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How to Avoid Getting Married

Some years ago, when I was the Editor of a Correspondence
Column, I used to receive heart-broken letters from young
men asking for advice and sympathy. They found themselves
the object of marked attentions from girls which they
scarcely knew how to deal with. They did not wish to give
pain or to seem indifferent to a love which they felt
was as ardent as it was disinterested, and yet they felt
that they could not bestow their hands where their hearts
had not spoken. They wrote to me fully and frankly, and
as one soul might write to another for relief. I accepted
their confidences as under the pledge of a secrecy, never
divulging their disclosures beyond the circulation of my
newspapers, or giving any hint of their identity other
than printing their names and addresses and their letters
in full. But I may perhaps without dishonour reproduce
one of these letters, and my answer to it, inasmuch as
the date is now months ago, and the softening hand of
Time has woven its roses--how shall I put it?--the mellow
haze of reminiscences has--what I mean is that the young
man has gone back to work and is all right again.

Here then is a letter from a young man whose name I must
not reveal, but whom I will designate as D. F., and whose
address I must not divulge, but will simply indicate as
Q. Street, West.


"For some time past I have been the recipient of very
marked attentions from a young lady. She has been calling
at the house almost every evening, and has taken me out
in her motor, and invited me to concerts and the theatre.
On these latter occasions I have insisted on her taking
my father with me, and have tried as far as possible to
prevent her saying anything to me which would be unfit
for father to hear. But my position has become a very
difficult one. I do not think it right to accept her
presents when I cannot feel that my heart is hers.
Yesterday she sent to my house a beautiful bouquet of
American Beauty roses addressed to me, and a magnificent
bunch of Timothy Hay for father. I do not know what to
say. Would it be right for father to keep all this valuable
hay? I have confided fully in father, and we have discussed
the question of presents. He thinks that there are some
that we can keep with propriety, and others that a sense
of delicacy forbids us to retain. He himself is going to
sort out the presents into the two classes. He thinks
that as far as he can see, the Hay is in class B. Meantime
I write to you, as I understand that Miss Laura Jean
Libby and Miss Beatrix Fairfax are on their vacation,
and in any case a friend of mine who follows their writings
closely tells me that they are always full.

"I enclose a dollar, because I do not think it right to
ask you to give all your valuable time and your best
thought without giving you back what it is worth."

On receipt of this I wrote back at once a private and
confidential letter which I printed in the following
edition of the paper.


"Your letter has touched me. As soon as I opened it and
saw the green and blue tint of the dollar bill which you
had so daintily and prettily folded within the pages of
your sweet letter, I knew that the note was from someone
that I could learn to love, if our correspondence were
to continue as it had begun. I took the dollar from your
letter and kissed and fondled it a dozen times. Dear
unknown boy! I shall always keep that dollar! No matter
how much I may need it, or how many necessaries, yes,
absolute necessities, of life I may be wanting, I shall
always keep THAT dollar. Do you understand, dear? I shall
keep it. I shall not spend it. As far as the USE of it
goes, it will be just as if you had not sent it. Even if
you were to send me another dollar, I should still keep
the first one, so that no matter how many you sent, the
recollection of one first friendship would not be
contaminated with mercenary considerations. When I say
dollar, darling, of course an express order, or a postal
note, or even stamps would be all the same. But in that
case do not address me in care of this office, as I should
not like to think of your pretty little letters lying
round where others might handle them.

"But now I must stop chatting about myself, for I know
that you cannot be interested in a simple old fogey such
as I am. Let me talk to you about your letter and about
the difficult question it raises for all marriageable
young men.

"In the first place, let me tell you how glad I am that
you confide in your father. Whatever happens, go at once
to your father, put your arms about his neck, and have
a good cry together. And you are right, too, about
presents. It needs a wiser head than my poor perplexed
boy to deal with them. Take them to your father to be
sorted, or, if you feel that you must not overtax his
love, address them to me in your own pretty hand.

"And now let us talk, dear, as one heart to another.
Remember always that if a girl is to have your heart she
must be worthy of you. When you look at your own bright
innocent face in the mirror, resolve that you will give
your hand to no girl who is not just as innocent as you
are and no brighter than yourself. So that you must first
find out how innocent she is. Ask her quietly and
frankly--remember, dear, that the days of false modesty
are passing away--whether she has ever been in jail. If
she has not (and if YOU have not), then you know that
you are dealing with a dear confiding girl who will make
you a life mate. Then you must know, too, that her mind
is worthy of your own. So many men to-day are led astray
by the merely superficial graces and attractions of girls
who in reality possess no mental equipment at all. Many
a man is bitterly disillusioned after marriage when he
realises that his wife cannot solve a quadratic equation,
and that he is compelled to spend all his days with a
woman who does not know that X squared plus 2XY plus Y
squared is the same thing, or, I think nearly the same
thing, as X plus Y squared.

"Nor should the simple domestic virtues be neglected. If
a girl desires to woo you, before allowing her to press
her suit, ask her if she knows how to press yours. If
she can, let her woo; if not, tell her to whoa. But I
see I have written quite as much as I need for this
column. Won't you write again, just as before, dear boy?


Stephen Leacock