The Charlotte News -- Sunday, March 11, 1928
The Moving Row
"We are no more than a moving row of fantastic shapes which come and go."
By W. J. Cash
I am against Companionate Marriage.
But for those mush-mouthed loons who bay and yap for the blood of Judge Ben Lindsey as a corrupter of youth who ought, for the public morals, to be hanged at the entrance to the capitol in Washington, I confess no whit of sympathy.
Morality, it seems to me, has to do with marriage in so far certainly as is necessary, to insure order in the relation of the sexes--to the point, that is, where the paternity of children is more or less reasonably clear--and the care of these children after birth. I have pondered Judge Lindsey's tomes and, despite the squawking about "trial marriage" by people who manifestly have not read him, I find no jot of evidence that the learned jurist contemplates either looseness of morals or weakening of the parent's responsibility to the child. On the contrary, I am convinced that Judge Lindsey is a perfectly honest man and, on the face of it, with a perfectly reasonable solution of a puzzling problem.
But that is the whole difficulty. Judge Lindsey is attempting to be reasonable about something that is exactly as reasonable as a bull at a Spanish fiesta. He proposes to render the Moonlight Sonata in terms of the formula of two and two, to make the wild waves play their ripples, to transform fantastic Eros into a Socrates calmly speculating in the market place.
Marriage, however, is not a reasonable business. I would not--and I speak for a million other sane males--deliberately, calmly, in my proper mind, walk into marriage any more than I would, under the same conditions, march into the path of a playful machine gun. The risk is too awful, the chance of disaster too great. Confronted with the idea, I invariably fall to trembling in my limbs and am possessed of a yearning to take refuge under my bed.
Nevertheless, confirmed bachelor though I am, I recognize that the odds are against me, that I shall eventually come to marriage precisely because I am not, save in rare lucid intervals, a reasonable animal. I shall, I never doubt, succumb to marriage, but first I shall be prepared for the sacrifice, and how! Some round-eyed bit of lace and rose-leaf will, first of all, mark me out for her own. I admit, in confidence, that I shall probably have lied to her beforehand concerning my salary and my prospects. Nevertheless, having failed to hook several more palatable bozos, she will turn, perforce, to me.
Decision made, she will turn her hand to heading off any resistance by paralyzing my faculties with an artfully contrived picture of herself that is a wind in a pinewood, a yellow rose rain-washed, the black and silver of moonlight on The Blue Shore, and caramel cake with icing. Afterward, she will proceed through stages of letting her hair blow against my cheek, clinging to my hand as I help her over a stile, long rides together with the wind in our faces, and sweet comradely silence under the stars to reduce me to madness, to aching, to moaning her name in my sleep. At the last, I shall some day find her weeping softly. Then, and only then, being an extraordinarily stubborn man, will I succumb.
If it be objected that I am arguing that the female chooses, I answer that I mean to argue that. But I argue more than that--much more--that Sentiment is the basis of marriage. It is the sole consideration with the Male Brute. Women, I have observed, indulge in no sentiment whatsoever until they have decided upon marrying a man. After that, they usually go whole hog.
It ought to be, I submit, perfectly clear that to expect a man--about women I cannot be sure--to engage in calculation when his logical centers are joyfully anaesthetic is nonsense. But that is exactly the expectation upon which Judge Lindsey predicates his theory. There is, for example, the unimportant item in his scheme which would provide for pre-marriage divorce agreements.
Now, I confess with becoming delicacy, I have been in love. I have met my affinity, at a conservative estimate, one hundred times. And one hundred times I have manfully decided that the only thing I could do about it was to marry the girl. Having settled that, I have been invariably seized with an exalted conviction that it was to be forever, that my life should be her life and my dust her dust in the grave at last. I am convinced that every candidate for the holy estate totters to the altar in exactly that frame of mind.
Yet, Judge Lindsey expects his mundane ideas to scale such astral heights, to penetrate the singing skulls of madmen who wot not of any world beyond a pair of eyes.
Finally, I have observed that when, with the return of reason, if any, the parties to the deed desire divorce, they invariably get it. Hence, I hold that Judge Lindsey's proposal can be of no earthly use. Chances are it will never jimmy its way into the brain of the infatuated oaf for whose benefit it was concocted. If it does, it will merely serve to fix his mind upon divorce as a baneful possibility, to send him into Paradise with a haunting fear that the gates of jasper came from the dime store. And, if he is going to feel that way about it, he had better not be married at all.
