Hold Up Your Heads, Girls!
by Annie H. Ryder
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Can you have more than one intimate friend among the girls? That depends, too, on the nature and degree of closeness in the friendship. It requires a large amount of generosity on the part of several when two persons are close friends of a third. That blissful "solitude a deux" becomes misery a trois. The world is indeed beautiful, and the best part of it all is the people in it. We are to love as many of them as we can, but are called upon to reveal our inmost selves to few, very few, friends.

Valuing friendship more than any other earthly blessing, I think it wrong for girls to encourage that moodiness which flatters them they can do without friends, especially of their own sex. Nothing can conduce more to happiness: nothing is brighter, more charming, more helpful than the interchange of friendship among young women. Who wouldn't be a girl always if she could be sure all the other girls would stay so too, and go on in that delightful exchange of affection and fine feeling which is the very ecstacy of living?

Now, what does a girl prize most in another girl whose friendship she enjoys? or, rather, what should she value in her most? In the first place, constancy,—a knowledge that her friend will always be hers; and then honesty,—a feeling that, if she says, "Now, don't you tell," the friend won't tell. By the way, this binding to secrecy is a very bad practice, however delightful. It places too great a responsibility on one's friend, leads her into temptation, makes her curious, and, in nine times out of ten, one has no right to tell one's self, or one would not be so cautious.

Honesty implies more than this, however: it demands that your friend shall not herald abroad your mistakes or improprieties, though she may disapprove of them. It means that she shall treat you with the same kindness on all occasions, and that she shall resent wrong done you by another.

You like a girl who does not criticise unjustly, nor gossip about her friends. Marcus Aurelius, in his meditations, says, "A man must learn a great deal to enable him to pass a correct judgment on another man's acts." And Arthur Helps, in his essay, "On the Art of Living with Others," exclaims, "If you would be loved as a companion, avoid unnecessary criticism upon those with whom you live." Gossip is a most dangerous kind of criticism.

You prize a girl, too, who can like you even when she is not fond of your surroundings. An honest friendship does away with all jealousy, and makes each proud of the other's acquirements. "I must feel pride in my friend's accomplishments as if they were mine, and a property in his virtue." [Footnote: Emerson.]

Girls are not sufficiently inclined to help girls. Think of the shadows which cross your path which some dear girl's hand could chase away. You would not drive the bird from your window-sill when he daily comes for crumbs, nor let a kitten stand mewing in the cold. Do not withhold the charity of your friendship from the hungry, dreary girl who waits. When the helping hands and generous hearts of such benefactors as every city knows,—women whose names are familiar to us as synonyms of charity, wisdom, rightness, but whose names we here repress because publicity would detract from the modesty of their conduct,—when such women stretch out hands of benefaction to their poor, ignorant, wicked sisters in our great towns, sparing something from their purses, from their minds, from their comforts, we wonder what must be the gift of their friendship to their more immediate friends. Here and there we meet humbler women, girls of fair intelligence and generous hearts, who give of their leisure, when they have no money, to help all objects of moral or spiritual wealth to woman. What must their friendship be to their friends! Something of immense value. Would there were more such engaged in a like work for the spreading of this broad friendship among women as women.

When a girl finds something of friendliness to give, the objects of her favor find much to receive. A blessing increases most rapidly while passing from possessor to recipient. The highest endowments should not, and do not, shut out a real need of reciprocal friendship in the hearts of girls. The larger your natures are, the greater will be your demand for friends. Do not be afraid you have not the talent of being friendly, even to the most gifted. A woman's greatest need, if she will confess it, is large-hearted sympathy,—is friendship. That one who withholds it, who seeks not friends, is fighting against herself, is lonely and dreary, notwithstanding the fact that she has great capabilities; for one of the most essential elements of her nature is being starved. The mightiest cannot stand alone. Mme. Swetchine, Marian Evans, Mme. De Stael felt, even more than most women, the absolute need of a friend. I can imagine nothing drearier than to be so far superior, in mind or in position, to one's associates as to feel no friendship for them. Milton, sitting with his daughters, yet not comprehended, is to me one of the saddest pictures of a great mental endowment and an unsatisfied heart. Would not Elizabeth have given years of her life and reign for the possession of one true friend? It is an extremely rare thing to hear of a woman hermit, or recluse. Girls give themselves up to nunneries, and believe they shut out the world; but they are either seeking the friendship of a cause supremely, or are hugging the closer an earthly, though a disappointed, love.

