Monday, December 29, 2008

The Feminine Mistake

Confession: I want to be some body's housewife one day.

This came as something of a shock to my childhood friend over post-Christmas drinks the other evening. He was musing over the inevitability of the eventual demise of one of our mutual friend's marriages, because "he controls her and she will eventually rebel and leave him."

Confused, I pressed for more details.

"Are they happy?"

"Oh yeah, they're ridiculously happy together."

Scratching head "So what's the problem?"

"Oh, well, she's been forced to leave her job, and now she's stuck at home with the baby living as some body's housewife. That can't last."

Ahem, perhaps my friend has not studied the past several thousand years of human history... I decide to give him the benefit of the doubt, (after all, we attended the same liberal university and were subject to the same indoctrinatory sociological coursework)

"So you're saying a woman couldn't possibly be happy at home with her child, and that real fulfillment exists in the corporate world?"

"Well, yeah. I mean, she's got to have a life."

By "having a life," I surmised he must mean participating in the daily rat race of commute/coffee break/desk work/departmental meetings/working lunches/commute/repeat. Seeking clarification, I pressed him further:

"So a woman can only find fulfillment working outside the home?"

"Yeah."

"So for all of human history preceding the last 50 years, women were deeply unsatisfied?"

"Um, yeah."

"And now we're at last fulfilled, finding our own place in the workforce?"

"Yes."

It didn't make a great deal of sense to me, and as I pondered his conviction, images of friends came unbidden to my mind, women who struggled to work and raise children, to make ends meet on a single parent salary, to spend adequate amounts of time with their offspring, and who battled omnipresent guilt over not having enough hours in the day... These women are brave, dedicated, hardworking... but one thing they most certainly are not is fulfilled.

And then I dropped the bombshell: "You know, I want to be some body's housewife someday." His mouth hung open. "You?! But you're so .... smart. And you've had so much schooling, and, and..." He trailed off, incredulous, as I smiled and sipped my drink.

I prompted him to continue, "Shouldn't I be allowed to choose the path that offers me the greatest fulfillment?"

Dumbfounded, he nodded his head.

"Well, this is my choice."

I waited for the counterarguments, sitting back and preparing my defense, but none were forthcoming. My utterance of the catchphrase "choice" seemed to have deflated his argument. But he still didn't look convinced.

I wish I could have presented a more convincing argument, but what do you say to counter 20 careful years of social conditioning? He had made up his mind, or else had allowed it to be made for him. Women were only and always happy at work. Raising children was a task below our station, best left to childcare laborers with high school diplomas. Educated women don't stay at home. It is, in the fullest sense of the word, a waste.

What a waste, indeed, were I to forfeit years of education to stay home and work to form the small minds and souls I pray that God will one day entrust to me. What a waste, to throw away years of secondary disposable income for the privilege of living a hidden life, serving my family and my spouse. What a waste, to miss out on years of corporate productivity changing diapers and folding laundry and changing the course of human history, one immortal unrepeatable individual at a time.

What a waste.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Write Where I'm Supposed to Be

After a wonderful week with my boyfriend's family and somewhere in the midst of a joyful week with my own, I came to the realization that I was slowly losing my mind. Unable to determine the exact cause, I volunteered to drive my mother's mini van down the hill to the Safeway to stock up on necessities (read: Coors Light) for the big bowl game tonight (Go Bears!)

Somewhere between stoplights, sandwiched between a forest green Escalade and a shiny 2009 Jeep Liberty, it hit me: this was the first time I'd been completely alone in ten days. Heaving a shuddering sigh of relief, I continued on my errands, grateful for the 12+ minutes it took to fill the tank, thankful for the ease of non-interaction granted by the self checkout system, and struck with childlike wonder by the view of the Christmas star that blazes on the mountainside just outside of town, stretching 200 feet across and visible from 40 miles away.

These precious few moments of solitude allowed me time to reset, and in this, afforded me a renewed appreciation for the gifts God has entrusted to me right now. I don't have any more answers than I did before I left to make that beer run, but thank God I have a dad who loves nothing more than to force his children to appreciate the finer details of a well-executed defensive screen, viewed from the comfort of our family room television screen.

And with hands frozen to a faulty gas pump, coaxing reluctant spurts of petroleum product into mom's stylish Dodge Caravan, I marvelled over the generosity of a mother who would trade her chance at a mid-life Mercedes for the privilege and sacrifice of raising seven children, four still living at home.

In all the hurry of preparing for the holidays, and despite my best intentions to make Advent holy this year, I'd managed to lose sight of some of the great gifts my Jesus has given to me, seeing only worries and not a lot of wonders.

Thank God for His attention to detail, and His propensity to elevate the ordinary in our lives to reveal His extraordinary love for us.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Too Much Information

While basking in the warmth of my strip mall gym last night, pounding out reluctant miles on the treadmill, I was treated to what is becoming a semi-regular indoctrinatory period of forced CNN consumption. Huffing along beside me, a woman of considerable verbal ability dialed number after number on her cell phone, managing to carry on an almost continuous stream of conversation with both the gym rep she repeatedly called to her side, and her ex husband/boyfriend, with whom she was arguing the finer points of holiday custody details in -ahem- colorful language, interspersed with titillating details concerning her new life as a photographer.

Straining to appear less irritated, and genuinely uninterested in the personal details being offered at 120 decibels to my right, I turned my attention to the suspended television screen looming on the horizon, where Fran Drescher was being interviewed by Larry King about her potential candidacy as a New York state senator.

