From a Girl's Point of View
Part 1 out of 2
Produced by Michelle Croyle, Ben Harris and PG Distributed Proofreaders
FROM A GIRL'S POINT OF VIEW
* * * * *
BY LILIAN BELL
THE LOVE AFFAIRS OF AN OLD MAID. 16mo, Cloth, Ornamental, Uncut Edges
and Gilt Top, $1 25.
... The love affairs of an old maid are not her own, but other
people's, and in this volume we have the love trials and joys of a
variety of persons described and analyzed.... The peculiarity of this
book is that each type is perfectly distinct, clear, and
interesting.... Altogether the book is by far the best of
those recently written on the tender passion.--_Cincinnati
THE UNDER SIDE OF THINGS. A Novel. 16mo, Cloth, Ornamental, Uncut
Edges and Gilt Top, $1 25.
A tenderly beautiful story.... This book is Miss Bell's best effort,
and most in the line of what we hope to see her proceed in, dainty and
keen and bright, and always full of the fine warmth and tenderness of
splendid womanhood.--_Interior_, Chicago.
* * * * *
WITH MANY APPREHENSIONS TO
THE DULL READER
WHO WILL INSIST UPON TAKING THIS BOOK LITERALLY
THE UNTRAINED MAN UNDER THIRTY-FIVE
THE PHILOSOPHY OF CLOTHES
WOMAN'S RIGHTS IN LOVE
MEN AS LOVERS
LOVE-MAKING AS A FINE ART
GIRLS AND OTHER GIRLS
ON THE SUBJECT OF HUSBANDS
A FEW MEN WHO BORE US:
THE SELF-MADE MAN
THE TOO-ACCURATE MAN
THE IRRESISTIBLE MAN
THE STUPID MAN
THE NEW WOMAN
THE UNTRAINED MAN UNDER THIRTY-FIVE
"Since we deserved the name of friends,
And thine effect so lives in me,
A part of mine may live in thee,
And move thee on to noble ends."
Every woman has had, at some time in her life, an experience with man
in the raw. In reality, one cannot set down with any degree of
accuracy the age when his rawness attacks him, or the time when he has
got the last remnant of it out of his system. But a close study of the
complaint, and the necessity for pigeon-holing everything and
everybody, lead one to declare that somewhere in the vicinity of the
age of thirty-five man emerges from his rawness and becomes a part of
trained humanity--a humanity composed of men and women trained in the
art of living together.
I am impressed with Professor Horton's remarks on this subject: "It
has sometimes struck me as very singular," he says, "that while
nothing is so common and nothing is so difficult as living with other
people, we are seldom instructed in our youth how to do it well. Our
knowledge of the subject is acquired by experience, chiefly by
failures. And by the time that we have tolerably mastered the delicate
art, we are on the point of being called to the isolation of the
grave--or shall I say to the vast company of the Majority?
"But an art of so much practical moment deserves a little more
consideration. It should not be taught by chance, or in fragments, but
duly deployed, expounded, and enforced. It is of far more pressing
importance, for example, than the art of playing the piano or the
violin, and is quite as difficult to learn.
"It is written, 'It is not good that man should be alone'; but, on the
other hand, it is often far from good to be with him. A docile cat is
preferable, a mongoose, or even a canary. Indeed, for want of proper
instruction, a large number of the human race, as they are known in
this damp and foggy island, are 'gey ill to live wi',' and no one
would attempt it but for charity and the love of God."
Now who but women are responsible for the training of men? If the
mother has neglected her obvious duty in training her son to be a
livable portion of humanity, who but the girls must take up her lost
opportunities? It is with the class of men whose mothers _have_
neglected to train them in the art of living that we have to deal; the
man with whom feminine influence--refining, broadening, softening,
graciously smoothing out soul-wrinkles, and generously polishing off
sharp mental corners--has had no part. It need not necessarily mean
men who have not encountered feminine influence, but it does mean
those who never have yielded to it. The natural and to-be-looked-for
conceit of youth may have been the barrier which prevented their
yielding. There is a time when the youth of twenty knows more than any
one on earth could teach him, and more than he ever will know again; a
time when, no matter how kind his heart, he is incased in a mental
haughtiness before which plain Wisdom is dumb. But a time will come
when the keenness of some girl's stiletto of wit will prick the empty
bubble of his flamboyant egoism, and he will, for the first time,
learn that he is but an untrained man under thirty-five.
This elastic classification does not obtain with either geniuses or
fools. It deals with the average man as the average girl knows him,
and may refer to every man in her acquaintance or only to one. It
certainly _must_ refer to one! Misery loves company to such an extent
that I could not bear to think that there was any girl living who did
not occasionally have to grapple with the problem of at least one man
in the raw, if only for her own discipline.
You cannot argue with the untrained man under thirty-five. In fact, I
never argue with anybody, either man or woman, because women are not
reasonable beings and men are too reasonable. I never am willing to
follow a chain of reasoning to its logical conclusion, because, if I
do, men can make me admit so many things that are not true. I abhor a
syllogism. Alas, how often have I picked my cautious way through
three-quarters of one, only to sit down at the critical moment,
declaring I would not go another step, and then to hear some
argumentative man cry, "But you admitted all previous steps. Don't you
know that this naturally _must_ follow?" Well, perhaps it _does_
follow, only I don't believe it is true. It may be very clever of the
men to reason, and perhaps I am very stupid not to be able to admit
the truth of their conclusions, but I feel like declaring with Josh
Billings, "I'd rather not know so much than to know so much that ain't
Conversation with the untrained man under thirty-five is equally
impossible, because he never converses; he only talks. And your chief
accomplishment of being a good listener is entirely thrown away on
him, because a mere talker never cares whether you listen or not as
long as you do not interrupt him. He only wants the floor and the
sound of his own voice. It is the trained man over thirty-five who can
converse and who wishes you to respond.
The untrained man desires to be amused. The trained man wishes to
amuse. A man under thirty-five is in this world to be made happy. The
man over thirty-five tries to make you happy.
There is no use of uttering a protest. You simply must wait, and let
life take it out of him. The man under thirty-five is being trained in
a thousand ways every day that he lives. Some learn more quickly than
others. It depends on the type of man and on the length of time he is
willing to remain in the raw.
You can do little to help him, if you are the first girl to take a
hand at him. You can but prepare him to be a little more amenable to
the next girl. His mind is not on you. It is centred on himself. You
are only an entity to him, not an individual. He cares nothing for
your likes and dislikes, your cares or hopes or fears. He only wishes
you to be pretty and well dressed. Have a mind if you will. He will
not know it. Have a heart and a soul. They do not concern him, because
he cannot see them. He likes to have you tailor-made. You are a Girl
to him. That's all. The eyes of the untrained man under thirty-five
are never taken off himself. They are always turned in. He is studying
himself first and foremost, and the world at large is interesting to
him only inasmuch as it bears relation to himself as the pivotal
point. He fully indorses Pope's line, "The proper study of mankind is
man," and he is that man. Join in his pursuit if you will; show the
wildest enthusiasm in his golf record or how many lumps of sugar he
takes in his coffee, and he will evince neither surprise nor gratitude
for your interest. You are only showing your good taste.
Try to talk to the untrained man under thirty-five upon any subject
except himself. Bait him with different topics of universal interest,
and try to persuade him to leave his own point of view long enough to
look through the eyes of the world. And then notice the hopeless
persistence with which he avoids your dexterous efforts and mentally
lies down to worry his Ego again, like a dog with a bone.
The conceit of one of these men is the most colossal specimen of
psychological architecture in existence. As a social study, when I
have him under the microscope, I can enjoy this. I revel in it, just
as I do in a view of the ocean or the heavens at night--anything so
vast that I cannot see to the end of it. It suggests eternity or
space. But oh! what I have suffered from a mental contact with this
phase of him in society! Sometimes he really is ignorant--has no
brains at all--and then my suffering is lingering. Sometimes he really
knows a great deal--has the making of a man in him, only it lies
fallow for want of training--and then my suffering is acute. When
success--business or social or athletic or literary or artistic--comes
to the untrained man under thirty-five, it comes pitifully near being
his ruin. The adulation of the world is more intoxicating and more
deadly than to drink absinthe out of a stein; more insidious than
opium; more fatal than poison. It unsettles the steadiest brain and
feeds the too-ravenous Ego with a food which at first he deemed nectar
and ambrosia, but which he soon comes to feel is the staff of life,
and no more than he deserves. With success should come the
determination, be you man or woman, to fall upon your knees every day
and pray Heaven for strength to keep from believing what people tell
you, so that you still may be bearable to your friends and livable to
I know that all this will fall unkindly upon the ears of many a worthy
man under thirty-five whose charm is still in embryo, and that, unless
he is very clever, he will be mortally offended, and never believe my
solemn assertion that I am the stanchest friend the man of
possibilities has. Let him take care how he resents my amiable
brutality, or how he denounces me as his enemy, for if I were not
interested in the untrained man under thirty-five I wouldn't bother
with him, would I?
I know, too, that a diplomatic feminine contingency will raise a howl
of protest, and will read this aloud to men under thirty-five for the
express purpose of disclaiming all complicity with such heterodox
views, and doubtless will be able to make the men believe them.
Tactful girls are a necessity, and I approve of them. I do not in the
least mind their disclaiming my views to specific men, especially if I
can catch their eye for one subtle moment when the men are not
looking. On this subject there is a certain delicately veiled,
comprehending, soul-satisfying, mental _wink_ going the rounds of the
girls, indicating our comradeship and unanimity of thought quite as
understandingly as the fraternal grip stands for fellowship among
masons. We girls have been thinking these things for a long time, and,
with this declaration of independence, the shackles will fall from
many a girl's soul, because another girl has dared to speak out in
Of course, I know, too, that girls with nice brothers and cousins and
husbands under thirty-five will also offer violent protest. I am
perfectly willing. Doubtless their feminine influence has circumvented
nature to such an extent that no one would suspect that their men were
under thirty-five. I only beg of them to remember that I am not
discussing girl-trained men or widowers. Both of these types are as
near perfection as a man can become.
A man whom girls have trained is really modest. Even at twenty he does
not think that he knows it all. He is willing to admit that his father
and mother have brains, and that thirty years' experience entitles
them to a hearing. He also is willing to give the girls a show, to
humor them, to find them interesting as studies, but never to claim to
understand them. In short, he has many of the charming qualities of
the man over thirty-five and the widower. That is the man who is
girl-trained. But Heaven help the man who is girl-spoiled.
Far be it from me to say that the untrained man under thirty-five, at
his worst, is of no use in this world. He is excellent for a two-step.
I have used a number of them very successfully in this way. But I know
the awful thought has already pierced some people's brains--what if
the man under thirty-five does not dance?