It is not weak, as Grace Aguilar suggests, for women to love women, girls to love girls. "It is the fashion to deride female friendship, to look with scorn on those who profess it. There is always, to me, a doubt of the warmth, the strength, and purity of her feelings, when a girl merges into womanhood, looking down on female friendship as romance and folly."

It makes no difference who you are, girls, you need friends among all classes and ages of persons. Sometimes it is the little child who can give friendship best; sometimes it is the woman bowed with years; often it is she whose years, surpassing yours by ten or twelve, have brought her into the midst of that experience on which you are just entering. Surely you must always need the sweet exchange of feeling which takes place between girls and girls.

We remark the countless friends we have in Nature; but beautiful, ennobling and comforting as the trees, the streams, and long green meadows are, you cannot afford to give up flesh and blood friends for them. Nature can improve you, but you cannot help her; but the true value of friendship is the mutual benefit to be derived from it.

In the highest sense, this benefit relates not only to the heart, but to the mind and soul. It is indeed possible for the ignorant, the unambitious, the unrefined to be firm friends. We hear of true and lasting friendships existing in peasant life. The rough, barren mountain-ways of the Scotch Highlands, the coast villages of France, the vinelands of Germany, the low flats of Holland, the desert of Africa, the vast plains of America, have furnished the most pathetic examples of sincere friendship, even though found among the most uncivilized. Surely, when refinement is added, the blessing should increase and not diminish, as it so often seems to do. The wigwam of the Indian is a truer protection for friendship than the gilded walls of many a drawing-room.

Oh, girls, this is what hurts and soils your characters,—this drawing- room insincerity, this falseness, this seeming! You can be polite and honest too; agreeable, and faithful as well. Significant glances, unfair advantages, uncivil pretensions in the parlor, make you not only insincere, but suspicious that you, also, are being ogled and scanned by others. Girls have contributed to make society false when they might have made it true. That society is insincere to you you will hardly deny, if poverty, sickness, or any misfortune thrust you from it. But society we must have. Why not, then, do your part to make it nobler, friendlier, truer? Much depends on the effort every girl makes to improve the social condition of the community.

Though you are so often indiscreet, fickle, ungenerous in your friendships, girls, I believe in them. When I see a party of you come together, so glad to be with one another again, giving and taking, after the most lavish fashion, I want to say, "Yes, indeed!" to Mr. Alger's remarks about school-girls; though I would leave off the word school, and make his expressions apply to girls everywhere. "Probably no chapter of sentiment in modern fashionable life is so intense and rich as that which comes to the experience of budding maidens at school. In their mental caresses, spiritual nuptials, their thoughts kiss each, other, and more than all the blessedness the world will ever give them is foreshadowed."

To sustain this friendship, I repeat, there are very necessary demands upon your patience, your charity, and your constancy. "The only way to have a friend is to be one," issues from the oracular lips of the Concord seer. "Men exist for the sake of one another. Teach them, or bear with them," is an appeal which has been handed down the ages from the wisdom of that great "seeker after God," Marcus Aurelius.

Next to constancy in our fondness for others should come forbearance and conformity. We ought to forbear inflicting the discomfort of our peculiarities on our friends, or of requiring too much love for what we give,—too much intelligence to meet our mental acquirements. We should forbear asking for a change of opinion, or an unsettling of conviction, and certainly should refrain from making a bad use of our intimacy with one another. Be deaf and dumb and blind to all attempts to draw from you the secrets which another has committed to your charge. Conformity is no less important than forbearance. We should adapt ourselves more to the tastes, habits, and dispositions of our friends. Of course, we are not to comply with what will work them and us harm. Girls agree to certain customs in the main; dress as their mates do; and, if this or that fashion prevails, follow it, when it is not too ridiculous,—perhaps some do even when it is absurd. When the majority of girls wear bangs and bangles, you wear them; and when the most wear skirts somewhat less than two yards around, why, I suppose you do, don't you? That is all right; but let it never be forgotten that, in conforming to general usage, you may still preserve your own personality. When bustles and French heels jostle with your individuality, let them go, but save yourselves.

