Me and Mr. Bennet
Sharon always wanted a “Christmas wedding.” She loved the season, and she adored the church, festooned each year with pungent evergreen garlands and red poinsettias. To her childhood mind it was the perfect setting for a wedding (and besides, you don’t spend a dime on flowers).
It has been more than a year of waiting. The engagement came at Thanksgiving last year. But now family are flying in, and the rehearsal at the chapel will come at 4:30 this afternoon and the dinner will follow. It’s here.
Sitting alone in my study this morning, I am thinking of another man sitting in his study. Mr. Bennet. My younger daughter is a devotee of Jane Austen. She read the books and watched the movies, especially Emma, which she watched over and over and over.
I have in mind a scene at the close of Pride and Prejudice. Finally, the two prideful and prejudicial figures in the story, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, are getting together (as we have been urging them from beginning!).
We see Mr. Darcy coming out of Mr. Bennet’s study. He has made the formal request to have Mr. Bennet’s daughter’s hand in marriage. Now it is Elizabeth’s turn to go in.
The young woman stands before her father in his oak-paneled study, the Victorian patriarch looking dour in his frock coat, long white hair and mutton-chop sideburns. Mr. Bennet says something like, “But you despised him.” And Elizabeth says, “No, Papa, I was all wrong about him.” Mr. Bennet says, “You do love him?” And she replies, “Yes, very much.”
Then Mr. Bennet delivers the line I so remember this morning. “Well I cannot believe anyone could ever deserve you. But apparently I have been overruled. So I heartily give my consent.”
This is every father-of-the-bride. Happy for his daughter, but not sure anyone deserves her. And then the joy of being overruled! There were plenty of suitors who did not deserve Sharon. To be fair, most of them were “boyfriends” who may not have had marriage on their minds (though as a father of course I knew they had other things just as well). Pam and I did our best to steer her away from what we considered poor matches. Sometimes we meddled. In our better moments we watched and prayed, knowing that, as Ed Friedman put it so well, “every over-determined effort produces the opposite result.”
Tomorrow I will be happily overruled. Anthony is the finest young man I could ever hope for Sharon. I heartily give my consent. I held out, Sharon, until you found the one who deserved you. As the ecstatic Elizabeth leaves his office, Mr. Bennet says, “I could not have parted with you, my Lizzie, to anyone less worthy.” My sentiments exactly.