14 February 2020

How to Tell if You're Hard-Boiled

A plane crashes into your boudoir? Oh well, these things happen.  A girl wants to finish making up before she heads out for the day.

A school girl's riddle: Why do males disappear before Thanksgiving and only reappear after the New Year?  If you have heard this one and you know the answer then, yes, you are hard-boiled.

To be hard-boiled is to have am adamantine attitude.  Often associated with detective novels, it was incubated in Manhattan, the first truly sophisticated American city.  Prohibition was the petri dish

Before the New Yorker debuted in 1925, Vanity Fair was the journal of the diamond cut on the hardness scale.  It was in its pages that Stephen Leacock wondered in 1915, "Are the Rich Happy?"   To begin with, he had trouble finding them. "Very often I had thought that I had found them, but it turned out that it was not so. They were not rich at all. They were quite poor. They were hard up.  They were pinched for money. They didn't know where to turn for ten thousand dollars."

Leacock was followed by Dorothy Rothschild Parker, as she was then known, who published a series of "Hate Songs," satirical verses  in which she trained her gimlet eye on various aspects of city life - office politics, the whims of actresses, the shortcomings of one's relatives and, of course, men.  Although she was only twenty-three at the time, Parker was already a walking anthology of hard edges.  Husbands, Parker decreed, were "The White Woman's Burden" and concluded, "I wish to Heaven somebody would alienate their affections."

Image: Tim Ford - photographic collage, for Vogue, UK, London.


Parnassus said...

O.K. I give up. Why do men disappear in December? I am male but have never heard of this phenomenon.

Jane said...

Hello, Parnassus. This is hardboiled, I think you will agree. The saying went that boys didn't want to have to meet your parents at Thanksgiving, they didn't know what to give for a Christmas gift, and a date on New Year's Eve was too expensive. All situations fraught with pressure. It's enough to make a person consider the advantages of arranged matches.

Parnassus said...

Not very chivalrous of them, I must say. However, even with an arranged match, you still have to meet the parents, buy the present, and pay for the New Year's date. (Of course, all this refers to old-fashioned standards of dating. I don't know about these days.) --Jim

Jane said...

Old-fashioned indeed. That's why I chose this picture. My mother and her friends all had dressing tables where they got ready for the day. I haven't seen one since then. I tried for a tone in the writing to convey the combination of coyness and cynicism that was once lingua franca in popular magazines and advertising.
Here's another piece that expands on this:

And thanks for your comments.

Rouchswalwe said...

Jane! You nailed the tone ... especially in the third paragraph:
To be hard-boiled is to have am adamantine attitude. Often associated with detective novels, it was incubated in Manhattan, the first truly sophisticated American city. Prohibition was the petri dish.

My mother's dressing table outlived its usefulness and became my desk in grad school ... (I wish I still had it to use as a dressing table in my autumn years!)

Jane said...

Rouchswalwe, glad you liked it. My mother's dressing table even had a ruffled skirt and it was kidney-shaped, like a Hollywood swimming pool.