Thursday, April 11, 2019

Etiquette and the “Bachelor Girl”

Society has broadened, and the woman who has a vocation need never be afraid of being lonely, neither need she be afraid of gossip and unkind chatter, for just as long as she adheres to certain rules of etiquette the bachelor-girl will be an immense favorite, living happily and radiating contentment and cheerfulness about her.

THE bachelor maid, and her new life in a great city, is the most attractive and fascinating of all lives. This girl, by the way, is an entirely new type. For until the last half dozen years she was an unknown quantity, although on the ragged edge of making herself heard and felt in a tiny world of her own. All can without difficulty remember the fairy stories that brightened childish days in which the fairy god-mother invariably bestowed contentment upon her chosen few, rather than “great riches.” 

It is more than unfortunate that there are not a few fairies scattered about in this advanced age, for there are great bands of discontented people thoroughly dissatisfied with themselves and their surroundings, entirely out of gear with their environments and absolutely uncomfortable, but thanks be, help has poured in from an unexpected quarter in the shape of the “bachelor girl.” In the times of yore, if a girl suddenly found herself with poverty staring her in the face, it is true she made a brave front of it and hustled from one place to another until she had secured some kind of employment. She had been cut off by a sex line from all the good things of this earth and her fate had been determined from the day of her birth, so she thought in her conservatism and without trying to alter her condition in any respect, she settled herself down to follow out a life narrow and intense.

She was an “old maid” and if ever a mortal looked the part, she did after a summer or two. Instead of keeping herself fresh and young looking to please her friends, she went about with that “don't-care” expression eternally and forever on her face, and of a truth she didn’t care, for the simple reason that no one entered her life that was worth troubling about. Each hum-drum week was the same as the one that bad gone before it. At twenty-five, she was drab and slow. Thirty found her too faded to be attractive and at thirty-five she ranked with her own grandmother and all the maiden aunts in the country. But the gods be praised, we have a brand spanking new kind of an “old maid.” And she isn't an old maid at all. Best of all, no one even ever thinks of her. Summers and winters are positively never mentioned.

No matter what her age may be, she is always a young maid. Into the forties and into the fifties she is attractive, and. in fact, just as long as she remains a bachelor-maid there is a certain fascination about her that makes her simply charming and worth cultivating. And how this woman is abused! It has always been the mark of femininity to do housework, to understand the art of boiling potatoes and grubbing generally, but when she added letters to her name, passed from college into the world with a profession at her fingers’ ends? It was a positive fact that she was masculine, that she was forward and apt to be a decided crank. And really that isn’t the way of it at all. What is her first move after finding employment? Why, the hunting and fitting up of a home, no matter how small and cramped it may be, for after a busy day’s work, it affords her the rest, the quiet and the peace that every home lover finds in a pet corner.

This home, as it chances, is what gives this business woman her new name, and incidentally it is the halo which throws the glamour of a subtle charm about her. Her rooms and her life are her very own to do with as she deems best and it is this very freedom that is her unquestionable right which makes her the. center of many wondering eyes. Her home, be it large or small, is by courtesy dubbed an apartment, for she rarely can afford a flat proper. And besides a perfect network of small families so far away, and yet so near, have their compensations. Although she is alone it is quite another thing to be lonely. And family! She has none. That is exactly the reason which makes her a bachelor-maid and that makes her position in life peculiar.

She stands alone without a prop or a support she asks no odds of anyone and she even denies herself the privilege of having things made easier for her just because fate decreed that she must be a womanShe stands shoulder to shoulder to man and when she demanded his lights she accepted his burdens quite as a matter of course. At the home of hers, of course, the bachelor maid is always a professional woman, for what other excuse could she offer for cutting herself free from society and people in general to live by herself and spend her days in a dreary, lonesome fashion. So in selecting her flat she keeps a weather eye out for conveniences and arranges her numerous belongings so that she can do her own work with little or no trouble and then skip away to her duties. It might be all well and good to keep a maid, and no one will deny that they are mighty useful about dinner time, but comparatively speaking, they are too much of a luxury. Space is limited, money is limited and time is limited.

The evening of a bachelor girl is her day time and she is forced to use it as such unless she is    contented to work, work, work and live otherwise in a state of vegetation. It is true she may be weary body and soul, but society demands just so much of her time, and whether she will or not, it must be lived or else some bright day she will wake up and discover herself a complete nonentity. Friends are queer beings. If you are ever before them they remember you, but permit a few months to keep you apart, lo and behold, you are as though you had never been.

