Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Question of the Week

It was Stu's disco inferno and he'd stay until he burned that mother down...
"He had a nasty temper, all the same, and she didn't think that his Ursula would improve that..."--Fate Takes a Hand

Who you marry matters.  I had that one figured out early and thank heavens I did or I wouldn't have been so blessedly quick at snatching up the Christmas present that was Mijnheer van Voorhees when he landed on my doorstep nearly fourteen years ago.  We were young and adaptable (the narrow-minded might consider that a reason not to marry) but I think that helped us as we grew into the people we are today.  (Nearly perfect, Bettys!  Oh, and I've got a bridge I can sell you...)

Still, it leaves me cold to think of who I dated before the little Mihnheer.  Life would have gone in another direction.  I might have delivered in an Argentinian hospital as one of their future wives did or been a permanent guest at another's All-Night/Everyday Disco Pity Party of Imagined Grievances or OWNED A DOG (!).

Anyway, I think we like to think of ourselves as fixed points in the little Universe of Us with everyone and everything revolving to our moods and whims when we're more like promontories (some more firm and rocky than others) shaped by the geography and weather around us (I feel very Carl Sagan-esque.) and that our choice of spouse (the person who will share the most time with us) can push us in directions we didn't plan.

I picked up a book I've been dying to read the other day (Leave Her to Heaven--Ben Ames Williams--the one that movie was based on (P.S. It was melodrama but awesome melodrama.) and some characters are talking about the hero in the end:

"...she's a grand woman, so he's bound to be all right.  Or if he ain't, he will be, married to her.  A woman mostly makes a man the way she wants him, 'fore she gets through, if she's in love with him."--Leave Her to Heaven

I don't entirely agree that love can always shape things so happily (unfortunately) but do think who you marry can dramatically effect how happy you might (not will) be in this life.

Question: No question.  Discuss.


  1. Okay, here's what I think. I think we're like magnets attracted to certain things in other people. Not just mates, but also friends, bosses, etc.

    But with mates, the mix of stuff we're looking for is very complex. It's a pinch of what our parents were like, a dash of what we find physically appealing about a person, a soup├žon of what we've liked in previous mates; and a handful of what we want our future selves to be like.

    That last ingredient is the most important one. We pick mates with some subconscious sense of who we'll be with that person. Then we hope in that relationship we're able to become that person. Obviously a woman who sees herself as a happy stay-at-home mom is in trouble if she marries a guy who sees himself being supported financially by his wife.

    In my case, Betty Henry wanted to marry me so that he could advance a whole bunch of life goals. He didn't know it (and certainly I didn't know it) but he was heading toward independence -- and not towards a lifetime with me.

    I did try to get him to want a future with me, and we never fought about it, but I suspect it wasn't ever the direction he was heading in. Which is okay because I'm blissfully happy with Betty Ross, but it does explain why I felt like I'd been able to encourage Betty Henry to change in a lot of good ways, but not in that one last respect.

    Thus, my theory is that people know instinctively that marriage will change them -- and that whom one marries can make all the difference in effecting that change. The spouse might think she's changed a fellow or he might think his wife changed him, but I don't think it's actually the case.

  2. Betty Stmargarets here. I haven't commented lately, but I have been lurking and enjoying all of your reviews and discussions. I can't believe you only have two books left to review!

    Yes! Marriage matters! Relationships matter. I think it's the most critical decision you'll ever make (or unmake or not make at all). That's why I'm drawn to romances since I see that happy ending as just as high stakes as any epic adventure.

    And I should add, that I think you can be just as happy living the single life - I don't think you need to be married to be happy. But oh, boy - marrying the wrong person would be my idea of unhappiness and I admire my friends who have figured that out and moved on and who have been brave enough to love again. None of this is easy, which is why I love the fantasies Betty spins for us.

  3. I think that with even the most prepared people, it's possible to get some surprises after marriage. A man might not calculate that a sweet young fiancee will be the type to cling to their children and shunt him off to the side. A woman could be amazed to learn that the fellow who wooed and won her is crippled by financial decisions. In cases like these (which are of real actual people I know--and they don't have bad marriages, per se, certainly nothing to bring them to the brink of divorce. It's just that these specific challenges (and every couple has them to some degree) have shaped their strengths and intimacy.) it's not as though there was any intent to deceive but everyone was passing out the love goggles...Anyway, sometimes great and wonderful marriages spring out of how these challenges are met in a relationship and sometimes not.

    So we're back to the beginning. Marriage matters.

    As I've mentioned before, several of my neighbors are Indian immigrants and have arranged marriages. (I'm no longer amazed at that but want to know what I have to do to pick my future daughters-in-law, lol.) Many of them have the same issues as doing it the other way but I think their expectations of "Happily Ever After" are managed a little better.

