Saturday, December 20, 2003

Marriage links for the week  

The WorldMag blog offers up an explanation of how marriage fosters freedom, contrary to popular sentiment, and how the very word free is linguistically bound to love and devotion. "Marriage is an act of freedom that allows people to gain the roots to be free, devoted to people and principle and not blown around by ideological winds. (A leaf is not free.)"

A happy marriage is an ongoing process. If you stop trying, you stop growing. And when you stop growing, you start decaying.

Sometimes it's good for a couple to share a common profession, but there are drawbacks as well.


I'm adding a new link to my list of Personal Blogs this week: ireneQ. She is a young Malaysian blogger who chronicles her struggles with being a single Christian in a hostile secular world. Her thoughts resonate with me because I remember being where she was (young, single, and Christian, I mean—not female or Malysian), battling self-destructive desires and wondering what, if anything, is in store for me in the way of marriage. Her writing is excellent and she has superb taste in reading material (you'll notice The Happy Husband in her link list). Check out her blog.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Reminiscence  

This blog's first entry is dated Wednesday, August 20, 2003. I didn't even tell anyone about it for a month, just to make sure I could keep up the pace of daily posts. It's gone well, though. This week I passed the century mark for number of posts, and today I'm just tired. Since I don't have the energy to write something clever and insightful right now, I thought I'd offer some links to posts from the first six weeks for those of you who have only recently discovered The Happy Husband. Please forgive me if this is self-indulgent, but these are some of my favorites:

I wrote all of these posts before I added the comments feature, so feel free to leave your thoughts on any/all of them.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

A return to true manhood  

In the past, I have had conversations/debates with a couple of my more liberal friends about the importance and/or existence of masculinity and femininity. "All people are human beings," they said, "regardless of the genitalia they might develop through a chance meeting of chromosomes. There is no reason to treat people of either sex differently or to shut them out of any relationship role they may desire." My enlightened friends held the opinion that only the ability to bear children differentiates women from men and that everyone should therefore be treated equally (a word that to them means identically).

Since neither of my friends (both of them male, by the way) grew up in a cave, I can't imagine how they formed that opinion. I tried countering with logical arguments and observations about obvious differences. I tried to convince them that a recognition of differences between the sexes does not equal chauvinism. I tried to explain how much better life is when women embrace womanhood and men embrace manhood. Despite my best efforts, they remained steadfastly dedicated to a sort of idealized androgyny. I guess when a friend wholeheartedly believes in a chartreuse sky, there's not much you can say beyond pointing out the blue.

I'm afraid that one reason so many marriages fail today is that men have not been taught what it means to be a man, that in fact they have been taught that manhood is irrelevant. I had a class in college in which the professor asked me, as the only vocal conservative Christian in the class of 80 students, to list some words describing a husband's role in a marriage. I immediately said "provider, protector, and leader." (After more than five years of marriage, I now know that my response was simplistic, but I still stand by its accuracy.) The professor and most of the young men in the class bristled at my comment, and countered with arguments about how I was setting men above women, how women can take care of themselves and don't need a man to rescue them from the world, and blah blah blah blah blah, completely (maybe even willfully) misunderstanding my point.

I believe God made man and woman to complement each other, to complete each other, to enable each other for greater things than either could achieve alone:

The man said [of the woman],
  "This is now bone of my bones,
  And flesh of my flesh;
  She shall be called Woman,
  Because she was taken out of Man."

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
—Genesis 2:23, 24

Furthermore, the words of King David to his son Solomon indicate that manhood carries a certain responsibility:

As David's time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying, "I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. Keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn."
—I Kings 2:1–3

I'm bringing this up because I recently read an excellent article from The Claremont Review of Books about how parents, schools, and society in general is failing in its duty—and, in many ways, working actively against its duty—to grow boys into men. Some key quotes:

In my experience, many young women are upset, but not about an elusive Prince Charming or even the shortage of "cute guys" around. Rather, they have very specific complaints against how they have been treated in shopping malls or on college campuses by immature and uncouth males, and even more pointed complaints against their boyfriends or other male acquaintances who fail to protect them…. It appears to them that, except for a few lucky members of their sex, most women today must choose between males who are whiny, incapable of making decisions, and in general of "acting like men," or those who treat women roughly and are unreliable, unmannerly, and usually stupid.

The demanding regime of physical and moral instruction that used to turn boys into men and the larger cultural forces that supported that instruction have been systematically dismantled by a culture that ostensibly enables all individuals but in reality disables men.

Half of American boys growing up do not live with their natural fathers. …Divorce, whether in reality or in the acrimonious rhetoric of the mother, impresses upon the boy an image of the father, and therefore of all men, as being irresponsible, deceitful, immature, and often hateful or abusive towards women.

I personally have gone through periods of wimpiness and barbarism both, but my family (even after my parents' divorce), my female friends, and the Texas school system (especially the male coaches) all taught me to be a man through instruction, expectations, and discipline. I think it's time that we, as a society, go back to that.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

First kiss—her view  

In Curt's post yesterday, he said that our first kiss "may have been the most unromantic first kiss for a couple in the history of relationships." In the comments section of that same post, Rey pondered the idea that "although you placed that kiss as completely unromantic, i wonder if your wife would place it in quite a different category…now and then…." So Curt and I agreed it would be proper to share my perspective on the matter.

