fiction, marriage and relationships, short stories

Short Story Review: The Bachelor

The Bachelor, by Joseph Epstein. Posted at Standpoint Magazine Online, July/August 2018 edition. Read the story in its entirety here.

One of the literature and arts websites I subscribe to is Prufrock, which is published by the Weekly Standard. This short story was included in the latest edition sent to my inbox. Because it is a short story, easily read in 20 minutes, it would be really enjoyable to me if any of you inclined to click over and read it would come back here and share your thoughts.

The Bachelor is written as a first person narrative whose titular character is of course, a bachelor; a lifelong one. At 52-years of age, he is a successful attorney thoroughly enjoying his freedom. The minor things that most of us marrieds have concluded are well worth sacrificing for our beloveds and the families we’ve built are no longer minor sacrifices to the bachelor, and life is good.

Despite the fact that he genuinely enjoys women, he simply hasn’t found one worth the trouble of giving up his autonomy. That is, until he meets Laura Ross.

That’s as much as I can offer without spoiling the story, so click over and read it.

I liked it.

Content advisory: It’s a clean story in so far as it is free of any gratuitous sex or language, but it’s a very adult story and our bachelor is living the life of a healthy, red-blooded, secular bachelor. It’s not a Christian morality tale.

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books for women, marriage and relationships, nonfiction, politics

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism.

politically incorrect guide

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism, by Carrie L. Lukas. Copyright 2006. Hardcover, 221 pages.

The wonderful thing about books and literature is that there are few subjects which haven’t been covered by someone at some time. I read The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism at least 5 years ago (maybe more), and I hadn’t thought much about the book in two or three. Whenever I purge our bookshelves, I keep it tucked away on a shelf because I want it to be available for my daughters to read.

After witnessing yesterday what can only be described as a national disgrace masquerading as a legal proceeding, I remembered a few things. The first was that in 47 years on the planet, I have somehow never managed to 1) get drunk or 2) attend a party where most of the attendees was getting drunk. This was true even when I was a teenager, and even during the years when I was walking contrary to the Christian faith in which I was raised. It’s amazing what can be avoided when you watch the company you keep.

Secondly, I remembered this book, and how much I appreciated the candor used and the unapologetic way that Carrie Lukas laid out unpalatable truths. A cursory glance at the reviews for the book on Amazon and Good reads demonstrates how offensive many women found the book. I on the other hand, thought it was very well written, filled with objective analysis of  the ways women are more vulnerable. It was filled with what used to be considered universally sound truth rather than attacked as politically incorrect ideology.

Unvarnished truth is a medicine that often tastes bad going down, but if we take it like adults, we just might find healing. At the end of chapter 2, on page 18 Lukas lists what she titled, “Top Ten Things Young Women Need to Know (that feminists won’t tell them)”. I’ll list them here, with the recommendation that you read the book even if you’re not as averse to feminist thought as I am, because the ideas are worth pondering.

The Top Ten Things

  • Flowers, candy, and opened doors aren’t weapons of oppression. Chivalrous gestures show a guy actually respects you and may be interested in a relationship.

  • You’re most fertile in your twenties. During your thirties, fertility declines and many women have trouble getting pregnant after age 35. Plan ahead! [some of this stuff is beyond a woman’s control, of course, but deliberate postponement of marriage is foolish]

  • Discrimination isn’t why women make less money than men. Women make different choices and have different priorities which results in them earning less.

  • Condoms are not a get-out-of-STD-free device; condoms do little or nothing to prevent the spread of several serious STDs.

  • Kids raised by their parents [Els’ translation: mothers] tend to have fewer emotional and behavioral problems than kids who spend long hours in day care.

  • Not everyone is doing it [emphasis mine]. Fewer of your peers than you think are engaging in casual sex- and those who are often regret it.

  • There’s no shame is aspiring to marry- married people tend to be happier, healthier, and better off financially.

  • Divorce doesn’t erase a marriage- it creates a new set of problems for you and your children.

  • You should make goals in your personal life just like you do in your career.

  • Being a woman doesn’t make you a victim. You have choices to make, and choices to live with. That’s what being liberated and independent is all about.

~ The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex , and Feminism, p. 18

5 out of 5 stars.

 

 

 

Els' Rabbit Trails, marriage and relationships, videos

Deep woods rabbit trail: Why online dating is ruining Western Civilization.

For reasons I cannot begin to imagine (or maybe I can), the largest percentages of clicks this blog receives in any given week are directed towards the posts reviewing the chapters of Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance.

Most of the readers are from the U.S., however as many as a third are from around the globe. Something about that book clearly strikes a nerve with people and as they look for analysis, Google sends some here. This factoid is my excuse for a deep woods* rabbit trail post.

A friend recently shared with me a video titled, Why Online Dating is Ruining Western Civilization by Mayim Bialik. Now normally, the combination of a famous Hollywood actress and the words patriarchy spilling from her lips causes me to roll my eyes in a combination of disdain and disgust, but the overwhelming majority of what Ms. Bialik shares here is so funny and tinged with truth that I will forgive her that folly.

