If they are over 32, they may make problem husbands. Here are some reasons why.
By Mavis Gallant
Standard Staff Writer
For the past three weeks we have been investigating bachelors, a little-recognized minority group. Few bachelors, in fact, are even aware of themselves as a minority.
Bachelors do not send delegations to Ottawa. They have not been mentioned by the Committee on Human Rights and Freedom. No researcher has ever applied a sympathetic mind to them as a group, though there have been a number of books on how they may be fed, trained, domesticated, etc. When they are made fun of in Shirley Temple movies, they do not picket. Walter Winchell has yet to say a word in their factor.
Bachelors have not, in any organized fashion, struck back at psychiatrists (who consider them immature), sociologists (who consider them drones in society), or Dorothy Dix columnists (who consider them heels — eg., “Forget this man, my dear, it is obvious he is trifling with your time and will never marry you.”) In fact, nothing links them together except mutual mistrust and a tendency to wear blue or maroon ties.
Having interviewed 20 eligible bachelors, and by eligible we mean they could afford to get married, we are now in a position to make a number of sweeping statements. The first is that bachelors are vain. It would probably grieve them to know that our whole investigation started because we heard a psychiatrist say that men who waited until their mid-thirties and later to get married would probably make terrible husbands.
“If they haven’t married until then,” he said irritably, “they’re either cautious, selfish mother’s boys, Don Juans, or hopelessly in love with an illusion. When they finally do marry, it is just for the sake of getting married. They settle down because they are tired of running around, or because their mother has moved to Seattle. They never get over being one of the boys, not having been broken in early enough.”
This particular psychiatrist has been married twice.
Most of the bachelors we interviewed admitted they were both cautious and selfish. Most of them looked rather pleased when we suggested they might be Don Juans. Many of them lived with their mothers, but just as many lived with their married sisters. Several were in love with an illusion, nursing a broken heart and loving it, or waiting for Rita Hayworth to get tired of the Ali Khan.
We felt our psychiatrist had overlooked one thing about bachelors, namely, women. If they ever did marry, they would have to marry women. There isn’t much choice. So we artfully put the question: “Do you like women, as such?”
The rest answered as follows: (personal manager) “I like women but I think most of them are too damn smart.” (lawyer, 33) “I don’t know that I do. I don’t like women unless I can connect some emotion with them. I prefer the company of men. There is no such thing as a platonic friendship with a woman.” (publicist) “Yes, but their complications outweigh the charm of their friendship.”
Some of them were fairly specific. A dental technician said: “They’re as easy to get along with as men if they’re handled the right way.” Commercial artist: “I like them if they’re good looking and if they ski.” The most detailed appraisal came from a lawyer. (We interviewed a number of lawyers.)
“I get along with women,” he said, “but I think they are harder to get along with than men. Women are apt to be more jealous, suspicious, irritable, and easily offended than men. As a result they are more aggressive.”
“Are you afraid of women?” we asked.
“No,” he said, “but they arm me as clients.”
Most of the men we interviewed did not consider their friends happily married, and those who did consider their friends happily married were apt to be attached to wives of their friends.
Others were not as cheerful. “Most of my friends,” said a publicist, “live in an unhappy compromise I couldn’t stand.” A cynical lawyer remarked: “Some of my friends have wives who are faithful, but what is fidelity if there are no other compensating factors?” The most typical remark went: “I wouldn’t want to be in any of their situations.”
Except for six men who lived alone, the bachelors we interviewed lived with their mothers, their families, or their married sisters and brothers. Most of them felt it was a factor in their not having been married.
Said one, “I have noticed that whenever an establishment of men breaks up there are always one or two casualties who end up in boarding houses. They get married. They surrender out of desperation. But those who can get some decent living conditions usually survive.”
Said another (clerk, 34): “I live with my mother, which means meals and valet service.” A salesman admitted: “Living at home” is very comfortable now, but I know that if I don’t marry, someday I will be a very unhappy person. But meanwhile it is so easy to go on like this.”
A typical summing-up came from an advertising executive. 35: “I live with my married sister, an ideal arrangement. I could never expect a wife in her right mind to look after me that well. I have all the conveniences of married life and none of the interference. I come and go, and everything seems to get done magically.”
Men who lived with their mothers were usually quick to say: “My mother is more anxious for me to get married than I am. At least she says she is.” But all admitted that “if things were less comfortable” there might be more of an urge to make a home somewhere else. Said one: “After all, a wife can never be a mother to a fellow the way a fellow’s own mother is.”
We got an almost unanimous reaction to “Do you lose your bachelor friends when they marry?” The answer was “Yes,” and it’s the fault of the wife.”
