From a Girl's Point of View
Part 2 out of 2
Of course, every girl expects to marry, and the shadowy idea of making
a _good_ wife to this mysterious but delightfully interesting
personage, who is growing up somewhere in the world, and waiting for
her, even as she is waiting for him, makes the hard task of
self-discipline easier, for we all wish to make "a _good_ wife."
Nor are we taught alone to be gentle and sweet and faithful. We girls
have to learn that all-potent factor in a happy life--tact. We are
early taught that it is not enough to master the fundamental
principles which govern the genus man. We have to discover that each
man must be treated differently. We must cater to individual tastes.
We must learn individual needs, and fill them. In short, we are taught
to observe men, to study them, and then to hold ourselves accordingly.
Pray do not imagine that all this is put into words, or that we have
certain hours for studying how to make good wives, or that it is as
rigid or exhausting as a broom drill. It is the intangible, esoteric
philosophy which permeates the households of thousands of American
families, where the mothers are the companions and confidantes of the
daughters. It is an understood thing. You would be surprised to know
how young some girls are when they have thoroughly mastered this
wonderful tact with men. And what is it that makes the American girl
so dangerous for all the other women in the world to compete with? It
is because she studies her man. And how did she learn it? By seeing
her mother manage her father--or, perhaps, by seeing how easily her
father could be managed, if her mother only understood him better.
There is a good deal of progressive thought among girls in this
Why in the world mothers train their girls and boys alike up to a
certain point in general courtesy and consideration for each other,
and then go on with the girls, teaching them the gentle, faithful
finesse which every wife has to understand, yet leaves her boy to
"gang his ain gait" just at the formative period of his life, I am not
able to say.
If I could only hear some mother say to her son, "Don't let your
slate-pencil squeak so! Try not to make distracting noises. You may
have a nervous wife, and you might just as well learn to be quiet.
There is no sense in thinking just because you are a boy that you can
make unnecessary and superfluous noises!" I think I should die of joy!
Or how would it sound to hear her say, "Whenever you come in and find
your sister irritable, don't simply take yourself out of her way. Look
around and do something kind for her. Make a point of knowing what she
likes and of doing it. Life is so much more monotonous for women than
for men, you should be especially generous with your sister, so that
some day you will make some sweet girl a good husband."
Can't you just _see_ what kind of a husband that boy would make?
Romance comes later to a boy than to a girl, but it hits him just as
hard when it does come, and a boy is quite as responsive as a girl to
the suggestion of a personal chivalry which shall prepare him to be a
better husband to a shadowy personality which he cannot do better than
to keep in his mind and heart.
Why does a woman, who finds it difficult, perhaps even impossible, to
persuade her husband to do certain essential things, never take pity
on the poor little girl across the street, who, in ten or fifteen
years, is going to marry her son?
Take, at random, the subject of a wife's having an allowance.
Thousands of wives have it, and therefore they are not the ones we are
to consider. But where there are thousands who possess an allowance
from their husbands, or who have money in their own right, there are
millions who never have a cent they are not obliged to ask their
There is no question of gift about it. At the altar he endowed her
with all his worldly goods, and he thinks he has lived up to the
letter of his vow when he tells her that all he has is as much hers as
his. But unless that oft-quoted saying is followed up by a certain
sum, no matter how small, which is in truth her very own, she feels
that that clause in the marriage service might as well be stricken
When wives as universally share in adding to the general prosperity of
the home--by managing the house, keeping their husband's clothes in
order, and caring for the children--as men always admit is the case,
wives are actually adding dollars to their husband's income. Then
ought not a man to divide that same income with her in the form of an
allowance, for which, if only to add to her self-respect, he has no
more right to call her to account than she has to insist on seeing a
list of his expenditures?
I have nothing to say about extravagant or untrustworthy wives, who do
not come into the subject at all. I am only referring to the
magnificent multitude of good, careful, thrifty, typical American
wives, whose sole aim in life is to make a happy home for husband and
children. Nor am I denying that these women have all their wishes
granted, and are allowed to spend their husbands' money with
reasonable freedom, provided they account for it afterwards. I am only
asserting that every married woman, from the farmer's wife to that of
the bank president, should have some money regularly which is sacredly
Perhaps men think I am exaggerating the evil. Perhaps they do not know
that the only advice married women give to engaged girls which _never_
varies is: "Be sure you ask for an allowance from the first, because,
if you don't, you may never get it."
I suppose that the majority of men do not know that their wives hate
to ask them for money. Of course it does not seem so terrible to those
of us whose fathers occasionally want to keep back enough money to buy
coal when our daughterly demands get refused. But it never occurs to
us that a girl's lover-husband, this courteous stranger whom she has
loved and married, would ever forget his theatre and American-Beauty
days sufficiently to say: "What did you do with that dollar I gave you
Now, frankly speaking, it never occurs to unmarried girls that the
honeymoon can ever wear off. We look upon husbands as only married
sweethearts. We sort of halfway believe them--at least we used to,
before we observed other girls' husbands--when they tell us that they
long for the time when they can pay our bills and buy clothes for us.
We never thought, until we were told, that any little generous
arrangement, which we expected to last, must be fixed during the first
few weeks of marriage. I dare say most of us had planned to say, in
answer to the money question, "Just as you like, dear. I'd rather have
you manage such matters for me. You know so much more about them than
I do." It is a horrible shock, from a sentimental point of view, to be
told to say, "I'll take an allowance, please," and then, if two
amounts are mentioned, to grab for the biggest. Oh, it is a shame! It
is a shame to be told that we shall be sorry if we don't, and to know
that we shall have no opportunity to show how unselfish and trusting
It is all your fault, you men, that you do not think of these things
more. You might stop a moment to consider that it _is_ rather a
delicate matter for a woman to ask money of a man. If your wife is
like most wives, she is doing as much to help you make your money as
you are. She is keeping you well and happy and your home beautiful.
You could not keep your mind on business an hour if she did not.
Therefore she deserves every dollar which, after discussing your
future life together, you feel that you can afford to give her. She
ought to be made to feel that she has earned it, and that she may
spend it freely and happily, or invest it, just as she chooses. Do you
think that you would not get the whole of it back if you were ill and
needed it? It is an ungracious thing to call her to account for every
dollar. How do you know but that she wants to save a little out of the
market-money to buy you a nicer birthday present than usual?
American men are the most lavish husbands in the world. It is only
that they do not think what a joy it is to a woman to have even the
smallest amount of money of her very own, concerning which no one on
earth has a right to question her.
And yet, what is the use of trying to train a husband into a habit of
thought like this, when he has been used to hearing his mother _argue_
his father into giving her money, and yet to know that she and all the
world considered him generous, and that, in truth, he was?
