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I hadn’t heard of it, but there is a play running in Washington D.C. called, “Bachelorette.” Eve Tushnet reviews it briefly here.  In the play, four overprivileged young women, as Tushnet describes them, are together the night before one of them gets married.

Marriage, for these women, is the gold ring (appropriate, hmmm?) they are all trying desperately to grasp.  It has everything to do with their goals for status and nothing to do with relationship. Tushnet describes it like this:

What the girls are really gluttonous for–their idol, what they want to consume, to possess, more than they want loyalty or friendship or happiness–is marriage.

This is marriage conceived purely as a status marker. It’s the final sign that you’ve arrived: a more consoling source of self-worth than your looks, or a good job. Marriage is a scarce good, not a default life path.

Picture the Jersey wives or the Kardashians or even a Bridezilla.  Bottom line: It’s all about them.

So, let’s test ourselves.  When you think about marriage, what do you picture?  There may be an initial mental image of a beautiful wedding, and then where do your thoughts go? How do you see yourself, and your future spouse when you picture marriage?  Take five minutes and just scratch out some of the images you see or ideas that come to mind.

Share with us what you see or imagine if you want to.  We’ll talk more about this tomorrow.

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Get out of town

We camped with family over the weekend and it was so good to get away.

Such a welcome change of pace.  There’s nothing like a complete change of scenery, outside-the-routine activities, and the faces of people you enjoy but don’t get to see very often, for refreshing the spirit.

Highlights

  • Watching my husband sacrifice his body to snag a fast-moving grounder in the camp softball game. My hero!
  • Seeing cousins of various ages together learning the 80s art of hackysacking.
  • Eating al fresco. Does everything taste better outdoors?
  • Chatting history and books with a retired teacher from Texas camping with her husband and grandkids.
  • Seeing kids whiz around the campground loop on bikes and scooters and skateboards.
  • Observing the evening activities of other camping families through the glow of lantern and campfire.

Feeling dull and humdrum? Grab a friend and get out of town! I would love to see your highlight list.

It’s okay to admit to yourself that you want to marry.  It’s even okay to say it. Out loud. To others.

When you say it to people, I encourage you to pause and let the statement just be. Stifle the urge to explain or equivocate.  Let the person react, and know that this could be a little bit uncomfortable for both of you.  There is a myriad of possible responses but if someone responds negatively I would suggest that you deflect their words with a simply-worded response like, “I think marriage is a good thing and it’s been the desire of my heart for awhile now.”  Then, change the subject, or find a reason to leave the conversation.

There are at least two very good reasons to go ahead and say it. First, the good of stating any goal out loud is that it is more likely to become a part of who you are and something you work toward.

Second, it will be helpful for your friends and even acquaintances to know that marriage is a goal for you. Most people still meet their future spouse through friends or family members, so they can be a conduit for meeting husband material.  If your friends are negative about marriage, they should at least respect your hopes. If they don’t, you might consider finding some friends who will encourage you.

A third and fourth reason.  Your statement will encourage any friends who are like-minded but afraid to admit it, to be as strong as you are. And, you will stand out in the crowd to any man among your friends who would also like to marry.  Good men will admire your forthrightness, and the players will know not to mess with you.

Note: And now, as you’re thinking of a player you’re attracted to, and wish that he would change, stop it! Stop thinking about him!  The best way you can encourage a player to change is not to play his game. He is terrible husband material and, as the well-known book (He’s Just Not That Into You) says, think of yourself as the rule and not the exception–you’re not going to change him by dating him.

Back to the subject at hand. It’s a position of strength to know what you want and be able to say it out loud.  And with the long-term goal of marriage in mind, it should help you that your friends and family know that it’s your goal.

Two of my greatest frustrations while single were things I could not change.

I could not change:

  1. A culture that urged young men to pattern their lives after the beer commercials that told them to live for the game on Saturday, a good buzz to carry them euphorically through the game, and willing women with large breasts to celebrate with them and,
  2. The willing women who traded their self-respect and their bodies for game day popularity. Of course this behavior comes with all sorts of hobbies, not just team sports.

