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In a Man's World

People often ask me how I came to be a man of such discerning taste, so witty a conversationalist, such a wise and knowing confidante, so fearless a leader of men, such an astute and practical businessman, so tender a lover.

The truth is, as it always is, a large part less mysterious than you might suspect. I have been receiving tuition in each of these qualities since I made perhaps the most important purchase of my life.

It was many years ago at an opportunity shop somewhere in a far-flung suburb of Melbourne that I first caught sight it, this goose that would lay me golden eggs. Nestled between decaying Reader's Digestses and teetering piles of Millses and Boonses: the complete four-volume, 1300-page hardcover edition of How to Succeed in a Man's World, edited by Mr Maurice White, Esq, and self-published by the self-same, in this very city, in a year undisclosed (but almost certainly between 1945 and 1965).

Its clarion call rang out to me, its Siren song singing: "Here I am, the ready reference for all your most indissoluble and pressing questions on matters of living, Here am I, the life manual that everyone seems to have a copy of but you!" Indeed, I was once plagued by an unshakeable suspicion that there was an essential book not given to me and that I could never find in any library—the one that told you how to speak to girls, how to write cheques, how to organise your insurance, how to fry an omelette, how to treat fabrics in a manly and practical manner, how to repair walls, how to achieve sartorial confidence and sagacity, coordinating the colours of your shirt, your slacks, your socks, et cetera.

And here it was: the dimly-perceived grail that had eluded me, within my grasp, asking only that I hand over five dollars per volume to charity.

Then, I was not so known for the presence of my wits as I am now, and duly, for I was a hesitant and retiring creature. But even then I was not so foolish as to tie myself to a mast against this sweet song for the sake of a measly twenty, and I gladly proffered up my note to the old ladies of the Lion's Den.

"Oooh", they chorused when they saw what I had acquired by this sacrifice. "You'll be a new man after reading that, love!"

I nodded solemnly, and walked to the train station with the books stuffed into my Playstation bag. There I sat down, and took out Volume 1. You might think me exaggerating, but I swear to you, at that moment my first life ended and my second began.

At irregular intervals over this next week or two (for I am a busy man), I will be offering glimpses into the rarefied, manly world of Mr Maurice White to any who can withstand its brilliance. Take care afore you plunge; never you know where you might come up. You stand now like Odysseus, the first strains of the Sirens arriving at your ears. If you would take wax to them, then click away now.

White on "When a Woman Cries"

Don't panic! Establish, if you can—and as swiftly as you can—why she is crying. A rapid mental survey of your every action and word during the past twenty-four hours may give you a clue. If it yields nothing she is crying:

  • Over some personal and secret distress (which she is dying to reveal).
  • Over something you haven't noticed that you should have noticed.
  • Over something that you have noticed that you shouldn't have noticed.
  • Because she's happy—or sad.

Obviously, the motive for her tears will, to a great extent, dictate the manner in which you must treat them. And the speed with which you diagnose their cause will send you up—or down—in her estimation. There is only one common denominator in all these situations. And that is the application of a big, white, freshly laundered handkerchief. (A word to husbands. Whatever you do don't produce a rough-dry one. If she's been too busy to do ironing, the sight of it will only add a guilt complex to her other woes.) Bachelors, of course, can easily obtain a single white handkerchief in a neat cellophane pack for just such emergencies.

If her trouble is due to a secret worry, use the coaxing, gentle, fatherly approach. Tell her you'll understand, whatever it is. You won't, but that's neither here nor there. Pat her gently on the shoulder. We are assuming that you will have had the native good sense to encircle her with your other arm. Now wait. That's all you have to do. When she's had her say, offer a cigarette. Within a few minutes she'll jump to her feet with a cry: "I must look an absolute fright!" Don't agree. Unless you have another big, clean white handkerchief at hand.

If you've failed to notice a new hair-do, or a new pair of curtains, be cunning. Tell her you noticed it the moment you walked into the room. If you watch closely, during the next few minutes you'll find out what it is. If you've mentioned something which she'd rather had been unnoticed, you've only yourself to blame. There is nothing you can do now except apologize, and watch your tongue in future. Only time, blood, sweat and tears will enable you to find out when a thing should be mentioned—and when it should be ignored. A simple instance may give a pointer. A laddered stocking can be mentioned while she is still at home and able to change. Remarked upon just as you are both getting into the taxi is merely to spoil the whole evening—for both of you.

Finally, if she's crying because she's happy—or sad—all you need is the handkerchief drill, but be prepared for the flow of tears to increase in proportion to the sympathy you extend. There's nothing to worry about—she's having a wonderful time.

From White, M. (ed), How to Succeed in a Man's World, Vol 4, pp 995-96.

Joseph | 22 Sep 2004

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