A woman who suffers heartache because her husband never apologizes to
her, or who endures mortification unspeakable because she has not a
penny of her own, has no right to rebel, even in her own heart, unless
she is training her son to make the sort of husband for some little
girl, now in pinafores, which she would have wished for herself.
A FEW MEN WHO BORE US
THE SELF-MADE MAN
Somebody has cleverly defined a bore as "a man who talks so much about
himself that I never can get a chance to talk about myself." But that
is too narrow. I am broad-minded. I want somebody to find a definition
large enough (if possible) to include all the bores. I do not know,
however, but that I am asking too much.
Neither is this definition entirely true. For I have heard men talk
about themselves for hours at a time, and they talked so well and kept
their Ego so carefully hidden that I was enchanted, and never
mentioned myself, even when they paused for breath. Then, too, I have
been bored to the verge of suicide by some worthy soul who insisted
upon talking to me of (presumably) my pet subject--myself--and who was
doing his poor little best to say nice things and to be entertaining.
A bore is a man or a woman who never knows How or When. There are
times in the lives of all of us when it bores us to be talked to of
home or friends or wife or husband or mother or religion. There are
times when nothing but a large, comfortable silence can soothe the
worry and fret of a trying day. At such times let the tactless woman
and the thoughtless man beware, because everything they say will be a
It is not wilful cruelty which makes us say that (to a woman) the word
"bore" is in the masculine gender and objective case, object of our
deepest detestation. Men are oftener bores than women, for two
reasons: One is that they seldom stop to think that they could be a
bore to anybody; and the second is that we women never let them see
that we are being bored, for it is our aim in life to look pleasant
and to keep the men's vanity done up in pink cotton, no matter if we
are secretly almost dropping from our chairs with weariness--the
utter, unspeakable weariness of the soul, compared to which weariness
of the body is a luxury.
Women are too tender-hearted. A woman cannot bear to hurt a man's
feelings by letting him know that he is killing her by his stupidity.
And even if she did, in the noble spirit of altruism, rather than
selfishness, the next woman, with one reproachful glance at her, would
pick up the mutilated remains of the man's vanity and apply the
splints of her respectful attention and the balm of her admiration,
partly to add a new scalp to her belt, and partly to show off the
unamiability of her sister woman.
So it is of no use to kick against the pricks. Bores are in this world
for a purpose--to chasten the proud spirit of women, who otherwise
might become too indolent and ease-loving to be of any use--and they
are here to stay. We have no conscience concerning women bores. We
escape from them ruthlessly. And, perhaps, because women are quicker
to take a hint is the reason there are fewer of them. It is only the
men who are left helpless in their ignorance, because no woman has the
courage to tell them.
Our only defence is in telling the men in bulk what we have not the
courage nor the wish to tell the individual, and letting them sit down
and think hard, applying the relentless microscope of self-analysis to
their carefully tended Ego, to see if, haply, any of these things we
say apply to themselves.
Of course, this is hard on men, because very likely some of those who
have been led by women to believe that they are entertaining, even to
the verge of fascination, are the very ones who are the greatest
bores. But we women do our best. We are hampered by our supposed
amiability, and bound up by a thousand invisible cords of tact and
policy to a line of action which dupes the cleverest of men. And we
are shrewd enough to know that if we should become what they now, in
the smart of their wounded vanity, would call honest, they would
simply turn their broadcloth backs upon our uncalled-for frankness and
seek the honeyed society of some sweet woman who flattered them
exactly as we used to flatter them before we became so "honest."
Ah, well-a-day! Enter the self-made man. And with him the commercial
spirit of the age. Enter the clink of coin and the unctuous corpulence
of a roll of bills. Enter the essence of self-satisfaction, the
glorious spectacle of a man who spells "myself" with a capital M.
Have you never noticed the change in conversation with the entrance of
a new person? How, when a lovely girl enters, the men all straighten
their ties and the women moisten their lips? How, when the new person
is a self-made man, with his newness so apparent that he seems to
exhale the odor of varnish and gilt--how all repose vanishes, and
whatever of crudity there is anywhere suddenly makes itself known, and
rushes forth to meet the wave of self-boasting which sweeps all before
it when the self-made man speaks?
And yet I approve of the self-made man in the abstract. It is the true
spirit of Americanism which caused him to raise himself from the ranks
of the poor and obscure, and educate himself, or, more likely still,
grow rich without education. But is it necessary for him to have the
bad taste to boast of it, and never let you forget for one moment that
he is the product of man's hand and that the Creator only acted in the
capacity of sponsor?
I admire the pluck, the perseverance, the indomitable energy, the
ambition which produced the man of prominence from the raw boy; but,
kind Heaven, let us forget for one brief moment, if we can, that he
did this thing.
It is not the fact that he is a self-made man that bores us--we honor
him for that. But it is his vain boasting--the tactless forcing of his
unwelcome personality into general conversation, his weak vanity,
which demands our admiration for the toil and hardships he has
undergone, which, if they had served the purpose they should have
done, would have made him too strong a man, and too much of a man, to
force either pity or admiration from people when it was not freely
The favorite gibe of the self-made man is directed against the college
graduate. Let there be a young fellow present who is fresh from
college, and let him mention any subject connected with college life,
from honors to athletics, and then, if you are hostess, sit still and
let the icy waves of misery creep over your sensitive soul, for this
is the opportunity of his life to the self-made man. Hear him tear
colleges limb from limb, and cite all the failures of which he ever
has known to be those of college men. Hear him tell of the futile
efforts of college boys to get into business. Hear him drag in all the
evidences of shattered constitutions, ruined by study, and then hold
your breath; for all this is but preliminary to the telling of the
story of a colossal success--the history of the self-made man. You
might as well lean back and let him have his say, for he has only been
waiting all this time for an opening in the conversation to insert the
wedge of his Ego.
It seems to be the prerogative of some self-made men not only to boast
of themselves, their wives, their sons, their daughters, their houses,
their horses--everything!--but to decry all methods of achievement not
their own, and all successes not won by their methods. These are the
self-made men who bring into disrepute all the grandeur and glorious
achievement of their kind. Why must they spoil it? I implore them to
assume a virtue if they have it not. I beg them, with all their
getting, to get understanding. And if they will not open their eyes
and see the anguish they are causing, if they cannot detect the fixed
smile of polite endurance on the tired faces of their patient women
friends, there will come a day, and we can already see its faint
glimmering in the East, when we shall not care whether they are
self-made, and we could even live through it if they were not made at
The dyspeptic generally wants to tell you all about it. That is a bore
to begin with; for nobody in the world wants to hear anybody in the
world tell all about anything in the world. Oh, those wearisome,
breathless people, who insist upon giving you the tiresome details of
insipid trivialities! There is no escape from them; they are
everywhere. They are to be found on farms, in mining-camps, in women's
clubs, in churches, jails, and lunatic asylums, and the nearest
approach to a release from them is to be fashionable, for in society
nobody ever is allowed to finish a sentence.
