Monday, November 12, 2007

What we teach our daughters about marriage

Yes, once again a quote from the Stephanie Plum books. Actually two quotes. These are from Hot Six. The context of the first quote is Stephanie and Grandma Mazur eating their pie before their meatballs. Grandma is widowed, experiencing kind of a second adolescence. As we see in the quote Stephanie seems to attribute the "new " Grandma to her being widowed and therefore finally free to do what she wants.
When I was a little girl I'd never thought of my grandmother as the sort of person to eat her pie first. Her house had always been neat and clean. The furniture was dark wood and the upholstered peices were comfortable but unmemorable. Meals were traditional Burg meals, ready at noon and at six o'clock. Stuffed cabbage, pot roast, roast chicken, an occasional ham or pork roast. My grandfather wouldn't have had it any other way. He'd worked in a steel mill all his life. He had strong opinions, and he dwarfed the rooms of their row house. Truth is, the top of my grandmother's head comes to the tip of my chin, and my grandfather wasn't much taller. But then I guess stature doesn't have much to do with inches.
Lately I've been wondering who my grandmother would have been if she hadn't married my grandfather. I wonder if she would have eaten her dessert first a lot sooner.
And the second quote takes place the next day when Stephanie is visiting her mother.
"Do you ever eat dessert first?" I asked my mother.
She looked at me dumbfounded. As if I'd asked whether she ritually sacrificed cats every Wednesday at the stroke of midnight.
"Suppose you were home alone," I said, "and there was a strawberry shortcake in the refrigerator and a meatloaf in the oven. Which would you eat first?"
My mother thought about it for a minute, her eyes wide. "I can't remember ever eating dinner alone. I can't even imagine it."
In these novels, the main character, Stephanie, thinks she is in love. She is, however, unwilling to commit to her boyfriend. These quotes do a good job showing what part of her fear is. She is afraid she will lose her own personality if she gets married.

Does that happen in real life? Do we lose our own personality when we marry? I guess to an certain extent it does. But it does not have to be a bad thing. It is easy to become overwhelmed with family life. There are many demands on a mother's time and even her personality. As sinful human beings we don't always want to do what's right, but having little ones around us is motivation to try to do so. For me, being married to a pastor is additional motivation to "be good." And sometimes, I must admit, I just want to do something naughty. I just want to eat my dessert first.

For many of us, our marriages no longer include eating every meal with our spouse, as Stephanie's mother's experience reflects. But it is still easy to teach our daughters only the "law" side of marriage. As a Christian mother, I teach my daughters chastity and faithfulness and (try to) teach them submission to my husband. I try to care for them all. And, albeit bumblingly, I try to serve them with clean clothes and healthy, tasty meals. It would be easy for them to think of that being all there is to marriage. I don't spend much time talking about how fun their Dad is and how he enriches my life. Or what a good man he is and how much he does for us and how much he loves us.

Maybe it's important to find ways to "eat dessert first" on a regular basis. Maybe this would help our daughters see the fun side of marriage. The spontaneous side. I would never want any of my daughters to leave home thinking of marriage as a trap into which she wouldn't want to fall.

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