In Which I Do Not Cry Into My Pillow
Before I launch into my post for today, I’d like to address some of the discussion that popped up in yesterday’s post.
What I am not saying: Go sex it up, ladies! The world is your oyster, you big slut, good for you! Premarital sex is A-OKAY.
What I am saying: Whatever choices you made or did not make sexually in the years before you met your husband cannot be dealt with in the way that Miller puts his advice. His advice does not recommend a healthy sexuality, but rather condemnation of any lack of purity on the part of the woman in the relationship, and (as you’ll see in future entries), lacks the same condemnation for men. It turns the women into an object defined by her virginity, rather than a whole complex human being.
There’s a debate extending out of that about whether or not sexuality is public or private for the Christian (and my contention on the individuation of sexuality for the Christian is heavily nuanced and too complex to address here, so I apologize for not delving into it immediately). I agree that these are questions that should be examined, but they should not be done in the context of shaming women for making choices about their sexuality that they are at peace with. That misogynistic slut-shaming present in Miller’s piece is what my inflammatory rhetoric was a reaction to. As I told a friend as I was writing the post yesterday, I was struggling a lot with how to get my “liberal” views across in a way that wouldn’t make people question my commitment to the cause of the Church. But evidently I did not succeed, and for that I apologize.
My purpose in these blogs is to help people to create, discover, and work out a realistic response to the Christian patriarchy, which is all tied up in the roles of purity and virginity and relationships between men and women. Sometimes I go a bit far afield in recognizing the very real narratives of the women in my life versus the traditionally orthodox stance of the Church. And as I’ve said before, I will more often than not attempt to err on the side of grace rather than orthodoxy, as I believe if an orthodoxy does not lead to a world in which grace is abundant, then it deserves another look. I realize that this is surprising and maybe a little disappointing to a few of you, but it is where I fall and it is not a position I come to lightly. Please keep that in mind in your discussions.
Now, on to today’s post! I’m going to keep continuing down Miller’s list of suggestions for “how to live a great love story,” which is the first of two lists he includes on the same subject. Today, we’ll be getting to one that is absolutely infuriating. Enjoy!
Be willing to suffer. …your love story needs to have a lot of lonely crying in it. …there will come a day when a man will fall madly in love with you and you will have the honor of sitting down with him one special night to explain that, while you weren’t perfect, you turned down plenty of guys and …cried yourself to sleep hoping somebody would come around and treat you with respect. … if he doesn’t have the same story, he will feel intensely convicted and unworthy. You’ll really be giving him the foundation he needs to love your heart.
I feel like I should take a picture of my facial expression from the first time I read this. It was somewhere between anger and complete and total confusion. Considering I am the girl this specific suggestion is directed at, I feel immensely qualified to comment.
As I’ve said multiple times on this blog: I’m 25. This relationship I’m currently in is my first. I’m pretty sure most of my extended family breathed a sigh of relief when they found out that I’m dating a man – a sigh probably followed by the words, “Thank God; she’s not a lesbian.” I know, intimately, and deeply, the sort of “suffering” Miller is referring to.
For years, I beat myself up, wondering why I wasn’t good enough for the men in my life, wondering how I could become attractive to them, yelling at God about why I wasn’t being allowed this same joy that I saw people around me having. I “suffered.” But then, at a point about two or three years ago, when I decided that grad school was going to be my path after graduation from college, I realized that all my “suffering” was ridiculous. I was open to a relationship, sure, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to sit around and cry into my pillow waiting for a guy to come along.
And you shouldn’t either. To contend that this lonely crying is a necessary and even good part of a person’s love story is to boil her purpose down to her relationship. It is negative – rather than saying “learn how to live alone,” it sends the message of “sit around and pine for the fact that you are not part of an ‘us.’”
Instead of waiting around for a boyfriend, guess what I did? I went to graduate school and got a Master’s Degree, writing some of my favorite things I’ve ever produced. I went to India and saw with my own eyes the suffering people of the world. I traveled to Japan and learned a lot about myself and how I handle stress and anxiety. I learned how to be alone and went on vacation to South Korea by myself. I stood just inside the North Korean border and made friends with fellow foreigners. I made my own decisions and developed my own identity, apart from any men in my life. My life did not stop simply because I didn’t have a man around to “make a love story happen.”
