Gucci Gucci Coo
By Sue Margolis
Random House Sue Margolis
All right reserved. ISBN: 0385338996
Ruby Silverman shuffled down the gynecologist's table and maneuvered her feet into the stirrups. As she gazed steadfastly at the ceiling and listened for the tart snap of the doctor's rubber gloves, she tried to take her mind off what was happening by returning to the game she had been playing in her head--seeing how many words she could find in speculum.
So far she had six--cup, mule, plum, clue, lumps and slump. Her seventh, eulum, wasn't a real word, of course, but she'd decided to allow it, since it sounded to her like some obscure body part prone to enlargement or inflammation.
"Any tenderness here?" the doctor asked crisply, pressing down on one side of her abdomen. He had yet to reach the internal part of the examination, but it could be no more than seconds away.
Pus! That made seven.
The doctor, whose name she'd forgotten, although she knew it was hyphenated, was the archetypal English hospital consultant: late fifties, unkempt eyebrows in urgent need of a trim, expensive but conservative gray suit, ditto the tie, precious little by way of bedside manner.
Usually Ruby placed great value in a doctor's bedside manner, but on this occasion, the lack of it didn't bother her. In fact she saw it as a bonus. The idea of a nonboyfriend man--evenone who was a gynecologist--having access to all areas of her body was bad enough; one who was overly charming--or, God forbid, young and good-looking--would have had her making a bolt for the door.
Because of her reservations about male gynecologists, the doctor she usually saw for her annual nether region checkup was a woman. Dr. Jane Anderson was a forty-something, easy-to-talk-to, mothering soul with untameable hair and a comforting lack of fashion sense. Ruby wouldn't go so far as to say she enjoyed their encounters, but she always felt reasonably comfortable with Dr. Jane. Today, though, she was off sick and Dr. Double Barrel was filling in for her.
"Periods regular?" It was more of a command than a question.
She thought about trying to lighten the atmosphere by replying: "Yes, to East Grinstead actually." She decided against it, as Double Barrel didn't appear to be overendowed in the humor department. Instead she just nodded.
"Any STDs in the last year?"
"What? No. Absolutely not."
As Double-Barrel carried on prodding and pushing, Ruby abandoned her speculum word game for a minute to consider how odd it was that despite St. Luke's being the trendiest, most progressive private maternity hospital and well-woman clinic in London, its male doctors--or at least this one--were as distant and aloof as in any ordinary hospital. She couldn't imagine chatting away to DB the way she did to Dr. Jane. On the other hand, maybe male gynecologists kept their distance on purpose because they were aware that affability might be misinterpreted.
Whether Double Barrel was the exception or the rule, his manner wasn't stopping women flocking to St. Luke's in Holland Park for all their ob-gyn needs. Since it opened five years ago, it was forever being extolled in the broadsheets and upmarket glossies as the "Bentley of birth centers." The upshot was that the number of patients on the hospital's books was growing almost daily.
The maternity unit in particular was hugely popular. Women who wanted natural childbirth instead of being pumped with drugs, along with those who preferred to wander--obstetrically speaking--even farther off the beaten track by opting for the £10,000 birthing pool, doula and champagne breakfast package, were falling over themselves to get into St. Luke's. Because the competition for rooms was so fierce, most women picked up the phone to the admissions department the moment the pregnancy testing stick registered positive.
The way Ruby saw it, St. Luke's patients fell into three categories. First there was the megarich Kabbalah and crystals brigade--the ditzy, enlightenment-seeking British celebs and Hollywood stars living in London who hired shamans (along with the doulas) to be present at the birth and ate their placentas--although Ruby secretly believed they hired the shamans to eat the placentas.
Then there were the middle-class, organic-vegetable-consuming, Guardian-reading women who liked the idea of St. Luke's being a center of medical excellence as well as progressive. At the same time, though, they felt that pay- ing for medical treatment severely compromised their left-wing principles. They got over this by going to St. Luke's and then writing long, guilt-ridden, but ultimately self- justifying articles in The Guardian.
