29 May 20XX +1
My Dear Lucilius:
Young Xerxes came by as he is prone to do on occasion. He had a question for me: What, he wondered, did I think if he asked Statiera to marry him?
Inside I chuckled a bit, my friend. When was the last time anyone asked us for dating advice, let alone for marital advice?
I caveated my answer by first explaining that on the whole, I did not give relational advice. My track record on the entire matter is pretty poor – including, as I recall, advice to you once upon a time (which, thankfully, you never held against me). That said of course, I asked him what would be considered the usual question: Why was he asking her? Where would they live? What did he have to offer her? Had they even talked about it?
I have always been rather unclear on where Young Xerxes lives: he has never really been willing to say and I, out of courtesy, have never really asked. He always appears clean and neat so it must be a real place, but where he has not mentioned. I have no idea of if he has a family or not or what he did before this current situation. He is certainly one of the busiest people here in town and seems to somehow know everyone and has the ability to find things that no-one else can seem to (you will, of course, remember the coffee).
As to asking her, he simply said that he – they – were in love. Yes, they had talked about marriage before and certainly more now, given the changes in the world. She had suggested that they could live with her mother Pompeia Paulina at least for the short term until things became clearer.
What did he have to offer? An honest heart, a pair of hard working hands, and love.
It is a hard thing to give any sort of meaningful advice in moments like these, not just because it is a highly personal and emotional ask, but often because the individual has already made up their mind. They are not really there to solicit opinions but to have their opinions validated. Add to that the fact that we live in an upside down world where the future remains highly fluid at best and downright unknown at worst, and any advice I would give is likely to be useless almost as soon as it would be given.
I have no reason not to advise young people to get married and especially these two young people whom I known for a period, so I gave the sorts of advice that all older people that have been married give to those that have not: it is not like you think it is, be faithful, talk often, celebrate life, always work to be in love. Certainly not the wisdom of the ages.
He seemed grateful – or relieved – at my response, thanking me profusely and promising he would return the favor. How one would return the favor of advice on a personal matter that is not novel, I have no idea, but the young like to believe they can do such things, and who am I to discourage them?
I would end the letter here, but a second thing happened later in the day – Pompeia Paulina and Statiera dropped by, bearing bread. It was “just a visit” as they said – but during the conversation, it somehow turned to the fact that Young Xerxes had asked Statiera for a formal dinner at their house. Would I being willing to host Pompeia Paulina for dinner at that same time?
Of all the things I thought might happen as an outcome of the world and its circumstances, being a bit player in a romance was not one of them.
Your Obedient Servant, Seneca