I have never shied away from the fact that I adore Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I re-read my favorite parts of the book quite regularly, and I've hungrily consumed its various adaptations. After all, there is no flawed heroine as charming as Elizabeth; and there is no elusive prince more dashing and admirable than Darcy.
I've loved the book since I was twelve.
And that means I've been waiting for my Mr. Darcy to show up for all of the twelve years after that.
There's just one little problem: Mr. Darcy doesn't exist.
He's a figment of maiden Austen's imagination, and he's been the object of my dreams for so long that he simply couldn't exist. There is no perfect man.
"No!" The fangirls cry. "We're not saying Mr. Darcy is perfect!"
No, we're not. But we sure act like he is, don't we?
The irony of it all is as follows: We are all as blind as Elizabeth.
We think that if we wish it hard enough, that handsome and brooding modern-day princes will appear and refuse to leave our sides. It doesn't work that way. We live our own lives. Sometimes Prince Charming shows up; sometimes he doesn't.
And sometimes, he comes as the person we least expect.
The charm of Pride and Prejudice's love story is that Mr. Darcy wasn't someone Elizabeth treasured right away. And for many of us in real life, it works the same way. I know I've had my share of Mr. Wickhams. But none of us really want to be with Wickham, do we? We want Darcy! But maybe if I had known earlier what qualities really made a Darcy, then I wouldn't have had to meet so many Wickhams (and Collinses too!).
What makes a Mr. Darcy?
It's not the height or the riches or the handsome features. Unfortunately, it's not. It's not the brooding introverted nature, even. In other words, it's nothing that the world exalts.
It's not the athleticism on horseback.
It's not the fame of the Darcy name (or the ten thousand pounds per annum that comes with it).
And it's definitely not the fact that he's related to Catherine de Bourgh.
What makes Darcy a prize includes much deeper, less visible things.
It's the kindness and generosity of a brother and landlord.
It's the faithfulness of a man with a heart unchanging.
It's the humility that changes a once-proud gentleman for the better.
It's the respect of a thinker for the woman he loves.
And those are the things I found in mine.
I married my Mr. Darcy, whose birthday is today, more than three years ago. Like Elizabeth, I didn't appreciate him at first, choosing rather to hurl rejections in his face (my baby brother was there, ask him). Like Elizabeth, I also took quite a while to warm up to who he truly is, rather than who I thought him to be. I didn't try to imitate Elizabeth intentionally, but I somehow ended up doing so.
But I'm glad my husband is as steadfast as my favorite fictional hero.
Happy birthday, Tim. You're far better of a man than I could ever have hoped to marry. Thank you for loving silly ol' me.
And guess what? As far as I'm concerned, my Mr. Darcy is just as handsome and dashing as Eliabeth's - and our humble home is as luxurious as Pemberley. He is the introvert that balances my talkative nature, the ballast to my whims and fancies; and even though he doesn't brood (it's not becoming, really), I think he's cool anyway.
I fall in love with him a little more each and every day. Who knows, maybe one day, all the love can compensate for the years I didn't appreciate him for who he was.
Ladies, don't be me. Look for the right things. Then maybe, when your Mr. Darcy comes along, you'll recognize him right away.