Falling for a man you can bank on

Wednesday 21 August, 2002

ARTY, bohemian women often spend their younger years dating fellow writers, painters and creative spirits – so why do so many of them settle down with much more traditional types? Appearances can be deceptive, explains Mary Killen,

There comes a moment in the life of a bohemian young woman-about-town when she needs to settle down. The impulsive, dishevelled, attractively hopeless artist boyfriend whom her father never liked is exposed as an unreliable, penniless, commitment-phobe. The basement flat furnished with an empty fridge starts to look like a squalid hole. She begins to crave warmth, Egyptian cotton sheets and security.

At this point, the arty young woman finds herself susceptible to the sort of man she has spent her life ridiculing, even despising. He wears a suit, shaves every morning and works in an office. What’s worse, he may even be a banker.

Amanda Foreman, 34, author of the best-selling biography Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, a book she publicised by displaying her comely nude figure in Tatler magazine, admits she is amazed to find herself married to one of the breed.

I spoke to her at 7.45a.m. in New York, where her British-born husband is posted. She was luxuriating in bed with her five-month-old daughter, Helena. Her husband, Jonathan Barton, had left for work an hour before.

“I was always attracted to artists and intellectuals,” Foreman says. “My father was a writer and I always imagined I would marry another writer. When I started to go out with Reg, as I call Jonathan, I did think, and so did my friends, “I can’t possibly be going out with a banker – what on earth can we have in common?”

“I had met him at a dinner party and hated him. I thought he was just dreadful. Three months later, we were invited to spend a long weekend with the same person. I walked into the house and we both groaned. But during the weekend, that hatred turned to love.”

“There was a book published last year about the New York literary circles of the 1940s in which somebody said that a literary woman must marry a banker. It is the only way she can get enough time to write her books. But it is more the emotional space that Jonathan gives me than his working a 13-hour day that matters.”

Foreman says that the qualities the successful banker needs are tremendous self-confidence, because he works in a highly charged, cut-throat world; self-discipline; and total honesty – he’s a banker, remember, not an accountant – because business relationships don’s work without honesty and transparency.”

“All these are qualities Reg brings to the relationship and they are qualities that help to make a really happy marriage. The thing I hear from Reg over and over again is the importance of honesty.”

“As writers and artists, our motives are often mixed. We often don’t know why we do things or think things. Our thoughts are complicated and I have found it the most wonderfully refreshing and calming thing to be with someone who is just straight forward and honest. John Osborne (the playwright) used to say that hearing his wife type drove him crazy. I always fear for my friends who are writers and who marry other writers. Because he is self-confident and happy in himself, Reg never feels that people value his wife as a writer more than they value him as a banker.

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