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Lori Gottlieb’s book and Christian maximizers.

27 Mar

I recently read Lori Gottlieb’s book Marry Him:  The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough.  Because of the title, the book has been criticized for telling women to take whomever will have them just so they can be married.  Having now read the book, I can definitely say that this isn’t what the book advocates.  Rather, it reads like a cautionary tale not to let excessive pickiness keep you from getting married, or, as Gottlieb points out in the book, if you let an 8 go in hopes of snagging a 10, you’ll most likely end up with only 5s as your options.

In a way the book had a dual personality.  On the one hand, it was a sort of quasi-memoir where Gottlieb portrayed herself as a delusional elitist who couldn’t accept that as a 41-year-old single mother (by choice through artificial insemination), her dating prospects, especially in L.A., were rather limited and that her options from professional matchmakers and dating websites generally were balding divorced men.  On the other hand, it was like Gottlieb stepped outside of herself to offer an objective voice about her situation.  I would like to believe that Gottlieb actually, genuinely learned from the experiences chronicled in the book, but she IS still unmarried, so….I don’t know if that’s because she’s older, or because she fell back into the bad habit of wanting AMAZING CHEMISTRY!!11 from the get-go.

While reading the book, I found myself wanting to shake Gottlieb for being so unreasonably picky.  She would discount men for the most insignificant reasons, like naming a movie she didn’t approve of as his favorite.  She basically had it in her head that she could only relate to and be attracted to men who fit a very narrow profile (basically that of a fashionable, sophisticated, secular UMC Jewish SWPL with all the “right” tastes who still had his hair and wasn’t more than a few years from her in age).  With her discounting men for the slightest of reasons, it was no wonder she had gone through life without ever marrying.  Actually, what I found the most disheartening was not that she had dated a bunch of guys that were not marriage material – it was that some of them HAD been marriage material, but she dumped them for not fulfilling her ideals.  It would have been one thing if she had only dated cads – but she didn’t.

As I grew frustrated with Gottlieb’s bullheadedness, I started thinking that modern Christian women have been taught to think like Gottlieb – to be what she calls “maximizers”:  people who will only accept the absolute best.  The fear of settling for a less-than-totally on fire for God man is implanted in Christian girls from at least junior high on, both in church and in Christian media.  How many times have Christian girls been warned not to marry a man who doesn’t TOTALLY LOVE JESUS WITH ALL HIS HEART, with dark implications or outright warnings that life will be TERRIBLE otherwise?  How many times have Christian girls been told that the man must be the Spiritual Leader, with the implication that if he’s not leading the charge to go to Sunday School and lead devotions and pray all the time, that he must be disqualified as a potential husband?  Conversely, how often have Christian girls been told to give Christian men encouragement to grow in their faith and to have patience with them if they weren’t as “strong” in the faith as the women?  The bar has been raised so high that hardly any Christian man can be marriage-worthy.  (See:  The Earl of Piety.)  And it’s common enough that even my readership has experience with this.

It’s not that Christian singles don’t get married.  Christian singles generally marry younger than the population at large, or at least the college-educated population at large.  But it’s obvious that there is a significant percentage of Christian singles who are having trouble not just getting to the altar, but getting to a point where getting to the altar is even a consideration.  The problem isn’t solely the fault of the women – but the church really needs to calm down with the ON FIRE FOR GOD GUY standard, and encourage women to consider men who are not so obviously on fire for God but still take God seriously.  I don’t know if this would work, since it would require people giving up hope that they will be an exception to the rule, or at least giving up enough hope to act pragmatically, but it really seems that the church has screwed over young women by telling them to hold out for God’s best and making it seem like God’s best is some SUPER ON FIRE FOR GOD GUY when in actuality, God’s best might be a low-key guy who happens to believe in Jesus.

P.S.   Gottlieb never instructs her readers to settle for a guy to whom she has zero physical attraction.  She only asks them to expand their definition of what they find attractive so that they can end up with someone instead of no one.


How John Eldredge would have men live.

14 Jul

I was emailing back and forth with a friend, and she mentioned that she finally watched Legends of the Fall for the first time.  Back in the mid-’90s, this movie helped solidify Brad Pitt’s heartthrob status, as he basically spent the movie looking like Fabio’s younger, blonder, Calvin Klein model-ier brother while alternately brooding or wooing as necessary.

However, what I did not know is that John Eldredge, in his revered Christian book Wild at Heart, used Pitt’s character Tristan to represent the “Wild at Heart” man.