It frustrated me because men who behave like this–indulging self-centeredly in their favorite things and taking advantage of the women who let them–are not ready for marriage. And, the willing women in their lives helped perpetuate the overgrown adolescent behavior of the men. By the time these men would be ready for marriage (a woman like me), they were likely to have regrets, maybe a child or two, and to have been through a divorce.  THEN they would be ready for marriage.

THEN they would be ready for marriage?!  With every passing year I felt the odds of marrying a man without this kind of baggage stacked ever higher against me and the woman like me.

Randall B. Smith writes about this in his article “Courtship, Etiquette, and the Adolescent Male.”

Nothing aggravates the young women I meet more than the fact that the young men in their lives don’t know how to date.  “What do they do?” I ask.  “They play lots of video games,” is a standard answer.  Or they watch a lot of sports.  Or they go to the bar and look for a hook-up if “the mood” strikes.

Smith finds that feminism helped engineer the overgrown adolescent male by demanding change to the “old-fashioned etiquette” that taught young men how to treat women. Smith also recognizes that these changes put women who desire marriage in a tough spot due to the behavior of their peers.

It’s harder now to claim that what young women are looking for is marriage – they’re not really allowed to say that out loud or even admit it to themselves – but what they do tend to be looking for is stability, commitment, and the kind of benefits that come from stability and commitment: a person one can depend on; a person who shows up when he says he will; a person who will be kind and gentle and thoughtful, but not whiny and full of complaints and excuses.  In short, they want a man, not a boy.

and

Unfortunately for such foolish young men, there are still foolish young women around who will indulge them as playmates or surrogate mothers and thereby risk ensnaring both in an unhappy marriage.  Such foolish young women are the second most frequent cause of aggravation among the sensible young women I know – right behind the immaturity of boys.  (“How could he be so stupid as to be attracted to her?”)

The conclusion to which I always had to return was to stay on the same path I had been on. Compromising my own standards to get attention, a date or a boyfriend was not a path toward successful marriage. So, surrounded by friends who shared the same standards–including Jones, I walked down the path determined show respect for myself and others, and trusted that there were more single men than I knew of doing the same thing.

Smith concludes similarly, and encourages parents to teach this kind of respect.

Perhaps, then, it was this potential for foolishness among young women to indulge the silly adolescent fancies of young men that brought about those other “old-fashioned” set of rules of etiquette: the ones that applied not to adolescent boys, but to adolescent girls; the ones that bid them not to allow themselves to be treated as property; the ones that encouraged them, rather, to demand respect for their dignity and worth.  Those were principles of behavior that used to be instilled in young women by their mothers.

My path was rewarded when I met my future husband.  Neither of us was perfect, but we were ready for each other in part because we knew how to be respectful of ourselves and the opposite sex. I will add that this is also true of most of my girl friends who married later in life–the men they married were worth the wait.

I read this morning that a new dating book will be published next year by the authors of the The Rules, a dating book published in the 90s. The title of the new one is Not Your Mother’s Rules.

One of the authors is interviewed here. She summarizes their advice for women in the world of online dating,

Don’t answer a guy’s ad, and post a light and breezy ad talking about interests, hobbies, favorite foods, books, movies, etc. Don’t mention anything about dreams and regrets and include a couple of sexy photos. If a guy doesn’t ask you out within 4 emails, next! Rules girls are looking for dates, not pen pals.

and

 A woman cannot email, or even wink at a guy’s profile, without becoming the aggressor and possibly getting hurt down the line when the guy dumps her for the woman whose profile he really likes. The only way to be sure that a guy is interested is to let him make the first move.

I’ve only skimmed The Rules once several years ago, but my impression from this distance is that the authors start their rules with good rules of thumb, but goes too far details. We’ll have to see what they do with this new book.

Have you consulted books for dating advice? Have any books been helpful?

Do you despair in your singleness?

We women handle feelings of despair differently. For many, it’s a reason to be insanely busy–less time to think.  Others let despair preoccupy their thoughts until they wallow in it.  I avoided (mostly!) these extremes in my single years, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel the great weight of it. There were a few nights when despair pressed so heavily on my heart that it was hard to breathe.  One of those nights was after Jones got married, I am sorry to say. I usually didn’t have a hard time with weddings and I was overjoyed for the bride and groom, but that was a long, sleepless night.