  4. Oh, goodness, yes -- Marriage matters. Both of mine have been HUGELY transformative events for all three of us.

    My mother used to say she wasn't sure if she wanted an electrician, a plumber or a car mechanic for a son-in-law. Alas, she'd died before I married Betty Henry, who was all three (patent attorney, y'know, so good at reading instructions). And Betty Ross is the thing I most needed as a writer: a professional proofreader and IT techie!

  5. I like Betty Keira's 'love goggles'...because that surely is a factor. Betty Stmargaret is brilliant! A HEA is high stakes...the holy grail of relationships.

    Betty Magdalen is spot on - and has a fantastic formula for choosing a spouse, unfortunately lots of people are crummy at math and keep putting their decimal points in the wrong places. For instance...physical appearance is often highly overated - and given a 9.0 on a scale from 1 to 10 of importance - when in actuality it should be more like a 0.9.

    I think the best marriages are those in which each partner compliments the other. I don't mean compliments as in 'you look lovely tonight' (although those are important too).

    I'll give you an example. Dr. van der Stevejinck is a mechanical engineer. He is awesome at math related stuff and is quite a perfectionist (which is a good thing when you design airplane parts to within a thousanth of an inch tolerance). I have a pretty good grasp of engineering basics - but I'm more of an 'eyeballer' or in other words, 'that looks close enough'. Dr. van der Stevejinck can do nearly any type of home improvement I want. Being an engineer/perfectionist means that it will take approximately eternity + a month or two. I can call up Betty Keira and Betty Tia - between the three of us, we can rip out the old floor in my bathroom, take out the toilet, rip off the old sink and counter-top, apply new flooring, re-seat the toilet, put on a new sink and counter-top and put together the new faucet. All in two days. Is it perfect? No, but it's 'close enough'. In projects where 'close enough' isn't good enough (especially where high math is involved) he's my go-to guy. We've spent more than 30 years fine tuning the ways we work together. I'd like to say we work like a well-oiled machine...

  6. Hear hear on the "love goggles" -- I'm picturing them as a cross between "rose-colored glasses" and a welder's protective eye-gear: everything's really pretty and in soft focus, and there's no peripheral vision so you totally can't see your best friends waving madly to say "Stop!"

    Here's a nice story. I'm a *cough cough* large woman (there are photos from BettysDay as evidence) which used to worry me when it came to romance. Who'd want anyone like me -- that kind of thing.

    So when Betty Henry -- who'd known me for over 25 years at that point, and I was large for that entire time -- proposed, I had to ask him if my obesity bothered him. The first thing he said was that it was a package deal. Then he shyly admitted, "It's just that our heads fit together so well."

  7. Aww. What a perfect thing to say.

  8. Betty Barbara here--
    Before I married I was seriously dating two different men--both wonderful, fine men. I would lie awake at night trying to picture my future life with either of them. The telling point?: When I pictured life with Guy #1, I kept asking myself--"But what about Guy #2?" When I pictured myself married to Guy #2, I never asked myself about Guy #1.
    Guy#2, aka Mijnheer van der Tarheelin, and I are coming up on wedding anniversary #39--so I guess my subconscious knew what it was talking about!!

  9. Betty Barbara, I think you have been holding out on us....

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Hey, doesn't Betty St. Margaret's sound like a Neelsdom Victorian hospital? (I mean that in the nicest way.)

  12. LOL - Long ago, I chose my user name at the Sugar Quill (a Harry Potter fan site) because of St Margarets chapel in Scotland - and because St. Margaret is the patron saint of married women. Being a married woman, I need a patron saint - some days more than others. :) And I agree - it's the perfect Betty Neels hospital name. :)

  13. Okay, let's see if I can do this:

    Chapter One:
    The cold giant drops pelting the ancient glazed window glass on a dreary February morning did little to relieve the grimy facade of Betty St. Margaret's, a hospital of Victorian appearance and disposition that valiantly anchored the deteriorated neighborhood that encircled it. Sister Aralucia Blackstock swiveled her mousy head away from the view, longing for a steaming cup of tea but knowing that she still had to meet and greet the new foreign consultant arriving momentarily on Men's Medical....


  14. Chapter One (Continued)

    “I had heard that Betty St Margarets nurses were the best in Britain. Apparently that information is as outdated as that autoclave you’re using to wash teacups.”

    Aralucia whirled around in shock. A giant of a man towered over her. His bright blue eyes glinted with derision and some other emotion that wouldn’t be explained for 155 pages.

    “Staring out the window, nurse? Why aren’t you clock watching instead?”

    The nerve of this man! Thinking that she was wasting time when she was just longing for tea and doing sums in her head. “Because the clock hasn’t worked since the last bomb explosion.”

    “Ah. The one where met and fell in love.”

