Stop Telling Women They Need to “Marry Up”

Design by Perri Tomkiewicz

You may have thought that, as a woman in 2017, you would never encounter an article instructing you on how to “marry up.” Or rather, you would not encounter one unless you were engaged in some intensive live action roleplaying version of Downton Abbey.

But you did not count on the perfectly-preserved time capsule of British shittiness that is William Hanson for The Daily Mail.

This week the tabloid ran an article entitled, “How to Marry Up Like a Middleton: Etiquette Expert Reveals How to ‘Scale Mount Social’ Like Kate and Pippa (But Warns if You’re Ugly or Overweight There’s ‘Almost no Hope’)”

Which, oh, boy, well, let’s just dig in to this, I guess. William Hanson, a man who appears to be doing his best impersonation of the evil food critic in Ratatouille, begins by explaining, “Say what you like about the Middleton clan (and who doesn’t?) the sisters have married well.”

“You’re going to age anyway. You’ll be stuck basing your marriage on an asset that no human in the world can possibly maintain.”

I don’t know what anyone says about the Middletons except that they have lovely hair and nice attitudes, but I may not be of Hanson’s class.

He goes on to explain that this may not be a possibility for you, you uggo. He notes, “If you’re overweight, ugly, have no conversation, interesting anecdotes and very little class then there’s almost no hope unless you diet like crazy, inject yourself with matcha, protein and collagen.”

There will presumably be no hope for you if you do this, either. That is because matcha is a tea. If you inject it into yourself, you will be dead.

Beyond that, let’s talk about the flaw within the horrifying argument that if you starve yourself and survive on spinach indefinitely you will be able to trade your looks for a partner’s wealth.

Here’s the thing: you’re going to age anyway. You’ll be stuck basing your marriage on an asset that no human in the world can possibly maintain. It would be more effective to base your choice of mate on their appreciation of literally any other quality you possess, no matter how odd—a love for early Guns and Roses, an inexplicable affection for Ayn Rand, the fact that you hate parks. Those qualities have at least a little bit of staying power. The constant rhetoric that if women want to land a man they should start dieting like crazy means that they will have to commit to a time-consuming and misery-inducing proposition whose effects will be, at the very best, temporary. Oh, and in this process, they’ll make themselves miserable.

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But you’ll be trading this for more than money, I guess. Hanson explains that, regarding billionaires in the UK, “Not only do they have the money but they also have—more importantly—connections.”

Social connections.


Pippa Middleton is the sister of the future Queen of England. Pippa Middleton’s husband is someone whose name I cannot remember at the moment.

I suspect if Pippa wanted to meet just about anyone—Lorde, Al Gore, The Queen of England—she probably could. Her husband perhaps could as well, if he mentioned he was married to Pippa Middleton.

Pippa Middelton with her husband James Matthews, heir to the Scottish courtesy title of Laird of Glen Affric. ShutterstockIBL/REX

However, Hanson, a man who surely believes that Draco Malfoy was the REAL hero, also explains that if you marry up, you will benefit as you will be among a class that “visit[s] places that many just don’t know exist.”

Like where? Constantinople? The Far East? Wondrous uncharted Japan, land of matcha? It’s the 21st century. This is archaic nonsense. We’ve all got the Travel Channel. We know the places that exist. You don’t need to get married to plan a holiday.

This notion doesn’t take into account the fact that you will have to go to these places with your spouse. There is no place in the world delightful enough that it can overshadow company you don’t especially like. You can be at the best dinner in the world, and if it’s with boring company, you will find very quickly that you’re still just eating some food with someone who bores you.

“There is no place in the world delightful enough to overshadow company you don’t especially like.”

A way, way better strategy in the 21st century would be marrying someone who wants to go to the same places you do, because they like the same stuff you do. If you are candid early on about your desire to one day have a very exclusive experience, like dining on the Great Wall of China, and your partner shares this desire, I bet with time and savings and planning and possibly a Kickstarter fund you can make it happen. And what a great experience it will be for you guys! I’m happy for you. If you “marry up” thinking it will allow you entrée to the things you’ve dreamt of doing, you might be in for a rude awakening when you find out your partner is afraid of heights.

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You know who, I imagine, under Hanson’s definition, “married up?” Diana Spencer, who would become Princess Diana. Here’s a fun excerpt from Sally Bedell Smith’s recent biography on Prince Charles:

“Diana disliked nearly everything her husband loved: his country pursuits, his polo, his paintings, his gardening. She had come round somewhat on opera but had little use for Shakespeare [cool sadness fact – earlier Charles hired her a Shakespeare tutor so they’d have something to talk about]. She was indifferent to alternative medicine and the environment…. ‘How awful incompatability is,’ he wrote to one of his friends, ‘How dreadfully destructive it can be for the players of this extraordinary drama.'” Diana ends up suicidal, and he cheats, and they get divorced, thank goodness.

At least he had friends to write to.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Getty

In Hanson’s article I learned that in order to “marry up” I will also need to ditch my friends. Hanson explains, “Well, ditch isn’t a very nice word is it? Prune is perhaps a better kinder one; do you really need to do this? Yes…. You don’t want a childhood pal hanging around to tell any potential rugged and rich suitor how you got the nickname ‘Stinky.’” As for your family members, he remarks, “Blood may be thicker than water but in many cases water may be healthier for your social ascent.”

I sincerely think that if your new wealthy husband ever finds out you tossed aside dear friends and family members in order to “marry up,” he will think you are a sociopath. I also think that he will be correct.

Hanson goes on to suggest that, after ditching your friends, you meet your future mate at a spin class at Core Collective (billionaire aristocrats love spin classes, I guess? Mine is just me and a bunch of women on their lunch break, but sure!). He notes you could also go to 34, a perfectly serviceable steak restaurant that opened in 2012. 34 is so exclusive that they have room to accommodate you tonight if you feel like going there. You will also have to refrain from drinking too much and wear well applied make-up and dress conservatively.

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I guess you will be doing all of these things alone. Which sounds as though it will be fairly lonely.

“I sincerely think that if your new wealthy husband finds out you tossed aside dear friends and family to ‘marry up,’ he will think you are a sociopath.”

But here is something you could do instead: marry someone—up, down, sideways—who has the same values as you. Maybe one of those values is “having a lot of disposable income.” That’s fine! If that’s something that concerns you, you might as well reveal it, rather than, as Hanson suggests, pretending “money is a bit of a bore. That must be your attitude… If you show any excitement or start salivating at anything of material wealth then it will be sensed very quickly and it’s game over.”

A marriage that is thought of in video game terms doesn’t sound like a terribly fulfilling union of two human souls.

A marriage based on trickery is a bad marriage. It’s not fun, it’s not cheeky or cute. It’s basically robbing someone on their chance to marry someone they actually like because you were doing some elaborate acting. It’s robbing yourself of that chance, too.

And if you are pretending to be someone you are not, your spouse will find out. They live in the same house as you. The notion behind marriage is that they will get to know you on a more intimate level than almost anyone else in the world.

If this strikes you as beautiful, this notion that the person you marry will know you, truly know you, in a way that the man at the supermarket and your co-worker and your distant aunt never will, marry them. God, marry them. However, if you started with a false front they’ll either be very disillusioned very quickly, or else you will have to walk on a tedious assortment of eggshells until you die.

And you’re too good for that, Stinky.


From: Harper’s BAZAAR US