Common sense would decide that we should begin the day with the glad alertness with which the sun smiles at us over horizon, or housetops. He rejoices as a strong man ready - that is, rubbed down, supple and light - to run a race.
There are still writers of "goody" books and works on hygiene who extol the morning mood. According to them, the whole human machine is then at its best. The head is clear, the stomach is vigorous, the spirits are buoyant, life is a joy.
In reality - the reality of the every-day life of respectable people who have not tarried long at the wine, or eaten Welsh rarebits over night - the hard pull of the day is at the beginning.
The head of the average man or woman ought to be clear, the digestive organs active, limbs and joints in excellent working order. There should not be what one comedian describes as a "dark-brown, fuzzy taste" in the mouth, or the feeling that the cranium is stuffed with cotton wool, and the diaphragm should not loathe all manner of food.
But such things are. Where one man tells you that breakfast is the best meal of the day, fifty account the ceremony of the earliest meal of each new day as a hollow mockery. A celebrated judge left upon record the saying: "No man should be hanged for a murder committed before breakfast." Another, almost as famous, openly and officially declared his unwillingness to condemn a prisoner convicted of manslaughter of whom his physician had testified that he was a chronic dyspeptic. "A dyspeptic," urged the judge, whose own diet had consisted of mush and milk for ten years, "is never quite sane."
Not one of his three daily meals is "comfortable" to him whose alimentary apparatus is out of order. To one in tolerable health the business of "stoking" the engine for the drive of the forenoon should not be irksome.
Thus common sense and hygienic general principles. Now for facts.
A brilliant woman summed up the popular judgment on the subject in an after-luncheon speech before other literary women, in the assertion that "the human machine needs to be wound up and lubricated and regulated by bath and breakfast before it is fit to work with other machines, or, indeed, to go at all. Breakfast, partaken of in the company of one's nearest and dearest, is a blunder of modern civilization. It is an ordeal over which each should mourn apart."
A young man of education and breeding, who lives in bachelor chambers with three other "good fellows," confesses that, while the seven o'clock dinner hour is always full of cheer and goodwill, the four friends seldom exchange a syllable at the breakfast table beyond a brief salutation at entering the room, and a curt "good day," in separating to their various places of business.
"Thanks to this sensible silence, we have lived together three years without quarreling," he wound up the story by saying. "Every man is a brute until he has had his morning coffee."
Much of this is talk for talk's sake, and some of it is Temper. It is not easy for one to get full command of oneself before the relaxed nerves are braced by tea or coffee, and the long-empty stomach is brought up to concert pitch by food. If we have slept too heavily, we are stupid: if too little, irritable.
I admit that the American's first meal of the crude day, with the accompaniment of the rush for car, or boat, or train, that turns out - or in - dyspeptics by the hundred thousand yearly, is not conducive to domestic happiness, or the preservation of table etiquette. The householder, devouring porridge, two cups of scalding coffee, rolls, steak and fried potatoes, at discretion, with one eye on the clock, and both feet braced for the jump and run he knows are imminent if he would catch the train, is in the first or fortieth stage of what a witty essayist diagnoses as "Ameri-canitis." His children's railroad speed of deglutition and the scurry for school are along the same lines of discomfort and disease.
Upon the mother's hands and head rests the responsibility of "getting them off for the day," - a battle renewed with each morning until she "fairly loathes the name and the thought of breakfast."
The remedy for the domestic disgrace - for it is nothing if not that - is so simple that I have little hope it will be respected, much less accepted.
It is, get up fifteen minutes earlier in the morning!
The plain truth is that your system is not "ready for breakfast," when you announce that you are. The racer, to whom Scripture compares the smiling God of Day, never takes the first lap at a rush. He warms gradually to his work, having at the outset paid as diligent heed to the "Make ready!" as to the "Go!"
If you rise usually at seven, have the hot water and cleaned boots brought to the door at a quarter before seven, and get up when you are called. A brisk bath and a smart rubbing with a crash towel, preceded by fifty gymnastic strokes, such as arm-swinging and general flexing of the muscles; twenty-five deep breaths that pump the morning air down to the bottomest well of your lungs and clear the respiratory passages of effete matter lodged there during the night - these, with a general disposition to speak charitably toward, and to speak civilly to companions and competitors in the race, correspond to "make ready." Clean, supple, and in good heart, come to the table as to preliminary refreshment you have time and appetite to enjoy.
At least seven-tenths of the twaddle over the horrors of the family breakfast are affectation and indolence. Breakfasting in bed is an imported fashion, and to my notion, is not a clean practice. The tray brought to an unaired room, a tumbled bed and an unwashed body, looks well in French engravings, but is a solecism in an age of hygienic principles, much ventilation and matutinal baths. The inability to be in charity with one's fellow mortals, to smile genially and to speak gently before the world is well started upon its diurnal swing, and the complainant's
Breakfast Equipage physical system is toned and tuned and oiled by eating, is degrading in itself. The confession of it is puerile.
Force yourself to speak pleasantly if you can not at once bring your spirits up to the right level. Study to be a man, or a woman, although breakfastless. To be thrown in the first round of the day by the sluggish flesh and the devil of ill-humor, before the world has a chance to grapple with you, is cowardly and sinful.