I am wondering what "until she passes the five-year mark, Dad’s record to date" means in the following sentences:

Séverine, Dad’s latest wife – French, not far off my age, one part décolletage and three parts liquid eyeliner – slinks in behind him, tossing her long mane of red hair.

‘Well,’ I say to Dad, ignoring Séverine (I can’t be bothered to spend much time on her until she passes the five-year mark, Dad’s record to date). ‘You’ve made it . . . at last.’ I’d known they were scheduled to arrive about now – I had to ask Aoife to arrange the boat. But even then I’d wondered if there might be some excuse, some delay that meant they couldn’t make tonight. It wouldn’t be the first time.

  • Lucy Foley, The Guest List, Chapter 14

This is a thriller novel published in 2020 in the United Kingdom. One hundred and fifty guests would be gathering at some remote and deserted fictional islet called Inis an Amplóra off the coast of the island of Ireland to celebrate the wedding between Jules (a self-made woman running an online magazine called The Download) and Will (a celebrity appearing in a TV show program called Survive the Night). The day before the actual wedding day, to attend the rehearsal dinner, Jules' dad comes to the island. But Jules doesn't care about Séverine, accompanying her dad as his newest wife, unless "she passes the five-year mark, Dad’s record to date."

In this part, I am finding it difficult to understand (1) what "mark" means, and (2) what "dad's record to date" means.

(1) Is it perhaps, the "mark" here is the highest standard ever for her dad in dating, meaning he dated women only up to 5 years and no more until this time? But then, as far as I can guess, Jules seems to be saying that the "mark" here is the least standard that would make her regard Séverine as the proper Dad's partner, so I am confused. Is the "mark" perhaps like a score, as in "I got a good mark in English"? Or perhaps like a criterion, as in "Unemployment has passed the four million mark"?

(2) And I also wonder whether "record to date" means that "Dad has a record in dating," or that "Dad has a record up until this time."


I'll break the passage up into two parts to address your two questions.

I can’t be bothered to spend much time on her until she passes the five-year mark,

The narrator is using mark here to mean

Noun. a figure registering a point or level reached or achieved

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mark (sense 3h)

So the “five-year mark” is a goal of having been her father's wife for five full years. Note, Séverine almost certainly doesn't know about this goal; there is no general notion of a five-year mark as anything special. Which brings us to

…, Dad’s record to date

This is an appositive, so the phrase is describing the previous phrase (“five-year mark”). Here the narrator is using record to mean

Noun. an attested top performance

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/record (sense 3b)

and to date to mean

up to the present moment


The narrator is explaining why she chose five years in particular: because that is the length of her father's current longest marriage. But she is also commenting on her father's relatively short marriages. One would usually use the word “record” to refer to something extraordinary or impressive — e.g., the Guinness Book of World Records — but of course five years of marriage isn't particularly extraordinary.

Putting the the parts back together, the narrator is saying she can't be bothered with Séverine until she and her father have been married at least as long as his previous longest marriage. But I get the sense that this is really just sarcasm; the narrator is giving a hurtful and dismissive reason to ignore someone she doesn't really like, while also remarking on her father's serial monogamy.


"Dad's latest wife" implies that he has been married several times. Apparently five years is his record (the longest time any of his marriages has lasted). To date = until now. Jules can't be bothered to get to know her new stepmother until this one has 'passed the five-year mark'.

  • 17
    Just to elaborate on how this answers your question 1): "Mark", in this context, is a very common metaphor referring to a measurement mark on a yardstick or on a depth gauge or something like that. In any phrase like that: "I'm celebrating hitting my 1-year mark at college", "the soap opera has now hit its 10-year mark" etc, or indeed your unemployment example, there is no implication of quality, good or bad: it purely means "you've been going for X amount of time"; in the metaphor, you've covered a certain distance, or the water has reached a certain depth. – tea-and-cake Apr 17 at 18:02

Yes "mark" is used in the sense of a record. It comes from things like "high-water mark" -- an actual mark on something showing an important distance. Using it with time is a common idiom. The word "mark" in "5 year mark" tells us 5 years is special. Then the author tells us why. A similar use: "He's past the 3-month mark in teen explorers, which is when most people drop out".

"To date" is the same as "so far". It means it's on-going. She thinks he's not done getting married and divorced. If someone said "I've been struck by lightning 3 times", we could say "to date", meaning "so far -- you still stand next to trees in the rain, you dummy". If we say "Dad's been married 3 times, to date" we're implying he's going to get married a 4th time.

  • 5
    I think it actually comes from the marks on a ruler or other measuring device. – Barmar Apr 18 at 0:03
  • 3
    @Barmar But I'm boxed into the high-water thing now,and that's sort of like a standing ruler. – Owen Reynolds Apr 18 at 2:19
  • 1
    To be very clear, "If we say "Dad's been married 3 times, to date" we're implying he's going to get married a 4th time.", doesn't really mean that he will get married a 4th time, but that there is a reasonably high expectation that it will happen. Therefore, the speaker in the quoted section of the book won't get too excited about this new wife until she and Dad have been married at least 5 years. – FreeMan Apr 19 at 17:21

To pass a mark is to exceed or go beyond a specified distance or time (usually a round number that is easily expressed). The metaphor for distance is of a literal marker on a trail or path (or of height in a container), indicating a distance from the starting point. (It becomes a metaphor for time as well, as most distance metaphors do). So "until she passes the five-year mark" means "until she exceeds a duration of five years"; that is, until her relationship with Dad has lasted at least five years.

To date is an expression meaning "so far" or "until now" - "date" meaning "the current date", and "to" in the sense up "up to". "Dad's record" refers back to the five-year duration; it is the longest that any of his relationships has lasted so far.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.