Culture, marriage and relationships, nonfiction, tales from the local library

Swoon

 

Swoon bookSwoon: Great Seducers and Why Women Love Them, by Betsy Prioleau. Published in 2013. 288 pages.

I don’t know if Thomas, the man whose return slip indicated he checked this library book out before me, is the same reader who rudely took notes inside the book, but if he is, I can’t help but wonder if he found anything within its pages that might help him on whatever quest inspired him to check it out in the first place.

Swoon, Great Seducers and Why Women Love Them, by Betsy Prioleau is a long-winded journey on the road to a well-known conclusion. Namely, that when it comes to being popular with women, some men have “it”, others don’t, and the characteristics of the men who do have it are too widely varied to be easily quantified. In other words, there was no new information to be found here.

That isn’t to say that the book wasn’t filled with interesting or even fascinating historical references and narratives of men throughout history who were known to be famously, and sometimes infamously, “popular”. Some of them in our modern age would defy credulity, such as Benjamin Franklin. Others, such as Casanova, hardly need to be explored as their stories are so familiar.

The one thing this book made perfectly clear however, and I tend to agree with the author on this if not much else, is that the men who have the greatest success with women tend to be men who genuinely like women, finding us fascinating and interesting, even if they are well acquainted with our flaws and weaknesses. Interestingly, despite a questionable encounter with a woman which might call into doubt Prioleau’s analysis, the late Sam Cooke, whose music I enjoy listening to for hours on end, was seducer for whom this author had little to offer other than glowing praise.

What I didn’t like about this book was born entirely of my own moral code. Despite my usual ability to set aside any demands that an author acquiesce to my view, it bothered me Prioleau offered no moral judgement –only awe or praise ever- against the character of men who used their *gift* for swaying women in questionable ways. She seemed convinced that the fact that they were often amiable, likable men absolved them of responsibility for the way they plowed through women. Pun fully intended.

To her credit she noted, and there is a strong ring of truth here, that those men who are honest about who and what they are with the women in their single lives are usually just as honest, faithful and true in the event that they decide to settle down. And some of them do.

In the end, this book was more historical references smattered with opinions than anything offering insight. There was never an answer which indicated *Why* the men in her book elicit the titular female reaction, which is fitting. What’s more, there was a wholesale dismissal of men such as rappers, gamers, or others she deemed low class as well as the types of women who respond to them. The implication was that they are an almost sub human class of people not numerous or smart enough to be included as real samples in her exploration. The lady doth protest too much, or perhaps is just a snob.

Men whose seductive prowess are wielded in ways which didn’t offend her sensibilities are good and worthy to be emulated, regardless of the lack of character their behavior implies. Others, not so much. The veneer of subjectivity Prioleau attempted to portray here is wafer thin, and doesn’t hold.

The end effect of Prioleau’s approach to the subject is a book which is at times entertaining, but is sunk by her intellectualism, inability to set aside her class biases, and honestly discuss the things about women that make them susceptible to certain kinds of men, whatever their social strata or background.

This book never provides a sufficient rejoinder to the subject its author promises the reader she will demystify.

Grade: C, and that because there was some entertainment value in it.

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books for women, Christian, marriage and relationships, Uncategorized

Created to Be His Helpmeet, pt. 2

created to be

In the first part of this review I indicated that I would review this in two parts because it was structured as 2 books. I wish it were 2 books, or better, that Mrs. Pearl would have ended at the close of part one. While I gave part one a ‘B-‘, part two deserves a solid ‘D’.

As I finished part one, I was satisfied because American women, including the Christians, have mostly discarded Biblical marriage by reinterpreting  commands that are clearly and repeatedly indicated in Scripture. That increasingly bothers me and was the reason I was willing to overlook some of the problems in part one. It tilted much more in favor of Biblical marriage than most Christian women would admit.

One thing I hate even more than the state of American womanhood however, is the misandry that is now common in our culture, the media, and many churches. Underneath all of Mrs. Pearl’s wisdom concerning loving our husbands was a strong undercurrent of misandry; painting of men as one-dimensional beings, only interested in sex or unable to handle being challenged.

