Prunes and Prism

RULES FOR YOUNG LADIES: Some arch advice on snagging a husband. Exercising the mouth into a pretty shape through repetition of certain words seems to have been an indoor sport for young nineteenth-century girls; in Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens' overly bred girl repeats, "papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism." (

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

And Ain't I a Woman?

Today on BBC Online there's a story about pole dancing as cardio, and whether practicing it is a betrayal of feminism. I feel comfortable sharing here that I had absolutely no opinion on this matter (save idle envy of the legs on the woman in the accompanying photos -- I don't know if they belong to reporter Jacqui Head, but if I had them I'd be hanging upside down from a pole all the time, and no one could stop me).

Then, four-fifths of the way down, an Arena magazine editor-at-large* scoffs at recreational pole dancers as "'fake dirty' -- it's a big men's saying because there are so many of these girls who are not actually very sexual."

If I'd gone to graduate school, I might have thought we were trapped in a Lacanian hall of mirrors; as it was, I just thought this guy should sod off. He followed that remark with "It's disingenuous in that the same person that goes to a class would turn their noses up at a pole dancing club," and what I believe he meant to say is that he thinks stripping-as-tourism is foolish and contrived. But I was thoroughly irritated by the implication that he and the rest of the men who say will decide what's really sexual, and n.b., it's only really sexual if someone's getting rewarded with a sweaty tenner at the end.

So girls take classes where they learn to mimic sex workers -- workers, as in for pay -- because that's what feels sexy to them; meanwhile, the men who edit the copy that runs underneath Jessica Alba's nipples insist that those girls aren't "very sexual" at all, since the pole-hanging is something they do simply because it's sexual, and not because they pay the rent doing it.

Yesterday I sat down on the subway across from a strikingly pretty Lady Who Was Not, Strictly Speaking, a Lady -- hands just a bit too big, jaw just a tad too there. She had chosen the best costume for the day, which was made up in part by purplish lipstick and, on every finger, multiple gold rings, one of which was shaped like a snake. This she pointed to when she fixed me with a look and said, "I-Like-Your-Bag-It's-Snake-See-I-Have-a-Snake-I-Like-Snakes-Too!" This came in one great rush that was oddly affectless -- it was like she'd been given a line of dialogue with {enthusiastically} in front of it but chosen to ignore that part.

With a sinking feeling I realized that she was a Lady Who Was Not, Strictly Speaking, Sane. This feeling was not alleviated by her further ejaculations about her pet snake, or the way snakes "aren't-slimy-at-all-they're-smooth-and-dry," or the purple snake miniskirt she had once owned. I was actually relieved when she got up and sat down next to me, because that alleviated the meta-misery of knowing that everyone in the car was smirking at my great good fortune (unless they were Arena editors, in which case they must have wanted to pay us to make out).

As girls will do, we fell on the topic of lotions for sensitive skin; she likes St. Ives. "Can you use it on your face, too?" I {eagerly} asked. "No-no-just-your-body," she said.

Now, here's the thing: I knew the lotion she was talking about, and I also knew good and well you'd never put it on your face. I asked because I was nervous, but also, I think, so she could tell me the answer -- beauty tips being a currency between ladies.

*You may be familiar with his work if you've ever picked up the British comedy fanzine Shoreditch Twat.


Post a Comment

<< Home