Last time, Holden set up a date with Sally Hayes, a sort-of girlfriend, met some nuns in Grand Central Station, and then walked through Central Park to the Natural History Museum, because he wanted to see the glass cases that haven’t changed since he was a kid. But, when he got there, he was no longer in the mood and didn’t go in.
Holden’s early to meet Sally, so he waits in the lobby thinking about how depressing it is when swell girls marry boring guys. Holden claims he hasn’t been looking forward to the date, but when Sally arrives, he’s so overwhelmed with emotion he thinks he wants to marry her. At this point, I found myself wondering whether Holden’s bipolar or if being a teen is really just the equivalent of Six Flags for your emotions. Oh, and it gets better: In the taxi on the way to the theater, Holden tells her he loves her, mid-make-out. A page and a half later, Sally’s playing the name game with an Andover guy named George and Holden describes her as nauseating and phony and boring. I can already hear the wedding bells!
Afterward, they go ice skating, which isn’t fun because they’re both terrible skaters. They end up drinking cokes at the bar, where Sally has a terribly important question for Holden:
SALLY: Look. I have to know. Are you or aren’t you going coming over to help me trim the Christmas tree? I have to know.
HOLDEN: I wrote you I would. You’ve asked me about twenty times. Sure I am.
SALLY: I mean I have to know.
Whew. I’m glad we settled that. Now, onto lesser matters—you know, like Holden’s mental and emotional breakdown. He starts ranting to Sally about school and phonies and Madison Avenue buses and people who’re crazy about cars and cliques and it is clear that he is not in a good way, but pretty much all she can say to him is “don’t shout” and “don’t scream.” And still Holden asks her if she’ll run away with him to the country—he’ll get a job, he says, and they can have children and lead, you know, an eco-conscious, off-the-grid lifestyle.
Obviously Sally is so utterly stuck in the bourgeois system that she can’t conceive of such a radical life: They need to grow up and go to college and get married first, she says. To which Holden replies: “You give me a royal pain in the ass, if you want to know the truth.” Oh, Holden, she did not want to know the truth. Sally starts crying and they part on very bad terms.
Afterward, Holden gets a sandwich, tries to call Jane Gallagher, then makes plans to have drinks with Carl Luce, a classmate from one of the many schools he’s already been kicked out of. He has time to kill before their 10 o’clock date, so he goes to see a movie at Radio City, during which he thinks about Jesus and Allie and how much the movie made him want to puke. The chapter ends with Holden volunteering to sit on top of the atomic bomb, if there’s ever another world war. He’s really a civic-minded kid.
In the next chapter, Carl, who’s three years older than Holden, arrives. Lest we forget that he is three years older than Holden, Carl orders a dry Martini with no olive and tells Holden he can only stay a few minutes because he has a date. Their conversation is approximately as follows:
HOLDEN: So, how’s your sex life?
CARL: Same old Caulfield. When are you going to grow up?
HOLDEN: How’s Columbia?
CARL: Just relax. Just sit back and relax.
HOLDEN: What’re you majoring in? Perverts?
CARL: Listen, if you want to have a nice, quiet drink—
HOLDEN: All right, all right. Relax. [Pause] So how is your sex life?
CARL: Is this going to be a typical Caulfield conversation?
HOLDEN: No. But how is it?
*Carl eventually admits he is dating a thirty-something sculptress from Shanghai.*
HOLDEN: You like ’em old? Is it better for sex ?
CARL: Certainly, I like a mature woman.
HOLDEN: You like her being Chinese?
CARL: You could say I find Eastern philosophy more satisfying.
HOLDEN: Wuddaya mean “philosophy”? You mean it’s better for sex?
…And it continues on in this vein—Holden coming across as totally immature and actually pretty awful and annoying—and Carl coming across as pretty pretentious—and me having flashbacks to being around high school boys—for a bit longer, until Carl tells him he should go see a psychoanalyst. It occurred to me here that despite all the miscommunications in this book, Holden does actually seem to have a fairly good “support system”—that is, people seem to be concerned about him, watching out for him, in their own ways. It’s just not quite forceful enough.
At the end of the chapter, he asks Carl to stay for another drink. “Please,” he says, “I’m lonesome as hell. No kidding.” But Carl doesn’t. He leaves.
There are six types of girls: Girls with their legs crossed, girls with their legs not crossed, girls with terrific legs, girls with lousy legs, girls that looked like swell girls, girls that looked like they’d be b*tches if you knew them.
Longest single list of things that depress Holden: Girls with their legs crossed, girls with their legs not crossed, girls with terrific legs, girls with lousy legs, girls that looked like swell girls, girls that looked like they’d be b*tches if you knew them.
What I’m going to say the next time someone asks how my husband and I got married: I was being as seductive as hell and [he] didn’t have any alternative
Sentence I had to tweet: A horse is at least human, for God’s sake.
New word for a short skirt: butt-twitcher
Best compliment: aristocratic hands
What you’re doing when you stare at something: rubbering
What you’re doing when you flirt with someone else’s date: horning in
What you’re doing when you’re having a phony conversation: slobbering around
If you’re following along at home, this post covers chapters 17, 18, and 19. Catch up here!