Did I think his prelude was ridiculously lame? No doubt. Was the kiss itself the most romantic, heartfelt show of affection I'd ever experienced? Absolutely!

You see, I started to fall for my happy best friend long before he had an iota of a clue, but we'd been insisting on our "just friends" status so adamantly for so long that I didn't want to appear a fool—little did I know that he had that department covered. I had found myself watching his lips move for the past six months or so, wondering, longing, waiting, then stopping myself, convinced that a kiss was never going to happen, nor should it.

Then came that December night that would change the dynamic of our relationship forever. When he mentioned mistletoe (and the evident lack thereof), I was struck by a feeling of exhilaration and whatever emotion goes with the phrase, "Oh, brother." Despite the latter feeling, I was thankful for the invitation to capitalize on an opportunity I'd been coveting for months. Oh, and just to even the playing field of utter lameness, I paused to spit out my gum. I'll be the first to admit that this was not the way I had envisioned the beginning of the first kiss with the man I would some day marry, but when he says it was the sweetest, purest, most powerful and clueless kiss ever, I must agree. Furthermore, this simple act became the catalyst for his and my separate (and eventually joint) realizations that we were undeniably destined to spend the rest of our lives together as husband and wife.

And indeed it still does make me tingle every time I think about it!

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

First kiss  

I met my wife in May of 1994. We spent a great deal of time together and over the next couple of years grew to be best friends. We came to know each other and love each other in a way I had never known or even conceived. I say that in my defense, because as I look back on those years I cringe at the utter and complete level of absolute cluelessness I displayed.

After about a year of spending time together, sharing our thoughts and pasts, helping each other out in difficult situations, and actively pursuing each others' happiness, I began to feel a strong affection for the Happy Best Friend. I hugged her at every opportunity. Sometimes I stroked her hair. Sometimes I let her lean against me as we sat on my couch watching a rented movie. None of this, in my mind, constituted romance. That may have been because lust had not yet entered into it, and I had no conception of romance without lust.

Anyway, some time in 1996 I developed a strong desire to kiss her. I can say in all honesty that the desire grew out of a pure, overpowering, non-lustful affection for her. I realized at the time that a kiss is a powerful show of affection that could have all sorts of implications I didn't intend. I knew that a kiss out of the blue would make her think I had romantic feelings for her, which I absolutely didn't. I needed an excuse to kiss her so that we could share that show of affection once and have it intensify our friendship rather than unravel it.

Valentine's Day and both our birthdays came and went without a kiss. As Christmas drew near, I came up with a perfect excuse. When she visited me at my apartment to exchange gifts, we had the following conversation:

ME: You know, uh, I've always wanted to kiss someone under the mistletoe* but I never have. I was wondering if you'd like to do that.

HER: Oh. Okay. Where's your mistletoe?

ME: Um, I don't have any. ::mentally kicks self for not thinking to actually get some mistletoe:: We can pretend.

HER: All right. Let me go spit out my gum.

She went to the kitchen, spit out the gum she was chewing, returned, and let me kiss her under the imaginary mistletoe. It may have been the most unromantic first kiss for a couple in the history of relationships, but it also may have been the sweetest, purest, most powerful and clueless kiss ever. Previous kisses that I had experienced began at the instant lips touched and ended as soon as contact was broken. This kiss, however, began early in the year, built up momentum over a period of months, and still affects us both today.


I wrote recently about how I used to grasp for excuses to spend time with the Happy Best Friend. I received some criticism for having employed deceit and game-playing rather than being up front about my feelings. Let me just make it clear now that neither deceit nor denial have ever played any role in my relationship with my wife. For several years, cluelessness and a profound lack of understanding on my part played a dominant role, but I eventually (and thankfully) overcame them.

*I don't know if the mistletoe tradition exists in other countries. A mistletoe is a semi-parasitic green plant with thick leaves, small yellowish flowers, and white berries. Around Christmastime, you cut a piece of mistletoe off of a tree and hang it somewhere, usually above a doorway. When you catch someone standing under the mistletoe, you have the right to kiss them.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Playing with food  

My wife has been a playful artistic type all her life. Her mother still has some of her childhood artwork, and even before it began showing signs of real talent it displayed an exuberant creativity.

Back in high school, when she reached an age at which she went to restaurants with friends and found herself responsible for leaving a gratuity, she decided to liven the tip up a bit. She would arrange coins, uniquely folded bills, and leftover bits of food into some semblance of a face and leave it for the waiter. Her hope was to brighten someone's day a little bit. She has continued doing that over the years, though now she just uses the leftover food bits since I buy her meals with a credit card.

I've seen all sorts of reactions from waiters and busboys. Most don't even notice the adorable food face and just dump everything into a tub. Some do notice and don't know how to react, so they ignore it and pretend that nothing is upsetting the delicate balance of their waiterly routine. One recently saw the food face, giggled with delight, then covered her mouth with both hands and walked away quickly. It's always interesting to see how people react, but the greatest reward is when it obviously makes someone happy, as when one waitress was so enchanted that she called several others over to the table to see (we witnessed this through the window after we had walked out of the restaurant).

I recently decided to begin documenting the faces she makes. Whenever we go out to eat, we take along the digital camera and record her creations for posterity. So far we only have two, but maybe some day we'll have enough to compile into book form. Click on the images below to see full-size pictures.

I've mentioned this before and I'll probably mention it again, but my wife is so cool.