Sometimes an untrained man under thirty-five will actually have the
audacity to say to me that he takes small pleasure in society because
the girls he meets are so silly, and he must use small-talk in order
to meet them on their own ground. I am aghast at his temerity, as he,
too, will be when he has heard our side of the subject. We girls never
have allowed ourselves the luxury of vindicating ourselves, or
refuting this charge. It is the clever girl who suffers most of
all--not the brilliant, meteoric girl--but just the ordinarily clever
girl, as other girls know her. It is this sort of a girl who drags
upon my sympathies, because she occupies an anomalous position.
Being a real woman, she likes to be liked. She wishes to please men.
We all do. But what kind of men are we to please? Untrained men under
thirty-five? Owing to the horrible prevalence of these men, some girls
become neither fish nor flesh nor good red herring. They see their
silly, pink-cheeked sisters followed and admired. They know either how
shallow these girls are or how cleverly hypocritical. Clever girls are
also human. They love to go about and wear pretty clothes, and dance,
and be admired quite as much as anybody.
The result is that they adopt the only course left to them, and,
bringing themselves down to the level of the men, feign a frivolity
and a levity which occasionally call forth from a thinking man a
criticism which is, in a sense, totally undeserved. What will not the
untrained man under thirty-five have to answer for on the Day of
It is of no use to argue about this state of things. Facts are facts.
Men make no secret of the kind of women they want us to be. We get
preached at from pulpits and lectured at from platforms and written
about by "The Saunterer" and "The Man About Town" and "The One Who
Knows It All," telling us how to be womanly, how to look to please
men, how to behave to please men, and how to save our souls to please
men, until, if we were not a sweet, amiable set, we would rebel as a
sex and declare that we thought we were lovely just the way we were,
and that we were not going to change for anybody.
You lords of creation ought to be very complaisant, or else very much
ashamed of yourselves. You send in an order: "The kind of girl that I
like is a Methodist without bangs." And some nice girl begins to look
up Methodist tenets and buys invisible hairpins and side combs. Or you
say, "Give me an athletic girl." And, presto! some girl who would much
rather read buys a wheel, and learns golf, and lets out the waists to
her gowns, and revels in tan and freckles. We do what you men want us
to. And, then, when you complain about our lack of brains, that we
cannot discuss current events, and that you have to give us society
small-talk, I feel like saying: "Well, whose fault is it? If you
demand brains, we will cultivate them. If you want good looks, we will
try to scare up some. If you want nobility, we will let you know how
much we have concealed about us."
Often it is not that we are not secretly much more of women, and
better and cleverer women, than you think us. But there is no call for
such wares, so we lay character and brain on the shelves to mildew,
and fill the show-windows with confectionery and illusion. We supply
the demand. We always have supplied it, and we always will.
Of course, some of us get very much disgusted with the debutantes.
But, aside from the great superiority they have over girls with
thinking powers (in regard to the number of men who admire them, for
all men admire cooing girls with dimples)--aside from this, I say,
there is something to be said on their behalf. Don't you believe, you
dear, unsuspicious men, who dote upon their pliability and the
trustfulness of their innocent, limpid blue or brown-eyed gaze, which
meets your own with such implied flattery to your superior strength
and intelligence--don't you believe for one moment that the simple
little dears do not know exactly the part they are playing. They are
twice as clever as the cleverest of you. They feel that they are
needed just as they are. The fashionable schools are turning them out
every year exactly as the untrained men under thirty-five would wish
them to be. They know this. Therefore they remain as art has made
them. Feeling themselves admired by the class of men they most wish to
attract, they have no incentive to improve.
And yet, I suppose, untrained men under thirty-five have their use in
the world, aside from the part they play in the discipline of
discriminating young women. Girls even marry these men. Lovely girls,
too. Clever girls--girls who know a hundred times more than their
husbands, and are ten times finer grained. I wonder if they love them,
if they are satisfied with them, if _ennui_ of the soul is not a
bitter thing to bear?
I am always wondering why girls marry them. Every week brings me
knowledge that some lovely girl I know has found another man under
thirty-five, or that some of my men friends of that persuasion have
married out-of-town girls. It does not surprise me so much when girls
from another city marry them. Most men do not like to write letters,
and visits are only for over Sunday.
Men are always saying, "Well, why don't you tell us the kind of men
you would like us to be?" And their attitude when they say it is with
their thumbs in the arm-holes of their waistcoats. When a man is
thoroughly satisfied with himself he always expands his chest.
There is something very funny to me in that question, because I
suppose they really think they would change to please us. I do not
mind talking about it, because I am sociable, and I like conversation;
but I never for a moment dream that they will do it. They intend to,
and their inclination is always to please us, even to spoil us; but
they either cannot or will not change; and they think if they can
refuse pleasantly, and mentally chuck us under the chin and make us
smile, that they have succeeded in getting our minds off a troublesome
Of course, it is partly our fault that we do not insist, but no one
wants to be disagreeable. Therefore we choose personal discomfort for
ourselves rather than to demand radical changes in the men, which
might bring on contention.
But women wish to please men, aside from their power of winning them.
Whereas if men can get the girls without any change on their part,
they consider themselves a howling success. But they might be a little
bit surprised if they could read the minds of these very wives whom
they have won, whose life-work often may be only to improve them so
that they will make some other woman the kind of a husband they should
have made at first, and then to lie down and die.
So let men beware how they criticise us unfavorably, no matter what
their ages, for the truth of the matter is that, be we frivolous or
serious, vain or sensible, clever or stupid, rich or poor, we are what
the American man has made us. We are supremely grateful to him for the
most part, for he has literally made us what we are by the sweat of
his brow. But let him beware how he cavils at his own handiwork. 'Tis
not for the untrained man under thirty-five to complain of us, when
now he knows why we are so.
"I'm not denyin' that women are foolish," says George Eliot. "God
Almighty made 'em to match the men."
THE PHILOSOPHY OF CLOTHES
"Last night in blue my little love was dressed;
And as she walked the room in maiden grace,
I looked into her fair and smiling face.
And said that blue became my darling best.
But when, this morn, a spotless virgin vest
And robe of white did the blue one displace,
She seemed a pearl-tinged-cloud, and I was--space!
She filled my soul as cloud-shapes fill the West.
"And so it is that, changing day by day--
Changing her robe, but not her loveliness--
Whether the gown be blue or white or gray,
I deem that one her most becoming dress.
The truth is this: In any robe or way,
I love her just the same, and cannot love her less!"
If you are interested in the spectacle of letting people paint their
own portraits, at the same time entirely unconscious that they are
doing so, ask a number of women and girls whether they dress to please
men or other women, and then listen carefully to what they say and
watch their faces well while they are saying it. Most of the girls
will say they dress to please women; and the reason I ask you to watch
their faces is that you may see the subtle changes going on by which
they persuade themselves that they are telling the truth. Women--nice,
sweet women, the kind _we_ know--seldom tell a real untruth. But they
have a way of persuading themselves that what they are about to say is
the truth. Women must believe in themselves before they can hope to
make other people believe in them; therefore they have themselves to
persuade first of all. Now, when men are going to utter an untruth
they never care whether they believe it or not, as long as they can
make other people believe it. And the so-called brutal honesty of man
is only brutal want of tact. That poor, patient, misused word,
"honesty"! How sick it must get of its abuse!
Yes, girls really believe, I suppose, that they dress for other girls.
But they do not. They dress for men. And only experience will teach
them the highest wisdom in the matter. But that they cannot acquire
until they believe that only another woman will know just how well
they are dressed, and, above all, whether Doucet turned them out, or a
dress-maker in the house at two dollars a day.
Men only take in the effect. Women know how the effect is produced. Of
course, now I am speaking of the general run of men and women: neither
the man who clerked at Cash & Silk's nor the one who pays his wife's
bills in Paris, but the man in his native state of charming ignorance
of materials; the man who always suggests a "gusset" as a remedy for
too scant a gown, who calls insertion "tatting," and who, in setting
out for the opera, will tell his wife to put on her "bonnet and
shawl," although she may have on point-lace and diamonds. In his more
modern aspect he tells you that a girl at the Junior Promenade had on
a blue dress with feathers around her neck--which you must translate
into meaning anything from blue satin to organdie, and that between
dances she wore a feather boa.
It is the effect only that men take in; and when a man goes into
ecstasies over a gown of pale green on a hot day just because you look
so cool and fresh in it, when you know that you paid but forty cents a
yard for it, and only nods when you show him your velvet and ermine
wrap, which cost you two hundred dollars, I would just like to ask you
if it pays to dress for him. Women know this from a sorrowful
experience. Girls have to learn it for themselves. A ball-dress of
white tarlatan, made up over white paper cambric, with a white sash,
will satisfy a man quite as well as a Paris muslin trimmed with a
hundred dollars' worth of Valenciennes lace and made up over silk.
Most of them would never know the difference.
I do not know whether to be sorry for these men or not. It must be
lovely not to agonize and plan and worry to have everything the best
of its kind. I would like to take in only the effect, and never know
why I was pleased. Too much analysis is death to unmitigated rapture.
You always are haunted by knowing exactly what is lacking, and just
how it could be remedied. But these dear men are singularly deluded in
many ways, and upon these delusions clever women play, as a master
plays upon an organ. And young girls, who have not had time to study
into the philosophy of it--how should the poor things know that
clothes have any philosophy?--as usual, have to suffer for it.
One of these delusions is the "simple white muslin" delusion. When a
man speaks of a "simple white muslin" in the softly admiring tone
which he generally adopts to go with it, he means anything on earth in
the line of a thin, light stuff which produces in his mind the effect
of youth and innocence. A ball-dress or a cotton morning-gown is to
him a "simple white muslin."
Now a word with you, you dear, unsophisticated man. I have heard you,
with the sound of your hundred-and-fifty-dollar-a-month salary ringing
in your ears, gurgle and splash about a girl who wears "simple white
muslins" to balls; and I have heard you set down, as extravagant, and
too rich for your purse, the girl who wears silk. There is no more
extravagant or troublesome gown in the world than what you call a
"simple white muslin." In the first place, it never is muslin, unless
it is Paris muslin, which is no joke, if you are thinking of paying
for it yourself, as it necessitates a silk lining, which costs more
than the outside. If it is trimmed with lace, that would take as much
of your salary as the coal for all winter would come to. If trimmed
with ribbons, they must be changed often to freshen the gown, whose
only beauty is its freshness. Deliver me from a soiled or stringy
white party-dress! If it can be worn five times during the winter, the
girl is either a careful dancer or else a wallflower. In either case,
after every wearing she must have it pressed out and put away as
daintily as if it were egg-shells, all of which is the greatest
nuisance on earth. Often such a gown is torn all to pieces the first
time it is worn. Scores of "simple white muslin" ball-gowns at a
hundred dollars apiece are only worn once or twice.
