Have you noticed how a woman displays much more “sang froid” in love than a man? Her heart may be aflame, but there always seems to be a tiny lump of ice which keeps her head cool. Only when a woman is not quite sure of her captor does she begin to lose her feminine “un-dismay.” So long as she is being chased she can always remain calm and collected, perhaps because she knows that, however hot her lover may be in pursuit, the race began by giving her a long start, and, being well ahead, she can listen in camouflaged amusement to the man’s protestations of her “divinity” as he “galollups” madly after her. When you come across lovers in that state of oblivion to staring eyes–as you do come across them so often during these beautiful warm evenings–it is always the man who looks supremely sheepish; the woman doesn’t “turn a hair.” She simply stares at the intruder as if she wanted him to see for himself how very attractive she is. The man, on the other hand, never meets the stranger’s eyes. His expression invariably shows that he is wishing for the earth to open–which, in parenthesis, it never does when you most want it to. But the girl is quite unembarrassed. Even when it is she who is making love, a staring and smiling crowd will not force her to desist. She just goes on stroking her lover’s face and kissing him. But the man looks a perfect fool, and, I am sure, feels it. It seems indeed, as if he would cry to the onlookers, “Don’t blame me. It’s human nature. I shall get over it quite soon!” But the girl seems to say: “By all means–watch us! This, for me, is ‘Der Tag’!” No, you can’t disconcert a woman in love–it makes her quite vain-glorious.
I wonder why love always seems such a splendid “joke” to those who are out of it, when it was a paralysing reality while they were in it. And yet, as one looks back upon one’s love affairs one invariably refers to the incident as the time when “I made a fool of myself.” And yet love is no laughing matter. Considering that ninety-nine per cent. of our novels and plays are about nothing else; considering that our songs and our poetry, and the scandal we like to hear, all centre around this one theme, we really ought to take it more seriously. But if we see two lovers making love to each other we laugh outright. It is very strange! I suppose it is that everybody else’s love affairs are ridiculous; only our own possess the splendour of a Greek tragedy. Perhaps we share with Nature her sense of humour, which makes love one of the biggest practical jokes in life. So we jeer at love in order to hide our own “soreness,” just as we laugh at the man who sits down suddenly in Piccadilly because his foot stepped on a banana skin–we laugh at him because it wasn’t we who sat down. Altogether love is a conundrum, and we laugh at the answer Fate gives us because we dare not show the world we want to cry. Laughter is the one armour which only the gods can pierce. Lovers never laugh–at least, they never laugh at love–that is why we can turn them into such glorious figures of fun.
But I always wonder why a woman of a “thousand loves” assumes a kind of “halo,” when a man of equal passion only gets called a “libertine,” if not worse things. I suppose we think it must have been so clever of her. We speak of her as inspiring love, though a man who inspires the same wholesale affection isn’t considered nice for young women to know. It is, apparently because we realise that a woman very rarely loses her head in love. She may have had a thousand lovers, but only made herself look a “silly idiot” over one. But a man looks a “silly idiot” every time. We know he must have uttered the usual eternal protestations on each occasion. But a woman only has to listen, and can always hear “the tale” without losing her dignity. She merely begins to talk when a man comes “down to earth.” While his “soul” had soared verbally she enjoyed him as she enjoys a “ballad concert,” those love songs which say so much and mean so very little.