Eldredge writes,

Then there is Tristan, the middle son.  He is wild at heart.  It is Tristan who embodies the West–he catches and rides the wild stallion, fights the grizzly with a knife, and wins the beautiful woman.  I have yet to meet a man who wants to be Alfred [Aidan Quinn, the practical beta brother] or Samuel [Henry Thomas, the wussy, other beta brother].  I’ve yet to meet a woman who wants to marry one.

Did Eldridge watch a different movie than the one that was actually made?  As my friend described it (de-capped for readability),

The guy who tries to kiss his younger brother Henry Thomas’s fiancee Julia Ormond, and then scalps a bunch of Germans because they kill Henry Thomas in WWI, and then comes back and steals Julia from his other brother Aiden Quinn, and then runs away for five years bc he is too ~WRACKED WITH GUILT~ to be happy with Julia, and then comes back and messes with her head after she marries Aiden Quinn after all, and then smolders until she throws herself at him again but he says “No Go Back To Aiden,” and then kills some people because they killed his Indian wife, and then has to go live in the mountains the rest of his life.

That is apparently how John Eldredge would have men live.

It kind of reads like beta longing.  Eldredge obviously can’t be Pitt, but darn it, he really would like to be, if he could just un-imagine all of the bad stuff………

My friend, arbiter of fairness, added,

 To be fair though, Aiden is kind of whiny in it. I mean, hello, obviously she should have just married him first before Brad even came back from the war, but he kinda pulled a Bolin when she and Brad started gettin’ it on.
But when Aiden and Julia got married….they were really cute. Until she killed herself bc she couldn’t be with Brad. Yes this is real.
Don’t even get me started on the women in this movie.

I asked,

Did he see a Mormon edit of the movie or something???

My friend replied,



Henry Thomas, despite being a beta virgin, comes off smelling the best of all three. Of course he dies first.

So men, be Wild At Heart.  ‘Tis better to scalp a bunch of Germans, swipe your brother’s wife and play mind games with her, inspire her suicide from your rejection, and go retire in the mountains as a murderer than to die cuckolded or a beta virgin.  First.

I mean, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.  Especially Christian ones.


Random thoughts and links.

15 Dec

Some bloggers are very prolific, but I find that my inspiration comes in fits and starts.  Sometimes I can crank out a blog post quickly, but other times I’ll spend hours tinkering with a post, trying to figure out how to say what I want to say.  Sometimes I start a post and then don’t finish it for weeks or even months.  It just depends.

Since I don’t have anything fully-formed at the moment, here’s a smattering of stuff that’s floating around in my mind lately.

  • Mrs. Cubbie Fink wrote a book.  It’s called What Is He Thinking? and contains the results of Mrs. Fink’s interviews with “men she respects who hope to get married some day.”  According to the description, “The men share their thoughts on topics like how women can respect themselves and the men in their lives, modesty, purity, taking it slow, friendship, letting guys lead, and more. This book gives them the floor to say what they would really like women to know.”  Or, you know, you could just read some men’s blogs FOR FREE and find more honest, more real, and more true information.  Somehow I find it hard to believe that men would be truly frank with someone who looked like Mrs. Fink, but that’s just cynical ol’ me.  P.S. If anyone wants to hook me up with a copy of the book to review, let me know.
  • There’s been noise in the media lately about how 80% of self-identified evangelical singles aren’t virgins.  Well, duh.  Most people can wait until age 22 for sex.  Asking the same people to wait until they’re 30 or 35 or older to have sex is just preposterous.  I generally think that after the age of 25, a lot of Christians say “F THIS” and do what their hormones tell them to do.  If Christians really are serious about preventing premarital sex and the social ills that result from fornication (single moms, bastard kids, poverty, demand for government entitlements, STDs, abortions), then they need to change their attitudes about (a) instructing their kids on marriage and its obligations, (b) when it is appropriate to get married, and (c) getting involved in finding good mates for their children.  I know it’s unpopular to try to shape your child’s romantic destiny (yet okay be a helicopter parent dragging your kid over the finish line to get the minimum SAT score necessary to get into a decent college), but wishful thinking is clearly not keeping the kids out of each other’s pants.
  • I came across a shop on Etsy that sells sexy bikinis for plus-size women.
  • Women admit they were more attractive at 19.  They are actually shocked at how good they looked when they were younger.
  • I started following the whole Tim Tebow thing after I saw someone on TV trashing him as a QB a few weeks ago.  Is the publicity good or bad for Christians?  Weigh in.
  • I guess a special on virgins wasn’t enough for TLC, so now they’re doing a special on Sunday, Dec. 18th called Geek Love.  In the Venn diagram of life, those two circles intersect quite a bit.  Here’s a promo clip:
  •  Lady Gaga is a good example of a woman who is extremely sexual but not at all sexy.
  • An older article at The Art of Manliness that I read recently:  5 Easy Ways for the College Student to Upgrade His Style.  Antonio strongly favors a classic, somewhat preppy look, but his general points are good ones for men of any age.
  • Buy clothes that fit.  Don’t buy anything that doesn’t “sing” when you put it on.  Buying something because “it’s a great deal” is the worst reason to buy something.  Better to buy something more expensive that is great on you, because you’ll wear it more and pay for itself that way.
  • Saw this review of an item at Old Navy, written by a mom who claims she is a size 18:  “I don’t always have the time to pull together a nice outfit outside of sweats and a t-shirt. This shirt makes it easy to pull a nice outfit together quickly whether it’s with cargos, jeans or a skirt.”  A nice outfit outside of sweats and a t-shirt?