How is it we so easily follow after fashion and custom, suffer physical and mental pangs on account of them, and yet find it so hard to conform with the notions and individual traits of our friends? Just here, however, we are reminded that we are not to so agree with our friends, even, as to lose ourselves. Says Arthur Helps on this point, "If it were not for some singular people who persist in thinking for themselves, in seeing for themselves, and in being comfortable, we should all collapse into a hideous uniformity.... In all things, a man must beware of so conforming himself as to crush his nature, and forego the purpose of his being." And Emerson might have added to that thought, "Better be a nettle in the side of your friend than his echo."

Conformity enjoins compromise. Fewer would be the great national calamities of war, famine, hard times; fewer the domestic trials; fewer the broken hearts, were there more of compromise in the world,—were there less cultivation and indulgence of certain national or personal peculiarities.

Girls ought never to be so familiar with one another as to forget to be polite in their intercourse. Courtesy, the last best gift of chivalry, the one bright star of the Middle Ages, leads out a long array of thoughts; but we cannot stop to marshal them here. Politeness is never superfluous. It needs to become so much a part of the costume of character as never to be laid aside except for renewal. Surely we should show its brightest ornaments, and the durability of its fabric, to our friends and acquaintances.

Let us seek friends, not wait for them to come to us. Let us search for them, not with boldness and indiscrimination, but with a hearty good-will to help them and enjoy them, as we, in return, expect them to do us good, and be glad of us. It is a duty on our part to seek and to keep friends, and no occupation should be so absolutely engrossing as to prevent the performance of this duty.



I have discovered an incompleteness, girls, in my talk with you about your friends, and I feel very depressing qualms of conscience on account of my discovery. Why, I haven't said one word about the friendships of boys and girls. Do pardon me! There really is an excuse. The fact is,—shall I speak it right out loud? No, it might be too dreadful. Come close, girls, and I will whisper it in your ears,—I am an old maid! Isn't that deplorable? I have lost one-half the pleasure there is in friendship, and, perhaps, you think, all there is in love. Yes, 'tis true: I am one of the superfluous sixty thousand women who are usurping the population in a small state. I had better go to the far West, and settle in the gold diggings, hadn't I?

So, girls, you do not suppose that, in a condition of such positive ignorance, I am able to talk with you about the boys? Well, I will be very discreet, and only suppose, gently suppose, that such a thing as friendship exists among boys and girls. But if I should venture on the subject of marriage, which, I am told, often ensues from something akin to friendship, you will please pardon me, and remember that, if I am too old to be talking about it, you are too young to be listening.

In such a peculiar civilization as ours, you cannot be really getting married at eighteen. But you may be thinking about marriage. Oh, yes! girls think a great deal about it at that age. Perhaps I did when I was eighteen; but that was so long ago, so very long ago! Still, for present purposes, we will imagine I was once a girl, and thought more or less about the boys, and liked them, too, just as you do now.

Oh, do not be so sure, you very bashful or very independent few, that you do not care a fig for the boys, and never shall! If you feel a kind of indifference now, or cannot see what boys are for, unless to try their sisters, and act conceited and foolish with the other girls, you may be on the verge of discovering that they are extremely good for loving.

Isn't it remarkable how boys change? Why, you are so suddenly impressed that Tom Sydney is not half as rude as he used to be! Indeed, he has grown very polite,—he lifts his hat in such a deferential way; he speaks with so manly a tone; he has a touch of such gentlemanly, half- alluring kindness when he helps you over the crossing! Strange, one's neighbors do alter so! Yes, it is a little remarkable; but it is on both sides of the street,—girls as well as boys.

It is not the freshman year in college, nor the first month in business, nor the first term at an evening dancing-school, which produce the change in the boys. It is not graduation, nor parties, nor house-keeping responsibilities, which make such a change in girls. No; but it is a very beautiful unfolding of the decrees of God which makes boys and girls love one another.

