CTBHHM: In Which a Woman Dares to Assert Agency

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 138-139

In this section, Debi tells a story.

A few years ago, I attended a meeting with my husband where a group of leading men were discussing grave matters, trying to come to a conclusion as to what course of action they should take. The men sat in a circle, with their wives sitting beside or right behind them.

Remember, in Debi’s world the men do all the discussing and make all the decisions while the women sit quietly by smiling and nodding.

Sitting across from me was a sober, earnest, young man whom I will call Charles. He was there with his attractive wife.

Notice Debi’s descriptions here. Charles is “sober” and “earnest.” His wife—who is never given a name, even though this story is actually about her—is “attractive.” Since there’s no way I’m going to go through this entire post referring to the main character as “Charles’ wife,” I’m going to do what Debi fails to do and give her a name—Lydia. But then, I think this is a really good example of what I see threaded through this whole section—Debi contends that women should not have independent agency. To have independent agency is to dishonor your husband.

In the midst of an intense part of the conversation, Charles leaned back and draped his arm around his wife’s shoulder. She immediately reacted with obvious irritation, shaking his hand off her shoulder, and leaning forward as if to get away from his embrace. Then she carefully fixed her hair where his arm had disturbed it.

Remember that all we have is Debi’s side of the story here. Debi interprets Lydia’s actions as showing “obvious irritation.” All we actually know is that Charles tried to embrace his wife and she wiggled out of his embrace—which of course makes her persona non grata in Debi’s book. Now is it embarrassing to have your significant other reject a public display of affection? Sure. But it’s can also be ver embarrassing to be on the receiving end of an unwanted public display of affection, put in the position where you either put it off and embarrass your partner or put up with unwanted public contact—contact you may yourself find embarrassing.

While I don’t know why Lydia wiggled out of her husband’s embrace—she might have been tired after a long and trying day, she might have felt it was inappropriate, or perhaps being constantly left out of the decision making—it ultimately doesn’t matter. Her body is her body, and she is under no obligation to receive an unwanted embrace

That said, I felt an immediate bond with Lydia when reading this passage. See, I have personal touch issues. If Sean suddenly drapes himself over me without warning, I have an immediate physical reaction. My personal space is suddenly and without warning invaded, and that feels very very bad. And Sean knows this, and tries to respect it, but sometimes forgets. Now, I don’t have a problem with personal touch when there is forewarning and I can prepare myself for it—and I especially don’t have a problem with physical touch if it’s planned—i.e., if Sean suggests that we have some cuddle time. But when it’s sudden and unexpected? I’ve done exactly what Lydia did in that situation plenty of times.

Again, I don’t know what made Lydia decide to refuse her husband’s embrace, but I do know that Debi’s interpretation is far from the only one—and, in my opinion, far from the most likely one.

But back to Charles:

His mind was jerked off of the serious problem at hand and was focused on her, now—as was the attention of almost everyone in the room. To her, brushing him off was nothing, but to all those in the room (including her husband) it was an act of putting him down like a thoughtless, inept child. Everyone felt his humiliation.

So . . . Debi read everyone’s minds. I mean seriously, how would she know that Charles felt humiliated or that everyone in the room interpreted it as humiliation? Granted, she could judge from the expressions and body language of those in the room, but I really don’t get the feeling from this book so far that Debi’s all that good at that—or that she’s all that honest about it.

But really, assuming that Debi was right and everyone in the room did feel that Charles’ wife had humiliated him—I mean, really? Lydia takes a stand for her own physical space and asserts personal agency, and that’s somehow her “humiliating” him? Actually, this makes sense—in Debi’s world. In Debi’s world, women don’t have personal autonomy, and their not supposed to have agency or wills’ of their own. In Debi’s world, women exist to serve their husbands—and Charles’ wife did not properly serve him by acquiescing to his advances (which, I might add, brings up another point—women are not obliged to accept male touch or physical affection, ever—and to suggest otherwise is rapey).

After that, Charles had nothing else to contribute. For the duration of the meeting, he sat downcast, properly chastened, with his hands in his lap.

Your wife pushes your arm off her shoulders and as a result you clam up and stop engaging with the world? Really? That doesn’t sound very mature. It does, however, play into Debi’s argument that it is men’s wives who make them or break them—who have the potential to build them up by being a good help meet, or tear them down by being a bad help meet.

I wanted to get up and shake that girl until her teeth rattled.

Debi is a violent person.

It would have shocked her to know that everyone in the room felt extreme disdain toward her for her self-centered response.

Two things.

First, that’s all it took? Lydia pushes her husband’s arm off her shoulders, and suddenly everyone feels “extreme disdain” toward her? Talk about judgmental. Talk about closed minded. If they feel “extreme disdain” for a Christian woman who has the nerve to not make her body the constant toy of her husband, what must they feel for those who are non-Christian, or who sleep around? These do not sound like loving people.

Second, note that Debi calls Lydia’s response “self-centered.” Here’s the thing. In Debi’s world, “self-centered” is a very bad word and what it means is anything that’s not completely and totally selfless. And that’s what wives are supposed to be—selfless, as in, not having a self. They’re supposed to exist to serve their husbands. And that, you see, was Lydia’s fault—rather than accepting her husband’s embrace as the proper selfless individual she was supposed to be, she had the nerve to assert her own agency. And that, quite simply, is what being “self-centered” means in Debi’s world.

She continued to straighten her hair, unaware that she had just shown a complete lack of honor and reverence toward her husband, and unaware that she was wasting her time trying to look pretty, for she had lost all that was lovely and feminine in that one act of disdain.

So suddenly, Lydia’s brushing off her husband’s arm was an “act of disdain.” And again, I ask, who died and gave Debi the power to read minds? But seriously, the idea that by asserting agency Lydia suddenly “lost all that was lovely and feminine”? Well. Isn’t that telling. Also, note that showing “honor and reverence” toward your husband means accepting his every embrace. And if you translate that into the realm of the bedroom . . . let’s just say things start getting really ugly really fast.

Carrying that kind of rejection on a regular, daily basis, Charles will never really be able to cherish his wife, and he will never have what it takes become an effective minister or leader.

Debi knows this happens on a daily basis how? Also, note that if a woman exerts agency and (god forbid!) isn’t always accepting of her husband’s touch, he will never be able to “cherish” her. That’s . . . both wrong and extremely unhealthy.

Yes, she is his wife, and he will undoubtedly continue to love her. But his love will always be more of an attempt to win her. Until she repents, he cannot love her with abandoned joy.

Until she repents? For what? For daring to not welcome his every touch and embrace? For showing some sense of independent agency? This might more properly read “Until she gives up her agency and sense of self and submits to her husband entirely, he cannot love her with abandoned joy.” And that is bullshit and the rhetoric of abusers.

A man’s ego is a fragile thing.

Speak for your own man, Debi. My Sean’s ego is not at all that fragile. But then, my Sean is a mature adult.

How can a man cherish someone who cares so little for his reputation?

. . .

All of a sudden I am having visions of a high school guy pressuring his girlfriend: “Don’t you understand? If you don’t sleep with me, my reputation will be nothing! No one will see me as a man! Don’t you care about my reputation?

Debi’s right that people should care about the reputations of those they love and value. But that’s not the same thing as saying that another person’s reputation should be the thing that is of primary importance to you, or that preserving someone else’s reputation should mean being willing to compromise your own personal boundaries. Caring about someone’s reputation should not have to mean sacrificing your own agency. And the idea that a man’s reputation is based on his wife’s willingness to publicly submit to his every touch and whim? That is disgusting and abusive to the extreme.

Her act was a testimony to the state of her heart. She thought more of her hairdo than her husband’s honor. She was rebelling against God in not reverencing her husband.

Honestly, Debi’s claim that she can read Lydia’s heart based on this one little action reminds me of the time my mother claimed she could tell a bride had had premarital sex just by looking at her. In both cases, I call bullshit.

To reverence is an active verb. It is something you do. It is not first a feeling; it is a voluntary act. As we reverence and honor our husbands, they are free to mature before God and to minister to others. Charles was not free; he was troubled and bound inside.

This idea that a man is not free to mature and grow and help others unless he has a wife reverencing him? I’m pretty sure that’s something a goodly number of Christians would consider blasphemy. Whether Debi thinks so or not, I’m pretty sure men have agency too.

Ugh, this seemingly innocent little story is just gross to its core.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • JasmynMoon

    Perhaps Lydia is pregnant, got a poor night of sleep, and her neck and shoulders ache.
    Perhaps, like me, Lydia is bipolar and doesn’t like to be touched during depressive periods.
    Perhaps Lydia felt that public displays of affection are immodest, and she was only following the rules of her environment.
    Perhaps Lydia felt like a serious discussion was neither the time nor place for that behavior.
    Perhaps none of that even matters, because Lydia is noone’s property, and she owes noone an explanation.

