Ms. Botchan is equally lovely, and liberated, in “The Twelve Pound Look,” a comedy of manners in which she portrays a typist sent by her employer to prepare thank-you notes for a man about to be knighted.
At curtain, the knight-to-be (Bradford Cover, as a perfectly polished oaf) is practicing the prancing, kneeling and slobbery hand-kissing he expects to partake in during his ceremony. He asks his wife to familiarize the arriving typist with her prestigious assignment.
“He is too modest to boast about himself, and prefers to keep a wife in the house for that purpose,” offers a parenthetical in the script, voiced by Mr. McNall as Barrie.
As luck would have it, the typist soon realizes she had actually left that boorish, self-satisfied gentleman more than a decade earlier. He hopes to rub her nose in his subsequent successes — including his gorgeous second wife (Vaishnavi Sharma) — only to find himself the bicycle to her fish.
I’d like to take a moment to curse the memory of Sir James, if for no other reason than we are saddled today with the pop-psychology diagnosis of Peter Pan syndrome.
Now I can’t really blame Barrie. He didn’t invent Peter Pan. The idea of the “eternal boy” goes back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. The conflict between the innocence of childhood and the responsibility of the adult is a theme throughout myth and literature.
However, a book on popular psychology titled The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up has established the myth of the man-boy, and I think there are some feminists who have latched on to the idea to castigate all men. However, I think what Dr. Dan Kiley is describing in his book is narcissism. There is no official diagnosis of Peter Pan syndrome, but narcissism is a recognized personality trait of people with personality disorders.
Women can be narcissists, too, but only men can be Peter Pans. In this way it is a convenient archetype with which feminists may browbeat men who aren’t toeing the line.
Life isn’t a fairy tale. Peter Pan is a grow up. It takes two to make a relationship work.