But, girls, even if your mind is set on celibacy, and you feel able to set off by contrasting charms the bliss of matrimony, encourage the friendship of the boys. You need their friendliness just as they need yours. You require their steadiness of purpose, their decision, their frankness, their slower judgment, their more robust endeavor, their courage and hardihood. They need your keener perception of right and wrong, your forbearance, your refinement of feeling, your encouragement, your sympathy, your patience and endurance, your tact, your gentleness and grace. The boys, you see, have the advantage of giving you more than you can give them; and you have the advantage of imparting to them more than they can impart to you. And, pray, what is friendship but a mutual giving and taking of the best parts of character? And how, indeed, can boys and girls grow in character without friends? Do not fancy the boys like in you qualities differing from those the girls are most fond of. Very young boys may, or very unworthy men. A twelve-year-old thinks girls are "no good,"—can't fly a kite without letting go the string, and can't play ball without hitting him on the head with a bat. A fifteen-year-old thinks girls will do for some occasions, especially if the girls are his sisters. They can fasten neck-ties very well, and save a fellow a good deal of embarrassment at dancing-school. He wishes they wouldn't be such tell- tales, though. But an eighteen-year-old, or a youth of twenty, cannot conceive any thing more adorable than the winning ways of girlhood.

A boy likes a girl sometimes, just as you girls too often like each other, because she is pretty, or bright, or pert. He is fond of a girl at other times because the beauty of her character reveals itself in all kinds of womanly acts. If he marries, he usually meets the deserts of whatever fondness he cherishes. He may be happy for a while in association with a pretty face, a saucy tongue, and a becoming costume; but not for long,—not for long.

While you are never to forget that you are young women, and that you owe large tributes to girls everywhere, do not exact consideration from the boys merely because you are girls. The boys never think of asking you to favor them. Though you are privileged to demand courtesy, that should not prevent you from engaging in honest toil with boys, or from associating with them in harmless pleasures. A boy appreciates it when a girl takes hold and helps to row, to rake, or to add accounts.

I think it is extremely commendable when a boy and girl can study together, work in the factory at the same bench, drive or walk with one another, and are not foolishly conscious that he is a boy and she is a girl. It is a pleasure to see a girl look at a boy without blushing, and to observe a boy look into a girl's eyes without immediately lowering his lashes.

Why is this susceptibility? It is not because boys and girls are always to fall in love when they meet. Every girl has a work to do for the boys,—some traits in their characters to discountenance, some features to encourage. How can she do this, if she is always thinking, Maybe he loves me? Work with the boys she must: join in merry-making and in whimsical enjoyments, why should she not? but in her gayest moment let her be mindful, not of a difference in sex, but of the fact that both a boy and a girl owe deference to each other, courtesy, kindness, and conformity, as of friend with friend.

It is quite possible for young women to have friends among the young men without this friendship developing into a strong affection. You do not know, girls, how valiantly you are defended by the boys. Boys are usually such uncommunicative creatures! But touch their friendship, and they will throw a volley of rhetoric right in among a crowd of gossipers. Slow to receive favors from you, as they sometimes seem, they never forget a kindness done by you.

Now suppose your association with boys does sometime grow into a love for a young man,—just suppose the case. Ought you to marry him? Of course I don't know: I am not capable of advising, on account of my singularity. I might tremblingly suggest, however, that love, health, and virtue having been seriously contemplated, there should be few, if any, hindrances to marriage; for out of this trinity will spring patience, courage, industry, joy, and all that is needful to united lives.

If you think my suggestion lacks the significance of experience, why, hunt up some of the best authorities on the subject. William Penn was a very moral kind of a man, and experienced in the art of living; and, like a true Quaker, he put a negative wherever one was needed. He said, "Never marry but for love, but see thou lovest what is lovely." Only two conditions, you note; but on them hangs the destiny of all the future. It is certainly right for you to think of marriage, to regard it joyfully, yet so as with a serious joy. But girls, dear girls, do not inflame your hearts with the visions of married life which are so frequently delineated in the prevalent fiction of the day. You will be happier without all that extravagance of romantic affection which fills circulating libraries. Do not read the trash: it will make you expect too much; it will make real life seem insignificant; it will cause you to be more and more susceptible in the presence of young men; it will blot leaves in your book of life which ought to be all white; it will make truth fictitious; it will lead to temptation,—to death. Says Miss Yonge, "If every modest woman or girl would abstain from such books as poison, and never order or read one which makes crime and impurity prominent, or tampers with dilemmas about the marriage vow, there would be fewer written and published, and less wildfire would be spread abroad." Shun the romances which centre all in a false, unnatural affection. Oh, that they were all sunk in the ocean, the food for obscene sharks! And, oh, that only such pure and beautiful romances remained as picture the lives of a Hermann and a Dorothea, or a Gabriel and an Evangeline!

