Finding Friends in the 21st Century - What advice would Elizabeth Bennet give us?

November 09, 2017
Finding Friends in the 21st Century - What advice would Elizabeth Bennet give us?
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Dear Erica,

For about a year, I've been a part of a group of mothers who meet for a monthly night out. As the months have progressed, I have found that I cannot stand one or two of the women! I used to really look forward to these evenings, and now I look upon them with dread.  What to do?

Lost in Los Angeles

Dear Lost in Los Angeles,

As Jane Austen makes clear, there are women who it is impossible to be friends with, and those who, with time, you can develop a bond.  In Pride and Prejudice, there is no doubt that Elizabeth Bennet will never feel more than grudging tolerance for Miss Bingley and her sister Mrs. Hurst.  Despite their feigned kindness to her sister,  “Elizabeth still saw superciliousness in their treatment of everybody, hardly excepting even her sister, and could not like them.”

And Elizabeth would have been an idiot to have missed Jane Bingley’s continued jibes and insults.   When Elizabeth is staying at their house and nursing her ill sister, she finds herself forced into Miss Bingley’s company(and the delectable Mr. Darcy-but that’s a whole other post!)

Miss Bingley says, “Miss Eliza Bennet despises cards. She is a great reader, and has no pleasure in anything else.”“I deserve neither such praise nor such censure,” cried Elizabeth; “I am not a great reader, and I have pleasure in many things.”  Elizabeth wisely recognizes that Miss Bingley has it out for her and gives her a wide berth.

Now, in contrast, Elizabeth initially thinks Darcy’s sister, Georgiana was “exceedingly proud”  like Miss Bingley, but soon realizes that she is just “exceedingly shy” and eventually warms to her.  Austen writes that the two women,  “were able to love each other even as well as they intended.”  And Georgiana came to admire Elizabeth’s “lively,sportive manner of talking to her brother.”

Ultimately, any true friendship is, as CS Lewis writes, “born at the moment when one person says to another:  What!  You too?  I thought I was the only one.”  There was never going to be a moment like that between Elizabeth and Miss Bingley.  But between Georgiana and Elizabeth, they both saw how wonderful and equally impossible their brother/husband could be, and could laugh over that common bond.

With your mum friends, it’s important to have that spark of mutual sympathy and understanding.  Being able to discuss the sleepless nights that go along with motherhood, oblivious spouses who forget your anniversary, or difficult in-laws who drop by far too often for a visit all foster that common bond.  Perhaps, like Elizabeth and Georgiana, you don’t know each other well enough to let down your guard and show your true selves.  In that case, a bottle(or two) of wine shared among friends usually helps to break the ice.  But even if these mum friends are simply bitter and toxic, I would still advise on sharing a bottle of wine, because, as I’m sure you’ll agree, wine makes most things bearable.  And continue to search for more like-minded friends. They are out there, and I bet you they love wine!

Good luck Lost in Los Angeles,

Erica