Phi has a worthwhile post on Beta-hatred and Jane Austen. It’s difficult to quote any of it without quoting all of it, but the crux is that in the course of the novel, Elizabeth Bennett rejects the advances of the oafish-but-earnest Mr Collins. When Elizabeth finds out that her friend is going to marry Collins, she hits the roof and all but threatens to disown her friend. She doesn’t merely reject Collins herself, but rejects the very notion that Collins is worthy or capable of finding happiness with or providing happiness to anyone.
It is, in short, the perfect example of the hatred that women have for men that do not fit a certain charismatic type or exude a certain presence.
I have a few thoughts on the subject, most that I will share here and one unrelated enough that it gets its own post.
What strikes me about the above situation is that it plays muchly on my paranoid fears but doesn’t jibe with my experience.
On the fear front, it’s never been the case that I have asked out two female friends. I was never good at asking out anybody, but this was unofficial policy. My speculation was that if I asked out Girl A and she said no, there was no way in tarnation Girl B would consider going out with me. Why would she stoop to a level below her friend? My assumption is that Girl A and Girl B and Girl C and Girl D sat around talking about me and how pathetic it is that I had this crazy idea that Girl A might go out with me that whatever nascent interest Girl B, C, or D might have had in my dissipated when she had to laugh at me with everyone else due to the social protocols of girl-talk, which can involve nothing if not talking up hot guys and talking down everybody else.
Guys do this. A guy that is dumped by his good friend is not likely to be asked out for a variety of reasons, but one of which is the fear of “sloppy seconds”. To go out with someone that our friend dumped is to suggest that we are worthy of their left-overs. It’s a pretty brutal way to look at it, and I don’t think that it would prevent us from asking out someone that we were really enthralled with, but absent that enthrallment guys do pay attention to these things. Hubert was in a relationship with an attractive young lady who is exactly the type I would have asked out under a lot of circumstances, but since he dumped her (that was the story, anyway), it was never going to happen. What’s funny, though, is that despite all of these gears turning behind our eyes, I don’t think that I would ever denigrate someone for dating someone that I dumped. I was pleased as punch for Tony when he took up with my ex-girlfriend Julie.
So a lot of this can be chalked up to paranoia.
Paranoia aside, though, the above behavior of Elizabeth Bennett doesn’t really seem to fit. Historically, when I’ve made my interest known to somebody that didn’t reciprocate, they’ve been nothing if not thrilled to see me interested in and/or partnering with someone else. By-and-large, few young ladies that rejected me (after the Original Nine, at any rate) actually wished me any ill. Most of the Original Nine didn’t give me enough care to wish me ill. I suspect most wished me well. Or at the very least wished me out of their hair, which my interest in someone else accomplished pretty nicely.
It’s possible that they were outwardly kind while quietly sabotaging any attempts I made at finding romance and happiness, but that doesn’t entirely square, either. I’ve been the friend and confidant of many (ahem… too many) young ladies in my life. They’re rarely hostile to guys asking them out. They really don’t seem to go out of their way to say awful things about them. There’s no real tactful way to say this, but when they do go out of their way to run-down the guy, he’s often got it coming. Sometimes he’s actually a nice guy, but his dealings with her have brought out the petty and embittered parts of his personality that make his behavior towards her seem manipulative and/or antagonistic.
There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. I think that most of the above is true because, apart from the Original Nine, I have generally asked out nice and good people. If I went around throwing myself at people that were not that way or if I’d befriended them and listened to them prattle on… well then the story might be different.
So in that vein, it could well be said that Collins’s problem is that he was interested in Bennett in the first place.