Persuasion

Persuasion.  We’ve all felt it.  In fact, there’s an entire Jane Austen novel on the subject, entitled (not surprisingly) “Persuasion.”  It wasn’t one of her best, as evidenced by the fact that it’s not been turned into a Hollywood blockbuster starring Keira Knightly or Kate Winslett (in fact, it took me four tries to make it past the first chapter) but I’m starting to feel a bit like Anne Elliot these days.

Persuasion

Who’s Anne Elliot?  I’m so glad you asked.  According to Wikipedia,

Anne Elliot falls in love with a handsome young naval officer named Frederick Wentworth, who is intelligent and ambitious, but poor.  Sir Walter, Anne’s father and lord of the family estate of Kellynch, and her older sister Elizabeth are dissatisfied with her choice, maintaining that he is not distinguished enough for their family.  Her older friend and mentor, Lady Russell, acting in place of Anne’s deceased mother, persuades her to break off the match.

Now, aged 27 and still unmarried, Anne re-encounters her former fiancé when his sister and brother-in-law, the Crofts, take out a lease on Kellynch.  Wentworth, now a captain, is wealthy from wartime victories in the Royal Navy and from prize-money for capturing enemy ships. However, he has not forgiven Anne for her rejection of him.

When I first read Persuasion, I was in my early twenties.  At the time, I remember thinking 27 was really old.

Hopelessly old.

Spinsterhood old.

But now that I myself am just a year younger than Anne Elliot, I am, out of necessity, revising my opinion: 27 isn’t that old, at least not for the twenty first century…

Spinsterhood, therefore, is not the real problem.

No.  Persuasion is the problem.

Granted, I can’t buy a pair of shoes without a second opinion.  I suspect, in fact, that this is the reason it took me so damn long to finally break down and actually decide to purchase something at Victoria’s Secret.  Underwear shopping leaves little room for second opinions.  You either want a thong (or a lacy bra, or a pair of rhinestone encrusted boy shorts) or you don’t.

With men, however, it’s different.

Relationships require way more emotional (and financial) investment than a pair of rhinestone encrusted boy shorts.  And seeing as it took me five years to stop browsing at Victoria’s Secret and finally ask a sales associate to take my measurements, I don’t see how I can be expected to invest in something important (i.e. a relationship) without at least a few second opinions.

As such, I’m extremely grateful to those of you who take the time to offer your comments and suggestions on the ongoing developments of my ill-fated love life—especially as some of them are truly helpful and quite insightful.  But when one starts to combine the opinions of her “public” with the opinions of her friends, family members, previous dates and current dates, things start to get a bit sticky… too sticky.

If Anne Elliot had trusted herself, she could have started shackin’ up with Captain Wentworth a full eight years prior to the start of the novel.  Of course he wasn’t “Captain” Wentworth back then (and there wouldn’t even be a novel if she hadn’t fallen prey to the power of persuasion) but what if they hadn’t gotten a second chance?  What if he’d fallen in love with someone else in the mean time?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that sometimes the people who care about you don’t always know best… but sometimes they do, and trying to figure out when they’re right and when they’re wrong is almost as hard as trying to decide between a teal bra with tiger striped trim and a teal bra with polka dotted trim.

Which brings me to today’s question: which do you regret more?  Having listened to the well-meaning Lady Russells of your life or… having not listened?

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18 thoughts on “Persuasion

  1. When I was 21 (I’m now 44) I listened to the Lady Russells of my life. Hindsight tells me they were wrong. It’s something that I’m still paying for. Trust yourself enough to make YOUR decision. The Lady Russells of your life helped you become the bright woman you are today. Time for them to step back and watch you fly. You will make a decision. Right or wrong you will learn from it. But it’s YOUR life you are living.

  2. The Edmonton Tourist needs to be repeated … “Trust yourself enough to make YOUR decision”

    To borrow from Baz Luhrmann’s interpertation of Chicago Tribune Columnist Mary Schmich’s “Wear Sunscreen”: “Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than It’s worth.”