Torn between the nightmare of actual reality and reality TV, I opted to divide my attention between the two, occasionally tuning out the squawking voice in my ear who had moved on to details of an upcoming photo shoot being shot at a firehouse. "It's going to be so hot sweetie... just make sure your dad gets you here by Friday night, we'll get to hang with hot firemen!"

When I shifted my attention heavenward to the subtitled television, it was just in time to "hear" Fran's assurance to Larry that she was "more than qualified" for public office after years of executive production and direction on the set of The Nanny. Plus, she reminded Larry, she was pro-choice and a huge advocate of gay rights... and cancer.

I shook my head, blinking, wondering if the error was attributable to closed captioning error or verbal ignorance, and wondering how being an advocate of abortion and homosexuality automatically qualifies one for political service.

Turning my attention back to treadmill diva, who was at this point shrieking the finer details of her financial situation into her sweaty Blackberry handset, I wondered when it became so commonplace to air dirty laundry in public.

Between the talking heads on the screen discussing Drescher's abusive childhood and her ironic penchant for the right to destroy small humans, and the custody battle from hell taking place mere inches from my ears, I was totally overwhelmed by TMI, certain that my head was going to explode from an overload of overly personal details, strangled by the minutia of stranger's lives.

Why, I wondered, do people find it necessary and/or appropriate to discuss these matters on air, in plain sight of perfect strangers? Is there some innate human need to confess, to unload, to be relieved of a burden of some kind?

Slumping off my machine after 3 tortuous miles, I carried my revelation to the circuits area, wondering whether I'd stumbled across some universal truth, or if it were merely another crazy Jennyism, attributable to an overload of theological reading and navel-gazing. Settling on a "hip abductor" (whatever the hell that is) as my next machine of choice, I glanced up to find another television screen looming large overhead, a Jim Carrey/Larry King interview already underway (it would appear this man has some kind of licensing deal with 24 Hour Fitness)

Carrey was relating the details of his latest role where he plays a gay man, explaining that in order to act the part, he simply transferred his affection for (wife) Jennie Garth onto the person of Ewan McGregor... and that it wasn't difficult to imagine life as a gay man.

"If [Jenny] had been born a man, well, it's not that hard to imagine, really. Come here Larry, I'll show you."

Too much information, indeed. I wonder what we'll have left to talk about when we've exhausted the tabloid of reality, having shattered every taboo and bucked every norm. What then, will be left?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

We'll Stop At Nothing

To get what we think we deserve. 4,000 unwanted humans will die at the hands of "physicians" today, and yet this development will be heralded as a major advancement in medicine. It's a mad, mad world.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Made of Honor

I had the privilege of standing beside my sister at the altar this past weekend, watching as she pledged her remaining years to a wonderfully flawed fellow human being of the opposite sex, and it was absolutely stunning.

My sister, my little sister, chose to wager 22 years of lived experience and an unshakable confidence in Christ against the powers and principalities of this world, vowing to love against impossible odds, placing her trust in the great unknown.

It made me wonder, as I watched these two young kids exchange pledges of lasting fidelity, how anyone in their right mind could think of attempting marriage outside of the graces of the sacraments. What these two kids - essentially - were promising to each other was nothing short of impossible. And they did so with full knowledge of the inherent impossibility they were attempting.

And that's what made it truly beautiful. If marriage is a foreshadowing of our relationship with the Trinity, then what better way to enter into that immolation of self-giving love than to submit and surrender with one's entire self?

That's what they were doing, making present with their words realities too great and too deep for human eyes. Their vows made incarnate an invisible reality, a transforming union of two souls joining (willingly!) as one, seeking perfection and union in Christ.

I was trying to reason this out metaphysically while weeping copious tears through my non-waterproof mascara, and I reached the conclusion that by God's grace and human honor, this was indeed possible.

Honor, according to Merriam Webster, can be defined as a: a keen sense of ethical conduct; integrity; or b: one's word given as a guarantee of performance. Either will suit the present topic, though the latter is a bit more applicable. At the altar, facing the young hot version of the person you will grow old with (God willing) and die beside, you make a pledge, giving your word as a guarantee of performance, praying and trusting that you will be able to see it through.

A marriage then, is not made of magical qualities like personal fulfillment or an endlessly satisfying sex life, or even financial and social security. A marriage is made of honor - blindly pledged before God - and the promise of lifelong fidelity in spite of future hardships.

And those hardships, assured the good young priest who witnessed their vows, will come. It's not a matter of if, but rather, a matter of when. And what form they will take. The hardships and the joys and everything else in between are all part of the unforeseeable future, the package deal we sign for on the dotted line.

Perhaps the greatest mystery of love is not that it exists, but that it exists in cooperation with our wills. We are not victimized or overwhelmed by Eros, fated to fall hopelessly and helplessly; we choose. Not initially, perhaps, but can one choose when to feel a hunger pang, or whether or not the beauty of a rose garden will delight the eye? We don't choose our crushes, but we do choose our spouses, partnering consciously with a flawed, finite human being who is to be for us a unique and unrepeatable image of the Father's love, a word spoken into flesh, sounding from His lips to our ears, echoing through all of our earthly lives.

From this angle, marriage doesn't look half bad. Still impossible, on our own... but for different reasons entirely.

Mea Culpa

Well, 9 days into a new month and 1 solitary post to show for it...

The past 2 weeks have been some of the busiest of my life, personally and business wise. I'm still here though! I'll be posting later today or tomorrow, I have LOTS to tell you...

Monday, December 1, 2008