Simper: To smile, gesture in an affectedly coquettish manner - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

Simper: To smile, gesture in an affectedly coquettish manner

Posted: Updated:
Lynne D. Schwabe Lynne D. Schwabe

Lynne D. Schwabe was owner of Schwabe-May of Charleston, ran her own marketing consulting firm and is a nationally recognized motivational speaker. She has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Women's Wear Daily and has appeared on CNBC's Power Lunch. She currently is director of development for the National Youth Science Foundation. She can be reached at

Why is it that 40 years after the publication of "The Female Eunuch," there's still so much simpering and giggling going on among otherwise sensible womenfolk in the world? 

I can't tell you how often I find myself talking to a man at a party, only to watch him turn droolingly away, to enter into a conversation with a grown woman who bats her eyelashes and communicates in coos and giggles.

The champion simperer, of course, was Bertie Wooster's on-again-off-again fiancee Madeline Bassett, who explained to Bertie that every time a fairy shed a tear, a wee star was born in the Milky Way. Bertie Wooster, not the brightest bulb on the tree, knew to steer clear of her. If only more men shared his perspicacity.

None of the most infamous simperers are great role models. Paris Hilton simpers. Marilyn Monroe — when she turned it on — could simper to Olympic standards, with her coquettish eyes and breathy, girlie voice. These types drive me nuts for many reasons. They sell our sex short; they reverse years of progress; they give the rest of us a bad name. The last reason is even more infuriating: it works. 

We know these girls, don't we? Girls who just look so adorable, with eyes like saucers and a finger to the rosebud mouth as the AAA man patiently explains that you have to put gas in the car from time to time. Girls who shriek and stand on chairs when a mouse makes itself known. Girls who even after age 30 heap their beds with cuddly toys. 

I have a friend like this, a woman so capable that she could be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. However, when around men, she turns into a convection of innocent wide-eyed sweetness, flirting and endless flattery, which all conveys, "I am but a simple girl, no match for you big strong men." Ick. I heard her once describe the man on her arm as "mah protectah." A southern accent always accompanies her simpering. Her protectah loved it.

I think from time to time about the Duchess of Cambridge, who definitely does what her role demands, namely being immaculately groomed and more or less silent, smiling prettily and looking, well … pliable. But I think that's professional bearing rather than a seduction style. When she and Wills split up, there was no simpering in sight. She got out on the town and made sure she was photographed having a whale of a time in nightclubs with a bunch of other men.

What is it that draws some men to helpless girls, or girls who pretend to be helpless? I never see men pretending to be emotional cripples in order to attract women; a certain gruff pride forbids it. Is it that men are programmed to hunt mammoths and prevent we cringing womenfolk from being eaten by same? Or is it just that these women are appealing to a masculinity that finds the prospect of female independence scary? The personality of the simperer is all about him: She's there to adore him; to orbit him like a giggling, pink satellite.

It's not just about sex either. The non-simperer is just as likely to tumble into bed with a man. However, she does so for reasons of her own. The fabulously brave World War II secret agent Christine Granville, for instance, spread her favors hither and yon. But — as befits a woman who parachuted into occupied France with a commando knife and a cyanide capsule sewn into her skirt, she took up and dropped her lovers as it suited her. Their inability to possess her drove them to desperation: One spurned lover threatened to shoot himself in the testicles and throw himself into the Danube.

The simperer knocks years off her age — cluelessness can be shorthand for youth. But there's something creepy about women who don't strive to resemble a young woman but instead a child. Infantilized women don't only plug into the whole weird Electra/sleep-with-your-father thing. They also pose no threat. As I have noticed, simpering definitely works on feeble-minded men. So, if that's the kind of man you hope to hook, knock yourself out by emulating a child. Just remember that the operative word in the phrase "sugar daddy" is not "sugar." 

Thinking about all this reminds me of all I may have missed. No man has threatened to throw himself into the Kanawha for me or shoot off key body parts. I never parachuted anyplace with a commando knife and a cyanide capsule sewn into my skirt. 

I guess I'll live with the regret of it all. I'll comfort myself, knowing that if there is any justice in the universe, whenever an intelligent woman simpers, an ickle elf falls into a vat of bubbling caramel.