Until next time,


World magazine: “Christian Boy Meets Christian Girl.”

9 Aug

Back in June, World magazine (a biweekly politically conservative evangelical newsmagazine) did a cover story on the problems Christian singles are having finding someone to marry.  The viewpoints espoused by the interviewees sound nearly verbatim to opinions I’ve encountered (both online and in real life).  Among them:

  • Guys don’t know how to pursue in a manly or godly way
  • Too many rejections
  • Fear of divorce
  • Dating scene crippled by IKDG – pressure not to date unless reasonably certain the other person is “the one” or at least realistically could be
  • Too much focus on group activities
  • Women don’t want to ask men out
  • Women feel men are content with apathy towards dating and women
  • Men feel women are too picky and only want to be asked out by certain men
  • Men are overwhelmed by choice and keep holding out for someone better-looking, more spiritual, more intelligent, etc.
  • Churches don’t do anything to help singles

Did the article miss anything?  (Well, other than pointing out that everyone in America is just too darn fat and dresses like a slob.)

There’s also a sidebar one-page article called “A Man’s World,” in which (once again) the sexual economics of college campuses are discussed and (once again) the conclusion is reached that women are the losers and men are the winners.  Of course, without discussing the alpha/beta distinction among men, this isn’t exactly an accurate depiction of the reality of the SMP of the college and singles scenes.

Every beta will recognize himself in “Superstud.”

31 May

I recently read Paul Feig’s memoir Superstud: Or How I Became a 24-Year-Old Virgin.  (For those who don’t recognize the name, Feig directed Bridesmaids and created the cult classic show Freaks and Geeks.)  The book begins with his discovery of “the rope feeling” at age 7 and ends with the end of his virginity at age 24.  In between, Feig’s journey to non-virginity reads like a compendium of mortifying beta male experiences, except funny, because Feig is a deft, honest writer and the young Paul Feig of the book is so earnest and so sweetly naive that you can’t help but find him lovable even as you’re groaning at all of his colossal beta mistakes.**  Additionally, Feig was raised as a Christian Scientist, which meant that his hormones were always at odds with God, and a lot of the humor from the book comes from Feig’s ongoing inner dialogue with God as he tries to bargain with God and rationalize away his desires.  I imagine that every guy raised in a Christian home can relate wholeheartedly.

If you liked Freaks and Geeks, you’re almost guaranteed to like this book.  The young Paul Feig is clearly the inspiration for the geeks on that show.  But even if you’ve never been exposed to any of Paul Feig’s work, Superstud is still worth reading because it’s so honest, funny, and sensitive about growing up in contemporary American society as an awkward beta male with romantic dreams in his head.  It’s also a nice antidote to the Roissyness that’s out there that’s all about cold calculation and shielding yourself from feelings while you spit out glossy negs, crusade against feminism and hypergamy, and judge women for failing to meet all of your criteria on your checklist of ideal femininity.  Not that there isn’t a place for Roissydom, but it’s nice to know that not all men hate themselves for having a marshmallow center, either.

**Such as asking out the girl with the biggest boobs in school and then taking her to an REO Speedwagon concert to impress her, only to get AMOGed by drunken twentysomethings at the show; deciding to move across the country for the summer in order to break up with a girl he didn’t really like; enduring a day at Cedar Point with his crush and her boyfriend after he and his crush had secretly made out; and getting the woman who eventually deflowered him up to his bedroom only to freak out and play two games of MouseTrap on his bed before forcing himself to face the music.

“The Hunger Games”: post-apocalyptic female fantasy.

24 May

LOGLINE:  As she is thrust into the national spotlight under circumstances beyond her control, a tomboy from the wrong side of the tracks must choose between her tall, dark, and handsome best friend and the shy yet heroic rich boy who has loved her from afar for years.

