February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

I want to wish my readers a Happy Valentine's Day. In the spirit of the holiday, here is a little greeting card from yours truly.


February 6, 2007

A Biblical Critique of Debbie Maken's Book "Getting Serious about Getting Married" (part 13)

PART XIII: Chapter 12 - "Saying No to the Dating Game" (As If Anything Would Change Thereby)

In Chapter 12 of Getting Serious About Getting Married, Debbie Maken states that modern dating represents "a broken system, and it's time to call it quits" (p. 145). She thus spends the rest of the chapter detailing the alleged evils of dating. Naturally, Mrs. Maken feels it is women who suffer the most in the current dating scene: "Despite the fact that men often resent dating because they have to foot the bill, I believe women pay a much higher price" (Ibid.). Yet is this actually the case? Let us examine this and other claims made in Chapter 12.

Women Always Have It Worse, Dontcha Know

If there is any mantra that would best describe the current thinking in our society about gender relations, it would be, "Women always have it worse." This statement lies at the heart of feminism and all the other gynocentrist manifestations of self-pity and entitlement found in our culture. I am afraid that some of the same thinking surfaces in Chapter 12 of Mrs. Maken's book. On p. 147, she speaks of dating promoting a "lack of equality," as if she were suddenly the champion of downtrodden women everywhere fighting against patriarchy. Mrs. Maken explains her position thusly:
"In its most prevalent form, dating is initiated by men who pursue women for companionship, sex, living together, or marriage. Though many people believe that it's perfectly okay for women to initiate a dating relationship, the simple fact is that most women don't.

"Because that's the way it is, a man has the ultimate balance of power in dating. He looks around at his leisure, decides who he thinks is the most physically and emotionally attractive, and asks her out for a date--all on his timetable. A woman waits for a man to become interested, and when and if he asks her out, her only power is a decisional one--whether or not to accept his invitation."
(p. 147-148)
Who are we kidding, here? Men have the "ultimate balance of power?" How strange that women insist on sharing power with men in every other field of endeavor, but can't seem to want the "power" that men have in initiating relationships. Why is it that we can have female astronauts, politicians, scientists, and lawyers, but we have difficulty getting ladies to ask men out or to pay for dates? Are women who have no problem comporting themselves in an assertive manner and lording their authority over men suddenly worried about their femininity if they ask a man out? Get real.

I think it is obvious that Mrs. Maken is overstating her case here. She opines, "A woman feels pressured into accepting invitations from less than worthy candidates. Her veto power isn't much of a bargaining chip, because the downside of saying no is losing more time until the next offer comes in" (p. 148). Yet, I wonder how many seconds it takes for a woman to say in a polite tone, "I'm sorry but I am not interested. Thanks anyway." Simply put, many women do not have to go through the gut-wrenching anxiety of making the first move. They can signal their interest to a man in ways that provide some safety for their reputations--and their egos.

The same cannot be said for men. Asking the wrong woman out can get a man labeled as a "creep" or a "stalker." Even worse, a man can find himself the target of a frivolous lawsuit or disciplinary action at work. Women have treated men shabbily in this regard. In days gone by, a rejection was nothing more than that--a rejection. Now, a man is forced to navigate an emotional and legal minefield to gain a woman's acceptance, thanks in no small part to feminism and misplaced chivalry. Too many women have been weaned on a diet of misandry, victimhood, hostility, and paranoia. Even their body language betrays a confrontational attitude. Who wants to get up the nerve to ask these kind of women out? Let's face it: Dating is not fun for many men. The whole experience is filled with angst because there is always the fear that a man's advances will be taken the wrong way. From undue public embarrassment to shattered careers, many men are coming to the conclusion that the drama of approaching a woman is not worth it.

With respect to the expenses of dating, Mrs. Maken's position doesn't even make the qualifying round. It is usually men who are expected to pick up the tab for all social outings with a woman. After men open their wallets, women complain that these gents "expect something" in return. Indeed, men should. At the very least, some integrity and courtesy on the part of the woman is not too much to ask, is it? Somehow, it's perfectly okay for women to send mixed signals about their intentions while men are excoriated for doing the same. I myself have been the casualty of a Christian woman who was more than willing to let me take her out for dates, only to tell me afterwards that friendship was the best she could offer. Why the sudden change in demeanor? I daresay this happens to men more often than many care to admit.

Is the Man So Beneath You?

