Tuesday 4 August 2009

Match making

I have been thinking about matchmaking and pairs and how they come about. Actually, the most recent reflections came about in a most prosaic way: I was sorting socks. The person for whom I was doing the sorting wears nothing but black socks. Now, this can be both an advantage because one could get away with the occasional mistake, and a disadvantage because patterned socks scream at you to be reunited and that generally makes life easier. Anyway, there I was, surrounded by socks and my mind wandered to marriage and other states of unity not necessarily blessed with benefit of clergy, nor with an easily recognisable pattern
There is such a thing as marital fit. Perhaps that ought to have capital letters: Marital Fit. People who work in the field see it all the time, apparently totally disparate characters nicely making a go of it. For example, you might find a mild-mannered man, the kind who wouldnt say" boo" to a goose married to the sort of woman who would make mince-meat of anyone who crossed her. The idea is that he carries the calm and peaceful part of her and she carries the aggressive part of him. Together, the parts make a whole. Jack Sprat and Mrs. Sprat, in the nursery rhyme, had the perfect situation. He would eat no fat and she would eat no lean. Between them they licked the platter clean but they came from diametrically opposite positions in order to achieve this. If you look closely, it is usually possible to discern why two very, very different personalities are sharing a life. I remember someone I knew many years ago who suffered badly from depression. In a pub he met a woman he rather liked who told him she was a teacher. Things progressed and they decided to marry. It emerged she was a psychotherapist but, because her experience had told her this profession was inclined to scare people off, she always said she was a teacher. Now, what mysterious force led the Depressive to find the Therapist? Age and knowledge sometimes attract the young. In that situation, the man, for it often is the man, can be a mentor and guide to the mature world, inner and outer. I wonder, though, what happens when the girl, for it often is a girl, feels she has acquired enough 'education' and may do better with a contemporary. Sometimes, a couple so resemble one another they are like a mirror image. I recall a University friend whom we, rather less than kindly, nicknamed "Rabbit", because that was what his teeth, and his ears as it happens, were like. Several years later we invited him and his new wife, whom we had never met, to supper. At the door I nearly fell over. There was this absolute replica, but with breasts. You could say they had recognised one another on the instant. Similarly, a girl, and it often is a girl, will marry someone so like her Father, you would have to be really close to tell them apart. To see the father of Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas together on the golf course, it would be necessary to hear the Welsh accent of the father to be sure which one had hit the ball. Familiarity can be reassuring.

What has this to do with 75 going on 40, you may well ask yourselves. Not a lot, I suspect, except one inevitably learns a great deal from 75 years of observing and analysing - with a small 'a'. It is also tempting to share (preach) the wisdom learnt. Anyway,the internal 40-year-old can still identify with that stage of life. However, to be really honest, I should tell you that, probably, the real reason is that I will not, can not, forget the teacher who told me never, never to forget the title of your essay. Whatever you write, wherever the inspiration takes you, it has to come back to the subject: in this case, what it feels like to be 75 going on 40. Thinking of that in terms of match-making, I wonder what my 40 year old self would have made of my choices had she had the vision and 'wisdom' earned over the subsequent 30 years. She might see that I havent got much right, but, damn it, I am still trying. See you soon.

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