How to Pick a Lover

Unpresentable Lovers

A poet may praise many whom he would be afraid to marry.
—Samuel Johnson, Lives of the Poets

When you select a husband or when you select a lover with whom you intend to live openly and closely, you are selecting someone who will share many aspects of your life. Even if you are not going to be financially dependent upon him, you do have to take into account how he will or will not fit into your social milieu. On the other hand, when you pick a lover with whom you have no intention of living with either openly or closely, you need not pick someone who is acceptable to your mother or presentable to your friends: he need only be acceptable and presentable to you.

If you move in academic circles where almost everyone in the room has a PhD, your lover with a grade-eleven education might seem unsuitable. However, you don’t need to have him vetted by the faculty. If you move in moneyed circles where almost everyone in the room makes three  hundred grand a year, your lover who is a schoolteacher might seem less interesting. If you move in artistic circles where everyone in the room is some kind of performer, your lover who is a lifeguard might seem uncultured. All such problems would be very serious for a husband or a husband-like lover who will have to share your whole lifestyle: however they are not necessarily problems for a lover who will share only your bed and a portion of your time.

Courtship

Courtship (Photo credit: E_TAVARES)

In the old days, when a young man came a-courting, a girl’s father might legitimately inquire whether or not his intentions were honorable. Was the young man honestly considering his daughter as a prospective wife, or was he just wasting her time? If the man and maid got carried away in their courting, was the young man then prepared to make an honest woman of her?

In entering into a mésalliance, your intentions usually are not honorable in the sense that you do not intend to make an honest man of your lover by marrying him. (Sometimes, of course, an exotic affair eventually does result in an exotic marriage, but that is another story.) Both men and women can live with the situation of love without any intention of marrying, and can do so without too much pain, as long as everyone understands it from the beginning.

When the sexy, handsome, unemployed, and unemployable basketball player asks you to go for coffee, it is hard to say, “OK, but I’ll never marry you.” Nevertheless,  it is important to convey that message unambiguously as early in the relationship as possible.

Marry Me A Little (musical)

Marry Me A Little (Photo: Wikipedia)

A love affair with a man who is not the kind of man you would marry can be quite wonderful in its own right. It lets you appreciate otherwise inappropriate men who, by some standards, might seem to be beyond the pale as suitors because of their a dubious background or because they are too rich, too poor, too close, or too far away.

To those who may actually be following these posts, I am traveling next week but will have a couple follow-up posts on the pros and cons of some unconventional liaisons after I return.

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