My antennae first went up during part one when she described the angel Lucifer as a “male being” in an attempt to explain some facets of masculine behavior. I’m not sure why in retrospect, but I let that gross error go, giving her the benefit of the doubt. I can see now that it was a taste of things to come. Is she comparing men to devils? Since we know unequivocally that God our Father, and Jesus, His Son, our Messiah, are masculine, where then does that leave us?

I can think of literally one thing in part two I agreed with. On page 217 was the story of a Vicky, whose husband didn’t lift a finger to fix anything around the house. While his own home fell apart, he was quick to rise and ride to the rescue of elderly women in the neighborhood who needed things around their homes fixed.  Mrs. Pearl is right that a woman are perfectly capable of taking care of yard work, painting a room, or fixing a leaky faucet.

I hate the trend becoming prevalent Christians as we attempt to distance ourselves from an androgynous culture: that jobs around the house  requiring any sweat or strength are inherently “men’s work” or that the sphere of the wife is limited to the work that requires little sweat equity: cooking, sewing, cleaning, and caring for the children. A good wife does what needs to be done if she can do it. There is no logical reason why the grass in our yard should remain overgrown until my husband is available on the weekends to cut it when I am at home everyday, presumably to manage the home. Unfortunately,  there wasn’t anything more to embrace in part 2.

Mrs. Pearl’s asserted repeatedly that mothers could, by virtue of perfectly watchful eyes, keep all harm from befalling their children. She offered a scenario in which a young child might be molested if his or her mother turned her back for even a couple of minutes. And yes, she said a couple of minutes. I understand the point she was attempting to make, but I thought that her line of reasoning went too far, and furthermore, was wrought with inconsistency. No one can keep their eyes on their children every minute of every day. Are mothers allowed to sleep?

That inconsistency showed again when she advised, rightly, that women whose husbands insist that they get a job do so. Does the wife in this position still bear guilt if harm befalls her child while in submission to her husband?

Another blatant inconsistency was the beginning of the chapter titled, “‘To Obey or Not To Obey?”  The chapter began with the story of a woman who went to “extreme” measures to get the attention of her husband, who was addicted to pornography. Given the rest of the exceptions to unquestioned obedience outlined throughout the rest of the section, the reader is left to assume that the Pearls agree with the actions of this wronged wife. However earlier in the book, there is the story of a woman whose husband frequented strip clubs and visited prostitutes. That wife is hailed as a hero for honoring her husband with love and sex even as he committed acts that were as bad, worse in fact, than the husband who was addicted to pornography.

Of all the objections I had to part two, however, none was so striking as Mrs. Pearl’s exploration of the Titus 2 command for wives “to love their husbands.” It was the only time throughout the book where I felt the need to double-check my understanding of a word by grabbing our great big Strong’s concordance. She limited her very long explanation of the command to love our men strictly to the bedroom, going so far as calling lovemaking a husband’s “most consuming passion”, putting it on the level of food as a desperate biological.

Whenever I hear sex held on par with food, it makes me shudder. This is the reasoning used by those forces who would encourage sexual activity by children at younger and younger ages. I certainly appreciate the importance of the physical relationship between a husband and wife in a marriage, and I’m no prude who believes in rationing intimacy based on my moods or whims.

Still, the word Paul used to describe what it means to love our husbands meant ‘to show affection, to be fond of, to admire’. It is the Greek word philos, often used to describe loving friendships. Mrs. Pearl implied that the only thing that matters is the sex. This is diminishing of men, implying that they don’t care whether or not their wives like them, so long as they get sex.

I was disappointed with part two of this book because part one held such promise. I cannot recommend this book in good conscience.

Part 2 Grade: D

 

books for women, Christian, marriage and relationships

Created to Be His Helpmeet, pt. 1

created to be

Created to Be His Helpmeet, by Debi Pearl. Originally published in 2004.

Since the book is divided into  two parts, almost like 2 books in 1, I’ll do its review in two parts. Part 1 is titled The Help Meet.

Part 1 is pretty good. There were a few things I disagreed with, and in fact, I offer my review with this very strong caveat: I do not recommend this to anyone in an extremely troubled marriage. It could be damaging to the heart of a woman who is doing all she can with no positive response from her man. In fact, I would suggest those in such marriages refrain from reading random books for pat answers.

