Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Of Course It Might Be Different When You're Older...

I have enjoyed the thoughts about men and money in yesterday's combox, particularly the ones that suggest that a man without ambition is kind of not very hot. I was reminded of a little old lady with little English who gave me the lowdown on her grandson. Now this was AGES ago, and I was vaguely sure I was going to marry her grandson. However, Granny didn't think so. Granny was said to be psychic, so we asked Granny if she thought we would get married and she looked very hesitant. Possibly Granny was psychic. Possibly Granny didn't like me very much, which would have been a minority report, though I say so myself.

But I'll tell you what Granny said to really louse things up. There I was with Granny, in her room at the top of the house, and chatting about this or that, and Granny said, "[My grandson] has no ambition. Just like his grandfather."

And I thought, "Holy cow. I think she is right!"

If I had been older, I might have just laughed. I might have pointed out all of her grandson's excellent characteristics, and then later told him what his grandmother said, complete with accent. Every time he showed laziness or timidity, I would have croaked "[Diminutive] has no ambition. Just like his grandfather."

But I wasn't older. I was young. Very young indeed. And when you are young, you are busily pondering choices for your life. Your life stretches out before you, a clean road, shiny, new, mysterious. You are aware that, being a faithful Catholic, if you get married you could end up with a lot of kids. You would love each and every one of those wonderful kids, and you would not want to have to work at some horrible drudge job to keep them alive and in state daycare. No. You would either want to stay at home with them or, better yet, put them in the university creche down the street as you gave your lectures on "Roman Poetry of the Augustan Age". In short, when you are young, you want it all: children, intellectual equal/husband, career, house, car, glory, fame, enough money to go on holiday, enough money to pay for Christmas. This means a man to fall in completely with your plans, neither to be an economic liability nor to be all sulky if your job is better than his. And so the choice of life partner, when you are very young, seems like less of a covenant, self-gift, all that stuff in "Love and Responsibility" and more of a Lifestyle Choice.

Dear me, it is tough to be young. So much PRESSURE.

Anyway, one of the joys of being older, when you are unmarried, is that you stand in the wreckage of your youth, and you survey the battle-scarred remains of life and wonder if there are any single men among the survivors. You are not so worried about potentiality because mostly what you and the men of your generation have now is actuality. You don't care who is ambitious. You care about who is nice and trustworthy, and if there is any chance that so-and-so's marriage, which ended umpteen years ago in acrimonious divorce, might be annulled by the Church.

I'm not saying you have to settle. No, no, no! Never, never, never! I'm saying your priorities change. Of course they do. You are older and, very significantly, there is no chance you're going to have twelve children. And if you ever entertained visions of being swooped away by a zillionaire who has fallen in love with your youthful beauty, they are gone now.

Conversations with men are quite different then they were when you were twenty. Instead of hearing a bit about goals to be achieved, you hear a bit about dreams that have died. Happily, you also hear about new dreams, which might not be as glittery, but certainly have more substance. And there is a lot less guesswork. A 20 year old will not be the same man at 30, but a 30 year old will probably be the same man at 40. And 50.

When I ponder my life at, ahem, 40+ and compare it to my vague plans when I was 20, I have a good laugh. It is a happy laugh, though, because I'm very happy.

Okay, the no-kids-yet-and-I'm-40 thing is kind of annoying, but I have nephews and a niece and friends with babies, so it's not terrible. And, yes, I'm furious that I couldn't, as an orthodox (and high-strung) Catholic, attempt a PhD in Theology at a certain soi-disant "Catholic" university without having a nervous breakdown. However, I do work that I love, and my husband is a hoot, and for the time being we have a 17th century roof over our heads.

I simply cannot remember how much he makes. When we started talking marriage, I said, "Could you support a wife and child on your salary?" and he said yes. So there you go. If he decides he want to become Minister for Culture, I will be very surprised, but if that's what he wants to do, okay. If he decides he wants to retire from the pressures of the Historical House and become a crofter, again I will be very surprised, but if that's what he wants to do, okay---as long as there is internet.

His granny, alas, died years ago, but if she ever came back to tell me she doesn't think B.A. has much ambition, I'd kick her ghost out of my kitchen with a cheerful "Awa' back to Purgatory and bile yer heid!"

Ahhhh. It's good to be older.


Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

This is going over the top. I looked at it and thought, "That's weird. Who's the blonde chick in the swashbuckler spot?"


TGWWS said...

