Monday, January 2, 2023

Etiquette of Divorce, Part One


Divorce is peculiarly an American institution that must tally with Americanism in all its forms and adaptations that must govern the future life of those interested, particularly the woman. To the man, it signifies little, being often but the transfer of a trunk and a few parcels from one domicile to another; but to the woman it means the aftermath of social recognition.

We are aping the Old World rapidly in many of the fads and fancies that regulate the social code, but divorce is peculiarly an American institution that must tally with Americanism in all its forms and adaptations that must govern the future life of those interested, particularly the woman. To the man, it signifies little, being often but the transfer of a trunk and a few parcels from one domicile to another; but to the woman it means the aftermath of social recognition.

A man whose business standing is good among men and whose club affiliations are congenial, rarely meets a frost, no matter what kind of record he unfoids to a gaping world, whose nostrils are always ready to expand when scenting a new scandal, but it is on the woman that the burden falls, either of sorrow, shame or the support of herself and her children.

There is an infinite pathos in the matter of the divorce itself, the severing of ties where the common interest should center in the children, dear to both; but the world deals leniently, almost loosely in many instances, by condoning the moral lapses that climax in divorce.

A man is never censured by the world at large, no matter what his sins may be, and the same world that formerly so bitterly condemned the woman now seems to be inclined to smile pityingly and ignore the facts until it would appear that society is verging to a level of equality by estimating woman’s peccadilloes with the same indifference formerly on the marital obligations and by whom divorce is regarded with horror.

A woman, no matter how true and loyal her love may have been, is always an object of suspicion, irrespective of which business end of the divorce suit she may have figured. Men smile knowingly when remarking that Joseph, James or John was a “devilish nice fellow,” whom any woman should have loved and been proud of, and it is frequently the case that these “devilish nice fellows” make the most unsatisfactory husbands. They are often too devilishly nice to everybody else at the wife’s expense, and then, too, they are habitually too much in love with themselves to entertain much love on the side for a wife, and when later she is made desperate by the charms so lavishly on exhibition everywhere save in the home people tacitly condemn her because he was such a “devilish nice fellow.” 

A good, solid business proposition in the man-line will stand the wear and tear of strenuous matrimony more satisfactorily than the spoiled bargain counter products, whose sum total is an assortment of unctuous smiles and cordial hand-shakes. A woman who procures a divorce is in a very different position from one whose husband divorces her.

I do not endorse the magnanimity of a man who thinks that a woman should be shielded even in her dishonor by furnishing her the evidence against himself and allowing her to obtain the divorce, although it is common among men to protect the woman, especially in New York City, where a man who will not agree to such a compromise is liable to be subject to very harsh criticism. They fail to recognize the injustice done there-by to every good woman forced into the courts by an accumulation of wrongs.

The code of ethics governing a woman’s life and conduct after securing a decree should be rigidly adhered to if she would escape gossip. It is a difficult matter to quiet criticism or to live down adverse commentaries, but in time, despite the cruelties of calumny, a woman can do so, and provided her life be worthy it will prove itself in a wordless but all poten
tial vindication.– By Kate Thyson Marr for the San Francisco Call, 1903

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

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