    Ultimately it’s your life and your happiness; consider everything (pocket dialing, advice from strangers, advice from friends and family) but make the decision that makes –YOU– happy. Decisions need not be permanent. Don’t be afraid of change or making mistakes.

    • I really agree with this comment. It’s very wise. BUT, just based on her writing alone, I sometimes worry that Kat might romanticize situations that maybe don’t deserve it. Like with Date #7… I have yet to see why she’s hung up on him. He plays games, barely calls, and acts aloof when they see each other. He was dating her while he was in another semi-serious relationship. It’s red flag after red flag with him, yet she keeps giving him more chances. Why? I think, Kat, that you keep hoping it’s going to turn into a romantic story because you see something in him, but I’m afraid that if you keep giving someone chances based on who he could be rather than who he is, you’re setting yourself up for extreme disappointment.

      I guess that’s a long-winded way of saying that it’s important to learn how to differentiate between your real gut — the wise one with instincts and street smarts — versus the one that wants a fairy tale, regardless of whether it’s there or not. Don’t settle for less than you deserve. :)

      • Romanticize? Who me? No way! ;)

        You have (as usual) hit the nail on the head. I will say that there are three and exactly three reasons why I haven’t jumped ship– one of these reasons is public and the other two are not but I think (and everyone who reads my blog) has a pretty good grasp on the reality of the situation even if they don’t know the details…

        Sigh. Only time will tell!

  3. In short, I think that being an adult is primarily about making tough decisions, every day, and then sticking to those decisions no matter how hard it is or how many people disagree with you. And taking responsibility for your actions when the choice you make doesn’t quite turn out well. That pretty much sums up my day job, and my life in general. :-)
    There were definitely some Lady Russells in my life when Dale and I started dating. He was a 5th year senior–no job prospects, totally broke, and had a fairly significant motivation problem. He wasn’t the best at controlling his temper, he was terrible at saying what he really felt, and he didn’t give a shit what people thought of him – he actually still doesn’t, but he’s a little more polite about what comes out of his mouth. I gave him a chance because I knew right away that he was tired of being a slacker and was ready to grow up – and that he wanted to face it all with me.

  4. This is a sticky one alright. I did listen to the advice. Was it wrong at the time? Maybe not. Do I regret it now? In some ways yes… in some ways no. Would my life had turned out different. Of course. The problem with this question is this. If you don’t get the oppurtunity to see or stay in touch with or what ever the object of your affections how will you know that you made a “Mistake”? And again, 20 years later…. did I make a mistake? Should I have stayed in a crappy relationship and eventually learned for myself? Would I have my Emily? These are questions I do ask myself… more often then I should. Am I happy? That too is a loaded question. Could I be happier? Well, hoenstly, who wouldn’t answer yes to that! Am I content… yes. Advice is defined as
    an opinion or recommendation offered as a guide to action, conduct, etc.
    2.
    a communication, especially from a distance, containing information.
    An opinion. You are no longer a child or an Ingenue. Listen to anyone soliciting advice. (including me), but stick to your gut. It will rarly steer you wrong.

    • Thanks, Jenn :) I was sorry that last weekend was so crazy (hence the trip to Poughkeepsie without a stopover in Kingston) but we really do need to meet up for a drink one of these days!

  5. I wish I had listened to my family with the first ‘boyfriend’ I had because he was terrible to me. He was mean, always making fun of me, telling me I was slow, and making fun of my appearance in every way he possibly could. He also strung me along, cancelled on me many times for dates, stating that it was my fault, or my family’s fault, why he wasn’t seeing me. I stuck with this and thought it was me for 2 years, and didn’t listen to anyone who knew better.
    That’s definitely one I regret. But, I still try to spin a positive on it. At least I knew how terrible a guy could be to you and I needed to expect more, and to realize I deserve to be treated much better than that. I made a promise to myself never, ever, to put myself through being with someone who made me feel so terrible even when he didn’t see me in person.

