WHY I HAVEN’T MARRIED
DOROTHY ROTHSCILD (PARKER)
From October 1916
I . RALPH, WHOSE PLACE WAS IN THE HOME
You see, this was the way it happened. The first one of them all was Ralph. His was one of those sweet, unsullied natures that believes everything it sees in the papers, and no matter what I said, he would gaze into my eyes and murmur “yes.” He had positively cloying ideas about women. If any girl in his vicinity lit a cigarette, Ralph’s eyes, behind their convex lenses, assumed the expression of a wounded doe’s. He superfluously assisted me up and down curbs; he was always inserting needless cushions behind my back. He laboriously brought me a host of presents that I didn’t want— friendship calendars, sixth- best sellers, and the kind of flowers that one puts in vases— but never wears. He had acquired a remarkable muscular development merely from helping me on with so many wraps and coats. His greatest fault was his lack of them. I felt that life with Ralph would be a deep dream of peace, and I was just on the verge of giving him his answer and receiving his virginal kiss, when, in a flash of clairvoyance, I had a startlingly clear vision of the future. I seemed to see us— Ralph and me— settled down in an own- your- own
bungalow in a twenty- minute suburb. I saw myself surrounded by a horde of wraps and sofa pillows. I saw us gathered around the lamp of a winter evening, reading aloud from “Hiawatha.” I saw myself a member of the Society Opposed to Woman Suffrage . . . . . .
So I told Ralph that I wouldn’t, just as gently as possible, and he went away to sob it out on his mother’s shoulder.
II. MAXIMILIAN, T ABLE D’HOTE SOCIALIST
Maximilian was the next disillusionment. He was an artist and had long nervous hands and a trick of impatiently tossing his hair out of his eyes. He capitalized the A in art. Together we plumbed the depths of Greenwich Village, seldom coming above Fourteenth Street for air. We dined in those how- can- they‑do‑it‑for- fifty- cents table d’hôtes, where Maximilian and his little group of serious thinkers were wont to gather about dank bottles of sinister claret and flourish marked copies of “The Masses.” I learned to make sweeping gestures with my bent- back thumb, to smile tolerantly at the mention of John Sargent; to use all the technical terms when I discussed Neo-Malthusianism. Maximilian made love in an impersonal sort of way. He called me “Comrade” and flung a casual arm across my shoulders whenever he happened to think of it.
But the end came. Maximilian painted my portrait. Chaperoned by an astounded aunt, I posed for him in an utterly inadequate bit of green gauze; posed until every muscle ached. Finally, one day, Maximilian flung his brush across the room— narrowly missing my aunt— threw himself into a chair, and wearily drew his hand across his eyes, murmuring, “It is done.”
I stole around and looked over his shoulder at the canvas— and immediately Love went out of my life. Reader— are you by any chance a pool-player? Well, the only thing I can think of that the portrait resembled was what is known in pool circles as an “open break.” I turned and fled from Max and Bohemia. I didn’t know much about Art, but I knew what I didn’t like.
III . JIM—OF BROADWAY
Perhaps it was only natural that the next one should be Jim. He was a thirty- third degree man about town. He could tell at a glance which one of the Dolly Sisters was Mrs. Harry Fox, and he could keep track of Nat Goodwin’s marriages without calling in the aid of an expert accountant and a Burrowes adding machine. His peacock blue Rolls- Royce had worn a deep groove in Broadway and his checked suits kept just within the law about disturbing the public peace. Jim was a man of few words; his love- making consisted of but two phrases—“ What are you going to have?” and
“Where do we go from here?” I shall never forget the thrill of entering restaurant after restaurant with Jim and watching the headwaiters do everything but kiss him.
It was an idyll, while it lasted. We used to sit, a table’s breadth apart, at cabarets, and shriek soft nothings at each other above the blare of the Nubian band, while waiters literally groveled at our feet. Jim gave me the deepest, truest love he had ever given a woman. In his affections I was rated third— first, and second, Haig and Haig; and then, third, me. I began to feel that life with him would be one long all- night cabaret, and I was just about to become the owner of the largest engagement ring in the city, when, one night we went to a dinner. Not a cabaret dinner, but one where two famous authors sat and ate with their forks, just like regular people. Everyone was properly stricken with awe— everyone, that is, but Jim. While the rest of us hung on the gloomy utterances of the authors, Jim loudly discussed (with a kindred spirit across the table) the certainty of “Hatrack’s” winning the fourth race at Belmont Park, offering to back his conviction with a large quantity of coin of the realm, and urging that his friend either produce a similar amount of currency, or else desist from arguing. Under cover of the table, I kicked him into quietude. Presently a point was reached in the lofty- browed discourse whereon the two celebrities differed, and, as if going to the right source for information, they turned to Jim.
“Now what is your opinion of Baudelaire?” they inquired.
Jim looked up with that same perfectly‑at‑home air with which he entered the New Amsterdam theater on the first night of the Follies.
“I really can’t say,” he explained, affably, “I’ve never seen him get a good sweat- out in practise.”
The silence that ensued seems still to crash in my ears . . .
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