Now take the "extravagant" girl with her flowered taffeta silk, or
plain satin, or brocade dress. There is at once the effect of richness
and elegance. No matter how sweet and pretty she is, you at once
decide that you never could afford to dress her. But that taffeta
cost, perhaps, only a dollar a yard. The satin, possibly a dollar and
a half. They require almost no trimming, because the material is so
handsome and the effect must be as simple as possible. Such a gown
never need be lined with silk unless you wish to do it. Many a girl
gets up such a gown for fifty or sixty dollars. And then think of the
service that there is in it. It does not tear, it does not crush. When
she comes home she looks as fresh as when she started. When it soils
at the edge of the skirt, she has it cleaned, and there she is with a
new dress again. Do you call that extravagant? Why, my dear sirs, it
is only the very rich who can afford to wear "simple white muslins!"
There is a hollowness about having a man praise your gowns when you
know he doesn't know what he is talking about. When a man praises your
clothes he always is praising you in them. You never will hear a man
praise even the good dressing of a woman he dislikes; while girls who
positively hate another girl often will add, "But she certainly does
know how to dress."
And so the experienced woman wears her expensive clothes for other
women, and produces her "effects" for men. She wears scarlet on a cold
or raw day, and the eyes of the men light up when they see her. It
makes her look cheerful and bright and warm. She wears gray when she
wants to look demure. Let a man beware of a woman in silvery gray. She
looks so quiet and dove-like and gentle that she has disarmed him
before she has spoken one word, and he will snuggle down beside her
and let her turn his mind and his pocket-book wrong side out. A woman
could not look designing in light gray if she tried. He dotes upon the
girl in pale blue. Pale blue naturally suggests to his mind the sort
of girl who can wear it, which is generally a blonde with soft, fluffy
hair, fair skin, and blue eyes--appealing, trustful, baby-blue eyes.
Did you ever notice that men always instinctively put confidence in a
girl with blue eyes, and have their suspicions of a girl with
brilliant black ones, and will you kindly tell me why? Is it that the
limpid blue eye, transparent and gentle, suggests all the soft,
womanly virtues, and because he thinks he can see through it, clear
down into that blue-eyed girl's soul, that she is the kind of girl he
fancies she is? I think it is; but some of the greatest little frauds
I know are the purry, kitteny girls with big, innocent blue eyes.
Blazing black eyes, and the rich, warm colors which dark-skinned women
have to wear, suggest energy and brilliance and no end of intellect.
Men look into such eyes and seem not to be able to see below the
surface. They have not the pleasure of a long, deep gaze into
immeasurable depths. And so they think her designing and clever, and
(God save the mark!) even intellectual, when perhaps she has a wealth
of love and devotion and heroism stored up behind that impulsive
disposition and those dazzling black eyes which would do and dare more
in a minute for some man she had set that great heart of hers upon
than your cool-blooded, tranquil blonde would do in forty years. A
mere question of pigment in the eye has settled many a man's fate in
life, and established him with a wife who turned out to be very
different from the girl he fondly thought he was getting.
Yet whenever I complain to experienced married women of how
discouraging it is to wear your good clothes for unappreciative men,
they beg me not to be guilty of the heresy of wishing things
different. If they have married one of the noticing kind, they tell me
harrowing tales of gorgeous costumes having been cast aside because
these critical men made fun of, or were prejudiced against them, and
"made remarks." And they point with envy to Mrs. So-and-So, whose
husband never knows what she has on, but who thinks she looks lovely
in everything, so that she is at liberty to dress as she pleases. When
a woman defers to her husband's taste, she sometimes is the
best-dressed woman in the room. And sometimes another woman, dressing
according to another man's taste, is the worst-dressed. So you see you
never can tell. "De mule don't kick 'cordin' to no rule."
There is something rather pathetic to me about a man being so ignorant
of why a woman's dress is beautiful, but only the effect remaining in
his memory. He remembers how she looked on a certain day in a certain
gown. He thinks he remembers her dress. He thinks he would know it
again if he saw it. But the truth is that he is remembering the woman
herself, her face, her voice, her eyes--above all, what she said, and
how she said it. If she wore a scarlet ribbon in her dark hair, a red
rose in another woman's hair will most unaccountably bring it all back
to him, and he will not know why he suddenly sees the whole picture
rise out of the past before his eyes, nor why his throat aches with
the memory of it.
I know one of these men, whose descriptions of a woman's dress are one
of the experiences of a lifetime. He loves the word bombazine. His
mother must have worn a gown of black bombazine during his
impressionable age. And he never will be successful in describing a
modern gown until bombazines again become the rage. This same dear man
brought back to his invalid wife a description of a fashionable noon
wedding, which consisted of the single item that the bride wore a blue
alpaca bonnet. It really would be of interest from a scientific point
of view to know what suggested that combination to any intelligence,
even if it were masculine.
I have more evidence to go on, however, when I wonder why the idea of
the cost penetrates this same man's brain when shown a new gown by any
member of his family, all of whom he is weak enough to adore. His
daughter will say, "Papa, do look here just one minute! How do you
like my new gown?" And the answer never varies: "Very pretty, indeed.
I hope it's paid for." He will say that of a cotton frock made two
years ago--he never knows--of a silk _neglige_, or of a ball-gown of
the newest make. The fashion produces no impression upon him, nor the
material, nor the cut. But let his daughter put on any kind of a pale
green dress, and stand before him with the question, "Papa, how do you
like my new gown?" While he is raising his head from his book he
begins the old formula, "Very pretty. I hope--" Then he stops and
says, "I have seen that dress before. Child, you grow to look more
like your mother every day of your life." And there is a little break
in his voice, and before he goes on reading he takes off his glasses
and wipes them, and looks out of the window without seeing anything,
and sits very still for a moment. It was the sight of the pale green
dress. When he came home from the war his lovely young wife, whom he
lost when she was still young and beautiful, came to meet him, holding
her baby son in her arms for his father to see, and she had worn a
pale green gown.
Why certain kinds of clothes are associated in the public mind with
certain kinds of women is to me an amusing mystery. Why are old maids
always supposed to wear black silks? And why are they always supposed
to be thin?--the old maids, I mean, not the silks. Why are literary
women always supposed to be frayed at the edges? And why, if they keep
up with the fashions and wear patent-leathers, do people say, in an
exasperatingly astonished tone, "Can that woman write books?" Why not,
pray? Does a fragment of genius corrupt the aesthetic sense? Is
writing a hardening process? Must you wear shabby boots and carry a
baggy umbrella just because you can write? Not a bit of it. Little as
some of you men may think it, literary women have souls, and a woman
with a soul must, of necessity, love laces and ruffled petticoats, and
high heels, and rosettes. Otherwise I question her possession of a
WOMAN'S RIGHTS IN LOVE
"She has laughed as softly as if she sighed!
She has counted six and over,
Of a purse well filled and a heart well tried--
Oh, each a worthy lover!
They 'give her time' for her soul must slip
When the world has set the grooving;
She will lie to none with her fair red lip--
But love seeks truer loving.
* * * * *
"Unless you can muse in a crowd all day
On the absent face that fixed you;
Unless you can love as the angels may,
With the breadth of heaven betwixt you;
Unless you can dream that his faith is fast,
Through behooving and unbehooving;
Unless you can DIE when the dream is past--
Oh, never call it loving!"
In love a woman's first right is to be protected from her friends
while she considers the man whom she contemplates loving. The
well-meant blundering of vitally interested friends has spoiled many a
promising love affair, which might have resulted in a marriage so much
above the ordinary that it could be termed satisfactory even by the
At no time in a girl's life has she a greater right to work out her
own salvation in fear and trembling than during the period known among
girls as "making up her mind." If she is the right kind of a girl,
honest and delicate minded, it is nerve-racking to be talked about,
and sacrilege to be talked to. Then the bloom is on the grape, which a
rude touch mars forever.
Yet these kind friends never think of the delicate, touch-me-not
influences at work in the girl's soul, or that the instinct to hide
her real interest in the man precludes the possibility of her daring
to ask to be let alone. So they, in their over-zeal and ambition,
either make the path of love so easy and inevitable that all the zest
is taken out of it for both (for lovers never want somebody to go
ahead and baste the problem for them; they want to blind-stitch it for
themselves as they go along), or else, by critical nagging, and
balancing the eligibility of one suitor against another, these friends
so harass and upset the poor girl that she doesn't know which man she
wants, and so turns her back upon all.
In point of fact, when a man is in love, and a girl does not yet know
her own mind; when she is weighing out their adaptability, and
balancing his love for football against her passion for Browning;
during the delicate, tentative period, when the most affectionate
solicitude from friends is an irritation, there ought to be a law
banishing the interested couple to an island peopled with strangers,
who would not discover the delicacy of the situation until it was too
late to spoil it.
"Woman's rights." I certainly agree with the men who think that those
words have a masculine, assertive, belligerent sound. "Equal suffrage"
is much more lady-like, and we are by way of getting all we wish of
the men on any subject, under the gentlest title by which it may be
called. Strange, how, with strong men, force never avails, but the
softest methods are the surest and swiftest.
However, equal suffrage, wide as it is, is not all that I wish. It
does well enough, but it does not cover the entire ground. I never
clamored very much for women to be recognized as the equals of men,
either in politics or in love, because, if I had clamored at all, I
should have clamored for infinitely more than that. _I_ should have
clamored for men to recognize us as their superiors, and not for equal
rights with themselves, but for more, many more rights than they ever
dreamed of possessing. 'Tis not justice I crave, but mercy. 'Tis not
equality, but chivalry.
