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.

They got married, yet their marriage wasn't a happy one. He was interested in her - but not in Christ. Now he felt "pushed" to Christ and didn't like it. Instead of listening to Vicki when she tried to encourage him in spiritual things, he went in the opposite direction - away from the Lord. And of course, he did not provide the kind of spiritual leadership in the home that a father must provide. in the end, despite Vicki's effort to lead her children to Christ, some of her kids followed their father, and she felt like she had used her life to raise a generation of non-Christians. This story is a tragedy. And it's happening all around us. (pg. 74)
  • On top of being stupefyingly generic, Mally's anecdotes never support the main idea she is trying to sell.  Vicki's problems have nothing to do with dating - and are only marginally connected to marrying someone who isn't a Super-Christian.  Vicki's real problems are myriad:
    • Vicki has no communication skills.  She can't seem to ask Christopher if he's a Super Good Christian when they are dating.  Even worse, she marries Christopher with the unspoken expectation that he'll have a magical "Come to Jesus" moment in the future.
    • Vicki is a coward. She didn't break up with Christopher when she realized that he didn't fit her requirements for marriage and instead stayed in the relationship for her own benefit.  
    • Vicki is a martyr.  She blames Christopher for the fact that some of their children aren't Super Good Christians without accepting her own issues; let's be honest - I'd run away from any church if my mom spent all of my childhood nagging my dad his spiritual life.  Vicki's not dead yet.  She has plenty of time to use the rest of her life to do meaningful things with her life.
  • It is a terrible life choice to make your life goals dependent on another person following the path that you want.  
    • Vicki can choose to be a Super Good Christian herself; that's an achievable goal.  
    • Vicki can choose to raise her children in a manner befitting a Super Christian as a workable goal.
    • Vicki can't choose to make all of her kids Super Good Christians as adults; that's not workable.
Next in the chapter, Sarah recounts ambushing people with her sister before the 4th of July fireworks with a personal survey that leads to soul-winning or tracting.  She mentions that the non-Christians responded with attacks as soon as they found out she was a Christian.  One of the women pointed out that Sarah has far fewer marriage prospects than the woman's daughter since Sarah can only marry Christians.  Looking back, Sarah finds this funny because Christians marriage prospects are even more limited since Christians shouldn't settle for anything other than Super Good Christians!
  • I find that to be a deeply suspect re-telling of the actual encounter.  
    • First, she's from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  In the Midwest, it's hard to find large groups of people who are not at least nominally Christian.  They may not be practicing members of a church or don't fit Sarah's ideal mold, but they most likely count themselves as Christian-ish.  
    • Second, she's the one who started the conversation under false pretenses.  Sarah's marks started the conversation to help someone out with a survey - not to be converted by an overly eager pair of young women.
    • Third, "Boy, you have limited marriage prospects" isn't an attack; it's an observation of fact.  Sarah and Grace Mally have very, very limited marriage prospects.  Finding an available Super Good Christian man who is not divorced and is compatible with Sarah or Grace has been impossible to find so far.
  • All SAHD books I've read so far have a section that is pathetic due to the passage of time.  In this section, Sarah has an underlying message of "It's totes ok that I'm super picky because I'll meet Prince Charming any day now!  This will totally be worth it soon!"  That made a certain amount of sense when she was 26, but she's now at least 36 years old.  
    • I don't say this to rub it in, but if Sarah had started dating at 26, she very likely would be married by now.  I didn't date much before I was 25 and I got married at 29.  
    • Heck, if Sarah started dating RIGHT NOW, she has a great shot at getting married to a nice, God-fearing guy before she's 40.  
The next section goes to a weird, weird place.  The title of the next anecdote is "Evaluate His Character and Direction".  Please pay careful attention to how Sarah and her parents go about evaluating a potential suitor's character and direction:
""Well, what should I say to this?" I asked Mom and Dad one day as I was reading my emails. "I just got an email from 'so-and-so', asking if he can get to know me better. He was a godly young man who was a few years older than I was, but he wasn't someone in whom I thought I would be interested. "How do you think I should answer him?" I asked. My parents didn't know this young man very well and asked me what I thought of him. I answered that he seem to be a nice guy, but I did not believe he was the right one for me.