For those not in the loop, Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games is the first of a trilogy of books that is one of the hottest things in YA lit right now.  A movie version starring Jennifer Lawrence is in the works (see this week’s Entertainment Weekly), and the brass are obviously hoping it becomes the next Twilight franchise.

Whereas Twilight was entrenched in the realm of fantasy (vampires and werewolves), The Hunger Games is futuristic sci-fi, set in a post-apocalyptic North American dictatorship known as Panem, which is made up of twelve districts and a Capitol.  Originally there was a thirteenth district, but the Capitol destroyed it when the districts rebelled.  As a result of the defeated rebellion, the Capitol instituted a televised gladiatorial event called The Hunger Games, held annually to remind the districts who’s in charge and to provide entertainment for all the residents of Panem.  The conceit of the Games is that the gladiators are all teens drawn at random from each district (one boy and one girl, for a total of 24 competitors known as “tributes”), and they must fight to the death until only one is left standing.  It’s part Survivor, part Roman coliseum.  Entry into the lottery is compulsory between ages 12 and 18.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen becomes her district’s tribute when her younger sister’s name is drawn.  Knowing that participating in the Hunger Games is certain death, Katniss volunteers to go in Prim’s place.  She and Peeta Mellark, the district’s boy tribute, travel to the Capitol, where they are styled and given star treatment (so the audience can get to know them and possibly decide to “sponsor” them, i.e., send them helpful supplies once the Games are underway) as well as trained for the Games by a previous winner from their district (a forty-something alcoholic named Haymitch).  Once the Games begin, Katniss must use all of her wits to stay alive…which she does, obviously, or there wouldn’t be much of a trilogy, would there?

The book is a page-turner, and while not exactly gory, it doesn’t shy away from the killing.  What surprised me, though, was how “chick-lit” the book was once you stripped away the post-apocalyptic setting.  I’ve read other sci-fi/action teen series (Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies trilogy and James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series, both featuring teen female protagonists), and neither of them was remotely as egregious as The Hunger Games in the area of romantic female fantasy.  (Then again, those series were written by men.  Hmmmmmm…)  For all the salacious “teens forced by the totalitarian government to kill each other” angle, the book’s emotional heart is pure chick lit.  To wit:

  • Peeta has been in love with Katniss since they were five years old yet has never had the guts to talk to her. [Women love longing stories.]
  • Still, he has always looked out for her when he could.  When they were eleven, Peeta, a baker’s son and therefore “rich” by the district’s standards, provided Katniss with some bread he intentionally burned on a day when she was hungry and rifling through their trash.  For doing this, his mother beat him. [The woman does not have to do anything to earn the man’s devotion and bravery.  Her mere existence is inspiration enough.]
  • Before the Games start, Peeta confesses to an interviewer on television that he is in love with Katniss.  Katniss, of course, is skeptical because she thinks it might be a ploy to win viewers’ sympathy.  Haymitch encourages the teens to play up the “star-crossed lovers” angle for the audience.  [Playing pretend lovers is straight out of a Harlequin novel.  Or Candace Cameron Bure’s most recent TV movie.]
  • During the Games, Peeta pretends to side with the tougher tributes as a means of protecting Katniss. [More devotion and bravery.]
  • When Peeta is badly injured, Katniss tends to him.  After the change to the rules is announced – both tributes from a district will be declared winners if they are the last two standing – Katniss realizes that she can get more aid from viewers if she pretends to be in love with Peeta.  [See above re: Harlequin novel.  Even better if plausible deniability can be invoked later.]  Naturally, as they become more intimate with each other (at one point sharing a sleeping bag – he was ill, it was cold outside!), Katniss feels confused.  But maybe that’s because….
  • Prior to volunteering for the Games, Katniss spends most of her time hunting (illegally) with her best friend Gale, who just so happens to be two years older, tall, dark, handsome, and angry at the government.  Katniss is better with a bow and arrow (no self-respecting heroine is worse than a man at anything important), but Gale is a good hunter and together they are able to help feed their families.  Although Katniss spends much of her time believing that she and Gale are only friends, she also spends a lot of time thinking about Gale during the Games.  Especially when she feels herself growing a little too close to Peeta.  [Romantic heroines usually must choose between two guys.  Even tough, not-particularly-feminine heroines.]

So…what we have here is a tomboy whose choices in men are a devoted rich boy and a hot loner.  Or a best friend and the new boy in town.  Or the beta she never noticed and the alpha who hasn’t declared his intentions.  Haven’t we all seen this movie before?  Did I mention that Katniss doesn’t want to get married, ever?

