The Single Strain

"Annabel had invented the game; or rather she had evolved it from an old one. Basically, it was no more than the ancient sport of what-would-you-do-if-you-had-a-million dollars? But Annabel had drawn a new set of rules for it, had narrowed it, pointed it, made it stricter. Like all games, it was the more absorbing for being more difficult.

Ad for Gunther's Furs, 1937. Silver fox coat: so terribly common.

Ad for Gunther's Furs, 1937. Silver fox coat: so terribly common.

Midge played with a seriousness that was not only proper but extreme.

The single strain on the girls’ friendship had followed an announcement once made by Annabel that the first thing she would buy with her million dollars would be a silver-fox coat. It was as if she had struck Midge across the mouth.

When Midge recovered her breath, she cried that she couldn’t imagine how Annabel could do such a thing—silver fox coats were common! Annabel defended her taste with the retort that they were not common, either. Midget then said that they were so. She added that everybody had a silver-fox coat. She went on, with perhaps a slight loss of head, to declare that she herself wouldn’t be caught dead in silver fox.

For the next few days, thought the girls saw each other as constantly, their conversation was careful and infrequent, and they did not once play their game. Then one morning, as soon as Annabel entered the office, she came to Midge and said that she had changed her mind.

She would not buy a silver-fox coat with any part of her million dollars. Immediately on receiving the legacy, she would select a coat of mink.’

Midge smiled and her eyes shone. ‘I think,’ she said, ‘you’re doing absolutely the right thing.’” (30-32)


Parker, Dorothy. "The Standard of Living" in The Portable Dorothy Parker. New York: Penguin Books, 1973.

But how would one know such things if one didn't have such a tasteful best friend? I just love that she changes her answer and that makes everything right, just the saying of it, and how satisfied Midge is with the professed upswing in taste.