This sort of a bore can only be explained on the microbe theory. None
other can account for its universality. You can carry contagion of it
in your clothes and inoculate a person of weak mental constitution,
who is of a build to take anything, until, in a fortnight, he or she
will be a hopeless slave to the tell-all-about-everything habit. There
is nothing like the pleasing swiftness of some of our modern diseases
about it--such as heart failure, which nips you off painlessly. It is
rather like the old-fashioned New England consumption, which gives you
a hectic flush and an irritating hack, but which you can thrive on for
fifty years and then die of something else.
I never heard of a yacht which did not carry at least one of this
particular breed of bores upon every trip. I never heard of a
private-car party which was free from it. Or, if you do not carry them
with you, you meet them on the way, and they ruin the sunset for the
Something ought to be done about it. There ought to be a poll-tax on
bores. Mothers ought to train their children to avoid lying and boring
people with equal earnestness. Infirmaries should be established for
the purpose of making the stupid interesting, or classes organized on
"How to be Brief," or on "The Art of Relating Salient Points," or on
"The Best Method of Skipping the Unessentials in Conversation."
_I_ would go, for one.
I quite envy a man who is an acknowledged bore. He is so free from
responsibility. _He_ does not care that the conversation dies every
time he shows his face. He is used to it. It is nothing to him that
clever men and women ache audibly in his presence. _He_ has no
reputation to lose. The hostess is not a friend of his, for whom he
feels that he must exert himself. A bore _has_ no friends. He is a
It implies, first of all, a superb conceit to think anybody wishes one
to tell all about anything, but conceit is a natural attribute--a twin
brother of its sister, vanity--and everybody has it to a greater or
less degree. Indeed, the cleverest man I know--quite the cleverest--is
one who always panders to this particular foible because he recognizes
its universality. He has a country-house, which is always full of
guests, with a great many girls among them. Every afternoon, when he
drives out from town, his first sentence is, "Now come, children, and
tell me all about everything. Who has been here, and what they said,
and what you thought, and everything that has happened, including all
that is going to happen. Don't skip a word."
See the base flattery of that! Is it any wonder that his house is
always full? What bores he would be responsible for making if we were
stupid enough to do as he asks! The chief reason people do not is that
ten people cannot tell all they know about everything, even if they
want to. He is only furnished with two ears.
The dyspeptic is one who makes the most valiant effort to try. His
dyspepsia is the most important issue of the world with him, and he
_will_ talk about it. He cannot keep still and let other people enjoy
their sound digestion and healthful sleep. He will not even let other
people eat in peace. When he refuses a dish at table he must needs
tell you why--just as if you cared!
"Have some coffee, Mr. Bore?"
"No, I thank you, Madame Sans-Gene. I like coffee, but it doesn't like
Irritating, maddeningly reiterated words--the trade-mark of the
dyspeptic bore! I feel like saying, "I agree with the coffee. _I_
don't like you either!"
A dyspeptic disagrees with me as religiously as if I had eaten him.
No wonder a man is ill who never thinks or talks of anything but the
seat of his ailment, for talk about it he will, and tell you that he
cannot eat hot breads or pastry or griddle-cakes or waffles. And if
any of those adorable things which your soul loves are on the table,
he will sit and watch you eat them, with his hand on his own pulse,
and will entertain you with cheerful statements of how he would be
feeling if _he_ were eating any of the deadly poisons, until it nearly
gives you indigestion to hear him describe it.
I dare say I know plenty of women dyspeptics, as long as dyspepsia is
said to be our national ailment, but if I do I never hear them talk
Of course every woman knows that a sick man is sicker than a thousand
sick women, each of whom is twice as sick as he is. We all know that
he can groan louder and roll his eyes higher and keep more people
flying about, and all this with just a plain pain, than his wife would
do with seven fatal ailments. Then to hear him tell about it, after he
has recovered, is to imagine that he is Lazarus over again, and that
the day of miracles has returned, that he ever lived to tell the tale.
All this refers to an acute attack. But when his trouble is chronic,
and it has to do, like dyspepsia, with a man's eating!--you cannot
escape. He _will_ tell you all about it.
In the first place, dyspepsia is such a refined and lady-like trouble.
It has no disgusting details. You can refer to it at all times without
fear of nauseating your hearers. In the second place, you can count on
nearly half of your hearers having it too, as dyspepsia is almost as
catching as Christian Science.
Carlyle was the most famous of dyspeptics. But magnificent as he was
in his growling, I fancy it is more bearable to read about it than it
was for that adorable wife of his to hear him talk about it. How well
we can imagine her feelings when she wrote, "The amount of bile that
he brings home is awfully grand."
But one forgives much of his dyspeptic talk, and even allows the
mantle of one's Christian charity to cover the sins of lesser
bile-cursed men to hear how he sums up the subject:
"With stupidity and sound digestion, man may front much. But what, in
these dull, unimaginative days, are the terrors of conscience to the
diseases of the liver? Not on morality, but on cookery, let us build
our stronghold. There, brandishing our frying-pan as censer, let us
offer sweet incense to the devil and live at ease on the fat things he
has provided for his elect."
I really do feel sorry for dyspeptics when I read a thing like that. I
am not heartless. It must be a sad thing not to be able to eat lobster
and ice-cream together, and to have to say "No" to broiled mushrooms,
and not to dare to eat Welsh-rarebits after the theatre, and to have
to lock up your chafing-dish. But I do say this: unless a man can talk
of his trouble as cleverly as Carlyle--and some of the choice
dyspeptics I know can almost do that--I want them not to talk at all.
If they suffer, let them do it in silence. If they die, let them die
entertainingly, or else, I say, don't die in public.
I never see a dyspeptic with his little pair of silver scales on the
table, weighing out two ounces of meat, or one ounce of bread, and
looking like a death's-head at a feast, and talking like a
grave-digger with Yorick's skull for a theme, that I do not think of
"Fantastic tricks enough man has played in his time; has fancied
himself to be most things, even down to an animated heap of glass; but
to fancy himself a dead iron balance for weighing pains and pleasures
on was reserved for this, his latter era."
THE TOO-ACCURATE MAN
Women often complain that men in society will not return measure for
measure in conversation, but stalk about dumb and unanswering, leaving
women gasping from the fatigue of entertaining them.
But I am on the side of the men. I always am. They are a misjudged and
maligned set. I approve of men keeping silence when they have nothing
to say. It shows that they recognize their limitations and refuse to
rush in where angels fear to tread.
Is not a wise silence sometimes to be preferred to the wisest speech?
Is there not often a finer eloquence in an answering silence than the
cleverest words could express?
