Wednesday, September 04, 2013

The Pleasures of Anglophilia

When I was in high school (several millenia ago), a cute exchange student appeared one fall. Her name was Penelope and she was English with blond straight hair, green eyes and a fantastic figure. She dressed modestly, unlike most of her classmates who were typical Harvard Square hooligans. I, for example, commonly wore black jeans, engineer boots, black turtleneck and a blue Oxford cloth button-down shirt. The engineer boots were my personal modification to the intellectual thug uniform.

At that time, Rindge Technical School was across a small park from Cambridge High and Latin. Sitting in the middle of the park was the Cambridge Public Library. Although the true thugs from Rindge (things are often black and white to teenagers) we CHLS students rarely ventured past the library into terra incognita.

One day I approached a small hormone addled mob of boys in this park. A horde of hesitantly hovering bees humming around the flower that was Penny. The difference between them and me was that I was meeting her there to take her for a walk. Desperately trying to look cool and unconcerned the boys chatted to each other about how they did in the swim meet, or the riot in the lunch room last week.

I stood back a little waiting and admiring how her yellow dress, which was far too frilly for the current styles, set off her hair and eyes. Penny noticed me just as one poor guy, in a desperate bid to attract attention through sympathy, started to complain about the unfair marking of the last history test. He got a response from Penny, but not what he was expecting. After listening to him moan and groan for a minute or two she said offhandedly,

"Oh for God's sake. Keep your pecker up."

The sudden silence was amazing, as was the rising blush on the faces of the other boys as they slithered off in disbelief.

"What did I say?" she asked me. An anglophile even then, I knew what that what she'd said was "keep a stiff upper lip" or as some would say these days "man-up". I very diplomatically hinted at possible other interpretations. She laughed.

"What a bunch of wankers," she said.

I agreed, and we walked down to the Charles River to ... ummm ... discuss it in more detail.

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