Middle-aged hoydens invisible?

I have now set up a news-alert email thingy for the word “hoyden”, which is sadly not used as often by other blogs as it could be. So uncommon is it, indeed, that the author of this delightful rant felt the need to link to a definition:

Why are commissioning editors and channel controllers so afraid to admit that you can be a middle-aged hoyden, full of fun and good cheer, and suitable to front a prime-time slice of TV? Years ago, I interviewed Cosmo’s agony aunt, the fabulous Irma Kurtz, who told me about her coast-to-coast American trip on a Greyhound Bus. She said it was great that she could do it and not be bothered by other people, as when you get older, you become invisible, and she rather relished it. But as I get older, I get louder and more able, and I really don’t want to be ignored. And I don’t think I’m the only one. Who’s my voice on prime-time telly?

Read her whole post, although the celebrities named might be unfamiliar unless you’re au fait with the British TV scene. It’s a while since I lived there, but it seems a shame that most of the women I enjoyed watching 15 years ago appear to have been shunted off the telly and into radio because they look a little too grandmotherly for the tastes of the commissioning cadres these days.

I know what Irma Kurtz means by the blessings of matronly invisibility, as I rather enjoy it myself when out and about (although realising it was beginning to happen was a little traumatic, as it’s rarely mentioned as something to be expected). Obviously it’s not a blessing when one is in one’s professional prime yet starts to be overlooked, not so much because of perceptions of elderly decrepitude, rather because of perceptions as simply not being worth having around the place if one has moved beyond MILF to matronly. While it may be most obvious in the talking heads professions, I’m sure it happens less obviously in other professions as well, and is another factor playing into the glass ceiling problem. Depressing.

On a separate note, as I followed links through from the definition of hoyden linked to by Clair, I found a page full of quotes from classic literature, some of which I already knew, but I hadn’t previously been aware of the one from Tess of the D’Urbervilles (Chapter 2):

They leant over the gate by the highway, and inquired as to the meaning of the dance and the white-frocked maids. The two elder of the brothers were plainly not intending to linger more than a moment, but the spectacle of a bevy of girls dancing without male partners seemed to amuse the third, and make him in no hurry to move on. He unstrapped his knapsack, put it, with his stick, on the hedge-bank, and opened the gate.

“What are you going to do, Angel?” asked the eldest.

“I am inclined to go and have a fling with them. Why not all of us–just for a minute or two–it will not detain us long?”

“No–no; nonsense!” said the first. “Dancing in public with a troop of country hoydens–suppose we should be seen! Come along, or it will be dark before we get to Stourcastle, and there’s no place we can sleep at nearer than that; besides, we must get through another chapter of A COUNTERBLAST TO AGNOSTICISM before we turn in, now I have taken the trouble to bring the book.”

“All right–I’ll overtake you and Cuthbert in five minutes; don’t stop; I give my word that I will, Felix.”

The two elder reluctantly left him and walked on, taking their brother’s knapsack to relieve him in following, and the youngest entered the field.

“This is a thousand pities,” he said gallantly, to two or three of the girls nearest him, as soon as there was a pause in the dance. “Where are your partners, my dears?”

“They’ve not left off work yet,” answered one of the boldest. “They’ll be here by and by. Till then, will you be one, sir?”

“Certainly. But what’s one among so many!”

“Better than none. ‘Tis melancholy work facing and footing it to one of your own sort, and no clipsing and colling at all. Now, pick and choose.”

“‘Ssh–don’t be so for’ard!” said a shyer girl.

The young man, thus invited, clanged them over, and attempted some discrimination; but, as the group were all so new to him, he could not very well exercise it. He took almost the first that came to hand, which was not the speaker, as she had expected; nor did it happen to be Tess Durbeyfield. Pedigree, ancestral skeletons, monumental record, the d’Urberville lineaments, did not help Tess in her life’s battle as yet, even to the extent of attracting to her a dancing-partner over the heads of the commonest peasantry. So much for Norman blood unaided by Victorian lucre.

I love the fact that the young men feel they have to get through a chapter of A COUNTERBLAST TO AGNOSTICISM each day, it’s a fine set-up to what a sanctimonious prig Angel later turns out to be, and I’d never noticed the foreshadowing before. Mind you, it’s at least 25 years since I read it, and I may well have missed many nuances back then.

Onto the bedside reading stack it goes.

Categories: arts & entertainment, Culture, gender & feminism


8 replies

  1. I have now set up a news-alert email thingy for the word “hoyden”, which is sadly not used as often by other blogs as it could be.
    ObKath&Kim: maybe they’re hoyden’ it.

  2. Cheers for the link, ladies! I was reminded of the word ‘hoyden’ after it was mentioned on the radio last week, and thought it was time to get it out there again!

  3. The more the merrier, Clair!

  4. I have decided that my cat Lulu is a hoyden (tho not middle-aged yet). She pulls books off their shelves and throws CDs round the room like frisbees when she wants attention — does that qualify her?

  5. E, I think closer examination of Lulu’s behaviour is required, because perhaps she is just a brat 🙂

  6. Mind you, it’s at least 25 years since I read it, and I may well have missed many nuances back then.

    I haven’t read any Thomas Hardy since school either but I’ve been turning up fragments of feminist criticism on the net that make me want to re-read him. The wife auction in Mayor of Casterbridge was apparently an accurate historical detail. Hardy kept newscuttings and used them in his work. The heartbreaking note left by the son in Jude the Obscure is another example.

  7. Never was a big fan of Hardy’s books, but man could that guy write a title: Return of the Native, Far from the Madding Corwd, and so on, with Jude the Obscure being the best title ever.

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