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Home > Culture and Society

Better To Have Loved And Lost - Better Still To Have Signed A Pre-Nup

26 May 2006

Hey, ladies! Form an orderly queue, because Mike Davies is single! 'Who is Mike Davies?' you might ask. Well, Mike lives in Bury, is an independent-minded bachelor and a contributor to BBC Online's Have Your Say discussion board. And this is what he has to say:

'I don't get lonely. I'm not needy, insecure, dependent. I don't need the security blanket of a lifetime companion. The only reason I would ever get married is for having kids and for that, there is no way I'd marry a British woman. If looking for a good housewife, mother and role model for my children, foreign women fit the bill much better. A huge percentage of British women are selfish, flighty, insecure, needy and psychotic, and quite capable of concealing those traits during the dating phase.'

Yes, British women are bunch of feckless psychos. Give us a clinically depressed Thai child bride any day, or a good strong Slavic pack-horse of a woman who's good at lifting and carrying. That's what you want from an equal partner in the relationships of 2006: subservience and sturdy hips for effective breeding. And your tea on the table when you get in. And if it's not beans and chips, mark my words, Svetlana, there'll be hell to pay.

Exactly why a woman of any nationality would want to spend the rest of their life with a bigoted misogynist like Mike is unclear, and thus we can say with some certainty that Mike is single, and likely to remain so. But what sparked this tirade against British women? (Who are manipulative nut jobs, lest we forget.)

It was, of course, this week's much-publicised divorce settlements in which two women got substantial payouts. A court awarded Julia McFarlane 250,000 a year for life from her extremely wealthy ex-husband Kenneth, a sum that is partly based on the fact that she gave up a high-earning career when she married 18 years earlier. More controversially, Melissa Miller was awarded 5m of her ex-husband Alan's 17.5 million fortune after a marriage that lasted two years and nine months. The couple had no children when they split, but a judge said Mrs Miller was entitled to a substantial settlement because she married with 'reasonable expectation' of a future wealthy lifestyle. He also cited adultery by Mr Miller as a factor.

Ignoring the fact that all parties are the sort of people who'll be first against the wall when the revolution comes, the overriding question is: are these settlements fair?

Although the press has lumped the two judgements together, the circumstances are actually very different. The McFarlane settlement isn't terribly controversial. Leaving aside the vast sums of money involved, it seems pretty fair. Ms McFarlane agreed to give up her career as part of the decision to get married, so it only seems fair that she should get some compensation for loss of earnings.

The decision was a shared one, and part of the whole caboodle of getting married for the *two* McFarlanes. And after 18 years of marriage, anyone who finds their life turned upside down surely deserves to have enough money to ensure some sort of lifestyle continuity, whether or not 250,000 a year is a sum of money most of us could retire on.

The Miller case is rather more questionable. Somehow the logic of it seems amiss: do you really have a right to a lavish standard of living by marrying someone? After less than three years of marriage Ms Miller hasn't given up a great deal. It would be ridiculous to suggest that she isn't entitled to anything, but surely any settlement should be based on enabling her to get on with her new unmarried life (giving her some reasonable level of financial support for the next few years, perhaps) rather than giving her a big chunk of someone else's earnings? There's also the fact that marriage, like other big life decisions, carries a certain level of risk. Adultery obviously can wreck a marriage, but divorce settlements are about ensuring the financial well-being of someone, not compensating them for relationship grief.

The element of risk is underlined by the slightly twattish reaction to the divorce of Mr Miller, who said he would have been better off if he had knocked his wife down in his car. He also described his ex as a 'waste of space', 'useless' and a 'spendthrift termagant'. You can't help but think that if she was so fucking awful, why didn't he notice *before* he married her?

Conversely, if it's not true, is he just a bit of a twat himself? OK, divorce causes strong feelings, but it's probably not a good idea to muse on murdering the person you're divorcing in public. We obviously don't know much about the Millers (and frankly don't want to), but neither of them emerges from the case looking particularly good.

What's more interesting than the individual cases is the wider reaction. The aforementioned Mike Davies is not alone in his bitter, inversely-xenophobic ramblings. Throughout the papers there have been countless embittered letters about 'gold diggers' and men's horrid venal partners, although the BBC's Have Your Say, as ever, provides the most deranged responses. Try these:

'Women are always claiming they want love and marriage. At the end of the day all they seem to want is money. My advice to men is steer clear!'

- David, Lytham, Lancs

'Marriage is dying out in the UK and with it a caring and law abiding society. The fault can be laid at the feet of the legal system, the child support agency and idle, greedy women.'

- Peter W, Scunthorpe

'Once burned, twice shy! I will never marry again, I will just find a woman I don't like and give her a house!'

- Thomas, Dubai

God, you tragic fucking weirdoes. For some reason it puts us in mind of Simon and Garfunkel's poignant words 'If I'd never loved, I never would have cried', but let's not forget the song is titled 'I Am a Rock', not 'Manual for Life'. We somehow can't believe the following exchange ever took place:

Carrie Fisher: Wanna do some coke and have sex with Princess Leia?
Paul Simon: No, I'm paranoid about divorce settlements.

It's worth pointing out that the McFarlane and Miller cases are atypical, simply because they involve big sums of money. In many divorce cases, the issue is not whether a divorced partner can still afford to run a Mercedes, it's about whether they can support themselves, afford to look after children and/or find a half-decent place to live.

What's amazing about the 'women are gold diggers' reaction by men is the sheer quantity of venom sparked by a couple of divorce cases where, frankly, there is plenty of money to go round. A worrying number of men are obviously distrustful of women in general and the recent court cases have opened the floodgates. The general gist seems to be that women are essentially snakes in the grass: manipulative emotional fuck-ups who'll take you for every penny.

Sorry, but this just doesn't square with reality, unless you're married to Servelan. (And even she had a big soft spot for Avon.)

Relationships *do* end bitterly, but people surely have to bear some responsibility for the relationships they end up in. Although divorced men accuse women of being manipulative, the reality is much more likely to be that they are prepared to overlook problems in their far-from-perfect relationships because they desperately want to get married, for reasons that may be valid (love and companionship) or invalid (you're sick of being ribbed by your middle-aged, ex-Bristol university rugger bugger arsehole mates about turning up at dinner parties on your own).

With the McFarlane and Miller cases, it's extremely hard to work up much sympathy for extremely rich individuals. So you're 5 million down? Buck up and get on with enjoying your other 12 million. In the grand scheme of things, you're less out of pocket than a mere peasant who buys his girlfriend a nice pair of boots, only to get chucked a fortnight later.

And as for woman-fearers of the type found on Have Your Say, it's hard to feel anything except a 40:60 mixture of pity and contempt. These people bleat on and on and on about how tough it is being a man, preyed upon by all these evil women, but the one thing they seem incapable of doing is actually *behaving* like a man, i.e. exhibiting a shred of strength of character and a hey-just-get-on-with-things attitude.

Nope, the crap misogynists of the world prefer to remain mewling blobs of self-pity and fear. Their argument seems to be: 'Women will fuck you around and that's why I want nothing to do with them, although this is a purely academic argument because they want nothing to do with me.'

The bloke doth protest too much.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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