In the whole history of the world, from nineteenth-century Public
Opinion clear back to the age of chivalry, men never have been
inclined to deal out justice to women. It is their watchword with each
other, but with women it always is either injustice or mercy. And in
spite of all wrongs and all abuses, I say, Heaven bless the men that
this is so. Human nature is more fundamental than customs, and what
would become of women if we only got our exact deserts, or had
absolute justice dealt to us, either by men or other women or on the
In these latter days of this progressive, woman's century, however,
the most thoughtful men are valiant enough to re-adjust themselves to
the idea of woman's development, and allow her equality in progressive
thought; at the same time maintaining the old-time chivalry of their
attitude towards her. If she asks for justice at the hands of these
glorious men, she will get it, and they will uncover in her presence
and throw away their cigars while they are dispensing it. Equality to
them does not mean either rudeness or insolence. They are always
It requires bravery on their part to take this ground, because the
sentiment has not as yet grown popular. But a New Man has been created
by the development of the New Woman, and he is the highest type we
"Courtesy wins woman as well
As valor may, but he that closes both
Woman's rights! Why, the very first right we expect is to be treated
better than anybody else! Better than men treat each other as a body,
and better by the individual man than he treats all other women. I
abominate the idea of equality, and to be mentally slapped on the
shoulder and told I am "a good fellow." I shrink from the idea of
independence and cold, proud isolation with my emancipated
sister-women, who struggle into their own coats unassisted and get red
in the face putting on their own skates, and hang on to a strap in the
street-car, in the proud consciousness that they are independent and
the equal of men. I never worry myself when a man is on his knees in
front of me, tying the ribbons of my slipper, as to whether he
considers me his equal politically or not. It is sufficient
satisfaction for me to see him there. If he hadn't wanted to save me
the trouble, I suppose he wouldn't have offered. He may even think I
am not strong enough for such an arduous duty. _That_ would not hurt
my feelings either. I have an idea that he likes it better to think
that I cannot do anything troublesome for myself than to believe that
I could get along perfectly without him. In fact--here's heresy for
you, O ye emancipated!--I do not in the least mind being dependent on
men--provided the men are nice enough. Let them give us all the
so-called rights they want to. I shall never get over wanting to get
behind some man if I see a cow. Let them give us a vote, if they will.
I shall want at least three men to go with me to the polls--one to
hold my purse, one to hold my gloves, and the third to show me how to
cast my vote.
If women are serious in wanting to vote in politics, why do they not
apply to the body politic the same methods they use with the one man
which an all-wise Destiny has committed to their keeping?
If all the women in the world should make up their minds that they
wanted to vote worse than anything else on earth--worse even than they
want their husbands to go to church with them--and each woman would
put on her prettiest clothes, and cuddle up to her own particular man
in her softest and most womanish way, when she was begging him to get
suffrage for her--why, you all know they would do it. Men would get it
for us exactly as they would buy us a pair of horses.
Have you men ever thought about practising for suffrage in politics by
giving women suffrage in love? Surely you do not doubt that, should
you do this, it would not occur to us to stuff the ballot-boxes, or to
put up a ticket with any but honorable candidates for our hands. We do
not ask nor wish to indicate who shall run for office. Let the men
announce themselves candidates. We would not take the initiative there
if it were offered to us for a thousand years. All we ask is to be
given plenty of time to canvass the honor of the candidates,
thoroughly to understand and investigate the platform (with an eye to
how near he will come to sticking to his promises after election), and
to be allowed to cast a free and untrammelled vote.
Now, men seem to think that if they allowed woman equal suffrage, the
bright white light of our honesty would be too strong a glare for
their weak eyes--so long accustomed to darkness--to bear. Um--possibly
in politics. Hardly in love.
For myself, I consider absolute honesty most unpleasant. I never knew
any really nice, lovable women who were unflinchingly honest. But I
have known a few iron-visaged, square-jawed women who were so brutally
honest that I have most ingloriously fled at the mention of their
approach, and solaced myself with a congenial spirit who is in the
habit of skirting delicately around painful truth, and a cozy corner
in which to abuse the aforesaid iron-visaged carver of helpless
humanity, who loves to draw blood with her truth. Such an one will get
a vote in politics long before she gets it in love.
No; men need not fear to give us equal suffrage in love. Our honesty
will not be disconcerting. (I would even address a private query, at
just this point, to the women, begging that the men will skip it,
asking women where in the world we would find ourselves if we were
unflinchingly honest with the men who love us?) No one will deny that
we would even countenance a certain amount of corruption. We fully
agree with those men who tell us weakly questioning women that
campaign funds are a necessity. We never have been able to discover
just where the money in politics went to, but the expenses of a
campaign in our line are more in evidence. I doubt if the most
straitlaced Puritan will gainsay me when I declare that bribery from
the candidates, in the form of theatres, opera-boxes, flowers,
bonbons, and books, would not only be tolerated, but even, in a modest
manner, encouraged--having, of course, a keen eye as to the elasticity
of the campaign fund. But, of course, just as vulgar bribery, _per
se_, only catches the easy and unthinking voter in politics, so, in
like manner, would these evidences of generosity only capture the less
desirable voter in love. When you men are trying for a woman's vote
you need give yourselves no uneasiness. If she is worth having,
character wins every time. You don't believe that. That is why you
trust to bribery to do it all. And it is also why so many of you get
the girl you try for--which is about the richest punishment you could
I adore Hamlet. Not because he was so noble as to give up his life to
avenge his father's most foul murder. Not because he was a chivalrous
King Arthur, to protect Ophelia's womanly pride from the jeers of a
coarse court by openly declaring that he had loved her when he hadn't.
Not for any of Shakespeare's reasons for painting him a hero. But for
two much more reasonable reasons. One that he said, "I myself am
indifferent honest"--oh, the humanity of Hamlet!--and the other that,
when under the spell of her beauty and in the tentative, interested
stage when he cared for her all but enough to ask her to marry him, he
had the wit to discover that she was a fool. Imagine the calamity of
Hamlet married to Ophelia! That _would_ have been a tragedy. Think of
a man clever enough to discover that his idol was made of putty--that
his sweetheart was a Rosamond Vincy! Hamlet was a wise man. He
withdrew in time. Most men have to be married ten years to discover
that they have married an Ophelia or a Rosamond.
It is a trite saying that the whole world is behind a woman urging her
to marry. But I find much to interest me in trite sayings. I like to
get hold of them, and look them through, and turn them wrong side out,
and pull them to pieces to find how much life there is in them.
Psychological vivisection is not a subject for the humane society. A
trite saying has my sympathy. It generally is stupid and shop-worn,
and consequently is banished to polite society and hated by the
clever. And only because it possessed a soul of truth and a wonderful
vitality has it been kept from dying long ago of a broken heart.
Books could be written of the truth of this particular trite saying.
The urging, of course, among people whom we know, is neither vulgar
nor intentional. It takes the form of jests, of pseudo-humorous
questions if a man sends flowers two or three times. But it takes its
worst and most common form in the sudden melting away of the family if
the man calls and finds them all together. If a man has no specific
intentions towards a girl, and has not determined in his own mind that
he wants to marry her; if he is only liking her a great deal, with but
an occasional wonder in the depths of his own heart whether this girl
is the wife for him; to call upon her casually and see the family
scatter, and other callers hastily leave, is enough to scare him to
death. And the girl herself has a right to be furiously indignant.
When eligible young people are in that tentative stage, it is death to
a love to make them self-conscious.
I myself am so afraid of brushing the down from the butterfly wings at
this point that, occasionally, when I have been calling, and the
girl's possible lover has caught me before I could escape in a natural
manner, I have doggedly remained, even knowing that perhaps he wished
me well away among the angels, rather than to run the risk of making
him conscious that I understood his state of mind. Imagine my feelings
of anguish, however, at holding on against my will and against theirs,
wanting somebody to help me let go! Much better, I solace myself
afterwards, that he should wish me away than to look after my
retreating form and wish, in Heaven's name, that I had stayed! Better
for the girl, I mean. For my own feelings--but I do not count. I am
only giving a girl one of her rights in love. A few judicious
obstacles but whet a man's appetite--if he is worth having. And I do
not mind being a judicious obstacle once in a while--if I like the
As to how far a girl has a right to encourage a man in love, opinions
differ. I once asked a clever literary friend of mine, whose husband
is so satisfactory that it is quite a delightful shock to discover it,
how far men ought to be encouraged to make love.
"Encourage them all you can, my dear. The best of men require all the
encouragement one is capable of giving them."
I pondered over that statement. From her point of view it was, of
course, perfectly proper. Married men need all the encouragement they
can get to keep them making love to their own wives. But from our
standpoint, of being girls--and very nice girls too, some of us, if I
do say it myself!--how far have we a right to encourage men to make
love to us?
Now I like men; and I like girls. So that I never want anybody to be
hurt at this very delicate and dangerous game of love-making. But
somebody always _is_ getting hurt, and although she never makes any
fuss about it, it is generally the girl.
There are two reasons for this. One is that love means twice--yes,
twenty, forty--times as much to a girl as to a man; and the second is
that we are a believing set of human geese, and we believe a great
deal of what you men say, which is wrong of us, and much more of what
your pronounced actions over us imply, which is worse. Girls are just
the same along the main lines of sentiment and hope and trust and
belief in men now as they ever were, and most of this talk about the
new woman being different is mere stuff and nonsense.
Now, the men come in right at this point and declare that we ought not
to believe so much; that until they have actually proposed marriage,
often they themselves do not know their own minds; that a man has a
perfect right to withdraw, _a la_ Hamlet, if he finds insurmountable
flaws in the girl's nature, or, what is oftener the case, somebody
whom he likes better; and they intimate pretty strongly that broken
hearts, or even slightly damaged affections, are largely our own
fault, which, from their standpoint, is true enough, and if we were
men we would all say so too.
But, looking at it from our standpoint, does it not seem as if the men
had all the rights on their side? And will they be as generous in this
as they are in everything else where we are concerned, and view the
matter from our point of view, with the sidelights turned on?
In the first place, there is practically the whole world of women
before men from which to choose. Think of that! Thousands of women,
and with the additional advantage of the right to make the first
advances! How many do _we_ have to choose from? We can't roam around
the world by ourselves, even to _see_ all the desirable men, much less
manage to meet and study them. _We_ have to wait to be approached even
by the meagre few which a gracious Providence casts in our way. If a
girl receives three proposals, that, I am told, is a fair average. If
she receives ten, she is either an heiress or a belle. If she receives
more than ten, she must visit in the West. Think now, reasonably, of
the limited opportunities of the most fortunate of us, compared with
the limitless opportunities of the least fortunate of you.
Then, too, in order to make ourselves desirable, we are not to be
forward or unduly prominent. We are to sit quietly at home and wait to
be asked. We are not to take a man's words, uttered under the
magnetism of our presence, for truth. We are not to judge by his
manner if he does not speak. We are not to flirt with any other man
when one man is considering us as a possible wife (although we don't
know that he is, and it is dangerous to guess), because he does not
like that. It shows, he thinks, a "frivolous nature," or "a desire to
attract," or a "tendency to flirt," or, it is "unwomanly," or
"unworthy a true woman." There are some other things men say to us if
several men are attentive at the same time, but I have forgotten the
rest. They are very convincing, however. Then, when the man has made
up his mind that he wants us as his wife (that grammar sounds
polygamous, but my whole philosophy of life is against that idea),
why, we are to be ready to drop into his arms like a ripe plum and not
keep him on tenter-hooks of anxiety, because only coquettes do that.
Now I am not endeavoring to do an exceptional man justice, who will
resent that somewhat broad platform. I am only presenting the attitude
of man in general, from a girl's standpoint. And if you will view it
as referring to "other men" and not to yourself, you will be quite
willing to admit that it is, in the main, true.
