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The Neurotic's Notebook

Mignon McLaughlin (1963)


No one has ever loved anyone the way everyone wants to be loved.

When we have been humiliated by someone we love, it takes all our strength to pretend to recover from it.

When a man comes to love a woman exactly as she had dreamed, she decides he is a weakling.

It is a feeling at once stimulating and flat, to know that someone you do not love is in love with you.

What we love about love is the fever, which marriage puts to bed and cures.

How can a man marry wisely in his twenties? The girl he's going to wind up wanting hasn't even been born.

Love is the silent saying and saying of a single name.

If you made a list of the reasons why any couple got married, and another list of the reasons for their divorce, you'd have a hell of a lot of overlapping.

No one can understand love who has not experienced infatuation. And no one can understand infatuation, no matter how many times he has experienced it.

Insult, not flattery, is the great aphrodisiac.

When we first fall in love, we feel that we know all there is to know about life, and perhaps we are right.

If he suddenly falls in love with someone else, a husband may not start wanting a divorce; but if he suddenly makes a lot of money, he usually will.

"I am as I am" is another way of saying "I can do without your love."

If the second marriage really succeeds, the first one didn't really fail.

Between two married couples there are five possibilities for friendship: man to man, woman to woman, each man to the woman not his wife, and couple to couple. It's seldom that more than two of these will actually materialize.

The marriage of convenience has this to recommend it: we are better judges of convenience than we are of love.

Boredom is often the cause of promiscuity and always its result.

We all dream of being the darling of everybody's darling.

He's in for trouble—the man whose wife is detested by all women and desired by all men.

Beauty often fades, but seldom so swiftly as the joy it gives us.

The hardest-learned lesson: that people have only their kind of love to give, not our kind.

If you had an unhappy childhood, you will always want to sleep late in the morning.

When children are bored, it reflects on us all.

A childhood can be judged sheltered or not according to which was learned first, the four-letter word or the euphemism.

There are children born to be children, and others who must mark time till they can take their natural places as adults.

We tell our children things which we know are not so, but which we wish were so.

One of life's few really reliable pleasures: to have a family you love, and to leave them for a week.

The family unit is man's noblest device for being bored.

The fault no child ever loses is the one he was most punished for.

Groups of girls are pretty, or not; they are seldom mixed.

Men prefer brief praise, pitched high; women are satisfied with praise in a lower key, just so it goes on and on.

Desire is in men a hunger, in women only an appetite.

An attractive woman likes feminine company until she's twenty, and after she's twenty-five.

Others follow patterns; we alone are unpredictable.

A young woman can live off the folly of men; a man of any age can live off the folly of women.

It upsets women to be, or not to be, stared at hungrily.

When a woman reaches forty, she must wait twenty years for her husband to catch up.

Most women would like to dress imaginatively, but they glare at any woman who does.

The total history of almost anyone would shock almost everyone.

Being Irish is, no matter how real, a pose.

On stage and off, we care what happens to a beautiful woman, whether she can act well or not.

Any woman can talk herself into being in love with any man, for a while anyway.

The mark of the neurotic: to imagine that you're the only one who cares deeply for anything.

Even cowards can endure hardship; only the brave can endure suspense.

Women gather together to wear silly hats, eat dainty food, and forget how unresponsive their husbands are. Men gather to talk sports, eat heavy food, and forget how demanding their wives are. Only where children gather is there any real chance of fun.

People who won't have a TV set in their house get more pleasure from their refusal than most of us get from TV.

We come late, if at all, to wine and philosophy; whiskey and action are easier.

Men feel that women somehow drag them down, and women feel that way about men. It's possible that are right.

We work for praise, and dawdle once we have it.

The fault we admit to is seldom the fault we have, but it has a certain relationship to it, a somewhat similar shape, like that of a sleeve to an arm.

You will turn over many a futile new leaf till you learn we must all write on scratched-out pages.

Irrelevant things may happen to you, but once they have happened they all become relevant.

If you can tell anyone about it, it's not the worst thing you ever did.

Many things can make you miserable for weeks; few can bring you a whole day of happiness.

The chief reason for drinking is the desire to behave in a certain way, and to be able to blame it on alcohol.

Air that has been much quarreled in becomes very hard to breathe.

The best work is done with the heart breaking, or overflowing.

Every day of our lives we are on the verge of making those changes that would make all the difference.

Nostalgia for what we have lost is more bearable than nostalgia for what we have never had, for the first involves knowledge and pleasure, the second only ignorance and pain.

I do not trust those who are above name-dropping. The suppression of small vices always exacts too high a toll.

If the pain wanders, do not waste your time with doctors.

An old racetrack joke reminds you that your program contains all the winners' names. I stare at my typewriter keys with the same thought.

We hear only half of what is said to us, understand only half of that, believe only half of that, and remember only half of that.

Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to weave.

What you have become is the price you paid to get what you used to want.

Every group of six or more has its inner circle, its outer circle, and its hangers-on.

We waste a lot of time running after people we could have caught by just standing still.

Bored with your present enemies? Make new ones! Tell two of your women friends that they look alike.

When a stranger identifies you from a friend's description, it's just as well you didn't hear the description.

Injure a businessman and he'll try to make you sorry; injure an artist and he'll try to make you immortal.

Every society honors its live conformists and its dead troublemakers.

Sooner or later, they govern who are determined to.

In the theatre, as in life, we prefer a villain with a sense of humor to a hero without one.

There's little enough to be said for nationalism, so let's say it and have done.

Broadway audiences are dependably square. "Well, I'll be a son of a bitch" always gets a laugh; spoken by a little old lady, it brings down the house.

Life's most painful condition: to be almost a celebrity.

Everybody can write; writers can't do anything else.

Theatre audiences can't be made to think and cry: at best, they can be made to think and laugh, or to feel and cry.

A critic can only review the book he has read, not the one which the writer wrote.

We have to call it "freedom": who'd die for "a lesser tyranny"?

Charity is a good way of reminding God that if we can do it, He can.

Despair is anger with no place to go.

In church, sacred music would make believers of us all—but preachers can be counted on to restore the balance.

Those who turn to God for comfort may find comfort but I do not think they will find God.

We climb mountains because they are there, and worship God because He is not.

If everyone gave a tenth of his worldly goods to the person he most admired, the rich would just get richer.

Anything you do from the heart enriches you, but sometimes not till years later.

An artist is a socially unattractive person whom socially attractive people make money out of.

The poor have the same basic pleasures as the rich, and the rich will always resent it.

Money is the best counterfeit money.

In retrospect, our triumphs could as easily have happened to someone else; but our defeats are uniquely our own.

One day you are an apprentice, and everybody's pet; the next, you are coldly expected to deliver. There is never sufficient warning that the second day is coming.

Between a man and a woman both aged fifty there are two full generations, for she might well wed a man in his seventies, and he a girl of twenty.

I have seen messed-up people of forty who still seemed salvageable, and children of six or seven who almost surely were not.

In every group of intimidated people, each thinks "I will rebel," but each waits for the others.

Mumps, measles, and puppy love are terrible after twenty.

My thoughts, I guess, are bitter; who but the bitter have thoughts?

The past is rich in lessons from which we would greatly profit except that the present is always so full of Special Circumstances.

There are whole years for which I hope I'll never have to be cross-examined, for I could not give an alibi.

We sometimes feel that we have been really understood, but it was always long ago, by someone now dead.

How strange that the young should always think the world is against them—when in fact that is the only time it is for them.

What you were sure of yesterday, you know now to be false, but what you are sure of today is absolutely true.

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