There are some qualities which are very difficult to define. One of these is tiresomeness. Everyone knows what it is, everyone knows the kind of things that tiresome people do, and yet nobody could quite say what makes tiresomeness tiresome. At a suffrage meeting in America the principal speaker exhorted her hearers to be vulgar, to be militant, to be loud rather than be tiresome. The advice given for their public behaviour could be easily adapted to the domestic hearth; for a tiresome wife is in some ways more deadly than a thoroughly bad-tempered one, or a thoroughly unreasonable woman in the house. The tiresome wife bores her husband, and a bored husband is within measurable distance of being a grumpy husband.
If any cloud is to come over the domestic sky, most people would much rather that it were a thunder-cloud full of claps and flashes, accompanied by a drenching downpour, and followed by brilliant sunshine in about ten minutes, than that it should be a thin, cold grey, neutral sort of cloud that covers the whole sky and seems to come from nowhere, for no particular reason, with every intention of staying till next Christmas. That is the sort of cloud produced by a tiresome wife and a bored husband. An angry man is better than an irritated man, and the effect of tiresomeness is to keep him irritated all the time.
Some women, who are really very sweet and good by nature, let themselves fall into a kind of habit of being tiresome. One of its principal symptoms is that they object to everything as soon as it is mentioned, not from any real cause of dissent, but just on general principle. If they are told, " My dear, I will hang those pictures this afternoon," they reply, " I had much rather you would put up the new curtains." And yet, if they asked themselves really, perhaps they have no choice at all, and would just as soon have the pictures up as the curtains.
This sort of thing is too small to be called temper, and it quite frequently has hardly any relation to the character of the wile herself. It is only one of those little habits of which many people are completely unconscious. They make all the difference in the home. Like nagging, tiresomeness has broken up many an otherwise happy household. Of course, some men are tiresome, too ; but we are thinking of the wife, who perhaps has not very much to do beyond ordering her house, and from lack of interests begins to see objections to everything, with the result that she is hardly ever wholeheartedly in with the conversation, or a project, or an occupation, but is always, as it were, lagging behind in mind and body.
A proud wife told me the other day that one of the most treasured compliments she had received from her husband came when they had been married some years, when he looked at her and, for no particular reason, suddenly burst out, " You are a jolly girl ! " That is the spirit which can never flourish in the same house with tiresomeness. Perhaps the husband loves his tiresome wife very sincerely and deeply, and sees through the little surface prickliness, knows quite well that it has nothing to do with his wife's good qualities, and so excuses it and bears with it. But he will never be able to think spontaneously as he looks at her that she is a jolly girl. Jolliness means so much in modern parlance. It means good comradeship, whole-hearted co-operation in mutual interests, pleasantness in the house. It by no means excludes the privilege of disagreeing or taking objection, but it means that none is taken simply from silly habit.
A Cure for Tiresomeness
There are many other ways of being tiresome than by taking objection to everything, but that is perhaps the most usual of all. Another is the grumbling habit - not quite the same thing. Another is the way of never being properly pleased. If a husband takes his wife out to dinner because she is dispirited, it is tiresome of her to go on being dispirited on purpose to keep up her position as a martyr. After all, martyrs are very admirable, but we only love the human, happy people, who are pleased whenever they can be, and show themselves susceptible to our endeavours for their pleasure. It is perhaps very nice to be interesting and miserable, to have such high ideals that reality can never please one; but it is nicer still to be looked upon as one of those people who " make a sunshine in a shady place."
Besides, the more disappointed we are with life, the more logical it is that we should try to save others from disappointment by making them happy. And " tiresomeness ' will prevent our doing that. No wife need be tiresome. One of the essentials of the quality is just this - that it can be helped. If it could not be helped, it would be something much more pitiable. It is not worth while to fritter away sunshine and pleasure and affection in the home just for the sake of a silly little habit of mind. I am sure that one of the most profitable occupations for wives is finding and inventing and collecting new ways in which to be lovable - the jolly girl way, the dear wife the good chum, the Wonder - with a capital W - and plenty of others. No wife so occupied will have any time "to peeve," as someone said the other day.