Friday, May 26, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Six - Part Four

Welcome to the final post in a long, yet mindless chapter on waiting.

Ms. Mally decides to list some common fears that unmarried women have.
"There are two factors that will govern our decision-making: fear and faith. Young ladies commonly struggle with many fears, especially in the area of marriage:
  • What if I never get married?
  • What if I have to wait until I'm thirty?
  • How will I know God's will?
  • What if everyone thinks I'm unpopular because I don't have a boyfriend?
  • How will I know when I meet the right person?
  • How will I know it is the right time?
  • What if I don't like the person God picks for me?"
(pg. 114)
Let's look at each worry in order:

  • I think many people - male and female - worry about if they will ever get married.  Truthfully, the odds are in favor of getting married.  Roughly 85% of people in the USA will have been married at least once by age 40.  
    • A more important question is if marriage is the only way to have a fulfilling and successful life.  I think a marriage can be part of a successful life, but I certainly had many positive experiences that made a large difference in the world before I got married.  
  • I married for the first time at age 29 - and that's hardly an unusual experience for Americans.  What did I do between when I finished high school and got married?  First, I attended college while working part-time during the school year and full-time as a cashier at a grocery store.  I earned a science degree with a teaching certificate.  I also interned at a research department for a global company. was a camp counselor for high-risk kids and preteens, and tutored adults for the GED.  After I got my teacher's license, I taught in urban alternative education high schools for 5 years before getting married.
    • Using your late teens and early twenties to get advanced training for a career is a good investment even if your long-term goal is to stay at home with a large family.  Vocational or academic training at the postsecondary level hones memory, organizational and people skills.  All of those "soft" skills will be useful as a SAHM.  As importantly, you can contribute positively to your family and community more effectively when you have marketable skills.  
    • I know personally that I certainly helped more people in a Christ-like manner when I had the training to teach science and the life-experience to help students navigate the social services they needed for themselves and their families than I ever could have if I stayed at home without education until I married.
  • I'm sorry, but I don't have a magic trick to figure out if you're following God's will.  I will say that I don't think the process is terribly complicated and should never require denying your gifts and talents because "God wants women to be wives and mothers only."
  • If your motivation for dating includes "I want to be popular", you need to get your life priorities in order.  It's not ok to use another person so that you can be more popular.
  • There's not so much a "right time" to date or marry as a "wrong time".  Don't start dating to avoid a major problem in your life.  Don't make decisions about marrying someone in times of stress.  Those are "wrong" times.
  • For me, knowing that I wanted to spend my life with my husband was a process.  I needed time to get to know my husband well enough to realize how much I liked the idea of spending our lives together.  There wasn't a magic moment when I fell in love with him; instead, I grew to love him more and more as we spent more time together as a couple.
That last worry is the best example of how parent-led courtship is a cover for arranged marriages.  That worry doesn't exist in dating; couples that dislike each other break up.  I worried that I might not find someone to marry - but I never worried that my father would marry me off to someone I didn't like in the name of God.  That's what's happening in CP/QF families that court and the best proof is that there hasn't been a massive uproar about this book.

The last section in the chapter I'll discuss involves what I imagine is a common complaint among CP/QF SAHDs:
" I have occasionally heard young ladies say something like this: 'I wish I was a guy. They get to make all the decisions. They can just go and choose a wife. I mean, here is one of the biggest decisions in my life, and I can't do a thing about it! I just have to wait for someone to come to me!' "(pg. 117)
  • Kudos for removing the cult blinders a bit.  Young women are screwed in this system.  Not only are women denigrated for having the audacity to attempt to attract men, the overreliance on fathers and brothers prevents women from getting a realistic understanding of the number and quality of men interested in them romantically.  Dating can be rough, but both genders in that system tend to have a solid understanding of what type of person they can attract.  
    • The system can make women think that they have more suitors available than really exist.  Nearly every big name QF family has at least one unmarried daughter over the age of 24.  For some of those women, they clearly expected to have mobs of young men waiting to sweep them off their feet - except the mob never appeared.
    • The system can also cause women to underestimate the number of men interested in them.  Sarah Mally has recounted when a few guys reached out because they were interested in courting her.  How many guys reached out to her dad first and got rejected?  Zero?  Two?  Ten?  The total number would be important for Sarah to know to judge if waiting at home for a suitable husband to appear is working or not.
Sarah's response is....I'll let your read it first:
"But think about that statement. Would you really want to make the decision yourself? Imagine the mess we could so easily get ourselves into. Aren't you grateful that we can let God handle it? Yes, we can pray, we can prepare, we can get to know people, we can be aware of those whom the Lord brings into our lives, we can discern Godly young men, but we can't "cause" anything to happen. In fact, if we date, we have no guarantee that we will ever get married. However, I think of it this way: by putting ourselves in a situation where we are powerless and unable to bring it about ourselves, we have no other good option but to trust in the Lord." (pg. 118)
  • That's not actually rebutting the idea that women should be actively involved in finding a spouse.  
    • Yes, most women would want to be actively involved in dating - including the person who complained to Sarah.  
    • Yes, women can get into a mess - but so could all of the men who are looking for those silent SAHDs so that's not a valid reason for excluding women from actively seeking a spouse.
    • Neither men nor women are guaranteed a spouse through dating or courtship so I have no idea why she added that excuse to this argument.  
    • If the only way you can trust in the Lord is by being absolutely powerless, you don't have much trust in the Lord.  That's the same lack of logic that drives me insane about people who compulsively try to prove that the Bible is true; if you believe in facts, you don't have faith.
The last few pages of the chapter are a story taken with permission from another book.  Kids are supposed to wait for their dad to set off fireworks.  They decide to set a few off and manage to blow up the entire bag of fireworks.  The kids are sad when their dad explains that they can't set off any more fireworks because they all exploded.    Three pages condensed into three sentence with no loss of detail sadly enough.....

Personally, my parents would never have left us unattended with fireworks and a lighter or match.  That's some shitty bad parenting if your kids are too young or too impulsive to be safe.  Also, we would have understood that if the entire bag goes up in smoke that there are no fireworks left.

The next chapter lets us understand how helpful parents can be.  Goody-goody gumdrops! This should be a hoot.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Six - Part Three

The exhortation section of Chapter Six drags badly.

In the hands of a different author, I might think the author was demonstrating the painful strain that waiting puts on humans by making the reader slog through long anecdotes that lack any internal story arc.

From this author, though, I think the issue is an absolute lack of life experience.  The stories remind me of talking to my cousins when they were toddlers.  One cousin gave me a breathless description of how the grocery store was out of peas when they went shopping and so "mama had to buy green beans!!!".   Her twin sister detailed the horror of having a bunny appear out of nowhere in the yard when they were playing and running terrified into the house.

Funny stories from the mouths of two-year-olds.  Agonizingly dull when told by a 26-year-old author of a self-help book.

This section starts with Sarah talking with a 12-year-old after a talk delivered by Sarah and her dad.  The twelve-year-old has a boyfriend which Sarah is silently aghast at.  Sarah attempts to use leading questions to get the kid to realize that dating a non-Christian at least six years before the girl sees herself getting married is foolish.  The tween seems wonderfully immune to Sarah's line of questioning and mentions that it's hard to wait.  Sarah mentally devalues that statement by saying that the tween hasn't had to wait as long as some other people - but she walks that idea back in the next sentence.

I don't think it's a great idea for a 12 year old to be in a serious dating relationship, but Sarah never bothers to ask what "dating" or "having a boyfriend" means to the tween.  Asking that question, however, requires understanding that "dating" is not a single monolithic concept practiced identically by all age groups.  Ms. Mally would also have to be willing to learn from a less "emo-pure" person - an idea that is clearly beyond her worldview as demonstrated by this book...repeatedly.

The next page can be simplified to "God wants us to wait because God's Plan for us requires waiting."  Ms. Mally misses the circular nature of the argument.  She also lists a few Biblical characters who are required to wait without discussing the nature of their waiting.

After that warm-up, Sarah launches into an example of waiting in her life.
"How much longer, dad?" I complained.
I was about 13 years old, and Dad and I were late for a birthday party. I've been looking forward to it all day, but now that it was time to go, Dad wasn't ready. At first I tried to wait patiently, but after waiting about a half an hour, I was getting upset. After all, several families with girls my age we're going to be at this party, and I was hoping to have as much time as possible to be with my friends! (pgs. 111-112)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter 6 - Part Two

The first post on the allegorical section of Chapter 6 was me ranting about how insane Ms. Mally's insistence that the Princess learned how to weave, bake, paint, dye and goldsmith in less than two years while still being a female member of the royal family who was well into her marriageable years.

The rest of the allegory can be summarized as watching the Princess fall back on her traditional hobby - daydreaming in the castle until interrupted by the Alligator.

Apparently the Princess handled the year she was 18 pretty well - she mastered a heap of really complicated trades and taught those trades to the young women of the village.   *thumps head softly against desk*

In the year she turned 19, she started daydreaming about falling in love someday.  This doesn't seem to be as big of a character flaw in my opinion as it is to Ms. Mally.  I know that I daydreamed about meeting my future husband and falling in love; those daydreams helped me decide to actively focus on dating instead of focusing the majority of my energy on my career.

The first quote is a good synopsis of the rest of the chapter.

"But meanwhile she would often feel hurt when she heard of knights who came for other maidens, and she would find anxiety and even sorrow in her heart as she thought of her own predicament and the dreams that might never be fulfilled. The seed of Discontent grew. The more she was looked out the window, the more she felt sorry for herself. And the more she felt sorry for herself, the more she looked out the window." (pg 105)
  • I don't remember feeling hurt when other couples got married before I did.  My feelings were longing to begin a family of my own.  I did feel anxious sometimes that I may never find the right person but it wasn't an overwhelming feeling.
  • Ms. Mally and I do agree on one thing - the Princess' habit of wallowing in her angst to the point of removing her self from her family, her friends and her duties is a terrible idea.  
Some period of time later, the Princess ends up by the moat.  The Alligator notices that she's looking sad and asks what is wrong.  The Princess begins by denying his observation angrily and then admits she's down.  The Alligator recommends the Princess actively try to attract men which leads to the following dialogue:
""My father says I must guard my heart," the princess said.