Now if, in order to avoid heartaches, and so be able to blame you for
something you never intended and which you are not willing to
shoulder, we are not to let ourselves go, when we feel like falling in
love with you, do you give us leave to allow every one of you to get
clear up to the proposing-point and come flatly out with the words
"Will you marry me?" before we let you know whether we want you or
not, or before we begin to let ourselves go?
Come now. Own up, you men. How well do we girls know you when you have
called on us three hundred and sixty-five times in succession? Not at
all. We know only what we can see and hear. How well do we know you
when we have been engaged to you six months? Not at all. We know only
what you have been unable to conceal of your faults, and the virtues
you have displayed in your show-windows. How long must a woman be
married to a man before she understands him thoroughly--as thoroughly
as she ought to have understood him before she ever dared to stand up
at an altar and promise to love him and live with him until death did
A broken engagement ought to be considered a blessed thing as a
preventive of further and worse ills. But it is not. It militates
seriously against a girl. Not so much with men as with women. That is
one of the times, and there are many others, when men are broader and
more just than women. The ordinary man, taken at random, will say,
"Probably he was a worthless fellow." The ordinary woman will say,
"She ought to have known her own mind better."
The odd part of all this is that, even if you men, as a body, should
say to all the girls: "Go ahead. Encourage us to the top of your bent.
Let us propose without any knowledge based on your past actions or
words as to whether we are going to be accepted or not, and we will
take the result cheerfully and won't rage or howl about it"--that not
one of us would do it.
"How conscience doth make cowards of us all!" We might consider that
you were only giving us our rights in love. We might theorize
beautifully about it, and even vow we were going to take you at your
word and do it. But we couldn't. It simply isn't in us. We could not
be so unjust to you--so untrue to ourselves. The great maternal heart
of woman, which bears the greater part of all the sufferings in this
world that the men and little children may go free, prevents us from
taking any such so-called rights from you, at the cost of suffering on
your part. Women have tenderer hearts than men for a purpose, and if
they are hurt oftener than men's, why, that is for us to bear. We
cannot make ourselves over and turn Amazons at your expense.
MEN AS LOVERS
"God measures souls by their capacity
For entertaining his best angel, Love."
* * * * *
"It is a common fate--a woman's lot--
To waste on one the riches of her soul,
Who takes the wealth she gives him, but cannot
Repay the interest, and much less the whole.
"Are you not kind? Ah, yes, so very kind.
So thoughtful of my comfort, and so true.
Yes, yes, dear heart, but I, not being blind.
Know that I am not loved as I love you.
"One tenderer word, a little longer kiss,
Would fill my soul with music and with song;
And if you seem abstracted, or I miss
The heart-tone from your voice, my world goes wrong."
Men seldom make perfect lovers. I deeply regret being obliged to say
this, as they are about all we girls have to depend upon in that line;
but it is the solemn truth. I do not pretend to say why this is so. I
suppose it is because a man never dwells upon the sentimental side of
life, nor understands the emotions, unless he is either a poet or a
Miss Nancy, and it is almost equally dangerous to marry either of
Pray, do not be offended, my friends the poets, at being mentioned in
the same paragraph with a Miss Nancy, until you discover the exact
meaning of that effective term of opprobrium. A Miss Nancy is a poet
without genius, one who has a talent for discovering the fineness of
life, but who lacks the wit to keep his views from ridicule. It is not
a step of the seven-league boots between the sublime and the
ridiculous. Sometimes it is only an invisible step of the tiniest
I never could understand why a man who plays a good game of whist
should not know how to make love. There are so many points in common.
You can play a game of whist with only enough skill to keep your
partner's hands from your throat, or you can play it for all there is
Now I am not a whist-player. Ask those who have played with me, and
see the well-bred murder in their eyes as they remember their wrongs.
They will tell you that I can take all the tricks--not just the odd,
but three, four, and five tricks--yet I am not playing whist. I am
just winning the game, that is all. If my partner, in an unthinking
moment, says, "Let's win this game," we win it. But it is like saying
to the cab-driver, "You make that train." We make the train and say
nothing about taking off a wheel or two in the process. Once, after a
game of this kind, my partner said to me, "Allow me to congratulate
you upon a most brilliant game--of cards!"
Now you must not think me either stupid or blundering. I play with
magnificent effrontery, often rushing in where angels fear to tread;
but, somehow, effrontery is not the best qualification for a
whist-player. I am too lucky at holding the cards, and play each one
to win. I am lavish with trumps. I delight to lead them first hand
round, but I have not the courage of my convictions, for I always feel
little quivers of fear when I do it, because when my trumps and aces
are gone, then I'm gone too. I have no skill in finesse, in the
subtlety, the delicate moves which are the inherent qualities of a
game of whist. To tell the brutal truth, I play my own hand. Could
anything be worse, dear shade of Sarah Battle, even if I do win? In
short, my manner of playing whist is the way some men, most men, make
Now you know, brothers--I call you brothers to prove how very friendly
my feelings are towards you, even if I do show you up from our
side--you know that a good whist-player is only slightly interested in
the play of the great cards. His fine instinct comes into play when
the delicate points of the game are in evidence; when it is a question
of who holds the seven of clubs, if he leads the six in the last hand,
or of the lurking-place of the thirteenth trump. I never can remember
anything below the jack, and I give up playing whist forever at least
once every month. But I am so weak that I return to it again and
again, as a smoker does to his brier-wood. I feel partly vexed and
partly sorry for myself when I realize that I cannot play--I can only
win. I have seen men win very superior girls, but they have done it in
a manner which would disgust a good whist-player. Yet they, too, keep
on with their indifferent love-making with the same fatal human
weakness which sees me brave the baleful light in my partner's eyes
night after night--when I am in a whist-playing community. Many men
make love because the girl is convenient and they happen to think
about it. It never would occur to me to hunt up three people at a
country-house and ask them to play whist. But if three are at a table,
and there is no one else, I drop into the vacant place, which could be
filled much better by a skilled player, with pathetic willingness.
I wonder if a man ever deliberately made up his mind to marry, and
then hunted up his ideal girl? Alas, alas, if he did, I never heard of
him! But I have seen scores of them drop into vacant chairs at the
girls' sides, and make love just because they were handy.
We hate this "handy" love-making, we girls. You needn't think we don't
know it when we hear it. Sometimes we are not so stupid as we pretend.
But we never let you see that we are clever enough to understand you,
because you don't want us to. And I must say that I cannot blame you.
If we girls are pretending to you that we have been waiting all our
lives for just you, we dislike to have you discover that we have
employed those years of waiting very satisfactorily to ourselves, so
much so that a casual observer would not have suspected the emptiness
So your funny little pretences are all very well, provided you do not
let us catch you in them. Only--possibly you do not know how many
times we do catch you. That is one of the chief points. You never know
how many times we see through you and beyond, and know just why you
did certain things much better than you yourselves know it. Of course,
it would not be wise for us to tell you this individually, for that
would break up the meeting; but there is no harm in letting you know
I suppose there is not a man in the world who would not be surprised
if he knew that we do not consider men good lovers. We have accepted
them, and been engaged to them, and married them, and pretended to
them, and, what is worse still, pretended to ourselves that they were
satisfactory, but the truth is they were not, and they are not, and
this is the first time we have dared to say so.
Now don't expect, if you go to your wife or your sweetheart and ask
her if this is so, that she is going to tell you the truth about it. I
wouldn't either. I would pretend that' the others might be
unsatisfactory as lovers, but that you--well, you just suited me,
that's all. I would have to, you understand, to keep you going. And
that is what your sweetheart will do. If she did not, you would get
cross and sulky, and there would be a week of unhappiness for both of
you, and then the girl would apologize and back down from her
position, and then you would go on exactly as you did before.
No, if you are going to profit by this at all, do not talk it over
with any woman you love. Talk it over with some clever woman who will
tell you the truth because she has nothing to lose. A man will always
take more from a woman whom he does not love than he will from his own
sweetheart or wife.
I wonder why things are so. Is it that ideal love is only founded upon
the truth and the superstructure is built of fabrications? Is it that
we women are much more artistic and more clever at masquerading the
truth that we make so much better lovers than the men? Oh, the scores
and scores of men who have told me what their wives thought of them,
and then the looks these wives have shot at me across the flowers on
the dinner-table! Only one glance, which no man caught, telegraphing,
"Do I, though? You are a woman and you know. You know what I would
have if I could, but how I have had to make him believe that he was
all of that, because he is my husband." Not that she is dissatisfied
with him. Not that she would give him up. Not that she would leave him
or have anybody else if she could. She loves him all she can, and he
loves her all he wants to. He has won the game, but he has not played
for all there was in it.
I never have been able to make up my mind whether ideal love was the
best, or if love with a great deal of common-sense in it was not the
most philosophical and better in the long-run. But to those of us who
are romantic it is fearful to think of deliberately turning our backs
on terrapin and lobster and ice-cream, and meditating upon plain bread
and cold potatoes. You men do not recognize the romantic streak which,
of more or less breadth and thickness, runs through every woman,
making her love good love-making. You are so terribly practical and
common-sense and every-day. We girls like flowers, and mental
indigestibles, and occasional Sundays. We do not know why we do, but
we do, and we cannot help it, and if you are going to make love
according to Hoyle you must recognize this fact, and pamper us in our
folly. Don't we pamper you?
Now I know perfectly well how some of you are going to work at it. You
will begin by thinking, "Yes, that's true. I've got a girl like that,
and, by Jove, I'll humor her!" Bless your dear hearts! Your intentions
are always of the best. If only you knew how to carry them out! But
the first time you come across a little unreasonable, sentimental
folly of hers, you will take her hand in yours and say, "Yes, dear, I
understand just what you mean. I know exactly how you feel on the
subject, and I am perfectly willing to do what you want me to. But,
don't you see, if I do, it would look just a little queer to
mother"--(or the boys, or the other fellows, or to Jessie and the
girls, or to--you may insert the name for yourself)--"and, while I
want to please you, I hardly think that is quite the way to go about
it; so, if you will be the dear, sensible little woman that you always
are, we will simply take a nice little walk, instead of going to
Europe, and I will try to make it just as enjoyable to you. You know I
shall be with you, darling, and haven't you often said that you were
perfectly happy wherever I was?" And darling will begin a weak
argument in favor of her little unreasonable, sentimental whim
represented by "Europe," although she sees that your mind is made up.
