Happily, love seems to feature high up on the modern woman’s relationship wish list. Now… if only you can keep your demon mother away from it.
A few years back, an acquaintance of mine with a daughter (her only child) in her late teens squeaked and squealed and hugged herself with excitement at the idea of her daughter being in the early stages of a relationship.
It wasn’t that her daughter was going out with just any old bloke – the excitement was purely generated by the ‘type’ of lad she was dating. He was, this proud mother reckoned, a ‘good catch’.
The poor lad, who was vaguely known to her through a family work connection, had the misfortune to call to the house to pick the daughter up one night and, from what I gathered, this demon mother all but held him hostage. Before he escaped, she had ascertained that he had his own house, drove an upmarket car, was permanent, pensionable and upwardly mobile in his job and was generally well connected. His family owned a successful business and were pillars of the community and the golf club. She was also speculating that he had a bachelor uncle with land and he – the poor boyfriend hostage – was the eldest nephew. The uncle, she reckoned, must be getting on. In her mind’s eye, I think she was building a house on the poor man’s land before he even got a tickly cough.
Such was her excitement about it all that she spilled all this information out to me, a mere acquaintance.
And is she fond of him?, I asked her.
She looked at me as if I had a second head.
‘Do you mean does she love him?’, she countered. ‘Sure what does that matter? I don’t want her head filled with that sort of rubbish. She’ll love him well enough when she’s sitting in her big house with her conservatory and her deck and her jeep and her granite island and her Aga in the kitchen’.
Love, she reckoned, was way down the list. If it happened along with the status and the wealth, then it was a grand little bonus. But it was very definitely on the bottom half of the shopping list. And love on its own was a laughable concept. She pretty much considered that there was no such thing. In her book, successful marriages are based purely on bank balances and status. She would deem her parenting of this child as successful if she ‘married up’.
I remember feeling a bit sick as she went on and on about how wonderful this would be if it worked out.
I can’t tell you how this scenario ended up. The woman in question was an acquaintance only and it never developed into a friendship. I wonder why. I don’t even know where she lives now but I often think of that conversation and wonder what happened. I hope the young one found true love with an impecunious artist and that she has a million, snotty-nosed, happy children called Sky and Morning and Breeze and the like. And I hope that old uncle is still hale and hearty and sitting safely on his land. Better still, I hope he found and married a big jolly woman with a penchant for gin and bingo.
When my daughters read this, they’ll slag me and tell me that I’m a total hypocrite because I’m always writing and rewriting the what-I’m-looking-for-in-a-son-in-law list. But it’s a game. A bit of fun. They know in their heart and soul that, if they choose to take a life partner, it has absolutely nothing to do with me. I’m sure they’d like my approval but they’re certainly not going to be swayed by their mother when it comes to matters of the heart. I am not Jane Austen’s Mrs Bennett. They know I just want them to be happy. Yes, practicalities matter in a relationship but love and friendship are the really important things. They’re certainly way higher up on my ‘real’ list than the jeep and the Aga and the social connections.
And it would seem that it’s just as well I think that way. My snobby ex-acquaintance would be horrified at what is now known as ‘The Miranda Complex’. Today’s young women are likely to be as successful as their male counterparts so they are ‘dating down’. The chances of them finding a traditional ‘good catch’ are slim because, happily, we live in an age of (almost) equal opportunity and the pool of men ‘above’ them is getting smaller and smaller. According to a study conducted in the USA, young, successful women are happy to pass over the doctors and dentists in favour of tradesmen. They embrace the thinking that, whereas the plumber or the carpenter mightn’t be eligible or a good catch in the classic sense, there’s nothing to say he’s not as smart or engaging or good looking as the doctor or lawyer and, what’s more, he’s more likely to pull his weight in the house. And, if there are children in the equation, he’s more likely to be willing to work around the childcare issue and will fill the role of traditional dad more successfully than the high-powered professional who’s seldom at home.
The ‘Miranda’ label comes into this from an episode of Sex in the Citywhere Miranda lied about her occupation at a speed-dating session lest she intimidate the men. They’d shut down when they heard she was a partner in a law firm so she said she was a flight attendant. She ended up marrying Steve the bartender. Andrew Beveridge, Professor of Sociology at New York’s Queen’s College, who conducted the demographic research reckons that there are more Steves in young women’s futures than traditional ‘good catches’.
So it’s time, maybe, to redefine the terms here. The traditional good catch of yesteryear is absolutely no big deal for today’s young women. Young women today achieve their own status, thank you very much, and are happy and brave enough to do it. They don’t need to hang on to anyone’s coattails. They’re quite happy to date down and are clear-headed enough to realise that, when they’re making that wish list, love and friendship should be very near the top. A good catch today is a caring, loving partner who’ll share the relationship and chores irrespective of financial and social status.
Mirandas want Steves. For richer or poorer, for better or worse. Till death – or a demon, interfering mother – them do part.