But, girls, how some of you do treat the boys! No wonder they grow conceited: you allow them to become so. Here is a girl only eighteen years old who has an impression, such a strong impression, there is but one praise-worthy act for a girl to do, and that is to get married. Each new birthday will frighten her, and she will dread to be alive and single at twenty-five. She seizes every matrimonial opportunity, and haunts a young man like a conviction of conscience.

Here is another girl quite absorbed in the thought that a live man pays her certain attentions, and she takes his conceit for grave wisdom, and his kindness for infinite tenderness. She looks upon him as an importation from the priesthood of the Grand Llama,—perhaps he is the Grand Llama himself; certainly the inhabitant of a land where young men do not grow humanly. He is a rara avis, a glorious phenomenon, a marked consideration in the world, a being to be devoutly gazed at to come to some appreciation of him.

I feel you are berating me, girls, so far as your natures will allow; but, then, do I not speak the truth? Could I not unfold pitiful stories about girls who marry fine wedding receptions and the servitude of reverses? about young women who are vain enough to think there can be no union of hearts without union of intellects, and so lay snares for college students? Could I not picture to you the mariage de convenance in America? And could I not describe the marriage of a jilt?

I cannot too earnestly repeat that marriage is the common and acceptable destiny of both boys and girls; but I must complain because girls do not regard it sufficiently before they enter into it. In the distress which follows their hastiness, in the despair which sometimes hardens their hearts, women call marriage a lottery, and man faithless.

I must think that marriage is not only a very natural, but a very beautiful, way of increasing love.

"Love is the burden of all Nature's odes,—the song of the birds an epithalamium, a hymeneal. The marriage of the flowers spots the meadows, and fringes the hedges with pearls and diamonds. In the deep waters, in the high air, in woods and pastures, and the bowels of the earth, this is the employment and condition of all things." [Footnote: Thoreau.]

"God has set the type of marriage everywhere throughout the creation. Each creature seeks its perfection in another. The very heavens and earth picture it to us." [Footnote: Luther.]

Youths and maidens, you are in the heyday of vigorous, joyous life! Your delight is, like the springtime, rich in hope and promise. Your laugh rings true; your voices mingle in frolic glee, or in quiet tones of kind regard. Now join hands in the glad though earnest work of life,—not life's drudgery, not its toils. No! for the cheer of your spirits, the courage which looks despair full in the face, and crushes it with lively endeavor,—these will permit no drudgery; these will make out of the most desolate moorland a very garden of life!

You can do all! Now make the earth renew its vigor; now make health and courage come again in the world; now restore the reign of cheer; now break the bonds of vice; now bring back an earthly Paradise! With your strong bodies, your glad hearts, your vigorous minds, your imperial sway over the hearts of one another, your persuasive control over the feelings of your elders, it is for you to make the future what you will. Oh, make it the dawn of that civilization, of that Christianity, when again "the morning stars shall sing together!"

Only you can restore virtue; only you can cast out corruption; only you can drive the fiends of intemperance, of fraud, of oppression, of despair, of craftiness, of selfishness, from the land!

Girls, in the great work of the future, in the reformation of the present, can you not do most? When woman was thrust out of Paradise, man followed her. When she shall return again, and the gates shall swing open on noiseless hinges at the approach of her pure feet, man shall be seen, not following, but walking by her side.

Raphael and Guido have painted the angel Michael with a beautiful maiden's face, though his body is muscular, and his wings are tipped with strength, while, firm as a Hercules, he stands upon the writhing coils of Satan. The Devil but turns his coward head to look with vanquished strength upon the clear, calm smile of the angel. Maidenly love of what is pure, of what is brave, of what is manly, will crush the evil in youths who are tempted; yes, and make from an Adam of mere muscle and intelligence a very god of virtue.


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