    Her soft mouth dropped open and her lavishly fringed eyes opened wide. “You know ?”

    He ignored her direct question as he was going to do for the next 150 pages. “I am Wal Dorf Salid. It sounds better in Dutch or spoken with an English accent. But you are to call me Professor for the next 30 pages.”

    “Yes, Professor,” she said with a snap. Odious man. How she hated him and his well-cut suits and his splendid build and his key chain that said “My Other Car is a Bentley.” If only something would happen to take that smug look off of his face . . .

  15. Correction:

    “Ah. The one where (insert characters names from another novel) met and fell in love.”

    “You know (insert characters names)?”

  16. (I'm laughing so hard I can't think of a follow-up....)

  17. please, please, please...pretty please?

  18. Mrs. Dawn Trodden was propped up in bed, her wispy white hair carefully combed over boot-black eyes.

    "Cor, Sister," she breathed, eying the professor like he was a plateful of steaming fish and chips. "They grow `em big in foreign parts. He'll do fer yer, I reckon."

    Aralucia struggled to keep her face impassive and her sour dislike of the Dutchman hidden. "Mrs. Trodden is suffering from a diverticular inversion of the duodenum, Professor," she said severely.

    He ignored her and smiled benignly at the older woman. "Yes, Mrs. Trodden, Sister and I match each other nicely, don't you think? We shall marry shortly and name our first rescued kitten 'Troddie' in your honour."

    It was no good frowning, Aralucia discovered, Mrs. Trodden was putty in the Professor's hands. As were Staff, the student nurse, the part-time nurse, Mrs. Potts who brought him sandwiches and biscuits without being asked, and the Principal Nursing Officer who just happened to come by Women's Medical at that precise moment. To a woman, they were all sighing at the sight of his massive frame, expertly clothed in Savile Row clerical grey.

    "Professor," Aralucia said crisply, "If I'm to ignore my feelings for you for the next 150 pages, it would be far better if you wouldn't allude to our eventual marriage."

    He looked down at her, bemused. "Oh, did I suggest I was going to marry you? Silly girl. Of course not. I'm marrying some other woman whom of course I will not mention again as I kiss you from time to time, rescue you from various states of peril and imminent death or at least laddered tights, and otherwise spend all my spare time focused on you, your lazy sister, mean-spirited step-mother, mooching brother, and faithful factotum."

    He wished Mrs. Trodden a pleasant afternoon and said, "Now, Sister, if we might complete the round?" just as if she was the reason they'd not moved for twenty minutes.

  19. “Dorf darling, I’ve been waiting in the Rolls Royce Panther VI for hours.”

    Aralucia balled her small hands into fists. Dorf darling? How annoying the woman who had interrupted them on the Men’s Medical Wing was breathtakingly beautiful – if you liked women with non-existent bosoms.

    The professor didn’t appear annoyed at all. “As soon as I arrange for this mousey nurse to drop her job and go to Holland to nurse Mrs. Dawn Trodden at my manor house, I’ll take you out to the Savoy for a meal you won’t eat and then we’ll go dancing. ”

    “Sir, you are a great man!” exclaimed Mrs. Dawn Trodden from her bed. “But what will I do wi’ me cat?”

    “I’ll arrange at great expense and trouble to ship your cat through customs.”

    “I hate cats,” the bossomless other woman spat out.

    “Takes one to know one,” Aralucia muttered under her breath.

    The professor raised a glacial eyebrow. “For that remark, nurse, I’ll be rude and aloof for the next three chapters. And no house tour.”

    Inwardly Aralucia quailed. Outwardly, she remained defiant. “I don’t believe I’ll go to Holland, thank you very much.”

    His smile was nasty. “In the twenty minutes we’ve been here, I’ve already submitted your resignation, applied for a work visa, informed my mother that I’m going to marry *and * I’ve gassed up the Rolls. You’re protests are quite useless.” He nodded at Mrs. Dawn Trodden and took the other, bossomless, woman by the arm. “I’ll see you in chapter two on the Hovercraft.”

  20. [It appears that the Victorian Betty St. Margaret's has very un-Victorian co-ed Medical Wards....]

  21. [With only one patient on them -- that's why they combined Men's Medical and Women's Medical to one genderless "Plot Devices' Medical."]

  22. "...I’ll be rude and aloof for the next three chapters. And no house tour.” Betty StMargarets for the win!

  23. LOL - I should have written men/womens medical and Don/Dawn Trodden. There. All better. :)

    And I love that there's only one patient in the entire building. The ancient medical equipment and the propensity for bombs exploding must have scared everyone off.

  24. Betty Barbara here--
    Thank you for brightening my morning. I genuinely laughed out loud at several points.
    Loved all the character names.
    You folks are sooo clever!