I was in a doctor’s office the other day—yes, a doctor’s office, bastion of the hopefully-healthy old. As almost-usual, the doctor’s assistant couldn’t find me in the computer system the office uses to keep track of all the patients the doctor could not possibly remember on a more personal basis. Then, “Oh,” she chirped, “it’s K-a-t-h-A-r-i-n-e with an A.”
“Yep,” I responded, “me and Katharine Hepburn.” She looked blank, a reaction I’m coming to expect these days; nonetheless, I continued, “and you can probably guess who was named after whom.”
I added, “Movie actress?”
I would have continued. “Fifty years in the movies and on stage, very intelligent and graceful and upper crust.” (My doctor’s assistant probably wouldn’t ever have heard the phrase “upper crust,” which, while it was in common use in Katharine Hepburn’s time and was supposed to be the superior, unburnt part of a loaf served to the gentry when there were such things as manor houses, is actually probably just twaddle, folk wisdom.) I would have continued my twaddle, “Had an out-of-marriage relationship with Spencer Tracy.” (She probably wouldn’t ever have heard of the other bright star of Hollywood’s Golden Age, either.) More twaddle, continued: “The first famous actress to wear pants.” (She probably wouldn’t even know that females didn’t wear pants in those days.)
I would have told her, “Listen to her, witty, wry, wise:”
“Dressing up is a bore. At a certain age, you decorate yourself to attract the opposite sex, and at a certain age, I did that. But I’m past that age.”
“I have many regrets, and I’m sure everyone does. The stupid things you do, you regret… if you have any sense, and if you don’t regret them, maybe you’re stupid.”
“Never complain. Never explain.”
“If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased.”
“Enemies are so stimulating.”
“I never lose sight of the fact that just being is fun.”
But what would have been the point to trying to explain all this to someone so young as to need an explanation for all that? The world moves on.
That reminds me—oh, yes, I’m old. I get to stray from the topic—some famous Navy admiral during World War II was said to have insisted vehemently about the women in the Navy Women’s Reserve (they called them WAVES, for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), “My WAVES will wear skirts!” (He obviously had not been influenced positively by Katharine Hepburn’s rebellion against American fashion.) To which twaddle—I love the word twaddle—another famous Navy admiral who was to see to the transport of WAVES on ships was known to have said, “Yes, Admiral, and when those women climb those ladders to board those ships in those skirts, everyone will surely be able to confirm that they are, indeed, women.” Eighty-four thousand WAVES wore pants from then on. Or so I heard.
This is an addendum to my story called “Why Katharine?” So you’ll know who that Katharine was that I was named after.