But that’s not all!  Because the Hunger Games are televised, the tributes must all get makeovers.  So the book devotes a significant amount of time to fashion and grooming.  Yes, we are treated to Katniss getting her legs waxed and details about her outfits and even her fingernail polish.  The tributes even get personal stylists.  (Lenny Kravitz just got cast as Katniss’s.)  The tributes get instant fame and must go through televised interviews that are like talk shows.  Of course, that the tributes have no choice in the matter (and are about to go to their deaths anyway) is supposed to mitigate this most girly of plot points.  But a perusal of YA lit aimed at teenage girls will reveal tons of books about being popular or famous or becoming popular or famous.  When Katniss (and ::SPOILER:: Peeta) triumphs at the end, she is informed that she will have to do a victory tour – more forced fame!  Quelle horreur!  And she’s still going to have to pretend to be in love with Peeta!  (Can you even stand it?)  Even while her feelings for Gale are getting in the way!  And she breaks Peeta’s heart!  What’s a tomboy who just survived death to do?

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book, but I was really shocked at just how stereotypical and conventional the book was underneath all the window dressing.  Maybe the secret to The Hunger Games is that it’s Twilight for the people who think they’re too good for Twilight.  But at least Twilight didn’t pretend to be some sort of social commentary about war, survival, and totalitarian government.

The hamster is strong.

(For further reading, check out Salon‘s article comparing the heroines of the two seriesCelebuzz did a comparison of the two series also.)

OT: the cover that wasn’t.

2 Apr

Athol Kay has revealed the cover of his new book (which looks great, and a big congratulations for getting the book done!), but oh, what could have been!

(For what it’s worth, he also rejected my other idea.  Barbarian.)

Game With the Wind.

21 Mar

I’ve been re-reading Gone With the Wind lately, and there is no character in literature more skilled at the neg than Rhett Butler.  Given that Rhett is dealing with one of the most self-absorbed and vain females in all of literature, his frame is (and must be, by necessity) concrete and the negs are fairly charged.  However, Rhett’s negs succeed because (a) he is able to deliver them with charm and humor, and (b) he never breaks frame.  He never backpedals or apologizes, but he never crosses the line into bitter insult.  Here is a good example from early in the novel, when Scarlett discovers that Rhett has overheard her conversation with Ashley in the library and witnessed her throwing a vase against the wall in rage.

“Sir,” she said, “you are no gentleman!”

“An apt observation,” he answered airily. “And, you, Miss, are no lady.” He seemed to find her very amusing, for he laughed softly again. “No one can remain a lady after saying and doing what I have just overheard. However, ladies have seldom held any charms for me. I know what they are thinking, but they never have the courage or lack of breeding to say what they think. And that, in time, becomes a bore. But you, my dear Miss O’Hara, are a girl of rare spirit, very admirable spirit, and I take off my hat to you. I fail to understand what charms the elegant Mr. Wilkes can hold for a girl of your tempestuous nature. He should thank God on bended knee for a girl with your–how did he put it?–‘passion for living,’ but being a poor-spirited wretch–”

“You aren’t fit to wipe his boots!” she shouted in rage.

“And you were going to hate him all your life!” He sank down on the sofa and she heard him laughing.

Scarlett’s accusation that Rhett is no gentleman is a classic shit test designed to make Rhett apologize for his behavior and establish Scarlett’s control of their encounter.  But instead of behaving like a gentleman, Rhett agrees and then drops the neg:  in the form of a compliment, he congratulates Scarlett on a poor quality – not being a lady.  He also AMOGs Ashley.

Negging, often in combination with Agree and Amplify, is a strategy that Rhett uses continually against Scarlett’s shit tests, which she doles out with regularity on account of his impudence.  That she cannot control him both infuriates and excites her.  Especially worth noting is that Rhett’s negs are often not upfront; he works them in as asides, or they are implied due to word choice and tone.  The following passage from chapter 17 demonstrates a barrage of game. My comments are bolded in brackets.

“…Never pass up new experiences, Scarlett. They enrich the mind.” [Neg.  Subtext: “Your mind needs enriching.”]

“My mind’s rich enough.” [Qualifying herself.]

“Perhaps you know best about that, but I should say– But that would be ungallant. And perhaps, I’m staying here to rescue you when the siege does come. I’ve never rescued a maiden in distress. That would be a new experience, too.”  [Neg.  Subtext:  “You’re helpless.”]

She knew he was teasing her but she sensed a seriousness behind his words. She tossed her head.

“I won’t need you to rescue me. I can take care of myself, thank you.” [Qualifying herself.]

“Don’t say that, Scarlett! Think of it, if you like, but never, never say it to a man. That’s the trouble with Yankee girls. They’d be most charming if they weren’t always telling you that they can take care of themselves, thank you. Generally they are telling the truth, God help them. And so men let them take care of themselves.” [Neg.  Comparing her to unfeminine women.]

