The Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH)
Language of the Fan
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Information: Fans have been used by women as fashion accessories for centuries. The fan serves a multitude of uses, keeping the lady's hands occupied, drawing another's attention, accenting her dress and for sending discreet messages, a skill long forgotten, but an essential part of a young person's education. From Early California history, here are examples of some of the discreet messages.
♥ The lady appears at the balcony, slowly fanning her face, then she shuts the fan: "I can't go out."
♥ If she does it excitedly, not shutting the fan: "I'll go out soon."
♥ Resting the fan on her lips: "I don't trust you."
♥ Running her fingers through the fan's ribs: "I want to talk with you."
♥ Fanning herself quickly: "I love you so much."
♥ Fanning herself slowly: "Don't waste your time as I don't care about you."
♥ Moving her hair off of her forehead: "Don't forget me."
♥ Passing the fan from hand to hand: "I see you are looking at another woman."
♥ Hitting her hand's palm" "Love me."
♥ Carrying the fan closed and hanging from her left hand: "I'm engaged."
♥ Closing the fan quickly and impetuously: "I'm jealous."
♥ Dropping the fan: "I belong to you."
♥ Resting the fan on her ear: "My love for you makes me suffer."
♥ Half-opening the fan over her face: "We are being watched."
♥ Hitting any object: "I'm impatient."
♥ Hiding the sunlight: "You are ugly."
♥ Looking closely at the painting on the fan: "I like you."
Used with permission of the author.
Printed in Folk Dance Scene, February 2009.
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