“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
Anybody who is anybody knows that Jane Austen opened her masterpiece, Pride and Prejudice with this statement. However, in the year of our Lord Two-Thousand and Fifteen, this universal truth generally seems much less universal. Men who have their lives together are not necessarily checking for a wife. But, from time to time, a man comes around who makes me think about the adventures of heroine, Elizabeth Bennet and the dashingly brooding hero, Fitzwilliam Darcy.
The story, I have for you, however, is not one of misunderstanding, elopement, and angry aunties. No, my tale is much similar to the arc of Pride and Prejudice when Mr. Collins called upon the Miss Bennets. It is both silly and ridiculous. It is also a little anticlimactic.
When you are a post-grad Nigerian female, your parents’ greatest concern (besides you not getting a second degree) is a life of singlehood and no children. This state was previously conceived as spinsterhood and is severely prayed against. Unfortunately my older sister and I are in danger of this lifestyle. My younger sister is a bit worrisome as well, but is not yet “out into society” (aka graduated from university). Therefore, if a bumbling man even with the appearance and IQ of Mr. Collins calls upon you, they want you to sit up and listen. Qualifications of said suitor: (1) preferably Nigerian (2) Christian (3) physician, PhD of some kind (preferably math or hard science), banker or engineer. In this story, I will call him, Mr. Collins.
Mrs. Bennet aka my mother, thought it would be a good idea to invite another family over for Christmas Eve this year. They were a group of young boys with their mother (Mrs. Lucas), but surprisingly there was a man of marriageable age among them.
After spending an evening with the delightful women of Rosanwo House, the family departed cheery into the wintery night (a night with no snow. Odd for Chicago Decembers).
A few days later Mrs. Bennet got the call from Mrs. Lucas.
“Mr. Collins is interested in one of your daughters. He would like to visit their dad on Saturday.”
Mrs. Bennet could barely contain her excitement for Mr. Collins indeed fulfilled the basic qualifications of a suitor. Mrs. Bennet perhaps made the mistake of informing the Miss Bennets of the man’s intentions. Apparently, Mr. Collins was interested in one of us (we apparently have no names either) and decided to invite himself over to hang out with Mr. Bennet (our dad).
The Miss Bennets thought this laughable. Were we truly that desperate looking in appearance and situation? But, Saturday came and indeed Mr. Collins called upon us (7 PM). Indeed, he must of been interested in the eldest Miss Bennet for she was the most “out” in society and of the most appropriate age.
The door bell rang and there was a mass exodus from the kitchen and Mrs. Bennet was left behind to welcome Mr. Collins. In he walked, and the smell of his cologne enveloped the entire house. Mr. Bennet had even forgot that Mr. Collins was to come and joined his guest down stairs.
Furious, the eldest Miss Bennet refused to meet her unwelcome guest in the drawing room. Determined, however, to see the Miss Bennet, Mr. Collins stayed not only for tea but for dinner as well. Fortunately for the Miss Bennets, they had eaten prior to his arrival. When the Miss Bennets remembered their good breeding and manners, they came down from their chambers to greet the too eager Mr. Collins, who was disappointed to hear that they would not be joining him for supper.
“You ladies are quiet tonight. I hoped you would eat and talk with us.”
Thankfully, the second eldest Miss Bennet (moi) had to get her hair done, an appropriate excuse for all the girls to depart. The cheeky eldest Miss Bennet quipped under her breath, “I thought you came to visit my father, not eat with us.”
Mr. Collins then decided to stay for prayer (10 pm). Mr. Bennet prayed that the Miss Bennets would be more open to people despite their own personal preferences. (Oh Lord).
Mr. Collins then decided to stay to talk to Mr. Bennet until an even more unsociable hour (11 pm), before venturing out into the night.
Mr. Bennet is a kind, interesting man, but any man hanging out with him for 4 hours is pushing it.
The call upon us was obvious. Perhaps, more obvious to us than to Mr. Collins himself. Indeed the most disturbing part of this tale was that Mrs. Bennet and the Miss Bennets are almost certain that Mrs. Lucas thought she was doing the eldest Miss Bennet a favor in tipping us off.
Lest we not forget that this is the 21st century. Many things have changed, but the way to a woman’s heart is usually not through her father’s. And, certainly the best way to win a lady’s affection is to make your intentions clear and be direct after – ahem getting to know her. The problem was not that he was Nigerian. It was not that he was a Christian (heavens no!) or even educated. Those are all fabulous things. The problem was that he underhandedly tried and failed.
What became of Mr. Collins? The story is not over. The last I heard, he endeavors to make the acquainence of the eldest Miss Bennet in an even less direct manner–through Facebook.