What Men Say About Us
( Originally Published 1892 )
Men talk very nicely to us, but they say some very disagreeable things about us.
In the time of holiday shopping, when we and our country cousins have a monopoly of public conveyances, bazaars and stores, we furnish a fruitful subject for unpleasant comment to lordly man.
"I have made up my mind to never resign my place in a car to another woman," I overheard a very fine looking man say to a lady, evidently his wife, in the Broadway car recently.
As he made this remark he looked proudly and defiantly at several women who were wobbling about in the car, holding to the strap with one hand and grasping Christmas parcels with the other, and casting pathetic glances at all the men who had seats.
"Why, dear?" questioned the wife, somewhat timidly, for the expression on her husband's face and the sound of his voice suggested to her the nature of his thoughts.
"Because women are so confoundedly selfish, thoughtless, stupid, indifferent, ungrateful and disagreeable in public places," replied the man. "I grow to despise them more every day I live. They are like a lot of hens running hither and thither, fluttering their wings. in each other's eyes, quacking, cackling, getting under people's feet and pecking at you if you try to drive them in the right direction. If they would only carry out the hen nature still further, by going to their roosts at sunset, it would be a relief. But you run against them at all hours, everywhere, and it is getting worse every day. They are so beastly impolite to one another, so selfishly thoughtless of everybody's comfort save their own, that I am not going to sacrifice myself in future for a false idea of gallantry. I am going to keep my seat and let the women wobble."
I was wobbling on a strap directly in front of the man who delivered this oration, so that I received the full benefit of his remarks. He was a man of marked elegance and refinement, a thorough cosmopolitan in appearance, and his voice was that of a cultured gentleman. I felt that he was driven to this extremity of speech by long suffering at our hands. His wife interposed a mild little objection.
"Not all women are like that, I am sure," to which he replied, "Well, no, but you are about the only exception I have ever found to the rule," and after that, of course, she would not argue the point, for nothing is so delightful to a woman as to feel that she is the sole and only exception to a disagreeable rule in a man's eyes.
I have questioned several men since that day on this subject, and so far every one has agreed to some extent with the irate orator of the Broadway car.
One gentleman, told me that he saw better manners and less rudeness in a crowd on lower Bowery, which waited three hours one day to witness a boxing match, than he found the next day at the Union League Club "Ladies' Day."
I have set myself to watching you, too, my dear ladies, and I must confess the men are right in their estimate of us.
A few weeks since I accompanied a young lady friend to a theatre box-office to procure tickets.
A lady whose name is placed prominently upon Mr. Ward McAllister's visiting list, stepped out of her carriage as we approached the theatre and preceded us to the window of the box-office.
Behind us came two other people and when we had been five minutes in the place a dozen persons were in line waiting to procure tickets. Mme. Fashion settled herself in the window frame, took out her handkerchief and wiped a very ordinary looking nose leisurely, searched for her purse, refolded some bills which had became wrinkled in one of its compartments, leaned her forearms in the window and asked the young man in attendance what chance she had for obtaining good orchestra chairs for the next evening's performance. That personage replied with the bored brevity of tone and cold calmness of expression, usual with the box-office young man, and placed the plan of the house before the lady.
She looked it over leisurely, commented on the seats sold, indicated the seats she would prefer if they were not already sold, and finally to the immense relief of the crowd of people waiting behind her, paid for several tickets, and after again re-arranging her pocket book placed the tickets within it. But instead of moving out of the line she leaned in the window again and began questioning the bored youth about the play. She had heard that some changes were made in the cast. Was it true? No! Well, how could such an idea get in circulation? Had he not heard of it? Was he quite sure? Well, she was so glad to know the facts in the case.
When she finally moved on, serenely unconscious that she had annoyed, irritated and inconvenienced a dozen people by her selfish and inconsiderate actions, I wondered what interpretation she put on the words she no doubt mumbled every Sabbath, "Do unto others as ye would they should do to you." No doubt, like many people, she supposed this sentence applied to great deeds of charity or self-sacrifice. Instead, they apply to the every-day courtesies of life.
My dear women, if you would like to have men give you seats in public -places, begin by giving one another seats. I think I could count on the fingers of one hand the women. I have seen resign their places to more burdened or tired sisters.
If you would like to have people courteous in crowded stores, begin by not allowing the door to slam in the faces of those who follow you; do not stand in the aisles of dry-goods establishments and chat with some friend and compel other women to push past you, and, if some woman has the politeness to ask you to let her pass, do not glare at her and stand like a great glazier until you force her to be angry and rude. Do not endanger the eyes of people who climb stairs behind you by the careless way you hold your umbrella or parasol.
If you see two friends who want to sit together in a car, and by changing your position you can accommodate them, be thoughtful enough to do so, even if you are a woman.
If you ride on an elevated road, get your nickel ready for your ticket before you reach the window, and do not keep a crowd of tired people waiting while you hunt for your purse and search for your change.
If you go to purchase theater or opera tickets, remember the feeling of the people who are waiting to do the same thing, and do not imagine that it is your right to monopolize the time, because you are a woman.
In fact "do unto others as ye would that they would do to you" in the small, trivial daily events of life and you will be helping to elevate mankind and to evangelize the world far more than if you ignore these small courtesies and wait for some great "mission."
No doubt the lady I saw at the box-office of the theater that day is an active worker in some Sunday-school or mission, and feels that she is doing her share towards educating and benefitting poor human nature. Very likely she is giving little talks to working girls on good conduct and proper deportment; and since it is fashionable to be literary, it may be that she writes articles calculated to instruct the benighted people who are not "in the swim" how to behave. But to my way of thinking she would be doing a nobler work if she practised the small decencies of life, the thoughtful politenesses which demand constant unselfishness from morning till night, even if she never entered a Sunday-school or mission.
The woman who keeps her good manners, her politeness, her courtesy for society, or for her own home even, is not doing her duty as a Christian or a refined woman. No matter how indifferent she feels to the "great unwashed" masses, no matter how small a part the public has in her life, she owes it to her sex to be thoughtful, polite and considerate of others when she is in public places or 'conveyances.
Not till we "do as we would be done by" in these places as well as in the home or church circles, can we expect courtesy and respect from men.