A man who talks constantly has a thousand ways always at hand in which
to make a fool of himself. A silent man has but one, and even then
there are always those who insist upon thinking that he is silent
because of his wisdom, and not from lack of it, although Eliza Leslie
says, "We cannot help thinking that when a head is full of ideas some
of them must involuntarily ooze out."
But as a stimulus to conversation, an intelligently silent man is as
instantaneous in his effect as music or eating. Men have become famous
as conversationists who only sat and looked admiringly at vivacious
women. It is a rare accomplishment, that of wise silence. It is more
of a delicate compliment, more condensed and boiled-down flattery,
more scent of incense than the most fulsome speech. And if one's
victim is rather a voluble talker, with a reputation for wit, a man
need never rack his brains beforehand, wondering what to say, or how
he can keep up with her. Let him listen to her, with his metaphorical
mouth open in wrapt admiration, and she is his.
Silence is a weapon. It is a powerful corrective when used against a
silent person, who then sees himself as others see him. It is a
defence, used against the indiscreet, and in the hands of wise men it
is a suit of armor. Silence is never dangerous, unless, like a gun, in
the hands of a fool. How, then, can women complain of silent men,
unless they mean fools, and if they do, why not say so, and fortify
their drawing-rooms with music-boxes or magic lanterns?
But anything so negatively unhappy as silence is the least of one's
bores. One is seldom annoyed by the persistence of a silent man, for
silence often means shyness; therefore it is in our power to curtail
his usefulness. But, on the other hand, take a type of the talkative
man, the literal, too-accurate man, who insists upon finishing his
sentences, and who will stop to dot his i's and to cross his t's, and
whose dates are of more moment than his soul's salvation--can anything
be done for _him_?
"Avoid giving invitations to bores," says a clever woman, "they will
Alas, how true! The too-accurate man is ubiquitous. If you hear of
him, and refuse to meet him, it is only to find that he has married
your best friend, whom worlds could not bribe you to give up. If you
weed him out of your acquaintance, it is only to realize that he was
born into your relationship a generation ago, before you could prevent
it. Sometimes he is your father, sometimes your brother. Both of
these, however, can be lived down. But occasionally you discover that,
in a moment of frenzy, you have married him! Heaven help you then, for
"marriage stays with one like a murder!"
Imagine living all one's life with a man who relates thus the trivial
incident of having walked with a friend up Broadway last Thursday
afternoon, when he met two little boys about ten years old who asked
him to buy a paper:
"Last week--Thursday, I think it was, though perhaps it was Friday,
or, maybe, Saturday. Let me see: when did I leave my office early? It
must have been Thursday, because Friday I stayed later than usual.
Yes, it _was_ Thursday. It was about four o'clock, perhaps a little
later--a quarter after four, or maybe half-past, but I hardly think it
could have been as late as that. I think it was nearer four than
half-past. Anyway, I was walking up Broadway with a man by the name of
Bigelow. Bigelow? Bigelow? Was that his name? It commenced with B, and
had two syllables. Boswell? Blackwell? Blayney? What _was_ that
fellow's name? I never can tell a story unless I get the man's name
right. Bilton? Bashforth? Buckby? No, not Buckby, but that sounds like
it. Buckley? That's it. That was his name! I knew I'd get it. Well, I
was walking up Broadway with Buckley, and at about Thirty-fourth
Street--Wait a moment--_was_ it Thirty-fourth Street? It couldn't have
been that far up. About Thirty-second Street, I think. I don't quite
remember whether we had passed the Imperial or not. But it was within
a block of it, anyway, when we met two little boys about ten years
old--perhaps one was a little older; one looked about ten, and the
other about eleven, or perhaps even twelve, although I think ten would
come nearer to it--and they asked us in a tone between a whine and a
cry--the word whimper more nearly describes it--if we would buy either
a _Sun_ or a _World_--I've forgotten which."
Delectable as honesty is in a bank clerk, or would be in a lawyer, one
yearns for a little less accuracy in the moral makeup of the
too-accurate man; for a little of the celestial leaven of exaggeration
in the dusty dryness of his dead-level garrulousness. What difference
does it make whether the Revolutionary War took place before or after
the discovery of America, as long as you make your war anecdote
interesting? Who cares whether Napoleon or Wellington came out ahead
at Waterloo, as long as your listener is kept awake by your recital?
I related a sprightly incident only last night about a watch which
Francis the Second gave to Mary Stuart, only with my usual airy touch
I said Francis the Second gave it to Marie Antoinette! What difference
does it make? They were both Marys, and they are both dead.
A most unpleasant old party corrected me, and added: "Francis died
about two hundred years before Marie Antoinette was born."
"Then all the more of a compliment that he should have given her the
watch!" I said. And I fancy I had him there.
That is the sort of man who interrupts his wife's dinner-stories all
the way through with, "1812, my dear"; "Ouida, not Emerson"; "Herod,
not Homer"; until _I_ shouldn't be surprised to see her throw a plate
at his head. Oh, isn't it fine that one does not dare to do all the
things one feels like doing in society?
There is only one way to get even with the too-accurate man, and that
is, when he has finished his most exciting story, to say, "And then
what happened next?"
Accuracy is almost fatal to a flow of spirits. If one is obliged to
weigh one's words, one may live to be called a worthy old soul, but
one will not be in demand at dinner-parties.
The too-accurate man need not pride himself upon his honesty above his
fellow-men. Oftenest he is to be found paying lithe of mint, anise,
and cumin, and neglecting the weightier matters of the law--justice,
mercy, and truth. He strains at a gnat and swallows a camel. He is not
more trustworthy than the man whose conversation is embellished with
hyperbole, because he at least has the wit to discriminate, and the
too-accurate man is only stupid.
In essentials, the man who decorates his conversation with mild but
pleasing patterns of that style of statement made famous by one
Ananias, is to be depended upon quite as surely as the man who takes
all the sunshine from the day, and leads one's thoughts to dwell on
high, by spending ten minutes trying to recall whether he dropped that
stone on his foot before or after dinner. He, and not your own evil
nature, should be responsible for your instinctive wish that he had
happened to be toying with a bowlder instead of a small stone which
could only mutilate.
The painful accuracy which makes some men such deadly bores is a form
of monomania. It is the same sort of trouble which afflicts a
kleptomaniac. She will steal the veriest trash, just so she can be
stealing. He hoards the most useless trifles until his mind is nothing
but a garret filled with isolated bits of rubbish that nobody wants to
hear, unless one has an essay to write; and even then it is easier to
consult the encyclopaedia.
I never believe a statement made by a too-accurate man one bit more
quickly than one made by a genial, entertaining diner-out. If it were
on the subject of timetables, just between ourselves, I should take
the trouble to verify both.
