. “Could you walk me home?”
Psychotherapists acted sane during our fifty-minute hours, but might be coke snorters or loons when our time with them was up.Being in Stuart’s company made me feel healthy. Well.
Once a year, I saw my ob-gyn. He examined me, did a Pap smear, and wrote what he had to write on my chart without more than a ‘how are you, everything looks fine, see you next year.’ No chatting. No lingering. In and out. Quick, quick, quick! His waiting room was typically crowded. His second wife was the office manager. She sat at a desk ten feet from his examining rooms wearing a round-cut diamond ring the size of a car headlight.
In mid-divorce, I went for my checkup.
“Nothing appears different down here,” said my ob-gyn on his stool, examining me, looking like he was about to stand.
“Nothing’s doing down there. I’ve regained my virginity.”
“How?” he asked.
“It’s been a while. I’m separated from my husband.”
“Oh!” He looked up at my face, remembering it seemed, after all these years, that I had one. “How do you like being on your own?” He continued sitting between my spread legs.
“It’s different,” I said. “I’m adjusting.”
“I’d like to hear more, Nancy.” This was also the first time in fifteen years that this man, who had been looking up me, called me by my name.
“Do you want to hear more about how it’s different or how I’m adjusting?” I asked.
He didn’t seem to hear me. Instead he tilted his head and in a low, seductive voice, said, “We should go have a drink sometime.”
A drink? Sleazebags came in all shapes and sizes. They practiced law, tailored clothes, and did Pap Smears on upper Park Avenue.
I sat up. My eyes went from my doctor’s starched white doctor coat to his leering smile.
“WE SHOULD NOT GO FOR A DRINK,” I said, speaking louder than I ever spoke in stirrups.
And we didn’t. I took my vagina to a female doctor.