Thursday, June 23, 2005
TALKING TO MEN
SOME GIRLS FIND IT MOST DIFFICULTBeatrice Fairfax Advises Young Women to Read and Have Something Worth While to DiscussBy Beatrice FairfaxThe Mansfield News, Sunday, April 4, 1920"They always talk who never think," said a writer of by-gone days. Yet most girls imagine that empty-pated chatterboxes are more charming by far than serious-minded, dignified women who speak only when they have something to say.Daily I received letters from girls who sadly confess that when they find themselves alone with the man they most want to impress they find themselves tongue-tied."What am I to do?" writes Maizie. "I simply can't find myself alone with a man. In a crowd, I'm often the life of the party. I can sing and dance and play and tell an amusing story and keep everything going. So I generally make friends at a large gathering and get a number of invitations. But if any of them are to go to a show or spend an evening alone with a fellow I always queer myself before the evening is over. For I simply can't think of one word to say. I know I got a reputation for being entertaining at the party, and I go half crazy knowing I won't be able to live up to it. What am I to do? Can't you suggest some way I can find topics to discuss with men when I'm alone with them?"
There's the obvious suggestion that the same care-free, unselfish-conscious [sic] spirit which makes Maizie so entertaining at a party might serve her in good stead when she's alone with men. There aren't any rules about how to be entertaining. Conversation isn't a set thing to work out by rule. It ought instead to be a spontaneous interchange of ideas between people who have something to say to each other, and in the saying stimulate each other to further conversation.Maizie probably thinks that talking to a man alone ought to be romantic adventure, most stimulating to him and the girl who furnishes the emotional excitement of the occasion by her words. When she's alone with a man she feels that as a tribute to her womanhood he ought to be personal, romantic, chivalrous—altogether different from the man she sees in a crowd or out among men. And when he isn't she feels that she's a social failure and doesn't know how to talk to men.It's a tragic blunder for girls to fancy that [the] only relationship possible between them and men is a "man and woman one." There is no reason why girls and boys should spend their time together in remembering that they are girls and boys. The difference between the sexes are great enough without our constantly adding our mile of self-conscious posturing to the sum.Why can't a girl talk to a man about the things she'd like to talk to a woman? His work and hers, the events of the day in the history of the world, the happenings that have befallen people they both know, the little incidents that mark out the day, each so different from the all the days that go before.Why can't a girl draw a man out to talk of things that interest him—his ambitions, his hopes, his plans for the future?Most people like to talk of themselves. All people admire a sympathetic listener. And all people are lonely and in search of interesting and understanding companionship.The girl who encourages a man to talk is more likely to seem far more interesting than the one who does all the chattering.Why then should a girl rack her brains for conversational material? She can talk of the things should would discuss in a crowd, she can bring up questions she'd talk over with another woman. She can set her self to finding out what are the things a man longs in the soul of him to confide to someone who will care.There are people and things and ideas to discuss. In the order of our culture and brains we turn to these three fields of discussion. And ideas, the highest form of conversational material, are all about us in our changing world.The papers inform everyone who will read of the events of the day. With editorial opinion and comment, with the weeklies and monthlies offering material for thought and discussion, with the city all about us teeming with incident, how can anyone who opens eyes and mind and heart lack something to discuss?
Beatrice Fairfax is the pen name of Marie Manning, who penned
America’s first write-in advice column on July 20, 1898
for William Randolph Hearst's “New York Evening Journal.”
The column was an instant success, and in the following decades,
both Manning and others wrote under the pen name Beatrice Fairfax.