Funny, Isn’t It?

Tee hee…I’ve got a secret. If you’re a prude, stop reading NOW!


It was a hot Sunday in July. As is my wont on many hot Sunday afternoons, I was in the mood for an air-conditioned flick. Let’s see now…I could go to that new rock musical, but I sort of boycotted Tom Cruise movies after his couch-jumping escapade. It’s hard to see a guy as a sex symbol after witnessing him being so…well, weird. Also, Tom’s smile always reminds me of John Edwards, my one-time choice for President. That’s a dodged bullet I’d rather not recall.


Spiderman held no appeal, in spite of the genius casting of Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, both of whom I really like.


I’d seen the Jane Fonda/Catherine Keener flick. That stinker was a colossal waste of two uber actresses, in my humble opinion.


So, what was I to do?


I knew what Hysteria was about. As a matter of fact, I’d just seen a play on the same theme—that is, how the invention of electricity affected females back in the 1870’s.


Seems that back in the day—Victorian, that is—a lady did not always behave in a ladylike fashion. At least, her husband thought so. She’d whine, complain, nag, and generally make his orderly life less than stellar. This behavior was often exacerbated by over-imbibing in alcohol at social events—which caused definite embarrassment to Mr. mutton chops in front of his tony friends.


Such humiliation could not be tolerated. So, he’d get a doctor to prescribe laudanum for her. The only problem was, after a time, the wife was so addicted to the stuff that she’d end up drooling in church or some other totally inappropriate venue. Then, the doctor switched her off to liquid heroin.


I’m not kidding here, ladies and gents. I learned all this stuff while researching my book.


Another ploy employed by frustrated husbands involved taking the little woman to a local neighborhood doctor who specialized in… hmmm, “hysteria.”


Said doc’s methodology involved a massage to the lady’s nether part which, in time, brought her to what they then called a paroxysm. Then, she wouldn’t gripe at the old man—for a while, anyway.


The movie, “Hysteria,” features Hugh Dancy, that adorable British 2012 version of Hugh Grant, as a young physician who keeps getting fired because he complains about the filthy practices of his fellow (and senior) bosses. He has this silly idea about something called germs. Hugh comments that docs never washing their hands and using contaminated bandages, etc., might, just might, be causing damage to patients.


In the Victorian era, doctors really did believe they were God and resented any young whippersnapper who implied they were doing anything wrong. Ergo, our hero keeps finding himself unemployed.


Hugh finally stumbles into the office of a doctor, played by Jonathan Pryce, who seems to have a thriving practice of—all females. With all due and draped modesty, the doctor administers his “treatment” to the ladies until each one of them reaches her “paroxysm.” Some of the women need his treatment several days each week. Imagine that!


The older man teaches young Hugh how to do the deed, which eventually causes the poor boy to develop something akin to carpal tunnel syndrome. Let’s face it: some of the “patients” could take up to one hour to get relief.


Just in the nick of time, along comes electricity. Hugh’s pal, an inventor deliciously portrayed by Rupert Everett, invents a feather duster. When Hugh picks it up, he has a genius idea and—voila! The first vibrator!


Hugh and Jonathan’s practice explodes as they realize they can now help a patient reach her “paroxysm” in a matter of minutes. Eventually, Hugh falls in love with Jonathan’s delectable and decidedly un-Victorian daughter, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, practically salivating at her opportunity to play such a wicked and wonderful part. Well, have you seen her interviews with all the male late-night TV flacks? Sadly, most of them seemed thoroughly embarrassed.


The movie was hysterical. I was sitting in one of those sofa theaters, all alone in my chair. When the credits rolled, I looked over next to me to see a middle-aged, probably married, couple sitting there looking shell-shocked. Neither of them said a word to the other. I found that very sad.


Two lesbian (I think) women, came rocketing up the aisle, laughing and repeating favorite movie lines all the way out. Now, they were the ones I’d like to have had a discussion with. Observation tells me that those two were quite comfortable with how the female body is constructed. The married couple—not so much. Again, sad.


So, here’s a word to the wise from this older, decidedly wiser woman. If you’re a young female becoming involved in a relationship of some sort with a male, take him to see “Hysteria.” If he finds it crude or embarrassing or, God forbid, disgusting, kick him to the curb, posthaste. With over 140 years having passed since Victorian times, no modern male should be that ignorant about female anatomy. At least, not if he ever intends to get lucky.


Funny, isn’t it?


Jeanne Charters, a transplant from New York, is a writer living in Asheville with her husband. Her collection of columns, “Funny, isn’t it?” is available at Malaprops, Mountain Made in the Grove Arcade, or at She can be reached at



Jeanne Charters
Written by Jeanne Charters