If there was one thing that bothered me most about this book, it was the testimonials implying that any woman can single handedly save the man, the marriage, the family, and her sanity all by following the advice within its pages. It seemed to imply that a wife could, by prayerfully striking all the right notes, render a husband’s free will  irrelevant as he succumbed to the power of her perfectness as a help meet. That’s a dangerous seed to plant into the mind of a desperate wife.

To her credit, she pointed out that husbands who engage in sinful behavior were responsible for their own actions. I’d read reviews where women accused her of blaming wives for everything wrong in their marriages. I didn’t get that. It’s a book written by a woman, to women, about the responsibilities of women in marriage. That necessarily demands focused discussion rather than extensive caveats and attempts to balance.

Additionally, I was put off by the idea of wives ceasing to be individuals upon marriage.  I believe in loving, radical submission and making every effort to please your husband, but the implication that one’s total being is to be immersed in him is not a Christian teaching. My husband wants me to think, not parrot his thoughts.

With those stipulations, part one was still very good. For wives in reasonably good marriages, or who just need a glimpse of what a submissive wife looks like (far too many have never seen it) this is instructive. There were things I wasn’t fully conscious of in my attitude until I saw it while reading this book. It was good mirror for me. Now to some of the specifics.

I laughed out loud when I read the letter and the author’s response to the woman whose husband was getting a little too chummy with the office secretary. In part because this was, if memory serves, one of the points of controversy in the book. That this wife was advised to make her self more attractive than “the office wench” made many women howl in objection. The second reason I found it funny was because the advice sounds very close to what my godly grandmother-in-law, now 93, would say if I came to her with this type of dilemma.

This is only controversial because of our cultural sensibilities. For the sake of brevity, I will not reprint 1 Corinthians 7 here, but click on the link to read it. If a woman wishes to keep her man’s attentions, of course she needs to do what needed to be done to make herself attractive to him.  It doesn’t guarantee he won’t stray, but life doesn’t come with guarantees.

The reason I gave part 1 of this book fairly high marks was the extensive amount of ink -3 chapters- dedicated to the importance of being joyful, content, and thankful. These are invaluable to the health of any relationship and the fact that Mrs. Pearl understood this and called out women on their tendency to be ungrateful, even when they have pretty good husbands, was in my opinion, almost totally worth overlooking the parts I didn’t care for.

Specifically, I noted the women who complained because their husbands watched television, or “weren’t spiritual enough”, or any other number of minor things that were being blown up into major things.Women do fall into that trap. I’ve seen it more times than I can count and I appreciated Mrs. Pearl’s wisdom in pointing out that the notion that women are more spiritual than men is damaging to marriages.

Such wives inwardly exalt themselves over their husbands while pretending to be the dutiful, submissive wife. Looking for the good in our men, being thankful for the fact that we have good men, and refusing to try and make them be more like what we want than who God made them to be, is always good advice.

In a section titled, “Wisdom to Know Your Man”, Mrs. Pearl and her daughter lay out three different categories they claimed most men fall into: Mr. Command Man, Mr. Visionary, and Mr. Steady. I think that the idea that most men fit neatly into one of these three boxes was an oversimplification. If I had to categorize my husband, it would unquestionably be in the first category, Mr. Command, but there are nuances which her book failed to acknowledge.

I agree with her that certain types of men are more reserved and deliberate, and a strong woman can get frustrated with that type of man and dominate rather than appreciate him. I also remember when I was very displeased with my husband’s refusal -inability?- to capitulate to me. In time I learned that God knew I needed a strong man. We fit well together.

This book covers so much ground that it would be impossible for me to cover it all. I realize that my favorable review is not shared by many. In fact, the things that give me pause are what caused me to issue the word of caution above. This book isn’t for everyone.

Because I have always been a “big picture” type of person, it was easy for me to appreciate the good in this book despite its limitations. And I liked part 1.

Part 1 Grade: B-

Next time, I’ll take a look at part two.

Florida History, intriguing authors, marriage and relationships, philosophy, Uncategorized

Zora Hurston confirms Solomon’s declaration.

There are a couple of book reviews being drafted, but in the meantime, I was recently reminded of this story from Zora Neale Hurston’s Mules and Men.

In 1935, ZNH laid bare what was obvious about relations between the sexes and where they were headed even back then.  It has only been amplified over the past 50 years. Totally worth grasping the dialect.