As Mom, Dad, and I discussed this possibility my dad suggested, "Why don't you make a list of the qualifications you are looking for in a husband?" he went on to say, "I'd encourage you to make two lists: a list of the essential qualities that things you consider a requirement for marriage, and a list of the desirable qualities - things that are important to you, though not necessarily required." Then my parents decided they would make two lists as well. We worked individually, came together with our list in hand, then compared notes.

This was a helpful exercise, and by the time we were finished, we all agreed that this particular young man was not the right one for me. Since we already had peace about this decision, we agreed that there was no reason for me to get to know him better. Rather, it would simply be a distraction for me and probably for him as well. (pg. 76)
  • Let's start with the good idea.  I found making a list of essential qualities in a spouse to be helpful.  I wanted someone who was a good person, employable, hard-working, passionate about life, had a sense of humor that was compatible with mine, wanted children and was in an organized religion. By dating several men, I added "doesn't smoke" - my asthma requested that addition - and removed "shares my political affiliation".  
  • Next. let's look at the shaky idea.  The list of desirable qualities may be helpful - or it may be a massive hindrance.  For me, I wanted the essentials and having a list of desirable traits would have taken my focus off the more important things.   In the black-and-white world of CP, I wonder if desirable is a code for "actually essential, but based on Sarah's personal preferences rather than her parent's preferences."  
  • Now, let's look at the odd idea.  Did Sarah's parents write up the list of things that they each wanted before they got married or did they each write up a list of what Sarah should want in a partner?  
    • If it was the first idea, that's a whole lot of bravery.  Having a conversation with your spouse about which desirable characteristics you gave up when you married them could be intense, but also deeply intimate.  Probably not one I'd want to have in front of my young adult kid, though.  
    • The second idea is insane.  Look, the bare-bones essentials are probably the same.  We can guess both of their lists will have "can support me and our brood", "is a Super Good Christian", "doesn't use birth control", "has never been divorced", and "is attracted to me".  But the rest of the essentials list is so personal that it would be hard to figure out even for my sister or best friend.  My parents wouldn't have thought the organized religion portion of mine was important to me.  I don't know that either I or my parents would have realized that I would be more than willing to give up having furred or feathered animals inside our house in return for marrying my husband.  
  • Last, the bat-shit crazy bit: Sarah and her parents have decided that they don't think Sarah will marry him so they drop the relationship all together.   (O_o)  This fact finding mission was based on one email and Sarah's gut instinct that she's probably not going to marry him.  I don't usually rag on someone's gut instinct, but Sarah stated categorically in an earlier chapter that you already know plenty of guys in your life that you won't marry.  That's a weird statement since people generally marry people that they know and people change greatly over time.
That's a wrap on this chapter.  Next chapter: When the Princess has a crush...


  1. I remember "The List." My list included serious things and frivolous things. I married someone who is not willing to kill spiders for me, because he thinks we should let them live and eat bugs, even though that was on my list. In retrospect, the list I made at 15 or so wasn't particularly useful. People change over time; what a teenager thinks she wants out of a marriage is not going to be the same thing as what a twenty-something with more life experience wants. Dating someone, getting to know them better, and using that to figure out if we'd work long-term worked quite well.

    1. I don't know if I was brave enough to make a list when I was a teenager - the idea of picking out a spouse then seemed overwhelming.

      I do know that "marry a dairy farmer who lives in a rural enclave of conservative values" was not on the list, but it's worked out well for me. :-)

  2. It kind of sounds to me that deep down Ms. Mally doesn't want to get married. She's super quick on the draw to rule guys out. Who knows why she wouldn't want to, there are lots of reasons she may feel that way (if she does), but it might be healthiest for her and her parents to just come clean with themselves and the rest of the world about it instead of making up a ton of excuses about every dude they meet.

    1. That's a great point! I think a lot of CP/QF girls are afraid of relationships for many reasons and it comes out in books like this.