It’s worth the 7 minutes, perhaps even if you disagree. Enjoy, and have a great weekend!

 

*Deep woods rabbit trail posts are posts that generally veer far away from the subjects of reading, books, writing and education. They are few and far between, as they should be.

American history, Culture, marriage and relationships, nonfiction, philosophy, politics

Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community

sex economy freedom community book

Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community: Eight Essays by Wendell Berry. Published in 1993. 208 pages.

I have always loved the commentary and writings of the insightful, prolific Wendell Berry. Reading his book, “Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community”, it became clearer why I find his perspective so refreshing. How often have we heard the connection made between our culture’s predilection to specialization and compartmentalization with the destruction of the economy, sexuality, marriage, family, community, and the nation?

Very rarely I submit, although it’s a connection which is hard to deny upon serious observation and even harder to address as our culture succumbs more and more to the seduction of the “me first” mentality. A mentality which is largely driven by our increasing focus on individual rights at the expense of everything and every one, up to and including our own parents, our own children, and their children.

In the book’s title essay, Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community Berry attempts to piece together how our movement away from interdependence and local community standards and toward a tendency to think globally has impacted our most intimate relationships, and how sexual love in general and marriage in particular have been irreparably damaged as a result:

There are two kinds of sexuality that correspond to the two kinds of economy. The sexuality of community life, whatever its vagaries, is centered on marriage, which joins two living souls as closely as, in this world, they can be joined. This joining of two who know, love, and trust one another brings them in the same breath into the freedom of sexual consent and into the fullest earthly realization of the image of God. From their joining, other living souls come into being, and with them great responsibilities that are unending, fearful, and joyful. The marriage of two lovers joins them to one another, to forebears, to descendants, to the community, to Heaven, and earth. It is the fundamental connection without which nothing holds, and trust is its necessity.

Our present sexual conduct, on the other hand, having “liberated” itself from the several trusts of community life, is public, like our present economy. It has forsaken trust, for it rests on the easy giving and breaking of promises. And having forsaken trust, it has predictably become political. “Losing kindness” as Lao-tzu said, they turn to justness.” (p. 134-135)

This is sadly correct. Sexual politics is a dominant and lucrative industry in America today. Divorce law, child support enforcement, abortion rights, contraceptive availability, health departments to deal with communicable diseases, sexual harassment, and on it goes. All of these institutions have grown in our misguided attempt to interject perfect justice and the semblance of safety into the necessarily murky business of male/female interpersonal relations. As a result, most women view every man as a potential aggressor and many men have grown to view every woman as a potential accuser of anything form date rape to dead beat fatherhood. This is supposed to liberating? Berry continues:

The difficulty is that marriage, family life, friendship, neighborhood, and other personal connections do not depend exclusively or even primarily on justice-though, of course, they all must try for it. They depend also on trust, patience, respect, mutual help, forgiveness-in other words, the practice of love, as opposed to the mere feeling of love.

As soon as the parties to a marriage or a friendship begin to require strict justice, then that marriage or friendship begins to be destroyed…(p.135)

And this of course, is exactly what has happened on a grand scale. As sexuality has become a commodity to be consumed (think of the quest for hotness at all costs), coupled with the right to do whatever feels good to us without regard for anyone else, and we have all but destroyed the beauty of sexual love and marriage. Sex sells. There is even a new term for the atmosphere in which people pair off: the sexual marketplace. No longer are the terms “husband” or “wife” adequate to describe the person we share our most intimate relations with. The term is now sexual “partners” and we gauge others’ sexual morality not by their fidelity in marriage but by their “partner count.” The language of intimacy is now the language of the marketplace.

People enter into marriage under the spell of sexual infatuation, failing to recognize that the practice of love, rather than the mere feeling of love, is what keeps a marriage alive, growing and fulfilling. The values of the marketplace, of quid pro quo, has usurped the place of love and forgiveness, reducing marriage to nothing more than an arrangement that lasts as long as our arbitrary and fickle senses of satisfaction are appeased.

Sadly, Berry notes, we have moved into a culture that can only be described as nihilist, one where most people are not interested in or able to be contented with this diffusion of love. They want to continue to have love focused myopically on them and them alone, as this is what society has groomed us to believe that marriage is all about.

