Men And Flirts
( Originally Published 1892 )
Were you to ask any man the question, "Do you like flirts?" he would reply in a scornful negative; and he would, in all probability, add some emphatic remarks to the negative. He would tell you that "a flirty girl" was his abhorrence; that she lowered the standard of her sex, and he felt genuine regret whenever he encountered one of them; and that any man who was rash enough to be inveigled into marriage by a flirt ought to receive our mingled pity and contempt.
I venture to say ten men out of every ten you might consult on this point would give you this sort of a reply in case you asked the question seriously and demanded a serious response.
And yet—and yet—how are we to explain the fact that the flirts almost invariably marry, and quite frequently marry better than do their modest and retiring sisters?
We have but to look about us to prove this statement. Select yonr own immediate circle of young lady friends—those whom you have known during the last ten years—and you will find, I think, that few, if any of the flirtishly inclined girls remained single, while several of their prudent and well-behaved and more industrious sisters are still clinging, ungathered, on the parental brand
Not many years ago I heard a father caution his two lovely and accomplished daughters against an intimacy with two of their girl friends. "Those girls are becoming so flirtish and gay," he said, - that I am sure your good names will suffer if you are seen much in their company. Men are quick to comment upon and misinterpret such frivolous actions as I see those girls indulge in, and I do not want you to suffer from an unwise intimacy. I have no doubt they are innocent girls now, but they will soon lose the reputation of innocence if they are not more prudent."
The daughters of the gentleman listened to his counsel and ceased to visit the young ladies who had been accused of being flirts—and not without cause; and yet, I regret to relate, the two flirts are to-day wives of men who adore them, and who are the most tender and devoted husbands, while the two prudent daughters of the discreet gentleman have remained at home unwooed and unwon.
Innumerable cases of a similar kind have come under my immediate observation.
Ofttimes men themselves do not know why they are attracted to and won by these girls, despite their better judgment; but it seems to me like this: Stronger and deeper than man's cultivated and acquired tastes for the domestic virtues of civilized life, is his inborn admiration for what they usually term "go" in a woman.
I think I have seen more men's eyes sparkle when they described a woman as full of "go" than I have ever seen from any other cause.
A man will be very calm and matter-of-fact when he tells you how very beautiful some woman is; he will be phlegmatic and prosaic when he tells you of some "highly accomplished and charming woman" he knows. Not a ripple will disturb the repose of his face when he speaks of some good, domestic, virtuous girls of his acquaintance; but when he says, "By Jove! she's full of go!" his calm becomes exhilaration, his eye glows, his voice thrills.
I have heard them say it scores of times, and it is always with the same intense delight and appreciation.
I heard it said once of a girl on a country farm; the hired man fell ill just in the harvest season, and she took his seat on the great reaper and drove four horses until the over-ripe wheat was cut and bound. I heard it said of a young girl who had been reared in luxury and idleness, and whose father died suddenly and left the family with nothing but debts; in less than six months she had canvassed all the adjoining towns and had obtained a large paying class in music. I heard it said of the wife of a famous politician, whose energy and tact and brilliancy won him half his success; and I heard it said of a society girl, who was not brilliant or rich, but who became a belle because she was the best dancer, rider, swimmer, and talker in her set.
Now it is the same element—a sort of combustive hidden quality of character—that actuated these women to do what they did, which causes many girls to become flirts.
An excess of physical vitality, an over-supply of mental activity, an ambition to do, or be, which has no proper outlet—in other words, misdirected "go."
Indeed, it is only the occasional woman who is full of "go," whose life is so well directed and whose nature so well balanced that she keeps wholly out of mischief.
At the same time, whatever direction or escape this element finds, it makes itself felt above all mere goodness or passive propriety coupled with domestic virtues. Girls devoid of this element do not understand why they are not as attractive to men as some less beautiful and less prudent friend may be, and think the male sex very unappreciative.
They hear men severely criticise the girl whose misdirected "go" has led her into flirtatious follies with his sex, yet he is attracted, in spite of himself, by the quality which actuated her follies, and he ends by marrying her.
"I do not see that it pays to oe well behaved and prudent," said a very beautiful and modest girl to me recently. "The men treat you with respect, but they pay all their attention, and finally marry the girls who flirt with them."
I suppose I might have read a homily on the happiness of good behaviour, and the sinfulness of flirting to this girl, but I did not. Neither did I contradict her assertion, as there was a mass of convincing evidence on her side of the question. But I pondered deeply on the subject, and arrived at my present conclusions.
Men want to be amused and entertained, and the girl with- "go" knows how to entertain them ; while the merely good and modest girl waits to be entertained herself.
Extremely discreet and domestic girls, who never feel any inclination to kick over the traces of conventionality are worthy and excellent members of society, but they seldom possess much "go." This quality needs to be born in a person, like most other qualities, if we would achieve great results, yet it can be cultivated.
The best advice I can give to the modest and good girl is to cultivate "go."
Shake yourself up, overcome yourself-consciousness, your indolence, and your fears of public comment, try to be animated, try to be ambitious. tactful, amusing, and thoughtful of others.
Don't get into conventional ruts and act like every other girl you know. Dare to be yourself—for every one has an individuality peculiarly his own. But in your efforts to be attractive don't attempt to be flirtish when it is not your nature to be so, because you see that men make love to flirts, even while despising them. If you do you will soon bring ridicule and disgrace upon yourself, and win no man's regard.
It is not the flirting which draws the men—it is the element I have referred to, which, when misdirected, frequently causes a girl to flirt, that attracts them, even in spite of their prejudices.
A man would prefer a girl who possessed "go" and who did not become a flirt. If you, devoid of this element, degenerate into a flirt, you will be like some literary aspirants who emulate the vices of Balzac and Swinburne without possessing any of their genius.
Avoid flirting, my dear girls, but cultivate "go."