And what’s more? I didn’t have to turn down guys. Not all women are hotly pursued by men and not all women have men around to turn down. In my seven years of adult life (from age 18-25), I have been asked out twice (previous to now). I have been hit on by strangers twice (one of which was actually really fun as I was lost in NYC at the time – ask me about it sometime). Hearing that I should basically brag to my future husband about all the men I’ve turned down because I was waiting for him makes me feel extremely inadequate because that is not a part of my story. How special will it make him feel to learn that no one else expressed interest until him? I mean, really, Don, that just makes me feel sad, not encouraged.
So, instead of telling women that you should be willing to cry into your pillow, let’s flip the instruction to “learn who you are without a man. Learn who you are called to be on your own. And then when you get into a relationship, it won’t be so much the Jerry MaGuire ‘you complete me’ moment, but a ‘you are the icing on my already awesome cake.’”
Adding to the confusion is the next point:
Have some faith. …[Women] make lists of their perfect gentlemen coming to rescue them meanwhile they’re hooking up with guys who have a track record of just having sex with random women. Really? Your husband won’t really care what you say, he will care what you do. …Stop falling for the romantic version of life, and start realizing that a romantic story is told with an enormous amount of pain, sacrifice, suffering and patience.
This paragraph confused me. There are two different ideas here, and I think that’s the problem – he starts off by talking about how a woman’s expectations don’t match up with what we’re actually doing, and then makes a point about romance having pain and suffering.
And it’s good to know that my husband won’t care about what I say. Thanks for that dismissal.
I honestly don’t know how this point connects to the topic sentence of “have some faith.” I don’t know what to do with it. Have faith in what? What does having faith have to do with not hooking up with men who have a track record of using women? I mean, that’s good advice, but what does it have to do with faith in…whatever?
So, I guess we’ll skip that one.
This next one, I considered giving its own special post. It’s just that inflammatory. But it needs to be seen in context with points above because it’s really just that messed up.
Don’t be thirteen. Unless you’re thirteen, ladies, grow up. Many women claim that men just won’t grow up, but then you sit and talk to them and realize they haven’t grown up either. They aren’t strong enough to demand something from their men. They aren’t strong enough to say no to a guy who just wants to use them. These are all elements of immaturity. And it’s the stuff of a bad love story. A good man will attract a good woman. And a victim will attract a predator. Stop acting like a victim. If you want a strong man who can protect you and your children, stop trolling for predators by crying all the time. Act like a dignified woman who believes her company is valuable and should come at a price. [emphasis mine]
I’d like you to go back and re-read the bolded part simply to get the full weight of it.
While this may not be a textbook example, what this amounts to is victim-blaming. Quit acting like a vulnerable woman – even though I just told you to cry into your pillow! – and you’ll stop attracting predatory men. Because you know, only women who don’t have the STRENGTH to say NO get taken advantage of! Only women who aren’t DIGNIFIED get used! Only women who act like victims become victims! Only women who don’t value themselves are being taken advantage of by men who just want sex! Really, come on, it’s just that simple!
You don’t have to be a feminist to be disgusted by his patronizing assertion here.
Not only is the random connection of victim with thirteen-year-old a little disturbing, it simply doesn’t make sense in the context of his piece. Two paragraphs before, he was asserting that we should be willing to cry into our pillows, we should be willing to be vulnerable, to suffer, to experience pain. This last point throws all that out and basically says, “Have some balls, ladies! Man up!” I’m so distracted by the victim blaming in the latter part of the paragraph that I haven’t even started to make sense of the first portion of it.
Seriously, Don, where are you meeting these women? These women who are simultaneously sleeping with dozens of men while also pining away for “Mr. Right”? These women who are playing the victim? Do you actually know any of them in real life? Because I certainly don’t, and I’d venture to say I probably know a lot more about women than you, seeing as I am one.
Does anyone else see the untenable burden this puts on us women? Cry, be vulnerable, let yourself feel pain, but if you do, don’t be a victim about it and don’t be sad about being alone because then bad bad men take advantage of you and then where will you be? You should be weak and strong at the same time. You should be weak enough to require protection but strong enough to demand it from your man (apparently I can’t protect myself, even though that’s essentially what he’s asking me to do in the latter part).
This is dangerous thinking. The instance we cross the line into thinking that women who are taken advantage of are somehow deserving of it because they were “playing the victim” (and regardless of intent, that is the point Miller is making), we have lost a large portion of our moral authority when it comes to speaking about relationships.
And that's a very sad day for the Church, indeed.