There’s always one that turns aside when the others laugh.
College girls. Hoboken, New Jersey. 1910s.
“Notice of Availability of and Intent to Adopt a Mitigated Negative Declaration”
~ Title of a San Francisco Planning Department notice
Most of the mitigated negative declarations I’ve heard were uttered by women. There was Bridget in middle school who gave me a thumbs down for attractiveness but told me I still had nice eyes. There was a college girlfriend who dumped me, but only because she was so devoted to God. Then there was the stranger I asked out for a drink once. “No thanks,” she said, “but I admit that you have better-than-average grooming habits.”
‘When I got tired of talking to the other passengers, I thought about women. I frequently do this for hours without becoming bored; they are much pleasanter than sheep to think of when you are trying to fall asleep. Thinking about women also makes you insensible to mild fright or minor discomforts. Once I was sleeping with another fellow under a pup tent in a rainstorm in Tunisia and at about two o’clock in the morning he woke me up. I said, “What’s up?” and he said, “The tent’s just blown away.” The rain had turned to a cloudburst, and my blankets were soaked through. I got into the front seat of a jeep and wrapped the wet blankets around me. The top and windshield afforded some help, but the water lashed in from both sides. I thought about women for four and a half hours and never caught a cold.’
~ A.J. Liebling, The Road Back to Paris
Image: Mata Hari, 1905