Humoring the Little Women

Damon Runyon

Our Old Man once got himself greatly disliked by many married men back in our old home town of Pueblo because of an address he made before a women’s club.

The whole thing came up entirely by accident. The women had scheduled a much more distinguished citizen for a speech but he failed to appear on time. Our Old Man happened to be passing the meeting place and some of the women were out in front looking up and down the street for their expected guest.

The audience inside was getting impatient and the women asked Our Old Man if he would mind stepping in and making a few remarks to fill in until the more distinguished citizen arrived. Our Old Man said, not at all, and he went in and took the rostrum, explaining to the audience that he was just a pinch hitter and would stop as soon as the star got there.

Our Old Man said he guessed he would discuss matrimony, as he noticed that most of the women present were married. He said matrimony was nothing more nor less than a sporting proposition. He said the usual matrimonial vow itself contained the essence of a strictly sporting proposition when it said “for better or for worse”. He said nothing could be plainer than that.

Our Old Man said most men liked to think they were good sports, but that in the matrimonial game they were the worst in the world. He said that, in matrimony, men were inveterate squawkers, welchers and cry-babies. He explained that by welcher he meant a fellow who ran out on the obligations of a sporting proposition.

He said any sporting proposition is founded on the proposition that persons must stand to win if they stand to lose, but that in matrimony men rarely conceded that principle to women. He said that in matrimony men seldom manifested any disposition to stick to the sporting phases of the proposition “for better or for worse”, because as soon as it got worse they started beefing.

He said, take a fellow he knew right there in our old home town of Pueblo who was considered one of the greatest sports alive, because of his equanimity as a loser in gambling games. He said he had often seen this fellow step into the Greenlight gambling house, drop a big wad and go out laughing.

Our Old Man said he had admired the fellow’s spirit himself, until he learned that the fellow would go home and bawl out his wife if dinner was late or one of the kids was squalling. Our Old Man said that was a little thing, to be sure, but that it was a violation of the ethics of a sporting proposition and indicated to him that the fellow was a good sport only in public.

Our Old Man said, the average woman had more sporting blood in her little finger when it came to matrimony as a sporting proposition than the average man had in his whole body. He said this was curious, too, when you considered that women are commonly bigger losers at it than men.

He said he knew many a woman, possibly including some of those present, who must have been bitterly disappointed when she found she had wound up with a four-flush in the matrimonial game, yet he did not recall more than a few making a public outcry about the matter. He said a woman might find she had drawn a drunkard, a ne’er-do-well, or a chaser, but she had too much pride to go around disclosing her misfortune. He said, on the other hand, when the average man found he had drawn a deuce when he was looking for a queen in matrimony, he made no bones about yelling that he had been trimmed. He said that one of the wonders to him of women was their ability to lose gracefully and stick to the ethics of matrimony as a sporting proposition as laid down in the matrimonial vow.

Our Old Man said the only criticism of women he had to offer was their disposition to let the men take advantage of their sporting spirit. He said when divorce becomes unavoidable, the men generally let the women become plaintiffs on the ground that it is the sporting thing to do. He said that was where the men bamboozled the women, because as defendants the men could go around appealing for sympathy.

Our Old Man told the meeting that he could prove that there were more bad husbands in the world than bad wives, and he might have done it, too, but for the fact that at this moment the speaker originally scheduled appeared in the doorway. One of the women who had enlisted Our Old Man as a fill-in motioned to him from the doorway and he started to leave the platform, whereupon there was a great outcry from the audience of “No, No!” “Go on! Go on!” and “More! More!”

Our Old Man was willing to oblige, but the original speaker was pretty much peeved, especially as a slightly deaf old lady near the door informed him that as near as she could judge he had been the topic of Our Old Man’s discourse. Our Old Man thought it discretion to leave as unobtrusively as possible, but for a couple of weeks afterwards he had to exchange hot words with many of the married men of our old home town.

They said he had made it tough on them at home, and Our Old Man could see why when he commenced receiving the somewhat garbled reports of his discourse. However, he was proud of the fact that the club by unanimous resolution invited him to return at his convenience and complete same.