Saturday, January 31, 2009

A modern marriage

Liz Jones is a 50-year-old feminist who pens a column for the Daily Mail. She has written a lot about her relationships with men. Recently she explained that she has never in her life dated a white man:

I think in the Nineties I fell in love with three black men partly because it was fashionable and gave me a veneer of (here comes a racist word) ‘cool’ that, as a boring Essex girl, I didn’t possess.

I married, on the wave of Asians being the new blacks, with lots of hot new books in the bestseller lists, an Indian (that wasn’t the whole reason but, let’s be honest here, it was part of it).

So when she was in her late 30s she met and married an Asian partly because Asians were the literary flavour of the month and it seemed hip to be with one.

She describes her marriage as a modern one:

Our marriage was, on reflection, a very modern one. I am 14 years older than him. When we met I was earning a huge salary ... he was an intern on a local radio station.

He is Indian and moved, aged 26, straight from his mum's house into mine.

At first I believed that love would conquer all, that our bond was so strong that none of these things mattered. He told me he didn't want children ... I hid the fact that I did.

... I told him to give up his job so that he could write a novel: 'Take six years. What's the rush.' I took a job where I worked 75 hours a week to support us both.

It doesn't seem like a promising basis for a marriage. It reminds me of the premise of an English film I very much disliked called "Love Actually" in which romantic love is supposed to overcome every conceivable kind of barrier.

In real life, things didn't work out so well. Her husband had multiple affairs before leaving for a "young, slim, pretty, Indian woman" he wanted to have children with. Liz Jones, for her part, had lost "her last childbearing years".

Her husband had by then completed part of a second novel:

It is all about me, of course, the older woman in whom he has no interest sexually, with whom he manages the tension because he has nowhere else to live.

He wrote: "I can feel her anger, like cold static in the space between us. I could calm her down, and make things better. I could reach out and touch her ... It works every time. But I won't do that. And I know how much it hurts her that I won't. Knowing this gives me the closest thing I have to happiness."

Her summing up of the relationship rings false:

We tried something different, radical, romantic, and it didn't work out.

Can you have a marriage that is different and radical and still expect it to work as it did in the past?

It's a mistake to think that it is so easy to make a marriage work that it can survive any kind of circumstance. The opposite is true: marriage is a difficult high point of human relationships and it is most likely to succeed under certain conditions.

Liz Jones has recognised that some of her own feminist attitudes were a problem within the marriage. She has confessed to being too strident in her dealings with men:

OK, I admit that feminism the first time around made mistakes. It turned us into man haters (I still, to this day, whenever I am told my BMW needs a new tyre, say, yell at the hapless man serving me: 'You wouldn't dare treat me this way if I were a man!') and set impossible standards.

She wasn't easy to get along with:

I admit I was a nightmare to live with. Like many women who get married later in life, I liked to be in charge, I was super-efficient, I didn't suffer laziness or someone who did not seem to try. I was used to looking after myself and got cross when he tried to do anything nice for me.

She seems to have once believed that her husband might be a "new man", one who would be content with a wholly emasculated role within a marriage:

New men, metrosexual men, men who are in touch with their feelings, who are willing to take a back seat, supporting and nurturing you, don't exist.

They might pretend to be able to cope with you but they are, instead, storing up anger and will hate you for being fabulous, for being independent, for not needing them in your life but just wanting them to be there.

This is just a feminist conceit. It's a picture of a marriage in which the wife is so autonomous that she doesn't need her husband anymore; in which the husband is supposed to give up his masculinity to support his wife even though she doesn't actually need his support or even his presence in her life; and in which a failure by the man to play such a role can only be explained by his resentment at just how fabulous his wife is.

We are supposed to edit such conceits from our minds at an early age. Liz Jones tried to play hers out in real life in middle-age. She has been left with the following prospects:

I will have to stop mourning the life I could have had and get on with another life ...

A week after I got back from Africa I rescued a six-year-old racehorse (she, due to ill-treatment, hates men too), and I am sure my family of five cats will grow more numerous.

I still wish her well, but my stronger wish is that young women will see the damage done and opt for a more loyal and less conceited approach to men and marriage.


  1. She says she fell in love with 3 different men in one decade. I just don't believe human women are designed to bond truly and closely with so many men. In fact, I suspect the higher the number of partners a woman has, the harder it becomes to summon bonding feeling that let women depend on men.

    She really didn't ever "love" her husband, she just liked the idea of being the powerful woman in charge. Sadly, she doesn't seem to have learned that you cannot rewire human nature.

  2. Mark,

    She could have been a dedicated Trekkie for all it matters - it's her conceit that has undone her, feminist or otherwise.

    She dated three guys who were black because it was fashionable, and then moved on to an Indian husband when Asians and younger men became fashionable.

    No wonder this guy was 'storing up anger' - he probably didn't wind up hating her because she was 'fabulous' - but when the light when on in his head that he was just a fashion accessory to be trotted out in front of her cosmopolitan friends to demonstrate how worldly and avant garde she was !!

    This is the tedious "Sex & The City" story again of a person who was more concerned about what her social circle thought of her relationships than what her partner thought about it.

    She may be be smart, but she is emotionally immature, and saves the rest of us the cost of revolving door visits to the divorce courts by sticking to furry animals for company.

    Another good argument for why people should actually sit a test or too before being allowed to tie the not - she wouldn't have made it past the emotional profile.

  3. Turning into the crazy cat lady, what a sardonic fate. Little wonder Gunga Din retaliated so viciously, then for good measure bonded within his own culture to a young, FERTILE Indian woman.

    Feminism, a terminal species of the Marxist genus has left a generation of women eggless, manless, loveless, well, why leave out hopeless...

  4. Good Grief!
    I'm not against inter-racial marriage (to me the deal breaker is religion) but i wouldn't marry someone solely for their race!
    Isn't that racist?


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  6. It does sound like a marriage made in hell, both partners feeding off their mutual ability at lying and self-delusion. I do wish her well. There are worse things than becoming a crazy cat lady.