FROM A GIRL'S POINT OF VIEW
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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 Commercial-Gazette.
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.
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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 so."
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 your family.
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 meeting.
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 Judgment!
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 subject.
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 soul.
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.
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"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 most captious.
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 Judgment Day?
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 gentlemen.
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 have.
"Courtesy wins woman as well As valor may, but he that closes both Is perfect."
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 receive.
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 girl.
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 them part?
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 those.
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 patent-leathers.
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 in it.
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 love.
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 of them.
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 in bulk.
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 it.
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 contented wives.
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 ordinary?
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 marvellous.
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 lovers.
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 be!
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, voiceless present.
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 it once.
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."
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"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 Street Waifs!
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 daughter?"
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.