I’ve been thinking about trying to convince my 19 year old son to go with an arranged marriage. I don’t want to tell him who to marry; I just want to narrow it down, say to 3 choices. From there I figure he’s pretty much on his own. My motivation might look to you like I’m trying to control his life. If so, you’d be pretty right. There are only a few questions as important as “who will I marry?”… questions like, “should I try the extra spicy curry?” or “are all these children yours?”
Back in my days at Christian College I got to know a girl who I can only describe as an uber-Christian. She was the sort of person who never burped, would die before passing gas and looked like the cover girl for Better Christian Woman’s Magazine. She ran with a couple other girls who were as “uber” as she was, it was almost a contest to see who could out Christian woman the others. One of her friends who was engaged to be married explained to all of us un-attached and thus inferior Christian types that she and her fiancé were so close that when they were driving in the car together and she noticed a little booger hanging from his nose that she picked his nose for him. God help me, I wish that was made up. But that was the kind of Proverbs 31 woman she was. Glory.
One day this friend of mine, and she was a friend, a person torn between expectations put on her and the warm heartedness in her, met a man who loved her. This was a big deal because she was in her last year of Christian College and despite the recruiting promises, she didn’t get the ring by spring semester and Bible College was not turning out to be ‘Bridal College’ for her. And what does an unmarried 22 year old woman do with a Bible College degree? Flees to the missions field where she can preach and teach or she takes her diploma and the same four years of education that her male counterparts took and she takes a volunteer position teaching 4s & 5s Sunday School class.
So they were in love. She felt treasured and adored. He was thrilled with her big heart and her beauty. But he didn’t go to our school, he wasn’t a Christian might not have even been able to spell transubstantiation. “I’ll take him to church with me,” she told us, “I’ll change him.”
Turned out, not so much. In fact my uber-Christian friend went from a flawlessly perfect attendance record to 3 out of 4 Sundays, to 2 out of 4 and then 1 out of 4 and finally 1 out of 52. Now I’ll be perfectly honest with you, I think church attendance is highly over-rated. The thing was, my friend stopped being who she was and traded one set of expectations for another set and still wasn’t who she really was. Eventually it all fell apart and ended in divorce because changing the other person is crappy ground to build a marriage on. About 2 years into the relationship they both dropped all the masks and realized they had no idea who they had married. Billy Joel’s stranger strikes again!
I can’t even fathom why we ever thought it would be best if a 19, 20 or 21 year old, left on their own or with the help of their friends, could find the person who was ‘right’ for them. It’s like asking a homeless person how to succeed at business or asking a drunk if they think you’ve had too much to drink.
How did we get here? Oh yeah, I want to give my 19 year old a multiple-choice arranged marriage. I’m a romantic even if I don’t sound like one, and I think the elusive Donna and I are much better equipped at this stage of life to pick a woman he will love and be loved by for the rest of his life than he is. Someone who will make him laugh, and who he’ll make laugh, a woman who is a good match for him but for whom he will be a great match. A woman who he can cherish and bring out the best of and a woman who’ll stand up to him when he needs it and comfort him when he gets burnt out there. This is really much too important to give him a fill in the blank option on. Multiple-choice where every answer is right. What could be better than that?
Now, if you’re smart you’ll ask me if I had an arranged marriage. Truth is, maybe, but mostly no. I saw the elusive Donna and couldn’t get her off my mind. I waited for her to walk by one evening to ask her out. While I was waiting an old girlfriend walked up and started chatting with me. I was panicking on the inside, sure Donna would walk by while I was in mid-conversation and my chances would go down hard like a butcher at a vegan convention. I was trying to be as Christian as possible about telling this girl to get lost when she finally got the point and walked away.
“Oh God, now I’m sweating…” I thought, as I wiped my hands off under arm pits. Bad choice. Now they were wet AND they smelled. Two seconds later Donna appeared, walking by, talking with another guy. I suddenly found a tree by the door fascinating and avoided eye contact as they walked by. I gave up that day, but I didn’t give up for good. After a few more embarrassing attempts I finally asked her out. For our first date I took her over the State line, which made her nervous. The place I took her to was the Spring River Inn, which made her think, “perve’s got a room?” and made her want to stay in the car. Once I convinced her there was a restaurant inside we went in and filled our plates at the buffet. My whole end of the conversation was, “So tell me about yourself…” and I started eating. I know, smooth, right? On the way home from our first date I drove back down the highway on the wrong side of the divide and nearly killed us both because I was so nervous.
Now, imagine if my Dad had just met Donna’s Dad and, I don’t know, worked something out involving some sheep, maybe a car, I don’t know, season tickets to the Reds, something, then a handshake and it was just done. Would I have been less happy than I am now because it had been arranged, wouldn’t we still be who we are? We would have had that same first date but no nervous sweats, no attempt to look cool only for her to find out years later I’m a nerd. (Though it’s possible it didn’t actually take her years to find that out – or even a year.) All I’m saying son is give me a chance; let me save you some troubles. I show you choices A, B or C and then it’s up to you to pursue one. But whichever one you pick, I’ll come up with a herd of some kind and whatever season tickets will work with her dad. Trust me son.