    • Ronica Skarphol Brownson

      I was thinking sunburn. ;)

    • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

      Maybe the room was too warm for Lydia and the increased heat of her husband’s embrace was too much for her to bear.

      There really are so many reasons.

    • gimpi1

      Frankly, when I read the first part of this I thought, “Lydia has a sore shoulder, poor thing.” Automatically judging someone and thinking the worst of them appears to be the Christian thing to do, in Debi’s world.

      I have RA, and my joints are often sore. My husband knows not to hug me hard or squeeze my hand when I’m in a flare, but being human, he sometimes forgets. When he does, if he inadvertently hurts me, I will push him away. And he’s fine with that! He’s not humiliated. He’s not rejected. His ego is not that fragile. He just forgot that it’s rained for the last week, and my joints are acting up. He certainly wouldn’t expect me to endure the pain he never meant to cause, for the sake of his image.

      • Hat Stealer

        I don’t like being touched unexpectedly, regardless of the person doing the touching. It tends to make me irritated, if only momentarily. It might be that this woman is like that, where her response might have just been unconscious.

        Also, Debi does seem to describe roomfuls of adults acting like particularly unpleasant children an awful lot, doesn’t she? I tried to picture the image she presented in her story of all the adults just stopping and gapping at this one woman, while her husband sat dejectedly and moped, and I was struck by the sheer immaturity of the image.

      • gimpi1

        I personally believe that when you’re in a belief-system that requires eternal submission, to your parents, to your husband, to your pastor, you can’t help but have a lot of immature people who never really grow up. And. frankly, I think people like Debi regard that as a feature, not a bug.

        Remember, in Christian patriarchy, not all men rule. Most men are subject to their own fathers, and to their pastors. Mature, independent people – men or women – wouldn’t put up with that for a minute. So, to keep your church pure, don’t let people mature.

      • Saraquill

        And yet she doesn’t hesitate to beat children for the crime of acting their age. In her world, black must be white.

      • Mary C

        I had that image too…and it seemed so unrealistic – that in the midst of intense conversation, one wife removing her husband’s arm from her shoulder would attract the attention of the entire room, and could cause that much disruption – seems to me that Debi is at best, embellishing, and more likely, has flat out made this story up.

      • persephone

        There does seem to be a high level of immaturity and insecurity in fundagelical circles.

  • kisarita

    yes it is embarrassing to have one’s embrace rejected in public, so lydia’s action, whatever her motivation, would probably embarrass her husband- momentarily. it’s not the end of the world, and i daresay most other people in the room wouldn’t care or wouldn’t even notice.

    however, i think it was inappropriate for charles to embrace her in the first place, if they were in the middle of discussing a serious, important issue like debbie describes. after all it wasn’t a movie. not everyplace is the time and place to express affection. when you put the whole scenario together, with wives acting as prop to their husbands, charles action disrespects linda. he’s not so much showing affection as proprietorship.

    He would have done much better (and perhaps received a happier response) had he kept his hands to himself and said, “Lydia, what’s your opinion about this?”

    • Guest

      I don’t know – I don’t see a problem with discussing a serious matter with your arm over someone’s shoulder, myself. Seems perfectly reasonable. Also reasonable not to to want to be touched, for whatever reason. I see no reason to think it wasn’t done out of affection or to say husband was asserting ownership. If it ever happened at all.

      • sylvia_rachel

        One thing I wonder is why the wives needed to be there at all, if they weren’t permitted to participate in the discussion. Surely they could have been somewhere else, doing something useful (for values of “useful” equal to either my own definition or Debi’s, really), rather than just sitting there doing … what? Gazing adoringly at their menfolk while their eyes glaze over and they secretly wish they were somewhere, anywhere, else?

        I mean, Debi’s not seriously suggesting that these manly men can’t have a serious discussion without the moral support of the silently adoring wives, is she? IS she? ::blecccchhh::

      • Sally

        Good point. I think traditionally men would talk in the “men’s parlor” or send the women out of the room even to talk “business” or serious matters the women weren’t included in. Having them sit there but not able to speak seems like the men are flaunting their control over the women.
        Maybe Lydia thoroughly disagreed with what the men were saying, maybe even what her husband had said. She couldn’t speak, but she sure as hell wasn’t going to have him put his arm around her while she was so disgusted with what was being said. -Just a theory, since I, unlike Debi, can’t actually read minds.

      • The_L1985

        “Go sit with your friends, honey, the grown-ups are talking.” Ugh!

      • Christine

        Honestly, as bad as that sort of thing was/is, it’s still better than what Debi advocates. Her brand of anti-feminism is much more poisonous than the historical because it’s celebrating an inequality, rather than just saying that it’s ok. Women aren’t supposed to just go “I’m less important because I’m a woman, and man that sucks, but it’s stupid to get upset about it”. They’re supposed to rejoice in this.

      • smrnda

        I noticed this even among less fundamentalist Christians – in a mixed gender group, the men just dominate the conversation.

      • Mira

        Well, in some books I’ve read, it’s been indicated that having their wives with them was an indication of their superiority–the wives are “trophies.”
        Of course, in most of those cultures we see today, the women are veiled and garbed from head to foot in stuffy fabric that “shields” them from “prying eyes…” or, y’know, living normally.

      • Cathy W

        They may have been supposed to sit and listen to the superior wisdom of the men, and then if they didn’t understand something ask their husbands when they got home…. I dunno.

      • alwr

        I agree with this. There is no reason to believe that this guy had a malicious intent. The assumption that he did is really just as bad as the assumptions that Debi makes about his wife.

    • grindstone

      “they were in the middle of discussing a serious, important issue like debbie describes. after all it wasn’t a movie. not everyplace is the time and place to express affection. when you put the whole scenario together, with wives acting as prop to their husbands, charles action disrespects linda. he’s not so much showing affection as proprietorship.”

      My thoughts exactly. It was inappropriate for Charles to interrupt “grave matters”, as Debi says, to snuggle his wife. She may have felt on display, been uncomfortable, any number of things, or simply felt that he was acting inappropriately. My first husband, the fundy, although he had many faults, would have been appalled at Charles’ behavior.

      All of this is in addition to Libby’s points about bodily autonomy.

  • Kit

    Do I WANT to know what Debi thinks of marital rape?

    • Arakasi_99

      I’m pretty sure that she wouldn’t be able to process the concept. It would be liike asking her opinion of benevolent green.

    • sylvia_rachel

      I don’t think she would admit it’s even a thing. Or, if she did, it would be the wife’s fault for not putting out cheerfully enough, or often enough, or whatever.

    • Trollface McGee

      Marital rape? Is that the one where the lazy woman who hasn’t been reverencing her husband by refusing to sacrifice her firstborn for him forces the poor emasculated man to take out the garbage?

    • Japooh

      It seems she lives in the midst of it in her own marriage, but luckily for her, she seems to have a strong BDSM streak in her as well.

      I want to be very clear that I’m making no judgement with the above statement – other people’s kinks are none of my business, and mine are my own as well – but I get really freaked out that she doesn’t seem to recognize that it IS something of a “kink” (apologies, I can’t think of a better word). It’s not part of every woman’s makeup to enjoy that kind of sex play, but Debi seems to pretty much demand that they participate with a cheerful heart or some such crap regardless.

      Given the Pearl’s reputation and influence in the movement, she ought to be jailed for that alone. What a horrifying abuse of trust and power these two people perpetuate on their entire community.

    • wombat

      Marital rape? There’s no such thing as marital rape! A good wife will always submit to her husband’s advances. And a bad wife should learn to! After all, it’s his right to have sex whenever he wants it, and if his wife won’t give it to him, he will leave her to raise the kids alone in a duplex, and it’s all her fault.

      I’m going to go have a shower now. I feel icky.

  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com/ KevinKat

    Dear fucking god this is a manual for abusive relationships.

  • Beutelratti

    TW!

    Or maybe Lydia never really wanted to marry Charles. Maybe her father picked Charles for her. Maybe she had to court him even though she despised just looking at him. Maybe she pulled back because every night in bed Charles has his way with her and she has to escape into a little dark corner of her mind to be able to live with her reality at all. Maybe, just maybe, she does not want that man to touch her in that situation nor in any situation, but thanks to people like the Pearls she now has to be happy about that man touching her for the rest of her life.

  • Composer 99

    Maybe I’m a violent person, but all I want to do after reading an excerpt/analysis of this book is punch Michael & Debi in the face.

    Of course, since I’ll almost certainly never meet them I shan’t get the opportunity – and even if I did I dare say I’d settle for angrily shouting epithets in their faces.

