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Ladies, I think we all know the guy… the member of our social circle who is just a little too keen on women. He’s probably a creative type: maybe an artist or musician, a bit free-spirited and non-conformist. Generally speaking, he’s quite good-looking, or at least makes the best of what he’s got. And what he’s got by the bucket-load is charisma. In short, he’s hot.

You’ll know him when you see him, because he’ll be snaking his way around the room, definitely but almost imperceptibly filtering out the women he finds attractive from those he doesn’t. This chap, dear reader, is the gal-sneaker.

You may have seen this article, about gorgeous forgotten slang, used in the Victorian era. It states that “gal-sneaker” is:

An 1870 term for a man devoted to seduction.

It’s a perfect term for our guy, who creeps silently past the women to whom he’s not attracted, to flash an appealing grin at those ladies who have piqued his interest. I use the term “interest” very loosely, as he is interested in undressing the victim of his desires rather than in whatever vacuous and frankly annoying thoughts he believes she may have in her head. Chances are, he is so self-absorbed as to think the only thoughts behind her eyes must be about his spectacular virility and sparkling wit. If anything, he’s so convinced that he’s fabulous, he’ll convince you he’s fabulous. If absolutely necessary, he will tap quite expertly into your psychology if it helps him to get you into bed. How very Victorian.

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For the goal of the gal-sneaker is, I believe, to have seduced. Past tense. It’s all about the thrill of the chase and, once bedded, the victim loses her value. She is no longer desirable, no longer a challenge, the game is won. You may think “Aha – we have a word for him already. We just call him a “player”. We know his type and we steer well clear”. But I like to think that the gal-sneaker has an air of sophistication about him. His techniques are not brash, but quiet and sneaky. Take it from me, this is the kind of man who would, in all seriousness, say to you “Hey – this will be our little secret.” If ever you hear those words, sound the alarm bells… and run for your life.

Maybe he is Vicomte Sébastien de Valmont, the character played by John Malkovich in Dangerous Liaisons.  I know, I know, I’m approximately 200 years away from the Victorian definition, but bad boys will be bad boys, whatever the terminology used to describe them by the social commentators of the time. He has the charm, the skill to seduce, even when a woman knows in her heart that this cannot end well. Yet still, somehow, she feels herself pulled into his web, thinking “How did this happen? It is beyond my control“. 

The thing about the Vicomte, and indeed the modern-day gal-sneaker, is that he’s hard to resist. Even when you’ve identified him and you know he’s after one (butt-naked) thing, he’s still very appealing. He makes you feel good about yourself. Until he gets distracted by chasing a younger, more vulnerable version of you, leaving you feeling worthless and wondering what the hell happened.

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Of course, this term has probably not been used since before your granny was born and, therefore, I am interpreting it as I wish. But, based on the examples I see when out and about in the city, the gal-sneaker is alive and well and haunting a wine-bar near you. By all means flirt with him, let him tell you how simply fabulous you are, try to ignore the fact that his gaze runs up and down you like a spider on speed, and then sit tight until he moves on to the next victim.

Whatever you do, don’t be taken in by his game, unless you are the kind of woman who can play that game and win. In which case, shout about it, blog about it, and tell every woman you know how to do it, so that we might all beat the gal-sneaker at his own game. Now wouldn’t that be fun?

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