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The Fascinating Baby

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Well this is straightforward enough:

The little girl cannot meet this month's expenses.  Hopes Mr. W --- will see this and embrace opportunity he requested at lunch.  The Fascinating Baby, 140 Herald.

So this personal ad is actually from the twentieth century, not the nineteenth as my blog claims, but it's within the first decade and really who's counting?  And why should I leave out such an interesting little tidbit like this one because of a matter of a few years?

And interesting it sure is.  Lots and lots of ads were solicitations, so this is hardly new.  But it's awfully direct.  I'm used to seeing ads like this masked a little, and, okay, the "fascinating baby" doesn't outright say exactly what the opportunity mentioned is, but there's not much left to the imagination, is there?  Other than sex, is there anything else she could be offering him that would be worth a month of expenses (or at least some of)?  I'm not trying to be too cynical here, but let's face it, it's not like financial support in exchange for sexual favors is unheard of.  I guess it's just that she's so frank about what's going on here.  This isn't coy, she's not pretending to love or even like him.  This is a business transaction - but I don't think she's a prostitute.  I think she's just a girl who can't meet her expenses (given how underpaid working women were, not hard to believe) who's making the best of a bad situation.

But it's more than that which I find so salacious - it's really the way she refers to herself.  The "little girl"?  "The fascinating baby"?  Wow.  Beyond the weird pedophilia undertones, that's just so very racy. 

I deal with a lot of women like this in my dissertation and I worry about what happened to them.  A "little girl" (obviously - hopefully - not very little) could probably get some guy to pay her bills for awhile.  But what about when she got older and the guy moved on to someone younger and prettier?  What happened then? 

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2010 Pam Epstein

4 comments:

Liz March 2, 2010 at 9:08 AM  

Part of me wonders about the slightly coy nature of 'cannot meet this month's expenses'. While yes, it may be completely true, it may also be a gracious way of engaging in sex work without advertising it - a modesty veil, if you will. Perhaps she's making sure she has something to rely on after she can't post these kinds of adverts.

Mind you, I do wonder how many people responded to this kind of ad saying 'well, I might not be your Mr. W, but I would be very interested in helping you meet your expenses'...

Matt March 2, 2010 at 11:38 AM  

I wonder if "Fascinating Baby" might not be a pop culture reference. It rings a bit like a ragtime title (Fascinating/Fascination + was a staple of Tin Pan Alley and jazz titles), and baby acts were common enough in early Broadway revues (eg. Fanny Brice's "Baby Snooks" routine in the Ziegfeld follies of 1910 or 1911).

It would be interesting to see what shows were playing that season... I mean, it COULD be that "the little girl" is code for something -- a financial backer for a Broadway show, for example -- and Mr. W might be a potential investor in something that is in danger of running out of money.

It would be interesting to read our Facebook posts with scholarly literalism...

Pam March 2, 2010 at 12:23 PM  

Liz - part of the chapter I'm working on is a discussion of this interesting group of women who were sort of intermediate "prostitutes" - basically mistresses. So I get the impression she's kind of like that. Not taking money indiscriminately, but essentially looking for a sugar daddy for real. I'd seen that quite a lot in fiction, but never examples of it in reality, so that's been "fascinating"!

Matt - that's a good point about ragtime - hadn't thought of that. In the context of the other ads around it, though, this kind of thing was pretty common. And why would a theatrical manager need to use code in a personal? Seems a bit extreme.

Pam March 2, 2010 at 12:25 PM  

Also - seriously - I really wonder what historians will make of social networking sites like Facebook. Still - I'm glad I won't be the one doing it. Talk about too much evidence!

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