    • Beutelratti

      Here’s what I want to do: I want to naturalise them in a country that explicitly forbids any form of corporal punishment, have them boast about how they treat their children, then have them prosecuted for child abuse, grievous bodily harm and deprivation of liberty and then have them locked away for years and shunned by society at large.

      • Beutelratti

        Addendum to that: I would also like them to boast about how Debi is treated. I’m sure that’ll get Michael some extra-time in jail.

      • Sally

        Well, their kids are all grown now. You can see some of them and their grandkids on Youtube.

      • Niemand

        What I’d really like to happen is this: Something shifts in Michael and Debi’s brains and they gain empathy. They suddenly understand and really feel all the harm they’ve done. To their own children. To other people’s children. To parents who wanted to do the right thing and followed their awful advice to the point where their children died (remember Libby Anne’s story about her sister?) To each other. To every young couple trying to figure out how to be a good couple. And then have them live in that understanding and the remorse that goes with it.

        Because no external punishment would be enough while they still believe themselves to be right and have no remorse in their hearts. Or am I showing my Catholic ancestry here?

      • Beutelratti

        Nope, that sounds perfect. Ideally, I’d like to see that happen to them in jail. I just … it makes me rage that people can get away with terrorising children in such a way.

      • Japooh

        That’s a very nice take-away from Catholicism when applied appropriately, as this would be. I’m with you.

      • Composer 99

        They suddenly understand and really feel all the harm they’ve done. To their own children. To other people’s children. To parents who wanted to do the right thing and followed their awful advice to the point where their children died (remember Libby Anne’s story about her sister?) To each other. To every young couple trying to figure out how to be a good couple. And then have them live in that understanding and the remorse that goes with it.

        THIS

      • Kathleen Margaret Schwab

        I once read a blog which theorized that while “hell” is not eternal, after death God allows people to experience all the pain that their actions have caused to others, while enlightening their minds about how wrong their actions were. According to this theory, no one suffers forever, but some people do suffer quite a bit, for a long time. But it is redemptive suffering, and they come out the other end with an excellent understanding of their faults, and great compassion for those they wronged. It’s about as just a system as I can imagine.
        If Michael & Debi go to this version of hell (we can only hope) every stupid book puts them there longer.

      • Sally

        If I were making up a religion (or making up stuff to make my religion more palatable), this might be what I’d do with the idea of justice after death. Eternal hell for finite crimes? Why? (rhetorical question; I of course know why :))

      • The_L1985

        I like this idea. It makes sense.

      • Sally

        This would be an excellent prayer for those of us who pray (which I unfortunately don’t).

      • Japooh

        Wouldn’t it be nice if that place you describe was the US…?

    • persephone

      I’d like to get them on a mission to, say, Iran, then have them lose their papers.

      • Jayn

        Does Iran really deserve that?

      • persephone

        I figured Iran was probably the most stable place where the U.S. doesn’t currently have a presence.

      • NeaDods

        The Middle East is patriarchy’s wettest dream. Women subordinated, corporeal punishment, and religion intertwined with government.

      • persephone

        Except for the Islam part. They definitely want to set up the Christian version here.

    • The_L1985

      I wouldn’t punch them in the face. I’d be too worried about what that would do to my innocent hand.

  • Arakasi_99

    I wonder if Debi has any idea that her contempt for her husband is pretty obvious

    • Niemand

      I’ve always said that no one hates men as much as a “traditional values” woman. No radical feminist thinks of men as this incompetent, fragile, and dysfunctional. Only a woman who burns with anger at having to always subdue her desires to please a man could be this angry. No, it’s not anger even. It’s straight up hatred. Anger implies that you have something to say to the person you’re angry with still. In Debi’s world, there is nothing women can do with men except manipulate them.

      • Arakasi_99

        A few years back I had a male coworker, J, who was strongly patriarchial . Since he lived in PA and worked in VA, he rented a room in the house a friend of mine, P, lived in, and only went home on the weekends.

        During the first week J lived there, he had a major fight with my friend. According to J, “Men don’t flush the toilet”. This man expected his wife to go through the house flushing the toilets after himself and his two teenage sons.
        There is something inherently twisted in that relationship. I would not have been in the least bit surprised if she had murdered him one weekend

      • dj_pomegranate

        You have got to be kidding me. I just cannot even. I just cannot.

      • Arakasi_99

        If my friend hadn’t been the one to see the evidence and confront J about it, I wouldn’t have believed it either

      • sylvia_rachel

        That is … that is just …

        No, I’m with dj_pomegranate: I just cannot even.

      • Sally

        See, this is what happens when you get so far off the grid you don’t even realize you’ve become a total fool. (“You,” meaning people like J.)

      • Arakasi_99

        J was kicked out of that house when he tried to tan a racoon skin in his bedroom. He was fired a few months later for running his online hunting supply store from his work computer

      • dj_pomegranate

        Oh my god.

      • Sally

        Who raised this boy? Don’t answer; I already know.

      • The_L1985

        Ew, everyone knows you don’t practice taxidermy in the house! You either use the garage or a shed.

      • gimpi1

        YEE! Men don’t flush? Just when you think you’ve heard everything… You have to wonder, will he go all Ferengi and want his wife to never leave the house, go naked and chew his food and spit it into his mouth for him?

        (My apologies for the geek Star Trek reference. I couldn’t resist)

      • persephone

        Geek away

      • Beutelratti

        Haha, yes! This sounds so much like the Ferengi! Maybe J had some particularly large ears.

      • Arakasi_99

        I never really talked to him directly about anything other than work, but the few times I overheard him talking to his friends, he was usually discussing his dogs and/or hunting. I don’t think I ever heard him mention his wife

      • smrnda

        Sometimes people forget to flush, but the idea of deliberately not doing it is just too far.

        What men like that need are normal, functional men to call them pathetic losers to their face. “What’s wrong buddy, can’t flush your own shit down the drain?”

      • Japooh

        That’s exactly what’s needed. Women can say it all day long but given the level of contempt they display toward us for having vaginas, they hardly could be expected to give a hoot what we say about anything, and certainly not this.

        Other men however, can and ought to do as you suggest. Display their utter disgust at such ridiculous behavior. Kudos to the home-owner for the major fight – and what a strange thing to be pleased over. The patriarch movement has led to some very peculiar observations that would be hilarious if they weren’t so damned disturbing.

        Can you imagine being this cretin’s wife, or marrying one of his sons? Skin crawling… the poor woman.

      • smrnda

        I’ve seen this happen, where the formerly confident, patriarchal manly man gets mocked and derided by some cafe hipster philosopher type guy and it’s amazing to see the formerly dominant patriarch just piss and shit his pants unable to talk back, feeling like some schoolyard bully who just got humiliated when everybody finally found out the bully had a glass jaw.

        A problem is patriarchal men and more egalitarian men move in totally different social circles much of the time, so you don’t get the type of showdowns that would be worthwhile.

      • Japooh

        That would explain why it doesn’t happen more often i suppose. I’m pretty confident that none of the men in my social circle would behave that way, or let it pass if they became aware of it in another, but yeah, my circle leans heavily away from church-goers.

      • Sally

        -Unless they happen to be brothers. My husband gives his rather patriarchal brother some much needed guy feedback occasionally. -Although my b-I-l is nowhere near the “only women flush toilets” end of the spectrum.

      • Katherine Hompes

        Off-topic, I actually have lived with deliberately not flushing- “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” and all that. Of course, this was everyone- not just the males, and I grew up on a farm in Australia. Drought is a thing

      • smrnda

        I heard that sometimes in LA you aren’t supposed to flush except once a day owing to drought conditions. I’ve always lived too close to bodies of water for this to be an issue for me, but that’s a pretty acceptable excuse.

      • Mary

        It doesn’t sound as if he has the lobes for business. :D

      • Beutelratti

        The only thing I can really think of here is: What the flying fuck?!

      • The_L1985

        That is so disgusting. Everybody has to flush after themselves. That’s basic hygiene. What happens if J’s wife gets the flu–is he just going to let that nastiness SIT THERE, stinking up the toilet and letting all sorts of nasty germs into the air, for a whole gods-damned week?

      • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com/ KevinKat

        People who treat people the way J does don’t give a flying fuck about actual illnesses. “You’re never too sick to do what I want you to do” is their basic thought process.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        Oh, but you ask them to do something useful, that takes time away from their precious telly/computer/console/whatever, and the whining! You’d think you’d asked them for a kidney!

        I speak from personal experience. The Jackass was always too stoned/drunk/tripping/tired/”sick” to take care of his responsibilities or help with housework, but had plenty of energy to beat the crap out of me for daring to ask him to help out.

      • Conuly

        That is the second-dumbest thing I’ve read all day. (The very dumbest is about somebody who abandoned their cat because, wait for it, it didn’t match the new drapes. But it’s a close race!)

