A Story a Day #15: Colette
February 20th, 2020
"The Little Bouilloux Girl"
In a small town in France there is a girl who is so lovely that everyone is infatuated with her. The narrator, also a girl of the same age, watches her grow older and is jealous of all the things she gets to do. She goes to many balls and wears things that other girls are not allowed to. At one ball, two Parisians show up and remark about how she is a "swan among geese" and dance with her. After this, she denies dancing with other suitors, saying that she is too tired. While some other men pursue her, she rejects all of them as though she is waiting for someone special. Many years later, the narrator sees her again and notes how she old and tired because the special someone seems never to have come.
This story seems to have the common morale of "don't be too egotistical or you will end up unhappy." This seems to be a common trope, especially when directed at women who are beautiful but need to settle for a good man. Most notably, it also describes the woman as old and tired at the age of 37 which, in modern times, isn't actually that old. Many people get married later and later in life though this story makes it seem as though her life is over. On the other hand, men are often encouraged to be bachelors for as long as possible and weigh their options until the right woman comes along. Men are rarely pressured to settle for women who are simply good enough. A man at 37 would probably not be described as old and tired, but rather exciting and well-traveled, perhaps even more attractive now than he was many years ago.
I found it interesting that this story was written by a woman who would likely resist this kind of stereotyping. However, many women can be pressured into continuing societal stereotypes that are actually harmful to them. Additionally, it is said that the author's husband pressured her to write certain things and then published them under his own name. This could be a similar case.