So I Am A Sissy: Arnold F. Arnold in Memorium
This is another excerpt from my recently deceased father’s never published memoirs of returning home to the United States as a wounded GI in WWII. It is also a fascinating window into his first wife‘s relationship, and a fascinating window into how my father influenced much of his first wife’s work in many ways, including Eve’s eventual famous style of photographing celebrities “behind the scenes” as they too, were “getting done.”
So I Am A Sissy
Excerpts from an unpublished WWII era Memoir “Am I A Hero?”
Arnold F. Arnold circa 1945
I am sitting in the hot, fetid, musk-laden air of the beauty parlour while my wife [Eve Arnold] is being “done.” She is having her hair done, her face done, her nails done, and whatever else is “done” to women in a beauty parlor.
As a civilian, you couldn’t get me to go near a beauty parlour. It embarrasses me to overhear the confidences which pass between the customers and the beauty operators in the privacy of the cells. Only the fear of missing a moment of being together with my wife lets me make this concession.
She swore that I would not have to wait very long and that nobody would pay me any mind.
In the opposite corner of the shop, a woman sat beneath a dryer. She was having her nails manicured. She sat bolt upright and was telling the girl who was fussing with her hand, stories which would have caused her to be ejected from a men’s smoker, had she told them there. She was shouting because she assumed that no-one could hear her since she could not hear herself under the dryer.
She made even my ears burn.
The beautician looked out of the booth from which I had heard my wife’s muffled voice a half hour earlier.
“You may come in now,” she said. ”Come in and take a look at your wife.”
I got up from the tubular steel chair and maneuvered into the tiny booth with the aid of my crutches. I took one good long look at my wife. Rosy cheeked and red eared, she sat in front of the mirror fondling laminated curls with freshly pinked finger tips.
“Hello dear. How do you like my new hairdo?” she wanted to know.
“What’s new about it?” I asked. It looked no different than her last “do.”
My wife studied herself critically in the mirror trying to find out just where and how the hair did differ. She looked from mirror to beautician for moral support.
“Modome, I am not making the joke,” I said. ”If you don’t come out of here within the next five minutes, the joke’s going to be on you. I’m going home.”
The beautician thought I was quite a card. She wasn’t such a bad number either. The phoney French was part of the entertainment that goes along with all the doing. In the end, it’s all added up on the check. She looked to me as if she had been born, raised and bred on the Upper Concourse.
“You just go back out zere and read zee movie magazines out zere,” said the beautician. ”Zere are ze movie magazines out zere. Your wife is going to be beautiful when she go. You want your wife to be beautiful, no?”
“She had better be beautiful right quick. I already know the love lives of everyone in Beverly Hills who can afford a press agent. I have discovered what Myrna Loy suggests as a victory menu from Monday through Saturday, so make it snappy will you?”
“Your husband, he is funny,” said the beautician to my wife inside the booth. ”Just like a man.”
I had no choice but to comply.
As I waited, two more women came into the shop, chattering excitedly. They were discussing the latest hairstyles, hat styles, dress styles.
One of them noticed me and said “Hello soldier.”
I said hello.
“Are you waiting for a mud pack or a face lift?” asked the second woman. She thought it was funny for a man to invade the feminine world of a beauty parlour.
“I’ve had all the mudpacks I’ll ever want to see,” I replied without malice.
“I bet he’s waiting for his girlfriend,” said the first woman. ”Or is it your wife?”
“She was my wife when she went in there,” I said, pointing to the booth.
“Isn’t that the cutest thing you ever heard?” said Number One.
“I’ll have to tell my husband about you,” said Number Two. ”He’d never wait for me in a beauty parlor. He’s much too busy with his War Job, and then he says it’s much too sissy for him.”
- Six & A Pimple: Arnold Arnold In Memorium (greentaxisnow.com)
- Homecoming: The Girl In The Plain Brown Dress, Excerpts from A WWII Era Memoir of a Holocaust Era Victim and Wounded American GI (greentaxisnow.com)
- In Memorium: Arnold F. Arnold (born Schmitz), 1921 – 2012 (greentaxisnow.com)
- More women ‘under pressure to look good’ (mya.co.uk)