"Guard my heart for whom? You actually believe that a prince will come for you? Thou hast too much faith in your father and his fairy tale dreams. You are sheltered here in this castle. Silly princess, even if a prince were looking for you, he could not find you!"

"But what if he does come? My father says that my heart is the greatest gift I can give him."

"Hast thou not noticed, dear princess, how many of the friends mingle freely in the courtyard, at the balls, and at the fairs? They are happy. Do you not see how much fun they are having? They are enjoying life. Such friendships are harmless - in fact they are healthy."

"Healthy?"

"Why, of course. Everyone knows that such relationships are necessary for one's education. How will you be able to know that Prince Charming is the one for you if you have never known anyone else? How will you get experience in socializing with knights? Think of all the fun that you are missing that you have every right to be enjoying!"

"Fun?" she asked." I am not sure that I would classify it as such. After all, Maiden Flirtelia is heartbroken because the knight who said he was in love with her married Miss Peacock instead. Several of my other friends from the village are married... but not happy." (pg. 105,107)
  • I'm struck by how weak the Princess' arguments for following Emo-Pure are.  
    • Two of her responses are "Dad said I should do it this way" with no reasoning on why this was the best choice.  That's the sticky bit with Emo-Pure after all; it's a new enough concept that Sarah Mally's parents didn't adhere to it before they married.  Neither did the senior Botkins or the Duggars for that matter.   When their kids write books, the kids have to walk along a knife-edged cliff.  If the kids say that their parents' marriage was irreparably harmed because the parents didn't practice Emo-Pure, the parents' ministry/income will take a hit.  If the kids admit that their parents are doing fine after dating, the kids undermine the main theme of their book.  
  • The third response of the Princess' begins with absurdity and ends in dangerous territory.
    • Enjoying dating and being sad when a relationship ends are not mutually exclusive.  Her friends are having fun at balls, fairs and running around in the courtyard; they are also sad when a relationship ends.
    • There is a world of difference between being unhappily married and being unhappy while being married.  
      • Marriage encompasses all of the emotional states of the spouses.  At the risk of being overly obvious, I was miserable when I found out I was critically ill and was going to have to deliver my son at 26 weeks gestation.  At the same time, I was grateful that I had the unwavering support of my husband.  I was unhappy while being in a happy marriage.
        • Ms. Mally's implication that happy marriages lead to perpetually happy moods for the participants sets her readers up for massive disappointment when they marry.
      • On the flip side, some marriages do not serve the spouses well.  Spouses can bring out the worst tendencies in each other.  One spouse can be abusive.  These marriages need either intensive work with professional help to change unhealthy patterns or should be ended.
  •  In real life, the Princess wouldn't need to worry about a Prince finding her.  She's a member of the royal family and apparently pretty to boot.  Members of the Court would be able to find a diplomatically beneficial marriage for her.  
  • For CP stay-at-home daughters (SAHD), being found by an eligible man is a real concern!  There are a limited number of unmarried men who have never been divorced, can support a potentially massive family, are theologically aligned with the SAHD's parents, and is interested in the young woman.  Making sure that the daughter is known to exist by every man who fits the criteria should be very high on the priority list of her parents.  The Princess' response of "Nah, I'm pretty sure he'll show up someday" is a non sequitur and a stunning indictment of the lack of practice SAHD have in defending their belief systems.
  • The most depressing bit for me is the fact that the Princess is right that "her heart" - whatever that means - is the most valuable thing she has to give to her husband.  
    • I can't imagine a Crown Princess' marriage prospects being treated so cavalierly so I'm going to assume she doesn't have a kingdom to pass on to her spouse or children.
    • She lacks the ambition and cunning sense of strategy that many royal women who lost kingdoms due to their gender used to determine the best marriage and how to influence  the new court to place their grandchildren back on the throne they lost.
    • The Princess' education seems to be non-existent outside of riding a horse and some manual household skills that would be of no use to a member of the royal family.
    • The Princess hasn't had a child yet and comes from a family that has never mentioned any other surviving kids.  That would count against her in many courts especially if she lacked a massive dowry.  After all, the first duty of female royalty was to produce heirs.
The Alligator tells her to do as she pleases but be aware that she will end up missing out on her dreams if she spends her life cloistered in the castle.  The Princess retorts with a fancier version of "Better to be single person wishing they were married than a married person wishing they were single!" and flounces off.
  • That aphorism is a true one, but not one that applies to the Princess.  Her guiding principle is "Better to lose every hope in my heart than lift one finger to make my dreams come true!"  That, however, isn't nearly as pithy a statement to storm away on....
This leads to an epic fit of moping by the Princess:
"She was tired of listening to his senseless words. Hoping to find a few minutes alone, she walked through the parlor, down the beautifully carved stone hall, and up the marble staircase to the bedroom. Closing the door behind her, she threw herself down on the bed and decided she would not even try to hold back the tears already beginning to roll down her cheeks. Through her large western window, the evening sun rays were shining brightly into her room, illuminating the soft white rug and warming the feather quilt on which she was laying. But she was not enjoying the sunlight or taking any pleasure in the beauty of her royal quarters." (pg. 107)
  • I've never heard the term "parlor" used in quasi-medieval literature before.  
  • The "soft white rug" sounds like a cleaning nightmare to me - but it was probably a nice spot for her lady-in-waiting to sleep.  You know - one of the massive retinue that the Princess had as a crown Princess that is strangely absent from this book.
  • This paragraph brings another first for me.  Sarah Mally is denigrating her heroine for excessive negative emotion demonstrated by the Princess' failure to enjoy the creature comforts of life.   By the same token, once your house has appeared in "House Beautiful" no one in your family is ever allowed to have negative emotions.
Up next: Ms. Mally's lessons in waiting patiently....

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Six - Part One

This chapter is nominally about what young women should do when God wants them to be single for a time in their lives.   Practically, the chapter is very, very vague; that's rather sad since Sarah Mally had started a ministry for tweens and teens called "Bright Lights" that's still extant today.  Some actual details about how she started "Bright Lights" would have made the chapter interesting and useful.

Instead, we get some more anachronisms.....

For anyone who remembers the beginning of the book, the reason the Princess is going out among the People is so that she can be of use to them.  This was the idea of the King since the Princess will be ruling them - or another suitable Kingdom - next to her future husband.  (Actually, I added the part after "since".  The book never spells out what the endgame of succession in the Kingdom is.)  This plan started when the Princess was 16.  At the beginning of this chapter, the Princess is now 18 - and has "helped" her People by picking up the vegetables of one old woman.  The narrator tells us that the King and Princess have another heart-to-heart talk and the Princess decides to start serving her people in a more active fashion.

