Now this is not a cynical attack on Shilpa. I wish her enough happiness and perfume deals to last a lifetime. I am, however, intrigued by her choice – a millionaire. Why do wealthy women choose wealthy men?
She is rolling in it, admittedly not really from her films but from the Shetty Empire, and probably hand-outs from well-meaning British people with ‘We aren’t racist really, we love lamb bhuna’ scrawled on post-its. She’s released a yoga DVD, the perfume and she’s invested in restaurants and health spas. She is rich and she has chosen somebody rich – as she says, “we are used to a certain lifestyle and it’s practical to choose a spouse who can at least match those luxuries, if not more.” Ah, la vrai romance.
This is about money – undeniably – but it’s ultimately about power. The classic struggle between a woman and a man who earns less than her. The ubiquitous need for a true match in a relationship, for some it’s race or religion and for some it’s power. For Naomi Campbell it’s billionaire Vladislav Doronin, for Salma Hayek it’s Francois-Henri Pinault, another billionaire. It goes without saying that many high-profile Hollywood stars choose to date their counterparts, rather than mere mortals who can’t afford a gold-plated elephant the size of a two-storey house.
But this isn’t just about the galaxy of stars, it affects us all. The woman with the well-paid job might look twice at a hot window-cleaner, she’ll harbour Diet-Coke appropriate fantasties about his low-slung jeans but will she make a go of it with him, will she unfalteringly introduce him to her soiree of well-connected acquaintances? It’s possible, yes, but it’s not common. The woman wants her relationship mirror to reflect power back to her – mutual, balanced and shared.
Of course this is unquestionable seen in Asian communities, where the first question usually asked of any prospective suitor is ‘How much does he earn?’ (Often followed by ‘What do his parents do?’ which is a polite way of asking how much they earn as well). The idea of marrying beneath you is shunned. This is the very same principle behind the outdated caste system and this is very much alive.
So what’s wrong with that, you ask. It’s important to feel like equals. Yes, that’s true but this need for balance has worrying implications. Where does it stop? Does race need to be the same in a relationship, so that culturally the couple is on the same level? Do you need to have the same kinds of friends, for your two selves to harmoniously engage with each other? Do religion and beliefs need to fit identically?
What has happened to the notion of two colliding personas, from different backgrounds, different salaries, different opinions on whether their child should eat beef , but who ultimately unite in that perfectly imperfect way?
Yes, you can’t help who you fall in love with and maybe it’s just a happy coincidence that the love of your life and your soulmate also happens to be the CEO of Merrill Lynch – fantastic for you. But let’s not let the obsession with balance outweigh the amazing attributes of those who being missed by that selective radar.