Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Flirting with Props, Part 2

Gloves…once an essential part of both ladies’ and gentlemen’s wardrobes. If you had any claim to gentility you did not stir out of doors without them, summer or winter. You wore them when making calls, when shopping, driving or riding, going to parties, and dancing—the only time you took them off was at a meal. In fact, letting a young man touch your ungloved hand was considered quite risqué (and very titillating as a result!) So I don’t suppose it’s terribly surprising that Mr. Shafer included a list of Glove Flirtations for the edification of fashionable young ladies and gentlemen in his Secrets of Life Revealed. Here’s his take on glove flirtations:

Like the handkerchief, the glove at times takes an important part in flirtations. The following are the known rules on the subject:

Biting the tips: I wish to be rid of you very soon
Clenching them, rolled up in right hand: No
Drawing halfway on the left hand: Indifference
Dropping both of them: I love you
Dropping one of them: Yes
Folding up carefully: Get rid of your company
Holding the tips downward: I wish to be acquainted
Holding them loose in the right hand: Be contented
Holding them loose in the left hand: I am satisfied
Left hand with the naked thumb exposed: Do you love me?
Putting them away: I am vexed
Right hand with the naked thumb exposed: Kiss me
Smoothing them out gently: I am displeased
Striking them over the shoulder: Follow me
Tapping the chin: I love another
Tossing them up gently: I am engaged
Turning them inside out: I hate you
Twisting them around the fingers: Be careful, we are watched
Using them as a fan: Introduce me to your company

Somehow, going to the trouble of turning a pair of kid gloves inside out just to tell someone that you loathe them seems a little over the top—isn’t a stony glare just before turning one’s back on someone equally effective? And what about "smoothing them out gently" meaning "I am displeased"? Does smoothing them out violently mean "I’m so mad I could spit nails"? Unfortunately this system doesn’t seem to allow for shades of meaning…

And speaking of gloves…last year I posted pictures of a couple of 19th century mystery objects for you to guess the identity of, with a drawing from among the correct guesses to win an ARC of Bewitching Season. Well, it’s Mystery Object time again…with the prize being a signed ARC of Betraying Season. Come back next Tuesday for a look at my diabolically difficult object, and register your guesses!


QNPoohBear said...

Dropping both of them: I love you
Dropping one of them: Yes

Oh dear! I'd be in a big trouble!!

Melanie said...

I would immensely enjoy watching glove flirtation at work!

Regina Scott said...

I had the same response, QNPoohBear. I would so send the wrong message!

There must be a YA novel in there. :-)

Dara said...

I don't think I would be able to keep all the flirtation language straight! I'd end up accidentally telling someone off :P

Things now seem so much easier...lol.

Was everyone in high society fluent in the language of props?

Marissa Doyle said...

I really don't know, Dara, but I suspect not. I've only seen this in one place (the "Secrets of Life Revealed") book, published in Baltimore in the 1870s. So it may be more American than British. As for the class issue...the proliferation of etiquette books in the mid to late 19th century (of which "Secrets of Life Revealed" is one) was for the growing middle class which had aspirations to moving up in the social world--those already in the upper classes didn't need to read up on etiquette because they already knew it.

But as Regina said, it's a fun concept to play with.

Marloes said...

Imagine tossing one of your gloves up to tell your unwanted suitor you're already engaged (thank goodness for that), and then you accidentally fail to catch it, letting it drop and tell him that you love him... Oh dear, I fear I would be so clumsy that people would constantly wonder what on earth I was doing!

But it's easier than flirting with a hanky, I suppose. I do not think I could drape one over my right ear and still be respectable.