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."


"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....