  • There is never any mention of the fact that the King's plan has been a total failure at this point.  The graduating seniors at the school I taught at were required to put in more volunteer hours in a single trimester than the Princess has pulled off in two years.  
After that rousing start, we learn what the Princess is up to now:
Much was being accomplished during the time of her life. The princess often represented the royal family on important occasions, and she spent many days caring for orphaned children in the nearby villages - even beginning the courtyard club for them. Sometimes she would hosts tea parties, teaching godliness to village girls. God was also teaching her much during these years and filling her with understanding and ability in all manner of workmanship. She was gaining skill in many kinds of fabric work, weaving and tapestry, candle and soap making, as well as fine artistry with dyes, paints, and gold. She did not neglect her writing, archery, or equestrianship, and she also made it a goal to learn in the useful talents of floral decorating & baking. (pg. 103-104)
  • I don't really want to know how the Princess was representing the Royal Family.  Her skill set is so meager at this point that if she has to do anything harder than looking pretty in a dress and smile someone will get hurt.
  • Sarah Mally's insular life - and lack of critical thinking skills - shine out in the half-sentence on orphans.  
    • If there are enough orphans in the surrounding villages that the Princess is being co-opted into caring for them, this means a large percentage of the working age population is dead.   The Princess' Kingdom is in the earliest stages of a demographic collapse like Europe during the Black Death or sections of Africa due to AIDS.   Disease is here; famine, war and invasion are fast approaching.
    • The response of the Royal Family is to send their least competent member out to create a "courtyard club" for orphans.  That's..... wow. Future historians will be using that as an example of leadership failure for generations to come.
  • The whole bit about tea parties and teaching godliness is a wonderful example of how Christianity often conflates following Jesus' teaching with demonstrating middle-class culture and activities.  Bluntly, the Gospel never mentions tea parties - or the concurrent obsession on manners, image and fashion.
  • The section on "skills" makes my head hurt.
    • There are lots of types of fabric work - but this book manages to miss all of them except one.
      • Weaving is a type of fabric work - but "tapestry" is a noun, not a verb.  Weaving is the process used to make a tapestry.  Learning to weave well enough to make a tapestry was done by artisans that could be guild members.  In other words, the dilettante Princess isn't going to be whipping off finished tapestries in two years - even if she put all of her time and effort into learning the trade.  
        • Also, weaving is a TRADE - there is no way a Princess would be learning weaving.  
        • There is a much less anachronistic option: embroidery.  Queens, princesses, ladies-in-waiting and other court members often embroidered all the freaking time.  Katherine of Aragon brought a specific type of embroidery from Spain to England at the time of her marriage and it created a fad of blackwork for a few years.
      • Most importantly - weaving could be used to help people if she was weaving cloth to be distributed for free.  A tapestry, though, is the definition of a decorative object.  If the Princess wasn't a Protestant from the frill-free Calvinist persuasion, I guess she could weave a tapestry for a church - but I don't see Ms. Mally taking kindly to making her protagonist a Catholic.....
    • There is no damn way the Princess learned either candle-making or soap making.  Back during these times, there were no cute scented melt-and-pour candle or soap kits at the local arts and craft store for her to use.  
      • Candle-making was a guild craft - a full-time job for some of her People.  Candle-making in N. Europe was a rather gross proposition since most candles were made of rendered fat.  That means the first steps the Princess would have learned involved boiling animal fat until the collagen, water and other non-lipid parts floated to the top.  It's not the glamorous and feminine occupation that Ms. Mally dreams of.
      • Soap-making was worse.  Making soap requires taking animal fats and adding lye to make the fats transform into soap.  Lye is very caustic, the animal fats are kept liquid by heating, and there is a distinctive smell - or stench depending on your personal tastes - during the whole process.  In this case, not only is the Princess getting filthy from tending a fire, processing left-over animal fats and managing the ashes the lye was taken from, she's sweating like a stuck pig as she stirs the cauldron to keep the reaction going smoothly throughout the liquid.  If she stops or misses an area, she'll get a mass of congealed fat with pockets of lye that will burn the fabric or surface she's cleaning with the soap.  Plus, she needs to know exactly when to pour out the soap into molds or trenchers because if she waits too long it will seize in the cauldron into one giant mass of hardened soap.
        • Also - soap gets everywhere during this process.  I've made soap from tallow and olive oil before at home and no matter how careful I am a greasy half-saponified material ends up all over the place.
    • Oh, Lord.  The Princess became a master dyer?  I call bullshit on that one. Well, to be more accurate, I call human piss on that one.  Old urine was the best form of ammonia available for dyeing purposes.  Reading the recipes from the Innsbruck Manuscript (1330) published on that same linked website can be simplified down to a few easy steps - that are no more sweetly feminine than making candles and soap.
      • Obtain a natural pigment source.
      • Grind it into oblivion if possible or boil until soft, then grind.
      • Boil the prepared pigment in a strong base (lime water), a weaker base (stale urine), a weak acid (vinegar) and/or with a mordant (urine, alum, iron, copper).
      • Place the fibers into the dye for the right amount of time. 
    • Hey, I can't disprove that the Princess learned how to paint in a haphazard manner!  Oh, wait.  Painters were guild members, too. What I find suspect is the idea that the Princess had developed much skill in painting in two years while managing to skills in weaving tapestries, soap-making, candle-making, and dyeing...while also becoming a goldsmith.  
    • The awkward transition into goldsmithing in the paragraph above reminded me of a tangentially related topic: if home-schooling is a superior form of education why is Ms. Mally clearly lacking any understanding of the nature of guilds?  
      • I am not a historian by training or trade; I took three years of high school level history and don't have a particularly deep base of knowledge on medieval or early modern life - but I remember that there were organizations called guilds that covered most skilled trades.  I wouldn't have a member of the royal family attempt to become a member of the weavers', chandlers', dyers,' painters' and goldsmiths' guilds because that is simply bat-shit crazy.
    • Well, at least Ms. Mally didn't include any samples of the Princess' writings.  Let's be grateful for small favors.  Likewise, the Princess didn't join the fletchers' guild so that's a small mercy.
    •  I'm glad we've included the critical skill of floral arrangement.  That's a skill that the villagers needed desperately with all of the adults dying off from something. *rolls eyes*
    • And now we've added a sixth guild membership - the Princess now knows how to bake!  
Many widows and weary mothers were the joyous recipients of homemade gifts or meals from the princess. She tried to use each thing she learned in some way as a tool to accomplish her assignments from her heavenly Father. Each mastery acquired could also then be taught to all the wise-hearted young ladies in the kingdom. Her days were full and fruitful. Many stories, memories, and friendships were hers. In a hundred little ways, she was a candle spreading light everywhere she went, bringing strength and encouragement to many lives that were filled with darkness. (pg. 104)
  • As a weary mother, I can attest that getting a badly completed tapestry or a gnarly-colored hank of wool would not make my life easier right now.  Now, a loaf of bread - or a mass of pottage - may have been nice during this time; anything to stave off starvation.  Of course, what I would have really wanted back then was to stop whatever was killing off my family and neighbors.
  • Let's be honest here: the local peasant girls were well-versed in the skills needed to run their households.  They learned how to keep their home - how to cook, weave, sew, trade, and care for children.  The young women didn't need the beginning apprentice-level Princess parachuting in to "teach" them how to do things they already knew how to do.
  • Notice that the People are supposed to learn life lessons including Emo-Pure from the Princess while the Princess floats unsullied above them absolved from learning anything from the People.  The idea that charity moves in one direction from virtuous paragons blessed with material wealth to the lost rabble with nothing is rife in CP/QF life.  The Princess - and all of the SAHD she represents - are presented as being better people in every way than the People.  
  • I doubt her people viewed the Princess as a light in the darkness.  At best, she'd be viewed as a harmless lunatic; at worst, her naivete and thoughtlessness could end in a revolution.
Well, those two passages have been making me batty since I read them.  I feel better now that I've gotten that out of my system.  Next up - yet another chat with the Alligator.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Five-Part Three

Welcome to the last installment of Chapter Five on how to deal with crushes.   The advice and exhortation section in this chapter is pretty formulaic while the anecdotes run the gauntlet between terrifying and sad.

The first chunk of the chapter addresses the fact that most people have crushes during their life and explains that the issues surrounding crushes have to do with how people behave when they have a crush, not the fact that you are attracted to someone.  None of this is particularly ground-breaking, but it's nice that Ms. Mally at least sets a reasonable bar that actions matter more than thoughts.

The first anecdote is a doozy:
"What if I have a crush?

Have you ever made your dad panic?

Once when I was about 8 years old, I scampered into the house and with a mischievous smile I announced, "Dad, I fell in love today!"

Believe me, that got his attention! He looked up at me with a worried expression on his face and said, "You did?"

"Yup! I fell in love with this adorable Dalmatian puppy at the pet store. Can I get it? Please?" Dad smiled with a look of relief. "(pgs. 91-92)


*blinks*
  • I've never made either of my parents' panic before - and Sarah's Dad didn't panic in this anecdote either.
  • If this story is true, Sarah's Dad needs to get a freaking life.  I had a crush on a kid in my first-grade class named Brad.  We were inseparable for a few months and then drifted apart over the summer - mainly because we were EIGHT years old!  That was the same age that I wanted to visit the Starship Enterprise from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" because I thought it existed somewhere.  When my parents tried to explain the idea of movie sets, I just figured that someone built an entire replica of the actual Enterprise and was filming the series inside the life-size replica.  An elementary school crush is very normal - and not something for an actual adult to panic about.
  • I am very skeptical of the authenticity of that story, though.  With Sarah Mally being a few years older than I am, this story apparently happened before 1988.  This either means that the Mally Family was way ahead of the curve on implementing Emo-Pure or the anecdote has been burnished a bit to make the Mally Family seem more like the ideal CP/QF family of the 2000's. 
This leads into a few paragraphs describing how everyone will have crushes from time to time (which is true) and how hard it is to train your mind not to dwell on a crush.  I don't remember my crushes being all-consuming, but I had a lot of things to keep me busy between school and sports when I was in junior high followed by harder classes and extracurricular activities in high school.  This meant that I didn't have a lot of extra time to think about my romantic interests outside of when we were interacting.

"When I was about 13, our family became acquainted with another Christian family who had a son a few years older than I was. I liked him right away. He seemed so considerate and nice. I admired some of his talents, and most of all, he seems like such a strong Christian leader. He was the first guy I ever really liked, and I felt so embarrassed. I didn't want anyone to know how I felt about him. After all, I was only thirteen! I wasn't considering getting married for years. I tried to avoid him so that no one would guess that I was attracted to him. I tried not to talk about him with my family or others because I worried that they might be able to figure out that I liked him. "(pg. 92)
  • I find 13-year-old Sarah's attraction to a "strong Christian leader" who is 15 or 16 years old absolutely adorable.  That's such a normal 13-year-old thing to do!  (Well, maybe not the "strong Christian leader" bit, but I've had crushes on equally flimsy footing before.)
  • I was pretty embarrassed about having crushes - but not because I was too young to get married.  A crush is an intensely personal experience and I was acutely aware that my view of Matt or Jason or Patrick was not shared by the entirety of human kind.  The embarrassment phase passed quickly for me because my parents and friends didn't tease or bother me about my crushes.
  • For me, the issue wasn't that I didn't want anyone to know how I felt; it was that I had no idea how to explain how intensely I felt attracted to Scott or David or whoever.  There are just not enough adjectives and adverbs in the English language to describe how floatingly giddy I felt when I was around my newest crush.
  • Like Sarah, I completely believed that I could avoid anyone knowing when I had a crush by keeping my cards close to my chest.   Looking back, the only person that tactic fooled was myself - and I'm willing to bet that no one was fooled by Sarah's tricks either.
"But inwardly I was struggling. Even though I didn't see him very often, I frequently found myself wondering when I might see him again and questioning if he could be the right one for me. I remember that when I would practice the piano, ride my bike, or have spare time, I would frequently be struggling with these thoughts and asking the Lord to help me not be so distracted.

