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Chapter 2 - A Tale of Woe
"Why is it that, in more than two-thirds of families the wife and mother bears not only the children but the burdens and heartaches? The husband supplies the money (generally not enough), the wife has the care of a growing and increasing family, the best of everything is saved for 'Father' and he is waited on, etc. If the children annoy him he goes to his club; if the wife dies, why there are plenty more women for the asking. Thousands of women are simply starving for Love and men are either willfully blind or wholly and utterly selfish. You possibly know that this is quite true. Another thing that has caused me many a time to question everything: During the Christmas holidays many times I have seen half-clad, hungry, shivering little ones gazing longingly into the wonderful show windows, wanting probably just one toy, while children no more worthy drive by in carriages, having more than they want. Love, home, mother, everything; on the other hand hunger, want, blues (many times), and both God's children. Let us hear what you have to say about this." B. B.
Why does the mother in two-thirds of the families bear not only the children but the burdens and heartaches? Because she is too thoughtless and inert not to. It is easier to submit to bearing children than it is to rise up and take command of her own body. It is easier to carry burdens than to wake up and fire them. It is easier to "bear" things and grumble than it is to kick over the traces and change them. To be sure, most women are yet under the hypnotic spell of the old race belief that it is woman's duty to "submit" herself to any kind of an old husband; but that is just what I said--women find it easier to go through life half asleep rather than to think for themselves. Paul says a woman is not to think, she is to ask her husband to think for her. (At least that is what the translators say Paul says. Privately, I have my suspicions that those manly translators helped Paul to say a bit more than he meant to.) It is easier to let her husband think for her even when she doesn't like his thoughts. So she uses her brain in grumbling instead of thinking.
People who don't think are ruled by feeling. Women feel. They feel not only for themselves but for other people. They shoulder the burdens of the whole family and a few outside the family. They do it themselves--because it is easier to feel than to think. Nobody walks up to a woman and says, "Here--I have a burden that's very heavy--you carry it whilst I go off and have a good time." No. The woman simply takes the burden and hugs it and "feels" it--and prides herself on doing it. And maybe the thing she hugs as a burden is no burden at all to the other people in the family. My dear, women as a rule are chumps. They'd rather feel anything than to think the right thing.
Now I'd like to know if you think a woman who has made herself round-shouldered and wrinkled and sour-visaged over burdens--anybody's burdens, real or fancied--is such a creature as attracts love or consideration from anybody. Of course she is not. It is no wonder she receives no love or consideration from her husband or anybody else. She has made a pack mule out of herself for the carrying of utterly useless burdens that nobody wants carried and the carrying of which benefits nobody; and now that she has grown ugly and sour at the business she need not feel surprised at being slighted. And she need not blame folks for slighting her. She assumed the burdens; she carried them; she wore herself out at it; it is all her own fault. It was easier for her to feel, and grumble, than to wake up and THINK, and change things.
Nobody who thinks will carry a single burden for even a single day. He knows that fretting and worrying and grumbling only double the burden and accomplish nothing.
Woman has built herself for bearing children and burdens. When she gets tired of her bargain she will think her way out of the whole thing. In the meantime the harder the burdens grow the more quickly she will revolt and make of herself something besides a burden bearer.
It is all nonsense to talk about the men being "willfully blind or wholly and utterly selfish." No man wants a burden-bearing, round-shouldered, wrinkled and fagged-out wife. No man respects or loves a woman who will "submit" to bearing unlimited burdens or babies either. And if a woman "submits" and yet keeps up a continual grumbling and nagging about it, a man simply despises her.
What every man hopes for when he marries a woman, is that she will be a bright, trim, reasonable comrade. If she is even half-way that she will get all the love and consideration she can long for. But in three-quarters of the cases of marriage the woman degenerates into a whining bundle of thought-less FEELINGS done up in a slattern's dress and smelling like a drug-shop. Her husband in despair gives up trying to understand her, or to love her either.