THE IRRESISTIBLE MAN
To other men, the irresistible man too often means the man who
publicly ogles women. That is because men can _see_ him. But to women,
what we can see forms but a small portion of our lives. We hear more
than we see, and feel more than we hear. George Eliot says: "The best
of us go about well wadded with stupidity, otherwise we would die of
the roar that lies on the other side of silence."
But most men have to see things, and they can always see the ogling
man, and he always makes them perfectly furious. Queer, isn't it, when
the Simon Tappertits of this life are the least of the men who bore
us? In fact, I never should have thought of him if some man had not
spoken of him. And while I occasionally have been honored by the
exertions of one of these insects to attract my attention, thereby
proving that I am a woman, I can honestly say that I never remember
seeing one. Women who are capable of being really _bored_ never even
see such men; any more than if you were being roasted alive you would
care if a hairpin pulled.
It is a mistake to confound the irresistible man with the fool.
Neither is he stupid. Very often he is a man of no small amount of
brain. He is, of course, always conceited, and generally, though not
always, handsome. I am not describing the soft, sapient, pretty man
who lisps, nor the weak-kneed young gentleman with pink cheeks who
sings tenor. Far worse. The irresistible man, as _we_ know him, is
often a man who is doing a man's work in the world, and doing it well.
He is frequently a man of character, but through that character runs
this strange, irritating thread of conceit, which blinds our eyes to
whatever of real worth may be within, because of his exasperatingly
We should brush him aside as carelessly as if he were a fly should
there be nothing to him worth hating. But the maddening part of it to
us is that the irresistible man is worth saving, only he will not be
saved. He thinks he is perfect as he is. If he could get our point of
view and let some woman take a hand at him, she might efface his
irresistibleness and make a man of him. But no, the irresistible man
is in this world to give points--not take them.
A queer thing about this particular type of the irresistible man is
that he nearly always has grown up in a small town and has only come
to the city because his village got too small for his talents. That of
itself explains his whole attitude towards the world. Having probably
been the "show pupil" at school, having taken prizes and ranked first
among his fellows until he was twenty-one, he brings that confident
attitude with him and plants himself in the heart of the great city,
like Ajax defying the lightning, without the thought that changed
environments might demand change of conduct as well as change in
Doubtless the whole town helped to spoil him. Doubtless he has heard
all his life that the town was too small for him, and that a man like
himself ought to go to the city, where there would be a market for his
talents. Doubtless he has conquered the hearts of all the village
maidens; therefore he expects the same arts to win among city girls.
This system of easy victory and of yearning for other worlds to
conquer, instead of making him fit himself capably for a larger field,
has, on account of this absurd fault of irresistibleness, only made
him superficial. His crudeness is, to the uninitiated, almost pitiful.
Having never been obliged to work for pre-eminence, he descries
exertion, and never admits that he has to try hard to win anything.
His cheap little accomplishments of singing--badly--possibly even of
reciting dialect with realistic effects, he is accustomed to say he
"just picked up." I often have thought that he must have picked them
up after somebody else had thrown them away. But they have been
efficacious in his town, and in a larger field, with foemen more
worthy of his steel, they are intended to enslave.
The irresistible man is too pitiful to laugh at with any degree of
comfort. The pathos of the situation is almost too apparent. That is
one reason why he is allowed to go on as he is. It is why no one has
the heart to try to correct him. What _can_ you say to a man whose
confidence in his power to please you is such that at parting he says:
"I cannot spare you another evening this week, but I'll come next
Thursday if I can. Don't expect me, however, until I let you know, and
don't be disappointed if you find that I can't come, after all."
To be sure, you have not asked him to repeat his visit at all. To be
sure, you have nearly died during this call which is just over. But
what are you going to do? We have a white bulldog whose confident
attitude towards the world is quite like that of the irresistible man.
Jack blunders in where nobody wants him, and puts his great, heavy paw
on our best gowns, and scratches at the door when we want to sleep,
and gets under our feet when we are trying to catch a train, and makes
a nuisance of himself generally. But he is so sure that we love him
that we haven't the heart to turn him out-of-doors. We simply endure
him, because he is a dumb brute who is so used to being petted that
everybody tolerates him, and nobody tries to improve him or teach him
Confidence is a beautiful thing. But it is also one of the most
delicate of attributes, and requires the daintiest handling. The man
who is confident with women must be very sure of a personal magnetism,
or of sufficient merit to insure success, otherwise his confidence
will prove the flattest of failures. The only difference between the
irresistible man who bores us to death and the successful man who is
so fascinating that he cannot come too often, is that one has
confidence with nothing to base it on, and the other bases his
confidence on fact.
Women are not looking for flaws in men. They are only too anxious to
make the best of sorry specimens, and shut their eyes to faults, and
to coax virtues into prominence. Men have nothing to complain of in
the way women in society treat them. They get better than they deserve
and much better than they give. So all they will have to do to win a
better opinion will be to deserve it, and, if they make never so
slight an advance, they will see that they are met more than half-way
by even the most captious critics of their acquaintance.
Adaptability is a heaven-sent gift. It is like the straw used in
packing china. It not only saves jarring, but it prevents worse
disasters, and without it a man is only safe when he is alone. The
moment he comes into smart contact with his fellow-beings there is a
crash, and the assembled company have a vision of broken fragments of
humanity, which might have remained whole and suffered no more injury
than a possible nick had the combatants been padded with adaptability.
The irresistible man is the man who thinks he can get through the
world without it. The irresistible man is the one who is so perfect in
his own estimation that he needs no change. He is beyond human help.
THE STUPID MAN
His opposite, the clever man, said to me yesterday: "You know, to be
actually interested is as likely to make one grateful as anything in
this world, unless it be a realization of the kindness of Fate in
sparing us the perpetual society of fools."
The perpetual society of fools! Think of it, and then revel, you
women, in the thought that we are only bored occasionally--once a
week, say, or once a day, or once every two hours, taking our bores as
we do ill-flavored medicine. It never occurred to me before I heard
that phrase that life held anything more wearisome than to be bored
I have read _Ben-Hur_, and thought how awful it would be to be a
galley-slave. I have read _The Seats of the Mighty_, and shuddered at
the idea of being imprisoned for five years alone and without a light.
I have seen a flock of sheep driven by shouting, panting, racing
little boys, and have been glad I did not have to drive sheep for my
daily bread. I have rejoiced that my lot was not that of a Paris
cab-horse, but I never in all my life thought of any fate so appalling
as that contained in those words--the perpetual society of fools.
Why not reform our penitentiary methods? What is a prison cell to a
clever embezzler, if he can have books and a pipe? Nothing but a long
rest for his worn-out nerves--possibly a grateful change.
