Men Or Women As Friends
( Originally Published 1892 )
In a room full of ladies I heard this question discussed in all its bearings not long ago, and a great many interesting anecdotes and experiences were related. The majority of unmarried women expressed quite unanimously an opinion in favor of the men. The married ladies were less outspoken, but the greater number of them were not enthusiastic in their faith in man's friendship for women. Their skepticism might be attributed to various causes. Perhaps they knew the genus homo better than their single sisters did. Perhaps they did not think it wise to encourage the damsels in their dangerous, even if true theory.
Many an unmarried girl is blind to the virtues of women because she has not time to study them. Her horizon is bounded by masculine forms, and she is-quite content to have it so. By and by, when she concentrates her attention and interest on one man and the others disappear like setting stars at the rise of the sun, why then she notices the beauty and fragrance of those human flowersówomen.
I heard one young lady, who had fought a single handed battle with the world and achieved success, declare that the question was not even open to discussion in her mind.
" I think no one is a better judge of the matter," she said, " than a woman who has had to make her own way in life. I received appreciation and encouragement from men, when women gave me only indifference or neglect. Men predicted my success, while women feared I would fall. Men praised what they termed my courage, while women criticised what they termed my boldness."
Another lady declared that she would invariably go to a man were she in need of friendship or protection in time of trouble.
" If I were placed in a compromising situation for instance," she said, " and wished to confide in some one, and had only my own words to prove my innocence, do you think I would trust myself to the mercy of a woman? No, indeed. And if I had done wrong and needed a confessor and counselor, surely I would go to a man. Women are so cruel to their own sex."
At this juncture I remarked that a man would always protect a woman against every man but himself. That task he left to her.
Hereupon a happy looking married lady expressed her opinion.
" You have all given your theories," quoth she, " now listen to my experience. No girl ever pos- sessed more gentlemen friends than I. My career was a self-made and self-supporting one also. I, too, found men far readier with praise and encouragement than women were. Men proffered advice and aid, while women gave it if asked. Yet as time advanced I found men far more selfish in their friendship than women were. The interest of my most platonic male friends noticeably lessened after my marriage, and in several cases turned into enmity, while woman regarded me with increased favor.
" Men whose respect and admiration, unmixed with any tender sentiment, I would have sworn I had won did not hesitate to shrug their shoulders and sneer when I made an excellent marriage, and no longer needed their occasional advice. I really think a man's friendship for an unmarried woman is always, even if unconsciously to himself, selfish. While she belongs to no one he imagines she belongs in some degree to himself, and rejoices in her prosperity. When she belongs to another man all this ceases. Women are less enthusiastic in the beginning, but their friendship wears better."
" I don't know how it is in the matter of friendship," a young lady interposed, " but I know when I go into any large establishment shopping I always receive better attention and more courtesy from the salesmen than from the sales-girls. If I desire to be directed to another department in the store, I always prefer to ask a man, and he is more willing and affable in his manner."
A young girl who had once published a little book and sold it on the street to passers-by said: " Men are far kinderhearted than women. Women looked at me as if I were doing some dreadful and improper act; men looked at me with sympathy and interest. In any time of distress women look at you as if you were lying to them; men wait until they catch you in a lie, and then tell you of it. They forget and forgive a wrong, too, far sooner than women do."
Hereupon I remarked that once upon a time I asked a favor of a gentleman in the presence of two ladies. The gentleman expressed the deepest sympathy and the most genuine regret that he could not assist me. Both ladies voluntarily offered the aid which I had not thought of appealing for to them.
I think that if you can once remove all idea of possible rivalry from a woman's mind she makes a better friend than any man living. Tell a woman your successes and she may show jealousy, but tell her your sorrows and your failures and she is moved to befriend you.
On the contrary, tell a man of your successes a nd you win his admiring regard; while if you tell him your troubles, you weary him.
One lady said she thought men were more prompt and agreeable, as a rule, than our own sex in their manner of bestowing favors, and it was because they were educated to business methods. A woman often wounded your feelings from no lack of kind impulses, but merely from her awkwardness in dealing with any matter outside of parlor or kitchen. A married lady said she quite coincided with the last speaker in regard to the business methods of the sterner sex. Thereupon she related her somewhat unusual experience."
" I was an artist," she said, " and my studio was in the same building in which an elderly professional gentleman occupied an office. He obtained an introduction to me, and became greatly interested in my work. He never indulged in the least sentiment toward me. His social and business standing was excellent, he was very intellectual, and I quite prized his friendship and valued his advice and criticism. Several times he invited me to lunch with him at midday, almost the only hour either of us had free from our work for social converse. He was many years my senior, and I saw no impropriety in accepting. Well, by and by my prince came and carried me away a wife. I had often written to him of the nice old gentleman who was so kindly interested in my work. Imagine my humiliation when a bill was sent in for the lunches to which the nice old gentleman had invited me! Surely these were thrifty business methods indeed!
I have about made up my mind that a man seldom or never shows a lady who is in no way related or dependent upon him marked and continued kindness, unless he expects some sort of a return for them."
When I had pondered over all that I had heard, and placed my own personal experience and impressions along with the other testimony my conclusions might be classified as follows:
1. Men are more enthusiastic and ready to espouse the cause of women than her sister women are.
2. Women, when their interest is finally won, are more lasting in their friendships.
3. There is instinctive rivalry between women which, until it is overcome by the bonds of sympathy is a bar to true, unselfish friendship.
4. There is an instinctive attraction between men and women which is a bar to safe and unselfish friendship.
5. Men expect more in return for their favors than women do.
6. Men are far more agreeable to approach in any matter requiring courtesy and politeness.
7. Women are far safer and more reliable friends in the long run.
8. The friendship of men noticably decreases after a woman marries.
9. The friendship of women noticeably strengthens after a woman marries.
10. A good and efficient man is a far better friend and adviser than a weak woman.
11. A good and efficient woman is a better friend and adviser than a weak man.
12. There is no rule which governs the matter.