Bernice Bobs Her Hair, by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1920)
Bernice felt a vague pain that she was not at present engaged in being popular. She did not know that had it not been for Marjorie’s campaigning she would have danced the entire evening with one man; but she knew that even in Eau Claire other girls with less position and less pulchritude were given a much bigger rush. She attributed this to something subtly unscrupulous in those girls. It had never worried her, and if it had her mother would have assured her that the other girls cheapened themselves and that men really respected girls like Bernice.
[…] “She’s absolutely hopeless!” It was Marjorie’s voice. “Oh, I know what you’re going to say! So many people have told you how pretty and sweet she is, and how she can cook! What of it? She has a bum time. Men don’t like her.”
Mrs. Harvey’s voice implied that modern situations were too much for her. When she was a girl all young ladies who belonged to nice families had glorious times.
“Well,” said Marjorie, “no girl can permanently bolster up a lame-duck visitor, because these days it’s every girl for herself. I’ve even tried to drop her hints about clothes and things, and she’s been furious — given me the funniest looks. She’s sensitive enough to know she’s not getting away with much, but I’ll bet she consoles herself by thinking that she’s very virtuous and that I’m too gay and fickle and will come to a bad end. All unpopular girls think that way. Sour grapes! Sarah Hopkins refers to Genevieve and Roberta and me as gardenia girls! I’ll bet she’d give ten years of her life and her European education to be a gardenia girl and have three or four men in love with her and be cut in on every few feet at dances.”
The lids of Bernice’s eyes reddened.
“I think you’re hard and selfish, and you haven’t a feminine quality in you.”
“Oh, my Lord!” cried Marjorie in desperation. “You little nut! Girls like you are responsible for all the tiresome colorless marriages; all those ghastly inefficiencies that pass as feminine qualities. What a blow it must be when a man with imagination married the beautiful bundle of clothes that he’s been building ideals around, and finds that she’s just a weak, whining, cowardly mass of affectations!”
Bernice’s mouth had slipped half open.
“The womanly woman!” continued Marjorie. “Her whole early life is occupied in whining criticisms of girls like me who really do have a good time.”
“But I thought,” interrupted Bernice in bewilderment, “that you despised little dainty feminine things like that.”
”I hate dainty minds,” answered Marjorie. “But a girl has to be dainty in person. If she looks like a million dollars she can talk about Russia, ping-pong, or the League of Nations and get away with it.”
Scenes from a Marriage
Scott: I did not care whether you were a writer or not if you were any good. It is a struggle. It has been a struggle to me. It is self-evident to me that nobody cares about anything. It is a perfectly lonely struggle that I am making against other writers who are finely gifted and talented. You are a third-rate writer and a third-rate ballet dancer. … If you want to write modest things you may be able to turn out one collection of short stories. For the rest, you are compared to me is just like comparing—well, there is just not any comparison. I am a professional writer with a huge following. I am the highest paid short story writer in the world. I have at various times dominated—
Zelda: It seems to me you are making a rather violent attack on a third-rate talent, then. Why in the hell you are so jealous, I don’t know. If I thought that about anybody I would not care what they wrote.
Scott: Because you are broaching at all times on my material just as if a good artist came into a room and found something drawn on the canvas by some mischievous little boy.
Zelda: Well, what do you want me to be?
Scott: I want you to do what I say. That is exactly what I want you to do and you know it. … You pick up the crumbs I drop at the dinner table and stick them into books… Everything that we have done is mine—I am the professional novelist and I am supporting you. That is all of my material. None of it is your material.
Zelda: You think it is personally all right that you feel that way and you accuse me of everything in the world, with having ruined your life, not once, but over and over again.
Scott: When did that first happen?
Zelda: You did that last fall. You sat down and cried and cried. You were drunk, I will admit, and you said I had ruined your life and you did not love me and you were sick of me and wished you could get away, and I was strained and burdened. It is impossible to live with you. I would rather be in an insane asylum where you would like to put me…What is the matter with Scott is that he has not written that book [Tender is the Night] and if he will ever get it written, he won’t feel so miserable and suspicious and mean towards everybody else. What is our marriage, anyway? It has been nothing but a long battle ever since I can remember.
—A transcript from one of Scott’s meetings with Zelda and her doctor, taken from Some Sort of Epic Grandeur.
F. Scott Fitzgerald reads Ode to a Nightingale: “Tender is the night…but here there is no light.”