Over on The F Word blog, Cazz Blase reviews a re-issued 1936 book called Live Alone And Like It. Written by Marjorie Hillis (1889-1971), who worked at Vogue for over 20 years, the book was a guide for "bachelor ladies" like Hillis, "one of a growing number of independent, professional women who live alone by choice." And though it's been over seventy years since its original publication, the guide is full of good advice and humorous observations. On "spinsterhood": "There may still be those who look upon an unmarried state as an affliction, but in London it is only a very minor ailment." On sex: "There is no denying that you can be a lot more aggressive now than you could have been a few years ago. Things that are taken for granted to-day would have stamped you as a hussy then." And when it comes to the economics of singles and marrieds, Hillis was especially on target:
Almost all women are born with a belief that some man will marry and support them, or, at the worst, that a relative will die and leave them a fortune. This is probably an instinct implanted by Providence and has something to do with the progation of the race. We haven't time to figure out just what, but there it is, and it takes a long, long time to uproot it.
Blase points out that not much has changed in 2008: "Magazines such as Brides owe their readership to it, magazines such as Cosmopolitan tacitly, or openly, endorse it and marriage is still sold to young girls as a worthy ambition, particularly the 'good match' of a wealthy marriage." But in general, Hillis seems to have honed in on the ageless truths of being a woman with verve and humor; she has chapters titled "A Lady and Her Liquor," and "Pleasures of a Single Bed." And, in the author's own words, "This book is no brief for living alone. Five out of ten of the people who do so can't help themselves, and at least three of the others are irritatingly selfish. But the chances are that at some time in your life, possibly only now and then between husbands, you will find yourself settling down to a solitary existence... There is a technique to living alone successfully, as there is to doing anything really well."
As someone who has lived alone and liked it for several years, I would gladly add chapters to Hillis' tome: "The Dangers Of The Floordrobe," "To Whom Should You Give An Extra Set Of Keys?" and, of course: "Intestinal Gas: No One's Problem But Your Own." What subjects would you suggest?
Live Alone and Like It [The F Word]
Live Alone and Like It: The Classic Guide for the Single Woman (also see the UK store)