But what would be the feelings of a man of brilliant intellect--for
the accomplished villain is always clever--who was detected in his
crime, and who stood breathless before his accusers, waiting for and
expecting a life sentence at hard labor, to hear the judge's voice
pronounce sentence, "Condemned for life to the perpetual society of
I believe the man would be taken from the court-room a raving maniac.
I cannot but think that a real fool is conscious of his own
foolishness. He must realize his aloofness from the rest of mankind,
and in moments of such bitter self-knowledge I can picture many whom
the world regards as too far gone to comprehend their calamity praying
the prayer of the court-jester, "God be merciful to me a fool." I am a
little tender towards such. I do not condemn them. They have reached
the stage when they are the victims of human pity--a lamentable
condition. But those dense persons inhabiting the thickly populated
region bordering on foolishness--those self-satisfied, uncomprehending
egotists occupying the half-way house between wisdom and folly, known
as stupidity--against such my wrath burns fiercely. They are
deceptive--so un-get-at-able. They wear the semblance of wisdom, yet
it is but a cloak to snare and delude mankind into testing their
intelligence. They are not labelled by Heaven, like the fools we may
avoid if we will, or to whom we may go in a spirit of philanthropy.
They do not wear straw in their hair like maniacs, nor drool like
simpletons. Now they infest society clad in the most immaculate of
evening clothes. Often they are college graduates, and get along very
well with other men. They are frequently found among the rich,
sometimes even among the poor. Sometimes they are stolid and cannot
understand. Sometimes they are indifferent and won't understand.
Sometimes they are English.
We women are those upon whose souls their stupidity bears most
heavily. But stay--they do not oppress all women alike! There are
women whose spiritual needs never soar above the alphabet. When these
men are men of family, and one expects to find their wives sitting
with clinched hands and set teeth, simply enduring life and praying
for death, one is often surprised to see that they are generally stout
women, who wear many diamonds and a bovine expression in their eyes.
Evidently there is no nervous tension in their house, and the dense
man is quite capable of comprehending the a b c of human nature and of
keeping his family in flannels.
In strictly fashionable society the stupid man is not conspicuous,
because one never has time to comprehend that one is not understood.
If he nods his head sagely and says nothing, one is probably grateful
and passes on to the next, thinking that he is most entertaining. But
in that society where one sometimes sits down and breathes, where
conversation is considered as a fine art, and where talk is a mutual
game of battledoor and shuttlecock, then it is that your stupid man
looms up on the horizon like a blanket of clouds.
In America, particularly, conversation is something which not even the
French, who approach it most nearly, can thoroughly understand, for
with all its blinding nimbleness and kaleidoscopic changes there is a
substratum of Puritan morality which holds some things sacred--too
sacred even to argue in public--and one who transgresses turns off the
colored lights, and lo! your conversation is all in grays and browns.
To converse properly in America one must possess not only a nimble wit
and a broad understanding, but he must take into consideration one's
pedigree, and the effect of the climate.
This practically bars the stupid man from ever hearing the sound of
his own voice outside the secluded walls of his own home--or should.
It ought also to bar the simply witty man; for what is more jarring
than a misplaced wit or an ill-timed jocularity?
No, the chief requisite for a seat among the glorious company of the
elect is a deep-seeing, far-reaching, sensitive comprehension; a
capacity to see not only through a thing but over it and under it and
beyond it; to see not only its derivation and ancestry, but its
purport and import and influence and posterity; to detect the inner
meaning and the double meaning, and to smile alone at its surface
meaning. There are those of us, particularly women, who must have this
all-enveloping comprehension if we are to be thought fit to live. Our
conversation is such that, if we were taken literally, we deserve to
In this day of mad competition in every walk in life, it is not those
who can shout the loudest, even in those busy marts where voice reigns
supreme, who are going to be heard. No one man can continue to shout
the loudest. A momentary audience and a raw throat are the most he can
expect. But it is he who can exaggerate the most intelligently and
overpaint the most subtly. That sort of impertinence will attract the
eye and ear of the most loudly howling mob. Even the wayfarer gets an
inkling from a poster, but it is a man of the widest comprehension who
gets the whole truth from the subtlest exaggeration, and he who
possesses a sense of humor who realizes its acuteness.
To persons of this ilk the stupid man is a calamity compared to which
the loss of fortune and back-door begging would be a luxury.
But of course there are grades of stupidity even among stupid men, and
of these the educated stupid man is perhaps the most exhausting,
because a woman is constantly led into trying to converse with him,
having heard rumors that he is a college man, or that he has written a
book on mathematics. If a man is a genuine fool, of course one would
merely show him pictures, or play games with him, and so save brain
tissue. But with the deceptive halfway man, one is defenceless.
A single instance of a _bona-fide_ conversation will serve as a
fearful warning to the unwary.
A graduate of a German university, a man who has written three books
and has a reputation for always winning his lawsuits, sought me out
after a dinner, with the fatal accuracy of a man who has dined to
repletion and wishes to be amused.
Possibly because I also had dined and was therefore affable, I
endeavored to see if there was any forgotten corner of his mind, any
blind alley I hitherto had left unexplored, where I might find mine
own and feel at home.
His face was dull, heavy, unemotional, but I said in sprightly tones
to coax his lethargy:
"I have made such a delicious discovery to-day. I have found that
Carlyle has given the most acute definition of humor I ever read.
Isn't that rather surprising, when Carlyle's humor is rather
He thought a moment.
"It is," he said, carefully, with that want of recklessness which
should endear him to a stone image.
"Do you know it, or shall I tell you?" I said, with fatal geniality.
"Tell me," he said, heavily, wadding his mind with cotton, for fear
some lightness should percolate through it.
"Why, he said that humor was an appreciation of the under side of
things. Isn't that delicious?"
I spoke with unctuous satisfaction, for I really expected him to
comprehend. He looked at my beaming countenance with grave suspicion,
and slowly reddened. He said nothing. I still smiled, but my smile was
"Well?" I said, impatiently.
"You are jesting," he said. "That isn't the real answer."
"Why, yes, it is. Do you mean to say that you don't understand?"
"You jest so much. I never can tell--" he broke off, helplessly.
"But surely you see that," I urged. "How would _you_ define humor?"
"Why, humor is something funny. There's nothing funny about--er--that
that Carlyle said."
"Yes, but it's only a very delicate and occult way of exhibiting his
acuteness," I said. "Don't you see? An appreciation of the under side
of things--the side that does not lie on the surface."
"Are you serious?" he asked, as I leaned back to rest from my toil.
"Perfectly. But I can hardly believe that you are."
"Do you mean to say that you really see anything in that definition?"
"I do," I said, with ominous distinctness.
My manner indicated his stupidity, and he resented it. He grew
"Now, tell me, on your honor, do you really see anything funnier in
the under side of that sofa than in the top side?"
