F. Scott Fitzgerald on popularity

In his story ``Bernice Bobs Her Hair'' (1920), F. Scott Fitzgerald sees the innocent beginnings of the jazz age he described so vividly in novels like ``The Great Gatsby.'' Here Bernice, visiting cousin of the popular Marjorie, is trapped by the small talk Marjorie coached her in. ``There's a lot of bluffs in the world,'' continued Marjorie quite pleasantly. ``I should think you'd be young enough to know that, Otis.''

``Well,'' said Otis, ``maybe so. But gee! With a line like Bernice's ...''

``Really?'' yawned Marjorie. ``What's her latest bon mot?''

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No one seemed to know. In fact, Bernice, having trifled with her muse's beau, had said nothing memorable of late.

``Was that really all a line?'' asked Roberta curiously.

Bernice hesitated. She felt that wit in some form was demanded of her, but under her cousin's suddenly frigid eyes she was completely incapacitated.

``I don't know,'' she stalled.

``Splush!'' said Marjorie. ``Admit it!''

Bernice saw that Warren's eyes had left a ukelele he had been tinkering with and were fixed on her questioningly.

``Oh, I don't know!'' she repeated steadily. Her cheeks were glowing.

``Splush!'' remarked Marjorie again.

`` Come through, Bernice,'' urged Otis. ``Tell her where to get off.''

Bernice looked round again - she seemed unable to get away from Warren's eyes.

``I like bobbed hair,'' she said hurriedly, as if he had asked her a question, ``and I intend to bob mine.''

``When?'' demanded Marjorie.

``Any time.''

``No time like the present,'' suggested Roberta.

Otis jumped to his feet.

``Good stuff!'' he cried. ``We'll have a summer bobbing party. Sevier Hotel barber-shop, I think you said.''

In an instant all were on their feet. Bernice's heart throbbed violently.

``What?'' she gasped.

Out of the group came Marjorie's voice, very clear and contemp-tuous.

``Don't worry - she'll back out!''

``Come on, Bernice!'' cried Otis, starting toward the door.

Four eyes - Warren's and Mar-jorie's - stared at her, challenged her, defied her. For another second she wavered wildly.

``All right,'' she said swiftly, ``I don't care if I do.''

An eternity of minutes later, riding down-town through the late afternoon beside Warren, the others following in Roberta's car close behind, Bernice had all the sensations of Marie Antoinette bound for the guillotine in a tumbrel. Vaguely she wondered why she did not cry out that it was all a mistake. It was all she could do to keep from clutching her hair with both hands to protect it from the suddenly hostile world. Yet she did neither. Even the thought of her mother was no deterrent now. This was the test supreme of her sportsmanship; her right to walk unchallenged in the starry heaven of popular girls. F. Scott Fitzgerald, excerpted from ``Bernice Bobs Her Hair'' in FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS. Copyright 1920 Charles Scribner's Sons; copyright renewed 1948 Zelda Fitzgerald. Reprinted with the permission of Charles Scribner's Sons.

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