From "Spotlight on Today, The Readers Digest, April, 1946"
‘The manager of a midtown New York hotel quit his job the other day. He now works as a waiter there. He has fewer headaches – and makes more money!’ Dorothy Kilgallen, King Features
Small ironies erupt around my birth. My father, the manager of a midtown New York hotel quits his job. The stress has caused him to live with a twitch that never leaves his face, it seems. His left hand has developed a tremor all its own and he cannot hold me in his arms. We need money to live, my mother keeps saying this over and over, and my father has taken the only job he can find, working as a waiter in the same hotel he ruled for eleven years. He only takes orders now, works a sane schedule and makes a bundle in tips. In part this is the result of his former job in the building. He knows which rooms are available and can advise his customers in the small bar in the hotel as to where they can adjourn for an hour to make love, make whatever perverted sort of passion come to life. For this knowledge, more than for his memory of who ordered which cocktail, he is rewarded with cash. My mother is satisfied. We live well. My father, whose conscience never allowed him to indulge clients of the hotel in this way when he managed the place, now has no conscience at all, it would appear. He lives for the money. He holds himself completely free of the cares that would otherwise bind him to report malfeasance, to avoid corruption. He serves drinks. He sells information. He, himself, is not corrupt. He is feeding his family.
My older sister, eleven years older to be exact, has decided this April to become a prostitute when she is old enough. She has confided this fact to only one person, our grandmother. Granny Elaine is pleased to know that her grandchild has elected the old family profession without even prior knowledge of her own outrageous youth. Briana - my sister - it turns out, doesn’t know what a prostitute does; she only knows that there is good money to be made and you don’t have to work in the daytime. She loves the daylight hours. Her passion is to sleep late, breakfast at noon and go to bed about eleven o’clock. Somewhere she has learned that prostitutes work in the evening. That suits her timetable perfectly. When she tells Granny Elaine about her decision she honestly believes that prostitutes are nothing more or less than women who go to dinner with gentlemen and then dance with them. That is her belief at age eleven. Granny won’t fill her in on the finer details for another two years when Briana suddenly develops breasts. Remarkably Briana is not discouraged by the full disclosure.
I, on the other hand, know very little two years later. In April, 1948 I am still the perfect innocent. I don’t know about my father, my grandmother or my sister. I know them, of course, but not about them. That takes longer. But I am already a prostitute; I am one who "sells himself for an unworthy purpose." I am a baby model. My face and hands and body are up for grabs. I sell inferior baby products: food, clothing, toys. My joyous expressions convince millions of mothers and fathers, doting aunts and uncles, gullible grandparents to purchase products which, in the long run, may indeed prove to be harmful to the children who relish these gifts.
The family profession, it seems, goes forward. Small ironies.
The new novel "Small Ironies" will continue next Sunday evening with Chapter One. Each week, for the next 52 weeks, another chapter will be added. Feel free to send a comment along through the Contact Us page. Thank you for reading. I hope to keep you guessing, right up to the end of "Small Ironies." JPB