Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"..the remains of a fine woman..."

"Yes, there are the remains of a fine woman about Ruth." Pirates of Penzance

So says one of the pirate's, Sam when asked by Frederick whether Ruth is pretty or not. Frederick hasn't seen another woman's face since he was mistakenly placed as an apprentice to the Pirate King by his nursemaid, Ruth, at 8 years old. Fred is now 21 and Ruth 47. This is one of the pivotal points of the farce..Ruth is now a plain middle-aged woman and Fred is looking for a pretty wife.

I used to think this such a funny line, but not so much any more. Perhaps because it has been several years since I've realized it is more true than funny. Our culture isn't nice to middle-aged women, thinking them mostly to be pitied, ignored or laughed at. Mostly ignored. I tell my husband I've gradually become the invisible woman. Totally unseen in shops, restaurants, and elsewhere.

Don't get me wrong. I don't necessarily think Ruth a suitable spouse for Frederick, even in fiction. But if the situation had been a man of 47 and a woman of 21? Of course it wouldn't have been thought so unthinkable as to be immediately funny to everyone. "Wink, wink, nod, nod, say-no-more, say-no-more." We all get the absurdity of a handsome young man marrying a plain middle-aged woman.

"There are the remains of a fine woman....." Honestly, it's a little harder to laugh at this when you feel the force of the truth in it all too well. There are many things I like about getting older, and maybe even wiser, but what time does to the body isn't one of those things.