Friday, April 07, 2006

Is Finding a Husband a Game?

While we're on the subject of male-female relationships, be sure to check out Lydia's recent post on courtship. She did an excellent, well-balanced job with the subject!

Now continuing from my last post on The Rules. . .

As I stated in my previous post, The Rules hinge on the notion of turning a cold-shoulder to men whom you admire, remaining elusive and mysterious towards them. We women evidently can't be friends to men: we must be elusive butterflies, creatures unlike any other. I have some definite problems with this mentality. My dislike of this school of thought is founded on a number of reasons, most notably the following two: I don't like to communicate false feelings to people, and I like to be nice and friendly to people.

I don't like this notion of the cold-shoulder because it communicates false feelings. I really like him, so I'm going to act like I don't. That sounds dangerous, not to mention deceptive. Granted, there is a world of difference between the feelings one has and the feelings one relates, but concealing one's feelings is a whole different issue from relating other, untrue feelings. That's called lying. The Rules encourage women to hide their true nature, presenting a masked woman to men:

On a job interview, you don't act "like yourself." You don't eat cake if you're serious about losing weight. Similarly, it is not wise to let it all hang out and break The Rules as soon as you begin dating a man.

You may feel that you won't be able to be yourself, but men will love it!

Being a creature unlike any other is really an attitude, a sense of confidence. . . You're not desperate or anxious. . . You trust in the abundance and goodness of the universe. . . You're not cynical. . . You're an optimist. . . Of course, that is not how you really feel. That is how you pretend you feel until it feels real.

It sounds like the authors are explaining to women how to play a game, an intricate dance of flirtation, fantasy, and deception. If that is how to be a creature like any other, I don't think I'll join. It sounds to me like the authors like to play with fire.

I would think men would like to feel confident that they really know the woman with whom they are "falling in love." Men don't like to have the burden of discovering all of women's emotions! Remember Melanie? In the words of the authors of The Rules book, Melanie's boyfriend eventually proposed to the one girl he thought he would never get - her! I feel sorry for that poor guy, trying to decide if the girl he loved would ever have him. We women have more complex emotions, and we would do well to help men figure us out a bit.

Marrying someone because she is intriguing, for the purpose of spending your life figuring her out, is dangerous! Look at Marguerite in The Scarlet Pimpernel. She learned the hard way the danger of marrying someone because he was intriguing. Of course, it worked out in the end, but she could have been stuck with an idiotic fop the rest of her life, just because she was attracted to Percy since he was mysterious and elusive.

Certainly there is danger in exposing or concealing too many of one's feelings! In Sense and Sensibility Marianne and Elinor discover the pitfalls of either extreme: the former suffers from concealing nothing while the latter suffers from communicating nothing. Undoubtedly there is error on either side. My point is that we should not purposely communicate false emotions, something key to The Rules. Which true emotions we should conceal or communicate is another matter entirely.

I feel that this cold-shoulder notion also goes against common civility. I was raised to be nice to people, simply put. (Odd concept, I know.) If I give someone the cold shoulder it's usually because I'm uncomfortable around him, either because of his behavior/conversation or because of signals I have received that he may be interested in me (if I am not interested in him). Or perhaps we have nothing in common so we just don't talk much. Even then I'm still cordial! By default, I'm friendly. It seems the kind, polite thing to do, no? This refers back to my mention about following the Golden Rule rather than The Rules.

As a note of caution, there is a vast difference between being friendly to a man and throwing yourself at his feet. Miss Bingley would be a bad example of a woman who was overly-friendly (possessive, manipulative, jealous, slanderous to others, . . . ) with regards to Mr. Darcy, for the sole purpose of attracting his attention. Miss Bingley is a not a good example of a woman who did not give the cold shoulder to her chosen man. I'm not endorsing her type of behavior! I fully realize that care is needed when relating to members of the opposite sex. I do not relate to my male friends as I do to my female friends, even those that I know so well as to view as "brothers." There is an unspoken barrier in our relationship, not because we don't care about one another but because we do care about one another - and we care about our future spouses.

I am not giving license for wild-man-chasing behavior! Cold-shoulder = bad, but wild behavior = bad. We women should certainly not throw ourselves at a man or flirt with every man that comes our way. We are to keep our hearts and bodies guarded, careful in the way we relate to men. We should act as Ambassadors of the King, not as hussies desperately grabbing for a guy. I would like to someday pledge my whole heart to a man, as far as I am able, not the pieces that are left over from one broken relationship after another. As Gretchen Glaser recently said, "Forsaking all others" sometimes starts before you even know who you're forsaking them for.

One of my friends attended Taylor University in Indiana (yay!). There were two all-girl dorms on Taylor's campus: Olson Hall and English Hall. Olson Hall was known for the "wilder" types of girls who ran after the guys, and English Hall was known for the "Suzy-homemaker" types. A saying on Taylor's campus runs: Boys date the girls from Olson and marry the girls from English.

Isn't that the truth? Popularity and attraction are all well and good, but most men realize in the long run that the quintessential sorority girl (or the small college equivalent. . . ) doesn't make a good life partner. (The song Barlow Girls comes to mind here as well.) I think The Rules are, in a way, reacting to this wild man-chasing behavior, rightly realizing that in the long run, men do not go for "that kind of girl." Amen! - but let's make sure we're not reacting with an equally horrid suggestion.

