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Twenty and Never Been Kissed: Perplexed in Portland Wonders Why

Emma & Knightley

Emma & Knightley

Tea: Plantation Mint
Music: Frank Bridge: Sir Roger de Coverly

Quote: Emma argued, “I have none of the usual inducements of women to marry. Were I to fall in love, indeed, it would be a different thing! but I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall. And, without love, I am sure I should be a fool to change such a situation as mine. Fortune I do not want; employment I do not want; consequence I do not want.”
Harriet responded: “But still, you will be an old maid! and that’s so dreadful!”
Jane Austen’s Emma

Question:

Dear Erica,

I am slightly concerned about my younger cousin. She is twenty years old, and has yet to go out on a first date! She is very pretty and smart, and I am unsure what the problem may be. My only clue is that when asked why she said no to a potential suitor, she said she just didn’t have that “oh my god” moment of wanting to throw her arms around him and kick up her back heel. What advice do you have for someone who needs to jumpstart her love life, let go of this fictional idea of romance, and finally be kissed?!

Perplexed in Portland

Response:

Dear Perplexed in Portland,

Your cousin sounds an awful lot like Emma Woodhouse. Jane Austen’s classic heroine is entirely comfortable with her life, surrounded by her father, her governess, and her friend Mr. Knightley, and she does not feel the urge to marry, even though it is customary among her friends. After muddling through a series of romantic misunderstandings, Emma matures and comes to understand her true feelings, and by the end of the novel, we see her happily married to her old friend Mr. Knightley.

If your cousin is longing to be in a relationship, I would advise her to beware of having an unrealistic expectation of love. As I have repeatedly emphasized on Teatime with Erica, a relationship is not all roses and romance(See Princes and Pomp and Should you Settle for Something Less than Perfect). Your cousin’s desire to find an “oh my god moment suggests that she may be immature and not ready for a meaningful adult relationship. It may be easier for her to dream of romantic heroes who will make her swoon, than to navigate the difficulties inherent in a real relationship.

On the other hand, it is possible that like Emma Woodhouse, she is happy in her situation and does not need or want a boyfriend. In our society, there is too much emphasis on dating in high school and youthful infatuations are often dressed up as love affairs. While some young women are ready at fifteen to be married and have babies, other women might not feel comfortable dating until they are in their twenties. Not every one is a Juliet, madly in love and barely fourteen. Your cousin sounds like a late developer(a number of my favorite heroines were the same: Polly Shaw of An Old Fashioned Girl, as well as Margaret Hale of North and South). Don’t worry though! Like Emma and Margaret and Polly, your cousin will eventually be ready, and then she will find her own Mr. Knightley.

Best,

Erica


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