Cupid at the Privet Hedge
49 Highland Road
Southampton, NY 11968
Cupid at the Privet Hedge
“Where’s East Hampton?” I asked a friend.
“Somewhere out on the Island, I think. Why?”
I’d recently learned of East Hampton but knew little else other than it was a beach resort, and I was browsing through the Village Voice classifieds for Summer rental shares – beach resort being the motivating factor. It was early Spring 1972. Summer, a season I await almost from the day after it ends, occupied my thoughts of how not to be in the city on hot and steamy weekends.
It was almost a year since separating from my husband as I waited for the finalization of a non-contested divorce from a senseless marriage that ate up most of my 20s. With the Women’s Liberation movement running at full throttle it was an exhilerating time for a newly emancipated young woman. Sharing my thoughts were my future options, excluding another marriage. I had a lot on my mind. But just for the Summer I fantasized about a beach, meeting new people, reading Summer novels.
During the first call I was given a brief summary of the splendors of the Hamptons: beaches, nightlife, parties, clubs, and the totally amazing singles scene. “We’re not far from the laundry,” he said. Why did he think I’d be bringing my laundry out there? I wondered. I soon
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learned The Laundry was the preeminent singles club in the Hamptons.
After attending a few meetings with the organizers of their respective rental houses, and with potential housemates, I joined a group house in Georgica, East Hampton.
Looking out the car window of my ride, the formerly unbeknownst Hamptons emerged recalling memories of my early teen years in western New Jersey among corn and dairy farms, when my family relocated there from Brooklyn. As we passed by farm lands the familiarity of the sights and scents made me realize how much I loved being in the country. It was Saturday, Memorial Day Weekend.
The house was a lovely Cape Cod hidden behind Privet hedges. The furnishings were clean and comfortable in a decorative style common in rental houses that would become known as “shabby chic” decades later. There was much gaiety in the bustling activities of greetings, exploring the house and grounds, and general comradery of great expectations for the season ahead.
After unpacking and settling in, a roommate and I got a ride to the public tennis courts. We hit balls for a while and then mingled a bit while waiting for our ride back to the house, when my roommate caught the eye of a guy with a sporty red convertible, who eagerly volunteered to drive us back to our house with me folded in half and stuffed into what served as a back seat.
Sunday, I joined a group going to Main Beach, sardonically referred to as “Asparagus Beach,” for the predominately singles crowd preferring to stand most of the time – the better to see and be seen. Intent upon obtaining the first coat of the perfect tan I wished to achieve, I spent most of the time lying down in a valley of legs. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and I was
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enjoying that beautiful beach, the company of my new friends, and falling in love with East Hampton.
That evening some of us decided to have dinner at the house rather than dining out. There was talk of a party somewhere later on and I, along with several housemates, had planned to go. With newly sun blushed cheeks, my dark chestnut hair blown dry, long and straight like Cher’s, and dressed in a black crew neck sweater over snug, hip-hugger jeans – I felt like I could BE Cher.
Moments before the call came that dinner was ready three guys came to the house, one of whom knew the organizer of our house. He invited them to wait in the living room just as I and others were vacating the living room, and passed by them on our way to the dining area. I’d barely noticed them. It was late in the evening by then and I’d become tired probably from too much sun and too much wine waiting for dinner, so I’d decided to skip the party and head to bed with a book after dinner.
Sometime between bites of grilled steak I happened to glance toward the living room when, suddenly, as if waiting for me to turn his way, one of the visitors leaned forward and directed a piercing gaze at me. Hmmm, I thought, why not check him out over an after dinner cigarette.
The chair next to him was quickly taken up by one of the other gals, the only other separated us with a side table and a lamp. I lit my cigarette. Just as one of the other visiting guys was moving toward my direction, Mr. Piercing Gaze abruptly turned to me and introduced himself. There followed a brief and intense Q&A session concerning matters of relationship
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status, children, religious affiliation, job descriptions, and most important, geographical proximity – pertinent information gathered and dissected in nano-seconds to determine whether to move ahead, or not, conducted in flagrant, flirtatious verbal foreplay. His gaze hardly shifted but mine rose and fell between his gorgeous blue eyes and full, sexy mouth. The entire interview seemed to last no more than fifteen minutes when he and his friends got up to leave. At the door he turned to me, smiled, waved, and left me wondering why he never asked for my phone number.
Monday, Memorial Day – Somewhat smitten with Mr. Piercing Gaze I intermittently thought about our brief meeting and if I’d ever hear from him. Much of the day was spent relaxing with several housemates in the backyard before reluctantly heading back to the city.
Back at the office on Tuesday it was late in the afternoon when he called. We’d made a date for lunch the next day. I hardly ate anything so absurdly besotted by then I barely knew where I lived.
He invited me to join him at the house he was renting with a friend in Tuckahoe, Southampton. An offer I happily accepted after selling my share in the East Hampton house, as did my former tennis roommate who went off with the guy and his sporty red convertible.
The well worn but indestructible seductiveness of a Summer romance — passions aglow in the succulent heat and humidity amidst the bucolic splendors of the Hamptons — will occasionally collude to foil the unsuspecting and make witless the lesser psyches of ordinary mortals. I’d soon found myself consumed in lazy weekends sleeping late after making love throughout half the night; languorous days sunning and swimming at Coopers Beach. We
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explored the back roads and charming villages all the way out to Montauk discovering many fine, pre-celebrity chef, restaurants along the way.
Falling in love and discovering this magical place made for wishing the season would never end. When finally it did end I was completely enraptured with Mr. Blue Eyes and the entire East End in equal measure.
As for the prospect of marriage neither of us were eager to chance it again. After suffering through bad marriages we both harbored much skepticism. Simmering anxieties percolated through intense discussions causing at least one breakup, after which we surrendered our angst and were married the following February. Five years later we bought a modest house in Noyac, had a child the following year, sold the house in Noyac four years later, and bought the one I still keep in Shinnecock Hills. We had many wonderful, happy years together, but the warning blip I chose to ignore that incandescent Summer became an unresolvable issue grinding toward the inevitable dead end and dissolving in divorce. The child, now a grown woman, lives too far away on the West Coast.
Although vapors of happy and sad memories occasionally waft throughout this house, and taunt me as I drive around the Hamptons, I still find contentment in the restoring essence of Mother Nature, and grateful that much of her remains wild and dense throughout the East End to the farthest end of Montauk.
A twenty minute drive brings me to beautiful world class beaches and fiercely protected coastal wetlands and bays where I never tire of watching spectacular sunsets. And I never seem to tire of photographing the landscape, the seascape, and the wildlife dwelling in the
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woods nearby that always delight when visiting to forage in my backyard.
Liberated, once again, I revel in the freedom to pursue my interests and creative endeavors. There are a few old friends, and a few new ones.
One love has forsaken me, but the other will always remain.