  6. Ah. My stories are echoes of these! I had a boyfriend like sarahnsh, and didn’t listen to warning friends, and wasted years and tears on what I realized later was a serial emotional abuser. Networking with his exes I realized I’d gotten off easy. When I met my husband, like Philly Tap Teaser, on paper there wasn’t much to recommend him. For some impenetrable reason, I trusted my gut with him even though I’d trusted myself and been so wrong just the time before. I married him before anyone really had a chance to point up the drawbacks. I know most of my extended family was expecting an immediate, explanatory birth announcement (they waited four years), and after 12 years and three kids an old friend finally confessed that she had thought we wouldn’t last 3. My friends were right and wrong, and I was wrong and right; but right when it counted. There’s a lot to be said for giving yourself time and space to hear the still, small voice. I think it’s quieting the cacophony that’s the hard part. Once you can hear it, following it is easy.

  7. Having listened. Always.
    I don’t regret the things I’ve done but I often regret the things I DIDN’T do.
    Follow your flight of fancy and see where it leads.

  8. I regret not listening. If I had listened to the advice of my friends and family I wouldn’t have ended up in an abusive relationship for so long. But, sometimes we’re too scared to listen – to scared of what life has in store for us if we venture into the unknown.
    The unknown was scary – but in the end – it was the best thing I ever did.
    I met a wonderful man – the kindest most wonderful person I have ever met – and now we are getting married.
    But, more than listening to friends and family – my best advice is to listen to what the little voice in the back of your mind is telling you. I wish I had listened to that voice much, much earlier – then I wouldn’t have wasted 7 years of my life being treated badly.
    Just be true to yourself – and don’t be afraid.

  9. I’m not sure that’s really the question you should be asking. You should be asking, “What is the reason for their persuasion?” In the novel, the persuasive characters were looking out for themselves — not the heroine. They were worried about their own reputation and how her choice would make them look to other people. I’m willing to bet that the Lady Russells of your life — at least the ones who know you best — are looking out for you.

    • Haha– I almost included this point in today’s post. I kept thinking about my professors in grad school who taught us to read critically by always asking who is say what and why are they saying it…

  10. Good question, Kat. I was just thinking about this the other day. What it comes down to, for me at least, is that if you’re curious about something and go into it with your eyes wide open (regardless of what others say), then you get to find out for your yourself instead of always wondering ‘what if’……

    While our friends do have our best interests at heart, I kinda think unless you find out first hand, there will always be a question in your mind. Or at least that’s how my crazy little mind works…

  11. I use to believe others knew best, that since I felt lost, careless, prone to the whims of fancy that could lead a girl into trouble; that I HAD to do what others thought were best because they MUST know because I was clueless. Now in my many years since, I still feel clueless about relationships; BUT and this is a BIG giant BUT… In the last 2 years, I have pursued 2 different guys that have been deemed – NOT a good idea by most of the peanut gallery of my life. And while I did not get engaged, married, or even serious with them… I let my heart get involved. (And I don’t know about you, but the second that happens I might as well have a ring cuz I’m committed. :) )
    What I discovered was quite fascinating… my friends and family want the best, they want to see me happy, they believe my living alone isn’t my first choice, but they also believe the road to blissful joy is paved in smooth ice-like pathways. That it is devoid of any pain, hurt, consequence, or mistakes… but I am coming to believe that pain makes us stronger, wiser, deeper people. And isn’t that the true display of being a REAL Human being but to have layers and dimensions and a life story that is filled with choices we made because we were the ones who made them. I’m tired of living a life of regret that I didn’t take more roads untravelled… After all if you are taking that road, no one you know has been there so their advice and input can not help you. :)
    As a people pleaser by nature, it has been a new lesson for me to seek counsel as needed, but then decide what it is that I WANT TO EXPERIENCE and if they are right they are right, but I will KNOW I choose my path. Because NO ONE knows what is for me, but me.
    PS – both boys (yes boys not men) were duds and not worth my time… But now I KNOW this instead of just suspecting it. Not to mention how much more confident I am about what I do want and how to go about getting it.
    What I discovered

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