As Hilary said. Although my thought (before catching the caption) was something more along the lines of "Whoah, another one of them androgynous models. Whatever happened to men's good taste?"

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

I'm not too sure what' you're trying to accomplish with these girlymen in the sidebar. Trying to scare away the real men and the kind of women who like them? Isn't that sort of opposed to the purpose of this project?

Actually, I've never been too clear on the purpose of this project.

Seraphic said...

I'm trying to scare away the men.

Instead of eavesdropping on women chattering away, they should be out there finding their own. If men would stop getting their feminine company online and actually take a risk out there in the big world, I wouldn't have so many wonderful women writing in to say "Is it me? Am I doing something wrong? Am I to blame for the fact that no-one has asked me to marry him?"

And I'm like, honey, it's not you. It's the man shortage. And the shortage is not like the shortage after the First World War when there were no men available because they were dead. It is like there are no men available because they aren't acting like men.

I love men, but if men want to find out about women they should not be reading my blog but getting out of their comfort zones to meet women.

Besides it drives me nuts when I try to tell some guy in my parish something interesting and he says, "I know already. I read it on your blog."

MaryJane said...

Same thought re: girlie man in picture. Who is (s)he?

I think it's possible that wanting an "ambitious" man is just wanting a certain personality type. More of a "go-getter" or leader.

My friend and I used to have long discussions about men and their attractiveness. She wanted (and married) "a confident beta" because an alpha male would have been too much for her, but a regular beta not enough. I, on the other hand, am very drawn to alpha males, because I do not like to feel as though I am the one in charge. I suppose ambition is part of an alpha male's qualities.

I recognize that growing older helps to mellow one out, but some women have to be attracted to the men with ambition. It takes all kinds, after all.

Seraphic said...

He's a top Australian male model and he's not there to entertain us but to make guys at work say, "Oh dear heavens, no!" and click away pronto.

sciencegirl said...

The current "Protector" is doing too much friendly fire. After Teh Hawt of the other day, it really is rather cruel.

I think if you write interesting essays and put them on line, people of both sexes will want to read them, regardless of the decor. There are a lot of places to have women-only conversation, but the Internet is the most public place that exists.

I agree with you re: defying Granny. Funny how the things that spook 20-somethings are great jokes to older people.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

"I'm trying to scare away the men. "

No wonder I don't come round here very often.

n.panchancha said...

Travis looks like Fabio's teenaged nephew... Good heavens!

It's such a blessing to get to witness a wide variety of happy marriages, as a single person. I think it really helps women relax about certain points that might seem, at first, to demand scrupulousness ("ambition" being among those, perhaps). Furthermore, regardless of a man's health and income when you marry him, there's no guarantee he won't lose his job/become ill or disabled/suffer from depression later in life. It would be harder to get through those times, I suspect, if you thought you'd carefully avoided those issues in accepting your husband.

Sarah said...

But what about the fact that parents of daughters are often very critical (possibly moreso even than the girl herself) of a suitor who doesn't have a stable job, or at least some ambition to have one?

Wouldn't they, too, have reorganized their priorities for their children in the same way they would organize their priorities for themselves were they searching singles?

Also--and maybe this is a different topic entirely-- what of girls raised in the working class? My father was working class, and often had to work 2 or 3 jobs at a time to make ends meet while my mother stayed home, until finally, after 27 years of working insane hours and odd jobs, he has gotten high enough in his current company that he doesn't need to do that anymore. The older I get, the more I admire the hardwork and strength and sacrifice it took for him to do those things for all of us. So even if I didn't NEED a man's income to help support me, I think I'd have a hard time respecting a man who did not have the generosity of spirit AND ambition to do those things if that was what was necessary.

I think, in general, girls who have a good relationship with their father tend to be attracted to men LIKE their father, especially in terms of class. Most people marry into the class they were born in. So for a working class girl, ambition and hard work may actually be ingrained in their minds as qualities to look for in a husband no matter how old they get.

Seraphic said...

I am not saying it is wrong for young women to value ambition in potential spouses. I am merely saying that single women may discover when they get older that they no longer care about it so much. Priorities change as one grows older and, significantly, your fertility wanes.

Any man who wants to marry a young woman and have a lot of children better get his career in gear. But an older man who has had a bad run of career luck, or sort of muddles cheerfully through his working life, need not fear that all women his age will turn up their noses at him. I have readers who have everything all sorted out, and now would just like a man--a good, funny, churchgoing, intelligent man--please. Opera-watching baker? Philosphy-reading tow truck driver? Devout actor/bartender? Why not?