Wednesday, July 18, 2018

In Response to Lori Alexander's "Men Prefer Debt-Free Virgins Without Tattoos"

After the initial blink of shock and small pinch of indignation at the post's title, my knee-jerk reaction was,

"Because a woman's goal in life is to be preferable to men?!"

As a woman, the post's title offended me. But as I read, the body of the post offended me as a Christ-follower.

As a lover of lists and logic, I feel I won't be able to rest until I respond, tackling each of this woman's "points," which are really a collection of statements sitting atop a veritable mountain of ridiculous and unspoken assumptions.

Alexander's first paragraph is a prime example of such assumptions: "Do you know how much more attractive debt-free virgins (without tattoos) are to young men? Unfortunately, there are so few of these types of young women anymore because of the high costs of college (debt) and sexual promiscuity even within those in the church. As believers in Jesus Christ, we need to live in a way that is pleasing to Him because His ways are the best."

Main Assumption 1: All men find the same type of woman attractive. To some men I'm sure debt-free virgins without tattoos are most attractive. However, I bet there are more men out there who prefer debt-free virgins WITH tattoos, or debt-free women of any experience with no tattoos, or don't mind debt but want to be a woman's first, or don't care about debt or virginity or tattoos.

Main Assumption 2 (which she leans on more heavily later): College necessarily equal debt. Yes, the cost of college has risen (thanks, big government), but that does not mean all college graduates have debt. Because of my parents' incredible generosity and sacrifice, my sister and I are both getting a college education and will have NO debt because of it. Many people--even some women *gasp*--work to put themselves through college with no debt.

Alexander then completely changes the scope of the article from "living in a way that is pleasing to Christ" or even "why men prefer debt-free virgins without tattoos" to "reasons that women shouldn't go to college." (She never even touches on the tattoo thing.) Talk about a bait and switch! And talk about building a case on an assumption that isn't even true.

The first reason that women shouldn't go to college is because men prefer debt-free women. So, pretty much a restatement of Assumptions 1 and 2.

The second reason women shouldn't go to college is because college-educated women are unlikely to stay home and raise their children because they want to pay off debt and use their degree. I would like to point to the hundreds of women I work with who not only went to college and stay home with their children but actually home educate their children. Oh, and lots of them have careers too. College does not make women less likely to stay home with their children. The desire either to stay home or not is present in a woman's mind before she gets her four-year degree. If she wants to stay home, she will, regardless of her education level.

The next reason why women shouldn't go to college made both me and my husband (Wait, what? I found a good, godly husband despite my college education, past experiences, and tattoo?!) gasp out loud: "The husband will need to take years teaching his wife the correct way to act, think, and live since college taught them every possible way that is wrong."

This makes my blood boil. First of all, husband, if you have to "teach your wife" how to be a person, then she's probably not ready for marriage. It is not a husband's job to raise his wife; that is the job of parents, the potential wife herself, and--oh yeah--GOD. Sure, as kids (male and female) grow up, they need people guiding them in HOW to act, think, and live until they've mastered the skills and logic to conduct themselves well. However, even after Alexander's implication that wives begin as clueless, uncouth children, she is really implying that the husband should teach his wife WHAT to think.

How are women supposed to love the Lord their God with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strengths if they are not allowed to use their own minds and strengths? (I'm sure there's an argument to be made here that the "strength" of women is only in child-rearing and cooking. I don't believe that, but even if it were true, what about the "with all their minds" part?)

Next reason women shouldn't go to college: "They will start having babies later in life. That is if they can still conceive naturally." Sorry, I forgot that a woman's eggs dry up and fall off her uterus at age twenty-two. *insert eyeroll emoji*

The fifth reason why women shouldn't go to college is because they lose valuable years of learning to cook large meals. To be honest, I cooked more in college than I did at home (not that that's saying much). And a lot of the time, cooking large meals is a matter of being able to double or triple a recipe. Of course, that requires math. Wait, are women allowed to do math?

Alexander goes on to say that "young women learn nothing about biblical womanhood or what it takes to run a home when they go to college." First of all, this can depend on what college a woman attends. There are such things as "Christian colleges," although maybe Alexander sees that as an oxymoron. Second, Alexander isn't insisting that college doesn't teach biblical womanhood, but that for some reason women are INCAPABLE of learning biblical principles when they go to college. Is it because our minds aren't strong enough to withstand cultural influences? Or because we aren't clever enough to seek out edifying Bible studies? Third, I feel like I learned a lot about how to run a home while in college. For the first time, I had no one reminding me to clean my room or the bathroom, or to eat enough veggies, or spend my money wisely, or remember to buy more toilet paper. Are you kidding me, Alexander? College is literally the time in your life when you DO learn how to "run a (mini version of a) home."

