What would Jane Austen say about your brilliant friend's less than brilliant fiance?

June 17, 2021
What would Jane Austen say about your brilliant friend's less than brilliant fiance?
Box Hill, Surrey - referenced in Jane Austen's Emma
PG Tips with MilkThe Horses by Rickie Lee Jones

Dear Erica,

My best friend just got engaged and I don’t know what to do. Her fiance is nice enough, and he treats her well, but I just don’t think he’s good enough for her. I don’t mean to be a snob, but he’s a construction worker, and she’s in her third year of a Phd in Comparative Literature. He, and most of his friends, did not even complete a college degree! What do I do? Do I tell her what I think? Should I try to get her to break it off?


Conflicted in Chicago

Dear Conflicted in Chicago,

You clearly haven’t read Jane Austen’s book, Emma, or you would know you need to mind your own business. Need I remind you how much mischief Emma caused when she persuaded her friend Harriet Smith to break off her romance with Robert Martin because he was a lowly farmer! In life, so much comes down to how things affect us, rather than others. In her snobbery, Emma did not approve of her friend associating with a lowly farmer because she felt it reflected poorly on herself. She said, “What! think a farmer, (and with all his sense and all his merit Mr. Martin is nothing more,) a good match for my intimate friend! Not regret her leaving Highbury for the sake of marrying a man whom I could never admit as an acquaintance of my own! You are not just to Harriet’s claims.”

Be careful that deep down you are not thinking of the embarrassment to yourself, rather than for your friend. If she doesn’t care that he does not have a college degree, why should you?

Hopefully, snobbery is not your fault, but a deep loyalty and affection for your friend. The simple truth is that no man is ever good enough for a friend, especially a best friend. He might be a doctor trying to save sick orphans in Africa, and you’d still think he wasn’t good enough for her.

Unless you know for certain that he is abusive, cruel, or unfaithful it is always best to keep your mouth shut. Only the participants in a relationship know what each person contributes. Perhaps your best friend’s fiance has not read Dante or Proust, but he can cook the best chili in all of Illinois. (I know what you are thinking, and good chili does not seem like a deal breaker to me either, but there are people in this world with a real weakness for chili.) Anyhow, my point is that just because he does not suit you, it does not follow that he will not suit her. We do not all have the same taste in men, just as we do not all have the same taste in tea. If I cut out every person who does not serve milk with their tea(shocking yes, but it does happen), I’d be alienating a whole segment of society in the same way that you will alienate your friend if you deride her future husband because he does not live up to your standards! Remember those are your lofty standards, not hers, and if she is happy with him, lowly construction worker or farmer that he may be, you should be happy with him as well.