When I was in London I met up with a couple I’ve known for a while, who I’ll call Ed and Jennifer. We got talking about one of their friends who I’d met at their wedding, a Dutch woman by the name of Kirsten. Now this Kirsten was an interesting character: late thirties, highly intelligent, and extremely well credentialed having been to a top university in Holland and later did a Masters at Columbia University in New York. She spoke several languages and when I met her a few years back she was working in London as a senior manager in the marketing department of a blue chip company we all know. What made her more impressive was she’d fallen seriously ill as child and been expected to die, but miraculously survived. The illness left her with physical damage and she needs to undergo daily medical treatment for the rest of her life, something she manages incredibly well.
Now Ed’s wife Jennifer insisted that Kirsten wanted a husband and to start a family, but was finding the London dating scene hard going. On top of the usual dearth of available men, she had to find someone who would accept her physical scars and medical condition. Eventually she entered into a rocky but not unpleasant relationship with an Italian called Raphael. He was in his early forties and came with multiple oddities and quirks of his own – which helped explain why he was single. He didn’t seem sure of what he wanted and their relationship was on, then off, then back on, then off again over the course of about a year. Then they split up for a few months, only to get back together once they realised they missed one another. When I heard from my friends that Kirsten had met a guy who finally accepted her, I was happy for her; she’d beaten the odds and found someone who might not be perfect, but was overall a pretty decent chap. When we last spoke Kirsten and Raphael had been back together about a year, had been holidaying together, had met each other’s parents, and we talking about moving in together. As Kirsten had told Jennifer, and Jennifer told me, settling down and having a family is what she really wanted.
However, when I met Ed and Jennifer last month they told me the outlook between Kirsten and Raphael was gloomy indeed.
“Why?” I asked. “What happened?
“Kirsten’s moving to Chicago, she got offered a promotion,” Ed said.
It transpired that Kirsten had accepted the post in Chicago automatically, having been conditioned for over 15 years to always put her career first. Kirsten and Raphael were trying to work out whether he could move to Chicago, but he had a business and a sister in London he was reluctant to leave. Personally, I thought she was nuts: she’d spent years desperately trying to find a partner, going through umpteen disappointments, and when at long last she finds someone she drops him like a stone to climb the corporate ladder.
“Well, it’s her choice but it’s clear where her priorities are,” I said.
“What do you mean?” Jennifer asked.
“I mean, she doesn’t really want to settle down and have a family, does she? If she did, and that was important to her, she’d stay in London with Raphael.”
“Oh no!” Jennifer replied. “I think she still wants to do that, she says if it doesn’t work out with Raphael she’ll try to find someone in Chicago.”
I’ve seen this a lot with single women over thirty: there is an enormous disconnect between what they say they want with their life and the decisions they actually make. You see this particularly with educated, professional women who continuously put their careers first while saying what they really want is to settle down and start a family. Roissy over at Chateau Heartiste often makes the point that one shouldn’t listen to what women say, rather you should watch what they do. Look at the choices they make, and draw your own conclusions as to what their true motivations are.
I heard while I was in Dubai that Raphael and Kirsten had split up for good. I still can’t get my head around her decision. I noted with interest that Jennifer genuinely believed Kirsten’s priority was to have a family. Ed’s view was much the same as mine.