Toby Young Toby Young

Status Anxiety: My wife is a tough cookie

Toby Young suffers from Status Anxiety

As winter approaches, with snow forecast for next month, I’m anticipating a massive row with my wife. The problem is that Caroline refuses to switch the central heating on before the first day of winter, which falls on 22 December. It doesn’t matter if temperatures plummet to below zero in the interim. ‘Put on an extra jumper,’ is her standard response. As far as she’s concerned, anyone who turns the central heating on before winter has officially arrived is a big girl’s blouse.

I sometimes wonder if this is the legacy of having gone to Cheltenham Ladies’ College. As Evelyn Waugh pointed out, anyone who has been to a British public school has no difficulty coping with privations in later life, including prison. It’s those who were brought up in ‘the gay intimacy of the slums’ that struggle to cope with physical hardship. Listening to Caroline’s tales of life in Lower College, with its indescribable food and windswept dormitories, it’s as though she was a human guinea pig in some ghastly psychological experiment. It turned her into one tough cookie.

But the lion’s share of the blame rests with her mother. A vegetarian like Caroline, Rosemary would much prefer to eat a cold baked potato in front of Midsomer Murders than sit through the 18-course tasting menu at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. She considers any form of wastage almost sinful. Her fridge, with its different-sized Tupperware boxes piled on top of each other, looks like a Damien Hirst exhibit.

On balance, this intolerance of any form of extravagance is an excellent quality in a wife and I commend Rosemary for passing it on. When I first proposed to Caroline, I produced a diamond ring from my back pocket, but she was unimpressed. Four months later, when I popped the question again, I’d returned the sparkler to the jewellers — and this time she said she’d think about it.

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