Elsewhere in Chapter 12, Mrs. Maken writes:
"Sally was in her late thirties, owned her own home, and had a respectable job and a decent savings account. She was dating someone who, though older, was a pizza delivery boy. I was shocked. She actually became engaged to this individual, which was even more shocking. At some point she looked up and thought, This isn't fair. The engagement ended, and I have to admit I was relieved." (p. 148)
I gather that Mrs. Maken finds something undesirable about pizza delivery boys. However, what needs to addressed is the larger problem of how men have been displaced in this society. Since the Industrial Revolution, men have viewed their contribution to their marriage and family largely in terms of the paycheck they bring home from their employers. Now, there is a decrease in manufacturing jobs which typically favor men and an increase in service sector jobs which favor women. On top of this, women are infiltrating high-paying white-collar jobs traditionally held by men.

What should men do when schools, universities, and workplaces increasingly favor women over them? Men could repeatedly go back to school to acquire more marketable skills, yet in Chapter 4, Mrs. Maken bemoans people who spend extended periods of time getting an education. So what man could make it in the brave new world that Mrs. Maken proposes? Obviously, one already born into a position of privilege. This basically is the no-win situation that faces any man who buys into Mrs. Maken's paradigm.

Speaking of pizza delivery boys, I should point out that I have known two grown men who have delivered pizzas to get themselves through school or to support a family. These men are not irresponsible "slackers" as some might suppose, but spiritually-minded individuals who have shown themselves ready to do whatever it takes to get the proverbial job done. I have been blessed to have one of them work for me. Mrs. Maken's comment does no justice to these two individuals and similar hard-working men of modest means.

As for the woman mentioned by Mrs. Maken, it is difficult for me to have sympathy for her. If she was truly in love and truly compatible with the man to whom she was engaged, why did she let her ambitions drive her away from him? If she was just desperate and grasping at whatever attention came her way, why did she fail to make her intentions clear, defrauding an innocent man in the process? It's one thing to state that pizza delivery boys are not one's type. It's another matter to allow a relationship to proceed to an engagement before having the honesty to admit to one's mating preferences.

Mrs. Maken goes on to say:
"Women are generally beholden to men for asking them out, and men are indirectly encouraged to seek out women slightly above them. Who's going to stop them? Since prospective suitors know they will not meet a woman's family on the front end, they can take the gamble of aiming high and hope to get lucky. In the past men would not have been so bold because a girl's parents would tell any suitor beneath her to scram." (Ibid.)
I am not sure what I should make of this quote. In what way does Mrs. Maken think the women in question are "above" the men that seek them? Are these women richer, more educated, more attractive, more mature, or more spiritual? I think that compatibility between men and women in terms of faith, values, aspirations, personality, and interests are important, but I find any undue stress on social status to be worrisome. Does Mrs. Maken propose a caste system for men and women as is the case in India? I sincerely hope she is not advocating some form of woman-centered elitism and snobbery in this regard.

Oddly enough, Boundless.org (a marriage mandate website I have previously mentioned) recently published an article about the problem of status-seeking behaviors. It notes that, among other things, a decline of Christianity's influence over western culture is consonant with a rise of what is called "status anxiety" (Roberto Rivera y Carlo, "Optional Anxiety," February 1, 2007, Accessed from www.boundless.org). Given that this is true, I think we can do just fine without having "status anxiety" in terms of who we pick for a mate. We can bloviate all day long about 1 Tim. 5:8 and men being "breadwinners." As I suggested in Part 5 of my critique, 1 Tim. 5:8 was written to both genders. Applying it exclusively to men is a misuse of the scriptures that ignores both the original grammar and context. But even if I were to grant the misuse of this passage for the sake of argument, the Bible still says:
"Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." (1 Tim. 6:6-10, NKJV)
Women should stop having so much anxiety about a man's status, as opposed to considering his character and personal compatibility. Too many of them have forgotten what the Bible really says about rating men as being "above" or "beneath" them (Luke 12:15; James 1:9-11; Rom. 12:16; Phil. 2:1-8).

In fact, it's saddening to see how many women are herd creatures in terms of whom they date. Many of them do not pursue relationships with quality men, sometimes not even with men to whom they are initially attracted. Their choice of men is instead largely driven by the approval of their female friends. Men become fashion accessories as a consequence. Needless to say, women must start thinking for themselves, or if they need approval from other women, they ought to seek out the advice of more godly and mature women (Titus 2:3-5). When I say mature women, I have in mind ladies who are over the age of 55 and reject the Oprah Winfrey/Dr. Phil/Lifetime Channel culture of female entitlement. Perhaps younger women might be consulted, but sadly in the wake of feminism, there seems to be a lot of women who are just as immature in their thirties and forties as they were in high school.

