( Originally Published 1892 )
Almost every author known, and every scribbler who has dipped his pen in ink, some time or other has given vent to comments upon or descriptions of the woman men like, and she is invariably pronounced to be unpopular with her own sex.
More than once I have heard a dashing belle, surrounded by a crowd of admiring men, boast of her unpopularity with women.
" Girls never like me, and old ladies look on me with disapproval," I heard one say with a proud air. " I am sure I don 't know why."
Then the men all cried: " Oh, we know why. It is because we all find you so charming. Women never forgive another woman for that, you know. You can't be popular with both sexes."
Now no more fallacious and threadbare theory ever existed.
I know women—a number of them—who are adored by men and worshiped by their own sex; women whose conquests and- triumphs seem to be regarded by their girl companions, and their maturer friends, as a matter of course.
I also know other women, in a greater number, who are greatly sought after by the sterner sex, admired and praised, while their lady acquaintences find them disagreeable and unlovable in the extreme. I have studied these women with great care, and I find them invariably selfish, cruel or thoughtless toward their own sex. All their sweet arts are saved for men: but you will never find a man who believes such a woman can be disagreeable. He will take sides with her against the sweetest and best woman of his acquaintance, and he will accuse them of jealousy and envy and tell the handsome belle that she must not expect to be popular with both sexes—that the thing is impossible.
Yet he has only to look about him a bit to find that it is not impossible. I repeat it is not uncommon to find a woman adored by both sexes. But when a man comes across a case of this kind he attributes it to some subtle charm—some occult spell which the woman possesses.
I have observed that this subtle spell is usually thoughtfulness and tact. This sounds trite, may be, but it is true. The woman who talks of
others' charms and relates others' conquests will be immensely popular with her own sex, no matter how much she is admired by men.
The girl who sits down and tells her lady friends of the compliments men paid her ; of the proposals she has had ; of the admiration she has received to the neglect of others, and then straightway expresses pity for their dull lives, or passes some disagreeable comment upon their personal appearance—that girl will be hated and disliked very naturally.
Yet her male admirer will construe her unpopularity with her lady acquaintances to jealousy, and you cannot convince them of their error.
One of the most fascinating women I ever knew, before whom male hearts fell like blades of grass before the scythe, possessed remarkable tact with her own sex. She invariably related to her lady friends the sweet things she had heard said of them since the last meeting, and the admiration which certain gentlemen had expressed for them. She praised their costumes and showed them a thousand delicate attentions, and it was not at all to be wondered at that women understood and forgave her conque is of
"Were I a man I too should love her," they often used to say.
Men spoke of her "subtle power" over her own sex.
That subtle power was thoughtfulness and tact.
One of our most brilliant authors has described a heroine as chagrined at the confidence and friendship she inspired in women, since it implied no fear of her as a possible rival. As this heroine was an idle, unoccupied woman of fashion, who had miss ed happiness in marriage, her limited perceptions in this matter were not surprising; but I have seen the most seductive and magnetic women where men were concerned, inspire confidence and friendship in their own sex through good taste and fine ideals of right and wrong.
It is a fact ignored by most authors, that a woman may be at once good and fascinating. Yet it is none the less a fact.
Of course the woman who is' never satisfied unless she has a monopoly of all the men she meets, is not likely to be a favorite with her sex. She delights in taking husbands from wives, and lovers from sweethearts, and we would not expect to find wives and sweethearts adoring her. But her absolute selfishness, not her popularity with men, is the obstacle to their regard. I have seen a brainless and not beautiful woman succeed in this role through bravado, animal spirits, and a flattering tongue.
I have, too, seen a woman whose beauty and magnetism combined with great wit, acted as a lodestone to every man in a room ten minutes after she entered; but within half an hour the women were all singing her praises and yielding to her charm. This was accomplished by her adroit methods of distributing her would-be admirers among wall flowers, and paying delicate attentions to the neglected of her own sex.
Girls who are brilliant in the society of men not infrequently exhibit an entirely opposite phase of themselves to women. A fair blonde who is considered a queen of wit by the lords of creation, was talking with two ladies in my hearing recently.
"I was at the ball the other night, you know," she said. "I wore my lavender silk, and every one said I looked extremely well. It has no sleeves and you know my arms are plump, and you should have heard the compliments I received. One man said he had always hated sleeveless gowns, until he saw mine.
"I had half a dozen invitations for every dance, but I sat and talked through all the lanciers. You know I have a way of talking that takes with the men. I give them as good as they send. Not that I am free or bold, but know just where to draw the line; I never get too dignified or too free. I have a knack of treating each man the way he likes. I heard afterward that two awfully particular fellows were quite struck with me; they never were known to praise a girl so highly. I can always get on with men so much easier than with women some how."
This egotistical and idiotic meandering went on and on like Tennyson's Brook, and her two listeners sat in dumb enduring silence. It is not a matter of surprise to me that this particular "man's woman" is not a favorite with her sex. The most exhausting bore on earth is the woman who insists on analyzing herself for your edification.
We are ready to forgive, and even admire, the reigning belle if she will not take it upon herself to explain her own charms to us. That is the unpardonable sin against good taste.
It is only the very young, the very old, or the very crude man who finds the selfish siren order of woman continuously fascinating; but as there are a vast number of very young, of very old and very crude men forming our society, everywhere, this order of woman has and will continue to have a large army of followers. And these men will go on forever, doubtless, getting off their threadbare "speeches about the "man's woman who is never the woman's woman," and undiscriminating people will believe them.