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[The following is an excerpt from The Pillow Book, a Japanese classic. A pillow book is a sort of diary filled with the day’s observations. Few survived. This one was written by Sei Shonagon (c966–1017), a lady-in-waiting to the Empress Sadako during the last decade of the tenth century. Among the things that never change are the characteristic shortcomings of either sex, and Sei Shonagon has nailed a bad one where men are concerned. Of course many men are innocent of the fault she describes with such precision, but more than a few, if they were honest, would have to reply, “Guilty as charged.”]

A man’s heart is a shameful thing. When he is with a woman whom he finds tiresome and distasteful, he does not show that he dislikes her, but makes her believe she can count on him. Still worse, a man who has the reputation of being kind and loving treats a woman in such a way that she cannot imagine his feelings are anything but sincere. Yet he is untrue to her not only in his thoughts but in his words; for he speaks badly about her to other women just as he speaks badly about those women to her. The woman, of course, has no idea that she is being maligned; and, hearing his criticisms of the others, she fondly believes he loves her best. The man for his part is well aware that this is what she thinks. How shameful!

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