“How you do run on,” she said coldly, for there was no insult worse than being likened to a Yankee girl. “I believe you’re lying about a siege. You know the Yankees will never get to Atlanta.” [Shit test.]

“I’ll bet you they will be here within the month. [Agree and amplify.] I’ll bet you a box of bonbons against–” His dark eyes wandered to her lips. “Against a kiss.”

For a last brief moment, fear of a Yankee invasion clutched her heart but at the word “kiss,” she forgot about it. This was familiar ground and far more interesting than military operations. With difficulty she restrained a smile of glee. Since the day when he gave her the green bonnet, Rhett had made no advances which could in any way be construed as those of a lover. He could never be inveigled into personal conversations, try though she might, but now with no angling on her part, he was talking about kissing. [Rhett always controls the frame with Scarlett.]

“I don’t care for such personal conversation,” she said coolly and managed a frown. “Besides, I’d just as soon kiss a pig.” [Shit test.]

“There’s no accounting for tastes and I’ve always heard the Irish were partial to pigs–kept them under their beds, in fact. [Agree and amplify in combination with a neg.] But, Scarlett, you need kissing badly. That’s what’s wrong with you. All your beaux have respected you too much, though God knows why, or they have been too afraid of you to really do right by you. [AMOG in combination with a neg.] The result is that you are unendurably uppity. You should be kissed and by someone who knows how.” [Neg.]

The conversation was not going the way she wanted it. It never did when she was with him. Always, it was a duel in which she was worsted.

“And I suppose you think you are the proper person?” she asked with sarcasm, holding her temper in check with difficulty. [Shit test.]

“Oh, yes, if I cared to take the trouble,” he said carelessly. “They say I kiss very well.” [Agree and amplify.]

“Oh,” she began, indignant at the slight to her charms. “Why, you . . .” But her eyes fell in sudden confusion. He was smiling, but in the dark depths of his eyes a tiny light flickered for a brief moment, like a small raw flame. “Of course, you’ve probably wondered why I never tried to follow up that chaste peck I gave you, the day I brought you that bonnet–” [Neg.]

“I have never–” [Qualifying herself.]

“Then you aren’t a nice girl, Scarlett, and I’m sorry to hear it. All really nice girls wonder when men don’t try to kiss them. They know they shouldn’t want them to and they know they must act insulted if they do, but just the same, they wish the men would try. . . . Well, my dear, take heart. Some day, I will kiss you and you will like it. But not now, so I beg you not to be too impatient.” [Neg, Neg, Neg.  Also, all girls want men to put the moves on them.]

She knew he was teasing but, as always, his teasing maddened her. There was always too much truth in the things he said. Well, this finished him. If ever, ever he should be so ill bred as to try to take any liberties with her, she would show him. [Hamster alert.]

“Will you kindly turn the horse around, Captain Butler? I wish to go back to the hospital.”

“Do you indeed, my ministering angel? Then lice and slops are preferable to my conversation? Well, far be it from me to keep a pair of willing hands from laboring for Our Glorious Cause.” [Neg, neg, neg.] He turned the horse’s head and they started back toward Five Points.

“As to why I have made no further advances,” he pursued blandly, as though she had not signified that the conversation was at an end, [controlling the frame] “I’m waiting for you to grow up a little more. You see, it wouldn’t be much fun for me to kiss you now and I’m quite selfish about my pleasures. I never fancied kissing children.” [Mega neg!]

He smothered a grin, as from the corner of his eye he saw her bosom heave with silent wrath.

When broken down, it’s easy to see that the male-female dynamic is that of alternating shit tests and either negs or agree/amplify.  In order to control the frame, the man can never submit to a shit test and – this is key – he should always view the shit test with some amusement.  Without a dose of humor and amusement, a man’s attempted negs will seem mean-spirited and/or defensive or – worse – clumsy.

It’s worth noting that Rhett’s industrial-strength game is probably too much for the average joe running day game or church game.  The strength of Rhett’s game was made necessary by the enormity of Scarlett’s ego and vanity.  Most men will not meet such a foe on the battleground of dating and mating.  Then again, the characters of the novel were constrained by the social mores of their time, and Scarlett, no matter how enraged she became at Rhett, never insulted him the way women today are prone to insult men.  So maybe industrial strength game should at least be in every man’s arsenal, should he need to use it.

