Unkempt, unruly, bad-mannered, and lascivious, the blowsy woman has long been dismissed for her sluttish ways and refusal to behave nicely. Originating from the 18th century blowze, the word blowsy has been used to malign a woman as a beggar, wench, and – of lower social ranking to the beggar himself – a beggar’s female companion. I think it’s time her virtues were re-evaluated.
What a blowsy woman really is, is a woman of appetites – for food, drink, sex, and all that life can offer. She’s not perpetually mid-diet, turning down dessert and pounding her joints on a treadmill to burn off the few calories that may have slipped in somewhere between the no-fat-gluten-free muffin and the salad, sans dressing. Her drinking is not a glass of wine with lunch and her love affairs are not discrete. Nor are they with her husband. But the real problem in all of this – the thing that has brought her so much suspicion and derision – is that she doesn’t care. She doesn’t have time to be forever presentable and polite. Her waywardness is too time-consuming and, frankly, too much fun. Who can be bothered with etiquette and preserving your looks when your lustiness might take you somewhere far more exciting?
Who would you rather spend the afternoon with – a woman whose face had been botoxed into immobility and dietary requirements insufficient to sate a hamster or one who thought life was meant to be fun and sod the diet, needle and knife?
The passions that drive the woman of a blowsy nature don’t just fuel her eating, drinking, and affairs; they spill over into a hunger for things like stimulation, knowledge, and expression. She is the woman for whom Charles Baudelaire once wrote, “Be drunken, always. That is the point; nothing else matters. Drunken with what? With wine, with poetry or with virtue, as you please. But be drunken”. Being drunkety-drunk-drunk will find her waking up in places she doesn’t recognise with a pounding head and protesting gut, but that other drunk – the drunkenness of enthusiasm to the point of fanaticism – will be what drives and sustains her so she doesn’t need to care about what other people think of her.
You’d think that this nonchalant couldn’t-care-less attitude would be encouraged. After all, a little outspokenness, some self-sufficiency, and a whole heap of fun would make for a pretty well-balanced individual. Or at least for one who didn’t think of the time spent between discovering boys and nuptial vows as life in abeyance; as though the only thing to really get excited and crazy about was finding that one all-encompassing till-death-do-us-part relationship. Dying young and pretty doesn’t tend to be the norm; for the rest of your life could be a very long time so whatever you choose to spend it doing had better, at the very least, entertain you. Bustling through life lustful and a little unkempt actually sounds like a shrewd move. And that blowsy old lady is bound to have better stories. Still laughing and lusty, she can say, “when I was young, I was a wild, wild one”.