By Greg Clark, July 16, 1921
Once more comes round the season when man discovers anew the absence of that rib he lost in Eden.
The season of man-made breakfasts is here. The season of unmade beds, of disorganized laundry, of great heaps of dirty dishes in countless deserted kitchen sinks! The season of holey socks, of buttonless bedeveys, of bleak and dusty homes! Lo the season of the summer bachelor is upon us.
It is in the next eight weeks that the married man discovers what liars and mockers his bachelor friends are.
Thousands of husbands, growing shabbier and seedier and more undernourished every day, are falling in love with their wives again.
Yoho and ahoy! Regard the well-known summer bachelor whose wife is up at the cottage! See him at seven o’clock of the evening, the cafe-fed expression on his face, a large hole in the heel of his sock, a bundle of funny papers under his arm, standing on a deserted down-town corner watching the hours whizz by.
See him watering his lawn at home. Observe him deporting himself gayly on his verandah, rocking in the wicker rocker that is his wife’s favorite chair. Hear him in the early morn, rattling pans as he gets himself his breakfast. Does he sing as he shaves? Does he come home at eve with his usual spring stride?
It is time we recognized the pitiful plight of summer bachelors. The Armenians and others are getting altogether too much sympathy.
What an opportunity the churches, the Y. M. C. A., and the Rotary Club are missing by not shepherding the summer bachelor!
The churches could hold special mid-week social gatherings for them. The poor fellows could be invited to bring their socks to be darned, their garments to have buttons sewed on by the ladies of the church who are still in town. A bright program could be made up by inviting two or three of the summer bachelors to bring their wives photographs and give little ten-minute talks on “Why I Miss My Wife.” Good old sentimental songs could be sung, such as “When You and I Were Young Maggie” and “In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree.” In addition to improving tremendously the domestic spirit of the community, such gatherings would be of wonderful relief to the poor neglected fellows.
The Y. M. C. A. could put on summer bachelor evenings, to which the distracted, lonely beggars could invite several of their real bachelor friends. Then in the gymnasium, bouts could be staged between real bachelors and the summer variety, in which the latter could pound the stuffing out of the genuine article in payment for all the false blather he had indulged in about “freedom” and “independence.”
I advocate this thing in order to render unnecessary the tragedy which recently occurred in the apartment of a real bachelor friend of mine.
Being temporarily alone, I had reached the climax of summer bachelor misery. All my laundry was equally divided between the laundryman and my bedroom floor. My socks had run out. There were no more restaurants left to try. All the dishes, including the cut glass and the fancy plates of the dining-room plate-rail, were in the sink. And the house fairly shouted with emptiness. Then I remembered Henry.
Henry is, or was, my bachelor friend, who bragged so of his “freedom,” his Independence, his blessed single estate.
I decided to hunt up Henry and see how he managed, without a wife.
We met; we dined together. He took me to his apartment.
His apartment was about the size of a decent chest of drawers. It smelled of heat and stale smoke. His bed was unmade. There were heaps of clothing on the floor, garments hung on doorknobs, a boot on his dresser. There was dust and confusion on all his tables and window sills. In his bachelor kitchenette dirty dishes were in the sink, and extinct sardine cans and milk bottles were strewn about.
Henry, wholly ignorant of my emotions, sat down in his rickety leather easy chair, and said –
“Ah, this is the life! No slavery for me! Free and independent! Now, you, your poor – “
With that, I struck him with a chair over the head.
Over his remains I heaped the stray garments off the floor and a few tin cans out of the kitchenette.
I make no excuses for this deed. For the summer bachelor is subject to a sort of madness. It is caused by the uneven pressure on his vertebrae and spinal cord owing to the loss of one of his ribs.
Editor’s Note: A “summer bachelor” was a common character in Greg’s stories, even early ones like this one from 1921 illustrated by Jim. Middle class families who owned summer cottages would have the wife and children go to the cottage for the whole summer when the children were out of school. The husbands would stay behind in the city for the work week, and would go to the cottage on weekends. The joke was that the men would always be helpless at home without their wives around. This situation would come up in the future Greg-Jim stories as well, as the hijinks they would get into was always when they were on their own.