Examine what the old man said to Leila in "Her First Ball."

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The old man brings a touch of negativity to Leila's first dancing experience. However, his words constitute important social commentary. First, female beauty (and by extension, youth) is greatly prized in Leila's society. Second, the old man has been dancing for thirty years; his continued participation in formal balls (despite his age) indicates that the prevailing standards of beauty apply only to women.

Sadly, a woman's worth is often defined by her attractiveness quotient. The old man is telling the truth about the chaperones, who are no longer deemed "kissable." However, his words are difficult to hear, and they make Leila feel uncomfortable.

And your heart will ache, ache"–the fat man squeezed her closer still, as if he really was sorry for that poor heart–"because no one wants to kiss you now. And you'll say how unpleasant these polished floors are to walk on, how dangerous they are. Eh, Mademoiselle Twinkletoes?" said the fat man softly.

The chaperones are despondent because they can never again command the attention they once enjoyed. Despite their frustrations, they must bow to prevailing standards of decency and refrain from voicing their discontent. To comfort themselves, they complain about the "unpleasant polished floors." The old man's words also reveal another truth. On account of his age, he is expected to behave with decorum. Society rightly demands this of him. However, he too must keep his regrets to himself, just like his female chaperon peers.

True, he may not be held to the same beauty standards as the women, but he understands that his age is looked upon as a disability in the current setting. Like the female chaperons, he is no longer young, and no one wants to kiss him either. Even Leila thinks he looks old and shabby. She tries to be kind but privately wonders why he isn't on the stage with the other parents. So, the old man performs a duty, but like the female chaperons, does not enjoy it.

His soft, cynical words highlight the importance society places upon youth and physical beauty.

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The old man's words strike at the reality that faces all human beings.  Given all the pomp and production, all the stress regarding how one looks, and all the attention given to how one appears to other people, the fat man's words cut through all of this.  The fat man's words speak to how the ravages of time will wither anyone and everyone.  At a point, he says that Leila's beauty and her demeanor will diminish.  Statements such as "You can't hope to last anything like as long as that," "And these pretty arms will have turned into little short fat ones," and "you'll smile away like the poor old dears up there," all reflect the condition of age that the young Leila will endure over time. Essentially, the old man suggests that father time is undefeated and all must succumb to he and his power.  

The sentiments are conveyed with an acidic tongue, given how he is directing his comments towards Leila, and, perhaps, women in general.  In what he said to Leila, the fat, old man seeks to convey a reality that awaits many women.  It is a statement that Leila herself hears for a moment and then is taken in with her feet that "glided," as "the lights, the azaleas, the dresses, the pink faces, the velvet chairs, all became one beautiful flying wheel."

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