One other somewhat unrelated note:  Kids LOVE negs.  Pretty much the fastest way to a child’s heart is to neg them with gleeful abandon.  Telling a kid (playfully) that you don’t believe whatever they’re telling you, and they will start qualifying themselves until they’re blue in the face.  Playfully insult their hero, and you will blow their mind.  (Of course, you have to be careful with this or you’ll end up with a sobbing child.)  When I used to work at a tutoring center, one of my students was in love with Nick Jonas from the Jonas Brothers.  So I took it upon myself to insult Nick Jonas constantly.  (“Nick Jonas isn’t cute.  He has squinty eyes.”  “Isn’t Nick Jonas younger than you?  You’re a cradle robber!”  “You call that singing?!” “Hi, Mrs. Jonas, what algebra homework do you have today?”)  But I knew that my student enjoyed having me as her tutor.  Done properly, kids, especially younger ones, will come back and practically beg for repeated negging.  That’s how you know they love and respect you.


Harry Potter got it wrong.

19 Nov

In honor of the release of the second-to-last cash cow film in the Harry Potter franchise, I figured now would be a good time to get soapbox-y about J.K. Rowling’s inability to write believable romance.  Please be aware that spoilers for the series follow.  If you really don’t want to know, now is the time to turn back.

For those who need a refresher/primer, the Harry Potter books revolve around the titular character who discovers at age 11 that he is not just a normal, everyday human (or Muggle, as the books call them) but a wizard.  And not just any wizard – he is the sole miraculous survivor of an attack from the greatest dark wizard ever, Lord Voldemort, who killed Harry’s parents (themselves a witch and wizard).  The books then chronicle Harry’s adventures at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy, a British boarding school for those with magical abilities.  During his time at Hogwarts, Harry becomes best friends with Ron Weasley, a good-natured boy of modest magical ability from a very large, very poor wizarding family, and Hermione Granger, the class brain whose parents are Muggles.  Each book increases in scope and complexity, as details about Harry’s past are revealed and Voldemort’s return becomes an ever-increasing threat.  The seventh and last book of the series climaxes with Harry’s final confrontation with Voldemort.  (Harry wins in the most anti-climactic ending ever for a supposed epic villain, and I still think that Rowling was using some pretty shaky logic to get to that ending.)

Anyhow, as the characters age – the series starts when they are 11 and ends when they are 17 – romance naturally enters the picture.  Harry ends up with Ron’s younger sister, Ginny, and Ron himself ends up with Hermione.  (The epilogue of the final book has both couples at the train station, sending off their children to Hogwarts.)  It’s all very tidy and sickly-sweet.  Orphan Harry gets to be a part of a big, jolly, loving family, and the Weasley family gets to be progressive and open-minded by embracing Muggle-born Hermione as one of their own.  (Muggle-born vs. “pure-breds” is one of the ongoing themes in the books and is one of Voldemort’s motivating factors.)

Which characters would pair off was a subject of hot debate among fans.  Some fans felt that Harry would end up with Hermione, who was always Harry’s biggest supporter and Girl Friday.  Others noticed Ron and Hermione’s constant bickering and guessed that it would be Ron and Hermione in the end.   Since the books were written from Harry’s limited third person point of view, there was no way of accessing the other characters’ thoughts, nor actions apart from Harry.  It wasn’t until the sixth book was released that the debate was settled once and for all:  Harry suddenly notices that Ginny is popular, gorgeous, athletic, magically gifted (unlike her brother Ron), sassy, and bold, and he spends the majority of the book lusting after her.  Meanwhile, Hermione sulks because Ron hooks up with the class bimbo.  If that didn’t make it clear enough, in the final book Rowling actually had Harry say that he had only ever thought of Hermione as a sister.  Your objections are denied!

As someone who favored Harry and Hermione, I resented Rowling’s psychosocial gymnastics to put the two couples together.  I never understood what Hermione, a highly accomplished and perfectionist witch, saw in Ron, who was completely average in every way and tended to be subordinate to Harry in their friendship.  In fact, I’m not sure Rowling ever knew, either, considering that she gave Ron a very hasty injection of athletic ability in book 6 and heroism and magical ability in the book 7 so that Hermione could finally admire him for something.  Okay, so Ron was a late bloomer.  It happens in real life, why not in books?  Well, not only was Ron up against his own mediocrity, but I still have no idea how he could have believably overcome Harry’s pure status game.  Because Harry was the only person who had ever survived an attack by Voldemort, he was already famous in the wizarding world and entered Hogwarts a celebrity.  Additionally, Harry had exceptional athletic ability – he was invited during his first year to be the seeker for his house’s Quidditch team, an almost unheard-of honor.  He was also rich – his parents had left him mountains of wizard money at the bank.  And he was humble about it, too, never flaunting his status, athleticism, or wealth.  Oh, and he was adventurous – always taking risks, always embroiling his friends in a new adventure…and always relying on Hermione for help.  How could any of this not be intoxicating to a young girl?