A few years later I got to know this young man a little bit better and realize he was definitely not the right one for me. I lost interest, but I wondered when my next crush might happen and if I would be able to handle it any better (pg. 93)
  • Ironically, 26-year-old Sarah isn't much better at putting the dots together than she was at 13.  
    • The best way to keep a crush going is to never interact with the person you have a crush on at all.  I've had a crush on Geordi LaForge for Star Trek: The Next Generation for 20 years or so.  He's smart, handsome and imaginary so I never have to deal with any of the annoyances of finding out the flaws and irritations that come with real people.
    • Conversely, the fastest way to get rid of a crush is to spend a lot of time with the person you have a crush on.  Everyone has really annoying habits and quirks.  Since a crush is predicated on having the ideal romantic partner, finding out your crush has the table manners of a hyena or sniffles all the time can do a lot to end a crush.
  • The last paragraph is inadvertently terrifying.  First, it implies that Sarah kept a candle burning for this guy for three years at least!  Second, she only had a single crush on that one guy in those three years.  I'm chalking that as another unintended example of how lonely her life was as a home schooled teenager with two siblings in Iowa; it sounds like she didn't meet enough guys to have more than one crush.
  • For me, having crushes on real guys disappeared pretty rapidly in my late teens because I had no exposure to Emo Pure doctrines.  I had plenty of male friends.  When I found myself highly attracted to a guy - friend or not - I could get to know him better without obsessing over giving pieces of my heart away.  On top of that, I could date.  That means I didn't have to keep my expectations low while waiting for my crush to notice me, become marriage-eligible, and get my father's approval before finding out that my crush bores me to death.
The rest of the chapter is how to deal with crushes.  I can condense the gist into a nice bulleted-list for you!
  • When you have a crush, hide your emotions so deeply inside of you that no one - not even you - can feel what's going on.
  • Pray.  A lot.  Pray for him, for you, for your future husband, and his future wife.  (She missed "his future kids", "your future kids" "all of both lines eventual descendants", and "the livestock acquired when you and/or he marry including, but not limited to pets".  May as well be thorough.)  Don't forget to memorize chunks of Scripture.  
  • Get your parents involved.
Ms. Mally shares how getting your parents involved helps:
"The second way to deal with your crush is to talk to your parents about it. This might be difficult, scary, or embarrassing for you, but most likely your parents have already guessed how you are feeling. If you tell them, they will be better able to pray for, protect, and advise you. Confiding in your parents often relieves the pressure on you and may lighten the intensity of your "secret" crush. Sometimes they're able to help you think more realistically about your future and give you a new perspective about what type of man they believe the Lord has in store for you.

Several times when I've told my dad or brother that I've noticed a certain young man, they have said that if they get a convenient opportunity they will try to get to know him better. Often they're able to come up with interesting observations that I didn't see, and they will come to me saying,"Sarah, have you noticed this area?" Dad usually say, "I question "such-and-such". My brother Stephen will say, "He's kind of weird!" But I'm serious - dads and brothers can be great analytical agents! When they notice an area of weakness in a young man, it gives me a clearer perspective of the whole situation and makes it easier for me to stay focused on the Lord, rather than dreaming about the possibility of "so-and-so" . It frees me from any pressure or temptation I might be feeling to try and get to know him better, and keeps my emotions from getting involved unnecessarily. (pg. 94-95)


  • I don't think that it is a good idea to chat with your parents about a crush if you feel scared at the prospect of doing so.  That's a sign something the kid is picking up on something being off in their family dynamic.
  • I know lists are supposed to have at least three items, but the prayers of a parent do not become magically more effective when the parent is sure that their kid has a crush on their classmate instead of being mostly sure.
  • Talking about your crush may lighten the intensity - but so will doing almost anything!  Crushes are most intense when a person sits around and broods on the subject alone and least intense when the person is doing a captivating activity.
  • Crushes do not require a chat about your kid's future since crushes dissipate once your kid gets to know their crush better.  Plus, that's bringing an AK-47 to a longbow archery demonstration in terms of overkill.  
  • When your children are infants, parents can plan just about every aspect of their lives.  By the time your children are teenagers, parents guide and facilitate the teen's plans for their lives.  If your kids are old enough to be considering marriage, parents need to have stopped planning their offspring's lives for them - and that includes detailing who the parents thought the kid should marry.  After all, CP/QF is a small, insular community.  Describing the type of person a parent thinks the kid should marry has a huge overlap with saying "I've always thought you would marry Billy-Bob's son Jimbo".
  • Nothing says placing your daughter's interests first like trying to get to know her romantic interest if an opportunity happens to appear.  Getting to know a person with the undeclared intent of figuring out if they are good marriage material for your child is so creepy - and generally a case of putting the cart before the horse since the other person has not expressed an interest yet!
  • Taking your brother's advice on dating can make sense if your brother has enough life experience.  Sarah Mally was 26 when this book was written and Stephen is about 6 years younger than her.   I might have taken my younger brother's advice on if he liked my boyfriend when he was 20, but only in terms of "my boyfriend is non-crazy, right?"  Since this book seems to be written for girls in their teens, I would hope that Sarah Mally wasn't sending her 13 year old brother out to do recon on her crushes when she was 18 because that's just odd.
This whole book is about ways to avoid interacting with guys, honestly.  There is a palpable sense of relief in each anecdote when Sarah has collected enough negative information from her family to shut down any more contact with a specific guy.   That theme reaches back into the allegory for the last few chapters as well; Sir Eloquence's main flaw was that he was attracted to the Princess - the rest of the negatives about Sir Eloquence were based on the King's gut feeling that Sir Eloquence was not telling the truth.  Likewise, Sir Valiant's only demonstrated virtue is that we are not certain he knows the Princess exists.   That's one of the largest flaws in raising kids to value Emo-Pure.  When a person has been raised to fear accidentally giving away a chunk of their heart, reaching out to form a bond with a romantic partner can be impossible.

The next chapter is titled "When God Says To Wait" which feels redundant to me; the Princess has spent five chapters waiting around the castle daydreaming already.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Five - Part Two

In the last post on this chapter, the Princess was still worried - and pining a tad - over Sir Eloquence.  The Queen told her to get over him.  The Princess voiced her concerns about how the People viewed her obsessive purity with a surprising amount of insight; the Queen declared that the Princess was wrong since the silent majority of people supported her...silently.

Now, at this point, the book has been pretty clear that the Princess doesn't really have any friends among the locals.  The Princess has mentioned that she worries about what everyone else thinks of her; her parents and the narrator insist that the Princess really doesn't give a shit about what anyone else thinks - but either way there has been no sign that the Princess has real friends who she sees on a regular basis.

Oh, wait.

Here's Maiden Flirtelia - a young woman who appears out of nowhere and is apparently unobjectionable enough that the Queen is fine with the Princess hanging out with her unaccompanied and unchaperoned while also being worldly enough that she gets the virtue signal name of "Flirt".
"Maiden Flirtelia and the princess spent the next few hours looking around Market Street, visiting the tapestry shop, and picking up some pastries at the bakery. They then sat down at Fountain Circle to talk." (pg. 87)

Friday, April 7, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Five - Part One

At the end of Chapter Four's allegory, Sir Eloquence disappears from the story.  I find that disappointing for a few reasons.

First, for all that he was portrayed as brash and probably lying about his exploits, he's the real person to have shown up so far.  The King and Queen have no negative traits at all; the King is the ever-benevolent, all-knowing Father and the Queen is a nebulous figure in the background.  The Princess allegedly has some negative traits, but the only one we've seen so far is that she's lightly questioned her Father's dictates without rebelling openly in any way.  Sir Eloquence was more like a real teenage boy in that he misjudged the right way to approach the Princess, bragged about exploits that he probably didn't do, and had the audacity to be more interested in the Princess than her parents.  (How shocking!).

Second, I've always liked it when rejected suitors simply disappeared from my life.  Alas, that's only happened twice - and mainly because I met them online for the express and sole purpose of dating to find a marriage partner.  (God, that sounds so romantic, I know....)  In real life, dating - and courting - often involve people who are going to be in your life even if the romantic relationship ends.  I've yet to see a CP book for unmarried singles deal with that outcome so that's a niche waiting to be filled.

Well, now that Sir Eloquence is gone, the Princess has returned to her usual activities which seem to be standing near the moat and daydreaming.  In terms of the King's goal of having her help the people, we are still at "picked up some veggies for an old woman once".

There's a saying that a stopped clock is right twice a day.  In this allegory, Ms. Mally write a few surprisingly insightful moments along with the usual tripe.  Here's one:
"The Princess was glad that the knight had stopped pursuing her hand, and she did not expect him to be bothering her in the village anymore. Yet, now that he was gone, she did miss him just a little bit - or maybe it was simply his affectionate words and attention that she sometimes wished for..." (pg. 85)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Four - Part Two

In this chapter, Sir Eloquence followed the Princess home to ask the King if he could marry her.  In short order, Sir Eloquence realized the family was absolutely insane and took off to find greener pastures.

What do you mean that wasn't the point of the allegory?

The exhort and encourage section of the chapter is absolutely mindless.    In one section, readers are given a list of questions to think about when courting - or pre-courting or whatever term is used for the run-up to a courtship - and some of the questions aren't half bad.  If you ignore the insanely high number of questions based on theology, I agree with Ms. Mally that a girl should view him as decent father material, see that he's capable of supporting himself, and that he's truthful, generous, kind and loving.  That's about 30 words of material I agreed with out of a 20 page chapter.

The beginning of the chapter rehashes that "MARRY A GOOD CHRISTIAN" should be tattooed on the foreheads of anyone reading this book because this topic has been covered too much in this book already - but Ms. Mally seems to think that her readers need yet another reminder.  After all, a wife serves her husband and if he's not a GOOD CHRISTIAN (TM), she's pretty much going to be miserable her whole life.

Sarah Mally shares this captivating anecdote:


Vicki, for example, started to date a nice young man named Christopher. She wasn't sure if he was a Christian - he certainly wasn't a very strong Christian, but she was hoping to have an opportunity to lead him to the Lord. Soon they were best friends. They did everything together. At first, Vicki didn't realize how attached they had become, but one day she faced reality and determine that she couldn't stand the thought of breaking up now. Vicki decided that since they loved each other so much, everything else would work out. She assumed that after they were married she would be able to encourage him to get involved in church and grow in the Lord.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Four - Part One

This chapter is titled "Is He The One?"

The allegory in this chapter has a set of convoluted plot twists so I'm going to move through it slowly.

The Princess comes home from the Spring Fair and tells her parents that she interacted with Sir Eloquence.  Her parents tell her that she did fine.  Her father, the King, reminds her to be discerning in picking someone to marry.  

