A few days ago, I received a note from the daughter of a friend. The mother, my friend, is a renowned mystery writer who has raised one remarkable child—one who took the same path as her mom at an Ivy League college, where she graduated with honors.
Her mother, although a natural writer while in college, decided to become a lawyer and continue to write on the side. After several years of lawyering, she put the JD degree away for good and pursued her dream of becoming a world renowned doyenne of mystery fiction. Her daughter has quite the mentor to follow. What came naturally to the mom is even more elegant in the daughter.
I learned this the day she wrote to tell me she loved my new novel and to thank me for convincing her, through my story, that contemporary fiction was to be her genre as well, She realized that it is more to her liking than the solid mysteries her mother successfully puts out, year after year. To say that I was flattered is an understatement. She and her mother come from my home state and she now resides in a major city, near me, while working in communications and writing her first novel on the side…just like mom.
In her letter to me, she mentioned that she ruminated about finding the right man to suit her lifestyle. After all, her mother had divorced her father and married again, unsuccessfully. That and the writing genre were the only way she wanted to diverge from her mother’s path. And she asked, “How can I date without worrying if I ever find the right man, or somehow pass him by?” she asked.
That was a loaded question to be asked of anyone, particularly someone that she didn’t know well. But something in my book encouraged her to do so. She told me that my character’s choices gave her pause for thought and she wondered how I developed their decidedly different paths. “Did I actually live any of it,” she needed to know? So this was my answer to her:
“I must tell you so admire your honesty and your nature in being able to share your thoughts and fears with me. And I'm happy to add that your worries about marriage are shared by EVERY single girl as they grow to maturity. When your mother and I were young, we were scoping out guys from grade school on. And since she is more creative and emotive than most writers I know, she concentrated on molding her fictional male partners into an image that only romance writers contrive. And in so doing, convince readers that these men exist. That's probably why her parent’s divorced.
"Most men are not suitable for a woman of such capability, strength, love and ability as your mom. “Women like her and like you are much stronger and successful than most men. And your mother is surely your example of this. I'm telling you this because I fell in love for the first time at age nineteen and that man broke me into a million pieces before I hit twenty-two. He knew what he was doing, and another lovely young woman, whose family had discretionary money to invest in him, was the key to his success. This man needed money to complete medical school, as you read in the book, and he needed even more to set up a solid practice, thereafter. I had nothing to offer but great love and a paltry teacher’s salary. So with great sadness and a thoroughly broken heart, he left me for her.
“My instincts were scuttled and left me with doubt about the world in general, not knowing how my loving nature could be challenged with such grief. “But I met my husband fourteen months after the breakup and found that I came alive in his presence. He also fit six measures of criteria that swirled in my brain as I cried myself to sleep in the months prior to meeting him. I rebounded quickly because it seemed to be the right thing to do. And here were the reasons:
1. He adored me.
2. He was my religion (something MY parents demanded)
3. He had a kick ass sense of humor, which this day is his saving grace.
4. He came from what I believed was a "good" family…
5. He had a good job...for a while
6. HIs home was 100 miles away--far away from my hometown, where my old love continued to develop his medical career and complete his residency. And I think the move was the most important thing of all. I could no longer bear the thought of bumping into him along the streets and buildings that were monuments to our history.
“And although I am married almost 40 years, I now know that getting married by criterion and on the rebound was wrong. What I thought was right, was not. What I thought I felt was contrived. But I'm still here and I enjoy the part of this relationship that is good. The surprise was, he turned out not to be a work driven man, so I became a work driven woman out of necessity. My daughters, whom I adore, are more like him and they are not aggressively seeking their goals; they only think about what they want.
“My older daughter married the guy she was with when her friends started to get married in their twenties. And after a very lovely and expensive wedding, she was divorced less than three years later. But she had a soft place to fall. She came home, one night at midnight to her old bedroom and to our loving arms because she found that the verbally abusing piece of crap, who on paper, looked like a stellar mate, was also cheating on her. Another long story...
“Then came the divorce, a mourning period, followed by a hot, steamy romance with an Israeli who was working for the defense department after 9/11, who gave her the best sex she said...oh well, you get the point, plus STDs. Within the first year with him, she found out that he still had a wife he said he had divorced in Israel, a French mistress who came and went, and a “green card wife,” much older than he, in New Jersey. Unfortunately, he's the one who actually broke HER into a million pieces.
“But to move on....a few years later, she met a man who is not as well educated as she, nor as articulate; who comes from a wholly different culture (which is okay with us) but who adores her with a passion I've never seen before among the people I know. He’s been married before, as well, and learned when he met my daughter what embodied real love. She married him last year and is happy...very happy.
“WHY? Because she loves the way he loves her and vice versa. "He is a wonderful man and works hard to do whatever pleases her. They only want to be with each other--the real love of their lives--after learning the hard way what constituted the real deal.
“They will not have children because she has a waxing, waning case of lupus and they'd rather spend their time together, without kids. There are people like that, you know, and I don't worry about her any longer.
“What I believe I know about you is that at your young age, you will NOT do what she did, or I did. You will not jump into a marriage that LOOKS good, but you will wait until you find a relationship that FEELS good. That's what my daughter has now and I hate that she had to go through all that anguish before this.
“At 24, please savor your flights of fancy, your bursts of creativity, your loving family and your far ranging goals. The right man will be there when you FEEL it, and not judged against a wish list. You will know it. Trust me. Because you ask questions and get honest answers. That’s they way a good relationship, marriage and career are built, and I know that you are set on that course because you are a savvy woman, looking for answers that someday you will offer your children.
“And most important: Count on it.”