Skeeter finally goes on her blind date in this chapter. She gets all excited after Hilly shows her a black and white photo of Stuart Whitworth. He’s got curly brown hair, light eyes which Skeeter believes are blue, and best of all he’s tall. Taller than her, which is a plus. Filled with high anxiety and anticipation Skeeter goes shopping to impress him. She’d better, because Hilly tells her his last girlfriend was none other than Patricia van Devender, a girl voted most beautiful at Ole Miss two years in a row.
From the novel:
I sit two hours under the Shinaltor (results, it seems, only last until the next wash). When I’m dry, I go to Kennington’s and buy the flattest shoes I can find and a slim black crepe dress. I hate shopping, but I’m glad for the distraction, not to have to worry about Missus Stein or Aibileen for an afternoon. I charge the eighty-five dollars to Mother’s account since she’s always begging me to go buy new clothes. (“Something flattering for your size.”) I know that Mother would profoundly disapprove of the cleavage the dress enables me to have. I’ve never owned a dress like this.
And then the chapter turns into bad slapstick, and the reader is left wondering if Skeeter will make it to the date in one piece. See, Skeeter’s brother Carlton is home with his “shiny new girlfriend”. Carlton is handsome and tall, with wavy blonde hair. He’s finishing up at LSU Law school.
Time is getting tight, so Skeeter has to ask her mother for the car.
“Where in the world are your keys, Mama? I’m late for Hilly’s, I’m staying there tonight.” Skeeter says.
“What? But Carlton’s home. What’s his new friend going to think if you leave for something better to do?” her mother pleads.
Instead of telling her mom that she has a date, this twenty-three year old college grad acts as if she’s sneaking out to do something illegal.
The back and forth becomes an ordeal. Her mother needs to know where she’s going, and oh, but Carlton is home so why can’t she stay and have dinner and…
You get the picture. Her nicely smooth hair gets frizzy again, because she’s not able to drive mom’s cadillac but she does get to drive the old truck (that’s equipped with no air conditioning) which has tractor attached. And the tractor is full of fertizer. Phew!
Hilly is aghast when Skeeter arrives looking sweaty, her hair disheveled, Skeeter just looks bad. Hilly rushes her upstairs to fix her hair, get some make-up on and Skeeter washes her armpits.
What’s interesting is Skeeter hits a cat on the way there.
It’s described like this: A black thing streaks in front me and I feel a thunk.
The crazy part is, the author mentioned “black” so much in reference to the African American characters, I thought she’d hit a kid (If what I’m referring to is lost on you, see this post: Things that should not be (in this novel)
Stuart is already semi-drunk by the time he gives Skeeter a once-over. As they arrive at the Robert E. Lee hotel for dinner, Johnny Foote and his Marilyn Monroe wanna be wife Celia, are leaving. Even inebriated, Stuart mumbles this about Celia “Lord, she’s hot as Tunica blackstop.”
Upon hearing this, Skeeter no longer cares how the date goes, which is great, because the date isn’t going so good. Stuart is drinking like a fish, and when Skeeter tells him about her newspaper job, he makes light of it.
“I write a…domestic maintenance column for the Jackson Journal.”
“Domestic maintenance. You mean housekeeping?” he asks. “Jesus…I can’t think of anything worse than reading a column on how to clean house…except maybe writing it…sounds like a ploy to me, to find a husband. Becoming an expert on keeping house…isn’t that what you women from Ole Miss major in? Professional husband hunting?”
Thankfully Skeeter remembers that she has a backbone.
“I’m sorry, but were you dropped on your head as an infant?”
At that Stuart laughs. It’s the first time he’s laughed all night.
She continues: “Not that it’s any of your business, but I had to start somewhere if I plan on being a journalist.”‘
They eat dinner in silence while Hilly and her husband try to keep the conversation going.
When its time to go and Stuart helps Skeeter into her coat, he sniffs it and announces to Hilly and her husband William, “It smells like fertilizer.” Oh boy.
Back at Hilly house, Stuart is still drinking. Hilly wants Skeeter to drive him home, hoping somehow sparks will still fly between them.
They sure do, when Stuart says this about her truck in this exchange:
“That is the funniest damn looking thing I have ever seen,” he says.
I step away from him. “Hilly can take you,” I say. “Hilly will drive you.”
He turns and focuses on me for what, I’m pretty sure, is the first time all night.
After several long moments of standing there being looked at, my eyes fill with tears. I’m just so tired.
“Ah, shit,” he says and his body loosens. “Look, I told Hilly I wasn’t ready for any damn date.”
“Don’t. . .I say, backing away from him, and I head back to the house. (Pg 120)
Though she’s deflated at the date, when she gets home Aibileen gives her a call.
Wouldn’t you know it, Aibileen has now agreed to work with Skeeter on the book.
“Law have mercy” Aibileen drawls. “I guess I’m on do it.” (Yes, this is exactly how the book has her dialogue written except for the Aibileen drawls.)
“I just have to ask you” Skeeter says. “What changed your mind?”
– End of Chapter-
The rejection Skeeter goes through on her date is something anyone, male or female can identify with. The writing was good in showing just how much of an asshole Stuart was, and just how hurt Skeeter was.
The weakest part was the will Skeeter make it to the date not only on time, but looking remotely female.
And what really wasn’t needed, which weakened the chapter for me was Aibileen’s dialogue. Just when I think I can really get into the novel, Stockett slams it into my head that the black characters are just so down home countryfied, that it’s like reading two different novels. I felt like screaming at her to give it a rest already.
And for those who still don’t get it, here’s a few examples of Aibileen’s dialogue from other perspectives of other overused caricatures in writing:
The teen caricature:
“Like, OMG Skeeter, Just shut up already! I said I’d do it.”
The Hispanic caricature:
“Let me tell choo some ting Skeeter-”
Again I ask. How did the author or her editor NOT see this?