You see in de very first days, God made a man and a woman and put “em in a house together to live. ‘Way back in them days de woman was just as strong as de man and both of ’em did de same things. They useter get to fussin ’bout who gointer do this and that and sometime they’d fight, but they was even balanced and neither one could whip de other one.

One day de man said to hisself, “B’Iieve Ah’m gointer go see God and ast Him for a li’l mo’ strength so Ah kin whip dis ‘oman and make her mind. Ah’m tired of de wa things is.” So he went on up to God.

“Good mawnin’, Ole Father.”

“Howdy man. Whut you doin’ ’round my throne so so dis mawnin’?”

 “Ah’m troubled in mind, and nobody can’t ease mah spirit ‘ceptin’ you.”

 God said: “Put yo’ plea in de right form and Ah’ll hear and answer.”

“Ole Maker, wid de mawnin’ stars glitterin’ in yo’ shin crown, wid de dust from yo’ footsteps makin’ worlds upo worlds, wid de blazin’ bird we call de sun flyin’ out of you right hand in de mawnin’ and consumin’ all day de flesh and blood of stump-black darkness, and comes flyin’ home every evenin  to rest on yo’ left hand, and never once in yo’ eternal years, mistood de left hand for de right, Ah ast you please to give me mo’ strength than dat woman you give me, so Ah kin make her mind. Ah know you don’t want to be always comin’ down way past de moon and stars to be straightenin’ her out and its got to be done. So giv me a li’l mo’ strength, Ole Maker and Ah’ll do it.”

“All right, Man, you got mo’ strength than woman.”

So de man run all de way down de stairs from Heben he got home. He was so anxious to try his strength on de woman dat he couldn’t take his time. Soon’s he got in de house he hollered “Woman! Here’s yo’ boss. God done tole me to handle you in which ever way yo’ boss please.”‘

De woman flew to fightin’ ‘im right off. She fought ‘im frightenin’ but he beat her. She got her wind and tried ‘irn agin but he whipped her agin. She got herself together and made de third try on him vigorous but he beat her every time. He was so proud he could whip ‘er at last, dat he just crowed over her and made her do a lot of things she didn’t like. He told her, “Long as you obey me, Ah’Il be good to yuh, but every time yuh rear up Ah’m gointer put plenty wood on yo’ back and plenty water in yo’  eyes.

 De woman was so mad she went straight up to Heben and stood befo’ de Lawd. She didn’t waste no words. She said, “Lawd, Ah come befo’ you mighty mad t’day. Ah want back my strength and power Ah useter have.”

“Woman, you got de same power you had since de beginnin’.”

 “Why is it then, dat de man kin beat me now and he useter couldn’t do it?”

 “He got mo’ strength than he useter have, He come and ast me for it and Ah give it to ‘im. Ah gives to them that ast, and you ain’t never ast me for no mo’ power.”

 “Please suh, God, Ah’m astin’ you for it now. jus’ gimme de same as you give him.”

God shook his head. “It’s too late now, woman. Whut Ah give, Ah never take back. Ah give him mo’ strength than you and no matter how much Ah give you, he’ll have mo.

De woman was so mad she wheeled around and went on off. She went straight to de devil and told him what had happened.

He said, ” Don’t be disincouraged, woman. You listen to me and you’ll come out mo’ than conqueror. Take dem frowns out yo’ face and turn round and go fight on back to Heben and ast God to give you dat bunch of keys hangin’ by de mantel-piece. Then you bring ’em and Ah’ll show you what to do wid ’em.”

So de woman climbed back up to Heben agin. She was mighty tired but she was more out-done than she was tired so she climbed all night long and got back up to Heben. When she got to heaven butter wouldn’t melt in her mouf.

“0 Lawd and Master of de rainbow, Ah know yo’ power. You never make two mountains without you put a valley in between. Ah know you kin hit a straight lick wid a crooked stick.”

 “Ast for whut you want, woman.”

 “God, gimme dat bunch of keys hangin’ by yo’ mantel befo’ de throne.”

“Take em.”