"Her father told her that every true knight desires a rose that is pure and has kept itself closed. He advised her that she must not be deceived by fancy words but must learn to look at the life, the actions, and the character of any prince who might seek her hand." (pg. 67)
  • I apologize about bringing this up AGAIN.  The fact that fathers are in charge of giving their daughters purity metaphors that are extremely sexual and extremely degrading in CP/QF families is INAPPROPRIATE.   
    • The metaphors are wrong because girls have value to their future partner for a million, personalized reasons - but being an unblemished virgin in body or emotion is NEVER one of those reasons.  
    • The Princess has a living mother - the Queen.  The metaphors would be messed up coming from her, but there is an additional level of sexualization when a CP man shares this information with his daughter.  
  • When you keep a child systematically sheltered from long-term unsupervised interactions with their peers, that child lacks the ability to judge the life and actions of potential romantic partners.  Most of the skills needed to judge people is based on reconciling verbal and non-verbal messages from the partner and from outside observers in society.  In the last chapter, the Princess went to the Spring Fair with a bunch of village girls.  Some of those young women likely have excellent information on Sir Eloquence's behavior in the world at large - but to get that info, the Princess would have to climb off her high horse and interact as a peer rather than a dignitary.
  • Not all princes are knights - and not all knights are princes.  The fact that Sir Eloquence is contracting his own marriage with the Princess through the King informally is insane regardless of Sir Eloquence's status.  Now, if the Princess was the sixth child of 13 with three strapping older brothers and two lovely older sisters safely married off into the nearest kingdoms, Sir Eloquence might have an outside chance of marrying her if he was a member of a lesser royal branch...but that kind of attention to detail would have created a very different book.
Sir Eloquence starts conversations with the Princess when they meet in the town.  Sir Eloquence comes to the castle and proposes to marry the Princess.  The King invites him to stay at the castle for a day to get to know Sir Eloquence better.  The King is skeptical of his worth because of the state of his armor and because his stories about being a knight don't seem real.  The Princess likes him - kind of - because he pays attention to her and says he'll love her forever.  

The Alligator encourages the Princess to accept Sir Eloquence or at least give him more time to see if they fall in love.  This causes the Princess to realize that she will not accept Sir Eloquence and goes to tell her father.

  • The time scale in this book is confusing.  Mally never explains or implies how much time passes between the Spring Fair and Sir Eloquence's surprise proposal.  
  • I don't understand why the King doesn't just laugh in Sir Eloquence's face and kick him out for popping a surprise proposal.  The Princess doesn't seem particularly invested in the relationship BEFORE he proposed so it makes no sense that Sir Eloquence is now being vetted as a suitor because he offers his hand in marriage.
  • The idea that the best way a King has to get information on a suitor for his daughter is to have the suitor stick around for a day is absurd.  That's what diplomats and informants are for; if Sir Eloquence was a potential suitor of any standing, the King would have a dossier on him, his family, his country and the stability of his crown.  The King wouldn't be looking at his armor and nitpicking his stories for accuracy.
  • If your teenager can't pick up on clothing cues to determine social class, she's been kept far too sheltered.  
  • The Alligator does a great job of being that annoying person who congratulates someone for finding their future spouse when the couple has been dating for two weeks.  (That was one of the more amusing portions of the book - but I don't think it was written to be humorous unfortunately.)  The Alligator's minor point that the Princess needs more time to see if she likes or loves Sir Eloquence is reasonable.  The two of them have only had some minor, rushed or overly supervised meetings.  Maybe he's as much of a self-important blowhard as he seems; maybe he's nervous and improves on further acquaintance.
The Princess overhears the King telling Sir Eloquence that the King needs Sir Eloquence to challenge Mr. Scornful - a store-owning villager who spreads gossipy lies around the kingdom - to a jousting match for the safety of the kingdom.  Sir Eloquence demurs and recommends a debate as the first option, then having a more experienced knight do the joust instead.  The King side-steps the debate option and gives this rationale for requiring a joust.

"True, Mr. Scornful is experienced and skillful with the lance and shield," replied the king "but he is fearful and cowardly. A fight with him will be easily won. There is no need to defer to those you deem greater." (pg. 71)

Sir Eloquence asks for more time to make a decision, wanders off, and out of the story.
  • Ms. Mally is trying to make it clear that Sir Eloquence wasn't worth the hand of the Princess because he was too much of a coward to fight Mr. Scornful - but the entire story is shot with holes that make the King into a despot and Sir Eloquence into the only sane person left. 
    • A basic rule of statecraft under a monarch is noblesse oblige; power comes with responsibilities.  One responsibility of a noble is to not go bat-shit crazy on a commoner (unless the commoner is leading an armed rebellion).  Unfortunately, that's exactly what the King is doing here; the King is responding to a grousing merchant by sending an armed mercenary to threaten him.
    • A more sane - although less historically accurate - way to deal with Mr. Scornful would be a public debate like Sir Eloquence offered.  Mr. Scornful is harming the Kingdom using words so Sir Eloquence will defeat him using words.  
    • No one points out the most obvious problem: a storekeeper will not own a charger and jousting equipment.  This chapter acts like jousting was the equivalent of soccer or baseball where the vast majority of adult men know how to play the basic game.  Jousting was more like racing wingsail catamaran yachts - there were a small group of people who could dedicate the time to learn how to joust. 
  • The quoted bit makes no sense.  Jousting was a physically demanding dangerous sport; Henry II of France was killed when he got a concussion during a joust, refused to stop jousting and had a splintered lance smash through one of his eyes.  If Mr. Scornful had the experience to be a good jouster, he wouldn't be fearful or cowardly on the lists.  On the flip side, if Sir Eloquence is an inexperienced jouster sending him against Mr. Scornful is both stupid and dangerous.
The Princess is wistfully relieved.  The King and the Princess have a chat in the garden. The Princess has a concern:

"But Father, I certainly intended no harm to come to Sir Eloquence. Would a jousting match has been quite safe?"

"Mr. Scornful would never have actually agreed to a jousting match," the king replied with a chuckle. "For though he often boasts of his skill, he is a coward at heart. Indeed, even if he were to consent to the match, Sir Eloquence would have been in no danger." (pgs. 72-73)


  • Up until this point, the story holds well enough to the basic archetype of The Quest where the true knight proves himself worthy of the princess by succeeding in subduing a danger to the kingdom.  Sir Eloquence was offered The Quest of subduing Mr. Scornful in a joust; by refusing to subdue the dangerous person through a perilous activity, Sir Eloquence shows himself unworthy of the Princess.  (Poor narrative choices make this quest rather ludicrous, but the basic structure is visible.)
  • This section is chilling by the implication of the value of the Princess compared to the value of Sir Eloquence.  By giving Sir Eloquence a trivial quest that had no danger in it at all, the King is stating that the Princess is worthless.  After all, there was no major impediment to Sir Eloquence agreeing to take the quest.  He could have challenged Mr. Scornful, had Mr. Scornful refuse to joust, and returned to claim the hand of the Princess as his prize for doing nothing.  
Sections like this illustrate how little unmarried daughters are valued in CP/QF life.  That's depressing.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter 3 - Part Two

Let's see... the allegory for this section was memorable mainly for the jarringly bad anachronisms and weird horsemanship although a bit of overwrought angst over talking with a boy was also present.

Now, we slide smoothly into the nuts and bolts of how to guard your heart.  

Now that I think about it, the book hasn't covered why a girl should guard her heart.  That's a rather strange oversight since Ms. Mally states in the preface that she wrote this book for younger girls who shouldn't be exposed to problematic examples of how girls have sinned in the past.  I'd want to include a chapter that indoctrinated...I mean, explained the idea of guarding your heart to the girls who read it.

Oh, well.

These books are getting less painful as I've allowed my expectations of writing to go from "professional publishing quality" to "average high school composition after editing by the teacher" to "rough draft from a young high school student.

Ms. Mally starts off with three anecdotes.
"Guys do lots of dumb and immature things to get girls' attention (and vice-versa). My mom told me that when she was in college, guys used to shoot peas at girls during lunch. Using their spoon as a catapult, they would send peas through the cafeteria and onto a table where some girls were trying to enjoy their meals. Probably not the best way to introduce themselves!" (pg. 50)

Friday, March 24, 2017

When Love Isn't Enough - DYI RAD Treatment - Part Two

I've been thinking about why I'm having a strong reaction to how the Musser family restricted Katie's therapists to no physical affection and only the minimal amount of physical contact.    I think there are two realities of my life that are at play now.

First, I really liked my physical therapists when I was a kid.  I had a male physical therapist when I was in pre-school named Larry.  In the last post, I told you that I saw him 4 times a week to work on loosening my calf muscles to allow my heels to touch the floor while walking.  He was amazing!  He made PT a lot of fun which is important.  Physical therapy requires keeping muscles at the point of tension for stretching and working muscles repeatedly to strengthen them which is tiring and tedious. As an adult, I could see the long-term benefits when I needed PT to recover from an injury; as a kid, I thought that adults' obsession over my heels touching the ground was stupid.  Left to my own devices, I would have done permanent damage to my legs because kids are not good at seeing the big picture.  Larry's skill at making PT fun - and being someone I enjoyed being around - was critical to my long-term health.

Second, I had to make some real choices about how my son would interact with people while he was in the NICU.  The nursing staff was amazing - but I'd be lying if I didn't feel jealous sometimes.  His primary nurse was spending 12 hours a day with him when I was still sick enough that seeing him one hour a day left me exhausted.  When choosing a primary nurse, I could have chosen someone who was less affectionate or demonstrative towards Jack so that I would never have to worry about feeling jealousy again, but I did not.  I picked nurses who were excellent technical nurses while Jack was on a ventilator who also clearly expressed happiness and affection towards him.  I wanted Jack to be surrounded by loving people who rejoiced in his feisty personality.  I wanted nurses to talk to him, sing to him, give him affectionate touches and enjoy him so that he would learn that interacting with people gives comfort.  Yes, I felt jealous sometimes - but that's MY problem to deal with as an adult does.  I would not make my son's life harder to make my life easier.

