Side Talks with Girls/Chapter 13
THE RESTLESSNESS OF THE AGE
LL restlessness and seeking after what does not belong to one is a hindrance to any woman, be she old or young, and one which, in many instances, God did not intend should come into her life. Repose and perfect quietness seem to be unknown factors nowadays, and the simple doing what one has to do, quietly and properly, also ignored. The girls of to-day, no matter what their age may be, rush for everything. There is excitement in mind and body over the least little thing, and women are wearing themselves out doing absolutely nothing. You cannot convince a girl that, with proper deliberation, she might accomplish just what she wishes, and be strong in body and restful in mind as well. No, she has got so entirely used to rushing at everything that she wears herself out racing up and down stairs, and when simple, normal work is finished she is, as she puts it, "so dead tired that I can't even rest."
TAKING THINGS EASY
One can do three times as much by being quiet and taking things easy as by rushing. Girls in every station of life are hurting themselves by attempting to do too much. The girl who has to work is over-ambitious, and the society girl thinks she must let as much as possible come into her life. And so, between clubs and classes, with every form of gayety imaginable, she is working so hard that when she is thirty and should be reaching her prime, which physicians say is thirty-five, she is old and broken down. The feverish desire to have and to achieve is killing the girls of to-day. They are never satisfied; everything in their lives is rush and hurry. They want to dress like one friend, to be as learned as another, and as great a society leader as another.
THE WOMAN OF TO-DAY
The woman of to-day, as we hear of her, belongs to a class for each day in the week, and has every afternoon and evening filled up with gay functions. She is eager to know all about politics, to understand the great poets and writers of the day, especially those that are counted most difficult to comprehend; she wants to belong to societies that will make the world better and that will permit her to talk about them in public, and yet she desires as well to keep the position in life to which she was born. Speak to her suddenly and see her start. That means overtaxed nerves. Get her to talk to you about one of her plans and see how she flushes, notice the unnatural brilliancy of her eyes, and watch the quivering of her lips and her hands. That woman is on the verge of nervous prostration. And why? She is living an abnormal life. She is neglecting her duties, and is permitting herself to be worn out to interest people who do not care in the least for her.
To me she is dreadful—this woman of to-day—and I do not want any one of my girls to be like her. She does no real work, she only worries, and worry is very apt to kill. Work properly done, systematically arranged for and carefully and easily carried out, does not wear women out. It is only when it is rush, rush, rush, fret, fret, fret, that women become bundles of overstrung nerves, tied with the red ribbon of continual excitement. But the ribbon comes untied and the nerves are free, and what is the result? A fretful answer to a question asked by a member of the household, inattention to one's duties because the head and the eyes ache so "they are almost killing me," and then, too often there follows the resort to a stimulant of some kind. The tears come to the eyes very easily, the feelings are supersensitive, and all because hurry and fret have made of a healthy girl a wretched bundle of nerves and nothing else. Patience is asked from everybody. The tiny girl must be quiet so that "mamma may get over her headache." The healthy boy is asked to walk quietly because "your sister has done so much that she is trying to rest," and the whole household is under nerve-rule. What can be done? One can advise quieter methods, plenty of fresh air and a nourishing diet, but the nervous girl is apt to be very positive, for she counts herself a deep thinker, and advice is the last thing she wishes to hear or to follow. The end of it all? You can see it. There are quite enough nervous girls and nervous middle-aged women now. It is, alas, only too easy to picture what they will be when they are veritable old ladies.
THE QUESTION ASKED
"But," says one of my girls, "don't you want us to be intelligent? Don't you want us to know something, and don't you want us to enjoy ourselves?" Certainly I do, but I want you to do it as a woman should, and not after the fashion of a locomotive attached to a fast train, and which must keep up its record. Look at our English cousins; they study one thing and know it well. These women who attempt so much are usually entirely superficial because they cannot possibly learn one thing well when they are attempting so much. Then, too, about work. There is a perfect craze among young women to leave their homes and go out to work in the outside world. When this is necessary it is all right, but in many cases it is not necessary. There is work to do at home, and the foolish girl does not see the value of her home work, but with every nerve at a tangent, with her heart throbbing so rapidly she can almost hear it, she rushes out into the big world for work that should not be hers, and which will use her up mentally and physically in a very short time. When the good God was arranging the human pegs into their abiding-places, He did not put the round ones in the square holes, but when a woman rushes away from the work that is laid out for her, she finds that she is wrongly situated, and she wears herself out worrying over this. Then she is old and tired when she should be young and fresh.
Sometimes, even in her home life, the fever of haste comes to her, and I beg of her, for I know her among my girls, to learn to do things quietly. Walk up and down stairs; make the beds and dust the rooms quietly, and not as if you were being pursued by the demon of unrest, enjoy yourself easily, don't let your nerves get the better of you when you are playing a game. If you dance, don't do it furiously, and, above all things, don't fall into the sad error of hastening to be married. Learn to know the man to whom you are giving your love, and be sure that each of you will be better in the future because of the time given to your becoming acquainted even after the story of love has been told to you. Physicians say the best prescription for the woman of to-day is more rest and more quiet enjoyment. Try this. Allow yourself to take every day that which is a rest to you.
