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Jane Austen Saves Woman From Feminism

And, in turn, from a life of loneliness and unhappiness
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The statistics for this blog’s readership in November came in today from the Mothership. I’m thrilled to announce that for the ninth month in a row, we’ve had well over a million page views, including unique page views. Thank you all so very much! Wherever I travel, I am always complimented on the quality of the readers who comment here. Below is one of the best e-mails I’ve received in a long time.

It’s an answer to the “Advice For the Weary Ghost” post from last week, in which I asked readers to offer counsel to a lost young woman who had been ill-served by the Ask Polly advice columnist. The reader below offers her own superb advice:

You asked your readers to step up and help the Weary Ghost, and I’m answering the call. I feel qualified to do so because I have faced some of the issues she has faced and come out on the other side.

Some years ago, I went from West Texas to Oberlin College (home of trigger warnings) and emerged an obnoxious, raging feminist. After graduation, I moved to New York. God saw fit to send me a handsome, conservative Catholic boyfriend, who spent hours patiently making me re-examine my positions. He had studied Philosophy at Columbia, and his good liberal arts training was a blessing to me. From there the ship began to turn.

In graduate school at Columbia (classical history and languages), I observed overbearing and undereducated female graduate students use their postmodern weapons to wage war on older, distinguished male classicists. I will never forget the time I went to see Ang Lee’s masterpiece “Sense and Sensibility” with one of my feminist, Foucault-spouting girlfriends from the department. Say what you will about Jane Austen, her lovely marriage fantasies are like heat-seeking missiles in the female psyche. We love them.

When the film was over, after the gallant and self-sacrificing Colonel Brandon had rescued the wayward sister, married her and set her up in a big house, my friend turned to me and said, “I just want to go back there.” And, as the depth of feminist hypocrisy revealed itself, whatever remaining feminist platform I still stood on cracked underneath me. “If this woman wants to go back to the 18th Century, why am I even pretending to care about feminism?” I thought. And so I became an apostate.

In New York I experienced urban life as a single woman first hand. I saw the entire pipeline: young women entering, giving all their energy to their jobs and the city, and exiting in their late thirties, childless, lonely, broke. After I got my priorities straight, I met a man from Milan. We married, I moved to Italy and had two boys. We just celebrated our twentieth anniversary last month. Learning to speak Italian fluently, for some reason I don’t fully understand, opened my mind to the nuance of God and helped my faith begin to grow roots. I wish I had known you were coming here last September, because it would have been wonderful to hear you speak in person.

But on to the corpse-strewn battlefield of single life. Here’s the advice I would give to your Weary Ghost:

Dear Haunted,

The rambling and verbose response you received from Polly was inversely proportional to the usefulness of her ideas. If she had any good advice for you, she would get to the point. And why are you writing to New York magazine for life advice in the first place? That’s like going to Taco Bell for a glass of Barolo. You need to get in line at the right place.

This is what you need to do:

1. Move near your family. Right now. Whatever job you have, it clearly isn’t paying you enough to save any money and therefore you can get a similar job anywhere. Living near your family, even if you don’t have great relationships with them, you will begin to construct a foundation for living the rest of your life. Be an incredible aunt. It is possible that you may never have children at this stage, but you would be amazed at how satisfying it can be to help nurture your siblings’ children. Be positive with them, be loving and always be hugely excited to see them. That’s how my aunts were with me and it made a big difference in my life. Help tend to your relatives who need you, who may be lonely or need help managing different aspects of their lives. Become a positive force in the family and your house will fill up with people who want to spend time with you. You might even become a matriarch.

2. Meet the right man and say the right things to him. How do you meet the right man? Get to a place where men go to dedicate themselves to something greater — a volunteer organisation or a church. Don’t have expectations, just go there and work hard at helping. That will earn you respect and make you happy.

If you do meet a man with similar values, why do you think you should be embarrassed to tell him you want a family? That’s what men were made to give you. There is nothing more pathetic than a woman who has to apologise for fulfilling her essential nature, to be a mother. A very wise man once told me: “If you meet a man you really like, after a certain period of time, not too long, ask him: ‘Are you going to give me babies?’ If he likes you it will turn him on, immediately. If he is the wrong guy, he will walk away and you will be saved a lot of trouble.”

I found this to be an excellent sorting device when I was younger. Use it. There are so many self-sacrificing and good men out there, and they are just waiting for the chance. Give it to them.

That sorting device is perfection itself.



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