Tuesday 19 November 2019

With age comes experience of love's mysteries

The only consolation from having a broken heart is that it makes us a little bit wiser, writes John Masterson

John Masterton

IS there anything more frustrating than watching people get involved in something that you know will end in tears and at the same time know there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop them racing headlong into the mess? We know that nothing can be done because we have all been that person, and nothing could stop us. It is very difficult to let people get on with living their own lives as badly as we do.

It is particularly difficult when the person who will not listen to common sense is one's child. At all stages in life, our decision-making can be impaired by the chemicals and hormones racing around our body. But never more so than in the first stages of adulthood. Anyone who prattles on about human beings having 'free will' has not spent sufficient time with a lovesick teenager who has embarked on a holiday romance with an entirely unsuitable mate who apparently says all the right things in whatever broken English they can muster.

And age is not a perfect defence. I know that if anyone whispered sweet nothings to me under a moonlit sky and sounded like Penelope Cruz it would require all of my brain power to remind me that this was foolish and that I would end up regretting it.

Perhaps it is a sign of emerging maturity that I would now be aware of the flashing red lights. Most men seem to reach maturity in their 70s or 80s.

Over the last few years, many of my acquaintances have had to deal with children making important decisions about their continued education while in their late teens. And the almost universal cry I hear is that they are too young and that, despite appearances, are not really very mature. I can remember clearly how immature I was at 18, while at the same time knowing almost everything. Would I have listened to anybody who suggested that I work, or travel, or volunteer, or anything for a year before I went to third level? Not a chance. In later life, do I now understand that I would have benefited greatly from such a year? Yes.

Thankfully, young people make important decisions like who to marry much later than they did a generation or two ago. By the time they get around to it, they will, hopefully, have had their heart broken once or twice. I say 'hopefully' because the sooner people realise that the love of their life can turn into a frog, the sooner they are equipped for making important decisions such as who to commit to and have children with.

And the more they are likely to understand that 'love' is a very fickle entity, and far from the only criterion to take into account. They may also be better equipped to listen to reason with a bit more life experience under their belt.

The older I get, the more I find myself believing that arranged marriages are a far better system than falling in love. Part of the evidence for this is that parents are usually right, but are usually in that horrible place where they cannot say, "I told you so" by the time the blubbering offspring has seen the light.

So much for mad, passionate love. My successfully married friends tell me that the feelings that accompany long-term relationships that work are much more satisfying than the fireworks type. How unromantic, but they are probably right. The ones who believe you can have it all usually end up like the character played by Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine, having croaked because of an inappropriately placed needle. It could just as easily been an inappropriately placed woman.

I do recall that of men who die during the sexual act a disproportionate percentage of them are in the company of someone they really shouldn't be with.

You have been warned.

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