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In praise of femininity

Feminine women can be feisty, indomitable and tomboys, the last adding to, not detracting from, their allure

November 19, 2020

8:58 AM

19 November 2020

8:58 AM

New York

Who was it that first coined the expression ‘It ain’t over until the fat lady sings’? The great Yogi Berra got credit for it, but what he really said was: ‘It ain’t over till it’s over.’ Well, I think it is all over, although it’s going to be dragged out by The Donald, who never knows when to stop. But as Roger Kimball writes in American Greatness, the fix was in; that’s why the man who lives in a basement remained in the basement while Trump flew manically all over the country rallying the troops. Apparently the cheating was on an industrial scale. We’ll know the final outcome most likely next month, but The Donald’s chances of remaining in the Big White Place ‘no look so good no more’, as they say here in the Bagel.

Over on the Upper East Side, where the poor little Greek boy resides, the dearth of preternaturally smooth-complexioned babes is as obvious as the masks worn by women who have stayed behind because they cannot afford a house in the Hamptons. The so-called beautiful people who first fled the town last March have stayed away, surrendering the Bagel to those huddled masses the Statue of Liberty plaque welcomes. Dining outdoors at a chic restaurant last week, I thought the crowd looked almost glamorous. I said almost. Darkness does wonders, obscuring age lines, blemishes and crappy unfeminine clothes, but then there are the voices. Some American women’s voices are to femininity what gangsta rap is to Mozart. It’s a high-pitched shriek, like a hyena being strangled (in fact, I’ve never heard such a sound in Africa, but have been aurally assaulted by it time and again right here in America). The #MeToo movement has exacerbated the problem. Something needs to be done and quick. It’s no surprise that so many American men need shrinks and are overweight; living with such women takes its toll.

It was never like this in the past. As a student I remember enchanting young women such as Bonnie Richardson in Palm Beach, Mary-Blair Scott and Ellen Hurst in Charlottesville, and tens of others in Paris — oh how I suffer, how I suffer; Job wouldn’t trade places with me. Les girls back then were feminine, and there’s nothing that makes a woman more attractive than femininity. We have plenty of those in the Speccie family, and one of them I’m particularly sweet on works on the bookish side of the Telegraph. She’s named after an Ancient Greek priestess whom Zeus fell in love with and turned into a heifer to protect her from Hera’s jealousy. That old lecher Zeus had great taste in women. Io was eventually turned back into a woman, and she even got to visit Prometheus. Aeschylus wrote a play about her, Tim Hanbury drinks Stella Artois non-stop as he lusts after her, as do I, and the last thing she sounds like is a hyena being strangled.


Feminine women can be feisty, indomitable and tomboys, the last adding to, not detracting from, their allure. Spouting frothy verbiage, swear words and bombast is not feminine, and a voice that grates ruins an otherwise beautiful face. One of the horrors of modern life is hearing an attractive young woman effing this and effing that and saying ‘like’ before every word. I remember once, in Paris long ago, following a beautiful young girl who was dressed to the nines to a Place Vendôme jewelry shop. She looked at a bracelet but couldn’t decide. I approached and offered to buy it for her. She gave me the sweetest, almost angelic smile but refused. Her voice was to die for. A couple of weeks later, I met her at a party. She remembered. Her name was Véronique de Pardieu. Later on she got sick and had a sad end.

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Beautiful, feminine women are always ladies, whether to the manor born or not. Memories of ‘girls in their summer dresses’, as Irwin Shaw’s wonderful short story called them, provoke a surge of pure longing. Now romance is dead because ‘straightness is the most misunderstood sexual orientation of all’. Yes, you guessed right, this crap was published in the Bagel Times under the heading ‘Sexuality and Romance’. (I knew it would come to this. It was only a matter of time before they came after us.) One Jane Ward has written an opus on the ‘Tragedy of Heterosexuality’; another, Angela Chen, writes that ‘asexuality as a sexual orientation is rarely properly acknowledged in society’. I should hope not. Finally, another lady, by the name of Francesca Beauman, pens a whole book that tells us that ‘reading has always been the safer form of sex’, and ‘desire is often wanting what you shouldn’t; hoping for more than you can get’.

I’ll say! I’ve always wanted more than I could get, and I do find reading less of a struggle than sex. (Books don’t knee one in the groin.) And I’ll let you in on a little secret: as Ward suggests, heterosexuality is about to be rescued from its unearned hegemony in our shared cultural imagination. It’s eggheads and female eggheads who will accomplish this. I am not at all sophisticated in such matters, so I suppose that means no more missionary position.

I’m sure that Francesca, Angela and Jane are nice women who perhaps overthink sex. And the way we’re going, Francesca’s prediction that ‘we all end up having a relationship with the computer itself’ will probably come true.

This article was originally published in The Spectator’s UK magazine. Subscribe to the US edition here.


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