So she dons her sweetest frock, tucks a bow or a flower in her hair in a coquettish fashion and prepares for war generally. If it is war to the death, she takes the trouble to discover individual tastes and to find out what pleases each one the most, and then with a slyness and a deftness all her own, manages to see that the right thing is forthcoming at the right time. She receives her guests, both masculine and feminine, with as perfect freedom as though a chaperon was standing at, her back and watching every movement with her eagle eye. She is ever courteous and she demands respect and courtesy by her simplicity and easy, manner. If she entertains her friends with a wee small dinner, the evening is the time they are invited, and she cooks and serves it herself, because, forsooth, there be no one to do it for her, but in doing it, she makes such rollicking fun out of it that each and every guest feels it a distinct honor to be there and enters into the frolic right royally. There is no stiffness about her or her home, but always that nameless charm called “manner.”

But, of course, everybody knows and understands full what the bachelor girl, is quite unlike every other and they grant her almost unlimited leeway. They know that she thinks but little of the conventions, and cares less what folks think of her, as long as they do not pass the “erratic” mark, for her life has widened and she no longer treads the beaten path, but has little side tracks paved with individuality. Yet to be the popular girl, the attractive girl, there are several qualities that must be hers. She must know how to receive guests and how to speed them on their way. She must know how to engage them in light, if sometimes frivolous, conversation, and above all she must have tact, presence of mind and the ability to say the right thing at the right time. With these tucked under her arm, she could brave the world and be sure of coming out on top of any shuffle. 

But there are a few things that this wondrous maid must- positively not have. Her little reception room must be fitted up in good taste and to represent nothing else under the shining sun but a reception room. There must be no wash-stands but half-way concealed, a couch that has “bed” written all over it with capital letters, instead of pillows, or an array of suggestive cookery articles. These things positively must not be! The bachelor-maid who makes her apartment a ‘study’ appreciates the cozy effects. Her belongings may not be worth more than a handful of pennies, a pot of palms, a candlestick, a trinket here and there and some gimcracks that take the place of bric-a-brac, yet they are so arranged, that they, give the appearance of a homey home. In one corner she finds that the chafing dish with its bubbling mysteries gives her excellent opportunities for harmless frolics, in another, she establishes a cozy corner filled with souvenirs of this, that and the other thing that never fail to be interesting, and the rest of her “sphere” is rounded off in cozy sections with individuality. 

If this maid-bachelor can reach her home a little before 5 in the afternoon, she may entertain in the easiest, but one of the most effective ways in the world. Over her tea standard may bubble and boil a kettle, or if she prefers the 4 o'clock coffee, which so many do these days, she has a small spirit lamp that sends forth its appetizing fumes almost in the twinkling of an eye. No girl, no matter whether she is a bachelor, an “old maid” or a sweet bud, can prepare coffee in a second. The table must be daintily set. Thin bread, sandwich fashion, must be buttered and sweet cakes must be set forth, and in small apartments the bachelor-maid does not always care to reveal her nooks and crannies. But she gets around this as she gets around many other things. A few minutes in the morning count more than half an hour in the afternoon when one is in a hurry, so she prepares her little feast, draws a screen partly about it and feels secure in the knowledge that’s the is ready and waiting. 

There is such an air of sociability, such an air of good fellowship and so much simplicity connected with an informal coffee, that the bachelor-maid has adopted it as one of her favorite methods of entertaining. And then, too, she does not dispense her hospitality unaided. A chap can manage cups quite as well as she can— that is if he is trained— and no girl, no matter what her name may be, ever gets over the love of cracking the whip and watching others do their little dance. It is pre-eminently feminine. This girl has taken up a trick that has always seemed mannish and that is shaking hands with her friends when they come and when they go. She does not trouble herself about a fellow’s overcoat, nor look to see whether he has forgotten his stick; these things he must look to himself and it would be worse than poor taste for her to assist in gathering his belongings; but she does extend her hand in a frank, cordial way and bid him welcome when he wills. An invitation extended to coffee is a permanent one and there is no need to repeat it unless uncertainty is decidedly noticeable. 

There are hosts of things that this advanced young woman has added to her rights. In forsaking the cheerless boarding house, she took the biggest leap of all. But she landed high and dry and found herself not only happier and more contented but a creature whoso whims and fancies are pampered more than they had ever been before. She instantly changed from the drab to the rosy, from the ordinary to the fascinating and all because she willed to be a happier woman than the could have been under any other circumstances Society has broadened and the woman who has a vocation need never be afraid of being lonely, neither need she be afraid of gossip and unkind chatter, for just as long as she adheres to certain rules of etiquette the bachelor-girl will be an immense favorite, living happily and radiating contentment and cheerfulness about her. – San Francisco Call. 1903

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

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