“The wife takes over,” said another, “but it’s the fault of the man, He shouldn’t buckle under.”
Few of the bachelors we interviewed had any qualms about labelling themselves both cautious and selfish. “Yes,” they said without flinching, sometimes adding some qualifications as “I would hate to give anything up,” or “The years between 28 and 35 tend to make you selfish.” “I’d be selfish about my independence,” said one. “I even hate the time you have to spend courting.”
About half our subjects implied that the trouble with women is, they want to get married. Most of them have friends who try to marry them off, and many of them said they were consciously wary. Others were just indifferent, which meant they had less to worry about.
“I’ve survived,” a doctor told us. “Sometimes a rival has rescued me. Sometimes I’ve become too bored to carry on.”
“I always feel sorry for the poor girl,” said the lawyer. “Sometimes I think, if only I’d met her differently — but I can’t be pushed. Women don’t understand attention without intention.” A personnel manager complained: “I took a girl out all one winter and she went and married someone else. I paid for the courtship, and the other guy got her”
“The average girl isn’t smart,” said a salesman. “She doesn’t give a chap a chance to get to know her before putting the pressure on. The only thing you can do is to keep away entirely.”
Another man (advertising executive, 35) blamed match-makers: “Anyone who thinks she is helping a girl that way is making a big mistake. Sometimes if I’d been left alone it might have worked out. But pretty soon young people start telling me what a wonderful girl she is and at these flashings from well-wishers I reach for my hat.”
“My friends, especially my sisters-in-law, try to marry me off all the time,” complained another man. “Every time, I think, this time maybe they’ve got something. But they never have. But I don’t find it a problem. It’s the girl who baits the trap. All a man has to do is sidestep.”
Said a dentist: “If a girl is smitten I imply at once I”m not the marrying kind. If she isn’t I just shut up and carry on.”
A radio producer confessed: “I always like to be sure I could get married if I wanted to.”
The most succinct reaction came from an advertising man who said:
“I just run like hell.”
We found that bachelors were reluctant to talk about love, but quite willing to discuss the pursuit of women. When they mentioned love, it was “this weird thing called love,” or “this peculiar thing people call love,” or some such coy variation on the subject. By having skirted that nicely, they were not at all loath to talk about women, past and present.
We should state that they always launched into the subject of their own accord, as if it were a stamp collection no one else had ever heard of. We also noticed that men who were sitting so that they can look out of the window find it easier to talk about women. Having disposition of this and that, they would frequently retrench by saying that married men were more moral than bachelors.
Three of the men we interviewed were specifically dwelling on old lost loves, and wanted girls just like the one that got away. Except one man, who wanted that girl or nothing. From where we sat, it looked like nothing, but he was a patient bachelor, he explained. Another man said wistfully: “My first girl was a model of 18. I guess I haven’t changed. I’m still going after models of 18.”
Most of the men we interviewed fell into a pattern: either the war or the depression had prevented their marrying when they wanted to, and after that the idea became less attractive. Except one, who told us candidly: “I could use the terrible thirties as an excuse, but people were getting married right and left on a lot less than I was making. I was happy to go along as I was, and I think that is a fair statement.”
For most of them, marriage seems to be a toss-up between freedom and companionship. We asked about 20 men if they would be faithful to their wives (with the rest of the 30 the question seemed pointless) and got very cautious I – would – try answers. One said: “Yes, but because I wanted to be. Not because of any legal yoke.The legal strictures women invented for their own convenience are working against them, even now. Though it would be hard to convince the Ladies” Aid.”
To get back to the psychiatrist, who started all this, he was mainly right. nearly everyone fell into one of the categories he mentioned, and many combined several, which is quite a trick. But much as we enjoy generalizing we are sorry to say there is no such thing as a composite bachelor.
However, there is such as thing as a composite myth, and she is the girl who is going to marry one or all of the 30 men we interviewed. Our advice to the myth, if she is interested in one or all of the 30, is as follows: (1) Drown his mother. (2) Like everything he likes but don’t know more than anything that he thinks he does (3) be as good looking and charming as the wives of his friends (4) cook as well as his sister (5) produce a number of attractive children who are all at the cute stage, all the time (6) be incredibly understanding and terribly pretty, and stay the same age all the time.
The things you will have to be understanding about are numerous and delicate. One of the people we interviewed summed it up nicely when he said: “I am not married because I am monogamous by religion and polygamous by nature.” However, about three days after he dropped this little gem, his engagement was announced. Such is the nature of the beast.
– Montreal Standard, April 23 1949.