So de woman took de keys and hurried on back to de devil wid ’em. There was three keys on de bunch. Devil say, “See dese three keys? They got mo’ power in ’em than all de strength de man kin ever git if you handle ’em right. Now dis first big key is to de do’ of de kitchen, and you know a man always favors his stomach. Dis second one is de key to de bedroom and he don’t like to be shut out from dat neither and dis last key is de key to de cradle and he don’t want to be cut off from his generations at all. So now you take dese keys and go lock up everything and wait till he come to you. Then don’t you unlock nothin’ until he use his strength for yo’ benefit and yo’ desires.”

De woman thanked ‘im and tole ‘im, “If it wasn’t for you, Lawd knows whut us po’ women folks would do.”

She started off but de devil halted her. “Jus’ one mo’ thing: don’t go home braggin’ ’bout yo’ keys. jus’ lock up everything and say nothin’ until you git asked. And then don’t talk too much.”

De woman went on home and did like de devil tole her. When de man come home from work she was settin’ on de porch singin’ some song ’bout “Peck on de wood make de bed go good.”

When de man found de three doors fastened what useter stand wide open he swelled up like pine lumber after a rain. First thing he tried to break in cause he figgered his strength would overcome all obstacles. When he saw he couldn’t do it, he ast de woman, “Who locked dis do’?”

 She tole ‘im, “Me.”

 “Where did you git de key from?”

“God give it to me.

He run up to God and said, “God, woman got me. locked ‘way from my vittles, my bed and my generations, and she say you give her the keys.”

 God said, “I did, Man, Ah give her de keys, but de devil showed her how to use ’em!”

“Well, Ole Maker, please gimme some keys jus’ lak ’em so she can’t git de full control.”

“No, Man, what Ah give Ah give. Woman got de key.”

“How kin Ah know ’bout my generations.

 “Ast de woman.”

So de man come on back and submitted hisself to de woman and she opened de doors. He wasn’t satisfied but he had to give in. ‘Way after while he said to de woman, “Le’s us divide up. Ah’Il give you half of my strength if you lemme hold de keys in my hands.”

De woman thought dat over so de devil popped and tol her, “Tell ‘im, naw. Let ‘im keep his strength and you keep y’ keys.”

 So de woman wouldn’t trade wid ‘im and de man had to mortgage his strength to her to live. And dat’s why de man makes and de woman takes. You men is still braggin’ ’bout yo’ strength and de women is sittin’ on de keys and lettin’ you blow off till she git ready to put de bridle on you.

Yes, I realize it’s not Biblical but, this is folklore. It still proves that there really is nothing new under the sun. Which is why it is so vital to read books. They are not a substitute for THE Book, but still. The older, the better.

 

Culture, marriage and relationships, nonfiction, Uncategorized

Is Marriage for White People?

marriage crisis book

Is Marriage for White People? How the African-American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone, by Ralph Richard Banks. Originally published in 2011. 304 pages.

When I first heard of this book, I decided that the title was so preposterous there was no way I could take it seriously, and dismissed it as something I would “never” read. This, even though I was well aware that marriage rates bottomed out in the black community, including the black middle class, decades ago. I was also well aware of the standard lines which are floated when the issue comes up.

As is usually the case however, I was perusing our local library’s shelves, the book grabbed my attention, and I picked it up. Turns out that the book’s title was actually derived from an interesting set of circumstances and revealed a perspective that I was interested in reading more about, so I continued to read the book through to its conclusion.

What started out as a potential scholarly book turned about one-fourth of the way through into a book dominated by the thoughts and testimonies of single, successful black women who for various reasons either 1) had never married or had children or 2) had disastrous marriages to black men whom they had compromised on key values and standards for the sake of being married.

While Banks did a fairly decent job at the beginning of his book of providing statistics, it wasn’t long before this tome morphed into a 300 page round of, “Where have all the good black men gone?” There was far too much ink given to the voices and opinions of black women and not enough to black men. What he did have to say about black men didn’t make them look very good, either.

The fact that the highest earning black men are more than twice as likely as their white counterparts to never marry tripped a series of thoughts in me that strikes at the heart of the black relationship dilemma. The reality is, according to Banks, that the one who has the most options outside the relationship has the most power in it. In other words, successful black men wield a lot of relationship market power. Of course, the Christian ideal leaves no room for “options outside the relationship” once commitment has been made, but this is not a Christian book.