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        Everybody knows you match the decor to the pets!

      • Conuly

        Inorite???

      • Mogg

        All they needed to do was wait 30 minutes and let the cat fur settle on the new drapes, and it would match perfectly! But I hope the cat found a better home.

      • Conuly

        Yes, apparently. But really, any home would’ve been better.

      • Niemand

        I’d love to have P meet some of my relatives. They’re a bunch of macho, redneck men who know that if they don’t come and get their own dinner they’ll starve because no woman will serve them, that if they don’t do the dishes there’ll be no clean dishes in the house because if the women made dinner they’re not going to be doing the cleanup, and if they don’t flush the toilet the place will stink because who in their right mind expects anyone else to flush their toilet for them*? They’d have a lot of fun with P’s ideas of “manliness”. Men don’t flush the toilet…the dick jokes practically write themselves!

        I do feel sorry for the kids, though. Hopefully they’ll leave home while still young enough to learn that this is not the way the world works.

        *Quadraplegics and others with disabilities that make flushing impossible excepted, of course.

      • Mary C

        At first I thought “Oh that sucks for his wife, that he is gone all week.” Then I read your 2nd paragraph, and realized that his wife probably loved him being gone all week…

      • guest

        Wait, what happens in men’s restrooms in non-residential buildings? I don’t even want to think about it.

        A friend says kids often go through a stage just after potty training when they don’t flush–they don’t like the noise, the rushing water frightens them, they just forget to do it while concentrating on the rest of the procedure. So maybe this isn’t quite as bizarre as I’d first thought–his mom flushed for him the first few times he used the toilet, and he just thought that was the way it was supposed to work.

      • Nancy Shrew

        In my experience there are plenty of people who don’t flush public toilets, probably because they assume they’re automatic.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        I hate auto-flush toilets — I startle easily, and they have a tendency to go off as I’m trying to do my business….

      • sylvia_rachel

        I hate them, too. They go off at the wrong time, and won’t work at the right time … :P

        Also, they are TERRIFYING to a significant subset of small children.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        I’m grown up*, and they’re still terrifying…

        (*I know, this is debateable…)

      • awakingsleep

        Carry post it notes. They’ll solve the auto flush issue.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        Thanks!

      • Semipermeable

        Jesus. Is the wife supposed to follow the dudes to school and work just to wipe their asses and flush the john?

  • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

    Her attitude really is “rapey.” In her world, a husband is humiliated if he can’t touch his wife against her will whenever and wherever he wants, and the wife has no right to say no. Ugh. The more you post about this book, the creepier it gets.

  • J-Rex

    To reverse the situation, my sister will make a wonderful helpmeet.
    She’s always been very submissive to my parents, the church, and now to him and was all too ready to be in a relationship with someone who tells her what to think (she said so in her own words). When we’re all hanging out, this guy really likes to touch her, but not even in an affectionate way. He sits there and runs his whole hand through her hair, but very roughly and tugs hard every time they get tangled. Her head is being jerked back the whole time while she’s trying to have a serious conversation with us and we’re all looking at her wondering why in the world she doesn’t ask him to stop. At one point he starts poking her hard in the back for no reason and she finally whispered angrily, “Seriously. Stop it!” I get the sense that she feels very uncomfortable telling him to stop in front of people. What really worries me is that this is a common thing for him to do and even if she doesn’t like telling him to stop in front of people, why in the world doesn’t she tell him to stop when they’re by themselves??
    *Sigh* … 16 days till their wedding …

    • Sally

      I’m sorry. No, that doesn’t sound too good.

    • gimpi1

      That is a major danger-sign. He’s trying to publicly show how dominant he is, and being borderline abusive to do it. You can bet he’s much more abusive in private. This will in no way get better. If someone is abusive to you in the early stages of a relationship, where most of us are on our best behavior, that’s a great big flashing red light, STOP!

      I hope you can be there for her in a few years, when she needs help. I can almost guarantee she will need help, to protect herself and (heaven help us) her kids.

      • J-Rex

        (Responding to everyone) :
        Yes, it’s definitely concerning. I don’t really see him as the physically abusing type. He’s quiet and awkward and you get the sense that she’s with him because she feels sorry for him. I see his behavior more as a way to get attention in a really childish way, and it’s more of the overall dynamic of their relationship that concerns me than just his behavior.
        In other words, yes, he can be obnoxious, immature, pretentious, etc. and that’s bad enough, but it’s not the end of the world if she lets him know that his behavior is unacceptable so he at least knows that he can’t act however he wants. But she doesn’t let him know.
        It’s not so much that I’m worried about abuse, I’m worried about how little she stands up for herself or thinks for herself and how easily she could be abused if he was abusive. Does that make sense? I know it’s a fine line…
        It’s not just this guy either, she’s always had this sort of mentality. We watched Streetcar Named Desire together and at the end she said Stella shouldn’t have left Stanley. :o

      • Nancy Shrew

        She would prefer the play, then.

      • The_L1985

        I understand perfectly. When I was younger, I was basically a doormat. I’d become so afraid of upsetting or disappointing people that I just let people walk all over me. I also had that naive, romantic notion of changing a bad-boy with The Powah Of Luv.

        Or am I attributing things to your sister that aren’t there?

    • sylvia_rachel

      Oh dear :( That does not sound good at all.

    • The_L1985

      D:

      Is there any way you can convince her to call it off? I foresee a world of sorrow for your sister if this behavior continues.

      • J-Rex

        Ohhhh how I wish…
        She knows that none of us like him and I think that makes her even more determined to make things work.
        For her, life is completely about what she thinks is meaningful, which means that she appreciates a good amount of hardship and suffering. I get the sense that she feels more love for him because we don’t like him and it feels more meaningful to love someone when others don’t. The times when we’ve had conversations about their relationship and I make my concerns known, she’s said something along the lines of “You know…I’m sure that if we broke up, I could find someone better out there, but would that be as meaningful?” along with “It’s more meaningful to love someone who’s harder to love.”
        Yeah, it’s that bad. I mean, come on, it sounds like I made that up, that’s how bad it is.

    • Ruth

      This is a serious signal of an abusive partner and if your sister is too afraid perhaps there are others who might help intervene?

    • Hilary

      I would document. She may need to see it all written down in order to put the dots into a pattern, and if it gets really bad you have a paper trail for police. And when he does that behavior in front of you, confront him if you can. (only if you feel you can). Maybe he thinks he can get away with it because nobody bothers to stop him. Maybe she’ll hear what people are saying and listen. I don’t know, I’m not in the front row seat of this. But at least, if I saw that happening to someone close to me and was unable to intervene, I’d document it for court if it was ever needed.

  • c

    Putting myself in Lydia’s shoes, I was imagining a scenario where the conversation was so intense that Lydia wanted to focus on it and shrugged her husband off because he was distracting her. Kind of like when someone’s intently watching sports or something important on tv, if you come in and try to talk to them or put your arm around them, they may shrug you off, not because they don’t want your affection, just because they don’t want to break focus. The husband probably absentmindedly put his arm around his wife to help him concentrate, but if I were her, having his arm around me in a circle of church people would hurt my concentration so I’d just as absentmindedly move it aside. But I’m sure the women aren’t supposed to pretend that they’re listening to any interesting discussions the men have. They should sit silently at the ready waiting to meet their man’s needs.

    • dj_pomegranate

      In Debi-land, though, there’s no such thing as harmless. You’re either being a perfectly attentive help-meet 100% of the time always, or you are preparing your soul for damnation (and a duplex) by dishonoring your husband with your silly absentminded ways

  • dj_pomegranate

    You know, I’ve been in a situation like this story–my ex and I had a huge argument, I was mad at him for being a condescending jerk, and we had already RSVPed for a party that evening. We went to the party, not speaking to each other. During the party he came up to me and started rubbing my back. I was still mad at him, did not want to talk to him, and certainly did not want him touching me. So I moved out of his reach and shot him a look. I am sure that the people I was speaking to noticed that all was not well between us. But I am the kind of person who can’t be physically intimate (even a backrub!) until I’ve talked it out and am emotionally at ease–and he knew that. So he was purposely putting me in an awkward situation by usurping my personal boundaries in public and making me look like the bad guy in front of our friends. (Needless to say, this was not a great relationship!)

    To Debi: you really, really cannot know what goes on behind closed doors.

    • dj_pomegranate

      Also, we commenters have come up with multiple alternate explanations for Lydia’s reaction in a matter of minutes: sunburn? previous argument? depressive period? bad mood? concern for modesty? uncomfortable arranged marriage? just not a touchy person? engrossed in discussion?

      Debi has zero imagination.

      • Sally

        The thing is, none of those reasons matters in Debi’s world. Lydia needs to die to self. There is no acceptable reason for Lydia not to accept her husband’s touch ever, let alone in public.

      • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

        Sally’s right. Debi doesn’t care if Lydia has any of these issues. All that matters is that she rejected her husband’s touch and “humiliated” him. There is no excuse for this, in Debi’s worldview.

      • Jo

        I remember reading in the book (yep I was in a women’s group that studied it) Debi’s response to a woman who was physical pain during intimacy – something to the effect of “do you think you’re the first woman to deal with pain? Stop complaining and take care of your husband.” I realized that Debi really doesn’t care about women at all.

      • NeaDods

        I know the passage you’re talking about. It’s one of the ones where I think she’s either saying “I suck it up, so you have to” or simply parroting what Michael told her. Quite possibly both – she may have had some pain sometime and made the mistake of telling Michael, who is precisely the kind of guy who’d keep doing what hurt to teach her a lesson.

      • Sally

        That’s really sad. That pain can be treated, although you have to go to a specialist.

    • J-Rex

      That’s what I was thinking because I’m the same way. If we fight, I need everything resolved before I can possibly accept physical affection again. Otherwise it seems like he’s trying to make me forget what he did.

  • wanderer

    In my opinion the fact that Charles (according to Debi) felt humiliated and like he had a tarnished reputation actually speaks way more about the GROUP he was in than it does about Lydia’s mentality when she squirmed.

    The group was obviously sending a (verbal or nonverbal) signal that he was shameful for having a wife who did not want to be embraced at that moment. The group obviously gave off the vibe that he should be able to do whatever he wanted, at any time, and be encouraged by his wife.

    Maybe it was actually the stares of judgment and derision that were aimed at Charles that created the atmosphere Debi thought she perceived. Maybe that’s why Charles was quiet for the rest of the time, because he felt like the group thought he was an idiot, not because his wife made him feel that way.

    • Sally

      Good point. Just the whole setup says male domination. I think the idea that the men chastise each other (even just with looks) for not being able to dominate their wives at all times is a good theory.
      The thing is, my husband wouldn’t give me or the rest of the group that much power. He would just carry on as if nothing had happened. And I don’t know about this group, but most groups would just take his cue and carry on and forget it too.
      Debi is right about one thing. These men she’s talking about do have fragile egos. She just doesn’t realize that a lot of men don’t. Why are all the men she knows so fragile? I thought Jesus and the holy spirit were supposed to make them whole. These Christian men in Debi’s world seem like the most insecure I’ve ever heard of.
      I remember a speaker at Christian camp once told us teens, “If you’re going to act like an ass, just don’t tell people you’re a Christian.” The combination of the message Debi is giving about men in this book combined with “Christianity” is a horrible, horrible witness!
      No, the camp speaker didn’t actually say “ass.” ;)

    • Hth

      It’s this kind of thing that makes me sometimes feel a little bit sorry for men raised in this kind of patriarchal atmosphere. They will *always* be judged by everyone around them on their ability to “control” “their” wives & children, and the smallest deviation from the ideal means that they have to feel humiliated, because the people around them do in fact disparage them for not somehow preventing that deviation.

      Life just doesn’t work that way. Situations aren’t controllable; *people* certainly aren’t controllable to any degree of certainty, even under the extraordinary pressures that people like Debi work so hard to apply. So a man’s worth will always be in question. Charles could be the best human being in the known world, and it wouldn’t matter, *because Debi has now identified him as not having what it takes to be an effective minister or leader.* Because of her analysis of his wife’s behavior, which is something Charles could never hope to fully control.

      No wonder patriarchal men seem so angry and fearful all the time. They are constantly failing a task that no one could ever succeed at, and everyone involved knows it. It’s tragic to me that they so often try to just double down and expend more force, rather than realizing that this rigged game isn’t worth playing.

      • Sally

        Hth said: “No wonder patriarchal men seem so angry and fearful all the time. They are constantly failing a task that no one could ever succeed at, and everyone involved knows it. It’s tragic to me that they so often try to just double down and expend more force, rather than realizing that this rigged game isn’t worth playing.”
        Boy do I agree with this!! Really well said.
        I was with family recently and my ultra-conservative brother-in-law chastised my daughter for making a face at me. He said, “How about showing your mother respect?” I was so stunned I didn’t say anything. What I should have said was, “Uncle X doesn’t understand that we make faces like this at each other sometimes and it’s endearing. Uncle X completely misunderstood that.”
        The thing is, I also know that coming from him, how insulting to *me* his comment was.

      • smrnda

        I used to work with kids and I threw any concept of ‘respect’ for me out the window. Doing that made it possible for me to have a good time because it wasn’t a power struggle (and I wouldn’t have been hired with any other attitude.) Even when kids are genuinely obnoxious, they’re learning social etiquette just like everything else.

  • wanderer

    I also feel like the amount of conversations, mind-reading, etc. that go on in Debi’s mind are cause for concern. It is extremely unhealthy for a person to spend that much energy imaging what is going on in the minds of others.
    I would think any therapist would throw a red flag… she sounds like she is dissociating or something — detached from reality.

    • Ibis3

      Well, since she probably made up this story just like the fake letters, she’s not really trying to read anyone’s mind. She’s just not a good writer. She forgets that if the events had actually occurred, she wouldn’t know what was going on in everyone’s mind and she’d therefore report differently.

      • Sally

        I agree. You can’t be the omniscient narrator and one of the characters at the same time. Silly Debi.

      • gimpi1

        Good point, Sally. I guess Debi forgot the lessons from Creative Writing 101.

      • http://yllommormon.blogspot.com/ aletha

        That’s *gasp* college, though! Why would a woman need college? Do you need hire learning to teach kids?? Do you need classes to teach you to reverence your man? Do you need courses to teach you to clean house and put out?
        Nope! You just need Debi’s books.

        And you’ll live happily ever after, of course. Just like Debi.

      • Christine

        I have to ask: was “hire learning” an autocorrect problem, or an intentional pretend-illiteracy?

      • http://yllommormon.blogspot.com/ aletha

        It was, unfortunately, a product of me posting in one window and job searching in the other. I feel rather embarrassed now, actually.

      • Sally

        You actually made me read the whole comment in a Debi accent when I saw that. Maybe it wasn’t intentional, but it was perfect. :)

      • Christine

        Well I apologise for drawing everyone’s attention to it. I thought it was brilliant, but was confused that you hadn’t used any other odd spellings.

      • http://yllommormon.blogspot.com/ aletha

        Lol. No worries. :)

      • Kathleen Margaret Schwab

        “Hire learning” was awesome!

  • Christine

    Lydia wasn’t even necessarily actually asserting agency. I have some really strong reflexes sometimes. (I don’t mind being touched, but I have a few sensory issues.) From high school: I was travelling on the subway with a bunch of the guys. It was rush hour, so there wasn’t a lot of room. The design of the car we were in was such that there was no railing down the centre right at the ends of the car, and because it was so crowded, we were standing down at the end. One of the guys was tall enough that he just stuck his hands on the ceiling to brace himself, which worked fine until we stopped a little harder than expected. When he lost his balance, his hands came down on my chest. I didn’t even really realise that had happened until after I’d brushed them off, and he was apologising. Pure reflex.

  • http://Thechurchproject.me/ Tracey

    Did she really write “His mind was jerked off the problem”? Debi needs to get out and learn some slang.

    And is it just me, or did Debi call the husband a “thoughtless inept child”? Sounds about right for men in her world.

    • Alice

      Ha-ha, I noticed that too. It is strange how much sexual slang Christians use without realizing it, sometimes it is hilarious and often it is downright creepy. Maybe it happens because of all the sexual repression. Not long ago, I had to sit through an entire Sunday School lesson on “Touching people.”

      • The_L1985

        Remember the movie School of Rock? Jack Black’s character is so happy about how his substitute class has touched his heart, and he says, “Your children have touched me. And I’m pretty sure I’ve touched every one of them as well.” Cue enraged parents.

      • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

        I continually crack up at hymns that occasionally make an appearance at my church, that have lyrics such as “wind of God, blow on me” or (my favourite) “take me Jesus, take me now”.

        These people really need to develop a dirty enough sense of humour to see what they’re saying…

      • Snipe

        When I was working at a summer camp, an overly Christian woman once shared a very touching Christian song/program with one of her friends. She said the title was “Hungry, on my Knees,” and both of them seemed so enraptured at this worshipful idea. I felt like I was in an alternate universe.

  • wanderer

    Yeah, about the part where Debi is fantasizing about shaking the woman until her teeth rattle…. (beyond the fact that it shocked me that she is so violent)
    Why the hell does it piss her off SO bad when a woman does something she doesn’t like?
    Maybe Debi secretly wishes she could do the same and is angry because she isn’t allowed to shake off her husband.

