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It doesn't appear in any of the contemporary reports of the wreck. Something very close is cited in reference to a later wreck - that of the Central America, which went down on a voyage to New York in This reference is from the magazine Godey's Lady's Book , December Every man on board that doomed ship knew the captain was acting rightly.

The first use of the precise phrase is from a work of fiction - W. O'Connor's Harrington , The first man that touches a boat I'll brain.

phrases, sayings, proverbs and idioms at

Women and children first, men. Home Search Phrase Dictionary Women and children first. Milling awkwardly in the small lobby outside the temple, the ones who seemed to know each other were being especially friendly to the ones whose nametags they had to check. The women were rather quiet and smiled pleasantly while the men discussed how long some Tibetan lamas live. A gray-haired man in a blue parka, one of the few not wearing a nametag, said, "Well…in Tibetan time.

Who knows how those guys keep track. Ceci was acutely aware of how strongly she smelled of perfume.

Women and children first

Yesterday, on her way home from work, she had stopped at a bookstore on Eighth Street, leafed through a fashion magazine till she was the only one at the rack, then surreptitiously unfolded a perfume ad, rubbed the scented strip on both wrists, and put the magazine back. She was spending the evening alone.

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She was sure others smelled it, too, and were dismissing her because of it as a completely unserious Buddhist. When Ceci said she taught kindergarten at a private school in the Village, the slackening of attention was palpable.

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That was how she knew that few of the Buddhists had kids. Luckily she was the last to be asked; as to her reasons for being there, she could say what the others said. A few said that certain questions kept coming up in their practices. An elderly German woman said she used to travel a lot; now she was homesick for the incense and bells. Not one person said: I needed to get out of the apartment, I needed a day in the country with other people. For all Ceci knew, every one of them might be like her, crying at night, weeping into the pillow like a sixteen-year-old. She wondered how many of them had picked this retreat as she had, from a newspaper ad.

Under the Dharma Center ad was an ad for a travel bureau. If Ceci had had the time and the money she would have taken the charter flight to Negril. When she sent in her money, she had imagined telling the Lama that her husband had left her and taken a job at an observatory in Arizona. He really was an astronomer first.

She would ask what you did when you realized that your life will never turn out like you planned. Obviously she was going to the Lama the way other people visited storefront fortunetellers, only the Lama was safer—unlikely to offer to remove the curse from her money, or anything like that.

What did she know about Buddhism? Prayer wheels, rock gardens, the Dalai Lama—she knew what everyone knew. These Buddhists seemed very keyed up about their upcoming interviews with the Lama. The oldtimers swaggered a bit. They all agreed that the Lama kind of pooh-poohed the theoretical. He was better at giving out meditations. One woman said that this had been the hardest thing to understand—that the words themselves had power.

Several people nodded at this. Ceci wondered: How does he know about me? But of course there must be lots like her. And what was so bad about that? It occurred to her that for many people, the moment before they crack into a fortune cookie is probably the closest they ever come to a moment of genuine spiritual awe, of facing destiny straight on.

It made her a little anxious not knowing exactly whose fortune was whose, but finally she was just flattered that he wanted anything of hers. Last month she read in a magazine about a Chinatown luncheonette where one of the cooks was a pharmacist—sea horses, reindeer tusks, that sort of thing. Now the place had a new crowd of regulars: the dying, alone or with friends. From the temple came the velvety sound of a gong, less a sound than a feeling, like an enormous Q-tip stroking the length of your spine.

No one spoke till the sound died out, a fading away that lasted so long that by the end, everyone had sheepish smiles, which brightened considerably when someone said, Lunch! There were two factions: the Buddhists who only talked about Buddhism and the ones who made small talk. The more worldly ones seemed embarrassed, as if the serious ones were their slightly out-of-it siblings who might alarm the new visitors.

The German woman said, This is some dining room —which it was: handsome, wainscotted, grand enough for twenty people to fit around a long oak table, but also attractively rough; dust motes streamed in the gold, vintage-photograph light.


A soft-spoken woman named Beth said, And the Indians. This place was apparently a healing spot for the Indians. You know what the Lama eats? Barley gruel. What makes him run. Everyone passed around condiment jars. It struck Ceci as a good sign that the Buddhists ate with such gusto. She did what they did, smeared Thai basil and chili paste with butter on the French bread.

Down the table, they were discussing the Tibetan diet: leaden dumpling soup, sausages stuffed with sheep fat and red pepper. Though Ceci ate greedily, she felt she was growing smaller, becoming that invisible person whom no one expected to interact with the group. The first to finish lunch, she stood up and excused herself with the lamest of lame, self-erasing smiles. She drifted into the small lobby and perched on the edge of an antique rattan couch.

On the coffee table were three books. She picked up the smallest one first. She soon exchanged this for a large glossy picture book of Tibet and turned past the photogenic yurts, the prayer flags with the blue sky and white Himalayas behind them, past the masked demon dancers in the temple courtyard, straight to the wedding party.

At first glance the bride looked so pretty, pink-cheeked, in her embroidery, striped blankets, tons of silver and turquoise and coral jewelry. Then you saw that she was terrified, and about twelve. The third book was an offset-printed local history of the reservoir. In one of its few photos, reservoir workers, dressed up in shirtsleeves and derbies, posed on a lawn.

It gave Ceci a funny chill when she recognized the monastery behind them. As the Buddhists came in from lunch, the German woman who was homesick for temple bells was talking about her travels. A long look passed between them, and the German woman said, "What a compliment. John Lennon may be your hero, but Alexandra is mine. Magic and Mystery in Tibet is my bible.

Women and Children First: Stories

John Lennon? The parka man hardly seemed the type, but still he nodded agreeably. His wife sulked. Naturally Ceci was on her side.

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How could Beth meditate and still keep an eye on that? Two hundred miles down the road he still longed to turn and drive back. How was Ceci supposed to answer that? That woman was me. Her husband, who was there to consult with someone on the staff, had looked at her and kept looking.

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It was someone else entirely. Another gong sent everyone straight to the den; probably they had their own name for this pine-paneled room, with its brown linoleum floor and colonial maple couches. They sat on the sofas and, when the chairs were full, on the floor. Ceci was the only one wearing shoes. What had the others done with theirs, and when? My name is Walter. We will begin with ten minutes of meditation.