I feel angry when I read these posts.  The reason that RAD is problematic is that the child suffers.  The withdrawn form means that the infant has no easy way to receive comfort from adults; the overly-rapid attachment form - which is the type that Susanna self-diagnosed - isn't a true problem for infants and toddlers because parents act as gate-keepers to keep unsafe people away from the baby.  Treating the rapid attachment form is important so that when the child is a child, teen and adult they develop the skills to attach to safe people and avoid unsafe people.  For Katie, this is a non-issue; she has suffered such severe brain damage due to horrific malnutrition that she always need gate-keepers for her own safety.    This means that Susanna was actively depriving Katie of pleasant interactions with safe people so that Katie would show affection preferentially towards Susanna since Susanna is her Mama.  Even Susanna's definition of attachment annoys the hell out of me - a sign of bonding in toddlers is that they act horribly around their care-givers from time to time while being super-sweet to outsiders.  The reason is that kids only push boundaries with people they feel safe with.

Question: How do you feel her attachment to you and your family is going?

Answer: Up until it was given a hard test, we would have said Katie’s attachment to us was stronger than it is. She has obviously made enormous progress from where she was, but everyone has been keeping an understanding and appropriate distance.

The hard test was her physical therapist. I could tell right from the start just by the therapist’s body language that she thought we were overdoing this no-affection thing. She really pushed the envelope. I had thought Katie had made more progress with attachment, but it hadn’t been tested by someone being that physical with her, holding her upright face to face, singing to her, and being all playful and lovey, et cetera. Katie’s response immediately clued me in.

Monday, March 20, 2017

When Love Isn't Enough: DYI RAD treatment - Part One

My little guy had his first at-home physical therapy (PT) appointment last Monday.  Lisa, his PT, examined his muscle tone and strength.  At the end of the exam, she gently wrapped Jack up in a swaddle blanket and cuddled with him so that he'd have a positive ending to exam.

My eyes filled with tears as I saw my little boy cuddle into the arms of his PT.  But my tears were not for me or for him.

I was crying because I realized how much the rogue, DIY RAD treatments that the Musser Family used for Katie took away from her.

For readers who are not familiar with Katie's story, Katie was adopted from Bulgaria at 9.5 years of age after experiencing extreme neglect.  She weighed 10 pounds 9oz and was 29 inches long at 9.5 years of age.  By comparison, my nearly 3-week old son weighs 9 pounds 2 oz and is 20 inches long.  Katie was born with Down Syndrome and extreme sensory deprivation coupled with barely enough food to sustain life have created permanent brain damage.

At some point during the adoption process, the Mussers decided that Katie has RAD - or reactive attachment disorder.  This is a real psychological disorder where infants who been had limited emotional support during infancy fail to show normal responses to stable caregivers.  This disorder is more common among infants who have received poor institutional care - but it is not a given that all children who come from even the worst situations will develop this disorder.

RAD shares symptoms with many more common disorders like childhood depression or autism.  A trained psychologist will be certain to exclude those disorders before diagnosing RAD.  The DSM-V specifically notes that a diagnosis of autism precludes a diagnosis of RAD - in other words, if a kid has autism, they can show symptoms that look like RAD - but the underlying problem is autism, not RAD.

Katie shows symptoms of autism that are consistent over time.  If her autism was solely based on lack of stimulation and interaction in her orphanage, her problematic self-stimulation and self-soothing behaviors should have diminished noticeably within months at most while with the Mussers since the Mussers clearly provided her with a stimulating and supportive home environment where she and Verity were the youngest kids.  This is part of the problem of diagnosing RAD without follow-up from a psychologist or psychiatrist - even a tentative diagnosis of institutional autism would need future checks to see if Katie's symptoms followed the normal, expected course.  If they did not, either a more aggressive treatment like targeted counseling for Susanna, Joe and Katie would be needed or a new diagnosis would be sought.

I remembered a post I read a few years ago when looking into Tommy Musser's accidental drowning. This was a long Q &A that Susanna posted after Katie was at home for a full year.  The post had some sections about controlling the amount of "physical affection" that any therapists that worked with her that struck me as counter-productive.  I'm looking at this idea in two separate blog posts following the original post sequentially and providing commentary in a linear style.  (I'm a tad tired with my little guy at home.)

Katie is enrolled in our local IU-13 program. She was first assessed in our home by a speech-language pathologist, a physical therapist, a psychologist, a vision specialist, and an occupational therapist over several visits last winter. When Joe and I met with the school district in the spring, we explained to them what our educational plan was for Katie and waited to see whether they would be willing to help us carry that out or not.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Three - Part One

Chapter Three is entitled "Guard Your Heart".

Nothing like some more empty threats of how your life is going to massively suck if you fall in love more than once in your life.

Random - and rather sleep-deprived - side tangent: How do widows and widowers fit into this Emo-Pure scheme?  The Bible mentions that widows and widowers existed.  Both the Old and New Testaments allow remarriage for people who have lost their spouses to death.  One of the Epistles strongly encourages young widows to remarry.  Does that mean the second marriage is decimated by memories of the original spouses?  Is the second marriage a holding pattern until death comes?

Hmm.....

Chapter Three's allegory is simple because it is extremely formulaic.  To prove my point, I'll give you two hints then see if you can guess the outcome of the chapter.  I've already given you the first hint: it's the title of the chapter.  The second hint is that the Princess decides to go to the Spring Fair after discussing it with her parents.

*hums the theme from Jeopardy*  Time's up!

Here's the synopsis:
The Princess has decided to go to the Spring Fair. While leaving the castle, the Princess is stopped by the Alligator. The Alligator congratulates the Princess on beginning to socialize with others her own age and gaining exposure to the ways of the world. The Princess denies that is what she is doing. At the Fair, she hangs out with other young ladies. She meets Sir Eloquence, a young Knight who seems brash and over eager by CP standards. The Princess interacts with him in a friendly fashion, but does not let him accompany her home. She is confused over how to act around Sir Eloquence and decides to ask her parents about the situation.

You get points if you predicted:

  • A conversation with the Alligator - one extra point for predicting that the Alligator makes more sense than the Princess
  • Meeting an unsuitable young man
  • The Princess feeling angst or confusion 
  • The Princess deciding that she just has to talk to her parents about her love life.
  • Bonus point if you predicted that Victory the horse reappears.
Please, someone needs to let Sarah Mally ride a horse - for my sanity if nothing else.  The chunks of the story involving Victory are memorable because I lose any ability to suspend my disbelief around equestrian details that both excessive and wrong.  

"She fed Victory an apple, mounted him gracefully, and enthusiastically begin her journey. Victory seemed excited today too. "(pg. 45)
  • The first sentence grates on my nerves because there is no purpose to the sentence at all.  There is no need to tell us that she gave her horse a snack, climbed on him and was super-duper happy at the whole thing.  All of those ideas are so mundane that including them in the story detracts from the allegory.  
  • A running theme in the CP writings for young women is the frequent use of sexual metaphor unintentionally and this is one of the good ones as well.  
The next bit of horse-work made me pretty sure she'd never ridden a horse.
"As she was riding across the bridge just outside the castle she was stopped by a voice. [The alligator is in the moat. The two of them chat.] " Thou art mistaken, sir," she replied, and she turned Victory to face the moat, (....)" (pg. 46)
  • I'm working on two assumptions here.  First, the bridge runs perpendicular to the moat.  Second, the princess is of normal human height and proportions.
    • When she is riding across the bridge, Victory is facing parallel to the bridge and she is facing forward.  
    • When she hears the Alligator, she reins in Victory so he's facing along the bridge and she turns her head to face the Alligator in the moat.  This is reasonably comfortable, allows her to see the Alligator and lets her continue on her journey quickly if she wants to move.
    • Then - mid-sentence no less - she pulls Victory's head to one side, nudges him forward from a stop to turn 90 degrees, waits for the horse to re-settle himself and continues a conversation with an alligator whom she can no longer see!  Victory's body is now acting as a screen between the Alligator and the Princess and no one seems to notice this.
Last horsey bit for this chapter - I promise.
"Upon her arrival, she entrusted Victory to the town stable and began to mingle with the young ladies chatting in the park." (pg. 47)

  • The anachronisms are causing me to go a bit batty.   
    • Is a town stable the same thing as a municipal parking lot?  You know, the local horse care board collects a tax on locals to fund a stable (complete with horse feed and attendants) so that the landed class can ride their horses into town from the suburbs and shop at the local boutiques.  
    • I don't know anything about these "young ladies".  Is the local nobility having a meet-and-greet in the local park (funded by taxes collected by the park board)?  Is a princess gallivanting about with commoners?
  • Why set an allegory in a historical time period if the author isn't going to bother and research the period at all? Why not create a fantasy land after Tolkien, Lewis or Pratchett?  

""The princess made friends quickly. She never acted as if she believed she ought to be treated as royalty. Rather, she was quick to serve, to fellowship with the villagers, and to put others first. Her kind words, gracious manners, and loving action were obvious to all. In fact, if she had taken note, she would have realized that she received much more respect and honor as a result of these humble actions than she ever would have gained had she demanded admiration from others or proclaimed her own importance. But she did not even notice what others thought of her, for, as I said before, she was a true princess." (pg. 47)
  • Dear God.  That might be the most smarmy passage I've ever read.  
  • The princess was at a picnic according to the passage and an accompanying drawing.  I can force the ideas of "fellowship", "gracious manners" and "kind words" to fit a teenage girl at a picnic - but "not being a bitch" isn't really something to write home about.  More importantly, I can't figure out what she could do to be "quick to serve", "put others first" and complete "loving action".  The closest I can get is waiting in line for a buffet and saying "No, you go first.  You can have the last cupcake".  Again, this is not the kind of behavior that deserves such an asinine passage.
  • I find the idea of the people at this party racking up honor and respect points to the Princess an overreach.   No one cares that much about a sheltered Princess who is slumming it.  (And yes, this has the feel of slumming....)
  • The main theme of the last chapter was that the Princess cared A LOT about what other people thought of her.  The King kept saying that she didn't care - but the Princess cared - and still cares as far as we know - what people think of her.   Having the omniscient narrator proclaim otherwise doesn't change the Princess' thoughts and actions from the previous chapter. This is true even if the omniscient narrator decides to switch from third-person to first-person for a single sentence and the editors don't bother to change.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Two - Part Three

Let's see if I can remember what's happened so far in the chapter.  First, we were horrified by a creepy-as-hell rose analogy for emotional purity.  Next, we learned that Christians marry non-Christians because of dating with a variety of nonsensical reasons to support that assertion.

