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.