Alexander then talks about how women should live with their parents and work from home and stay under the protection of her father until she's transferred to her husband's keeping. Whatever. I don't care if a girl chooses to live at home or not, and fathers do offer some protection. None of that is sufficient reason not to go to college.

And lastly, the other gasp-inducer: "Most girls have not read the Bible with their father (Ephesians 6:4) or husband to explain to them (1 Corinthians 14:35)." I'm wondering if the original author threw these verses in hoping that no one would actually investigate them, because they are

"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)

and

"If [women] want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church." (1 Corinthians 14:35)

At first glance, that second one could be pretty damning, I guess, but the first one? "Dads, don't be annoying. Lead the family in a godly way." How do you get "women can't read the Bible for themselves" from that?

In 1 Corinthians 14:35, scholars believe that Paul was referring to some specific kind of inquiry or speech of women. Earlier in chapter 11, he both references women prophesying in church and says that women should have a symbol of authority on their own heads, so clearly he isn't against women having a voice in church.

(In all honesty, chapter 11 has some puzzling passages, but one of them ends with this great equalizer: "For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God." Boom.)

Back to the original point that women need their husbands to explain the Bible to them: No. God gave me a brain and a will of my own. I will use the brain to understand the Word myself, and the will to study and apply it. Is it important to discuss scripture with your spouse? Of course! But not so that the woman can have the Word interpreted for her like she's a peasant in the Dark Ages and her husband is a controlling Catholic priest. You study the Word together so that both man and woman can learn from each other, digging deeper and sharpening each other as iron.

Closing Thoughts:
I am deeply saddened and offended that there are people out there who believe God created women to be silent, subservient shells of humans. How rude is that to our Creator? To say that he made half the population brainless and spineless and do-less? What about all the strong biblical heroines? What about the command to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength?

What's more, Alexander implies that women are only worthy and godly when they are either married or trying to be married. Is appealing to men really the highest calling a woman has? What about living in a way pleasing to God? What about the TONS of verses that SPECIFICALLY warn against living to please men/other people? (Galatians 1:10, John 5:41-44, 1 Thessalonians 2:4, Luke 16:15, et cetera.)

Lastly, while marriage is good and created by God, it is not actually necessary for a good and godly life. Paul only even "concedes" to the notion of marriage. He says that in his opinion, it's better to be solo and focus on God. So, biblically, Mrs. Alexander, your argument fails again.

And now I'm going to go back to my life as a married, college-educated, debt-free, Bible-studying woman with a tattoo who can't wait to have kids, stay home to raise and educate them, and continue the career for which God has given her passion.

~Stephanie

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Some strange mixture of sadness and apathy. Cloudiness, dimness, drained. My soul is tired and bruised. I think "What can I do? What can I do to make myself feel better?" I don't expect an answer, but I get one. It floats across my mind and I feel my soul lift its head, like it's hopeful.

Metal music.

It's exactly the thing, so perfect I don't even hesitate to get my earbuds. Even in this state of heaviness, my body moves easily for my music.

I put in the earbuds, connect my phone, and hear the first few notes. I smile. My soul unfolds in a way that feels like stretching, blooming. The ragged melodies fit into the rough edges of my heart and complement them, making me feel whole. It's beautiful, and the music and I rise together, on a journey. It's complicated, but so controlled, so planned. Wild, but guided. I let the music tell me what to feel, and as the music resolves into its key, I resolve with it.

inspired by As I Lay Dying, An Ocean Between Us
"Separation," last 1:15 of "This is Who We Are"
favorite tracks:  "An Ocean Between Us," "Forsaken," "I Never Wanted"

Friday, February 2, 2018

PSA: Switching Birthdays

For years, Gabe and I have thought it was cool that our birthdays are exactly six months apart: mine is February 7th, his is August 7th. But I'm not sure how we started the conversation when we decided to switch birthdays.

It started as one of three conversations, which are also the three reasons we've decided to do it.

1: Our birthdays are in the wrong seasons.
I hate winter. I hate being cold. I hate the sun being far away. I hate the sun setting early. I hate cold and flu and stomach bug season. All growing up, I'd want to have fun outdoor birthday parties, but it would be thirty degrees, or it would snow and people couldn't come, or, like, the pool was closed because it was the dead of winter.