It’s enough to make you cringe because it touches on the “soft harems” which are ubiquitous among single, successful black men and many not-so-successful black men. Banks even starts off one of his chapters with this well worn joke:

5 Rules for a Happy Life

  1. You should find a woman that helps you with the cleaning and the chores,
  2. You should find a woman that is a good cook,
  3. You should find a woman that you can trust and share your feelings with,
  4. You should find a woman that enjoys making love to you,
  5. Last and the most important thing is that these 4 women should never meet.

 

There is presently a fast-growing polygyny movement in the lower socioeconomic black community, which claims to be based on Biblical principles. In reality, it seeks to legitimize the sexual patholoogy that has torpedoed the black family over the past 60 years. Someone once suggested we look into this minister as he appeals to young black men who might be good prospects for our daughters. We’ll pass, thank you.

However, the fact that I have run across this “Pastor’s” name so often in recent years underscores how fast the movement is spreading. The men I have seen engaged in the lifestyle are largely ill-equipped to do it in any way similar to the Biblical patriarchs of old. Namely, they are broke and have their women working jobs. I don’t see how this serves black family formation. More than anything, it hastens its obliteration which is already well underway.

One of the things Banks gets right however, is that the black American community is just the beginning as lower marriage rates, higher illegitimacy, and increasing numbers of men and women of all races, whether by circumstance or choice, are eschewing marriage and procreation altogether. The rot is spreading, perhaps more slowly than in spread in the black community, but the numbers don’t lie, and Banks does an excellent job of parsing the numbers before he starts to run afield, getting distracted by the woeful tales of black women.

His  insistence that the key for successful black women is “marrying out” in order to stem the high tide of never married black women is not without merit, but it ignores the realities that come with being a high achieving woman of any race. Many look up from their years focused on accomplishment to realize she may have missed her opportunity to marry. He rightly notes, though briefly, that large numbers of black women due to the fluidity of range of attraction in the black community, hinder their ability to widen their marriage prospects by being overweight and not fully cognizant of its impact.

Despite its informative offerings, I found Banks’ book in no way encouraging to the single black women he sympathizes with so greatly, nor does it offer any incentive to the significant minority of black men who find marriage unappealing in a market where they hold all of the cards. On the contrary, it mildly chastises them for not giving their sistahs their due and doing right by them, which is not an incentive to marry.

As this relates to the Christian community, I have wondered if even those young people who love the Lord and do everything right won’t still find themselves increasingly in the situation that Jeremiah, Daniel, and the other members of the remnant who were; not spared from the fallout when the judgement for disobedience was meted out.

Grade: C. It started with a lot of potential but too quickly fell into the common trope of female sympathy without a corresponding counter-balance to get to the heart of why many marriageable black men find no appeal in the prospect of marrying black women before they hit middle age.

 

 

 

 

Culture, humor, marriage and relationships, nonfiction

Modern Romance: Introduction-Chapter 2

modern romance

This is a multi-part book review as I read Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance and go through some of the obstacles he discusses as he juxtaposes courtship and marriage in the current era with the way it was done in times past.

The introductory post is here.

The introduction starts out with Ansari offering some background on how he came to be so highly interested in this subject. Namely, he met a woman at a party, they hit it off almost instantly (he even kissed her that night) and exchanged numbers. The next day he texted the woman and…nothing. With each passing hour his anxiety heightened and confidence withered.

And he realized how absurd his predicament was, and how different it must have been for the generations of young love seekers who went before him with far fewer choices and less technological interference. After using the incident as fodder for a stand up act, it resonated with his audience so much that it inspired him to go on a quest: How did people in previous eras connect and find lifelong love? How does this current complicated mess we have now compare to their experiences?

Because he was interested in a serious answer to his questions, one of his first acts was finding an sociological expert to help him figure out how to collect, sort and analyze relevant data. They started out by going to a retirement community armed with a box of donuts for a few weeks to sit and interview the people who lived there about how they found their husbands or wives. What he found was “remarkable”:

14 of the 36 singles I spoke with had ended up marrying someone who lived within walking distance of their childhood home. People were marrying neighbors who lived on the same street, in the same neighborhood, and even in the same building. It seemed a bit bizarre.

