The Seducer – Antoine Watteau
“O ‘Melia, my dear, this does everything crown!
Who could have supposed I should meet you in Town?
And whence such fair garments, such prosperi-ty?” —
“O didn’t you know I’d been ruined?” said she.
— “You left us in tatters, without shoes or socks,
Tired of digging potatoes, and spudding up docks;
And now you’ve gay bracelets and bright feathers three!” —
“Yes: that’s how we dress when we’re ruined,” said she.
— “At home in the barton you said `thee’ and `thou,’
And `thik oon,’ and `theäs oon,’ and `t’other’; but now
Your talking quite fits ‘ee for high compa-ny!” —
“Some polish is gained with one’s ruin,” said she.
— “Your hands were like paws then, your face blue and bleak
But now I’m bewitched by your delicate cheek,
And your little gloves fit as on any la-dy!” —
“We never do work when we’re ruined,” said she.
— “You used to call home-life a hag-ridden dream,
And you’d sigh, and you’d sock; but at present you seem
To know not of megrims or melancho-ly!” —
“True. One’s pretty lively when ruined,” said she.
— “I wish I had feathers, a fine sweeping gown,
And a delicate face, and could strut about Town!” —
“My dear — a raw country girl, such as you be,
Cannot quite expect that. You ain’t ruined,” said she.
The Ruined Maid, Thomas Hardy
More on genderiness. I read a story yesterday of an Oxford student who killed herself after her boyfriend split up with her. She had had an abortion some months previously and had felt haunted by the baby. She had also been harrassed by a former partner, according to press reports. An Australian television star recently killed herself; she had previously described her depression as in part due to an abortion she had had some years before.
Some folks have criticised the men involved. I don’t. They were, perhaps, as bamboozled by this culture as anyone else. And they will live with their memories, forever. Very few people are such hard cases as to be able to leave this kind of thing behind.
This is not, actually, an abortion post. It brought up, however, some strong thoughts and memories and a grinding sense of frustration. I will keep it short.
Here’s the thing. If you sleep with boys, ladies, your body produces oxycontin – the ‘love’ chemical. You have a bond – conscious and unconscious – with that gentleman that’s hard to put aside. If you sleep with a chap and he decides that the relationship ‘isn’t working’, you (and they) are left with bitterness, confusion and regret. You may not be ‘ruined’ in the olden-day sense but something has gone. No wonder love-songs sell so well. We have odd and denialist views on love; the ‘modern’ view is to describe ‘relationships’ as though they were something in a box, that you can pack away when no longer of use. O Brave New World, I suppose. The propagandists who tell us that everything is fine now because we have contraception and abortion and, er, ‘rights’, forget the emotional dimension, that affects both men and women. You are harmed and no amount of pretty words can pretty it up.
I read something crude but true the other day: if you give the milk away, he’s not going to buy the cow. That’s the sort of thing your mother would say – and she was right.
The answer is not, I think, to harden our hearts and minds, to be more brazen and not less. We are, after all, looking to build a civilisation of love, literally.