Again I emerge from the Lindsey treatises with the definite feeling that the preponderance of evidence is feminine, that the great body of confessions upon which the alleged necessity of the plan is based came from the dear girls. For the feminine intelligence I have considerable respect, coupled with considerable distrust. It is, I believe, much more the intelligence of brutal realism than that of the male. And for that reason I have healthy doubts about the girls harboring notions of justice and fair play and that sort of thing.
I think Judge Lindsey has been talking to the disciples of Miss Alice Duer Miller, that army of self-supporting Amazons with ideas of Rights and More Rights and an awe-inspiring contempt for the masculine brain. I think these girls have been finding their New Creed and their natural instincts in conflict. I think they have understood that perfectly and that they have seen clearly the compromise that they desire to effect. And I think that they have been going to Judge Lindsey and weeping on his fatherly shoulder and that is how he came to evolve his doctrine of economic independence for each of the parties, which is, of course, the keystone of Companionate Marriage.
On its face the doctrine is a device for relieving the husband of half the burden of maintaining a family. As a matter of cold fact in this woman-ruled world, it is a scheme for the satisfying of the feminine urge for wifehood and motherhood without accepting any of their sacrifice and hardship, a "bright and horrible eyed" conspiracy to relegate the masterful Homo Sapiens to the position of a regrettable Biological Necessity.
In actual practice, the Female of the Species will prove, as usual, an opportunist. In the name of Economic Independence, she will divorce herself from pots and laundry soap. But, as a Poor, Defenseless Creature, she will spend the shekels she earns to buy ribbons and gimcracks with which to dazzle the eyes of males other than Friend Husband. If there is a home, the male will support it. If there are children, he will support them also. Any gent with any considerable practice among the Sex will recognize this as true picture of the feminine sense of Justice, her version of being a Comrade.
The ultimate end of that is clear. The erstwhile lord of creation will be deprived of his Mastery and his Dignity. Feminine insolence will collapse the bladder of his Vanity, kick him from his pinnacle into the cold, a bewildered waif [bereft] of any justification for existence. From the king of beasts who, in theory at least, has for all the centuries, stood guard over woman he is to be reduced to a lap-dog suffered to approach his mistress only when she wishes.
It is inevitable. Equality with a woman is no more possible than equality with a whale. Her primary instincts are rooted in the desire to be mastered, or, what, to such a histrionic-natured creature, is the same thing, to appear to be mastered. Once the proof of that mastery lay in a man's physical strength, his ability to overcome her enemies. Now it lies in the power to win food, silks, Fords, radios for her and her progeny. Deprive her of that symbol of masculine supremacy, give her a wight who will insist on treating her always as an equal and her outraged instincts will inevitably react on the steeled intelligence to produce contempt, the sneering profession of superiority.
That, unquestionably, is what already happens. The militant sisters are actuated, I think, not so much by honest desire for the things for which they screech as by passion to see outraged masculinity rise up and treat them to an old-fashioned spanking. Their whole program is a grand gesture of protest. How little they really value the idea of equality, how very clearly they understand that one sex or the other must be dominant, is reflected in the showy avidity with which they pile up privileges on themselves. But, interesting as all that is, the fact remains that the program for the reduction of man to the glory of woman is actually under way, that Companionate Marriage is an effective instrument furthering that cause.
I object. Once in the business, I demand fair play. I insist that it is my right to experience that puffed-up feeling that comes from thinking of myself as the protector of a sweet and helpless damsel. My vanity is of primary value to me. I want it pampered. I want to be looked upon as Biology's Greatest Marvel, Nature's Noblest Gentleman. I do not want my importance disputed by such things as her date with a Buyer, her lecture to the Women Voters, or selling soap. I want my slippers brought. I demand to be soothed, to be drugged with comfort so that I may forget that but for her I might be free to chase moonbeams over the farthest hill.
Simply, I ask that her feminine qualities and my masculine ones shall assume their natural relationship.
In the Cemetery of Pere Lachaise at Paris, there is a magnificent group of statuary depicting Humanity's entrance to the Halls of Death. Two figures, the Man forward, unshaken, moving steadily. The Woman, partly supported by his arm, head inclined toward him, one hand resting on his shoulder, walks beside and slightly back.
In the Pantheon there is a mural portraying Attila's march on Paris. Resistless, the yellow-haired brute king, mounted on a white horse, moves, his hounds, with bloody fangs, before. At his side a fiend-favored yeoman triumphantly displays a head on a pike, his foot set on the body of a blue-smocked peasant, who, dying, still seeks to protect a dead woman beneath him, a woman whose hand still clings trustfully in the crook of his elbow.
That, I submit, is the natural relation of the sexes. And that is why I oppose Companionate Marriage.
Links-Date -- Links-Subj.