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Urban Moment

Lock Up Your Husbands, the D-Girls Are on the Loose

April 22, 2001|SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Melrose. Bad night in a Moroccan bar. One of those nights that can be fatally disorienting. Everyone at the big round table was wearing the same annoying, square-shaped horn-rimmed glasses, which can hit a confidence-shattering high note in the nervous system. Our host, a young producer-entrepreneur from the East Coast who had just finished his first movie seated my husband next to a skinny, chatty, waifish brown-haired girl.

Within 30 seconds, she had located his favorite subject on her radar screen, with B, C, and D options. She did the geisha thing.

This girl seemed to have a lot of precise media-typic information on a range of subjects, like a CNN shut-in. She stayed home a gosh-awful lot, she demurred, all alone, watching TV. So lonely, so cozy. Hosing up information for moments such as these.

Every half-hour or so, someone at the table would try to interrupt them: Please pass the . . . or the . . . but it could not be done. She had created a force field.

It got darker, and I drank more, I'm not sure in which order. After about an hour and a half I felt surly. She was telling him how deeply she cared about the environment and how she wasn't sure, really, what she wanted to do. Wasn't happy in her job in the movie business, even though it involved music (their favorite subject).

I closed my eyes. When I opened them, the girl and the husband were gone. I stood up. I wandered from room to room, looking for the bathroom. First the husband materialized, then the girl.

"Let's go," my husband said.

"So nice to meet you," she said, putting out a chilly, bony hand.

"Are you crazy?" my husband said in the car. (I felt certain that I was.) "She was a Republican!"

You live in L.A., you're 40 years old, you are not a stupid woman. But this was a new species. Not the big-bosomed, not the beautiful, not the Barbie. Not entirely vacant, like the silly publicist who once said to me that she would not discuss "fidelity issues." (I don't want to discuss stocks, I thought, stupidly, I want you to leave my husband alone.) No, this was a creature of the Information Age.

What was she wearing? My friend asked calmly. Was she wearing those weird square glasses with tortoise-shell frames? Was she wearing those black pants you see in Banana Republic or J Crew catalogs, the ones that are flat in front, no pleats in sight? And a gray ribbed turtleneck? Flat, heavy-soled, black shoes? Yup, yup, yup.

That was a D-Girl, she said. Development Girl. They read scripts, sometimes books, for movie studios. When they find a story they think would make a good movie, they propose it to their superiors. It might get developed.

Fashion is changing too fast for me. I miss decolletage. With decolletage, you knew right away the woman was trying to seduce men everywhere. It was a net flung wide, like fishnet stockings. Black pants and turtlenecks and horn-rimmed glasses are much more specific. Let's be intellectuals together, is what this costume says. I know what you like. I can talk to you. Sex is less important. Also, please protect me. I don't actually get enough to eat. This is the artillery reserved for marriage, not husband-stealing and silly L.A. affairs in hotel rooms.

They don't make much money, my friend explained. It's a kind of uniform. This girl showed very little interest, none really, in any of the women at the table. She did not slouch or fold around them the way she did my husband. She seemed to want a job. She seemed extremely ambitious. She was educated, wide but not deep. Sophisticated enough to be gawky. One part ingenue, one part ambitious working gal.

And what's with the glasses? Is it a Chinese intellectual thing? Can it be that they are all blind as bats? Perhaps they can only make out male shapes and voices. Perhaps they must sit extremely close to their victims in order not to miss the littlest facial expression.

D-Girls have long straight hair, usually brunet. They are very thin, straight-nosed, and they don't wear any makeup you can see. They have severely pruned eyebrows. Nails are bitten. Small jewelry (maybe from the Sundance catalog). They are pale. They are not sportif.

Like geishas, D-Girls are meant for night work. During the day they do their isolated jobs. Once in a while, one is plucked, like the aliens from the machine in "Toy Story," into the upper atmosphere. A project they have recommended is developed or pretends to move toward development. "The D-Girl wave has crested," a friend who knows Hollywood told me. One generation has passed into marriage or indentured servitude or management. Woe betide the young woman who ever has to work for an ex-D-Girl. They do not make the best managers. They lose all geisha-ness very quickly. They become barking, brassy. They graduate from J. Crew to DKNY (a giant leap in price only).

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