Lovers & Latchkeys: Tales From a Greenwich Village Girlhood


Togetherness (n.) meaning “harmony in a group,” “a unity of purpose,” “the combining in social and other activities, as in a close-knit family” is Standard: Their togetherness will see them through these difficulties.

Kenneth G. Wilson, The Columbia Guide to Standard American English, 1993.

THE question, is, Mr. Wilson, who foisted this word, this concept, on America?

In 1951 my mother was an editor at McCall’s magazine. The perks were lovely—she managed to get me occasional modeling jobs (me in a starched pinafore knitting, me in a salmon-colored dress fingerpainting) for their special children’s issues and I was able to buy the patent leather Mary Jane pumps of my dreams with my modeling loot (at least $10 an hour). Her real claim to fame during her editorial tenure, however, was her invention of the concept of “togetherness”—or so I was told.

She probably dreamed it up one night, sitting alone after I’d been tucked in. A full ashtray is on the table by the daybed that also serves as couch, and she’s fully equipped with pencil and legal-size yellow pad. At this time we lived in a one-bedroom garden apartment on Perry Street, and so what if you have to pass through my small bedroom to reach the bathroom. I sleep on the top bunk of a bunk-bed that had been left behind, and the lower half (minus mattress) makes a perfect playhouse. The narrow space that remains between it and the opposite wall is an adequate passage to the bathroom for my mom and her boyfriend of the moment and thank goodness I’m a heavy sleeper. There aren’t many visitors—we’ve recently returned to New York after an interlude in Hollywood, she’s six months pregnant with my twin sisters and is working long hours at McCall’s.

On this quiet spring evening of my imagination she is doodling, waiting for inspiration—maybe cursing the Universe for her fate: pregnant at forty with twins, a seven­-year-old asleep in the next room and no husband or partner in sight.

What would a beautiful, brilliant and talented woman—now a grown woman with no living parents, no siblings, no husband—crave on such a soft April night, the door open to the back garden, hearing the sounds of people eating, clinking knives and forks on china, people singing scales, feeding cats, washing up…what is missing from her life? What does she deserve?

Togetherness. That’s it. McCall’s. The Magazine of Togetherness.

If she didn’t invent it, she certainly could have. Never did one person understand a concept so well, obsess over it so much, and be so completely incapable of attaining it.