Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Reader, I should have married him!: The case of Marry Him! and the disgruntled ex-boyfriend

Dear Ex-Boyfriend,

Here's hoping you have the time to read this letter, because I really want chance to make things right with you. I realise it's been a while since we last spoke. Is it ten years now, or eleven? Funny how the time flies!

Well, you might have heard on the grapevine that I'm still unmarried, and yes, still childless. Those are facts I didn't really notice myself until the other night, hearing the closing theme of Eastenders, it hit me like a ton of bricks: I'm in my mid-thirties! Surely I ought to do something about this state of affairs!

When you knew me, I was still a young woman, still blooming and carefree (oh, so carefree!). I thought that life would be fun forever. I cared little for commitment, instead preferring to spend my time going deaf at gigs, and getting pissed up and drunk on booze. My life was my own to pursue as I wanted, and I thought I could keep it that way forever. I could learn a profession, I thought, and become independent. I could be financially stable in my own right, I could live in a nice house, I could go where I wanted, see who I wanted, and eat what I wanted. I assumed I would write a novel and get a lovely little kitten. These things, I thought in the foolishness of my youth, would make me happy: being independent, and having the wherewithal to make my own decisions.

But time will not relent in its inexorable march, and I am still without a set of wedding photos to show visitors and my puzzled grandmother. Most of my friends are married and I, a fact that became crushingly apparent to me as I last danced to Come on Eileen with a glass of champagne in my hand, am still a spinster: unwanted! Unloved! On the Shelf!

I tried not to let the others see my tears. By that time, they were all doing the conga anyway, and didn't notice when I darted out of the line into the corner of the room to have a little cry. A voice in my head was nagging: "Doing what you want does not make you happy. Financial stability, fulfilling work, a social life: these things will fade away into the yawning abyss of middle age." I don't want to be 45 years old, looking around appalled at the emptiness of my life, and in the state where I no longer have the option of snaring a man because my face looks like an old bin bag.

The next morning, regretful and hungover, I dashed into the nearest bookstore to find an answer to all my problems, and thank goodness I found Lori Gottlieb's book, Marry Him!: The Case For Settling. "I've got to get out of these disgusting habits," I said to myself, "of keeping nocturnal hours and eating ice-cream in the tub. Lori will tell me what to do." Thank goodness, she did. Through the medium of print, I mean: she didn't just suddenly show up and sort me out.

Anyway, turns out I was wrong to keep seeking a man who complements me perfectly, and whom I make happy. Really, what I ought to have done is to marry the first guy who'd have me - which brings us to you, dear ex-boyfriend.

You might remember that you asked me to marry you once and I, full with the arrogance of youth, snorted "No way! I don't want to be tied down!" [I had these stupid ideas about going to University and having a bit of fun. What was I thinking?] I am sorry for that, dear Ex. What I ought to have done is accept immediately, and unconditionally, because, as Gottlieb points out, it doesn't matter if your husband has halitosis, or a beard, or is rude to waiters. What you have to do is compromise. Marriage, after all, isn't about compatibility, or making one another happy: it's about never being lonely again.

On the face of it, I can see why a sceptic might think you and I shouldn't marry. I'm a social butterfly, you're introverted and pathologically jealous. You love listening to Radio 4, and I love watching The Hits! on cable TV. We have so little to talk about that when we were going out together, we literally spent hours sitting in the same room in silence, boring one another to tears. But this is the beauty of settling - you and I could quite easily sweep these minor niggles aside (and they are quite minor, right? What's a lifetime of awkward silences between friends?) and be together forever! That's the beauty of 'settling'. You don't even have to love each other, or even like each other very much. All you have to have in common is the fact that you don't want to be alone!

How about it?


S J (Your loving Ex.)

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