Side Talks with Girls/Chapter 22

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SHE stands beside you a wonderful vision in white satin and orange blossoms, so beautiful that you can find no words in which to express your admiration, and so lovely that it seems as if the English language were not rich enough for you to tell of your love. She seems something too bright and good for every-day life, and as you are promising to care for her you think to yourself how unnecessary is this vow, for caring for such a beautiful object can only be a never-ending delight. She looks so exquisite you wonder if she can possibly belong to ordinary, every-day life, and you think that you must put her on a pedestal and fall down and worship her. Then, for a little while, you are off on an idyllic journey. During that time you have a blissful feeling when you arrange her wraps about her, and you would burden yourself with any number of bundles and bags if she needed them. And then—and then—you come back to the little nest that is going to be home to you, and you make a wonderful discovery. It is that this marvellous creature, this exquisite being, this dream is, after all, only a woman. If she had been an angel she wouldn't have married you. She is human and therefore she has her weaknesses and her little faults, and these you will have to be introduced to and you will have to have patience with them. You will have to learn to understand her and them during this first year of your married life.


It is a hard time for both of you. She knows little of the peculiarities of man, and you know nothing of the weaknesses of woman. All during the honey-moon there were kisses and smiles, and pretty words and dainty compliments, and now that you are back home, that you have taken up your business life, that you are indeed living the ordinary life of a man, you forget some of these affectionate acts. You come home in the evening to be greeted by a wife whose eyes are fiery red, whose lip quivers, and who cannot speak without bursting into tears. What is the matter? As you rushed away to catch the car in the morning you forgot to kiss her good-by and tell her that you hoped she would be happy all the day long. It is a little thing, to be sure, but you trained her to this caress during the honey-moon, and you hurt her feelings when you leave her without a word now. A woman, my friend, is not an angel, but she is a sensitive being who likes to have, as a wife, the expression of affection that you gave her as a sweetheart, and during that happy month after she was a bride.


She thinks it is queer that you didn't discover that she possessed all these faults before you married her. And she wonders, as she sits by herself and stares out of the window, why, if she had so many faults, anybody ever cared for her. It is true that the breakfast was very bad. It is also true that she has had four or five cooks within the last two months, but she is trying her very best to get a good one, and she does wish that you would encourage her a little bit in her troubles and not find fault with her all the time, especially this morning when her head aches as if it would split. She could have said some very nasty things to you when you spoke to her, but she tried not to, and then you called her sulky. And she wonders if men ever have headaches as women do. And her back aches, too, and still she must discharge that cook, who she knows will be impertinent to her. And she wonders what the next one will be like. I think you might have had a little patience with her. It is true your mother's household runs like a perfectly oiled machine, but then your mother has been keeping house for fifty years, and this little girl, who, in her white satin and orange blossoms a couple of months ago, you thought must be an angel, has only been experimenting a short time. Just remember that, physically, women are not as strong as men, and that a headache that makes her eyes burn and a backache that makes her wonder if she can walk upstairs, sometimes come to her, forcing her to be conscious of nothing but her physical misery. It isn't necessary for you to say that you like the bad breakfast, but you can encourage her, and hope that she will soon have a better cook, and you could remind her that these are the early days of her housekeeping. That is where your strength ought to come in. That is the time when you should represent to her, not only her husband, but her helper.


Of course she has them. And it is just possible that some of them may not suit you. But don't you think it would be rather nicer for you to talk them over quietly with her than show yourself a barbarian and permit your angry passions to rise? If you don't like them tell her the reason why. She is a reasonable creature, and she loves you well enough to prefer to do what you like, if what you like is right. You are a bit set in your ways yourself, but she doesn't find fault with you, and you can keep your handkerchiefs in the top drawer, or in the second one, as you please, and she will not object. But if, for some pretty little idea, she takes all your handkerchiefs and puts them in a perfumed sachet, why need you get so cross with her? And why need you insist upon her having certain things to eat upon certain days? Why need you insist on her liking strange people or saying that she likes them when she does not? She is sweet, and amiable, and loving, and hospitable to all who bear your name, but you can't expect her to be attracted at once by Tom Brown, who is an old friend of yours, but whose manners are extremely brusque, and who greets her with this salutation, "Well, Mrs. Bride, I suppose none of his friends will ever see your husband now." She is anxious for you to keep your friends, and she is hurt when this is said to her, and surely you can't blame her for it. Find out all her little ways and be patient with them when they are little ways that you don't like. And then be sure, for dear love's sake, she will make her ways your ways, and life will be happier all around.