I could have screamed with anguish. But, being in company, I only
smote my hands together in my impotence and prayed for death.
The tension was relieved by the young son of our hostess in the
library just beyond having overheard our conversation. He laid his
hand over his mouth and went into such convulsions of silent laughter,
all the time writhing and twisting his lean body into such contortions
that in watching his extraordinary gymnastics over the head of my
unconscious _vis-a-vis_, and wondering if the boy ever could untie
himself, I forgot my suffering. I even relaxed my mental strain and
forgot the stupid man.
Would I could keep on forgetting him.
THE NEW WOMAN
"You have taught me
To be in love with noble thoughts."
That clever _bon-mot_, "To say 'everybody is talking about him' is a
eulogy. To say 'every one is talking about her' is an elegy," is no
longer true, more's the pity. More's the pity, I mean, because such a
delicious bit deserves a longer life. I could weep over the early
death of an epigram with a hearty spirit, which is second only to the
grief I feel at a good story spoiled for relation's sake. Cleverness,
like beauty, is its own excuse for being, and the first attribute of
the new woman is her cleverness. It is the new woman who is
responsible for the death of that epigram. But as she did not take an
active part in the murder, but was only an accessory after the fact,
let us hope that she will escape with as light a sentence as possible
from that stern old judge, public opinion, who is not her friend.
The newspapers have ridiculed the new woman to such an extent, and
their ridicule is so popular, that it requires an act of physical
courage to stand up in her defence and to tell the public that the
bloomer girl is not new; that they have had the newspaper
creation--like the poor--with them always; that they have passed over
the real new woman without a second glance. In other words, to assure
them as delicately as possible that they have been barking up the
The first thing which endears the new woman to me personally, more
even than her cleverness, is that she has a sense of humor. You may
deny that, if you want to. I firmly believe it, but I am not
infallible. Thank Heaven that I am not. I abominate those people who
are always right. You can't amuse yourself by picking flaws in them.
They are so irritatingly conclusive. Now I am never conclusive, and
you ought to be glad of it. It makes it so much pleasanter for you to
be able to disagree with me logically.
Why have men always possessed an exclusive right to the sense of
humor? I believe it is because they live out-of-doors more. Humor is
an out-of-door virtue. It requires ozone and the light of the sun. And
when the new woman came out-of-doors to live, and mingled with men and
newer women, she saw funny things, and her sense of humor began to
grow and thrive. The fun of the situation is entirely lost if you stay
at home too much.
Now don't let the supersensitive men--who always want women to pursue
the perfectly lady-like employment of knitting gray socks--don't let
them have a fit right here for fear women have come out-of-doors to
stay and are never going in-doors again. Even women, my dear sirs,
know enough to go in when it rains. They love a hearth-rug quite as
well as a cat does. A cat and a woman always come home to the
hearth-rug. But there is very little mental exhilaration in a
hearth-rug. Lots of comfort, but little humor. The real excitement of
life, at least to a cat, is when in a morning stroll abroad she goes
out of her sphere--the hearth-rug--and meets some feline friend to
whom she extends a claw, playful or otherwise; or possibly meets some
merry puppy which induces her to move rapidly up the nearest tree with
an agility which you never would believe the mother of a family could
boast if you had not been an eye-witness to the interesting scene.
Such an encounter will not induce her to want to stay up a tree. It
only makes the safety of the hearth-rug more inviting. Now, if she
always remained on the hearth-rug, how could we tell, should the
hearth-rug be invaded in the absence of her natural protectors, that
she could defend herself? For my part, I am glad to know, when I leave
her, that she is not so helpless or so sleepy as she looks. It is a
great thing to know that a cat's tree-climbing abilities are not
hopelessly dormant. It does not make her purr the less when she is
stroked. Her fur is as soft, her ways are as gentle as they ever were,
and as she lies there so quietly upon the hearth-rug she looks as
though she never had left it. Only once in a while she regards you out
of one eye in a companionable way, as who should say, "That's all
right. You know I _can_ climb a tree when occasion requires."
The dear new woman! I like her. Perhaps she is crude in her newness.
Give her time. Perhaps she makes a little too much of her freedom. How
do you know what she suffered before she became new? Perhaps she has
her faults. Are you perfect?
Of course there is the woman who shrieks on political platforms and
neglects her husband, and lets her children grow up like little
ruffians; the woman who wears bloomers and bends over her handle-bar
like a monkey on a stick; the woman who wants to hold office with men
and smoke and talk like men--alas, that there _is_ that variety of
woman--but she is not new. Pray did you never see her before she wore
bloomers? Bloomers are no worse than the sort of clothes she used to
wear. Her swagger is no more pronounced now than it used to be in
skirts. She has always had bloomer instincts. You don't pretend to
declare, do you, that there never were unconventional women,
ill-dressed and rowdy women, before the new woman was heard of? That
is the great mistake you make. These women are _not_ new women. We've
always had them. We never, unfortunately, have been without them.
The real new woman is a creature quite different. She is one whom you
would wish to know. She is one whom you would invite to your most
select dinners. You would be better men if you had more friends like
her, and broader-minded women if you dropped a few of those who hand
you doughnut recipes over the back fence, and who entertain you with
the history of the baby's measles, and how they are managing to meet
the payments on their little house. I am not unsympathetic, either,
with the measles or the payments, but I prefer the subjects of
conversation which a new woman selects. There is more ozone in them.
The new woman whom I mean is silk-lined. She is nearly always pretty.
She is always clever. She is always a lady, and she is always good.
Perhaps, to the cynical, that combination sounds as if she might not
be interesting; but she is. Of course not always. One may have all
those gifts, and yet not know how to make use of them for other
people's benefit. The gift of being interesting is a distinct one by
itself. But the new woman, having fresh and outside interests, is
generally able to talk of them delightfully.
The new woman is new only in the sense that she has opened her eyes
and has begun to see the value of the simple, common, everyday truths
which lie nearest to her. The whole world becomes new to those who
suddenly awake to the beauties which they never had thought of before.
Once women taught their daughters housekeeping and sewing from stern
principle, and made it neither beautiful nor attractive.
Then house-keeping went out of fashion.
Feather-headed boys married trivial girls, and began to make a home
without the first gleam of knowledge as to how the thing should be
done. The foolish little wife knew not how to cook or sew. The foolish
little husband said he was glad of it. He didn't want his wife to wear
herself out in the kitchen. Servants could do such things. So they
hired servants more ignorant than themselves, "and the last state of
that man was worse than the first." Children came to them. That was
the most pitiful part of all. A house may be badly managed and
ignorantly cared for, and people do not die of it, or become warped or
crippled, but the soul of a child, to say nothing of the helpless
little body, can be ruined utterly through the irresponsibility of the
criminally ignorant people to whom the poor little thing is sent.
