So, you've read Pride and Prejudice (or you've seen the movie) and you're in love with Mr. Darcy: but do modern-day Mr. Darcys really exist?
While Elizabeth had to look beyond a gruff exterior to find the kindly, thoughtful, and intelligent man within Mr. Darcy, your modern-day Mr. Darcy might be right before you in many guises, as long as you stay true to yourself. For the single woman, here are some tips on seeking your modern-day Mr. Darcy, along with some advice on not making things too hard on yourself or your suitors!
1. Be careful whom you reject. Clearly, the traits given a book character by an author represent an ideal. Loving an ideal can lead to sadness and frustration, particularly when no guy ever matches up to your mental image and you're endlessly rejecting a string of interested men. Even Elizabeth had an image in her mind of the "right" man for her, and Mr. Darcy didn't fall into this category to begin with. Rather, she saw him as conceited, thoughtless, proud to a fault, and unkind. Fortunately, given her strength of character, she was able to change her original opinion when some of his true character came to light and she opened her heart and mind more to his real self. Be careful that you're not chasing phantom ideals but that your high expectations are grounded in reality.
2. Look for attainable, desirable traits. If you're going to find a modern-day Mr. Darcy, Austen's Darcy reveals a few that are worth considering:
- Evident intelligence and wit. Elizabeth is able to participate in witty conversations with Mr. Darcy precisely because both of them are intelligent and thoughtful. Mr Darcy tends to think things through rather than jumping to conclusions.
- Ability to support himself. In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy is independently wealthy. Clearly, most men you meet will not be so wildly independently wealthy as Mr. Darcy was portrayed. However, it is important that your modern-day Mr. Darcy finds purpose in working and values what his money can help him to achieve.
- Is unafraid to speak his own mind. Mr. Darcy is known for being straightforward.
- Is loyal. Mr. Darcy is very loyal to his family and those he considers as friends.
- Is caring about those close to him, both friends and family. For example, Mr. Darcy is more than ready to stand in and bail out family when Lydia runs off with Mr. Wickham, and he is always protective of his sister Georgiana.
- Is a good listener. Mr. Darcy is shown to be able to listen to Elizabeth. He also proves himself to be "teachable" after she rebukes him for wrongful behavior she believes he has committed. Leah Orcutt suggests that men who are "teachable" are on the way to being of "high character".
- Is able to express his opinion and feelings.
- Has a good reputation.
3. Stay level-headed and considerate. It's easy to label your date negatively when you feel he has been unsympathetic toward you or perhaps doesn't pay you much regard. It's natural for the ego to seek to feel better instead of viewing this as an opportunity to try and find another way to connect. Stay open-minded about the men you date – Elizabeth kept her wits about her and continued her life as always despite her shock at what she thought was Mr. Darcy's unkind deeds. When she did voice her disgust at him, she made it clear what mattered to her without turning it into a nasty fight. Rely on your wit and tenacity to win around a man who might initially seem disdainful or distant, even if it's just for the sake of having good professional or social relations with him; after all, taking the upper hand is always the more ladylike approach.
4. Date gentlemen only. There are plenty of gentlemen out there in the world; you just have to look for them. Gentlemen show up in surprising places, so you might have to take the time to get to know a guy to uncover his gentlemanly qualities. In other words, don't judge a book by its cover. At the same time, you can't assume that on the inside, all guys are gentlemen underneath it all; some guys are just jerks, and you'll just have to avoid them or gently move on from them on your way to finding your modern day Mr. Darcy.
- If your date opens doors for you (chivalrous), truly listens (thoughtful), is concerned about your needs (kind), and appears in most respects to be a thoroughly modern gentleman, he is very much a modern-day Mr. Darcy.
