When I hear or read the adjective "wholesome," it always seems to evoke a particular memory involving my mother. It spans back to my dating days as a 19- or 20-year-old and madras shirts and brown penny loafers. There was a beautiful blonde young lady named Ellen. I had met her at the beach, though I don't remember exactly how. She was working at a hotel for the summer, and one night we were supposed to meet at her hotel and go for a walk. When I arrived, another employee informed me that she had left earlier with someone else.
"You haven't known her long have you?" he asked.
"No, I just met her."
"Good," he said. "Then you can't be too heartbroken by her standing you up."
"Yeah, I guess not."
For a lot of guys that would have been enough, but not for me. I arranged to meet her again and that time she showed. I was staying with my older brother who had been hired as a beach photographer that summer. He met Ellen and was also impressed, at least by her model-like appearance. So my association with Ellen continued beyond that first summer, and eventually my mother met her.
Later, when I asked my mother what she thought of Ellen — or when she decided to tell me, I'm not sure which — she characterized Ellen as "wholesome."
The next time I saw Ellen, I told her my mom thought she was wholesome, thinking that might please her.
"Wholesome!" she cried. "Ugh! You've got to be kidding me! Who wants to be wholesome?"
What were my mom and I thinking to even suggest such a thing? I was being rudely fast-forwarded from the 1930s to the 1960s, and never bothered to tell my mom.
And Ellen and I did, in fact, go on to break each other's hearts.