“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.
Alistair next door was a young looking 39, but 39 nevertheless.
Whereas women consider ourselves old around the time of our 30th birthday, he considered himself well-and-truly in his prime. You’re hot,” he mused, looking at the video I’d made, “but I guess you’re gonna look like her one day.
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.It is all very much indeed in the feminine tradition. The girl, Leila, bewildered and enchanted by it all, is breathless with excitement. He perceive stat it is her first dance and tells her that he has been doing this sort of thing for thirty years.Dresses, gloves, powder, flowers — and all the similes come tumbling out: A girl’s dark head pushes above her white fur like a flower through snow … Then he goes on and pictures Leila herself in years to come.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.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.The girls respond with etiquette but are obviously more interested in the men, standing on the other side of the room.The men are the romantic opposition, and one man in particular.He volunteered to pop down to the supermarket and pick up a spool of CDs. I’d taken a video of my boss — an experienced, capable and very kind French teacher, who was speaking to her class at the time of filming, in what I assume was a fairly boring vocabulary exercise — one she’d done a thousand times. She sat hunched on her stool, with a look of middle-aged concentration.I was the other languages teacher in our department, about 25 years younger than my head of department.