Their ignorance is so dense and deep-searching that they never know
that they are ignorant. But back of it all there is a reason. A
bigoted, senseless, false, and misnamed delicacy. Mothers reared their
daughters and sent them to fulfil their mission in life, of being
wives and mothers, versed in everything except the two things they
were destined to be. It was as if a physician were taught
architecture, music, and painting, and then sent out to practise his
unskill in medicine upon a helpless humanity.
Then the new woman opened her eyes. She read those sturdy words which
are much quoted, but which never can be repeated too often: "The
situation which has not its duty, its ideals, was never yet occupied
by man. Yes, here, in this poor, miserable, hampered, despicable
Actual, wherein thou even now standest, here or nowhere is thy Ideal;
work it out therefrom, and working, live, be free. Fool! the Ideal is
in thyself; thy condition is but the stuff thou art to shape this same
Ideal out of; what matters whether such stuff be of this sort or that,
so the form thou give it be heroic, be poetic? Oh, thou that pinest in
the imprisonment of the Actual, and criest bitterly to the gods for a
kingdom wherein to rule and create, know this of a truth--the thing
thou seekest is already with thee, 'here, or nowhere,' couldst thou
It read like book-learning when applied to other women. It read like a
revelation when applied to herself. She thought what her mission was.
To make a home; to be a good wife; to understand and teach little
children. And where do you find the new woman now? In the kindergarten
colleges; in university settlements; attending mothers' meetings;
teaching ignorant mothers how to understand the tender souls and
delicate bodies of the dear little creatures committed to their loving
but unwise care. You find them well prepared by a course of study to
accept the responsibilities of life when their time comes. Is _that_
trivial? Is _that_ a subject to sneer at or to jest about? Rather it
is the hope of the nation.
Legislation cannot satisfactorily restrict immigration. Laws do not
forbid the criminal from marrying and the insane from being born. All
the masculine wisdom in the world cannot prevent the State from
annually paying millions of dollars for the support of those who are
foredoomed through generations of ignorance and crime--crime which too
often comes only from ignorance--to fill your jails and asylums. Who
is doing anything to remedy? The men. Who is doing anything to
_prevent_? The women. The new woman, the sneered at, the ridiculed and
abused, caricatured by the cartoonist, derided by the press, is going
quietly to work with jail-schools, with free kindergartens in tenement
districts, with college settlements, to begin with the care of mothers
and children. That is just one of the things the new woman is doing.
Is she a poor creature? Is she wearing bloomers? Is she masculine or
unwomanly? Rather she possesses attributes almost divine in that she
strikes at the very root of the matter, and begins a course of action
which, if carried out, will do what all the men in creation can never
cure. She will prevent.
The new woman is young. The new woman is oftener a pretty girl than
otherwise. They are not poor girls either, who are doing these things.
They are not obliged to earn their daily bread. They are the daughters
of the rich. They are the travelled, cultured, delicately reared
girls. They are such girls as, two generations ago, would have
disdained anything but accomplishments, who were only charitable with
their money, and who never dreamed of giving their own time to such
work. They were girls who considered their education finished when
they left school.
I glory in the new woman in that so often she _is_ rich and beautiful.
It is easy enough to be good if you are plain. In fact, there is
nothing else left for a plain woman "_to do_." But take these lovely
girls who are tempted by society to idle away their days and waste
their lives listening to a flattery which may be but a thing of the
moment, and let them have sense to see through its hollowness, and
want to be something and do something, and it becomes heroic.
Perhaps it is only a fad. Then Heaven send more fads. If it is the
fashion to have a vocation and to educate one's self along these lines
which never were heard of a few years ago, then for once fashion has
accidentally become noble.
It strikes me rather that the reign of common-sense has begun--that
the age of utility has come. When nine out of every ten of the girls
you meet in smart society have a distinct vocation of their own; when
a girl who only sings or plays or crochets is considered by her
sister-women to be a butterfly; when society girls are being trained
nurses; when, if you are paying calls upon a fashionable friend, you
are quite apt to be told that she is living at Hull House this month;
when a girl whose face generally appears in the society column
suddenly comes out as the composer of a new song; when a girl who
dances best at balls calmly announces that she is taking a course at
the university; when everything nowadays is gone into so seriously,
the time has come to look the question of the new woman squarely in
the face--to put a stop to cheap witticisms at her expense and to give
her your honest respect.
The new woman has attacked the problem of how to live. Not how to live
for show, not how to veneer successfully, but how to get the most good
out of life. She is not simply endeavoring to kill time as she once
was. She is trying to live each day for itself. She is not living so
much in the to-morrows which never come. Having begun to earn her own
money, she is learning the value of her father's--a thing the American
father has been trying to teach her for fifty or a hundred years, but
she could not learn because she saw it come so easily and she let it
go so freely.
A man said to me not long ago, "What has got into the girls? Has it
become the fashion to economize? All the nicest girls I know are
talking of the value of money and of how much is wasted unthinkingly.
Are we poor bachelors to take courage and believe that we can afford
one of these beautiful luxuries in wives?"
Alas, it is anything but a hint to take courage; for this heavenly
phase of the new woman means that when she has learned that she can
support herself, so that in case her riches take wings she need not be
forced to drudge at uncongenial employment, or to marry for a home,
she will be more particular than ever in the kind of a man she
marries. For in fitting herself for marriage she is learning quite as
well the kind of husband she ought to have. And she will not be as apt
to marry a man on account of his clothes or because he dances divinely
as once she might have done.
I do not mean to say that the new woman will not marry. In point of
fact she will--if properly urged by the right man. But she will not
marry so early, so hurriedly, nor so ill-advisedly as before. And
therefore the men whom new women marry will do well to realize the
compliment of her choice; for it will mean that, according to her
light, he has been weighed in the balance and not found wanting. Of
course the other women marry on that principle too. The only
difference between the new woman and her sisters is in the amount of
her light and the use she makes of it.
It is the man who marries the new woman who is going to get the most
out of this life; for even in living there is everything in knowing
how. And far from leaving man out of her problem in life, her
philosophy is teaching her to look for his possibilities with the same
anxiety that she employs in studying her own; that to adapt herself to
his individuality need not necessarily imperil her own; that the first
element in the forming of this perfect home which it is her ambition
to establish is perfect congeniality of spirit between herself and her
It is as if the new woman were striving, by making the best of her
present environments, and simply developing her woman nature instead
of struggling to usurp man's, to enunciate a philosophy of life which
I shall so dignify homely duties and beautify the commonplace that her
creed might well be:
"We shall pass through this world but once. If there be any kindness
we can show, or any good thing we can do to any fellow-being, let us
do it now. Let us not defer nor neglect it, for we shall not pass this
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