“The Lady’s Dressing Room” (1732) and the Nature of Sympathetic Love

Oh! Celia, Celia, Celia shits!

I had first encountered Swift’s cutting poemThe Lady’s Dressing Room as an undergraduate English major in a class being taught by an adjunct who wasn’t much older than me at the time. There is no way to know why he included this piece as part of his curriculum for the class, but after reading it aloud he ranted about its “vile misogynistic nature.”

Truth be told, I scratched my head, raising my hand in earnest to ask, “maybe this is more about showing that women are just as human as men, and maybe it was written for men who put women on a pedestal?”

The geek professor balked at my dissent and quickly moved on.

In an evolutionary sense, men placing women on a pedestal and loving “the fairer sex” sympathetically was something necessary for the survival of our species. This was how the world developed naturally, free of social engineering, and traditional power structures formed without artificial interference (feminism).

Placing female beauty and sexuality on a pedestal insured that the bigger, stronger, more apt-for-difficult-labor, and (most importantly) disposable men would prioritize their lives around attaining a woman, protecting her, and starting a family.

Sympathetic love, or a man’s belief in a woman’s inherent value as delicate and in-need of protection, was an important piece of programming for men to internalize or else there would be nothing stopping him from seeding a woman, leaving her pregnant- without any means of supporting herself or the impending baby, and going off on his merry way to fuck around some more.

Sympathetic love prevented the likelihood of an absent father by creating a positive identity for a man as “the protector of the mother of his children.”

This was also beneficial for the aging woman as a man’s sympathetic love meant that he wouldn’t find a younger and more fertile woman to inseminate when the initial woman he procreated with was too old to bear any more children.

Without sympathetic love there is no reason for a man to stay with this theoretically “valueless woman” who adds nothing irreplaceable to his life and can only leech from his maintained value until her death.

This is why men love sympathetically and a woman’s love is value-driven; it was born out of social necessity.

The existence of the pedestal men place women on, and the discrepancies between how men and women love is an uncomfortable truth apparent only to the savvy and socially aware man; the unawakened man, the man who believes the illusion, is a mark at a carnival sinking money into a faulty ring toss game. Maybe at some point he’ll win the big pink panda, but at what cost?

Dopey women may be equally unconscious to how this game works, but the savvy woman is acutely aware that if more men wake-up and realize that the pedestal (believing most women to be omnibenevolent creatures of inaccessible beauty), and the nature of sympathetic love (caring for someone who isn’t providing irreplaceable value), are the evolutionary equivalent of smoke and mirrors, it would result in less power, security, and mating choice for all women.

The urge for the socially-aware man to make other men mindful of the mating game isn’t new; this was the aim of Jonathan Swift’s 1732 poem “The Lady’s Dressing Room.”

The poem chronicles the unwitting awakening of a man, Strephon, as he stumbles through his girlfriend Celia’s dressing room in her absence. Like many men, Strephon had Celia high on a pedestal:

Five hours, (and who can do it less in?)

By haughty Celia spent in dressing;

The goddess from her chamber issues,

Arrayed in lace, brocades and tissues.”

Alone in this forbidden space, Strephon decides to take a look around- undoubtedly expecting to find sugar and spice, etc.etc.- after all, his woman is a flawless goddess; an object of worship and desire who is ultimately able to covertly wield this parlor trick into collateral for power.

To Strephon’s shock, he finds Celia’s dressing room to be a real shithole:

Strephon, who found the room was void,

And Betty otherwise employed,

Stole in, and took a strict survey,

Of all the litter as it lay;

Even worse than a messy room, Strephon realizes that the prim and proper Celia- surely concealing her flaws in heavy make-up, is an aesthetic illusion:

But swears how damnably the men lie,

In calling Celia sweet and cleanly.

Now listen while he next produces

The various combs for various uses,

Filled up with dirt so closely fixt,

No brush could force a way betwixt.

A paste of composition rare,

Sweat, dandruff, powder, lead and hair;

A forehead cloth with oil upon’t

To smooth the wrinkles on her front;

Entrenched deeply in reality, and demanding more, Strephon decides to go BALLS DEEP and sniff her towels:

But oh! it turned poor Strephon’s bowels,

When he beheld and smelled the towels,

Begummed, bemattered, and beslimed

With dirt, and sweat, and earwax grimed.

Pretty fucking gross, right?

Swift goes on about how disgusting the reality of Celia is, in tremendous detail, culminating in the naive Strephon finding the chamber pot containing Celia’s stinky shit.

To put this in perspective, finding a stinky pot of decaying lady-shit hidden in your girlfriend’s closet is in modern terms like the stupid motherfucker who married-up a party girl and found the sex tape where she blows the entire bachelor party.

His little angel wasn’t all she was cracked up to be, and he gets to think about that during his pathetic lifetime of boring sex.

Swift ends his poem spelling out his point directly, even for the stupid motherfuckers of the world:

When Celia in her glory shows,

If Strephon would but stop his nose…

He soon would learn to think like me,

And bless his ravished sight to see

The pedestal will eventually shatter- whether you’re finding a full load of Taco Bell diarrhea waiting for you or a years-old video file of your girl getting off thirty-five dicks.

Her game is to get you to believe her illusion; your game is to understand her reality.

Only then can you appreciate her for what she really is.

Such order from confusion sprung,

Such gaudy tulips raised from dung.

Take it from Dr. Swift: girls can be pretty but they’re also made of shit.

Epilogue

A female poet took issue with Swift’s “The Lady’s Dressing Room” and wrote an angry retort which explained that Swift wrote his poem after feeling distraught over his sexual failure with a prostitute caused by his inability to maintain an erection.

Even in the eighteenth century the female response to the destruction of her precious pedestal is to shame the destroyer.

Some things never change.

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3 comments

  1. Pingback: The Beauty Pedestal | Kill To Party
  2. Pingback: The Beauty Pedestal: Examination, Deconstruction, and Life Post-Pedestalization | Kill To Party
  3. Tarnished · November 26, 2015

    Truth be told, I scratched my head, raising my hand in earnest to ask, “maybe this is more about showing that women are just as human as men, and maybe it was written for men who put women on a pedestal?”

    Ha! That is precisely what I would have said. Well done. Even though it didn’t phase your instructor, perhaps it got some of your classmates thinking.

    Sympathetic love, or a man’s belief in a woman’s inherent value as delicate and in-need of protection, was an important piece of programming for men to internalize or else there would be nothing stopping him from seeding a woman, leaving her pregnant- without any means of supporting herself or the impending baby, and going off on his merry way to fuck around some more.

    Perhaps that is a portion of it. But the concept of base empathy plus the paternal love for their child would, and does, also do this. I’ve met incredibly few men who did not want families of their own, and only a handful who were keen to leave their children behind after a divorce. Quite the contrary…the manosphere is full to overflowing with Father’s Righters who desire a chance to spend time with their children and be present in their lives. As such, I firmly believe that the picture painted by feminists of the consistently philandering pig of an uncaring husband/father is not even remotely indicative of the majority of men, past or present.

    Alone in this forbidden space, Strephon decides to take a look around- undoubtedly expecting to find sugar and spice, etc.etc.- after all, his woman is a flawless goddess; an object of worship and desire…

    That was his first mistake, and the folly of others like him. To believe a woman is anything more than a mortal being who shits, sweats, pukes, pisses, or sneezes just like a man is stupid to the extreme. Bodies, whether endowed with two X chromosomes or one X and a Y, have functions that must be completed if life is to continue. The boyfriend who believes his girlfriend is biologically pristine is seeking a mannequin rather than a person. It is good of Swift to remind his brethren of this fact.

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