Dear Aunt.Sexy, I Need Urgent Advice About My Future...

Allegorie der Musik
Lorenzo Lippi, 1606-1665

Dear Aunt.Sexy (I blush at such a flagrant use of this s**y word and am puzzled by that strange dot between the words in this salutation),

I need urgent advice about my future.
I am a 17th century composer of serious musical scores, a young lady on the cusp of breaking out into a major musical career.
I should very much like to continue on this path, but Father says I must marry soon, as I am 16, soon to be considered unmarriageable.
As each day passes without a young man calling, Father grows more desperate for my future.
My problem: I do not wish to marry – ever! I merely want to remain in my room, writing scores, and occasionally attending concerts with my family.
However, Father says I must find a well-off husband to support me.
I have already sold several of my scores to famous musical houses, but under a male pseudonym, so I know that I would be able to support myself as a spinster quite well.
But Father says “no,” that such a calling would be unbecoming for a girl of my stature, even if I were to compose as a man. He says that the family would be mortified and shamed if polite society discovered my secret career.
I do not need a man; in fact, a girl like me needs a man like a lobster needs a corset.
In addition, I prefer the company of other young and accomplished women.
Please help me!

-- A New England Girl Who is Ahead of Her Time

Dear New-England-Girl-Who-is-Ahead-of-Her-Time,

Oh, my.
I have never given advice to someone from the past.
This may be tricky...
My knowledge base for your time period is limited to myriad costume dramas viewed on public television – even Downton Abbey is likely to be too racy for your time period.
But, then, you know nothing about TV, public or otherwise, so never mind that reference.
Part of me feels as though I must step lightly, that some sort of Prime Directive kicks in when one sails through the rocky shoals of the past.
If you were a 21st century girl, I would advise you to continue writing your scores, but in your own name. I would also suggest university for such a talented girl as you and a serious delay of your love life, except as casual relationships with young men and/or women.
I’m pretty sure I read an historical novel in which young women of your time period sought sexual release with other young women – that is, until they married. I’m sure it wasn’t spoken of so openly, but you will be glad to know that your advice columnist is from a future where sexuality is quite open and pre-marital relations generally accepted.
Well, there are some exceptions, but we won’t speak of them, just to say that a few throwbacks seem to be obsessed with tea parties and guns, the likes of which you couldn’t even begin to imagine...
But it is clear that I must work within your era, that a 21st century solution is not a viable option.
So I offer you two possibilities:

1. Find a husband who seems exceedingly effeminate; chances are, he will a need a woman like a stallion needs a tutu...
In other words, a lover of men. You will know because he will shrink away from you every time you brush his arm. Before committing, you should engage in a delicate, roundabout conversation about your preference for women and his for men. When it is clear that you are, indeed, on the same page about your sexual aversion for each other, then you can move forward with a marriage of convenience.
A win-win for both of you as you live your separate lives as a married couple. In such a situation, he will support you in the style of your class, but your earnings from your musical scores can be your “mad-money” in case the union goes south for some reason or if he dies an early death.
The upshot: he will have his “friends,” you will have yours.
Your family is happy, society is appeased, and you will be able to continue as you do now – though a few children may be expected from your union, but that can be worked out with the 17th century version of a turkey baster.
If you had internet, you would find those instructions within 30 seconds, though I’m fairly certain that a few savvy women of your era will know exactly what to do.

2. You could become “delicate,” in which case you would surely not be expected to marry. Playing sickly shouldn’t be too difficult, but sustaining such a state for a long period of time may be tricky.
Just envision an amorous man coming to your bed with a gleam in his eye and a large...well, never mind...the very thought should send you straight to your sick bed.
You get the point.
By the time the “delicate” sham has been discovered, you will be too old to marry, becoming a confirmed spinster, to be supported by your parents until their deaths. Given your class, you will continue to receive support from your extended family with your income being supplemented nicely from your musical scores.

I hope my advice offers you some perspective and options. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like in your world.
All I can say is “Good luck, and God Speed.”

– Yours truly, Aunt.Sexy


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