Friday, February 10, 2006

Glittery nights with the weird uncontained bosom lady...

For most of my time in New York City, I worked at the Museum of Modern Art. More specifically, I worked in their bookstore, helping tourists pick out postcards. As far as jobs go, it was pretty good. The pay was as shitty as you’d expect, but the hours were reasonable and there were a lot of perks. My co-workers were a wonderful assortment of art-world eccentrics and take-no-shit inner-city characters and I could go look at Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avingnon or Cezanne’s Water Lillies every afternoon if I felt like it. I also got to go to whatever glittering society parties the museum threw. Granted, my ability to mingle was hampered by the fact that I was there to hawk expensive coffee table books, but it was still fun. The managers really liked me to work these affairs, because Midwestern chipperness amused the Manhattan glamour set and because they figured the native New Yorkers on staff would be far more likely to snarl something unpleasant at some billionaire patron.

No one bought any books at these things. I just stood there in my dead-man’s suit and watched the famous and the powerful go milling past. Mostly they were unremarkable jowly men with watches that cost more than my annual salary and thin, grimacing women in shiny gowns. I had trouble distinguishing between them, they were just a roiling, mumbling mass of extreme wealth traveling through the galleries and into the courtyard, where they struck poses to shame the sculptures out there.

There was one lady, however, who stood out. She was in her mid-fifties, short and stout, with a face stretched as taut as human flesh can get. She had the look of faded ex-debutante crossed with a German hausfrau: severe, pampered, and fragile underneath it all. None of this made her notable, though. What made her more than just another half-plastic face in the crowd was her fondness for blouses with tears in them that let her huge breasts hang free. It was an interesting fashion statement. She’d wear sensible slacks, and her tops would be totally demure and conservative had her vast, medically-enhanced bust not been jutting from them. The first time I saw her I didn’t think they were real. Technically, this was correct, but I was under the impression that they might have been just a taa-taa shaped chest plate or something. Now I realize how stupid that sounds, but–at the time–that seemed far less stupid than the idea that an almost-elderly woman would go to an art opening with all her business on display. I remember glancing at them, becoming confused, and then staring wholeheartedly. She wasn’t too far away, so she caught me looking and gave me a little smirk. I spent the rest of the night blushing and, even though it seemed she spent the entire gala within easy viewing range, I was scrupulous about not looking. She was scary. She had that unruffled sort of look that I associated with the sort of people who can order your death and not let that upset their brandy hour too much. She was surrounded by emaciated bald men in crushed-velvet outfits and it seemed like they were duty-bound to make catty remarks about all the more modest women in attendance. In my fevered imagination, they carried knives and, if Ms. Exposed Boobies gave the sign, they’d cut me to ribbons while brutally mocking my attire. It seemed best not to pay them any attention.

The next day, I asked one of my co-workers who had worked these black-tie events in the past whether she had ever seen anything like that. “You saw that hag?” she crowed, “She goes to all those things! Shit, I almost had to tell her to put those tits of hers away! It’s enough to make you sick, it is...”

“Yeah, it was pretty appalling.”

“I don’t want to see my mom's tits, I don’t want to see her tits. It’s not that I hate the bitch or anything...”

I nodded in agreement, but I was beginning to understand why they always sent me to these events. I was effervescently wholesome and gleamingly Beaver-Cleaverish compared to my colleagues. I must have made them gag...

Anyway, I saw her at the very next ball I worked. And the one after that. And the one after that. It got so that she was like the “Where’s Waldo?” of the art gala scene for me. I’d scan the crowd for awhile, listening for her spooky entourage’s distinctive cackling. Sometimes she was hard to spot. Other times she appeared right away. A fancy evening never went past without her and her gi-normous breasts, though. She brought them out and made a lavish show of them whether in December or in July, whether the occasion was a Jackson Pollock opening or a charity affair for children with cancer.

It wasn’t that I was unduly titillated by her exhibitionism, mind you. I didn’t find her attractive. I found her intimidating and odd. We never made eye contact after that first instance and I certainly never sought it out. I developed an affection for her, though. She had moxie. She was kind of like a nun at an orgy in a Parisian viaduct, she drew attention because she so intentionally failed to blend in with her surroundings. In a sea of tuxedos, good taste, and the pinkish faces you get after years of carefully-concealed alcoholism, she had a certain novelty to her. She was the weird uncontained bosom lady.

This was a long time ago. Still, I hope that she’s still at it, still demanding that the entire Upper East Side jet-set deal with her massive hooters. Because it would be a shame if she stopped for some reason, a real shame. I don’t know why, I just know that it would be a shame...