|The Flapper: Guy Pène du Bois, 1922, oil on board, 63.5 x 50.8 cm (Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Greensboro)|
By modernity I mean the transitory, the fugitive, the contingent which make up one half of art, the other being the eternal and the immutable.
Charles Baudelaire, in The Painter of Modern Life, 1859, translated by Jonathan Mayne
"I've decided," began Bernice without preliminaries, "that maybe you're right about things -- possibly not. But if you'll tell me why your friends aren't -- aren't interested in me I'll see if I can do what you want me to."
Marjorie was at the mirror shaking down her hair.
"Do you mean it?"
"Without reservations? Will you do exactly what I say?"
"Well, I ---- "
"Well nothing! Will you do exactly as I say?"
"If they're sensible things."
"They're not! You're no case for sensible things."
"Are you going to make -- to recommend ---- "
"Yes, everything. If I tell you to take boxing lessons you'll have to do it. Write home and tell your mother you're going to stay another two weeks."
"If you'll tell me --- -"
"All right -- I'll just give you a few examples now. First, you have no ease of manner. Why? Because you're never sure about your personal appearance. When a girl feels that she's perfectly groomed and dressed she can forget that part of her. That's charm. The more parts of yourself you can afford to forget the more charm you have."
"Don't I look all right?"
"No; for instance, you never take care of your eyebrows. They're black and lustrous, but by leaving them straggly they're a blemish. They'd be beautiful if you'd take care of them in one-tenth the time you take doing nothing. You're going to brush them so that they'll grow straight."
Bernice raised the brows in question.
"Do you mean to say that men notice eyebrows?"
"Yes -- subconsciously. And when you go home you ought to have your teeth straightened a little. It's almost imperceptible, still ---- "
"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."
"Oh, I'm just beginning! There's your dancing."
"Don't I dance all right?"
"No, you don't -- you lean on a man; yes, you do -- ever so slightly. I noticed it when we were dancing together yesterday. And you dance standing up straight instead of bending over a little. Probably some old lady on the side-line once told you that you looked so dignified that way. But except with a very small girl it's much harder on the man, and he's the one that counts."
"Go on." Bernice's brain was reeling.
"Well, you've got to learn to be nice to men who are sad birds. You look as if you'd been insulted whenever you're thrown with any except the most popular boys. Why, Bernice, I'm cut in on every few feet -- and who does most of it? Why, those very sad birds. No girl can afford to neglect them. They're the big part of any crowd. Young boys too shy to talk are the very best conversational practice. Clumsy boys are the best dancing practice. If you can follow them and yet look graceful you can follow a baby tank across a barb-wire sky-scraper."
Bernice sighed profoundly, but Marjorie was not through.
"If you go to a dance and really amuse, say, three sad birds that dance with you; if you talk so well to them that they forget they're stuck with you, you've done something.
They'll come back next time, and gradually so many sad birds will dance with you that the attractive boys will see there's no danger of being stuck -- then they'll dance with you."
"Yes," agreed Bernice faintly. "I think I begin to see."
"And finally," concluded Marjorie, "poise and charm will just come. You'll wake up some morning knowing you've attained it, and men will know it too."
"It's been awfully kind of you -- but nobody's ever talked to me like this before, and I feel sort of startled."
Marjorie made no answer but gazed pensively at her own image in the mirror.
"You're a peach to help me," continued Bernice.
Still Marjorie did not answer, and Bernice thought she had seemed too grateful.
"I know you don't like sentiment," she said timidly.
Marjorie turned to her quickly.
"Oh, I wasn't thinking about that. I was considering whether we hadn't better bob your hair."
Bernice collapsed backward upon the bed.
F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940): Bernice Bobs Her Hair (excerpt), from Flappers and Philosophers, 1922
Subway Steps: Guy Pène du Bois, oil on canvas, 1926 (Whitney Museum of American Art)
Carnival: Guy Pène Du Bois, 1927, oil on canvas (Whitney Museum of American Art)
Woman with Cigarette: Guy Pène du Bois, 1929 (Whitney Museum of American Art)
Jane: Guy Pène du Bois, c. 1946, oil on canvas, 76.2 x 60.96 cm (Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester)
Girl Reading a Book: Guy Pène du Bois, 1929, oil on canvas
Two Women: Guy Pène du Bois, n.d.
Lady in a Cloak: Guy Pène du Bois, 1927
Cafe Monnot, Paris: Guy Pène du Bois, n.d., oil on canvas (Whitney Museum of American Art)
Shops: Guy Pène du Bois, n.d.
Night Club: Guy Pène du Bois, 1923
Mr. and Mrs. Chester Dale Dine Out: Guy Pène du Bois,1924 (Whitney Museum of American Art)