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Flouncing   From th U.K.           April 3, 2000

The often-under-appreciated art

by Andy Bullock


Email to a FriendAt the risk of a serious ticking-off (again) I have to admit that I am partial to a flounce. A really good one is a thing to cherish, brim full with feminine indignation and absolutely bristling at the impossibility of men. I don't mean the hyperventilated, door-slammed-off-its-hinges 'it's over' nastiness. It's the milder, 'gently' manipulative kind that I go for. The sort that happens, for example, while the new boyfriend is still being trained. I hasten to add that this appreciation is not to say any man should, or would, provoke an upset - certainly not - but occasionally misunderstandings do arise. Usually when he, poor thing, forgets the rules. It's then, as an exasperated response to his appalling insensitivity, that a flounce is on the cards. It might be a pout, but fingers crossed, it could be a flounce.

In coming clean about this I know I lay myself open to accusations of being sad or immature, but really it's not either. It is a genuine admiration. In the same way that some women enjoy the masculinity surrounding a sporting event or the beery camaraderie of a boy's night out, I like a good indignant girlie outburst. Why? Two reasons: because it's a demonstration of feminine strength, spirit and assurance but more still, it reveals a little of her real agenda. A winsome celebration of emotional certainty with a hint of feminine vulnerability.

Take, for example, Vivien Leigh's Scarlett O'Hara. Now there was a woman. Flush with pride, passion, indignation and utterly confident in her convictions, all exuded on the balls of her feet in mid movement (exit). A woman in full bloom, on top of the acting tree - and that's before she went to work. Truly a mistress of her art.

Of course not all women can or want to flounce. For some it seems a little too melodramatic, perhaps others feel uncomfortable with the theatricality. But of those who do, which is, it seems to this observer, not an insignificant proportion, some are very good and some might, well, brush up a little.

To those less assured may I, as a mere and humble male, suggest a few essentials for a cordon bleu lesson? Once you have decided a flounce is the only acceptable response, then execute it with real verve. Ideal ingredients include a room containing only flouncer (you) and flouncee (by definition male, deemed insensitive and ripe for a lesson), a door (for the dramatic exit), heels (smooth soles aid a snappy about turn) and a lockable room or toilet (from which you may later allow yourself to be cajoled). A classy build up should include the assumption of a standing position and folded arms - but note, toe tapping is only for the exceptionally confident. Begin with eye contact then quite quickly withhold. For the exit - Scarlett, of course, had a billowing skirt to snatch up - speed and a determined stride are adequate, while arms swinging with military precision adds a general sense of purpose. If he appears particularly unresponsive, the tissue-from-up-the-sleeve thing is good.

Tips may be gleaned from surprising sources. For example, you see a lot of flouncing when watching nature programs. The female ape, fed up with the 'his' behavior - actually, the attention he is paying another female - scurries off with an alarmed shriek and, in the annoying absence of a billowing prop, arms aloft. The hapless male's forehead furrows and the rest of the extended family play dumb. After a suitable period of penance (lengthy shot of pondering male glancing skyward and clearly thinking 'give her time to calm down') he begins the rapprochement. Mustering conciliatory body language as best he can - not always easy when your knuckles drag along the ground - the errant chap sidles bashfully across the clearing and settles down a few feet from her side. She turns away, arms folded, possibly above her head. Eventually, but not until the end game is played out to her full satisfaction, all is resolved with a little nose play. Men, however, clearly wouldn't fall for such an obvious ploy.

Much may also be learned by discretely observing fellow inhabitants of the human zoo. The French, for example, seem to have a genetic advantage in such matters (even the men flounce), while Mediterranean females appear to pick up their techniques shortly after going on to solid foods. They might not, yet, be fully-fledged flouncers, but by age four pouting has already been mastered and Daddy is well on his way to a better understanding.

Moving a little north, we encounter the Germanic school. One might think of this as akin to method acting. I don't care to differentiate between nations per se, but there does seem to be almost a functional feel about this central European variant. 'Today I will flounce,' but engineered with exquisite precision - and if Fräulein does slam the door off it's hinges, boy will it shut beautifully.

Americans seem to go one of two ways. There is the extremely rational, psycho-analist-influenced response (hell hath no fury like a woman Nietzschered) which is, for me, disturbingly psychotropic. Or, it's a theatrical flounce reinforced by a preemptive visit to the beauty shop. Typical of the American model is hair tossing and, for some extraordinary reason, the liberal use of manicured nails for emphasis: held aside the face ('Oh My God !'), laid flat on the table ('Look !'), or thrust upward ('that's IT !'). Quite why this might be is not at all clear but I suspect it could be a by-product of the daytime soap school of amateur dramatics.

Now, with a resource as marshaled as a closet of neatly stacked but unworn shoes, perhaps we could move onward to another important topic: the issue of when and where.

A difficulty here is that a flounce is supposed to be reactive. He does or says something and you respond - but you just can't always tell when that will happen. Here, you may utilize one of the traditional tools of sisterhood. Visualize the scenario and steer the meandering conversational route that will eventually lead to destination flounce - and he'll never know. Aren't men sweet.

But where should the spur of the moment arrive? Here, instinct guides your way. If the relationship is on the up and he's still in training, perhaps the one-on-one private flounce is more appropriate as reconciliation will, hopefully, require a discreet locale.

A public flounce is more often a statement of pent up exasperation because he simply won't learn! A State of our Union Moment for which little may be properly prepared and much, if not all, is risked. Let the adrenaline pump, blaze in the eyes, avoid flared nostrils and don't forget those smooth soles. If the conclusion requires that he should pay the slightly predictable penalty of wearing his soup or salad or beer, so be it.

As an aside, I adopt an open mind whenever I have the good fortune to witness this, the Restaurant Flounce. The suggestion might be that he has tried to sleep with her sister or he may have meekly inquired as to why she was thirty minutes late. I only know for sure that, from a voyeur's perspective, it's wonderful to observe but a little disconcerting to have mulligatawny seep over one's own shoulders. When dried, it's like brown, lumpy dandruff. Most unpleasant.

Give this moment at stage center everything the relationship is worth. If he does follow your scented flight from the restaurant - you, of course, will have had enormous difficulty flagging down a passing cab - begin planning his reward for playing the game in which he has no chance of ever understanding the rules.

I think he deserves - actually, richly deserves - a rather special treat. But probably not in the cab, although, in my mind the slightly spicy aroma of mulligatawny will forever evoke particularly potent memories of a taxi journey across London.

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