But you have seen her weaken at your smooth talk, and you give her
some more; and if that doesn't do, why, you kiss her, and then she's
gone. And before you leave her she has assured you that she really
would "just as soon" or "much rather" take a walk than go to Europe;
and you come out whistling and thinking what a dear little thing she
is, and how much you love her. Oh, you have won! Nobody denies that;
but look at your partners face if you want to know how you have done
Why didn't you do as you said you were going to? Why didn't you do it
her way? Why don't you study your sweetheart, and learn to know her,
and to know the real woman--the side she never shows to you nowadays
Because, just as soon as she sees your way of doing, she is going to
hunt up a new way of managing you. It is all your own fault that you
are managed (as you all know you are), and your fault that you get
pale-gray truth instead of the pure white. It starts out pure white,
but it is doctored before it reaches you.
You never are satisfied to do anything else in the slovenly way in
which you make love. I know a man who is just an ordinary man in
everything else; but to see him drive a spirited horse is to know that
he has the making of a good lover in him. He is full of enthusiasm in
studying his horse's disposition. He will interrupt the most
interesting conversation to say, "There, Pet, that pile of stones
won't hurt you. Go on, now, like the pretty little lady that you are.
Here's a nice bit of road. Hold your head up and just show what you
can do. That's right. That's my beauty. See how she reaches out. Isn't
she handsome? Quiet, now, Pet. Take this hill easily. We know you
could keep up that pace for an hour, but you mustn't tire yourself all
out just because you have a willing spirit. See her look around to see
if I am pleased with her!" "Dear me, that's nothing," I said. "Any
woman would do as much, if you treated her that way." He is
responsive, so he grinned appreciatively. He spends hours studying
that horse's traits. He is always saying that she won't back, or that
she hates this and is afraid of that. His horse, never has to do
anything that she doesn't want to; but his wife does.
You men would not do business, or even play golf, without many times
the thought you put into your love-making. Of course, now, I am not
talking of the sleepless nights or the anxious days you spent before
you knew whether she loved you. No, indeed; you did enough thinking
and worrying then to please anybody. But I am referring to the girl to
whom you are engaged, perhaps you are married to her, and have been
for forty years. You are not too old yet to know that you have not
been a perfect lover. I know that old story, that men are so fond of
telling just here, about a man running for a car before he has caught
it. Yes, we know all that. But we want you to keep on running.
However, on the other hand, I know that ideal love is a difficult
thing to manage, from our point of view. It is a fearful strain to
live up to it. In fact, nobody can do it. But I never could see why
you had to stick to one or the other. Why can't you mix the two?
Ideal love is a beautiful thing to think about or to live in for a few
weeks or months--according to your temperament. It cannot be equalled
for the first part of an engagement or the honeymoon. But it is like
going to the theatre and seeing the grandeur of the old gray castle,
and the perpetual moonlight, and the devoted love of the satin duchess
for the velvet duke. You know that it is just acting, and that the
villain is not really going to swim the moat with his band of steel
warriors, and burn the castle, and capture the duchess and marry her
by force. Yet I love to pretend. I dearly love to take two
pocket-handkerchiefs with me and sop them both--and I would like to
cry out loud, only I never do; but I always have to pull my veil down
and feel my way out of the theatre. I love to throw myself into it,
and it always annoys me when the acting is so bad that I cannot. If
any man sees any moral in that, let him heed it, and believe that I am
only one of ten thousand other girls who would like to throw ourselves
into the illusion of it only your acting is so bad that we cannot.
If men would only realize that the material side is what we girls care
the least for. Pray do not think, just because you have built us
Colonial houses, and have our clothes made for us, and never allow
butchers' bills to annoy us, that you have done your whole duty by us.
It never occurs to most of us who have those dear American men for
husbands and lovers that we ever really could become cold or hungry.
You would be very unhappy if you thought anybody belonging to you did
not have all the clothes she wanted, and the best in the market. But
you think it is a huge joke when we say that we are mentally cold and
hungry a great deal of the time, and that you are a storehouse, with
all that we need right within your hearts and brains, only you will
not give it to us.
When you want to surprise us with a present, what do you do? You buy
us a sealskin or a diamond-ring. Is _that_ what you think we want?
Perhaps some of you have a wife who only wants such things, and who
cares for nothing else so much. If so, give them to her. If her higher
nature is satisfied with plush, let her have it. Smother her in
sealskins, weigh her down to earth with jewels. But the rest of us?
What are you going to give us?
LOVE-MAKING AS A FINE ART
"If thou must love me, let it be for naught
Except for love's sake only. Do not say
'I love her for her smile--her look--her way
Of speaking gently--for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day.'
For these things, in themselves, beloved, may
Be changed or change for thee--and love so wrought
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry;
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby.
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou mayst love on through love's eternity"
Of course, to begin with, every man honestly believes that he has
made, is making, or could make a good lover.
So I admit at the outset that I am talking to the lover who not only
is successful in his own estimation, but the one who has been
encouraged in that belief by his own sweetheart or wife until he has
every right to believe in himself.
You are about to be told the honest truth for once in your life, so
much so that your wives and sweethearts will tell me behind your back
that every word of it is true. But after you have clamored for years
to know "how women honestly felt on such subjects," and when, nettled
at not getting the truth from us individually, you have declared that
"the best of women are naturally a little bit hypocritical," the
loveliest part of it all is that you will not believe a word of what I
have said, and, in accordance with that belief, will calmly announce
that I don't know what I am talking about.
Well, perhaps I don't. A woman's aim is never quite true. I could not
hit the bull's-eye. But in this case, please to remember that I am
firing at a barn-door with bird-shot.
I don't blame you for not believing me. It is against your whole
theory of life. Not to believe in yourself were a great calamity. My
grandfather was so unfortunately accurate that with advancing years he
came whimsically to consider himself infallible. And when, urged by
the clamoring of his equally accurate family, he sometimes consented
to consult the dictionary, and he found that he differed from it, it
never disturbed his belief in himself. He closed the book, saying,
placidly, "But the dictionary is wrong." He considered such a trifle
not worth even getting heated about. He dismissed it with a wave of
his hand. But there was a twinkle in his eye. A typical man, you see,
was my grandfather. And, in consequence, a great many other people
besides himself believed in him.
But to return. Know, first of all, that you cannot cover me with
confusion by pointing to your wives to prove that you have been
successful lovers. I never said you could not get married. There is
nothing intricate about that. Anybody can marry.
Nor am I to be daunted by the fact that you have been so good a lover
as to make your wife happy. You may not be considered a perfect lover
even if you have compassed that very laudable end. In fact, the very
ones I mean are the apparently successful lovers with happy or
No shadow of a doubt as to your success as lovers has ever crossed
your dear old satisfied minds. To you I am alluding--to the very ones
who never gave the subject a thought before. Wake up, now, and listen.
Your wives have thought about it enough, even if you have not.
Remember then that I am only trying to tell you, not _why_ men fail as
lovers, but _how_ they fail--in how much you fail.
Leave out all flirting, all precarious engagements, all unhappy
Carriages, and presuppose a sweet, lovable woman, contentedly married
to a real man--a man who truly loves, even if he has not completely
mastered the gentle art of love-making. No skeleton in the closet; no
wishing the marriage undone; with no eternal fitnesses of things to
make the gods envious; no great joys of having met each other's
star-soul; with plenty of little every-day rubs, either in the shape
of hateful little economies in the choice of opera-seats and cab-hire,
or petty illnesses and nerves. Just a nice, ordinary, pleasant
marriage, with only love to keep the machinery from squeaking, and no
moral obligation on the man's part to see that the supply of love does
not run short. A great many men can stand a squeak constantly. But
women have nerves, and will go to any trouble to remove one which
their husbands never hear.
You have worked early and late to buy your wife even more luxuries
than you really could afford. But you love her so much that it was
your greatest pleasure to heap good things upon her. And very nice of
you it is. You are a dear, good man to do it, and I honor you for it.
Her physical needs are abundantly supplied. Indeed, you are so good a
lover that you remember your courting-days enough to send her flowers
on her birthdays and Easter. So her sentimental needs, represented by
flowers, are supplied.
There remain but two needs more. Those of her mind and heart.
It is too delicate a subject to discuss whether you are clever enough
for her. Very likely you are. If not, she ought to have attended to
that before she married you, because that is one of the few things
that you really can know something about during an engagement--if you
are not too much in love to have any sense left at all. Therefore
again I take for granted that you and she are congenial. If she is
devotedly fond of music, you do not hate it so that you cannot
occasionally go with her in the evening to the opera, with abundant
props in the shape of tickets for the matinee, to which you generously
bid her to "take one of the girls." If she loves books, you like to
hear her talk about them, because she does it so well, and because she
knows the ins and outs of your mind so thoroughly that in ten minutes
she can give you the plot, and half an hour's reading aloud of
striking passages will give you so excellent an idea of the style that
you can talk about it to-morrow more intelligently than some bachelors
who have really read it by themselves most conscientiously. That is
because you are clever; because your wife is more clever. You have a
brain, and your wife photographs her personality and her subject upon
it, because she understands you and has studied you, and has a pride
that you shall appear to advantage among her friends and not
degenerate into a mere business machine, as too many men do. I suppose
it never occurred to you to try to do a similar thing for her. You
could, if you wanted to. But it is a good deal of trouble, and you are
generally tired. But what do you suppose would happen if you should
exhibit the same eagerness that she does to keep the flame of love
alive, so that your marriage should not sink to the dead commonplace
level of all the other marriages you know? Suppose, even after you
have caught the car, that you occasionally got off and ran beside it a
while, just for healthful exercise, and to keep yourself from growing
Suppose _you_ occasionally hunted out a new book, and marked it, and
brought it home to read to her, not because you think she wouldn't
have got it without you, but just to show her that you are trying to
pull evenly, and that you wanted to do something extra charming for
her _in her line_, and to prove that you have a conscience about
keeping this precious, evanescent, but carelessly treated love at a
point where it is still a joy. It is a sad thing to get so used to a
beautiful exception like love that you never think of it as
A man never seems to be able to understand that, in order to obtain
the supremest pleasure from an act of thoughtfulness to his wife, he
must be wholly unselfish and give it to her, in her line, and the way
she wants it--and the way he knows she wants it, if he would only stop
to think. I know a man who hates to go out in the evening, but who
occasionally, in order to do something particularly sweet and
unselfish to please his wife, takes her to the theatre. She loves fine
plays, tragedy, high-grade comedy. But he takes her to the minstrels,
because that is the only thing he can stand, and for two weeks
afterwards he keeps saying to her, "Didn't I take you to the theatre
the other night, honey? Don't I sometimes sacrifice myself for your
pleasure?" And she goes and kisses him and says yes, and tries not to
think that his selfishness more than outweighs his unselfishness.
Women have more conscience about deceiving themselves into staying in
love than men have.
