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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.

SAY WHAT????

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,

I DON’T KNOW

BUT IT IS THE WORST

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,

a.h.

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.)