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Monday, May 3, 2010

Does anyone else see something seriously wrong with this picture?

Will the young lady in deep mourning who sat next to and noticed the gentleman on her left at Booth's theatre, on Monday evening, July 5, communicate by note? Address H.C., Herald office.
Nice. Soliciting a woman in deep mourning. Not just mourning, but seriously decked out all in black with probably a veil, black gloves, hat, handkerchiefs, stockings, everything. I actually found some pictures of mourning dresses from the era that should give you an idea of what I'm talking about:

Yeah. This dress, according to the caption, dates from about five years before the above ad was written, so the lady in question might have been wearing something similar. Come on, guy. How is that cool?

Now of course, whoever this lady was mourning had to have been dead for quite some time, otherwise there is no way she'd be hanging out at Booth's theatre (or any theater). Talk about frivolity in the wake of death! So I'd say her husband/parent/child/sibling must have passed away at least three or four months ago, possibly longer.

But look, deep mourning, half mourning, any kind of mourning at all - why oh why would anyone hit on a woman dressed anything remotely like this? H.C. says she "noticed" him. Well, I "notice" a lot of people as I go about my daily life; in fact, in a big crowded theater it's almost impossible not to "notice" the person sitting right next to you. She probably met his eyes (through her heavy veil?) for like two seconds and he was convinced that despite the deep mourning costume she was wearing, that she must be interested in him.

I suppose it's possible he's not actually hitting on her. Possibly she dropped her purse or a glove and he wants to return it, but it seems like he would mention that in the ad. I have seen ads of that nature, where someone lost something and there was a personal to try and find the owner. So while I accept that as a possibility, I find it odd that he wouldn't say, you know, "I've got your bag and would like to return it." Because otherwise I find it hard to believe she'd answer. Or maybe the mourning dress was just a way for some girl to go to the theater without being recognized by anyone - a big black veil over your face would help you remain incognito - and she wasn't actually mourning anyone at all.

Or, maybe she's lonely and tired of being dressed all in black and pretending to be depressed about the loss of someone that maybe she didn't care too much about - a distant parent, a much older husband she never loved - and so was trying to attract a little attention from her handsome left-hand neighbor. I doubt she really intended anything to come of it, if so, but maybe she just wanted to feel attractive and sociable again. Widows were expected to remaining in deep mourning for a year, and then another year had to continue wearing black. If you weren't particularly fond of the person you were married to, which was of course quite common in an era of tacitly arranged marriages, that's quite a burden to bear.

Er, anyway, I'll try to be more cheerful tomorrow.

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2010 Pam Epstein


drwende May 3, 2010 at 4:22 PM  

There's an Anthony Trollope novel -- I think it's early in the Pallisers series -- in which one of the female characters is at her flirtatious best in mourning and ready to catch another husband shortly after the demise of the prior one. Trollope may even use this schtick more than once.

If an author was satirizing the behavior, it probably happened often enough that a man had a fair chance of luck in hitting on a dame in mourning who made significant eye contact.

Bianca C May 3, 2010 at 11:02 PM  

i am sad to say I am terribly amused by the photo you included on this post. Specifically when combined with the ad of course. :-)

Pam May 4, 2010 at 9:35 AM  

drwende - I was unaware of that! Of course I've heard of Trollope but I've never read anything by him. Thanks!

Bianca - it IS funny. How can you make eyes at someone through that veil??

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