But even yet, suppose you are not that kind of a man, we have not got
to the point of the subject yet. Our way lies through the head to the
heart. And the man who is scrupulously careful about acts has yet to.
watch at once the greatest joy, the greatest grief, the supremest
healing of even deliberate wounds--words. It is a question with me
whether a woman ever knows all the joys of love-making who has one of
those dumb, silent husbands, who doubtless adores her, but is unable
to express it only in deeds. It requires an act of the will to
remember that his getting down-town at seven o'clock every morning is
all done for you, when he has not been able to tell you in words that
he loves you. It is hard to keep thinking that he looked at you last
night as if he thought you were pretty, when he did not say so. It is
hard to receive a telegram, when you are looking for a letter, saying,
"Have not had time to write. Shall be home Sunday. Will bring you
something nice." It is harder still to get a letter telling about the
weather 'and how busy he is, when the same amount of space, saying
that he got to thinking about you yesterday when he saw a girl on the
street who looked like you, only she didn't carry herself so well as
you do, and that he was a lucky man to have got you when so many other
men wanted you, and he loved you, good-bye--would have fairly made
your heart turn over with joy and made you kiss the hurried lines and
thrust the letter in your belt, where you could crackle it now and
then just to make sure it was there.
Nearly all nice men make good lovers in deeds. Many fail in the
handling of words. Few, indeed, combine the two and make perfect
But the last test of all, and, to my mind, the greatest, is in the use
of words as a balm. Few people, be they men or women, be they lovers,
married, or only friends, can help occasionally hurting each other's
feelings. Accidents are continually happening even when people are
good-tempered. And for quick or evil-tempered ones there is but one
remedy--the handsome, honest apology. The most perfect lover is the
one who best understands how and when to apologize.
I have heard men say, to prove their independence, their proud spirit,
their unbending self-respect, "I never apologize." They say it in such
conscious pride, and so honestly expect me to admire them, and I am so
amiable, that I never dare remonstrate. I simply keep out of their
way. But I feel like saying: "Poor, pitiful soul! Poor, meagre nature!
Not to know the gladness of restoring a smile to a face from which you
have driven it. Only to know the coldness of a misnamed pride; never
to know the close, warm joy of humility."
Many people know nothing about a real apology. A lukewarm apology is
more insulting than the insult. A handsome apology is the handsomest
thing in the world--and the manliest and the womanliest. An apology,
like chivalry, is sexless. Perhaps because it is a natural virtue of
women, it sits manlier upon men than upon women.
... "It becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown."
Even as chivalry, being a natural attribute of men, becomes beautiful
beyond words to express when found in women.
I have often heard men say they never apologize. Sometimes I have
heard women. Pitiful, indeed, it becomes then. A woman without
religion is no more repulsive to me than one who "never apologizes."
How I pity the people who love those men and women who "never
apologize." A delicate apology brings into play all the virtues
necessary to a perfect humanity. The proudest are generally those who
can bend the lowest. It is not pride; it is a stupid vanity and an
abnormal self-love which prevent a man or woman from apologizing. An
apology requires a native humility of which only great souls are
capable. It requires generosity to be willing to humble yourself. It
takes faith in humanity to think that your apology will be accepted.
You must have a sense of justice to believe that you owe it. It
requires sincerity to make it sound honest, and tact to do it at the
right time. It requires patience to stick to it until the wound has
ceased to bleed, and the best, highest, truest type of love to make
you want to do it.
There is only one thing meaner than a person who never apologizes, and
that is a person who will not accept one.
It requires a finer type of generosity to receive generously than to
give generously. And a nature is more divine which can forgive
honestly and quickly than one which can only apologize and is not
capable of a swift forgiveness. But it is a wise dispensation of
Providence that the two are twin virtues, and are generally to be met
with in the same broad and beautiful nature.
Used against a high soul, there is no surer method of humiliation than
an apology. In one skilled at reading human nature, an apology becomes
a weapon. When you are not the one who should apologize first, when
you are less to blame than he, be you the one to apologize first, and
see how quickly his noble nature will abase itself, and rush to meet
you, and how sure and glorious and complete the reconciliation will
I never can blame people who refuse to accept an apology in the shape
of flowers when the wound has been given in words. The whole of Europe
would not compensate some women for a hurt, when the hurt had been
distinctly worded and the apology came in the shape of a dumb,
From the standpoint of observation and inexperience, I would say that
the supremest lack of men as lovers is the inability to say, "I am
sorry, dear; forgive me." And to keep on saying it until the hurt is
entirely gone. You gave her the deep wound. Be manly enough to stay by
it until it has healed. Men will go to any trouble, any expense, any
personal inconvenience, to heal it without the simple use of those
simple words. A man thinks if a woman begins to smile at him again
after a hurt, for which he has not yet apologized, has commenced to
grow dull, that the worst is over, and that, if he keeps away from the
dangerous subject, he has done his duty. Besides, hasn't he given her
a piano to pay for it? But that same man would call another man a
brute who insisted upon healing up a finger with the splinter still in
it, so that an accidental pressure would always cause pain.
If you do not believe this, what do you suppose the result would be if
you should apologize to your wife for something you said last year. If
you think she has forgotten, because she never speaks of it, just try
I honestly believe that the simple phrase, "I am sorry, dear; forgive
me," has done more to hold brothers in the home, to endear sisters to
each other, to comfort mothers and fathers, to tie friends together,
to placate lovers; that more marriages have taken place because of
them, and more have held together on account of them; that more love
of all kinds has been engendered by them than by any other words in
the English language.
GIRLS AND OTHER GIRLS
"Thou art so very sweet and fair,
With such a heaven in thine eyes,
It almost seems an over-care
To ask thee to be good or wise.
"As if a little bird were blamed
Because its song unthinking flows;
As if a rose should be ashamed
Of being nothing but a rose."
* * * * *
* * * * *
"It is so hard for Shrewdness to admit
Folly means no harm when she calls black white."
People who criticise the grammar of those young girls who say "I don't
think," should have a care. For it is more true than incorrect. Most
girls don't think.
But there are two kinds of girls--girls under twenty-five and others.
Of course, although you may not know it, age has no more to do with
that statement than it had to do with the one when I hinted that man
reached the ripe state of perfection at the mystic age of thirty-five.
These are but approximate figures, and are only for use in general
practice. They have no bearing on specific cases, when it is always
best to call in a specialist.
I know many girls who are still seeing and hearing unintelligently,
and have not begun to assimilate knowledge, even at twenty-five. I
know others of twenty, who have assimilated so well that they will
never be under twenty-five. But it is a literal fact, and this
statement I am willing to live up to, that the majority of girls must
have lived through their first youth before a thinking person can take
any comfort with them.
I am sure Samuel Johnson had this in mind when he said: "'Tis a
terrible thing that we cannot wish young ladies well without wishing
them to become old women." Or possibly the exclamation was wrung from
him after an attempt to talk to one of them. Many brave men, who would
stop a runaway horse, or who would dare to look for burglars under the
bed, quail utterly before the prospect of talking to a young girl who
frankly says, "I don't think."
How can those girls, who give evidence of no more thought than is
evinced by their namby-pamby chatter, call their existence living?
They mistake pertness for wit; audacity for cleverness; disrespect to
old age for independence; and general bad manners for individuality.
Has nobody ever trained these girls to think? What kind of schools do
they attend? Who has spoiled them by flattery, until they are little
peacocks to whom a mirror is an irresistible temptation?
Why do unthinking parents supply them with money, and never ask how
they spend it? How does it come that if you want to find great numbers
of them together you go to Huyler's instead of to Brentano's? What
kind of women will these girls make, to whom a wrinkle in their waist
is of more moment than their soul's salvation?
I often wonder what kind of mothers these girls have. Surely there can
be no family conversation where they live. Surely they never hear the
great questions of the day discussed at the dinner-table. From the
number of hours they spend upon the street, I often am tempted to say,
what the poor, tired woman, who stood for miles in the street-car,
said to her fellow-passengers, "Have none of yez _homes_?"
Poor, empty-pated little creatures! Poor lovely little clothes-racks,
who occasionally organize a concert for newsboys whose lives are
busier and more useful than their own! A Street Waifs' Benefit for
If the crude young person who stands with such eager feet where the
brook and river meet that she has wetted her pretty shoon in her haste
to be in the society of men could only have the wit to sing:
"O wad some power the giftie gie us,
To see oursels as others see us,"
she might discover strange points of resemblance between herself and a
very young baby.
In the earliest days of earthly existence a baby is in a jelly-fish
state, from which no one can say what he will emerge. His brain is a
sponge. He receives everything and gives nothing. He is pretty to look
at, and seems made for nothing but love. He coos and gurgles, he
seldom does anything more intelligent than to smile, and he prefers
men to women.
The greatest fault that thinking men find with this sort of girl is,
that she becomes sillier every day that she lives. I have heard women
complain of the degeneracy of the boys who seek their daughters in
marriage; but when I look at the many girls of this type I am tempted
to say, "Well, madam, who but a degenerate would care to marry your
Men claim that it is difficult to maintain their ideals in regard to
women, in the face of such selfishness, crudeness, bad manners, and
jealousies as exist between young girls of this sort. Of course, they
who have become belles by reason of their lovely faces never know that
the thinking class of young men criticise them adversely, and they
would not care if they did. There are still many men who do admire and
who will fall in love with them, and the others are not missed.
We must not blame them too severely for rejoicing in their loveliness.
It might be a hard struggle for the rest of us not to do the same if
we had their beauty.
Men often wonder why girls' friendships are so hollow. They wonder why
we are so ungenerous to each other. "So hateful," _we_ call it.
Hateful is not a man's word. It is a woman's; and trust a woman to
know exactly what it means.
Well, the truth of it is that men are at the bottom of a great deal of
it. Girls seldom quarrel with each other except over some man, and,
while they intend to be loyal to each other, they cannot seem to
manage it if there is a man in the case.
Most girls have two natures. One she shows to men; the other to other
girls. What we know of one is the way she droops and is so openly
bored by other girls that it is quite a blow to our vanity to be
obliged to be with her. We recognize the other at the approach of a
man, even if we cannot see him, by the changes in the girl's face. She
straightens herself, puts a hand on each side of her waist, and pushes
her belt down lower, moistens her lips, a sparkle comes into her eyes,
she touches her back hair, and runs a finger under the edge of her
veil. Then she smiles--such a smile as the other girls have not been
able to win from her in three hours.
These girls are very clever sometimes--even these little, soft,
kitteny girls, who do not know anything about books, who never read,
who never study, and are popularly called empty-headed even by the
very men who make love to them. These girls are keen beyond words to
express in their intuitive knowledge of human nature and the
differentiation between man nature and woman nature. They are capable
of using the outward and apparent motives of humanity for an effect,
and secretly of plying the subtlest and most occult.