Dating Doesn't Work - No Kidding, Sherlock

I agree with Debbie Maken that dating, as it often exists, is largely a dysfunctional system for fostering intimate relationships between men and women. Mrs. Maken complains that woman lose their time, trust, innocence, and passion after dating for a long time. She says:
"Though a good word of caution, telling women not to put too much of an 'emotional investment' into dating denies our female nature. We're back once more to the fact that God designed us for marriage. It's our nature to want it. And because that's how God made us, that's what we're invariably looking for as we date." (p. 149)
Really? One does not always detect this "female nature" in young women today. In fact, many women seem to be more in love with their independence, consumer goods, outings with fellow friends, etc. I have lived through a decade of "grrl power" and stupid lifestyle magazine columns emblazoned with the question, "Who Needs Men?" (or with similar revealing titles). How many young men looking for the woman of their dreams were sidelined because a girl was too busy chasing excitement or was shacking up with all the wrong guys? Let's level here: After seeing how many women behave, men also lose their time, trust, innocence, and passion.

Debbie Maken goes on to say that dating causes fatigue and that past a certain point, single women cannot "put on rose-colored glasses when looking at the past" (p. 150). I wonder when dating ceases to be fun for women in this respect. Is it when their biological clocks start winding down? It is at the point when they start aging faster than their male counterparts? Is it when they realize that the dating game is no longer rigged in their favor?

What about those women who have never been able to attract a man? Mrs. Maken remarks, "Today we have a de facto spinsterhood, in which random women--many of whom are incredibly beautiful and not overly independent--are still single with no apparent explanation. Singleness is no longer for the ugly, the cruel, and the indifferent" (Ibid.) [emphasis mine]. I am sure that will make some physically unattractive women feel better ... not. How would have Mrs. Maken comforted these women in an earlier generation? Would she have handed them the same lines about the "Gift of Singleness" that she herself found tiresome as a single woman? Would Mrs. Maken have demanded that men go against biology and look past these women's appearances, even as she and others obviously do not look past the kind of jobs men have (e.g., the "pizza delivery boy")? Would she have declared these women to be predestined to sexual frustration and sin, and perhaps predestined to hell?

Really, why does extended singleness suddenly become a tragedy when "incredibly beautiful" women are passed by? Why do we feel there is "no apparent explanation" to their singleness? Quite frankly, I think there are of plenty of "incredibly beautiful" women who are ignorant, vain, unstable, calculating, materialistic, hypercritical, boorish, or disrespectful to men. It is no mystery to me why many of them are still single. Many of them think they are "too good" for the men around them. Men pick up on this attitude and, accordingly, go to greener pastures where the mares are more prone to nuzzle than kick. Other men just go off and make a stable for themselves.

Old Whine into New Wineskins?

On page 151, Mrs. Maken says that dating forces women to pretend to be disinterested in marriage. I respond that dating forces men to pretend to be disinterested in sex. Either way, no one likes to be around a desperate person. So we'll just have to learn to master our desires; stop acting like other people owe us something in this matter; and be secure in our self-image, won't we? In other words, how do women feel now that the shoe is on other foot? How do they feel now that they are being measured with the same measure that has been used against men?

The way women pressure men into marriage is no more honorable than the way men pressure women into sex. Mrs. Maken remarks, "Of course, men often say they don't know what they're looking for in a wife and that dating someone for a year or two gives them a chance to figure it out" (p. 152). Of course, men say this--because it's true. I am tired of the whining that "men won't commit." Marriage is a more costly proposition for men these days than it was in the past. More is expected from them as husbands and fathers. If a marriage breaks up, they stand to lose more than women. So, it's only natural that a man treads cautiously into the institution of marriage. Who can blame him for wanting to know the woman he is dating well enough before making such a grave decision?

