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Conjugal Discords by M. H.

1878

The weaknesses and follies of woman are a theme on which men, from the sage to the clown, have at all times been eloquent. Her natural coquetry in dress, her maternal vanity, her devotion to the little elegancies of the home, to clean windows and fresh curtains, are inexhaustible sources of masculine merriment or abuse. What housekeeper ever complained of an aching back or of nervous irritation without being scolded by her "lord" for some extra work she had done in beautifying the home? Men never seem to learn that women, as a rule, cannot find life endurable in the atmosphere of dust and disorder which characterizes bachelor housekeeping, and which seldom disturbs the equanimity of the masculine mind in the least. Men and women are so different in their tastes and ways that there must always be discord and unhappiness in the household until the sexes give over trying to change or remodel those tastes and ways, and learn to respect them. Men must accept as inevitable the fact that women to be happy must have artistic, or at least dainty and cozy, environments; and women must learn to preserve their souls in quiet when men spill their tobacco and ashes over the carpets and tables, for probably no man ever lived who could fill a pipe, even from a wash-tub, without scattering the tobacco over the premises.

That the sexes will give over trying to reform each other does not seem likely to happen very soon. Indeed, one might be pardoned for believing that matrimony is specially adapted to develop all the imperfections and meannesses of human character, and that even of those matches that are made in heaven the devil arranges all the subsequent conditions. There is hardly a pure and innocent delight that unmarried women enjoy which they can carry into that blissful world bounded by the marriage-ring. One of those delights is that of squandering a little money, which is merely the equivalent of man's spending it as he likes, without accounting to any one. Few wives can do this and not be subjected to the humiliation of hearing the husband say, "My dear, are you not a little extravagant? Is all that money gone that I gave you last week?"

Men and women seem incapacitated, in the very nature of things, from understanding each other. While mutually enamored they meet as upon a bridge—a Bridge of Sighs perhaps: break this, and they are for ever separated as by an impassable gulf. Leaving aside entirely the enamored state, do men as a rule seek the society of women and prefer it to that of men? The thriving clubs, the billiard- and drinking-saloons, and the other resorts of men common all over the civilized world, seem very like a negative answer to the question. In savage life we know that the sexes do not hunt or fish or do any work together. In our modern drawing-rooms most men confess themselves "bored." They long to get away to their clubs or some other resort of their fellows. When husbands spend their evenings at home, if no one happens to call it is not common for them to enter into long and exhilarating conversations with their wives. To be sure, wives are too often ignorant of the subjects that interest intelligent men; still, not more ignorant than before marriage, when the one bridge upon which they could meet was unbroken. Then conversation never flagged: it was ever new and entrancing. Both talked pure nonsense, while having the art of "kissing full sense into empty words." On the other hand, it is, I think, quite a defensible proposition, despite the inferences to the contrary drawn from the failure of the Women's Hotel, that women enjoy conversation with women more than with men when there is no possible question of gallantry or flirtation; and, finally, that the recognition of the fact that men and women are not by nature in sympathetic accord, but only attracted through the law of compensation or opposites, will do more than all other things combined to make them study each other's natures and to respect sexual biases and characteristics, the motive for that study being, of course, the consummation of the ideal marriage, where man and woman set themselves together "like perfect music unto noble words."

M.H.