The next section attempts to tackle explaining why dating is still wrong if both parties are Real Christians (TM).  She has various paragraphs dedicated to explaining why God is opposed to dating of which one stood out to me:

"Most young people plan to date a number of individuals in order to get to know a variety of people-- then pick the best one to marry. What they fail to realize is that the process that forms bonds begins with the very first relationship. Then the break-up process is very painful. In other words, the world's way involves the pain of separation. God's way involves no separation." (pg. 37)


There are so many problems:

  • The first sentence makes dating sound like shopping for a used car - go to a dealership, drive a few cars, look for dings then purchase the one you like the most.  That's not how dating works! .   For people looking to marry, people don't usually get to start a bunch of potential long-term relationships in a short time, bail out of each of them, then go back to the one you liked best and tell that person that you really want to start the relationship again.   A better description would be sequentially moving through relationships with potential partners.  Some relationships are short encompassing a date or two before the relationship is ended; others last for months or years.  
  •  Dating has a wide spectrum of options running from "enjoying a short-term romantic relationship with no expected strings attached" to "beginning a relationship in hopes of finding a long term relationship spanning years or decades" - but I've never seen anyone pull of the idea Ms. Mally has successfully.  (I'm trying to imagine going back 10 years later to a guy I went to a single dance with in high school or college - my version of no expectation dating - and saying "Hey, I've dated a heap of guys since we broke up and I think you're the best!  Let's get married."  I don't see that ending in a wedding....)
  • Humans form bonds.  Most humans form bonds very easily and experience pain when those bonds are broken.  I've been feeling sad for a few days around writing this post because my son will be leaving the NICU soon.  I am so very glad he is coming home - and I am sad because I've made many friends among the staff at the hospital he is at.   Arguing that dating creates bonds that are more painful than any other kind of bond is silly; I'm finding saying goodbye to the people who kept my son alive and supported my husband and I through these hard months more painful than the break-up of many of my short-term dating relationships.  
  • All things this side of heaven will end.   Even the most perfect courtship that ends in a happy, harmonious marriage producing a phalanx of children and lasts 70 years will end when one spouse dies.  God never promised a separation-free life; only help to survive the hard times.

Now, we move into how Sarah Mally understands dating in real life.   She bases her beliefs on her personal experiences of watching people date in school prior to her family's introduction to home-schooling.  This is an interesting choice since Ms. Mally left her Christian school at the end of fifth grade where most of her classmates would have been 10-11 years old.

Allow me to paraphrase the anecdotes:
  • One of Sarah's friends was boy-crazy in fifth grade according to Sarah.
  • Sarah went to a weekend retreat when she was 13 with other young teens.  The other teen girls she was with spent most of the weekend talking about who liked whom.  This bothered Sarah.
This sound remarkably similar to my memories of junior high at a Catholic elementary school. In fifth and sixth grade, we girls were extremely interested in the boys; the boys were completely clueless and disinterested in us.  In seventh and eighth grade, the boys became much more interested in the girls.

Really, the only difference between my memories and Ms. Mally's anecdotes is the spin each of us place on them.  I look back at those times fondly; we were all pretty confused but very enthusiastic about romantic interests.  Ms. Mally remembers those times as people going off the deep end and away from God.
"All this dating seemed foolish to me the time, but looking back on it now, it seems even more silly. And not just silly-- dangerous. It was almost like a big game: Date. Have fun. Break up. Date someone else. Have fun. Break up. None of these kids were considering marriage, so what was the goal of their dating? In Scripture, we do not see any examples of couples pursuing romantic relationships except for the purpose of marriage. I would assume that most of the friends I met this Christian event 13 years ago are now married. Do you think they're dating experiences over the three-day event are benefiting their marriages today?" (pg. 40)

  • Dangerous is far too strong a verb to use here unless she has an actual anecdote about how one of the people referenced before ended up dead or severely injured by early teenage dating.
  • The kids were far too young to get married - but they were gaining skills that would lead most of them to marriage someday.  Skills those kids were starting to acquire include:
    • Reading and sending non-verbal cues to show interest in potential dates
    • Communicating interest or disinterest verbally
    • Thinking of and executing interesting activities with a romantic interest
    • Evaluating their personal enjoyment and satisfaction within a relationship
    • Managing personal relationships within a larger community of peers.
    • Navigating break-ups on both the personal and communal level.
    • Learning coping mechanisms for strong emotions like infatuation and disappointment.
  • Some percentage of "courtships gone wrong" stories occur because young adults are diving into romantic relationships with marriage as a goal before they've learned the skills that most people start picking up by observation or by practice in adolescence.
  • The sentence " I would assume that most of the friends I met this Christian event 13 years ago are now married" struck me as filled with oddities.
    • Ms. Mally is not in contact with any of her "friends" from junior high.  I had one close friend from junior high who I stayed in contact with until she passed away as an adult.  I've stayed in sporadic contact with about half of the 40-odd kids I was in the same grade with between K-8th.  By sporadic contact, I mean we are either FB friends or I have run into them somewhere in the last 20 years.  
    • Since I kept in light-weight contact with my classmates, I can safely state that around 25% of them were married by age 26.  No one married prior to 22 or 23 to the best of my knowledge.  Half of us married between 27-30 and about 20% married between 30-35.  The handful of folks who have not married yet are in long-term relationships or have been in long-term relationships.  I bring this up because CP/QF books on courtship/dating often over-estimate the number of human beings who marry young - and thereby add to the level of anxiety for women who are unmarried in their mid-to-late twenties.
  • No, Ms. Mally, I don't think your friends's marriages were irreparably harmed by their forays into dating as a young teen.  In fact, their marriages occurred in no small part to the fact that your friends were learning skills that made finding their spouse easier for everyone.
Ms. Mally explains she's following God's way by waiting for God to introduce the right person in her life and by keeping her parents involved when she starts courting.  This is presented as ground-breaking and revolutionary when those two ideas are pretty common among people who are dating.  I always figured that if God wanted me to be married, I'd meet someone who I wanted to marry and who wanted to marry me.  Ms. Mally and I differ in how much initiative we allowed ourselves to take.  I signed up for online dating; she is waiting for her prince to appear among people she knows.  Likewise, my parents are good people and want me to be happy.  I trusted their opinions highly when I was dating since I knew they had my best interest at heart and wouldn't interfere unless they saw red flags in a relationship that I missed.

The final hurdle to jump in this chapter is the sensible question of how young women will meet eligible men if they don't date.  (For me, the bigger question is how young women will meet anyone if they are home-schooled, home-churched or part of a small, isolated denomination, and do not work outside the home.)  Ms. Mally assures readers that they don't need to date to find out what a person is like:
""You are probably acquainted with dozens of boys whom you are sure that you would never marry. And do you know what? You didn't have to date them to find that out!" (pg. 41)
  • That is some horrible advice.  In fact, neither my husband nor I would be here if our ancestors followed that advice.
    • My mom and dad met for the first time when Mom helped her older brother move into his college dorm.  Mom was 16, completely stuck-up and obnoxiously preppy.  Dad was 20, told horrible jokes and was in full-on-hippie mode.  In short, Mom and Dad found each other completely repugnant when they first met.   In spite of that, they found each other far more interesting when they met again two years later.  They fell in love and got married at 22 and 26 respectively.
    • My husband's maternal grandparents met when Opa was standing with a friend of his on a bridge when a boat passed by them.  On the boat was a lovely young woman who was amply endowed.  Opa nudged his friend and asked if he knew the name of the young woman "with the great tits".   His friend did know who the young woman was.  She was his younger sister - and his friend was not amused.    He refused to give Opa a ride home from the dance they were going to and warned his younger sister about his pervert friend.  This lead to her avoiding Opa for several months.  And yet, they've been happily married for over 60 years having moved from the Netherlands to Canada followed by the US.
That, my friends, brings us to the end of Chapter Two.  The next chapter is titled "Guard Your Heart".  I'm sure we are in for some great times.

On an unrelated note, my son is going to be coming home soon.  I am going to try and publish two posts a week - Monday and Fridays - but my energy level may not be up to that for long.  I do promise, though, to come back someday :-)

To my first-born son on the day we expected you to be born

Dear Jack,

You are thirteen and a half weeks old - and yet today is the day we expected to meet you.

I didn't have a birth plan.  I didn't know if I wanted skin-to-skin, delayed cord clamping, or rooming in.  I hadn't packed a bag for the hospital and we hadn't picked out an outfit to bring you home in.  I thought I wanted to breast-feed, but our class was scheduled for early February.  I was actively looking for a sardonic stuffed animal to bring with me to the breast-feeding class; I had ordered a stuffed methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) toy which was awesome, but too small for the class.

None of that stuff mattered, thankfully.

I had been waiting my whole life to have a baby - and I was so thrilled to have you.  I cried when I got a positive pregnancy test.  Seeing you wave your arms and legs around at the 12 week ultrasound blew my mind.  Your dad and I joked for weeks that you were saying "Look!  I have fingers!  Look at my fingers!  Ooh!  Legs!"  I breathed a sigh of relief at the 20-week ultrasound when your heart, spine, and brain looked good; I worry too much since your Uncle David died so young. Watching the technician visualize the blood flow to your kidneys and your umbilical cord left me gasping with delight.  You were so perfect - and completely you.

And then - all of a sudden - you had to be born far too early to save us both.

