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Friendship with Men



There are many popular misconceptions about mature single women and men. Some of these are that single women fear men and avoid them whenever possible, that they hate men, and that they do not know men or understand them. Others assume that they understand men all too well and that they are therefore dangerous. Some married women have a notion that the mature single woman has an over-developed sense of acquisitiveness toward men which constitutes a threat to the security and happiness of married women. During the era when economic and social life was centered in the family the association between a man and his family occurred at many levels. Family members were associated together in farming, in manufacture, and in business as well as in kinship and affection. But when industry was moved from the home, family members were separated to such an extent that family association is now based almost entirely upon the ties of kinship and affection. The average man shares his business life and his business activities with one group of individuals and he shares his domestic life and his affectional life with another group of individuals, the 'members of his family. While this division of interests and companionship appears to be a satisfactory one to the majority of individuals concerned, some situations of crisis do occur. Jealousy by the "home wife" of the "office wife" and the difficulty of keeping distinct the relative spheres of these two ladies have often been depicted by writers for the cinema. That triangular situations do some-times occur is evident from only a casual reading of the daily press. But that such situations are by no means frequent or typical is evident also. The single woman who works with a man employer is usually not interested in his personal life for the simple reason that her own personal life makes greater demands upon her attention than she can meet in whatever leisure she may have. Bernard Shaw in Candida has well portrayed the case of the secretary with a sentimental interest in her chief which she mistakes for an "interest in work." But women in business and the professions today are not so naive. They would readily be aware of the nature of "Prossy's complaint" and if they did not see this fallacy themselves, obliging friends and associates would gleefully point it out to them. Women are in business and the professions for the same reasons that men are in business and the professions. The average woman may be more conscientious about her work than the average man but she has an eye for the main chance just as he does and she is just as eager to avoid an emotional bog which entangles and hinders. For this reason she keeps her affectional life carefully insulated from the personal aspects of her business or professional life.

Despite this fact, however, a wife may sometimes become jealous of her husband's business associates and make trouble. One business woman complained that a profitable business partnership of twenty years was dissolved because of the insistence and threats of her partner's wife. The wife, a young and handsome woman, was reported to be jealous of her husband's business partner although the latter was twenty years her senior and obviously not a romantic type. But her husband's acquaintance and association with his business partner, which antedated by some years his acquaintance with his wife and their marriage, were disturbing to her and she insisted that the partnership be dissolved even though it involved considerable financial loss for all concerned. Such instances were the exception, however. The single women with whom we talked indicated that they had wished to keep business life apart from personal life and that they had succeeded in doing so.

The single woman who had no personal friendships with men was the exception in this study. Some women had friends of many years whose acquaintance dated back to school or college days. Others had friends of more recent years. A few women who professed to be fond of cafe society and night life had managed to keep themselves in circulation over several decades. One of these women, a feature writer for a woman's magazine, was one whose society was so highly prized because of her knowledge of men and events that she was in great demand. This woman was not handsome, she did not dress well, she did not drink or smoke. But she did possess a vivacity—a zest for living and an interest in people—which had gained her a large popularity and which caused both men and women to consider that an evening spent in her society was a privilege to be greatly prized. Single women in some centers in which few men are employed did complain, however, of a manless existence and the monotony of a strictly feminine society. On the other hand, one woman who had left city life to accept a position in a boom town complained of the monotony of masculine surroundings and the lack of the feminine society which she had enjoyed in city life.

It is sometimes assumed that men resent and fear the mature single woman who is successful in her career. There seems to be basis for this assumption in some instances. Women who compete with men for employment opportunities and for advancement may provoke resentment and criticism. A man who is surpassed in skill or speed by a woman will usually resent it more than he would if he were surpassed by another man. Some situations of this nature may provoke actual hate and the use of unfair tactics. It is sometimes asserted that women do not play "according to the rules of the game" and that they use unfair tactics in competition. And no doubt they do. But business competition between men is seldom an inspiring spectacle either, and a knowledge of the tactics which they use in competing with each other has no doubt influenced women in their own manoeuvers for advancement. But situations in which rivalry is keen and conditions uncertain appear to be unfavorable to the best development of womanly character, and in recent years there has been a tendency for women to with-draw from such situations to those in which their services are more clearly useful.

Aside from competition, however, there are other aspects of the single woman's life which provoke resentment and criticism in some men. The single woman may represent to him a type of womanly development which is different from that which he sees in the women whom he best loves and understands—his mother and his wife. Because the single woman differs from the women he knows in some respects he may imagine that her character is utterly alien to his understanding. She has not married; she may hate men. She has no children; she must dislike children. Since her dependents often do not live with her he imagines that she has no dependents. She is therefore selfish, she can spend all of her income on herself while he, poor man, must take his pay envelop home to his wife.

This lack of understanding of the mature single woman is far less prevalent than it was a few decades ago. A number of factors have operated to dispel it. For one thing the average man of today has a mature single woman in his own family or kinship group and he has come to know her. The chances are that he is deriving direct benefits from the fact that she has remained single. If he is married it *may be that he is free to support his own family because she assumes the burden of supporting the parents. If he has received an education above the average that may be due to the fact that she contributed to it directly by paying his tuition or indirectly by assuming the full burden of home responsibility while he was away from home. If she has done none of these things he, at least, knows her and knows what constitutes her life. He is not forced to rely upon "pictures in the head" which correspond to no known reality.

It is often remarked that the small minority of men who remain hostile toward the single woman are composed of those who have achieved the smallest measure of success themselves, and it seems likely that this is true. For it would be this group of men who would be most threatened by feminine competition and it would be to them that the spectacle of feminine success in their own field would constitute a reproach. For it is evident—and the women included in this study make frequent mention of the fact—that the majority of men with whom they work and associate not only play the game squarely and honestly but sometimes with real generosity and concern.



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