Lilian Bell.

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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 has-
tily leave, is enough to scare him to death.
And the girl herself has a right to be furi-
ously indignant. When eligible young peo-
ple are in that tentative stage, it is death
to a love to make them self-conscious.

I myself am so afraid of brushing the



WOMAN S RIGHTS IN LOVE 51

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 obsta-
cle once in a while if I like the girl.

As to how far a girl has a right to en-
courage a man in love, opinions differ. I
once asked a clever literary friend of mine,
whose husband is so satisfactory that it is



52

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 encourage-
ment one is capable of giving them."

I pondered over that statement. From
her point of view it was, of course, perfect-
ly proper. Married men need all the en-
couragement 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 en-
courage 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 get-
ting 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



WOMAN S RIGHTS IN LOVE 53

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 dif-
ferent 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 pro-
posed 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, some-
body whom he likes better; and they in-
timate 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



54 WOMAN'S RIGHTS IN LOVE

else where we are concerned, and view the
matter from our point of view, with the side-
lights 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 advan-
tage of the right to make the first advances!
How many do we have to choose from ?
We can't roam around the world by our-
selves, 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 whom a gracious Provi-
dence 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 fort-
unate of you.

Then, too, in order to make ourselves de-
sirable, we are not to be froward or unduly
prominent. We are to sit quietly at home



WOMAN S RIGHTS IN LOVE 55

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 " ten-
dency 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 convinc-
ing, 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 co-
quettes do that.

Now I am not endeavoring to do an ex-
ceptional man justice, who will resent that
somewhat broad platform. I am only pre-



56 WOMAN S RIGHTS IN LOVE

senting 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 your-
self, 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 will-
ing 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 dis-
played in your show-windows. How long



WOMAN'S RIGHTS IN LOVE 57

must a woman be married to a man before
she understands him thoroughly as thor-
oughly 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 con-
sidered 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



58 WOMAN S RIGHTS IN LOVE

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 un-
just 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 ten-
derer 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"

*****
' // 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.

1 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 AS LOVERS



MEN seldom make perfect lovers. I
deeply regret being obliged to say this, as
they are about all we girls have to de-
pend 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 para-
graph with a Miss Nancy, until you discover
the exact meaning of that effective term of
opprobrium. A Miss Nancy is a poet with-
out genius, one who has a talent for discov-
ering the fineness of life, but who lacks the



62 MEN AS LOVERS

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 unthink-
ing 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,



MEN AS LOVERS 63

"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 ef-
frontery, 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 feel-
ings are towards you, even if I do show you
up from our side you know that a good



64 MEN AS LOVERS

whist-player is only slightly interested in
the play of the great cards. His fine in-
stinct 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 be-
low 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 my-
self 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 com-
munity. 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



MEN AS LOVERS 65

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 satis-
factorily to ourselves, so much so that a
casual observer would not have suspected
the emptiness of them.



66 MEN AS LOVERS

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 pre-



MEN AS LOVERS 67

tend that the others might be unsatisfac-
tory 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 whom
you might have loved if you had not met your
wife first. She will tell you the truth because
she has nothing to lose. A man will always
take more from his Platonic friend 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 fabrica-
tions ? 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



68 MEN AS LOVERS

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 thick-



MEN AS LOVERS 69

ness, 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 men-
tal indigestibles, and occasional Sundays.
We do not know why we do, but we do,
and we cannot help it, and if you are go-
ing 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, sen-
timental 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



70 MEN AS LOVERS

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 en-
joyable 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 ar-
gument 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 de-
nies that ; but look at your partner's face if
you want to know how you have done it.



MEN AS LOVERS 71

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 wom-
an the side she never shows to you nowa-
days ? 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 ordi-
nary 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.



72 MEN AS LOVERS

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



MEN AS LOVERS 73

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 man-
age, 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 see-
ing the grandeur of the old gray castle,
and the perpetual moonlight, and the de-
voted love of the satin duchess for the
velvet duke. You know that it is just act-
ing, and that the villain is not really going
to swim the moat with his band of steel



74 MEN AS LOVERS

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 ma-
terial 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


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Online LibraryLilian BellFrom a girl's point of view → online text (page 3 of 8)