HOW TO REST
Some girls don't know how to do this. They think rest and sleep synonymous, whereas rest may mean simply change in occupation. It may mean the sitting quiet for a while. It may mean the having a cup of tea, or a bit of bread and butter—the tea being that which does not hurt the nerves, and the bread and butter being that which is healthful and which tastes good. Often you don't eat enough, my dear girl, and you hurry too much when you do eat. Learn to linger over your meals, to talk to your father or mother pleasantly, and so to aid digestion by slow eating and bright conversation. Sometimes the best rest that comes is the sitting in an easy-chair and closing your eyes for ten minutes. Don't be afraid or ashamed of this. It is necessary if you wish to be a well and strong woman. You rest when you don't attempt too much, for then you do better work. Rest for you may mean reading a pretty story, while for me it may be leaving books and looking out at the green trees for a while. Find out that rest which is best suited to you and permit yourself to have it.
REST IN TALK
That is a pleasant rest. To sit still and listen to the quiet talk of somebody else, somebody who will not require an answer from you—a charitable somebody who will not mind if gradually, as the talk drifts into a monotone, your eyes close and a refreshing sleep of ten minutes comes to you. Generally, talk is work with a nervous girl. She is so eager to show that she is up in everything, so anxious to be considered intelligent and cultured that she forgets that listening is part of conversation, and she degenerates into what is called a great talker. And that means one who absorbs the conversation. But she who is wise, and who finds rest in talk, will listen with intelligence, and once in a while say something worth hearing. But she will not determine to tell all she knows at once, or to drive all other talkers out of the field of conversation. Who has not been tired out by the restless talker—by the one who answers the question you did not ask her while she gives information to someone else who has forgotten more than she ever knew?
WOMEN ONLY IN NAME
Isn't it to be dreaded? The being at thirty-five a nervous, fretful, irritable woman, feared by society at large and a continual source of unhappiness in your own home. This will surely come if you follow the footsteps of the so-called advanced woman of to-day. A desire to know the truth for myself has induced me to look at the women who stand forward as representing the intellectual woman of the times—she who claims to be up in everything, to miss nothing and to be ready to give her opinion at club or society. She is a sad sight to me, because the nervous quickness with which she speaks proves that she is controlled by haste, and that a beautiful, restful, loving old age will be impossible to her. "But," you ask, "sha'n't I belong to a benevolent association?" Yes, to one, if you have the time to do the work that you undertake. But one is enough for every woman, and the work itself will be better done if each woman would limit herself to one, and so be able to do her portion thoroughly. Do I object to women speaking in public? I do, most emphatically. With the advanced woman I have no sympathy, and I think the best influence a woman can wield is in her own home, and by the example of her own good and true life. I do not want my girls to be advanced women. I want them to be healthy, happy, normal women, intelligent, well-read, and above everything else, to understand the art of making those bound by ties of blood cling close to them. I do not think women can be good politicians and good mothers, wives and daughters, too. I do not think that a woman can speak on politics to-night and be interested in having a dainty dinner as a rest for her husband to-morrow night. Our men are, sad as it seems, slaves to money-making, and the least we can do for them is to create a place where the keynote is rest and warmth and love. She who spends her time seeking votes, making speeches and arranging blue books will find it impossible to think out the proper way to perform household duties, to make life pleasant for others, or to build a nest as it should be built if it is to bear in golden letters the name of "Home."
CLUB LIFE AMONG WOMEN
Neither do I approve of the extent to which club life among women has been carried. I do think it charming for women to meet and talk over that which is interesting to each other, but I rather like the old-fashioned way, when all womankind met in the afternoon, some with a bit of fancy-work, some with hands that were resting, and then, as it grew near supper-time, the husbands and sons appeared, and after supper all had a merry time together. The advanced woman says that was the day of gossip, but I have been the guest of many clubs, and I have never heard at a tea-party as much malicious gossip as I have in these clubs, which, first of all, demand that the members shall be sisters in words as well as in deeds. This sounds positive, but, my dear girl, it is true. The malice and evil speaking that come out in the "society" are just as prominent in the "club," and are, I think, a little more daring. The desire for position is great, and the rivalry to be president or chairman, or whatever the office may be, brings out all the petty faults that the advanced woman affects to scorn, and declares were relegated long ago to the "sewing circle."
WHAT I WOULD LIKE
I would like my girls to do their work as they should, have the pleasures which are theirs by right, but not take on themselves unnecessary work, and above all things, to avoid unnecessary haste. A restful woman is the most gracious of nature's creations. She is the perfect flower of womanhood. But the nervous, quivering, gasping bundle of nerves, the result of too much hurry and too many unnecessary duties, as represented by the advanced woman, is what I dread, that my girls should become. If you go on an errand, go quietly, steadily, and certainly. If you are exercising, walk evenly and restfully; do not rush and tear. If you have an opinion to give, don't set your nerves to tingling and your heart to throbbing by the haste with which you utter it. Say what you have to say quietly, slowly, and distinctly. When you are among women don't attempt to talk when everybody else is talking, for then your voice will become that shrill falsetto which is the sign that the nerves are all undone. Do what your hands find to do, but don't reach out and take work that does not belong to you and which was never intended for you. If you make yourself well and strong, you can help the weak, but it is due to those among whom you live that you care for yourself mentally and physically. And be sure that when the good God asks you as to your soul He will also ask you how you have treated the case given for it and which was made in His likeness. Will you think over this and avoid the vice of the day—hurry?