    • Alice

      Also, I am pretty sure she’s said this a few times before, so she must have a lot of violent urges. It’s always at women since being angry at men isn’t allowed. Your theory is probably right.

    • sylvia_rachel

      It’s weird, isn’t it? And it’s of a piece with the Pearls’ bizarre, unnecessary power struggles with small children, in which it is TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE for the child to “get his/her way” on literally any tiny little thing because HELLFIRE AND DAMNATION, or something. Those anecdotes always make me shake my head (well, also sometimes they make me feel ill, because I’m imagining a big strong implacable adult repeatedly whacking a baffled, upset small child), because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from many years of interacting with small children, it’s that the best way to win a power struggle with a toddler is not to get into one in the first place — once you’ve let it happen, you’ve already lost, and the best thing you can do for both parties is find a way out that lets everyone keep as much of their dignity as possible :P

      Anyway: yes, it’s really deeply weird not just that Debi makes such a huge moral mountain out of this tiny behavioural molehill but also that she is SO ANGRY about it. Because really: how is it even her business? It’s not like anyone present (by her own account here) asked for her opinion, help, or advice. I am about 99% sure that this entire anecdote, like all those letters earlier in the book, is totally made up. So it’s interesting that Debi doesn’t think to frame the incident in some other way that would seem to give her some right to an opinion about it. I feel like when she wrote this scene, instead of starting with the precipitating action and working through what everyone’s reaction might plausibly be, she worked backwards from the reaction she wanted to an event that might have produced that reaction … and did a really lousy job, because most people in most cultures would totally not feel the feelings she’s ascribing to them.

      • gimpi1

        I also read about Dr. Dobson of Focus on the Family having a power-struggle with his small dog, for heaven’s sake. He spent a whole evening bullying a small dog, trying to get it to sleep in a new bed he had bought for it. The idea that a man must be in total control of his world at all times is one of the most destructive ones out there and it makes bullies and abusers. It’s one thing if a parent must step in – to prevent harm or provide necessary instruction – but this nonsense about absolute control and absolute obedience is absolutely ridiculous.

        Really, why should anyone try to control every aspect of another? If your dog doesn’t like the bed, let it sleep on the rug, no harm done. If your kid refuses to eat peas, make green beans or broccoli more often, and save the peas as a treat for yourself. You’re so right, Sylvia, the best way to win a power struggle with a small child (or a dog) is to not start one. And don’t even get me started on cats.

      • Alix

        I had one person once tell me in all seriousness that the reason men hate cats is that cats are too independent, sometimes violently so. He followed this up by musing that this is why they’re witches’ familiars, and cracking that it said nothing good about women that cats were women’s pets.

        I just boggled.

      • The_L1985

        I’m sure that is why cats were treated as Satanic witch-beasts in earlier times. However, I like cats. I don’t own any (I have a dog, though, and he’s the sweetest little guy!) but to me, the independence is a feature, not a bug.

      • Alix

        Me too. I adore cats, even if mine keeps trying to eat my green paint. I’ve never not had one.

        Dogs – my mom used to have one, and she was nice, but honestly, most dogs I run into are overenthusiastic enough to scare me, and it … really doesn’t help that I had one neighbor with a really scary dog who never bothered to keep said dog in his yard. :/ I do think dogs are cute, but I have to really warm up to them.

      • LadyCricket

        My family recently adopted a Jack Russel Terrier, and even though he’s adorable… he helps me realize why some people are cat people. An active breed like Jack Russels need a LOT of stimulation, socialization and exercise… they’re needy dogs. Lately this dog has gotten into a habit of camping outside my bedroom door and whining when he’s bored. And he won’t. Go. Away.

        My dad loves dogs, and he’s always going on about how he loves how a dog will lay down its life for you and be so glad to see you when you come in the door and always be ready to play… but not everyone likes that in a pet. Like L1985 said, independence is a feature, not a bug. In related news, this is kind of why I like being an introvert – the independence. Being alone for a day isn’t the end of the world for me, and I don’t style my life around my friends and peers.

        And everyone feels SO SORRY for introverts. I don’t want your pity, extroverts.

      • sylvia_rachel

        I kind of see cats as being like roommates with fur who need you to open tins for them, and dogs as perpetual toddlers.

        And, you know, I like toddlers. But one of the nicest things about toddlers is that you know that stage only lasts for a little while…

        Yeah, cat person here :P

      • The_L1985

        I’m more of an anything-that’s-fuzzy person. I even think tarantulas are cute!

      • gimpi1

        Boggled indeed. Cats are too independent. That’s a bad thing to him? Personally, I like having a pet that can amuse itself sometimes, like when I’m on deadline.

        Men hate cats, huh? That will come as a surprise to my cat-loving husband. Well, that’s OK, he likes witches, too. He married me, after all :)

        Seriously, I’d worry about anyone who spouted this kind of nonsense. Whatever you do, don’t date him, let him watch your kids or feed your pets.

      • Alix

        My brother was in the room at the time and similarly boggled, then mentioned to me later he really ought to have mentioned that the cat is, technically, his pet.

        And I had to bite my tongue so hard at the witch comment, seeing as how I am one as well, but I really didn’t want to cause an epic blowout with a friend-of-a-friend who was just briefly by, y’know? And I was still boggling about how cats = independent = BADBADWRONG to this guy, which is probably the only reason I was able to hold my tongue.

        …as for your last paragraph, I’ve had the misfortune of running into other people who, pretend-jokingly, say that if their girlfriend tried to get them to watch their cat, or a cat so much as shedded on a prized possession, they’d kill the cat. I … basically ran away, the few times I’ve heard people say that, and I don’t fucking care if that’s rude or not.

      • gimpi1

        Run far, Alix, and run fast. Run very fast. It’s not rude, it’s self-preservation.

      • Alix

        ‘S what I figure. Anyone who can talk so callously about killing creatures they simply dislike is not likely to show much better care for the people they supposedly care about.

        What bothers me is how many people I’ve heard this from. Not a lot, true, but it takes two hands to count them, and I’ve never heard the same person make that “joke” more than once. (Largely ’cause I avoid them like the plague thereafter.) All guys, fwiw. Closest I’ve heard a girl express was the sentiment that if the boyfriend’s pet destroyed something, said boyfriend’d be paying for a replacement and the pet would be banned from the room.

      • gimpi1

        I think you’re right, in that the way we treat animals is a good ruler for how we are likely to treat people. I never trust anyone who I know for a fact is cruel to animals.

        I personally think anyone who makes casual references to cruelty to animals is most likely cruel. I think cruel people are most likely unpleasant and possibly dangerous. I think physically-aggressive cruelty is somehow more OK for men. Women can be just as cruel, but it seem to be more psychological-cruelty. I generally just avoid anyone who comes off as mean and uncaring. Who needs that kind of baggage?

        Which is why I would avoid Debi like the plague. (Nice segue back to topic, right?)

      • Alix

        I find a good indicator for me is what people joke about. Let’s face it: we all have moments when we’re cruel, whether we mean to be or not. But what someone jokes about tells a lot about what they think is funny (obviously), what they think is acceptable, where their lines are.

        That’s why “it was just a joke!” doesn’t fly with me. Yes, it was just a joke, and it told me all I needed to know.

      • gimpi1

        Good point. Jokes tell a bunch about who we really are.

      • smrnda

        Totally upvoting this. What people joke about tells you what they think is true, since I think people tend to use humor to demonstrate what they feel are truths about life. A lot of things that I find funny I find funny not because they’re absurd but because they ARE absurd, but are still so close to being true.

      • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

        My cat has peed on my fiance’s stuff, and the most he’s done is complain for a few hours. (Rightfully – his stuff smelled like cat pee for weeks; I would have taken a lot more complaining.)

        Anyone who simply can’t handle kids and animals being inconvenient to them should never be left alone with anyone under the age of 10. Because even the nicest, most well-behaved kids on the planet are incredibly annoying from time to time.

      • smrnda

        I know quite a few guys who like cats, and they’re all pretty laid-back, let people live their own lives types.

        This guy you describe sounds so ridiculous. Does he ever wonder why independence is threatening to some men, and what that says about them?

      • Alix

        Nope. He’s very much an “everything exists for my benefit” type of person.

      • sylvia_rachel

        Um … o_O

        I would like to introduce that person to my uncle and his long series of cats. And my brother and his current feline trio. And, like, literally dozens of male cat owners I have known in my life.

      • Jolie

        We used to have both a dog and a cat when I was a teen. The dog was my mom’s favourite and the cat was “daddy’s girl”.

      • Conuly

        Quite aside from the creepiness of assuming all men need to be slavishly worshipped by their pets, cats aren’t all super independent. They’re actually pretty social creatures, just not in the same way dogs are.

