"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Let me have my fantasy, please.

People are ruining my Christmas music and I want them to stop. One of the songs I like to hear during this season is "Baby It's Cold Outside." In particular, I love to hear Dean Martin croon it. So seductive.

Or is that just me? (P.S. I grew up watching his variety show, so every time I hear this, I picture him by the piano, surrounded by the Golddiggers.)

This year, I'm hearing yammering. Yammering about how this song is about drugging a girl ("Say, what's in this drink?") and forcing her to do things against her wishes ("The answer is no").

I am a firm believer that no means no. I may even be one of those radical folks who think that it doesn't matter what a woman is wearing or not wearing, she does not "deserve" it. The analogy I like to use is that if you wandered around in a crowd with a $100-bill hanging out of your pocket, it is still robbery if someone grabs it away from you. Argue all you want about whether it's wise to let that money hang out there, but it's still a crime.

Still, I don't think Dino is slipping anything into that girl's drink and coercing her to do anything. I think he is wooing.

Why? Well, first off, this is how the song first appeared, in an Esther Williams movie called Neptune's Daughter:

Aren't Red Skelton and Betty Garrett just adorable? It's cute. It's playful. She has not slipped anything into his drink. By-the-by, this movie was made in 1949, a time in which people believed that alcohol was quite strong enough and nothing more needed to be added to loosen one's inhibitions.

Second, the song was actually written by a husband and wife in 1944 and was performed at their parties until the hubster sold the rights to MGM. (Boy, was his wife mad. She considered it "her" song.) In the 40s, it was still customary for a woman to resist a gentleman's charms in order to be regarded as a "good" girl.

Seriously and sadly, have we changed that much? Even with the sexual liberation movement of the 60-70s, a woman who wants to have sex often and with whomever pleases her at the moment is still slut-shamed. A man is not. Do we even have a word for a man that is as humiliating as "slut"?

"Baby It's Cold Outside" is a song about two people who want to spend the night together. The man is doing his best to flirt and woo and convince the woman that she is desirable. The woman is obeying the social norm by resisting in a coy manner, all the while finding an excuse to stay for "half a drink more."

So, please-oh-please, folks. Consider the period the piece was written in, think of these two singers as the husband and wife that sang it at parties, and let me have my moment with Dino. He's so dreamy, I would stay for more than half of that drink.

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