So Much More Than This
Editor’s note of annoyance: It bothers me immensely that Miller keeps referring to women as “girls” in today’s section and throughout his blog post while men are never “boys.” It’s patronizing. Just a little linguistic thing to keep an eye on.
Today’s portions from the list are relatively short, but the second one’s a doozy. Let’s jump in feet first, shall we?
Have a plan. …Do you know what kind of father you want to be? Do you know what kind of wife will be required to make your vision come true? If you don’t have a plan, you’re leaving your success up to luck.
Well, that’s depressing. See…I thought part of the beauty of being a Christian, of following Christ, was watching all our set plans for our lives be torn apart and built up into these bigger and more beautiful things than we could ever imagine. “Having a plan” seems like the worst advice for someone who is looking to “live a great love story.” Isn’t part of the draw of the narrative not the way one person takes charge but rather the spontaneity and seeming lack of a plan that the two lovers had? The way it's unexpected? I mean, quite frequently, in many love stories that we see represented in popular culture and in literature, neither character planned on his or her love story working out the way it did.
In my experience, planning your life based on “x” happening isn’t a good way to approach…well, anything. Granted, yes, you should develop a plot – I’m speaking as someone who has done a lot to plan out a general direction for what she wants to do and done a lot to prepare for that – but you also need to be ready for those plans to fall apart. I am not where I planned to be, but I am where I am need to be. I sense none of that tension between caution and spontaneity here.
And a little nitpicky note: I hate that he sorts women into “kinds” rather than “what qualities you would like in a future wife?” I know I have certain things in my relationship that are dealbreakers (can’t believe in gender roles, for one), but the language of “kinds” makes it sound like there are interchangeable women who fit different types and as long as you get the right “type” of woman, you’ll be golden. That doesn’t say a whole lot to how one values their eventual mate.
But I’m done with that point. It’s small beans compared to what’s coming.
Be honorable with the women you date. I made a rule a long time ago and it’s served me well. I told myself I’d never kiss a girl unless I cared deeply about her. For the most part, if not completely, I’ve never kissed a girl I wasn’t dating. Though looking back I think there were a few in there that weren’t quite defined. That said, though, I’ve never used a girl just for sex or just to hook up. I am so grateful for this, because I don’t want my conscious [sic – he means conscience] entangled in all that mess. While there are a few girls I’ve dated who may not like me, I think most of them think I’m pretty okay. At least that’s what they’ve told me. So here’s the thing. [editor’s note: finally! a point!] You can either wreck a girl’s heart, or build it up. You can either help her understand that she’s beautiful by protecting her heart and body, or teach her that she’s just a girl worth using for sex. To be sure, there are plenty of girls who actually just want to be used for sex, but remember, Proverbs says stay away from these women [editor’s note: not really]. Seriously, I’ve taken the bait a couple of times, and it’s a living nightmare.
I’d like to point out the contradiction between the opening and closing sections for a moment: He says at the beginning, “I’ve never used a girl just for sex or just to hook up.” And then closes with “I’ve taken the bait [of women who want to just be used for sex, presumably] a couple of times, and it’s a living nightmare.”
Methinks he’s not telling the whole truth here – either he’s been entirely honorable as he claims to be, or he hasn’t. And notice, it’s not he who was dishonorable in that faux-confession at the end there. The passive voice of “taken the bait” makes the actor one outside himself – he was passive, he couldn’t help it, she tempted him and she wanted to be used! This allows him to claim that he’s been honorable while still admitting that no, no, he really hasn’t. He does this quite a few times throughout this particular blog post, which is bothersome because, as I said the other day, open confession and testimony are much more powerful than shame and guilt.
As it is, we have another example of a failure to follow a topic sentence. Seriously, if I was still teaching, I might bring a couple of these in for a paragraph structure exercise. What advice do we actually get about being honorable with women? Not kissing them until you know that you care deeply? Okay, but that’s all we get – otherwise we get negatives such as “don’t use women for sex.” Okay.
But what about the stuff that’s not physical affection? What about actually listening to her when she tells you about her day? What about having empathy for the struggles she’s going through? What about actually getting to understand her hopes and dreams and supporting them? What about having theological discussions on where you differ and doing so in a calm and collected manner? What about actually telling her about how much you love her and making that true through your actions? What about seeing her as a real person?
What I’m getting at here is that there is a lot more to “be honorable” than just “don’t kiss unless you actually care.” There’s a lot more to how you honor the one you love than just respecting their physical boundaries (though, there is honor in that as well – there’s a reason consent is sexy). Rather than focusing on the merely physical, a person in a “love story” needs to focus on the entire person, on the entire story that includes the two of them.
I’d also like to draw your attention to this sentence: “You can either help her understand that she’s beautiful by protecting her heart and her body, or teach her she’s just a girl worth using for sex.” It’s patronizing that a man, apparently, must make a girl understand how beautiful she is.
Ladies, I’d like to speak to you directly for a moment. Gents, you can feel free to listen in, but I'll get to you in a minute.
Ladies, you do not need a man to affirm that you are beautiful. You are beautiful regardless of your relationship status.
Is having a boyfriend who finds you beautiful a good thing? Yes, but you are beautiful regardless of whether or not he is there to “protect your heart.”
This is something I struggled with a lot growing up – I looked outward for affirmation of my beauty, and when no one (except my dad, and he’s contractually obligated to do so because he’s my dad) told me, I went for years thinking I was ugly and trying to figure out how I could hide. It wasn’t until I was at least 20 that I began to realize that it doesn’t matter whether or not some unknown guy out there found me pretty – I am pretty, regardless of whether or not it conforms to some warped standard of bottle-blond, tanned, and perfectly symmetrical beauty that the world has foisted on us. Accepting myself in the absence of any male affirmation was one of the best things I learned how to do.
Remember, every day, as you look into the mirror: You. Are. Lovely.
It doesn’t matter if you’re lovely TO someone else. See yourself as lovely first. I cannot and do not mean to guarantee that things will fall in line with your love life once you begin to see yourself as beautiful – that certainly hasn’t been the case in my own life, as it was a good five years between realizing that I have inherent beauty without outside affirmation (and that’s still a tug of war even today) and getting my first boyfriend.
Speaking of: one thing I love about this relationship (hi boyfriend!) is that he doesn’t spend his time telling me that I’m pretty – he sees me as so much more than that. We spend more time talking about whether or not God is immutable than whether or not I look good in the shirt I’m wearing. And I’m honored by that – I know that his attraction to me goes deeper than surface beauty.
So, guys, this part’s for you: Yes, affirm your girl’s beauty. But also affirm her intelligence, her sense of humor, her athleticism (or her ability to kick your butt at Settlers of Catan). Affirm who she is, not just how she looks. Just as you are much more than a pretty face, so is she.
When we place beauty as the first and foremost of things we can “teach” each other about in a relationship, we make for a very shallow relationship. There’s a lot more about him or her that attracted you to them – let them know about all of it. That is how you honor your partner and THAT is how you begin to live a great love story.