I really don't like this notion that men and women can't be friends, because frankly, I don't just "feel the need" to be polite to people (including men), I also like people (including men). I like to study people. I like to learn about them and find out what makes them tick. Complex people, especially, fascinate me. I enjoy deep conversations, and many of those deep conversations are with men. My hope and prayer is that men realize that I regard them as friends and, if fellow Christians, as my brothers in Christ. They are not prizes to be won, but people with whom to converse and from whom to learn. Maybe someday I'll glance over at one of my brothers in Christ and realize that our friendship is turning into something more. As is often the case, L.M. Montgomery communicates this eloquently:

Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one's life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one's side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart it's pages betrayed the rhythm and the music; perhaps... perhaps... love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.

This idea of mutual companionship growing from friendship to love seems to be missing from The Rules. We catch a guy and then become friends; sounds backwards to me. The authors tell women how to act in the presence of a man they like: Be quiet and mysterious. . . Don't talk much. They should have added smile vacantly to keep with the theme. I think men want a life-long conversational companion, not a girl who is a big question mark or an elusive butterfly that flits about the room playing games.

Being a creature unlike any other is not necessarily a bad thing, depending on how you define the term. We certainly should strive to be different than the shallow types who throw themselves heart, body, and soul at a man. Christian women should be different because we are members of a royal priesthood, a chosen generation, and our difference should shine in every part of our lives! Men should notice that we are different, not because we wear lipstick when we run or because we ignore them or because we are mysterious, but because we conduct ourselves with dignity!

In Anne of Avonlea, Anne desparingly asks Marilla why Gilbert loves her. In reply Marilla says to Anne, "Because you made Josie Pye and Ruby Gillis and all of those wishy-washy young ladies who waltzed by him look like spineless nothings." Gilbert recognized something special in Anne, and it wasn't her recent facial or her elusive behavior - it was her substance!

Consider also the example of Ned Jones in Berkeley Square. Ned had spent his whole youth chasing women and treating them like disposable lovers. While hiding from the police for fraudulent charges, he finds himself working in the same household as Maddie, a girl of character and morals. She is so different from the saloon girl types he is used to, and he finds himself falling in love with her. Later in the story, in a moment of despair, he slips back into his old ways and finds temporary comfort with another woman. When Maddie finds out about it and confronts him, Ned's reply shows the awakening that his heart has had:

All right, I took another woman out like I've done since I was 15. You don't talk; not proper talkin'. You've a drink, a laugh. Easy. But suddenly everything you've always had ain't good enough. 'Cuz you seen somethin' else. And nothin' can ever be the same again.

Ned, once content with the shallow and temporal, was awakened when he finally met someone who was different - a creature unlike any other. Yes, Maddie was a creature unlike any other, but not the same creature as Melanie. Maddie and Melanie - two creatures unlike any other. I think we all know which creature we should strive to be!


Adrian C. Keister said...

More great stuff. I liked your link to Lydia's post. She has some great stuff, too. Hope you're reading this, Lydia. Maybe I'll comment on your post, too.

In Christ.

zan said...

That was great.

I don't know about any other ladies but the guys are REALLY scarce up here and I couldn't afford to give any guy the cold shoulder...just kidding...I wasn't THAT desperate...even though I did result to going online to find a spouse.

I do agree about the whole flirting thing...yuck!

I was always nice to every guy that approached me.

Lydia H. said...

Thanks for your encouragement, Adrian. Feel free to comment on my blog at your leisure.

I saw that you had quite the conversation going with Natalie from her series on marriage. Definitely a spirited discussion. It caused me to think about the biblical basis of marriage/divorce and I appreciated that. Even if I didn't agree with your line of reasoning, I thought the discussion was worth pondering.
Thanks for putting forth another perspective.

Hey, Zan! Glad to see you around. I've been thinking about you and the new baby boy. Hope all is going well. I tried commenting to you over on Erin's blog but I'm not sure you saw it so I will try again. I would love to know how everything's going. Shoot me an e-mail sometime if you want.

ashley said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Susan. I don't think guys appreciate it if they have to go through lots of trouble just trying to see who we are! I mean, putting on makeup all the time? What a waste of time! If he's worth having, he'll be able to see you without makeup and think you're the most beautiful woman in the world. :-)

Glad to hear you're not planning on throwing yourself at the next available guy who comes along, Susan. ;-)

Susan said...

Well, Zan, guys are a-plenty down here, but not necessarily my type ;).

Ashley, I wouldn't go so far as to call makeup a waste of time, but it's not currently on my list of daily things to do ;). I agree that if me wearing makeup makes a guy take or leave me then he's not worth having.

And, um, so before this post you were worried that I would throw myself at the next available guy who comes along? ;)

ashley said...

Well, I was pretty worried... I mean, you're reaching old-maid age and still no prospects, so I thought out of desperation you would try being a little more aggressive. You know, go for one of those guys who let their wives wear pants. That kind of stuff.


Susan said...


You're cracking me up, Ashley! That's never been on my list of necessary qualities, though I wouldn't want to marry a guy who made me wear pants, except in unusual circumstances. . .

Him: Susan, I insist that you wear pants for downhill skiing!

Me: No, really, I'll be fine.

Hehe. I don't think downhill skiing would be my cup of tea anyway, but that would definitely be an instance where I would wear pants! I quite enjoy ice skating in a skirt, but skiing is a different matter entirely :). Okay, now I'm just rambling, but your comment tickled me.

Anonymous said...

Right on!!!

I think being forthright, honest and direct(while not necessarily revealing EVERYTHING) is the way to go. (What's this about not being yourself in a job interview? You put your best foot forward but you should certainly be yourself.)

This idea in the Rules of treating men as objects or oneself as an object is really degrading to the humanity of both sexes.

lis said...

Susan, I really appreciated this post!