Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ladies of 1938 - Read This Now

Nag on the Lake has shown the way to this illustrated guide for single ladies, which, it seems fair to suggest, was as timely and accurate in 1938 as it is today. The image above suggests that women should avoid using the car's rear view mirror to adjust their cosmetics as this will annoy the assumed-to-be-driving man, especially when he has to turn his head to see behind the car.

Arguably, the more curious assumption is that anyone is driving the car -- what if they're just playing Driver and Passenger as a prelude to a genteel evening of similar high-brow entertainments? What if the car is stalled, or perched on cinder blocks? What if the car has sunk to the bottom of a deep, frozen lake? In that case, can't the woman be forgiven for adjusting her cosmetics in her final dying moments before the water pressure collapses the cabin? And can't the man be trusted to devote his energies to something other rather than bitching because he has to crane his neck to confirm there is no visible escape behind the car, but only more unforgiving inky blackness? This make-up tip leaves so many warrantless assumptions and begged questions unaddressed, it's all I can do to resist the idea that this guide is of no practical use at all.

Maybe another will brighten my appraisal?

Ah yes, much better -- this next one is important. "IF YOU NEED," it justifiably screams, "a brassiere," it more calmly continues, "wear one. Don't tug at your girdle, and be careful your stockings are not wrinkled." It cannot be emphasized enough that tugging at your girdle and wearing wrinkled stockings marks you as a complete whore, or possibly a drag queen who isn't trying hard to seem like an actual woman. The former is great, but the latter is a risk you would do well to avoid.

Notice the man's hand-blinder gesture and his look of revulsion. He has begun to wonder if the woman in his company is actually a man in drag, and given those wrinkled stockings and all the girdle-tugging, he is right to do so.

Or is that too much revulsion by half? Some fellows (so I am reliably informed) enjoy the badly-impersonated woman look -- and not just the look, if you catch my meaning. Tastes and inclinations vary, today and no less in 1938.

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