Gabe "hates" the summer. (I put it in quotes because he doesn't have enough malice of character to hate something properly like I do.) He hates being hot. He hates getting sunburned. He hates not being able to wear jeans all the time. He doesn't even like the beach. His favorite activities are brutal in the summertime: hiking, camping, bonfires and s'mores. Winter would be a great time of year for any version of his preferred birthday parties.

2: The gift-giving windows don't suit us personally.
I am not good at presents. (Some people will staunchly defend me and say that I give AMAZING presents. I don't know if that's true or not, but I DO know that any time I've given a gift that wasn't the amazingness of reused teabag, it took me MONTHS of planning and thinking and stressing and crying and wracking my brain and panicking. So, whether or not I "give amazing presents," I am not "good at presents." It is not one of my natural gifts. [Ha, pun.])

That being said, if Gabe and I go with our biological birthdays, I have to plan and think and stress and et cetera virtually ALL YEAR LONG. I stress from January to August about his birthday present, and August to December about his Christmas present. I would much rather just BAM: give him a present in December, and a present in February, and then I can relax until, like, August.

Gabe is insanely wonderful at presents. Giving gifts is the way he likes to show love to people. So, it was sad to him that he only got to give me anything during a little quarter-of-the-year window. If we switch birthdays, he gets to spread out the horror joy of gift giving all year.

3: We prefer each other's birthstones.
This one is pretty simple. My favorite color is green. His favorite is purple. August's birthstone is a peridot. February's is an amethyst. WHAT MORE OF A SIGN DID WE NEED?!

So, what does this mean for you, as a friend of one or both of us? Nothing, if you don't want it to. You can stick with our biological birthdays for all card- and gift-giving purposes if you wish. This is just an announcement to say that as far as WE are concerned, my birthday is now August 7th, and Gabe's is February 7th. We will give each other gifts on our new birthdays, and any birthday celebrations that we plan and execute will correspond to our new birthdays.

*happy sigh* I wouldn't want to (and couldn't) be this weird with anyone else. Happy almost birthday, Gabe ;)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Missing the Mold of Manners

We've been watching the old TV show Poirot. A brilliant, stout, impeccably polite detective (the Belgian Hercule Poirot) finds himself around complicated murders and proceeds to solve them through observation and conversation. He is the epitome of class, good manners, and gentle dry humor, and if he weren't an old guy, I'd have a crush on him. He's like a favorite uncle that I want everyone to meet.

The stories (based on Agatha Christie novels, which are even more excellent than the show) take place in the early twentieth century and mostly in Europe. As such, everyone is Just So. The men, even on their days off, wear three piece suits and carry themselves with perfect posture. They pay their debts, watch their language, and rise to their feet when ladies enter the room. The women exude poise, pride, and propriety to the point that it's palpable. Their dresses are flimsy and flowy and they wouldn't dream of leaving the house looking a wreck or failing to offer a guest tea.

I've also been using The Dick Van Dyke Show as my mindless, while-I-chop-veggies-for-salad show. (Gabe doesn't care for it, but I grew up watching reruns so it's basically comfort TV.) Though that takes place in the '50s, I think, it's got that same air of class. If people are invited to dinner, they put on a suit or a dress to attend. Men call for ladies at their houses for dates. Words are well-chosen and well-enunciated. Ladies sometimes wear gloves. Houses are neat. Everyone understands what's expected of them to do or say, or not do or not say. It's so...pretty. Life was pretty.

Now, I know I'm supposed to rage at the fact that in Poirot women are treated like dainty, delicate creatures who can't be exposed to nasty words, and in Dick Van Dyke, women are expected to do the housework and look nice for their husbands...but I don't. I just don't.

I wish I lived in one of those times. I just absolutely love the cultures. The more I watch stuff like this, the more I think we've gone too far in the opposite direction. In our quest for "realness," we've completely disregarded tact and presentation. In our quest for equality, we've demonized the idea of women being managers of the home. In our quest for expediency, we've neglected to foster healthy, precise vocabularies.

This paragraph here was originally me admitting that "of course, there are some things I'm glad I can do today that I wouldn't have been able to do in Poirot's day," but I couldn't even come up with anything besides "wear shorts," and I think dresses and skirts are more comfortable anyway. I guess I'd miss some modern medicines and plumbing. Yeah, that's definitely true. But to give up such amenities in return for Such Classiness sounds like a fair trade.