To be sure that what he had discovered there wasn’t just a quirk, he checked the data of a sociologist from 1932 who looked through 5,000 consecutive marriage licenses on file for people who lived in Philadelphia:

Whoa: One-third of the couples who got married lived within a five-block radius of each other before they got married. One out of six had lived within the same block. Most amazingly, one of every eight married couples had lived in the same building before they got married.

Ansari thought it was just a city deal, but the trend in the 1930’s/40’s held everywhere he looked. He then explored the connection between adulthood at 18, and what is known today as “emerging adulthood”. That alone, even without the technological edge thrown in, changed the nature of how post modern people meet, fall in love, and marry.

Next Ansari spends some time discussing the differences of approach to marriage in our current era (the search for a soul mate rather than a companion), as I noted in the post prior to this one.  Things get even more interesting as the author explores the vast difference in the way people even go out on a first date to begin with.

The second chapter is titled The Initial Ask and is divided up into sections with such headings as:

  • The rise of the text message
  • Calling versus texting, in which women expressed a clear preference for being called rather than texted.
  • The Modern Bozo, where women shared with him some of the worst texts they have received from men
  • Phone world
  • The Science of Waiting, which was an excellent exposition on how technology has changed the way we wait for a response from others when we send them a message.

The section on waiting was interesting to me because Ansari is correct that in previous eras, waiting for a response didn’t produce anxiety because we all knew we had to wait for a response. Depending on the situation, it could take a few days to get a call back. Nowadays, the lack of a response within a few minutes can be a source of great anxiety.

Worse than that, were the people who shared with him that they deliberately waited longer times between responses for the specific purpose of demonstrating higher values, turning the whole thing into one big, angst ridden game.

Ansari hits some insightful notes on the inherent problems with the proliferation of choice in every area of life. However, for me the most disheartening part of his exploration in the first two chapters was the near universal agreement of the women of older generations on a specific train of thought.

They almost all said that although they loved their husbands and were grateful for their families, they felt compelled to encourage their daughters and granddaughters to explore life more and take advantage of all the choices available to women today. Do the things they wish they could have done but were not able to. This from women who had married at roughly the same age I had, between the ages of 20-22 (Nope, 18 year-old marriage was not the norm even back then). It made my heart sink, which doesn’t happen very often.

After sharing that bit of information with our daughters, whom I have encouraged that there is very little you can do your own that you can’t do with a husband (except fornicate), our oldest girl offered a tidbit:

These women have no idea how complicated all these choices have made life for the current generation. They think they missed out on something but most of them couldn’t tell you what. All they know is that the media and dominant culture told them they missed out, and so they believe they missed out even though they have no idea what they missed and wouldn’t have ever missed if no one had told them they missed it.

I think that’s how she put it.

I hope to tackle chapters 3-5 some time next week.

Culture, marriage and relationships, nonfiction, quotable literary quotes, tales from the local library

A fascinating read on the state of postmodern relationships.

I am currently reading comedian Aziz Ansari’s book, Modern Romance. At 1/3 of the way through the first chapter (which follows a hilarious and spot on introductory section), I am taking so many notes that I don’t know if I could possibly do this book justice in one review. So I’m documenting the book here a couple of chapters at a time.

Of course, this assumes that the remaining 250 pages will keep me as interested, amused, and in agreement as the first 28, and that is probably quite the stretch. I hope not however, because despite the clearly secular bend of the book, the first little bit is overflowing with truth. For example, this quote from Esther Perel’s book, Mating in Captivity, which is now another book added to my increasingly long “must read” list (I sure hope it isn’t a divorce apologist tome):

So reconciling our need for security and our need for adventure into one relationship, or what we today like to call a passionate marriage, used to be a contradiction in terms. Marriage was an economic institution in which you were given a partnership for life in terms of children and social status and succession and companionship. But now we want our partner to still give us all these things, but in addition I want you to be my best friend and my trusted confidant and my passionate lover to boot, and we live twice as long. So we come to one person, and we basically are asking them to give us what once an entire village used to provide:

Give me belonging, give me identity, give me continuity, but give me transcendence and mystery and awe all in one.
Give me comfort, give me edge.
Give me novelty, give me familiarity.
Give me predictability, give me surprise.
And we think it’s a given, and toys and lingerie are going to save us with that.

Like I said, interesting book, so stay tuned for periodic updates as I blog my way through it.