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|A reader's response.
Written by Rachel G
(10/20/2009 7:11 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Dear Cathy Allen, penned by Anselm
I have heard that the Agony Aunt column invites readers to send in their responses to the problems being discussed. If this is not the case pray forgive me for interrupting. I am pretty well acquainted with the people involved, and share Anselm's concerns. I hope I may offer a different perspective, though I cannot hope to equal the elegance of his prose style.
Firstly the question of whether M is being pushed into this marriage by her family, which troubles me as it does Anselm. I worry particularly because M's mother is not the best judge of character - she was wildly enthusiastic about M 's first boyfriend, a man called W, until he jilted her daughter so callously. Soon after this unhappy event she became equally enthusiastic about the Colonel, and once that woman gets a bee in her bonnet it takes a great deal to shift it.
I am much more inclined to trust the judgement of M's older sister, a most perceptive young woman not given to flights of fancy. She is equally in favour of the match, so perhaps all will be well. I know that M's family all love her dearly and wish only the best for her. They are not at all mercenary, so I am certain that the Colonel's comfortable financial situation has not biased them in his favour. Having said that, I do not suppose that the idea of their beloved M's life being cushioned by an income of two thousand a year is actually repugnant to them.
Something which troubles me about the family's attitude to this marriage is the notion that M is to be the Colonel's "reward" for his past sufferings, his constancy, and because they feel a sense of obligation to him for his kindness and support. This idea sits very ill with my 21st century mindset, suggesting as it does that M is not an autonomous being, but an object to be handed over as a reward or prize to whichever man "deserves" her most. To me this is a shocking thought. I cannot see that the fact that someone has suffered makes them deserving of anything more than sympathy - certainly not the "reward" of a young woman! But perhaps I refine too much upon it. I am from a different culture to that of M and her family, who's attitudes are rooted in an earlier time, so perhaps they see things differently. As someone, I forget who, once observed, "The past is another country - they do things differently there".
I take comfort from the knowledge that M has not been coerced - her family would not stoop to such a tactic. At worst she may have been subjected to gentle but persistent persuasion, but from what I know of her, M is most unlikely to be persuaded to anything she did not feel comfortable with. When I knew her best she was a headstrong girl who always made up her own mind about things, and very much inclined to disregard the opinions of others. I find it hard to imagine her being persuaded to do anything against her will or her inclination. Although M was very chastened after she was jilted by W and the near fatal illness which followed, I don't think that she has greatly changed in essentials.
The other matter which worries Anselm about M's marriage is the question of whether her feelings for the Colonel are sufficiently warm to justify her making a lifelong matrimonial commitment to him. It does seem clear that she lacks any feelings of "passion" for him, and I have to say that I think she is taking an appalling risk, though she probably does not realise it. In this day and age the thought of a girl of nineteen going to the altar with such an attitude is deeply dispiriting.
I can see how it may have come about. I suspect that when experience taught her that many aspects of her relationship with W were not to be trusted, the "irresistible passion" she felt for him got bundled up with all the rest and she threw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.
Does it matter? Perhaps not. Experience tells me that strong esteem and lively friendship are the bedrock of a good marriage, and passion is precious little use without them, after the first hormonal rush. But ideally I think there ought to be passion too, especially for a girl like M.
Despite my worries I think there is an excellent chance that things will work out very well and that M has some delightful surprises in store for her. With a husband as unselfish and loving as the Colonel I predict that M will have a perfectly splendid time as far as passion is concerned - quite unlike what she would have experienced with W, a man of whom she once said "My happiness never was his object." If at some future time I hear that M's heart has become as much devoted to her husband as it once was to W, I shall not be the least bit surprised. ;-D
Forgive me for rambling on at such length. I hope Anselm will be reassured by some of what I have said.
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