Jayne Dawson: Let’s get marriage arranged properly

THE AMERICAN DREAM: Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle.
THE AMERICAN DREAM: Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle.
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What is your view on arranged marriages? Here’s mine – I’m coming round to the idea.

Not for me, obviously, several decades too late for me, but in general.

I met my husband in the time honoured 1970s inner-city Leeds fashion – at a teenage party while the worse for much cheap drink. A bottle of sherry shared on the park with my friend Helen was our usual beverage of choice – much cheaper than buying Babycham in the pub. She’s a solicitor and playwright now, thank you very much, so it didn’t kill as many brains cells as you might think.

But I’m an idealist. I think there must be, you know, a better way, a less random way, than meeting your life partner in the scrum to be sick in the toilet.

My thinking is coloured by the knowledge that the current young generation have problems enough – they know they are never going to be able to afford a home of their own, they know they are going to have to work until they drop, they know that everyone jeers at their hard-won academic qualifications, preferring to believe they were just picked up from a pile by the classroom door.

They’ve got a lot to put up with already, so let’s lift a little bit of that burden from them and sort out the life partner. It would be a very big worry off the list, wouldn’t it?

I know the idea cuts across all that is sacred about romance in our Western world but still I’m beginning to see the plus side of letting the family sort it out.

Because that romance stuff, it’s a lot of baloney mostly, isn’t it? And it’s created by the American film industry mostly, isn’t it?

That Hollywood has a lot to answer for. It has created a lot of high expectations, made a lot of people believe that love is something that happens instantly, that it feels like a kind of delirium and that, the minute that feeling fades, it’s time to head for the D.I.V.O.R.C.E.

Plus, the ideal Hollywood romance has changed a lot over time, possibly giving funny ideas to some generations.

Young cinemagoers in the 1930s may well have gone though their entire married lives in twin beds with one foot on the floor at all times, since censors at that time ensured this was the way all couples were portrayed in the bedroom. Think how tricky that must become when you’re getting on a bit and your knees are going.

Later generations have been brought up by Hollywood to believe that real love happens instantly, out of the blue, between strangers, and that when Cupid’s arrow smacks you between the eyes you JUST KNOW.

For reference see every Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks film ever made. There’s always a bit of argy-bargy, a few misunderstandings but, ultimately, they just know.

Nora Ephron wrote films like that. They were lovely. I think she must have been lovely, a really smart journalist, author and scriptwriter, and I mourned her recent death. But her film scripts were, despite all that, baloney.

I’m prepared to argue that the Cupid’s arrow feeling is not love, is not likely to last and is entirely hormonal. Powerful it may be, but permanent? Probably not.

For anyone feeling shocked at the idea of ignoring the siren call of eyes across a club, or wherever, let me say that marriages are half arranged already, and getting more so. Oh yes they are.

What is the internet if not a way of arranging meetings between people who, ultimately, dream of settling down with the right partner? And internet dating is getting bigger all the time.

And then there is “assortative mating”, which goes on all the time already, and in fact is becoming more likely to happen, according to research.

Assortative mating is when people get together in a non-random way, based on lots of factors they have in common: body type, location, level of attractiveness, and, above all, background.

More and more, according to a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research, we marry into our own class. Over the decades “marrying up” or “marrying down” has become less common. We are sticking with our own kind.

So, here’s the deal: if we already choose our partners because they live near us, think like us, look like us, have the same amount of money or debt as us, and are as comparably attractive or unattractive as us, then why not take the hard work out of it? Isn’t life hard enough, without having to find your own husband/wife?

In any case, opportunities to meet independently are becoming fewer. We work longer, we go out less, we stay in and talk on social media. And we have tried blind dating, speed dating and dating agencies – all forms of arranged meeting.

So let’s just take it to the next level and get the families involved, and friends too. Come on, it could be fun.

There could be a Marriage Meet, a brainstorming session where everyone throws in the name of a potential spouse for whoever has hit a married state of mind – and then there would be a text to the potential suitor and their family to invite them over for tea and cakes.

A few dates later and it’s all sorted: a marriage made not in heaven or in hell, but in your social circle.

It’s not Hollywood, but it could be common sense.

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