Mrs. Maken continues her tirade:
"I have a hard time believing that men today meet 'the one' at twenty-nine, thirty-four, or thirty-eight when men in the past did the exact same thing in their early twenties. In the not-too-distant past shame was involved if a man went out with a woman more than three or four times without the intention of marriage. His reputation was mud, and other women would refuse him once they were made aware of his uncommitted nature. With no sense of shame (or purpose) today, men can hop, skip, and jump from one girlfriend to the next, while women are told to wait on the Lord" (p. 153).
So, shall we shame men into marriage? I caution my readers that shame doesn't work very well when employed by the shameless. In this sense, many women, religious or otherwise, have comported themselves in a quite a shameless manner for some time. How about returning to shaming women who divorce their husbands for frivolous reasons, single moms, women who knowingly chase rakes, and women who go into male-dominated professions? I suppose that in many respects most people would not want to turn back the clock for women. Fair enough. Yet no matter how you feel about the situation, the proverbial genie is out of the bottle. It's downright idiotic to put the old yoke on the male ox while the female ox gets to roam all over the field. There is going to have to be a monumental sea change of thought in our society before we can go back to the "good old days." Let's not think we can put the old whine (yes, I spelled it that way) into new wineskins.

Just Say No ... As If Others Won't Do the Same to You

At the end of Chapter 12, Debbie Maken adjures her readers to "just say no" to the way dating is done. She says that whenever a woman dates a man, the woman should ask about his intentions, motives, and history. Mrs. Maken also says any man who is not serious about getting married should be dumped. Finally, Mrs. Maken advises women to be honest about what they want and set limits (such as breaking off a relationship if it doesn't proceed towards marriage by a certain time).

I suppose this advice is somewhat feasible. Yet I have to ask why dating someone you break up with is necessarily a "waste" of "time"? I think of all the friends I have had during my youth and how many of them have moved on with their lives. Because I am no longer in touch with them, does it mean that the time I enjoyed with them was all for naught? If it wasn't for naught, why should the situation necessarily be different with members of the opposite sex--even with former girlfriends?

When women complain that they "wasted their time" on a man who "won't commit," I think there is usually more than meets the eye. First of all, are these women saying there was no inherent joy or pleasure in the time they spent with their ex-boyfriends? If there was joy, then why automatically call it a "waste of time"? If there wasn't any joy, then were these women just going through the motions to get something out of the man? Like men, women need to be honest about their motivations. Women constantly complain of men who are just being nice in order to "get into their pants." Is being nice to a man in order to get his paycheck and get pregnant by him that much more acceptable? If anyone thinks this kind of opportunism is fine for women, remember what the Bible says: "Let love be without hypocrisy" (Rom. 12:9, NKJV). Perhaps men should also raise questions about intentions, motivations, and personal history.

This is why I insist that a man and woman start with a genuine friendship. The friendship should be reciprocal in terms of trust, respect, and generosity. It should have value in and of itself; it should have no strings attached and no premature expectations of where it will lead. In such a relationship, it's easier for both parties to be honest about their intentions. There is no need to devote exclusive attention to a friend of the opposite sex until there is expressed mutual agreement about the state of the relationship.

Having said that, I will say it's difficult to form such a friendship if one has a paranoid attitude about the opposite sex; makes up peculiar rules for "limiting access" to oneself; prematurely asks others pointed and potentially embarrassing questions about their past romantic life--you get the picture. Debbie Maken starts off Chapter 12 comparing dating to a job interview where the woman takes the role of the employer. If you are a woman who sees dating in this way, don't be surprised if men treat the prospect of dating you like a job interview as well--and find other women that don't make them feel that way.


Chapter 12 is too much like Chapter 4--lopsided in its criticism of men. We are supposed to believe that dating doesn't work and men have an unfair advantage. How strange that after a few generations of dating as we know it, women like Mrs. Maken are only now discovering its shortcomings. Why has there been no similar outcry when men get shortchanged in dating? I suspect that, as usual, the concerns of average men simply do not matter to many "relationship experts."

There is one final issue that I want to raise about Chapter 12 of Mrs. Maken's book. On page 146, Debbie Maken quotes a character from the TV series Sex in the City (just as she does in the previous chapter on page 142). I do not know if Mrs. Maken watches the program or if she knows someone else who does, but why are quotations from a ribald program aired on HBO supposed to carry weight with a Christian readership? I know many men who find Sex in the City to be disgusting in its celebration of contemporary vice, especially as displayed by secular women. The fact that Mrs. Maken quotes from this program causes me some concern. The fact that her publisher, literary agent, reviewers, etc. did not dissuade her from doing so causes me some concern. Forgive me if I sound alarmist, but I wonder what the state of biblical womanhood is in this culture when we see religious women looking to worldly female characters on a sitcom for literary inspiration. Surely, people can do better than this.