Occasionally I will have guest writers on my blog, featuring people I know who have written something I consider profound, thought provoking, or keenly interesting. Never will I put anything before you that is trashy or tasteless.
So buckle up and enjoy this ride from my friend and fellow writer,
I probably should not be poking this. We’ll see if I keep this post up. It pops up every year, and it bugs me… but maybe not in the way you’d think.
Context & culture are super important in any work. Perhaps, even more so, the greater the gap of years between us and it. Whether Baby It’s Cold Outside is a good song or not is up for debate and it should be. He is forward and relentless, certainly. Too far? Very possibly. However, we are not allowed to listen to history with modern ears- if we have any value for truth, that is. If we do, we have to ask what was said and what would have been heard at the time, and let that be an anchor point for any journey we take from there.
As more than one article points out, we are dealing with an unmarried woman who is out late unchaperoned at a man’s house. It would be hard to articulate how much that simply wasn’t done by “a lady” in that time period.
The opening of the song makes clear she has had a pleasant time up to this point:
“This evening has been so very nice…” A point she regularly reinforces in each following verse.
She is being asked to stay the night (the ramifications of which were social and perhaps even career suicide).
If you listen to the how she responds throughout the song, at no point is a lack of interest expressed, as she often returns to her own desire:
“Well maybe just a half a drink more… I wish I knew how to break this spell… At least I’m going to say that I tried…Well maybe just a cigarette more… And I don’t even smoke… okay fine, just another drink then”
She wrestles not with him nor his force, but instead articulates and bemoans the crazy reality of expectations placed on women at the time – what people would say and do to her life out of judgment & gossip:
“My mother… my father… the neighbors… I OUGHT to say no no no… my sister… my brother… my maiden aunt’s mind…” etc (emphasis mine).
Our female singer references other’s reactions at least 9 times, a desire to stay also 9 times, and her No’s are consistently set (clearly begrudgingly if you watch the performances and have looked into the composer) in the context of saying she “tried” or “ought to.”
The chorus of the song itself (which is sung in mutually confident duet at the closing of the song), “Baby It’s Cold Outside” underscores the jointly embraced justification that- regardless of her internal battle of desire versus fear of judgment- they both return to the simple fact that it’s cold outside; so really they should stay where they are… you know, for safety.
It is mutual banter between two very interested people- one of whom is indeed relentless, and another who is interested and torn… and interested, who speaks out exactly what confronts and conflicts within her, even as she swoons toward her lover.
Are there problems? Maybe.
Are there predators? I’m not so sure.