(Note: These thoughts are more about manners than societal/gender roles. That's a topic for another post.)

I wish people were still expected to behave well. Sure, it's easier not having to put your napkin in your lap or bring a hostess gift or stand when an older person walks in or say "Excuse me" when you leave a situation, but...just because it's easier doesn't mean it's better. I get that honesty, transparency, and genuineness are desirable qualities, but can't we still maintain some discretion? Obviously I want to be able to share my thoughts with my sister or husband or best friend even if said thoughts aren't polite or rosy, but maybe that's where we should draw the line, rather than spewing outright, inarticulate shade to anyone with ears.

Of course, even "back in the day" shade was thrown and insults were spoken (have you ever read a Jane Austen novel?), but it was done more subtly, and almost more fairly too, because people were more aware of expectations. If you did X, Y, or Z, you knew it was considered impolite; you opened the door to just criticism.

Some might say that's worse, that all the manners just made it easier to be phony and passive aggressive and prevented people from becoming fully themselves. But...hm. Maybe I'm just a sucker for appearances? Or maybe I'm a little bit right. I think when done correctly, the old manners don't just help you appear to be a prettier, better, politer person, they might actually help mold you into a one.

~Stephanie


Monday, January 9, 2017

*Asterisk*

I think it's time I told you something. Something that still makes me childishly giddy with happiness, something that makes me feel mysterious and unexpected, even five and a half months later. But first, some background.

I don't like female main characters*.
* Except Wonder Woman, whom I love.

I love Bojangles*.
* Though sometimes Bojangles makes me sick.

I hate Chinese food*.
* But PF Chang's is one of my favorite restaurants.

I love cats*.
* But unfortunately I'm allergic to them.

I hate flowers*.
* But I actually love orchids.

I hate gray area*.
* Although I do rely on and often seek out gray areas.

I'm terrible at directions*.
* Except inexplicably in Italy. I never get lost in Italy, and can even create efficient shortcuts.

I am not girly*.
* But I do love dresses, skirts, and makeup.

I'm a writer*.
* I don't actually write very often anymore.

I'm not a touchy-feely person*.
* But I like snuggling with Gabe in bed.

I'm a huge cheapskate*.
* Except for when it comes to books. There is always money for books.

I need alone time to recharge*.
* But I get bored and lonely really easily.

I'm terrible at tedious, detailed things*.
* But I'm an editor.

I am a dead, failed creature*.
* But through Jesus, I'm made alive and perfect.

I would never get a tattoo without my best friend Cassidy there*.
* Unless it was only my honeymoon.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

An asterisk. A piece of punctuation. A reminder to pay attention, an indication of exception. Sometimes we love them; sometimes we hate them. They're a part of language; they're a part of humanity. They're certainly a huge part of me (and sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it).

It's tiny. It's subtle. It's hidden. But never doubt, every time you look at me, there's an asterisk behind my left ear.

~Stephanie

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Survivor's Guilt, or Something

I don't know how to say what I'm feeling, which is why I'm here, saying something. It might sound arrogant and obnoxious and insensitive, like a scrawny person complaining to an obese one that they can't gain weight (which is a real issue, and not one that I'm trying to hate on, but you get what I mean). I will be the first to admit that I struggle with arrogance, obnoxiousness, and insensitivity. But here's the thing:

I got good grades in college and graduated with honors. I found the love of my life and got married and moved into an apartment. I got a job that actually fits my college major and I love it. All the main things in my life are going pretty great.

And a lot of times, I'm made to feel guilty about that.

In college, I studied and made flashcards and outlined and wrote. (I also watched Netflix, had movie nights, and ate dinner with my friends, just the Reader's Digest versions.) I worked really hard because I wanted A's. And my friends who strove for Cs made me feel like such an erudite brat for being sad if I got a B, like it was personally offensive to them that I thought I could do better.

So I stopped talking specifics about my grades or study habits, almost ashamed that I could pull off all A's some semesters.

When Gabe and I started planning the wedding, time became even more of a commodity. Now, if I wasn't studying or writing papers, I had wedding stuff to figure out. Venue hunting, dress shopping, taste testing, and decoration hunting swallowed up nearly every weekend. And my friends got mad about that too. I still hung out with people (though mostly my roommates), but the fact that I had a wedding to plan seemed to cloud conversations with derisive refrains of Oh, right, the wedding.