It is difficult to designate their exact methods, and dangerous to
exploit them, for you immediately lay yourself open to the suspicion
of being capable of the same double-dealing yourself, or of its being
beneath your dignity to accuse any one of such duplicity; and yet
there are the causes and there are the results. You can shut your eyes
to them if you wish.
It is just here where a girl of this kind is so uncanny. Of course,
for those of us who wish to take a lofty view of love and lovers, who
wish to think each woman sought out by a man for her beauty and
virtues and married for love, it is very repugnant to have to face the
fact that there are hundreds of sweet, nice girls, of good family and
good training, who regard the securing for themselves of another
girl's lover a perfectly legitimate operation.
Not infrequently one hears it said that So-and-So is one of the most
attractive girls in town, because she can cut any girl out that she
tries to. You may say that a man so easily won is no great loss, or
that such things may occur in other circles of society but not in
yours. Possibly they do not. One does not deny the honor of honorable
men and women in any walk in life. But in polite society, fashionable
society, these things occur. Oftener in New York than in Boston, and
oftener in London and Paris than in New York. Indeed, we may sneer, as
we often do, at the primitive customs of the lowly, and at their
absurd phrase of "keeping company." It makes a delightful jest. But
beneath it is a greater regard for the rights of a man or woman in
love than one is apt to find higher in the social scale.
With them, to select one another "to keep company," is like an offer
of marriage. To "keep steady company" is the formal announcement of an
engagement, which is a potential marriage. It is the first step
towards matrimony, and is almost as sacred and final.
With their more fortunate and envied sisters in the smart set, an
engagement is the loosest kind of a bond, and neither man nor woman is
safe from the wooing of other men and women until the marriage vows
have been pronounced, and, if your society is very fashionable, not
So that this society of which I speak would undeniably be called
Now, of course, all women desire to be loved. She is a very queer
woman who would deny that proposition if asked by the right person,
and I hope he would have sense enough not to believe her if she did. I
do not object to a girl making herself attractive to men in a modest
and maidenly way. On the contrary, I heartily approve of it. But I
would have her select a man who belonged to no other girl, and to know
that nothing but misery can result from the taking of a lover away
from her friend.
It is the fashion for women to deny that this is done. I never could
see why. But possibly they deny it because they are afraid, if they
discuss it, that people will think some girl has lured a lover or two
away from _them_.
People who have witnessed the outward results of this phenomenon also
deny the true cause, on the ground that the robber girl was not clever
enough to have done it. That she simply was more to the man's taste
than the first girl, and so it was all the fault of the man.
Of course, I cannot deny the fickleness of man. But I do say that the
girl hardly lives, no matter how pretty she is, who has not the wit to
get another girl's lover if she wants him. It makes no difference how
young she is, she never makes the mistake of disparaging the first
girl. No woman of the world is less liable to such an error than a
girl who deliberately intends to get another girl's lover.
She begins by gaining her confidence. Very likely she manages to stay
all night with her. (That is the time when you tell everything you
know, just because it is dark, and then spend the rest of your life
wishing you hadn't.)
Then, when she has the points of the compass, so to speak, she says
she will help her dear friend, and the dear friend, not being clever
(or she wouldn't have confided), thinks she is the loveliest girl in
the world, and, after promising to send her lover to call in order to
be "helped," she calmly goes to sleep, just as if she has not seen the
beginning of the end.
The other girl has observed--and she is, of course, pretty and
attractive. Girls who do not know anything and who never study are
always pretty. It is only the plain girl who is obliged to be clever.
The first time she sees the lover of her dear friend she begins to
laud her to the sky. She herself is looking so pretty, and she shows
off in the most favorable light, while all the time singing her dear
friend's praise with such fatal persistency that she fairly makes him
sick of the sound of her name and of her namby-pamby virtues. Now the
man would hardly be human if he did not tell this artless little
creature that he had had enough of her dear friend, and that he would
much prefer to talk about herself. Pouts of hurt surprise. She
"thought you were such a friend of hers!" She "only wanted to
entertain you by the only subject" she "thought would interest you."
Presto! The entering wedge! She knows it, but the man does not. He has
no idea of being disloyal to his sweetheart, but he is a lost man
nevertheless--lost to the first girl and won by the second. Won in a
perfectly harmless and legitimate way too. Won while doing her duty,
keeping her promise, helping her friend. Her conscience acquits her.
She has only observed and made use of her cleverness to know that too
smooth and easy a course to true love generally gives him to the other
But in reality she has stolen him--she has committed a real theft.
And, personally, I should prefer to know her had she stolen money. You
can jail a man who steals your watch, but the girl who steals a man's
heart away from his sweetheart walks free, and uncondemned even--to
their shame be it spoken--by those who know what she has done.
Nobody dares condemn her--even the friends of the robbed girl, for
that presupposes some lack in her charm, and gives publicity to her
loss. The wronged girl, because of her pride and conventionality and
civilization, makes no outcry. A barbarian in her place would have
fallen on the robber girl in a fury and scratched her eyes out.
Sometimes I am sorry that our barbaric days are over.
Some of the greatest tragedies in life have come from this disloyalty
among girls in their relations with each other.
I have no patience with those people who fall in love with forbidden
property and give as their excuse, "I couldn't help it." Such culpable
weakness is more dangerous to society than real wickedness.
Love is not a matter of infatuation. It is not the temptation which is
wrong. It is the deliberate following it up, simply because the
temptation is agreeable. Of course, it is agreeable! You are not often
irresistibly tempted to go and have your teeth filled!
Men never will have done with their strictures on girls until girls
achieve two things. One is to observe more honor in their relations
with each other, and the other is to learn to think.
ON THE SUBJECT OF HUSBANDS
"All that I am, my mother made me"
Perhaps you think that girls do not know enough about other girls'
husbands to discuss them with any profit. But if there has been a
dinner or theatre party within our memory where the married girls did
not take the bachelors and leave their husbands for us, we would just
like to know when it was, that's all.
I dare say it never occurred to these wives what an opportunity this
custom gives us to study social problems at close range. We girls are
supposed to be blind and deaf and dumb; but we are none of the three.
We try to see all there is to see, and hear all there is to hear, and
then, when we get together, we wouldn't be human if we didn't talk it
over and tell each other how infinitely better _we_ could manage
Jessie's husband than she does, and that it seems a pity that Carrie
doesn't understand George.
I suppose it would be rather handsome of us always to pretend that we
did not hear the covert rebuke or the open sarcasm bandied about
between these husbands and wives. On the whole, I think it _would_ be
chivalrous for us to be utterly oblivious, and talk about the weather,
if anybody asked us if we knew that Mary never could spend a cent
without having John ask her what she did with it.
That is the way men do when they do not wish to tell on each other. I
think men are fine in that way. We girls all think so, only we seldom
have the moral courage to emulate their admirable example. We are so
fond of "talking things over." And if the married women do not wish us
to talk their husbands over, just let them give us our own rightful
property, the bachelors, and we will never utter another cheep.
However, I would not give up my small experience with other girls'
husbands for a great deal. It has convinced me of something of which I
always have been reasonably sure, and that is that American men make
the best husbands in the world, and that women who cannot get along
with Americans, and who think men of another race, who have more
polish, more finesse, more veneer, would suit them better, could not
manage to live happily with the Angel Gabriel.
Dear me! If these dissatisfied American wives could only realize that
an all-wise Providence had, in the American man, given us the best
article in the market, and that when we rebel at our lot we are simply
proving that we do not deserve our good fortune, they would never even
discuss the subject of having men of any other nationality.
Of course, in every nation there is a class of men who are as noble,
as high-minded, as chivalrous as even the most captious American girl
could wish. But I refer to the general run of men when I say that
there is something about men born outside of America, a native
selfishness or callousness, a lack of perception and appreciation of
the fineness of womanhood, amounting to a sort of mental brutality,
which wellnigh unfits them for close social contact with the
super-sensitive American woman. And just as surely as American women
persist in disregarding this subtle yet unmistakable truth, just so
surely will they lay themselves open to these soul-bruises from
foreign husbands which American men, as a race, are incapable of
inflicting. I say they are incapable of inflicting them, because
American men, in the face of everything said and written to the
contrary, are, in regard to women, the finest-grained race of men in
Now in this generalizing, I beg that you will not accuse me of
asserting that these strictures are true of every man who is not an
American, or that all American men are perfect. But I do wish to state
clearly and frankly my admiration for American men as a race. When an
American man _is_ a gentleman, he is to my mind the most perfect
gentleman that any race can produce, because _his_ good manners spring
from his heart, and there are a few of us old-fashioned enough to
plead that politeness should go deeper than the skin.
Now if the assertion is made that the American man makes the best
husband in the world, let him not think that there is no room for
improvement, for with him it is much the same as it is with the wild
strawberry. At first blush one would say that there could be no more
delicious flavor than that of the wild strawberry. Yet everybody knows
what the skilled gardeners have made of it in the form of the
cultivated fruit. Nevertheless, the crude article, found growing wild
upon its native heath, is much to be preferred to the candied ginger
of other nations.
After admitting that the wild strawberry is capable of cultivation,
and even attaining, under skilful care, the highest type of
perfection, let no one make the mistake of thinking that the time for
such improvement is after they have been grown and placed upon the
market. If they are found to be knotty, half green, or in a state of
decadence, and you are bound to buy strawberries, you can take them,
and, by your native woman's wit, you can dress them into a state of
palatableness, even if you have to reduce them to a pulp in the sacred
mysteries of a short-cake.
But in order to take all the comfort which strawberries are capable of
giving to mankind, they should be perfect in themselves when they come
from the hand of the gardener--just as it was his mother's duty to
have trained that husband of yours before he came under your
It really is asking too much of a woman to expect her to bring up a
husband and her children too. She vainly imagines, when she marries
this piece of perfection, with whom she is so blindly in love, that he
is already trained, or, rather, that he is the one human being in the
world who has been perfect from infancy, and who never needed
training. She never dreams of the curious fact that mothers always
train their daughters to make good wives, yet rarely ever think of
training their boys to make good husbands.
Therefore, unless, like Topsy, they have "just growed" good and kind
and considerate, a woman has a life-work before her in training her
But the fact of the matter is that while we girls receive specific
training, to the express end of making good wives, the boys of the
family receive only general training of chivalry and courtesy towards
all women--not with a view of having to spend the greater part of
their lives with one woman, or the tact with which this one woman must
I wonder what would happen if somebody should open a Select
Kindergarten for Embryo Husbands? Yet we girls have been in a similar
institution for embryo wives since childhood. We are told in our early
teens: "Well, only your mother would bear that. No husband would;" or,
"You will have to be more gentle and unselfish with your brother, if
you want to make some man a good wife."
A good wife! It has a magic sound!
Back to Full Books