Dorothy Parker’s Cup of Tea   

During the spring, when sitting outside, I like to watch the bees buzz from one flower to another. Everything is calm and silent save for their humming. So I watch them flit from one flower to another until I’m dizzy and have to look away.

Sometimes my mind acts like a bee. It jumps from one flowered thought to another just buzzing around without a destination. Motion without purpose can be fatiguing so, to convince my wandering mind to stop and focus, I read a short story. It forces me to regroup scattered thoughts and focus on one thing.

“Reading is socially accepted dissociation. You flip a switch and you’re not there anymore. It’s better than heroin.”  Mary Karr

Dorothy Parker, because of her sharp wit, was known as a wisecracker. Her childhood had left her permanently jaded. You can feel her disappointment and chagrin in the stories that she writes. Take, for example, “The Last Tea.”

For 45 minutes a young woman wearing an artificial camellia sits in a tearoom waiting for her date to show up. When he finally arrives, she pretends that she just arrived, too. This Little Lie is the first indication that an emotional and psychological inequality exists between the two.

Initially the man suggests that he’s late due to an indisposition bringing out the material instinct in the woman until she learns that this indisposition has a name: Carol McCall. Humiliated, the woman then proceeds to save face via Wally Dillon, an imaginary suitor invented ad hoc. The man and the woman now initiate a kind of ping pong where they both serve the other with exaggerated compliments about their newly found prospects. The rally comes to a halt when the man tells the woman he needs to call Carol immediately. Hurt, the woman recovers by saying she’s got to run as she’s late for her appointment with Wally. Unfortunately, she then makes the mistake of asking “when will I see you again?” to which the man basically replies “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.”

Why, why, why do women let themselves be humilitated like this?

Dorothy Parker was not only a talented writer, she was a highly vocal advocate of civil liberties and civil rights. The writer collaborated on various screenplays for films that were nominated for an Academy Award (ex. A Star Is Born). But her political beliefs led to her being blacklisted by Sen. Joseph McCarthy & Co. putting an end to her rising career.

Worn out and disappointment, Dorothy began to drink heavily. In 1967, she died of a heart attack at the age of 73. She’d left her entire estate to Martin Luther King Jr. that, upon King’s death, went to the NAACP.

Dorothy was cremated but no one ever came to collect her ashes. So the crematorium eventually sent her urn to her lawyer who simply put the urn in a filing cabinet where it remained for almost 20 years. When the story of Dorothy’s abandoned ashes became public, not only did the NAACP immediately claim them but designed a special memorial garden in their honor. But when the NAACP headquarters moved, the ashes were transferred to a family plot in the Bronx.

So, some 53 years after her death, Dorothy’s ashes finally found a home. No wonder Dorothy suggested as her epitaph “Excuse my dust.”

Here are some Dorothy Parker quotes worth remembering:

“Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.”

“If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.”

“The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.”

“Heterosexuality is not normal, it’s just common.”

“Don’t look at me in that tone of voice.”

“Tell him I was too fucking busy– or vice versa.”

“If you wear a short enough skirt, the party will come to you.”


Related: Dorothy Parker, An Unwavering Legacy (NAACP) + Dorothy Parker: ‘She was a star, but a dark star’ + Poet-screenwriter Dorothy Parker Was Wisecracking Feminist Accused of Communism + Before Pop Culture Feminism +

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This entry was posted in Books, Ecofeminism, female consciousness, politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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