It often feels as if I’m unwittingly caught in a Jane Austen novel when it comes to family wranglings surrounding love and money. In this all too passe yet wrenching scenario, my 81-year-old mother is Lady Allen, the one controlling the purse strings, and I, John Willoughby, a hopeless romantic seeking a kindred spirit but warned since childhood that not to marry well would be to squander my inheritance.
In 1811 Britain, busybody Mrs. Jennings opined Maryann should hook up with the single Colonel Brandon based on the shallowest of traits: “It would be an excellent match, for he was rich, and she was handsome,” said the matchmaker.
And so it has gone for powerless women. Somehow, the famous plotting of royals and courtesans seeking powerful alliances over marital bliss trickled down to Austen’s 19th Century England, eventually influencing my mother and other conventional women of means raising daughters in the 70s.
What did marrying well mean in our mothers’ day? It would seem it all came down to an impressive curriculum vitae and a laundry list of benefits that can now run counter to our emerging eco senses and sensibilities. Here are a few of the ways our perspective has shifted:
INCOME vs. INSIGHT
Sure, the Al Gores of the world have both income and insight, but many single men out there are struggling to find work because the rich, desirable guys running the banks and the corporations have run the economy into the ground. So what’s so wrong with loving someone who shares your concerns for the planet? That’s the thinking of Green Singles, a dating services that connects couples who share more than an important name and a manse in the right hood. They share an understanding of what it means to conserve resources and love doing it together.
DADDY-PROVIDER vs. PARTNER
Perhaps the feminist movement rather than the green movement takes credit for changing our perspective of women as little girls deeded to new landowners once they wed. As Gloria Steinem said in an interview in 2006: “We have to humanize gender roles, which are in any case, the biggest source of violence on Earth. We now understand that a woman’s subordinate position is not natural.” Evolved green couples today work as a team. A woman may have a higher paying job and the man might be a skilled gardener and cook, who brings his nurturing to the table. That doesn’t rob him of his manhood or make him a deadbeat.
PROPERTY OWNER vs. RENTER
Let’s face it: It’s rare for young singles to be able to own property these days. Loans are elusive, price tags and taxes are outlandish, and unless it has solar panels or dwells in the dessert, a property often bleeds energy because of poor planning and deferred maintenance that can cost a bundle to upgrade. Many single people rent out of necessity, others because it makes good eco sense. According to a recent EcoSalon post on the benefits, “If households shifted a fifth of their spending from purchasing to renting there would be a 2 percent (or 13 million tonnes) reduction in CO2 emissions each year.”
BIG SPENDER vs. FRUGAL LOVER
Would you sell out to greenbacks over green values when it comes to love? Classic golddiggers aside, women don’t want to prove their worth in diamonds, furs and lavish vacations he pays for. At the same time, cheap can be a sign of selfishness that isn’t good in a soul-mate, unless you are selfish, too, and can enjoy being selfish together. We all viewed miserly Scrooge as mean because he was selective about his giving, despite the fact he helped bring down interest rates by earning money and putting it in the bank. But in the green world, frugal doesn’t have to mean selfish. Remember the old song, I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby? For many of us, a hot love session and organic flowers from the garden can relax the body and cheer the spirits more than dead animal clothes and blood diamonds. (That’s not to say an eco trinket isn’t a nice gift now and then. Honey, are you listening?)
SAME ETHNICITY AND RELIGION vs. COMMON GLOBAL OUTLOOK
You might both be Asian or Jewish but that doesn’t mean you will view your world the same way, as it once did, when our ancestors passed on survival skills that allowed us to maintain our cultural identities. Today, marrying well can very well mean your mate shares your global positions on carbon reductions, peace, hunger, rebuilding after disasters, and celebrating nature rather than organized rituals that can divide neighbors rather than unite them. More important than background: Be sure he has a very healthy relationship with his mother.
HER FAMILY PAYS FOR A BIG COSTLY WEDDING vs. THE DIY ECO WEDDING
This time last year, 21 couples in Somalia shared a joint wedding, finding the traditional lavish affairs are too hard to afford in these hard times. “I appeal to the community to simplify marriage by reducing the cost,” said one of the prominent religious leaders, adding that too many young people migrate elsewhere because of the economy. Marrying well begins with the marriage, itself, and costly has never insured success. In fact, more couples are bonding through responsible nuptials they plan together. If there is meat, it is ethically raised and pure; decor and fashions are sustainable; mass transportation is provided if travel is needed; honeymoons are affordable and often involve green travel services. Vow to use less and love more when you take your eco man. This could be the start of something small!
This is the latest installment in Luanne’s column, Life in the Green Lane.