Here I am back in Scotland with my manly husband, who--wrapped in a bath towel--has been staring out the window chanting "Still falls the rain" in the plummy accent of the late Dame Edith Sitwell.
"How very manly, darling," I said affectionately.
Actually, men pretending to be women is classic comedy in Britain. It is part of the pantomime tradition, in which men dress as the Wicked Stepsisters and their ilk and a woman dresses as the youthful hero. (Peter Pan, incidentally, is traditionally played by a woman.) During the Second World War, British officers would dress up as women in recreational revues, and before our more cagey times, so did the seminarians at the English College in Rome.
It is about being funny, not about being pretty or sexy. There is a world of difference between the homely housewives on Monty Python and the leopard-print clad post-op transsexual who sashayed past me in Toronto's gay village one memorable day. For one thing, it was not necessarily British men with SSA who donned drag; any British man would do it for entertainment value, to be funny.
I don't think this is a staple of Canadian or American humour (Dame Edna/Barry Humphries is Australian), which goes to show you how expectations of "maleness" change from culture to culture. And a great pal of mine and I argue over whether or not "The Rules" are cross-cultural, or whether there is some basic male psychology that simply doesn't change from culture to culture.
To boil this down to a simple and even fatuous question--although it never sounds fatuous when it's you staring at the phone or your computer--"Is it ever wise for a woman to make the first move?"
I don't want to make the past seem nicer than it was, for a quick check with your granny will reveal that the past could be tiresome and oppressive for women, but it must have been great when everyone agreed that women did not make the first move and so men had to do it. Be she ever so lively or shy or pretty or plain, nobody was telling the hopeful young girl that what she really ought to do was just call up the boy who caught her eye and ask him out on a date. No. Instead, boys cajoled other boys into doing the calling.
One of the comfortable things in belonging to a trad Catholic subculture is that there is a tacit agreement in that subculture about how men and women are supposed to behave. It can also be a bit of a drag, as innocent women barked at for wearing "pants" in church, can attest. (All things are pure to the pure, and it very rarely occurs to today's NCGs that the problem with tight trousers and jeans is that they lovingly outline the shape of our bums, a distraction to men and even--if we've stopped being used to the sight--women at prayer. I'd go for a bum-covering jacket to go with the trousers, myself.)
But it makes social life a lot easier to navigate when it is generally agreed that it is the single woman's job to look and be pleasant, and the single man's job to look and be pleasant PLUS ask out the single women, unless he feels called to a life of bachelor tranquility or the priesthood. And, of course, if the single woman feels called to a life of single tranquility or a religious order, she can turn down the date request.
What is frightfully annoying is when men expect girls to court them and men expect girls to ask them out. And I suppose they do these days, not just because they see girls throwing themselves at rock stars, but because they see girls throwing themselves at their friends. I can't stand men like this; it makes them seem lazy and spoiled.
And now I'm going to make a few remarks about the following video, even though I very much like this video, because it is a little capsule of what is wrong with confused gender role courtship today.
I find this video cute, so I feel a bit bad deconstructing it, but come on. Here we have this tall, hard-as-nails looking German girl, and this cute little German guy with big puppy-dog eyes. He spends his subway trip staring at her, and her expression never changes from icy. Frankly, it's no wonder he never says anything. Goodness. He gives up without actually trying anything except bashful glances and gets off the car with his tail between his legs. But then--lo and behold--the icy German girl changes her mind and runs after him, something very difficult to do on a moving train, but she manages. And so, heartened, he runs after her. I hope she has the brains to get off at the next stop, and that he has the brains to take the next train to that stop. But you never know.
Meanwhile, I am relatively sure that this boy would not be what my pal and I call a "Rules" boy. A "Rules" boy is the kind of manly man who really doesn't like it on a very important level when girls chase after him and would prefer to do the chasing himself. One of my pals swears that she wouldn't be married to her "Rules" boy if she hadn't had me in the background yelling "Don't call him!"
So what do you think? Is the underlying tendency of men in your community to do the chasing, or do they sit around waiting for girls to make the first move?