Tuesday, December 24, 2013

In which the author gives a lady advice upon marriage

Retrieved from NYTimes, Social Qs, 12/22/13
My boyfriend and I have been living together for three years, and I am hoping he will ask me to marry him over the holidays. If he does not, I will probably break up with him in January. Is there any way I can raise the subject to see which way he is leaning?
Anonymous, Boston

Dear Anonymous,
No, unfortunately for you, there is no acceptable way in which you can “raise the subject” with your proclaimed suitor to discover his matrimonial timetable. If he is indeed your suitor, it would be highly unrefined on your part---not to mention a mark of ill-breeding---as it would upon the part of any honest lady---to bring up the subject of marriage to the gentleman in any such forward manner as you seem to suggest. I’m afraid the gentlemen will need the wherewithal to come to the resolution himself.
If I may draw some general inferences from your boyfriend’s personality, though I risk being too severe, it is likely that your boyfriend is but a sort of a repressed libertine, to use a word a modern audience may understand. Indeed, what is your boyfriend if not an illustration of the difference between promise and performance, between profession and reality, as this tendency affects all mankind? But whether there is design and studied deceit in his workings or a true though sapless resolution to conform to society’s rules I presume not to judge.  
Yet to be charitable to your boyfriend, I will assume him to be an honest gentleman. And, like Signor Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, your boyfriend may simply be unaware of his own own wish to marry you, who is truly his Beatrice. And of course Benedick’s and Beatrice’s  marriage was ultimately brought about through a cunning scheme performed by their friends. Your problem thus could be resolved with a sly appeal to the help of your mutual friends, who themselves may be dependent upon to drop certain hints concerning your matrimonial holiday wishes into your boyfriend’s ears.
Meanwhile, when in his company, you are to strain to be your most charming and womanly. In other words, you should humor his whims, laugh at his jests, ignore his follies, and praise his virtues all out of proportion. If you can behave in such obliging manner, he is very likely to propose to you at first opportunity. And I am sure all gentlemen will agree that  holidays offer great opportunities for making propositions. ‘Tis the season for propositions indeed. But if after you have tried everything, and he still fails to  utter the proposition, for whatever reason, during the holidays, and if you still feel the way you do now, you should certainly leave him, and then perhaps start considering spiritual alternatives to a life of earthly matrimony.   

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