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Once at the ball, the girls go straight to the toilet/dressing area, where young women crowd around the mirror.This is exactly what it’s like: I once wrote a short story in which this happens at a school ball, and a male critique partner expressed his skepticism, not believing that women’s toilets are like that at all.
For instance, had any of Shakespeare’s young heroines (wonderful ones, say, like Perdita in The Winter’s Tale, or Marina in Pericles)–had they encountered that elderly bald fat man, and had he told them that shocking truth–well, I don’t know, but I fancy they would have just laughed and asked him why he wanted to say anything so obvious.
In other words, young female character can be made of somewhat sterner stuff, and there is something in my make-up which refuses to accept the suggestion that that particular trying moment in the girl’s life was really so important and significant as it is intended to be. I can’t say I’ve had the exact experience Leila had.
Such a damn shame.” It’s worth pointing out, though Frank Sargeson was not your stereotypical privileged macho man owing to his being gay in an anti-gay era, he did not experience life as a woman, either.
He wasn’t a product of a culture which tells young women that the most important thing about us is the beauty which comes only with healthy, fulsome youth, and that when our beauty is gone, there’ll be nothing at all left to replace it.
“Her First Ball” is a short story by Katherine Mansfield, written 1921.
Though this story is nigh on 100 years old, it’s a tale of pick up artist culture, and reminds of the ‘toolies’ who attend Schoolies Week here in Australia. which reminds me of a classic writer’s problem: Where does this story begin? Mansfield decides to open “Her First Ball” in the cab on the way to the ball, which Leila shares with her cousins Meg, Jose, Laura and Laurie.
Another iconic New Zealand writer, Frank Sargeson, didn’t think much of this story.
He didn’t accept the overarching weakness of Leila: … A young country girl is staying with her town cousins who take her to a drill-hall ball. She dances with young men with glossy hair–and then with an older man who is both bald and fat.
I’ve since concluded that “Her First Ball” is a particularly feminine story, more generally relatable to woman readers.
Mansfield herself sees the ridiculousness of the dressing room situation: Meg introduces Leila to her friends in a rather condescending way, turning herself into a mother hen.