        I had, a few years ago, a litter of kittens from a rescue kitty. Of the five kittens, one was born with a skittish, shy personality (the type I call semi-feral), more scared of humans* than most kittens are. It took a long time to acclimate her, but she has since bonded strongly to me and will get very upset if she cannot find me. Upon my return she always needs a long period of reassurance that she is a good and pretty cat. Two of them reasonably friendly – they liked company, and always preferred to rest near me, but they could handle alone time as well.

        And two, whom I was thrilled to be able to give away together to a family that always has at least one adult at home, were “super friendlies”. They were not happy if they didn’t have human attention. One of them insisted on sitting on my shoulders at all times, and it was only my firm refusal that kept him from eating my hair. The other would climb my pants and shirt to perch precariously on my breasts.

        It’s not my favorite personality for a cat (I much prefer the ones who like company, but who understand that you might be plenty happy with a cat next to you without needing one right on top of you at all times) but it certainly isn’t uncommon. And all five kittens enjoyed (and for those homed together, still enjoy) each others company, and spent long hours pouncing on each other or curling up together.

        * Cats are usually born scared of humans. If they are around humans, though, and their mother trusts humans, it generally goes away fast. It goes away faster if their mother considers humans part of her family, because then she allows them to babysit. Babysitting is extremely common behavior among cats, further showing that it is a lie that cats are all solitary and independent.

      • Alix

        My old cat rarely wanted us to bother him. My current cat? Is the sweetest, stupidest, most loudly social cat I’ve ever met. She loves curling up on people’s laps, especially if they’re wearing skirts, and being petted or even just sitting – and if she wants petting/cuddle time, she will hound you for it. Usually by planting herself right in your path and doing this earsplitting yowling cry until you sit down and let her cuddle.

        Cats totally have distinct personalities, and they run the gamut from stereotypically antisocial to what you describe.

        Speaking of cat babysitting – my sis has a cat. He’s essentially adopted my 2yo nephew – plays with the kid and even tries to shepherd him around the house. It is adorable.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        Cats do have a social structure and they form close family-group bonds. Female cats will also cross-nurse the kittens of those she’s the closest to. It’s really fascinating — cats are very social creatures!

      • Conuly

        Yes, that’s what I meant by “babysitting”. Cats in a colony will watch and nurse each other’s offspring (and you can even, if necessary, move a kitten with a bad or overwhelmed mother to the litter of a good and nurturing mother and pretty much expect them to take care of the kitten, provided she doesn’t object to humans), which not only allows mothers to go out and hunt but also allows their young to grow up if the mother is killed and allows the kittens to continue nursing after their own mother has weaned, something which no doubt improves their survival rates.

        Heck, although it is unusual it isn’t even that rare to see the occasional tom who, rather than being indifferent or hostile to kittens, actively enjoys taking care of them. It is weird, but it does happen.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        So much for being “antisocial”, yeah?

      • realinterrobang

        This would be real news to my girl cat, who literally spotted me across the room in the Humane Society, then yelled until I came over, spent the next several minutes purring up a storm and trying to grab me and pull me to her through her cage bars, and now spends a substantial portion of each day curled against my chest with her paws wrapped around my neck. (When it’s too hot to cuddle she sulks.)

        My housemate says that when I’m away (such as on a business trip), she mopes. Dogs aren’t even as codependent as she is.

        My boy cat is independent, but he was a rescue and basically lived semi-feral for most of his first 18 months or so, so it’s kind of amazing he trusts me at all (but, not to sound conceited or anything, I’m like that).

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        It’s true — the cat chooses you.

        Gracie, when we first met her, went round the room, gave everyone her stamp of approval, and then used the back of my manual chair for a looong stretch. She was just, “Yeah, I want these people. Take me home.” A few days later, we got to bring her home.

        (For reference, she does this on the door and is about a centimeter shy of reaching the knob. Long cat is loooong.)

      • smrnda

        I’ve always said that conservative Christians turn everything into a pissing contest.

      • Japooh

        As near as I can tell, there’s absolutely no such thing as “not my business” in the religious far right. Everyone’s actions are open to comment, opinion, and appropriate response (such as censure or shaming) when they decide so. It must be like living in a fish bowl where you have to be aware of how every single action you take is going to be perceived (accurately or not) and judged by everyone else – up to and including people who were not there to witness whatever behavior is under question but only heard about it via the gossip machine.

        The pressure must be overwhelming.

      • J-Rex

        Right, you always need to hold people accountable!

      • Snipe

        You learn to develop an excellent poker face if you are being scrutinized this way.

      • smrnda

        I noticed this in my own stint going to a church – people demand an awful lot of personal information, and it was getting to the point where my own desire to be low key and kind of undercover as an atheist wasn’t going to work. Any desire to not divulge all the information about yourself is seen as pride or a lack of trust. Nobody asks why people are in your business to begin with.

        I’ve had friends who were really super open, but that was in a situation where nobody really feared judgment. Churches just seem rude in that department, even worse when they get people to open up, only to then judge them.

    • dj_pomegranate

      Yes, you know, I can see being so frustrated that you say something spontaneously like, “Ooo, I wish I could just…shake some sense into her!” but this is a book (presumably one with an editor), not an impromptu exclamation in the heat of the moment, and Debi has chosen to phrase it in such a violent way: “I wanted to get up and shake that girl until her teeth rattled.”

      And “that girl”? She’s a grown woman! Ugh.

    • NeaDods

      Considering how much the Pearls just *love* beating babies and children and how much contempt Debi has for everyone in the universe except Michael, I’m willing to bet that she meant every word of that passage. It’s got to make her crazy(er) when someone deviates so much from her standards and she’s not allowed to pound them like she thinks God intended for her to do.

  • galacticexplorer

    In addition to your possible interpretations of Lydia’s response, I couldn’t help but think that it could be that Lydia and Charles had earlier had a spat of some sort, Charles was hoping to demonstrate that all was forgiven, and Lydia was irritatedly indicating that it was not. I’ve seen that kind of dynamic play out before, and it does indeed always end in awkwardness in the room. But you know what? It’s a personal matter and the couple generally always just needs some time to work things out. Now, I’m sure Debi would still consider ANY disagreement between husband and wife to be the fault of an ungodly woman, so I’m sure her analysis would still stand. But I think it’s telling that she is incapable of seeing anything beyond woman-is-not-submitting in a simple act that could be indicative of so much more. And that she is willing to judge the character of both the husband (easily cowed, unhappy, never-fulfilled) and the wife (selfish, careless, cruel) from just 3 seconds of interaction.

    And, by the way, Debi, I’ve been in a situation like that before. I’ve put my arm around my girlfriend and been rebuffed. It was a little uncomfortable and very distracting since I wasn’t sure if I had done something to upset her. But I would always respect her space, give it some time, and then we’d both talk about what was troubling us. And we’d work it out and we would move on and not stagnate on something so unimportant as a moment of frustration for her or a minimally bruised ego for me. We’re mature adults like that. And guess what? My love is not “always an attempt to win her”. I can indeed love her with abandoned joy. REAL PEOPLE HAVE SHORT-LIVED DISAGREEMENTS AND GET OVER THEM. This is not the end of the world and, if Debi thinks it is, her relationship is in dire need of growing up.

    Of course, since I am also a woman, I’m pretty sure my experiences don’t count. Lesbians cannot be fulfilled since they have no husband to reverence, right? Sheesh.

  • Goatless

    The last time somebody casually draped an arm over my shoulders without prior warning I screamed.
    I also have issues with unexpected contact but in that case it was because I’d strained ligaments in my shoulder that morning and the weight of his arm REALLY FUCKING HURT.
    How is it self-centred to want to be comfortable? I don’t like being hugged, so my friends (because they are my friends) don’t hug me unless it’s clear that I want a hug or that they want one and I don’t mind it. That makes me comfortable because I know I am in a situation where I’m completely safe.
    Sometimes what looks comfortable to others really isn’t. I’ve had people do the arm-around-shoulder thing and it feels like they’re half strangling you, or they’re wearing a watch or bracelet or ring that is digging on a bone or their cuff is itchy or poking.
    In an informal situation I’d shrug them off and make a joke of it, in a formal one I’d just shrug them off.
    Being comfortable, physically or mentally, is not a mortal sin. Fuck off, Debi.

    • Lucreza Borgia

      I hate hugs unless they come from children.

      • Alix

        I will, very occasionally, ask for a hug. Other than those rare times, I’m with you, and I’ve reflexively elbowed someone or stamped on their foot when they give me one unsolicited.

        …My dad takes that as a sign I need more unsolicited hugs, because being that jumpy means I’m either a criminal or just being “silly.” No, Dad, it means I don’t like hugs, and I don’t like them from you especially ’cause you’re an abusive asshole. >:(

      • Conuly

        I have an exaggerated startle reflex. We had to explain to the nieces that it is dangerous to come up and hug me by surprise, because I might fling my arms out, jump, or kick back suddenly. No joke, my mother got her nose broken that way, and to this day I maintain that it was her own fault.