It is hard. hard. hard. to walk the thin line of hopefulness when you feel crushed down, but the extreme alternatives are not helpful.  Wallowing is not only unproductive and hopeless, but unattractive.  Busyness for the sake of squelching your desire for marriage and relationship only numbs and dulls a woman’s heart. In contrast, the heart of a woman walking the thin line of hope is tender and brave, open to new people and opportunities, and I believe that some of a woman’s greatest personal and emotional strength lies in how she handles the feelings and her time.

Emily Stimpson is a woman trying to walk the thin line of hope.  She now writes a column and has recently published a book about being single (The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years: The Nuts and Bolts of Staying Sane and Happy While Waiting for Mr. Right)  And she has this to say about despair and hope in her recent column.

It’s despair that leads us to date people we shouldn’t and do things we oughtn’t. It’s despair that makes us bitter, hard and cold, the embodiment of everything the culture tells us we’ll be if we’re living a chaste single life. And it’s despair that turns us in on ourselves, preventing us from seeing the needs of others and loving them as they need to be loved.

Despair is not our friend. Hope is our friend. Hope is what gets us through a string of bad dates or a stretch of none at all. Hope is what keeps us going after a breakup or when we feel like the last single person standing. Hope is what allows us to trust that God really does know what he’s doing.

She concludes that “remaining hopeful may be a single person’s greatest task.”  I couldn’t agree more.  We’re going to talk a lot more on this blog about cultivating hope.

As usual, we would love to hear from you. Have a great weekend, and don’t forget to thank a veteran or serviceman or woman for keeping us free.

My grandparents will celebrate anniversary #70 this week.  That’s seven followed by a zero. Spelled seventy.  Impressive, hmmm?

I was privileged to live near them for several years in my adulthood and got to observe a few things about them that, as a child, I did not notice.  For example, Grandma could be very stubborn and sometimes passive aggressive. Grandpa didn’t cook. I don’t think he even mastered the bowl of oatmeal that he had every single morning until the instant came along.  Grandma told me once that when they had company, she often felt a little resentful that she was in the kitchen cleaning things up while others visited. So, there were things that provoked them both.

That’s the short list; here’s the long. Grandpa is a gentlemen. The old school style. Women are ladies and he treats them like a gentleman treats a lady.  He opens doors and speaks respectfully and carries all of the suitcases and drives across town and always wants to pay for your meal. That’s how he treats all the ladies, so he treats Grandma very well.  I have never heard him speak disrespectfully to her or about her. He loved to talk about how he wanted to marry her the first time he saw her when they were teens, and about how she sometimes rode her bicycle to the construction site where he was working, greatly distracting his attention.  He also loved to tell about their engagement and the circumstances of their wedding  just as the United States got involved in WWII.

Grandma knows all of their stories.  She also knows all of Grandpa’s jokes and military stories because she’s heard them all. Multiple times. And yet every time he tells one, she watches him, listens attentively, and does her best to help with a name or place if he asks.  She is proud of the way he looks, especially his flat stomach and upright carriage, and she will tell you that while she pats his stomach approvingly.  She has trouble walking now, and holds Grandpa’s arm for support wherever they go.

They always give each other cards for their anniversaries. And they would usually show them to me when I stopped by the house.  “Did you see the card that Grandpa gave me?” Grandma asked on one of these occasions. I read it and teased her a little. “I guess everyone knows,” I said. “It’s no secret any more that you love each other.”  “Yes,” said Grandma. “I don’t know why he loves me, but he does.”

Their solid commitment has seen them through parenting four children, multiple military separations, health difficulties, and the hard times everyone experiences.  I would say that their marriage was stabilized by their personal commitment to each other, their marriage and family, and by their Christian faith.

One tangible result of their commitment is family stability for two more generations. The stability of their marriage, and that of my parents and other grandparents, inspires me to do all I can to continue our family’s great marriage heritage.

More about them tomorrow.