The Frivolous Type of Bachelor Girl

This is the final article in August of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on August 29, 1909, and is an article on how young women will regret their summer fancies when they realize how shameful they are acting.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

The Frivolous Type of Bachelor Girl

IN yielding to the request that I should write down the title of this week’s Familiar Talk just as it stand above, I yet enter a protest against the term “Bachelor Girl.” The phrase has leaped into general use since a college course has become almost an essential part of the scholastic career of the young girl of the period who assumes to be really “educated.”

Lexicons define “bachelor” thus:

In modern use, a person who has taken the first degree (baccalaureate) in the liberal arts and sciences, or in divinity, law or medicine.

Slipping the finger further down the page we come to:

Bachelor—4th def. A woman wo has not been married.

In illustration of this fourth definition we have a quotation from Ben Jonson:

He would keep you (a woman)

A Bachelor still, by keeping of your portion.

No. 4 then, justifies us in widening the scope of our title. In treating of the bachelor girl we will not confine ourselves to the college graduate, albeit I believe the (to me) objectionable phrase was originally framed to apple to her alone.

Why do I dislike the term? Because it smacks of a certain “smartness”—a swing and dash—that accords but ill with my ideal American girl of high (that is, refined) degree—a Daisy miller with a flat cap atop of her sunny curls and an academic gown draped coquettishly about her lithe figure.

This, I contend, is not our normal girl of the better class. We meet scores of the type I have in mind at watering places, seaside hotels and on ocean steamers.

“Personally Conducted.”

I crossed with one of them last summer on the homeward voyage from Cherbourg. I knew her by name and what were her antecedents. She comes of excellent lineage; she was well educated in private schools, although she is not a college graduate, and has the name at home of being a decorous gentlewoman.

Without making myself known to her, or that I was cognizant of her social station and environment, I watched her and give other girls as well born and reared as herself. They were “personally conducted” by a staid sinister who earns her living by taking parties of girls abroad. She was an indifferent sailor. The sextet of “buds,” as I heard them call themselves repeatedly, were without exception “jolly tars.” That was another of their sayings.

Chance Acquaintances.

While the nominal chaperon lay back in her deck-chair and dozed or lazed with closed eyes the bachelor girls promenaded the deck with youths, not one of whom they had ever seen prior to the voyage; ran potato and egg races in the “events” that diversified the monotony of steamer life; played shuffleboard and bet upon games, and contrived in these and countless other ways to keep the eyes of the whole ship’s company fixed upon them and the wits of several hundreds of men and women on the qui vive, wondering what “those girls would do next.”

I am no prude, and I dearly love to see young people merry and vivacious. A bright young girl, with her life before her, in full flush of springtime, rejoicing in health, hope and happiness, is one of the loveliest things in God’s creation. It is not a hundred years since I, too, was in love with the wonderful new life bestowed upon me, and eager to extract all the sweetness “from every opening flower.” I have brought up girls of my own, and joyed in their pleasures, sympathized in their perplexities, and delighted to life their burdens when the privilege was vouchsafed to me. When I cease to feel with and for them may my right hand forget its cunning!

But—it jarred had upon what the “buds” would have derided as antiquated notions of propriety to hear from the men of the party that the sextet, having gone to their staterooms and presumably to their berths under the convoy of the duenna at 10 o’clock, shortly thereafter reappeared upon deck, radiant with the triumph of outwitting their guardian, and forthwith proceeded to light cigarettes and, with then between their cheery lips, to resume the interrupted promenade of the deck in company with their newly-made acquaintances.

It was more than a jar—it was a hard shock to see the bachelor girl lie back in her deck chair next day, yawning between her laughs, that she “was sleepy after last night’s carouse” (they had supped with their escorts at midnight) and that she was “bent upon catching forty winks.”

Kids and Lambs.

Motioning to a lively college boy whose name she had never head three days ago to take the chair adjoining hers, she raised her parasol to screen them from the sun, and the two remained in the semi-seclusion without moving or speaking for half an hour.

“Fast” and “immodest,” do you say? I have been assured since, by those who know her well that she is neither, by a girl of clean heart and life, and, when the summer pranks are over, as well-mannered as your daughter or mine, my dear Madame Critic.

I have been the pained witness of like prankishness in summer hotels.

Our B.G. would tell you, in summer, that she is “out in a bat.” She varies the expression, but not the deed, by saying that she is “in for a lark,” or maybe “a bender.” All winter long she was a bondslave to Conventionality. Young blood must bubble, and if it riot sometimes under the influence of holiday freedom and fresh air, who can blame her? It is as natural for the summer girl to defy rules and to flirt with any convenient man as for colts and lambs to gambol when given the run of the pasture.

Again I say, I grudge her no recreation and frolic that come well within the bounds of propriety. I am willing to acknowledge her kinship with the kids and lambs so far as animal gayety goes. Scamper and gambol are innocent within certain limits.

A gentle, white-haired matron who had been a belle in her day, and who has brought up a family of young people of whom any parent might be proud, voiced my sentiments when she murmured in my ear, as the strings of deck-walkers frowned or grinned in passing the tableau of what I overheard a foreigner sneer at as “a new edition of Paul and Virginia,” to wit, the couple secluded by the parasol.

“Poor child! If she could only know how grievously ashamed she will be to recollect it some day!”

I would have her from the “grievous” reminiscence if I could. The most interesting blend of “bat” and “lark” and “bender” is too dear a price to pay for the loss of self-respect that is bound to follow the frolic which transcends the limits of maidenly modesty.

If that reads like the alliterative cant of a hypercritical dowager, sketch the deck scenes, including the stolen strolls and cigarettes and the midnight supper, to your own mother when the summer madness for fun at any price has passed from your brain and let her pronounce judgment upon it. Ask her what she would have thought and said had she stumbled upon the daughter of her next-door neighbor, as I happened upon you last month, when you believed yourself and your partner in the last waltz to be quiet out of sight of all except yourselves, in the corner of the hotel veranda, and you lighted his cigar, giving it a pull or two with you own lips before putting it to his. He kissed the tip of the weed, as in duty bound, and proceeded to suck complacently upon it.

You “had forgotten the silly scene?” You will recollect it, and not with a laugh, when you would lift unpolluted lips to the true man who reverences you too sincerely to let you forget what is due to your womanhood.

Don’t I know that it was “in the merest fun” that you let that Harvard boy clip a stray lock from your head the day you were climbing the rocks in the Maine woods, and your hair got caught in the underbrush?

He promised to wear it next his heart for the rest of his life, and that it should be buried with him in the same place. He probably had robbed eight or ten other heads with the like promise. You never saw him until this summer, and you do not expect ever to meet him again. “Summer flirtations don’t count.”

Nor does it “count” with you that you have lowered the lad’s ideals of womanhood, and coarsened his thoughts of what “nice” girls will do and permit. Familiarity of speech and license of touch are sure breeders of contempt, be the season what it may.

The eldest of the Bulwer writers said something that cut itself into my memory when I was a merry rattle of 18. It has served me many a gracious turn since then:

There is no anguish like that of an error of which we are ashamed.
Truer words were never penned.

Would that I could bind them like an amulet upon the mind and conscience of our Summer Girl!

Marion Harland

Brevities for the Housekeeper
Concerning Peppers
Family Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange
Possibilities of the Breadbox