Finally, there were the ordinary women who didn't have much money to spare, but saved what they could and went without holidays so that they could have their babies at St. Luke's. These were the women who had decided they'd had it up to here with public hospitals and clinics where they were forced to sit for hours on end in grubby green wait- ing rooms, TV blaring in the corner, carrying a wire supermarket basket containing their underwear, only to be seen by some disinterested junior doctor who barely looked up from his notes and addressed them as if their IQ were lower than their dress size.
Because her parents had struggled financially when she was growing up, Ruby liked to think of herself as "one of the people" and therefore part of the last group, but these days--even though she wasn't remotely obsessive about reading the Guardian or buying organic food--she knew that she had more in common with the second.
Ruby had only agreed to see Dr. Double Barrel after the receptionist explained that Dr. Jane was off with a serious virus and she wasn't sure when she would be back. Since Ruby's checkup was already overdue because of her summer holiday, she decided to try and overcome her hangup about male gynecologists and take the appointment with DB. Maybe she was wrong about them and they got no more pleasure looking up a vagina than a car mechanic did looking down into an engine through the cylinder head.
Since Double Barrel was seeing Dr. Jane's patients as well as his own, he was running late and Ruby had been forced to wait over an hour. In that time she'd drunk three cups of strong black coffee, which had made her feel even more jittery. It had also made her want to pee every twenty minutes. When she went to the loo the last time, there was no paper left and she'd had to go rooting around in her bag for tissue.
She also read Hello! magazine. Twice. Like many intelligent women she tried to convince herself that her interest in celebrity gossip was strictly ironic. The truth was she devoured it. Seeing who was pregnant, who had lost or gained weight, cellulite or wrinkles, or who had turned up to a film premiere done up not even like the dog's dinner, but worse--as the dog's doggy bag--nourished her the way chocolate did before her period. A candid snap of Kate's orange peel thighs, a shot of Gwyneth's eye bags--even if it was a trick of the light--could set her up for a whole week.
Ruby's fascination with celebrities, however, extended beyond mere curiosity. She had a professional interest. One of the reasons she was especially curious about who had just got pregnant or had a baby was because like St. Luke's, much of Ruby's clientele was made up of celebrity mothers.
Ruby ran and part-owned Les Sprogs, the exclusive mother and baby shop in Notting Hill. British and American stars, along with all the trust-fund mummies, came for the designer maternity and baby wear (Ruby had just taken delivery of her first consignment of Baby Gucci, which was flying off the shelves), the old-fashioned Silver Cross Balmoral prams at nearly £1,000 a pop, the all-terrain buggies and the cute sterling-silver egg containers for "my first curl."
As she flicked through Hello!, she came across a small piece about the Hollywood actress Claudia Planchette. The headline read: "Claudia Expecting Special Christmas Delivery." The article was accompanied by one of those snatched paparazzi-style shots--clearly reproduced from one of the tabloids--of her striding away briskly from St. Luke's prenatal department, her head down, her nauseatingly neat bump encased in tight Lycra. So, Ruby thought, unlike the first time she gave birth, Claudia wasn't going back to L.A. That meant Les Sprogs could be about to acquire yet another wealthy, high-profile customer.
Ruby had always possessed a head for business. Nobody in her family knew where it came from. It certainly wasn't her parents. Her mother, Ronnie--short for Rhona--was a well-regarded artist. Once a year she would have an exhibition at a trendy gallery in the East End. She might sell three or four paintings and make a few thousand pounds. Some- times she sold none.
Ruby's dad, Phil, was a freelance commercial artist. He and Ronnie had met at art school, during Ronnie's first term. Phil was four years older and in his final year. It was an odd coupling, Ruby always thought--the hippie-dippy fine art student and the commercial artist. Ronnie always explained it by saying it had been lust at first sight. It was only as the relationship developed that they realized how they complemented and completed each other. She was the young, contemplative idealist, while he was more grounded and practical.
A few months after they met, Ronnie discovered she was pregnant. There was no question for either of them of not keeping the baby. Instead they got married in a civil cere- mony, to which only Ronnie's sister, Sylvia, and a handful of their friends from art school were invited.
After Ruby arrived, Ronnie dropped out of art school to become a full-time mother. The three of them lived in a tiny rented flat in Balham, where the only bedroom served as sleeping quarters, nursery and study. It was here that Phil designed artwork for soap powder boxes and cereal packs.
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