I spent the night before your birth in frantic prayer.  I wanted you to live.  Live and be happy.  Please, let him live and be happy.  I'll do anything.  Please.  I don't need my organs to work perfectly after he's born; damage me before hurting him. Please.  He's so small - I'm grown so let me take the damage.  Please.

When Dr. Erinn was delivering you, I could hear her talking with someone.  Apparently, you were up to some tricks.  The delivery team couldn't get ahold of you to keep you in place while she opened the uterus.  Well, and then you tried to stay put by shoving a foot into a Fallopian tube.  You are clearly my son and the son of your Dad.

I didn't hear your actual birth; I was throwing up rather loudly.  Eventually, I started looking around to see if you were born.  I heard Dr. Haines say to Dad "You want to trim the cord, Dad?"  I let out a breath that I had been holding since the night before; you had to be doing well if the NICU team could let Nico trim your cord.

I stared at the drapes and then threw up again. (Really, vomiting while having an epidural in place isn't too bad.  That was a nice surprise.  Bet you love that bit of information :-P )

All of a sudden, a voice says "Melinda. take a look at your son."  I turn my head towards the voice and there you were.   No one had told me that I might be able to see you in the OR.  You were perfect - and crying!  Dr. Prentice had told us yesterday not to worry when we didn't hear you cry - you were young, the cries are really quiet and most preemies don't cry.   You were crying!  The hat for the CPAP mask covered most of your face so all I could see was your chin and cheeks - but you were perfect and making the most heart-breaking and adorable "wah, wah, wah" sounds.

I told you what was in my heart: I love you so so much.  I'm so glad you are safe.  You are totally worth it.  The disembodied voice - I still have no idea who it was - told me I could kiss you before you went to the NICU.   I felt like a kid on Christmas; I got to see you and kiss you!?!?  I gave you a little kiss on the chin.

Later that day, I got to see you in your isolette.  I wanted to see you but was scared, exhausted and hormonal which made me feel crazy.  Your dad brought me down in a wheelchair with a nurse in tow since I was still on one-to-one nurse coverage.

I wanted you to live and thrive and grow.  I knew that you might not make it - 26 weeks gestation is so little - but I hoped to see a sign that you were here to stay.  I wanted you to know how much I loved you, how much your grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins loved you.  I wanted you to know how amazing the world was - flying kites, learning to swim, petting kittens, watching fireflies on a summer night - in hopes that you would be able to stay here.

I wanted to give you hope and strength, but you were the one who gave me strength.

I saw teeny, tiny, itsy-bitsy you in the isolette.  Dr. Prentice had told us not to worry if you didn't move much since you weren't used to moving against gravity and you needed to save your strength.  Apparently, she forgot to tell you that piece of information.  You were waving your arms in the air.  You were grabbing the cords to your heart monitor with your toes - as smoothly as if your toes were fingers!  Your tiny hands were exploring the new textures.  You grabbed your CPAP mask and clutched a piece of it for a few heartbeats then tapped your fingers along a different piece of plastic.  All of a sudden you reached your eye-protection which was a strip of flannel.  You paused for just a second, then tapped your fingers along the flannel discovering a new texture.

In that moment, I had the hope I needed.  You were exploring this world with gusto - so however long you were with us you would experience life to the fullest.  That's all I wanted for you.

You've grown into a strapping, healthy baby now.  We tell people that you are a few days old - which is true in a semantic sense - and watch their eyes pop at a 8 pound baby who can hold his head up for a few seconds while we hold you in a sitting up position and focuses on objects.  (A nurse kindly - but firmly - asked us to stop doing that to people in the NICU.  It was messing with parents of actual newborns who thought their newborns were slow.  We must have forgotten to give the punch line of "He's 3 days old but was born 14 weeks ago.  Oops.....)

I love you, little man.

Mom

PS.  Yes, I know I finished this a few weeks later. What can I say?  You were so cute I got distracted.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Two - Part Two

The allegory in this chapter covered why emotional purity is like a rose torn to pieces.  Moving into the self-help portion of the chapter, Ms. Mally starts teaching us about the evils of dating.

The introduction begins blaming dating, modern culture and general lack of thinking for the current trend of awful marriages.

"If you look at the fruit of the American system of dating, there is reason to be seriously concerned. The majority of modern marriages end up in divorce. Few marriages are truly happy. And many enter into marriage with injuries, emotional handicaps, and scars from past dating relationships." (pg. 34)
  • Sloppy transitions and failure to explain conclusions are two ongoing problems that CP/QF literature is ripe with.  Yes, I know that your audience is strongly inclined to view dating as evil, but that does not absolve the author from laying out a connection between behavior during dating and behavior during marriage.
  • The old "50% divorce rate" trope is trotted out again.  There are so many problems with that statement....
    • Measuring divorces as a function of marriages is a statistical nightmare.  There is no federal requirement that states collect or publish the number of marriages per year so researchers are left trying to estimate out the data based on cohorts like everyone who was married in the 1980's.
      • With that qualification, the lifetime divorce rate of people married in the 1970's and 1980's was estimated at between 45-50%.  By comparison, the divorce rates for the 1960's and the 1990's were placed between 30-35%.  The reasoning for the uptick in the 70's and 80's had more to do with society transitioning from a breadwinner-homemaker model of marriage to a marriage between loving equals.
    • I would be remiss not to point out that the highest rates of divorce in the last three decades has been among couples who marry young without college degrees while the lowest divorce rates are among people who marry later in life and have degrees.
  • I need some data - or even some compelling anecdotes - to support the claims that most marriages are miserable because the people entering marriage are emotionally devastated from dating.  Now, there are plenty of anecdotes about people who were hurt by emotional purity before marriage.
After the introduction, the chapter takes a sudden left turn into the topic of the importance of Christians marrying other Christians.  This section starts with Ms. Mally describing a time she was met a young woman at a friend's house who was getting married to a man who was not a Christian.
    • Ms. Mally glosses over the fact that the young woman doesn't seem bothered at all by the fact her fiance is not a practicing Christian. 
    •  Ms. Mally also implies the young woman is marrying someone she only met 6 months ago which is the time that the couple started dating.  That may be true, but the two may have had a previous friendship before dating.   
  • From this bland memory, Ms. Mally extrapolates that the woman she just met is making a illogical and ruinous decision because she and her intended formed an emotional relationship that would be too painful to break.  For me, this feels like a major over-reach of the information at Ms. Mally's disposal from a woman she just met.
This leads into a list of reasons...scenarios....a brainstorming session..... I don't really know what to class this as... that lead Christians to marry non-Christians.
We can make a list of possible reasons:

1. It could be that one of them lied. You know, a guy will say anything for a girl, and vice versa.

2. Perhaps one of them was sincerely deceived and considered himself to be a believer, but didn't understand the gospel -- that Christianity is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, formed at the moment in time when one specifically and genuinely asks Christ for forgiveness and mercy.

3. Maybe they both went to the same church or were from the same denomination and therefore just assumed that the other was a Christian.

4. They might have believed that after marriage they would be able to lead their spouse to the Lord.

5. Possibly, they felt pressured into getting married by circumstances or other people.

6. Maybe one of them got saved after they were married. Well, that's a good problem! Someone came to know the Lord.

We can continue to list other possible scenarios, but actually there is just one main reason for unbalanced marriages - it's called dating." (pg. 35-36)

For my sanity, I'm going to re-write each point above in a more coherent fashion before refuting the issue in each.

Point One:  Christians marry non-Christians because the non-Christian lied about their salvation status.
Rebuttal: It is true that some people lie to potential romantic partner.  While someone could lie about their salvation status, Christianity isn't a cryptic religion; a Christian is supposed to act like a follower of Christ.  As two people get to know each other, someone who lies about their salvation status will most likely show other signs of not being that into their religion.  More importantly, a guy or girl could lie as easily in a courtship as they could during dating.

Point Two: Christians marry non-Christians because the "non-Christian" self-identifies as a Christian under different guidelines than the "Christian".
Rebuttal: This isn't a problem caused - or even exacerbated - by dating.  This is what happens when the "Christian" doesn't bother to explain their personal or church requirements for membership in Christianity to someone else.  If you want to marry a Christian self-identifies under evangelical beliefs, be clear to your romantic partners about that.

Point Three: Christians marry non-Christians because being a card-carrying member of an evangelical church isn't proof of actual Christianity.
Rebuttal: *rolls eyes* For the love of God, ask your partner if they are a Christian under whatever definition you use is.  This is not that complicated - and needs to be done in a courtship, betrothal or arraigned marriage as well as in dating.

Point Four: Christians marry non-Christians because they hope they can change a major life characteristic of their spouse after marriage.
Rebuttal: People change over time, but expecting major changes in someone after marriage is unfair to the "changee" spouse.  After all, Sarah Mally et al. would be up in arms if atheists were marrying Christians as a step in getting the Christians to deconvert.   Like the three previous points, this isn't a problem with dating; it's a problem of marrying under false pretenses.

Point Five: Christians marry non-Christians because the Christian feels pressured to get married because of circumstances or other people.
Rebuttal: Funny, after reading the first four points, I think Christians marry "non-Christians" or non-Christians because of a release of pressure.  Spending your life in a pressure cooker where everyone is trying to determine who is "saved" sounds horrible.  Imagine meeting someone who believes your statement of being a Christian at face-value.  No need to compare theological definitions or need to prove that you asked Christ for forgiveness and mercy. Now, THAT would be a delicious release of pressure.
On a more practical note, if you expect to have the fortitude, stamina and conviction to spread the Gospel to the ends of the Earth, you cannot seriously expect me to believe that a good saved Christian will crumple under something as minor as societal pressure for marriage or an unplanned pregnancy.
This, yet again, has nothing to do with dating.

Point Six: Christians are married to non-Christians because the Christian converted after marriage.
Rebuttal: How is dating even remotely related to this?  It's not.

This post is already long so I'm going to break this into two posts.  The next post really drives home the dangers of writing a book on dating when you've never dated or spent any time around peers who dated.