If anybody had told you that you would be stingy to your own wife, you would have cut him dead. And yet, when the summer time passed and the autumn days were over, and the winter bonnets came, it wasn't very nice of you, when she said something about getting a new bonnet, to say, "Why, I thought you had eight or ten bonnets in your trousseau." And I don't think it is very nice in you to ask her to tell you exactly how she spent the household money. A woman, my friend, will economize closely for the man she loves, but that man has no right to conclude that she isn't a partner in the purse. You are wise in giving her a regular sum for her household expenses, but if you are both wise and loving there will be another little purse that you will fill, unasked, for her personal expenses. I say this, and yet the woman I know best said that she never minded asking her husband for money; that she loved him well enough to know that he wouldn't refuse, and that she didn't ask him unless she wanted it. Still, I think if you are a generous-minded man, you will never let your wife ask you for money, and so never make her feel that what she has is not hers by right. She earns it just as much as you do, for she makes a home for you, and she gives you such happiness as can come from no other woman. Don't do as some men, let a woman make bills all over the town and never give her any money; but let her learn the value of money by handling it; let her realize what it means; let her delight in buying for you, with the money that is hers, something for your birthday, or for Christmas, or to introduce a New Year of love.


You wish her to love your mother; then you must show the same kindly feeling to hers. Think it all out, and realize how close a girl is to her mother; how "my mother" represents consolation and wisdom to her; how she goes to mother with her grief and her happiness, and remember that you have to be not only husband, but mother, for you must be so tender to her that, with her head on your breast and your arms about her, she will tell her troubles and her worries, her joys and her pleasures, and not only look for, but receive sympathy from you. And then, when her mother is there, be gentle and considerate of her. She has given you her companion and her little helper, and be sure that there has been many a lonely hour for her since that gay wedding day. So remember that you owe her thanks that must express themselves in a pleasant manner and in courteous speech. None of us can love people at once, but making up our minds to care for them will make affection come, and, best of all, stay. If once in a while your wife should quote her mother, listen to this patiently, for do not forget that, to the good daughter, her mother represented wisdom before she even knew you. Men, my friend, are not thankful enough to mothers.


She had the headache. When you asked her something she answered with a certain amount of indifference, and you grew silent and sulky. At night, when you came home, she had forgotten all about it; there was a dainty dinner for you, and a bright, happy-looking wife to greet you, and you were still sulky. You thought it due your dignity to make her comprehend that she could not ignore a speech of yours. What a miserable dignity that is! I can't imagine it belonging to anybody but a schoolboy, and yet you claim to be a man. She came up to kiss you, and you drew away, and she wondered what was the matter with you. You ate your dinner and seemed to enjoy it, but you didn't speak. After dinner you read the evening paper. By the next morning your lordship condescended to say a word or two, and the poor little woman was so glad that she cried with delight. And you thought of your own importance, and felt that you had given her a lesson that she deserved. It was like breaking a butterfly on a wheel. You ought to feel mean. It is a great pity that you can't see yourself in a mental looking-glass, that you might realize how mean, and poor, and contemptible you are, and how unmanly it is to take revenge on a woman. It would have been a deal better to say to her that you didn't like the way she spoke to you; then you would have heard the reason for it, and you would have parted with a kiss, and everything would have been all right.

It is never unmanly to speak a loving word, to give expression by kiss, or by gesture, to your affection, and the strongest and the bravest men that have lived were those who did not fear to tell their wives how much they loved them. Many women are hungry for loving words, and they are so easily said! You may argue to yourself that you love her just as much, even if you don't say so. My dear boy, she doesn't know that; she is not a mind-reader, and so you must take just a few minutes every day to make your wife understand that you love your wife better than you ever did your sweetheart.


That is your best side. When you are manly enough to be womanly, and to be charitable to the physical and mental side of your wife. You laugh with disdain, as is proper, at woman's suffrage j then you must understand that the woman who is not capable of taking the position of a man in the world requires from men a deal of consideration. Perhaps the time will come when the little wife may whisper to you that, with the summer time, there will be somebody else for you to love. Now comes the time for you to show your manliness. You can't possibly know all that that means to her, and when the little baby comes you are not going to be mean enough to be jealous and complain because all your wife's thought and all her love seem to be given to the newcomer. You know why it is? Because in him she sees the picture of you, and though she may appear to regard him as the most important person in the world, in her heart of hearts it is you who have her best love. And you must learn to be very thankful for that little child, for unless your household is peopled with children you won't have a home. Children are needed to make it, and when the years have gone by and the time is growing very near for you to leave this world, you will find a joy and satisfaction in them that nothing else can give.


It is the most important of all. You are two people who are getting acquainted with each other, and this acquaintance means a friendship for life. You must have, first of all, a good stock of patience. You know little about the ways and weaknesses of women, and you must learn to bear with them. You have promised to love and protect this woman, and you must show that you are a man of your word. You must protect her from your own follies, and you must be man enough not to be afraid to tell her of your love. The spoken word of love means very much to the wife. The kiss of greeting or farewell tells a more loving tale to the wife than it ever did to the sweetheart. You must cultivate, if you wish to make your wife happy, the expression of love. Many a woman has died believing that her husband did not love her, because he thought it unmanly to tell in words or deeds of all the love in his heart. Unmanly? It is manly. It is great and strong to take the woman you love close to you, close to your heart, to make your wife understand that every day brings her nearer to you, every hour makes you love her more, and that you are ten times happier when you think of her as your wife than when you dreamed of her as your sweetheart. A man is at his best when he loves most. And he is the best husband who makes his wife most thoroughly understand the strength of his love and all that she is to him.