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The Antiquated Art of Face Slapping 

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The Antiquated Art of Face Slapping

Is it an art--or is it assault? You decide.

If you love vintage movies, you've probably seen a scene like this: Our glamorous leading lady enters the parlor to find her sullen suitor throwing back hi-balls. An argument ensues. He mutters something nasty under his breath. Her eyes widen. Off comes her opera glove...Wham! She smacks him across the face. A jump cut and a flash pan later, they're in the bedroom, curled up in a silk sheet. She's smiling, stroking his hair, dragging on a cigarette, practically winking at the camera.

What those vintage vamps knew all too well was that smacking a man's face is the best way to put him in his place--and not just on the big screen. Movie queens were legendary face slappers, but it wasn't only the glam goddesses doing the slapping back when. Whether you were a movie queen or a shop girl, you didn't take guff from the guys. And if a fellow tried to get fresh, you yanked off your glove, hauled off and stung him across the kisser. Face slapping was the proper lady's first line of defense against ungentlemanly behavior.

Face slapping fell out of vogue in the aftermath of the 1960s, when women decided to burn their bras and forsake civility for a higher aim--equality. The Superior Sex still had only a fraction of the earning power of men--and not quite enough of the political power, as exemplified by the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment. Of course, the failure of the ERA turned out to be a good thing after all. These days it's clear that men don't deserve to be treated as equals.

Slapping men with social legislation continued as a trend, becoming an all out cultural rage during the early 1990s, when gals decided they'd had their fill of office gropes and "pubic hair on cola can" jokes. Sexual harassment in the workplace is now illegal, which, among other things, means that asking the cute boy in reception to sit on your lap to take a letter is probably a bad idea. Yep ladies, every silver lining has its cloud.

Face slapping is doing its own time in the legal system. Since Zsa Zsa Gabor popped a cop, judges and legislators all over America have been trying to decide whether a slap across the face merits a slap on the wrist. Is face slapping a form of assault? Quite possibly. So here's a litmus test every law maker and enforcer can use: if the damage done by a face slap results in nothing more than a bruised ego on the part of the recipient, then there is no basis for any legal action. Fair enough?

A proper lady would never slap a man's face with an intent to injure him. The point, when smacking a man across his face, is not to harm his person, but to shock him into recognition; to stun him in his ill-laid tracks. Ideally, the smack will result in an abrupt reckoning on behalf of the recipient, followed by a swift apology, and a "no hard feelings" kissy-poo. Case closed.

Unfortunately, face slapping will probably go the way of opera gloves, martini lunches and beefsteak without guilt. And that's a damned shame, ladies. For if the masses of men knew that a slip of the tongue meant an abrupt comeuppance via one or another feminine, manicured hand, you better believe they'd keep their dirty thoughts, sarcastic asides and inopportune remarks to themselves. That goes double for your own man of the house.

And by all means, after you smack your beau, give him your best Joan Crawford vamp. Snap your fingers and send the chastened cad into your boudoir, for a long-lasting session of kiss and make up. "On your knees, darling..."

Send zines to the Zine-o-File, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

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