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)

  • I think either Sarah or her mom mis-remembered the age at which this story happened.  Shooting peas across a cafeteria happened (a lot) when I was in junior high.  Once in a blue moon, food would be tossed at another group of kids in high school - but that was guys who were throwing food at other guys.  I don't remember anyone whipping veggies around at my college and I've never seen anyone do that at the university I am now a student/instructor at.
The next anecdote is that Sarah was chased around on the playground when she was in second grade by a male student in her class who kissed her on the cheek.  Sarah wasn't thrilled about being kissed on the cheek.    

I don't understand what the point of including either of these anecdotes are.  I don't think it's a good idea to teach boys to be aggressive to girls or boys - but Sarah doesn't touch on even the most basic idea of consent here.  For a chapter on guarding your heart, this anecdotes seem to make the opposite point: men are so immature that you don't have to worry about emotional entanglements, just flying vegetables.

The third anecdote is instructive - but not for the reasons Sarah Mally included it.  Sarah was with her two siblings Grace and Stephen at a conference when Grace was 14.  A young man who Sarah describes as "polite and friendly" started a conversation with Grace - and then follows her around for several hours seemingly oblivious to Grace's attempts to disengage him.  Finally, Grace ends up hiding in an empty classroom until the conference is over.


I see two scenarios.  First scenario: Grace met someone on the autistic spectrum who is not good at reading body language.  If that was the case, the young man would have been helped immensely by Grace saying, "Thank you for the conversation, but I am tired now and do not want to talk anymore".  Being direct is an important communication skill - and one that women in CP/QF are not taught.

Scenario two: Grace met a stalker.  If the steps in the first scenario didn't work, Grace needs to be more forceful and direct like "Stop following me!  Leave me alone!" followed by reporting his behavior to a trusted adult.   Going into a deserted, empty classroom was blatantly dangerous - what would Grace have done if he came into the classroom?  If you ever feel at risk, get to and remain in a public space where people are present.

The remainder of the chapter is moving through a list that Sarah created on how to guard your heart.  To simplify things, let me summarize each of the six points of the list.
1) Avoid relationships with boys.
2) Avoid relationships with boys.
3) Avoid relationships with boys.
4) Ask your parents how to guard your heart.
5)Don't talk about boys with your female friends
6)Avoid tempting media like TV, movies, internet, music, books and magazines.

I'm realizing that the reason I find many SAHD blogs painfully boring is that the authors are living painfully boring lives.  A good SAHD has minimal education, a few female friends who are equally sheltered, few or no male friends after puberty, and is completely cut off from mass media.   I can't blame these young women for being single-mindedly focused on marriage; they've got nearly nothing else to think about.

Here are a few choice quotes from the list:
1. Keep the friendship casual. (...) Sometimes you as a young lady may not even realize what is happening, but soon you find that bonds have formed and you are emotionally attached to a young man whom you only intended to have as a casual friend. One way to guard your heart is to be careful not to share personal or intimate things with your guy friends. It is great to encourage each other in the Lord and share how the Lord is working in your life, but if you open up and share your heart with him, you will most likely become too attached. In most situations, it is better to try and keep conversations short. Be aware of the fact that it is easy to give away a piece of your heart to a young man without dating him at all. " (pg. 52)
  • Here's one of the fundamental issues with the "guard your heart" theology: If guarding your heart is critical - and ordained by God - why is it possible to give chunks of your heart away without even being conscious of doing so?   The Bible has some pretty strict standards on avoiding sexual activity before marriage - but consensual sex requires active choice on the part of each participant. 
  • Good Lord.  Imagine the conversations that this paragraph could spawn if someone actually followed this advice.  "Wow, the Lord is so active in my life right now!"  "That's awesome!  How is God working in you?" "Oh, I can't tell you or else I might lose a piece of my heart."  *awkward silence*
The next anecdote is from the section on asking for your parents for advice.

A young man once visited our church. He was a newcomer and I wanted to be friendly, so I talked to him for a few minutes. I wasn't interested in him; I was just trying to be nice. Later that day we had an all - church dinner, and somehow I ended up next to him in line, so we talked some more. At lunch, I also found myself at the same table with this young man, so again we continued our discussion. After church, I remember thinking to myself, 'I probably came across as way too friendly. I hope I didn't give him the wrong impression. I need to be more careful.'

The next time the young man visited our church, I sort of tried to avoid him and didn't talk to him at all. After church my mom came up to me and said, "Sarah, do you think you could be a little more friendly with "so-and-so"? You walked right past him today and didn't even look at him. You could have at least said hi." (pg. 55)
  • The first paragraph amazes me in how little agency Ms. Mally gives herself.  She made one choice to talk to him at the beginning of his visit and then has no control over how she ended up standing next to him in line or how she sat at the same table as him for a meal.  The story makes more sense if she admits that she was interested in getting to know him as a friend or was at least not opposed for him to take steps to get to know her.  Plus, if she was simply a victim of random chance, feeling angst about how he took her interactions feels rather self-important to me.
  • I'm seeing more clearly why Grace was nearly frantic and unable to deal with unwanted attention when her older sister "sort of kind of" tried to avoid a guy.  If Sarah can't write "I avoided the newcomer" in a book, she'd be screwed if she needed to stop his attentions cold.  This is giving me a bad impression of how the Mally parents raised their daughters.
  • The church the Mally family attends needs either more people or more activities for adults if Sarah Mally's mom had time to watch how Sarah interacted with the new young man and give her feedback after church.  Really, the whole interaction between Sarah and her mom gives me the creeps.  I'm not sure why Mrs. Mally gives a damn about how friendly or aloof Sarah is from the unnamed stranger.
Well, that's a wrap for Chapter 3.  The next chapter is titled "Is He The One?"  You know, I'd be grateful to any prince or knight who takes Sarah Mally horse-back riding because I don't know if I can handle any more horse stories.

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