A society whose members are concerned only with themselves, their individual needs, and are slaves to their passions with no regard for the greater good can be described no other way than nihilist. Churchgoing, “civic minded” nihilists, but nihilists nonetheless because a life spent pursuing personal pleasure-no matter what euphemisms we use to make it seem otherwise- is a useless, hopeless life. Our selfish greed can never be truly satisfied. Fulfillment is found through service and love executed in practice, not as the pursuit of sensations. And it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference if we call ourselves liberal or conservative, as Mr. Berry so eloquently states:

“The conventional public opposition of ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ is, here as elsewhere, perfectly useless. The ‘conservatives’ promote the family as a sort of public icon, but they will not promote the economic integrity of the household or the community, which are the mainstays of family life. Under the sponsorship of ‘conservative’ presidencies, the economy of the modern household, which once required the father to work away from home – a development that was bad enough – now requires the mother to work away from home, as well. And this development has the wholehearted endorsement of ‘liberals,’ who see the mother thus forced to spend her days away from her home and children as ‘liberated’ – though nobody has yet seen the fathers thus forced away as ‘liberated.’ Some feminists are thus in the curious position of opposing the mistreatment of women and yet advocating their participation in an economy in which everything is mistreated.”

Most contemporary rhetoric about service and duty is nothing more than the demagoguery of hypocrites, playing on our emotions for the sake of their own ambitions:

There is no denying, of course, that “community” ranks with “family,” “our land,” and “our beloved country” as an icon of the public vocabulary; everybody is for it, and this means nothing. p. 132

Now that we have stated the problem, the next step is to work toward a solution. The question then, is how do those of us who yearn for community, family, respect for the land and love for country achieve even a semblance of either while surrounded by a culture for whom these things are nothing more than feel good rhetoric at best and obstacles to personal desire and ambitions at worst?

Berry offers solutions, but they are hard solutions for a culture of people comfortably entrenched in an easy, resistance-free way of life. Here, he gets credit for trying.

5 out of 5 stars.

I originally wrote this read and reviewed this book in 2012, but it seems more relevant today than it did even when I first read it, so I’m featuring it here. Reviews for more recently read books are in draft and forth coming.

books for women, Culture, marriage and relationships, nonfiction

Otherhood.

Otherhood: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness, by Melanie Notkin. Originally published in 2014. 320 pages.

The cognitive dissonance is strong in this one. However, we’ll start with an overview of what the book is about as opposed to what it purports to be about, which is how the increasing number of childless women in our culture can live fulfilling lives of contribution.

Otherhood, a title I ran across while reading an article somewhere, piqued my curiosity for reasons that have little to do with being a modern woman longing for a new kind of happiness. Perfectly content with my old-fashioned kind of happiness, I sought this book out because of my intense interest in what it takes to build community across all lines. Community, of the real life, flesh and blood variety, is something I think a lot about.

In our current culture, where marriage rates are plummeting for all kinds of reasons, how can families integrate single, childless people into our lives seamlessly in ways that increase cohesiveness, and perhaps even create opportunities for people of like faith and values to meet and form families? The fact that this author is reportedly a devout traditional Jewish woman came back to bite me because the tone of the book was anything but that of a traditional religious woman.

This tome was a big, long lament about the treacherous and unfriendly water that the New York City sexual marketplace is for a single woman looking for love and marriage. True love of course, and nothing less, and how her refusal to marry a man she doesn’t want to have sex with after 20 years of looking makes her a victim of “circumstantial infertility”. Mind you, however, none of this means she is looking for a Prince Charming (language alert):

“I mean, is Prince Charming really the kind of man who seems like he knows how to have great sex? Because he doesn’t seem like that to me.” He seems like a great-looking guy who got lucky being born into royalty. I’m not attracted to lucky. I’m attracted to hard work. Hard work is much more f*ck-able than luck-able.”

Not being aware of the latest authority on cultural hot topics has come back to bite me on many occasions, and this was another one. If I had taken the time before reading this 300+ page whine-fest, I would have been fully aware of what I could expect from Otherhood and its author’s schtick.

Of the 28 chapters in this book, fully 19 of them were about the heartbreak and hazards of dating in NYC. Does the state of affairs in NYC surprise anyone besides the author and her friends who contributed stories to this book?

The only chapter which even began to touch on the subject I was interested in was near the end, titled “Savvy Aunties”. That particular chapter was about the ways that women whose maternal instinct was never allowed to give physical birth could be manifested in myriad ways to the children they know and love and even those they don’t who just need love.

To Notkin’s credit, she steadfastly refused to take the advice of her friends and colleagues who implored to either have a baby on her own, or marry a man with whom she had no desire to build a life whatsoever for the sake of having a baby. Unfortunately, she was so obsessed with first date chemistry that she dismissed a lot of men with whom she might have been able to build a beautiful traditional Jewish family.

In the end, despite all her protestations to the contrary, she wasn’t as traditional as she thought she was. And while I am fully convinced that there truly are women -and men!- out there who are “circumstantially infertile” in this culture does everything in its power to dissuade, marginalize, and isolate the very people who would be best equipped to pass on religious morals and values to the next generation, Notkin did not persuade me that she was among that number. She wasted a valuable opportunity.

Traditional Judaism with a side of Sex in the City is not a recipe that encourages family formation nor strong families.

Like said, the cognitive dissonance was strong in this one.

2 out of 5 stars.

content advisory: Smatterings of frank sex talk, but nothing overly graphic or over the top.

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.

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