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Not such a Good Girl

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

These two ads were about a week and a half apart.  I get the feeling Fred is getting slightly taken advantage of here.  What do you think?

Fred - Would like to hear from you financially.  Explain when I see you.  With love. Good Girl.
Fred - How can I ever thank you for your kindness to me? With love. Good Girl.
I mean, granted, women had a lot of trouble getting money in any other way than through men in the nineteenth century, as I've talked about repeatedly.  Since it was difficult for them to get decent jobs that paid a living wage - or indeed, to work at all - women were heavily reliant on their fathers' and later husbands' incomes, if they were so lucky as to have them.  So maybe "Good Girl" was really in dire straits and really needed help.  I could be a cynic, it's true.

But on the other hand, the way the first ad is phrased seems so very callous.  "Would like to hear from you financially"?  Doesn't that seem rather...I dunno, business-like?  It also implies that this was not a one-time request.  After all, if someone just out of the blue needed money from her boyfriend, she wouldn't ask so bluntly, would she?  And wouldn't she need to be more specific about how much money she needs?  Just seems to me that maybe Good Girl has been hearing from Fred financially more than just once or twice. 

Not to mention her pseudonym: "Good Girl."  There's something so sleazy about that.  I'm imagining some dude with a gold pinkie ring with a little blonde dancing girl half his age, although back in the 1880s when this was published I don't think you saw many men with gold pinkie rings.  But you guys get the idea, don't you?  I suppose if that's the case Fred probably knew what he was getting into.  But I just don't think that, for Good Girl, there was much love involved.

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2010 Pam Epstein


Mario January 5, 2010 at 12:38 PM  

This made me think of the (later) notes that Odette passes to Swann in Proust's Swann's Way. Not that we see them there, but Odette does get less lovey-dovey and much more business-minded as she dings Swann for more money with less, uh, "favors.' There's even a point where Swann and Odette play the who-will-write-first? game! And like Pam suggests here about women in the US, Odette has literally *no* options to support herself outside of rich men because jobs for women in Paris do not pay a minimally adequate wage--i.e. less than the cost of food and shelter.

Anyway, in France from the mid-19th C. onwards it was a sign of social status to be able to afford a mistress. Was there any sort of similar institution in the US?

My own first inclination was that the US was/is still too antagonistic towards extramarital sex for that to be the case, but a lot of the recent ads and the ongoing Europhilia among the moneyed in the US might suggest otherwise. I could imagine that mistresses would be the type of thing male bankers would laugh about with each other down at the Union Club or whereever.

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