I suppose that’s part of why Rowling worked overtime in the sixth book to present Ginny as an alpha female uber alles.  She had to make it inconceivable that Harry could possibly end up with anyone else, not when such a choice babe was in the building.  The glamming up of Ginny – who up until then had been a tertiary character with a girlish crush on Harry that left her speechless whenever he was around – essentially forced Hermione into the role of Harry’s beta orbiter – and we all know that loyalty and devotion are never rewarded with romance.

To be fair, Rowling never wrote Harry as acknowledging any possible attraction to Hermione, other than being surprised at how pretty she looked at a school dance, and in hindsight you can see her dropping hints for Ron and Hermione in the earlier books.  Still, Hermione was extremely loyal to Harry, even more loyal than Ron, and deeply admired Harry, and the two shared some intense emotional experiences over the years.  Sometimes just proximity is enough to trigger an attraction, and who was more proximate than Hermione?

The more I think about it, though, maybe Rowling followed reality after all.  Harry and Ginny were the Hot Ones, and Ron and Hermione were the Not Ones.  Occam’s Razor, ho!

Charlotte Lucas did right.

16 Sep

The Bible notwithstanding, Pride and Prejudice is the second-most authoritative book on courtship in an evangelical girl’s library (the first being the beloved IKDG).  I have yet, at least in an internet forum, to come across a single Christian woman who doesn’t look to P&P as a blueprint for how to do relationships right.  When confronted with the idea that P&P contains a heavy dose of female fantasy (the protagonist, a poor farm girl, marries the wealthiest, most handsome man in the county; he is so besotted that he still loves her despite her giving him a scathing browbeating upon his first proposal), most Christian girls will defend the book because the characters have character and show “growth.”  This allows the book to escape being lumped into the shameful romance novel category.

My criticisms aside, P&P does rise far above the typical Harlequin, in part due to its literary value, and (in my opinion) largely due to its incisive take on human nature.  Part of the reason that the novel still resonates nearly 200 years later is that Austen captured human nature accurately, and human nature doesn’t change.  Everyone knows a Mrs. Bennet, a Miss Bingley, a Lydia Bennet, a Lady Catherine, a Wickham, and so on.

One character who is rarely discussed, though, is Elizabeth Bennet’s best friend Charlotte Lucas.  The novel tells us that Charlotte is 28 years old, single, and plain.  In rural early 19th-century England, her chance of marrying is all but gone. In contrast to Elizabeth, who at age 20 refuses to marry pragmatically, Charlotte believes that love in marriage is hit-or-miss, and that it is better not to know too much about one’s spouse prior to marriage, since husband and wife are bound to drift apart and annoy each other, anyway.

When Elizabeth vehemently rejects a proposal from her cousin Mr. Collins, a clueless, pompous clergyman, Charlotte swoops in and snags him.  Elizabeth is shocked upon finding out and can’t believe Charlotte would give the doofus the time of day, but Charlotte calmly reminds Elizabeth that she is not a romantic and that given Mr. Collins’s material assets and social standing, she figures her chance at happiness is as good as anyone else’s who marries for love.

Shortly after Charlotte’s marriage to Mr. Collins, Elizabeth visits her friend for a few weeks, and through her eyes Austen reveals that Charlotte deals with her marriage by intrepidly avoiding her obnoxious husband whenever possible and politely not seeing his faults otherwise.  She is depicted as a tolerant and intelligent wife, if one who openly settled for a man she didn’t love.

I’ve seen some commentary that is critical of Charlotte – if Elizabeth is Austen’s mouthpiece, then Austen herself looked down on Charlotte’s choice to marry Mr. Collins – but I can’t hate on her.  Charlotte, old by the standard of the time and not pretty, had two options:  either remain a spinster and continue to live at home with virtually zero hope of ever marrying, or marry an obnoxious lunk and get to be mistress of her own house.  I think she made the right choice.  Collins is not depicted as type who would notice that his wife had very little affection for him; in fact, he comes off as kind of asexual.  The world is not everyone’s oyster, and given the circumstances, I think both characters made out about as best they could.  It would have been very difficult for Mr. Collins to find a wife who would have fallen in love with him, and nobody was beating a path to Charlotte’s door otherwise.

Would I encourage a modern-day Charlotte Lucas to make the same choice?  Maybe.  If marriage is what she really wants and she understands its obligations and is prepared to fulfill them, then I don’t see the harm in accepting the non-ideal but only offer on the table.  The success of a marriage is due largely to the actions of both parties after the vows.  If the actions are good, I think both people will be better off than if they had remained single.  Not that even this is easy to find in these non-self-sacrificing times….