Never Meet your Heroes

Over Christmas, Fiona invited me to her home for a gathering of friends and family. The evening was relaxed. Red wine flowed. By around eight o’clock, the attendants formed small pockets in the various rooms on the ground floor. A group of us intimately huddled on sofas in a quiet corner next to the Christmas tree, discussing subjects that varied from water shortages to previous relationships. During the course of the evening, I attentively received a story. I will attempt the tale as confidently told by Naidi. Please forgive inaccuracies, lack of detail and embellishments in certain areas.

“My friend completed a masters in some college in the UK, maybe about twenty years ago. One of her professors, an eccentric lady in her fifties, had a PhD in women’s’ rights or something like that. Despite the professor’s age, she remained unmarried, spending most of her life campaigning for women’s rights in the workplace. The female students of the college loved her.” Naidi lifted her goblet-like glass and sipped her red wine.

“Following a lecture with this professor, my friend remained behind in the lecture hall. She loitered, while other students vacated the room. She nervously approached the revered professor, who sat at a large, oak desk, packing papers and books into a satchel. For a number of weeks, she had wanted to speak with the professor. She drew breath and put the question to her. ‘Looking back on your life, if you could give a young woman one piece of advice what would it be?’ The professor remained seated, consumed in thought, while my friend stood. ‘My advice to a young woman of today is to always moisturise your neck and chest.’”

Naidi shook her head. “My friend was furious. This professor, who was held in high esteem for her research and efforts on women’s rights, could only offer advice on skin care régime. My friend expected so much more from that answer. Needless to say, she was disappointed and lost all respect for the professor.”

The story was momentarily interrupted by a discussion between Naidi and Fiona on the benefits of moisturising one’s neck and chest. Naidi finished the story.

“My friend, who is now in her late forties, told me this story last year, twenty years on from the completion of her masters. I decided to ask the same question of her. ‘Considering the advice of the professor that enraged you, and hindsight on your life, if you were asked the same question, what wisdom you would impart for a young woman today?’”

“‘If I could give advice to a girl today’, my friend said, ‘it would be to always moisturise your neck and chest.’”

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