Now there are all these circulating lists and open letters about how it's perfectly fine that 20-somethings don't know how to boil water and how hard it is to find a job and yourself at the same time.

(First of all, I only recently learned to boil water, and second of all, I have a job and it is still hard to find myself.

And guess what? I got good grades and it gave me gray hair. I planned a wedding and shed more tears in six months than in the collective college years before engagement. I had a wedding and experienced the drastic drop in fitness motivation that follows. I got married and discovered just how damn much there is to fight about in a family of two. I got a job and realized that what I learned in college is only the tip of the iceberg of skills I need to succeed. I got an apartment and learned how much daily attention it takes to live above "slovenly at best.")

I have a lot of friends with whom theses lists and letters resonate. I have a lot of beautiful, funny friends who are still single. I have a lot of intelligent, hard-working friends who are still jobless. It makes me frustrated and sad on their behalves that they haven't yet hit the stride they're searching for. It seems unfair. To break my fast-forming rule about the F word, I feel for them.

But it also seems like the increasingly-popular reassurance lists and letters are aimed, in part, at people like me. At erudite brats who just got lucky and should feel guilty for flaunting our "success"--and "success" is in quotations because how successful are we really gonna feel when in ten years we realize that we didn't even know what we wanted back then and we got on a career path that isn't making us happy and don't we wish we'd taken the time to travel and make mistakes and find ourselves first? It seems like culture/social media is reassuring one group by giving another group the middle finger and saying "Well, GOOD FOR YOU" with as much sarcasm as an Odyssey Online keyboard can muster.

I am sorry that you're single and jobless. But I refuse to apologize for being married and employed. I still have real problems in my life. But I also feel blessed beyond what I deserve.

I guess that's really what it boils down to. Not the fact that I still have legitimate problems, but the fact that I'm made to feel guilty for liking my life. Half the time, I feel like I'm not allowed to voice my problems, and the other half I feel obligated to voice them just to avoid making other people jealous or depressed.

So, keep sharing the aforementioned Lists and Letters if they inspire and encourage you. We all need more inspiration and encouragement in our lives. But I really do mean in "all" our lives, even people who look like they've got it together. Don't throw shade at people who get mostly A's. Don't get passive aggressive toward people who find wedding plans stressful. Don't make people who love their jobs afraid to say so.

~Stephanie

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Hey, We Had Dinner Together, Didn't We?

I pull into the Wendy's parking lot, make almost a full circuit before I see an empty spot and pull in. I'm a little late, but it's fine. At least I'm here.

I walk in and scan the restaurant, all plastic and shiny and smelling like crispiness and sugar. I see her at a booth and head over.

"Hey!" she says, getting up to hug me.

"No, don't get up," I say, smiling distractedly. "Er, well yeah, get up." I laugh as I pull out my phone. "We need to order, I guess."

We get in line and she starts asking me about my day. I deflect mostly, just trying to get to the cashier.

"WelcomeToWendy'sForHereOrToGo?"

"TFor here," I say. "Lemme get a 10-piece with sweet and sour and a water."

I text as we take our food back to our booth. I'm not trying to be rude, this text is just about work.

We sit down.

"So," she says, smiling. "How--"

"Aren't you gonna eat?" I ask, nodding at her burger. I can't point because I'm holding chicken nuggets in both hands.

"Yeah..." She picks up the Junior Bacon Cheeseburger. "So--"

"One sec." Another text, but it's work again, so it's not a legitimate diss. It's just--sorry. "Okay." I set my phone down with an air of finality. "I actually only have like five minutes before I need to head out, but what's up with you? Oh, but lemme tell you about what happened yesterday. You seriously would not believe..."

Between bites of whole nuggets, I fill her in on my day, ending with a modest request for her to drop off some milk at my place later. I want to make the really good hot chocolate.

"So this was fun!" I say, raking my trash onto the tray and standing up. "Dinner tomorrow, same time and place?"

She smiles, looking a little sad, which is ridiculous because I just offered her my time again for tomorrow.

"Yeah," she says. "Tomorrow. Maybe I can call you later toni--"

"Gosh, I don't know," I say. I speak over my shoulder as I dump my wrappers and containers into the trash. "Tonight's kind of busy. How about I just see you tomorrow? Okay? Great."

In Jesus' name,
Amen.

I would never treat my friends this way. So why do I treat God this way?

Feeling convicted this morning.

~Stephanie