Love’s muddied waters
What if the complicated world of relationships was much simpler than we imagine?
I spent the past weekend with a group of friends at a beach house along the shore. One night after dinner, I sat paging through a typical women’s magazine full of make-up tips and dieting advice and the obligatory tricks for how to seduce a man.
“It’s always the same story,” I said to the other women seated near me, “What kind of shoes should I wear to make a guy like me? How do I make my man happy in bed?”
The young women laughed and rolled their eyes. The husband of one of the women, tinkering with his computer in the corner, chimed in.
“Let me answer those for you,” he said. “Higher heels. And oral sex.”
We all tittered and turned back to our reading material, but I couldn’t get what he said out of my head, mainly because he was right. It’s amazing how we manage to make something so easy seem so difficult.
In the wake of the debate over whether women can have it all, I’ve watched my friends — professional women in their early 30s who often spoke wistfully fi of marriage and starting a family — worry over the details of how to mcf make a partnership work. I’ve seen them convince themselves that meaningless flings ms are the way to go. They claim that marriage, or even a committed relationship, is just too complicated.
I’m currently reading a fascinating guide from the doyenne of good taste for The Times of London, Lucia van der Post. In her book, Mrs. Van der Post includes a lovely chapter on love and marriage where she chronicles some of the lessons she’s learned from her own long and successful relationship. Interestingly, she addresses just this debate shared by youngish women today.
“Women can earn their own livings, have a perfectly satisfying social life, enjoy the pleasures of sex and even have children without tying the knot,” Mrs. Van der Post writes. But she tells the story of a successful but lonely career woman who spoke wistfully of a colleague who left the firm to get married and have children. “Underneath [the woman] felt a deep longing that was something she couldn’t help, an old biological recognition of the need to bond, of one man to commit to one woman, and to create a safe haven for each other and their children. A longing, too, to be . . . ‘safely gathered in’ — something that marriage in its best and most reassuring form can do.”
I think my friends — the ones who worry that a steady relationship may not be for them — would recognize this longing. I’m pretty sure they carry it in themselves, too. Sometimes I wonder if they don’t purposefully muddy the waters and use their fretting to hide their deep disappointment that it hasn’t happened for them yet. Perhaps what we need is less intellectualizing, less thinking-it through, and more of a willingness to be steady, to be still, to let the waters settle so we can see clearly what it is we want. I’ll bet we’ll see that it’s not that complicated at all. ¦