The woman in such a case is apt to suffer most. Why not? She makes it the business of her life to "suffer." She prides herself on how much she has had to "suffer," and "bear." She cultivates her "feelings" to the limit. A man thinks it "unmanly" to give way to "feelings." So he uses all his wits to keep from doing so, and to enable him to hide his own disappointment and make the best of life as he finds it.
A man uses his best judgment when he meets disappointment. A woman trots out her "feelings" and her best pocket-handkerchief, and calls in the neighbors. So the woman gets the lion's share of "sympathy"--which means that all the other women get out their best handkerchiefs and try to imagine just how they would "feel" if in her place.
Of course there are exceptions. I have heard of men who wept and retailed their woes; and I have heard of women with gumption.
The woman who wrote the letter at the head of this chapter is a feel-er, not a thinker. She looks at the forlorn, bedraggled specimens of her own sex and "feels" with them, never THINKING that the women themselves have anything to do with making their conditions. She "feels" with the woman because she is a woman. Being an unthinking creature she cannot "feel" for the man at all.
Woman is the weaker creature for no other reason than that she lives in her "feelings."
Man is the stronger for no other reason than that he uses his wits and his will to control his feelings. "B. B." has seen children gazing into shop windows. Immediately she imagines how she would "feel" if in their places. She does not stop to THINK that in all probability the simple act of gazing into the window may bring more real joy to those children than the possession of the whole windowful of toys would bring to some rich man's child. She does not think that life consists not in possessions or environment, but in the ability to use possessions or environment. If she were an Edwin Abbey or a Michael Angelo she would gaze on our chromo-bedecked walls and work herself up into a great state of "feeling" because we had to have such miserable daubs instead of real works of art. If she saw us gazing on an Abbey or Angelo picture she would weep tears to think we couldn't have such pictures instead of those hideous bright chromos on our walls. It would never occur to her that we might be privately comparing her Abbeys and Angelos with our chromos, and wondering how anybody could possibly see beauty in the Abbeys and Angelos.
About nine-tenths of women's so-called "sympathy" is just about as foolish and misplaced as that. If "B. B." would go up and get acquainted with some of those small youngsters she sees gazing into the shop windows she would find some of her illusions dispelled. She would find among them less "longing" than she thinks, and more wonder and criticism and pure curiosity--such as she would find in her own heart if she were gazing at a curio collection.
I remember a large family of very small boys that I used to "feel" for, very deeply. Poor little pinched, ragged looking fellows they were, and always working before and after school hours. I gave them nickels and dimes and my children's outgrown clothes, and new fleece lined gloves for their blue little hands. They kept the clothes hung up at home and the gloves stuffed in their pants pockets. And one day I discovered that every one of those small youngsters had a bank account--something I had never had in my life! They lived as they liked to live, and I had been harrowing my feelings and carrying their (?) burdens for nothing.
This world is not a pitiful place. It is a lovely great world, full of all sorts of people, every one of whom exactly fits into his conditions.
And the loveliest thing of all about this bright, blessed old world is that there is not a man, woman or child in it who cannot change his environment if he doesn't like the one he now occupies. He can THINK his way into anything.
A real, deep, tender feeling will prompt one to do all he can to alleviate distress or add to the world's joy. Real feeling prompts to action. But this sentimental slush which slops over on anything and everything in general is nothing but an imitation of the real thing. To sympathize to the extent of acting is good; to harrow up the feelings when you cannot or will not act, is simply weakness.
"Feeling" is subject to the same law as water. Take away its banks and it spreads all over creation and becomes a stagnant slough of despond. Confine it by banks of common-sense and will and it grows deep and tender and powerful, and bears blessings on its bosom.
The professional pity-er is adding to the sum total of the world's misery.
The world is like "sweet Alice Ben Bolt"; it laughs with delight when you give it a smile, and gets out its pocket handkerchief to weep with you when you call it "Poor thing!"
Then it cuts its call short and runs around the corner to tell your neighbor what a tiresome old thing you are anyway.
Never you mind the tribulations you can't help, dearie. Just wake up and be the brightest, happiest, sweetest thing you know how to be, and the world will-be that much better off.
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