She wasn’t mysterious or magic, she was a riot.
The Anne Boleyn Theory began as all the best things do: on gchat. Here we are, my friend Frith and I, trying to figure out why we weren’t cool at university:
Frith: For me, being cool still means being very thin and having an even featured face upon which you express very little.
Rosa: Yes, and great wells of self-restraint
Rosa: Oh my god. You know why we weren’t cool. It’s cos we are both funny.
Frith: Oh my god. Funny girls aren’t cool.
Rosa: This is the realest thing either of us have ever said.
This is the beginning of the Anne Boleyn theory. Stay with us.
Rosa: I don’t mean to Harp, but funniness is so MASSIVELY undervalued in women.
Frith: I have never heard you described as funny, even though that is literally the main thing you are.
Rosa: Oh my god. Think of all the times that a man has described you as “magical”, and all the times they have said “there is just something about you. You have this ineffable quality.”
Rosa: The quality they are describing is called
Frith: BEING FUNNY
Rosa: Being GOOD AT JOKES.
Here comes Anne Boleyn, so look alive.
Frith: but this is surely the answer to ‘how did clever plain Anne Boleyn make the king and half the court fall madly in love with her?’ They said she cast a spell. She weaved magic. NO NO. She had good jokes. ANNE BOLEYN MADE HENRY VIII DIE OF LOLS.
Rosa: “what is your enigmatic and somewhat sinister appeal?!”
Rosa: IT’S JOKES YOU LOSER
Frith: you magical, sweet angel. What is it about you? What is this pull you have on me.
Rosa: you just have a way about you. I cannot understand it.
Frith: I feel like we need to email Hilary Mantel and tell her we have figured out Anne Boleyn.
Don’t act like you don’t know what we’re talking about. This is a thing. There are many, many dudes out there in the world who are not too crazy about funny women, or at least they think they aren’t. Stay with us. They have it fixed in their heads that funny girls aren’t cool, or that they are sort of coarse, or brash, or inelegant, or maybe they have some kind of terrible addiction problem a la Dorothy Parker. In other words, the idea is that they might be funny, but it comes at a high cost. The idea is that a woman can be attractive, or she can be funny, but she can never be both. There are people who think this. You know this is true.
Remember that Christopher Hitchens article in Vanity Fair? Remember how it was called “Why Women Aren’t Funny”? His whole bit was that men were funny because they had to be, because how else would they get any lady to sleep with them? Women, then, weren’t funny because they didn’t need to be. They had “the whole male world at their mercy” and so why bother with lols? It is unnecessary to even offer a rebuttal to this idea here, except to say that it is the most joyless conception of humour I have ever encountered. Imagine thinking it was only necessary to haul out the laughs when you were trying to get someone to have sex with you. Isn’t that sad? Isn’t that just the worst? I am of the opinion that laughter is the entire point of being alive, so I struggle to understand how someone would think this way.
The substance of the Anne Boleyn theory is that there are some men who think that calling a woman funny also means saying that she is Uncool, or Not Mysterious, and especially Not Sexy. Funniness is undervalued in women, and so some men fail to register the quality when they come across it. Think of all those men in the court of Henry VIII, moping around Anne Boleyn, playing stupid instruments to get her attention, finding her peacock hearts to eat.
They are all absolutely desperate to sleep with her. They are behaving like the most appalling show-offs, competing with each other to get her to look at their dumb faces, and they are beginning to resent her. They come away from a meeting with her feeling just sick with love, just nauseated by it, and they are trying to work out why. Is it because she is so pretty? No, she is actually quite pinched and has an unnaturally long neck. Is it because she is so kind? Absolutely not. Well-dressed? No one cares about that. Good at the piano? Please. Sewing? Lol. Can make up boring poems in French? Stop it. Funny? Cue the screeching of brakes
The only logical conclusion is that she is MAGIC. She is a glorious pixie wizard. She has harnessed the power of the moon, or some bullshit. She has all the cats in the world dancing to her demonic tune. The men in the court of Henry VIII would rather call Anne Boleyn a goddamn witch rather than just buck up and admit that she is a fucking riot and she makes them all scream with laughter 24 hours a day.
I wasn’t actually in attendance at the court of Henry VIII, so I cannot state the above as fact, but I know in my heart that it’s true. I can offer my own anecdotal experience in support of this theory. Every boyfriend I have ever had has at some point called me “enigmatic”. Also charismatic, also magical, also different from anyone else that they have ever met. I am, it should go without saying, the least enigmatic person on the planet. I am the world’s most open book. I have no magical qualities to speak of, and I am of course in no way different from many thousands of other women just exactly like me. What these sweet lovely men were actually trying to tell me is that I made them laugh. They just had no other means of expressing it, because this shitty, godawful excuse for a culture has told them that Women Aren’t Funny.
I’m so sure that I’m right about this. My only other option is to believe that I am a lower species of witch, and who wants to do that? Think about all the times you have heard a man say, “she’s so funny as well” — like oh this bizarre, extraneous quality like a dog that is very loyal but also for some reason can type…no one needs the dog to type. See what I mean?
This is life-changing stuff. It is too late for me and all those dudes who called me enigmatic, but I am circulating this theory in the hope that others will find some use for it. Next time a man calls you Quirky, or informs you that you are In Your Own World, or that you make them feel a certain way and they don’t understand it, they are dying inside, what you must do is sit them down and say “Listen, pal. That quality you are referring to? It’s called being an absolute SCREAM. It’s called a GSOH.” They will shake their heads, maybe. They will say No, it’s not that. You just have this special quality. You have moonbeams in your hair and so on. Persist. Gently correct. You will be doing the world a great service. The ghost of Anne Boleyn will thank you.