5. Learn how to spot the difference between confidence and arrogance. Mr. Darcy is proud, but he surprises Elizabeth when she discovers that he's not the conceited man she thought he was. When finding your modern-day Mr. Darcy, always look beyond the bravado and quips aimed at avoiding embarrassment at having to show he likes you in public. What may seem like arrogance could be shyness, discomfort in your presence, or even a mangled attempt at being polite. Try not to dismiss behavior or responses that seem initially aloof, stand-offish, and arrogant. Sum up the context, the company you're in at the time, and his other mannerisms before deeming him a write-off for being too conceited. Look for consistency of behavior; if he's truly arrogant, he'll continue making facetious and condescending comments, he'll care little for others, displaying his superiority over others. On the other hand, if he's self-assured, you'll see that he does care for others, and that he doesn't place himself above others; rather, he'll be confident and feel on an equal footing with anyone he knows and meets.
- Even if you do feel you're dealing with Mr. Arrogant, keep your wits about you and respond politely but make it clear that there are limits to your tolerance of condescension and contempt.
6. Be careful whom you fall for. On the one hand, it's comforting and dreamy to yearn after a man like Mr. Darcy-like. On the other hand, you could risk seeking unobtainable men whose character is tortured, repressed, moody, and ultimately unattainable if the men you're dating show all the signs of Mr. Darcy's negative character and none of his redeeming features. In this case, you may be going after men who will never connect fully with you and who are commitment-phobic, causing continuous hurt. If this is a pattern you find you're not able to break, talk it over with your therapist to try and uncover the underlying cause.
- Bear in mind that Jane Austen didn't write "The Marriage of Mr and Mrs Darcy". A lifelong commitment takes more than smoldering good looks, a miraculous emotional opening up to you of a previously tough and difficult character, and outward appearances. If you marry someone who has the potential to be deeply moody and finds it difficult to express his emotions, you risk a difficult marriage. Be sure that your modern-day Mr Darcy is all you want in a lifetime mate and more before committing till death do you part.
- Date for a good period of time to find out whether your modern-day Mr Darcy has any control-freak tendencies or a need to dominate.
7. Don't chase after men. Elizabeth didn't do anything to cause Mr Darcy to fall for her, other than to be her usual lovable self. She didn't feel the need to throw herself at anybody. She didn't turn herself into something that betrayed her true nature, and she certainly wasn't swayed by the vacuous and often nasty social climbing ways of many of the characters. Elizabeth remained true to herself, and presented that reality to all, including to Mr. Darcy.
- Ask yourself whether it's pride or prejudice driving you to chase a man who isn't right for you. You don't have to prove anything to someone who spurns you; leave it be.
8. Value yourself. Elizabeth was a character ahead of her time, clearly valued for her intelligence and self-respect. Yet, she was also created in a time when a woman needed to ally herself well with a man for the sake of economic well-being. Seeking a modern-day Mr. Darcy involves finding the right partner to share your life with, and part of this must include him respecting your choices and independence. Don't change your beliefs, your values, or your opinions for the sake of someone else; be open-minded when discussing topics and listening to new views and ideas but don't be easily enslaved by Cupid's arrow. Maintain your independent thought and reassure your modern-day Mr. Darcy that you can, and always will, think for yourself.
- Be sure that you're evenly matched. Elizabeth reveled in the intellectual stimulation provided by her encounters with Mr. Darcy and the reader is left with the impression that their marriage would be one of many evenings spent in front of the fire philosophizing together.
- Mr. Darcy was impressed by Elizabeth's loyalty, affection, and dedication to her family and friends. A modern-day Mr. Darcy does not fear your love and attachment to your family and friends. Indeed, he finds that endearing.
9. Check his romance credentials. Find a man who thinks of the little things, who holds your hand just because you like it, who starts reading Twilight or Pride and Prejudice because it's your favorite book. Find a man who wants to understand you better by learning more about what moves you.
- It goes without saying that the modern-day Mr. Darcy, so entertainingly resurrected in Bridget Jones' Diary in the form of Mark Darcy, would always echo the sentiment of Mark Darcy when he said: "I like you very much. Just as you are"
10. Work at your relationship. Unlike the end of a novel, real life relationships continue and require constant work and injection of romance. But if you're after a modern-day Mr. Darcy, that shouldn't be too hard!