If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

November 1952

 

My son and his wife are Republicans, but my daughter recently married a man who favors the Democrats. No matter how hard I try I can't keep the two couples from getting into nasty political arguments. It ruins all their visits with me. Tell me, please, how do you handle political differences in your family?

I try to make them amusing. We have vast differences in our family. All of them love to argue. They can argue passionately about things they do not care about, and anyone who did not know them would think they were about to kill one another. But I find a little laughter and teasing and, if necessary, arbitrarily changing the subject make our family gatherings rather entertaining.

 

I was astonished to see your picture in an advertisement for hearing aids. How can a woman in your position let her face be used in an advertisement?

I do not know what my position is, but as far as I know there was nothing undignified in letting people know that I use a hearing aid occasionally. My picture is in the newspapers fairly often, and I cannot see much difference if it is in an advertisement which is dignified or just in a newspaper.

 

I think Governor Stevenson would make a fine President, but will you tell me how I can vote for a party which is running a Dixiecrat for Vice-President?

I do not think Senator Sparkman is a Dixiecrat, but that is a question which you and your conscience must decide.

 

Has anyone in your family ever been psychoanalyzed? In general, how do you feel about psychoanalysis?

As far as I know, no one in my generation or in my children's generation has been psychoanalyzed. I grew up feeling that it was a weakness to have to resort to psychoanalysis, since one should be able to manage oneself. But I have come to believe that for many people it is distinctly helpful, and therefore, since it is a new science, I think it should be used whenever necessary.

 

General Douglas MacArthur once said he disapproved of a military man as President of the United States. How do you feel about this?

This is a generality and, like so many generalities, can be proved or disproved. For instance:

A military man is accustomed to thinking out strategy and then giving the orders, and he might find it most difficult to work in a way which required constant negotiation and flexibility and adjustments not only within the nation but outside the nation. Life in the service also conditions a man to expect very different responses from his subordinates than one can expect in civilian life.

On the other hand, it might well be said that at certain points it is important to have the kind of quick and decisive action which is acquired through military training.

I have to be on my feet all the time. Would it be too much trouble for you to tell me where you get your shoes made?

I do not have my shoes made to order. I buy walking shoes at Abercrombie & Fitch in New York City, and afternoon shoes and evening slippers at J. & J. Slater. I find the Abercrombie & Fitch shoes very comfortable if they are long enough and wide enough. I find that many salespeople have a tendency to sell shoes a trifle too short.

 

The trivial, ridiculous questions some people ask you just burn me up. Where on earth do you get the patience to answer them as graciously as you do?

I am glad you think I answer the questions graciously. I think all questions which are inspired by an honest desire to know something are worth answering as simply and honestly as possible. Where a question is inspired by malice or the wrong kind of curiosity, it is always possible either to turn it to what seems to you a useful purpose or to refuse to answer it.

 

I understand you once wrote down several rules for marital happiness. Will you tell me the chief ones please?

I cannot remember ever having indulged in this pastime, but if you heard that I did so perhaps I did. I must have been more rash than I am now, so I will not try to write down more than one or two suggestions, certainly not rules.

In all human relationships, and marriage is one of the most difficult, I think perhaps the important qualities for all individuals are unselfishness and flexibility. Tact can be a help also, and real love which occasionally carries you beyond interest in yourself is essential.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, November 1952

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
[ ERPP bio | VIAF | WorldCat | DPLA | SNAC ]

McCall's, volume 80, November 1952

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Digital edition published 2014, 2016 by
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project
The George Washington University
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