      • Lucreza Borgia

        I should have clarified: My husband is someone I crave physical touch from. He’s the only adult that I feel that way towards. It was quite shocking to some of my friends when they met him to see how affectionate I was and how much I wanted it from him.

        Other than him and small children? Stay away! That used to be really hard tho in Miami as compared to central Wisconsin. The Latin American influence makes the culture there very much about hugging and kissing, even when you first meet someone. Not very fun for a person who has serious issues about personal space.

      • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com/ KevinKat

        I always do the semi-awkward “can I hug you” stance before hugging people. I’ve been rebuffed a few times, but most of the time it’s allowed.

    • Sally

      Goatless said: “The last time somebody casually draped an arm over my shoulders without prior warning I screamed.”
      OK, now I’m picturing Lydia screaming when Charles put his arm on her. Love it. :)

    • Alice

      I used to be a hugger. Then I moved to a midwest state and have lived here for several years, and almost no one hugs, so now on the rare occasions it happens, it can feel like a big invasion of space. One time a friend came at me with outstretched arms, and I silently wondered, “/What/ on earth are you doing?” until I realized she wanted to hug me. Ha-ha.

      I am pretty sure I would enjoy hugs from a long-time boyfriend or spouse, but with other people it just feels too intimate.

  • TLC

    Not every “touch” is a sign of affection. Some times men hold hands, put their arm around a woman’s shoulder or do something else to keep them nearby and controlled.

    Here’s a funny example: Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s TV show was on in the waiting room of my doctor’s office one day. They were talking about men and communication. One woman told the story that her husband becomes so oblivious while watching sports on TV that the week before, the cat had thrown up on his feet, and he didn’t notice until he got up during the commercial to get a beer! While she was telling this story, he reached over and gently took her hand and held it the rest of the time.

    Dr. Laura commented after that she noticed his loving gesture, so they must have SOME kind of communication going. The wife replied, “Well, we agreed before we came here that if he thought I was talking too much, he would reach over and take my hand.” So we were seeing manipulation, not love. He wasn’t demonstrating affection — he just wanted her to shut up.

    I am surprised that these women were even allowed to be present during this conversation. Debi talks about Lydia straightening her hair after her husband touched her. Maybe when he put his arm around her, he laid it on her hair and it restricted the movement of her head. Maybe her hair got tangled in his watch. But if he was sulking and “humiliated” after being rejected, he was simply trying to show off by pawing her publicly: “Look at my beautiful property, everyone! It’s all mine!” And maybe she had enough self-awareness to silently call him on his BS and push him away.

    One moment, these men are so strong, wonderful and wise that they are they only people in the room allowed to speak. The next minute, they are so fragile that any sort of negativity coming from a spouse sends them into a tailspin. What kind of men are they?

    • Alice

      In fact, I have heard fundies use this as an argument for why couples shouldn’t hold hands before marriage (Oh, the horror of impure hands!). They say that holding hands is a symbol of being “off the market,” and since you’re not married, you can’t communicate that the person belongs to you and is forever off-limits to everyone else. Referring to people as goods for sale is a bit objectifying, although common in mainstream culture as well.

      • Whirlwitch

        Wait, wait , wait. I thought your One True Spouse was God-Given and specially designated from the moment of conception. So according to their own damned doctrine, as soon as you (or your father) identify someone as The Spouse God Has Chosen For You, they are indeed off the market, marriage or no. Or rather, they always have been off the market to everyone but you, but now you know.

        Or is consistency unBiblical?

      • Alice

        Interesting, I never thought about that in connection to all the overzealous rules. However, I’ve discovered recently that the idea of “soulmates” is very controversial among fundamentalists. Some believe very strongly in it, while others say, “Compatibility is a concept invented by divorce lawyers, and “soulmates” were invented by adulterers. All marriages are hard work. Any two Christian people of the opposite sex can have a Godly marriage if they are strong Christians, work hard, have patience, behave selflessly, etc.”

        I think the strong complementarians like Debi do not believe in soulmates because if the wife has to obey everything the husband wants in every area of life without question or argument, then there’s little need for compatibility. Because they want to marry people off as young as possible, it’s a way to reassure those couples they’re not missing out on a better match by jumping into marriage ASAP.

        Also, in cases where the father has to approve of the marriage or (rarely) arrange the marriage, this belief means she can’t protest with, “But you have to let us marry, we’re soulmates!” or “Please don’t make me marry him. We have nothing in common!”

        Fundamentalists who believe in “soft” complementarianism (wife and husband are a team and can disagree, but the husband is still the leader) are more likely to believe in compatibility and / or soulmates.

        I think those who believe in soul mates would say in response to your question, “Even if you feel this way, you can’t be 100% sure this person is your soulmate. Your relationship could still end, so you shouldn’t hold hands until making eternal vows.” Or they would argue it’s sinful to hold hands before marriage, just like the couple would be condemned for premarital sex even if they were 100% positive they were soulmates.

        I personally don’t believe in soul mates or complementarianism, but I do think compatibility is real and very important.

      • Alice

        Also, there are different definitions of “soul mates” which makes the discussion a lot more confusing. A lot of fundamentalists believe God has a plan for everyone to marry a specific person and will bring the two of you together, but far fewer believe that God painstakingly created and molded both of you so you are perfect for each other and no one else. The former is more arbitrary: that God /could/ have grouped you with other people, but he didn’t, for mysterious reasons. Just like some people believe God has called them to a certain profession even though they would fit just as well in a variety of professions.

        It’s the cliche Christian conundrum between free will and predestination.

      • Sally

        Interestingly, in one of Debi’s Youtube videos, she says the young woman needs to ask the young man tough questions and hash out issues while they’re courting, because once they’re married, she can no longer do so. And if she doesn’t like the answers, she should move on. This implies that in Debi’s worldview, the young woman does have a chance to at least try and make sure she’s compatible with her husband.
        Of course the idea that the woman can speak her mind when she’s, what 19 years old, and then never again (except for the magical “appeal” we’ll be getting to in the book at some point) after the wedding ceremony for the next 60 years is ridiculous.

      • Alice

        Thanks, I realized after writing that I wasn’t sure what she thinks. I had the impression she doesn’t believe in compatibility after the chapter that talked about male personality types but no female ones. But it’s hard to tell from this book since it’s written for married women.

  • grindstone

    I apologize , but this needs said: if I go to all the trouble to pretty up and come to the meeting of great manly minds and sit silently while you discuss great manly things while I watch adoringly from the sidelines, have the common courtesy to not muss my fucking hair.

    • KristinC

      That was the point I was just getting ready to make! Perhaps Debi was accurately reading the situation and “Lydia” really was simply annoyed at her husband because his action threatened to mess up her hair. Who, in Lydia’s place, wouldn’t be, if you lived in an environment that assessed your inherent worth by how well you can be a trophy wife for your husband?

    • Semipermeable

      This, exactly.

      In addition, if the wife had cuddled closer to her husband in response to him and acted ‘overly affectionate’ or heaven forbid in a sexual manner, then she also would have been criticized as being needy and letting her ‘wontoness’ distract the other men. And if that affection mussed up her hair? Debbi would have found a way to criticize her for failing to present a polished, professional image for her husband.

      There is no way for any of these women to win here.

      This whole episode is just so drummed up. She didn’t want him to mess up her hair so she damaged his ‘honor’? Seriously? How do any of these people function in the real world?

  • Abby Normal

    The more I read these summaries, the more I think that there needs to be a sci-fi story where there’s a whole society based on these instructions but with the genders switched. Yeah, I know Star Trek tried to do it but it didn’t really work well.

    • Hth

      I don’t think things like that influence these “complementarian” sorts. Those kind of startling-fictional-reversals are meant to demonstrate that a situation is not as fair or equal as we might imagine by suggesting to a privileged audience the question “would you think this was fair if it were happening to you?” The whole point of complementarianism is that *of course* the rules are different for men and for women. Reversing it would just seem pointlessly absurd to them: men weren’t created to serve, women are.

      They also already think that domination is necessary, and the only possibly question is who is going to rule over whom. God says men over women; ugly feminists and their ugly feminist “science fiction” say women over men, and that is wrong and anti-God. People like Libby who work so hard to dismantle the assumption that relationships are inevitably about domination in the first place are doing the much harder and more useful work.

      • Alice

        Yeah, I think matriarchal sci-fi would just make those people more paranoid and dogmatic. I know many alternate universe refugees who truly believe our society already is or is fast approaching a place where women rule with an iron fist and men are helpless slaves. They cannot fathom the idea of equality.

      • Abby Normal

        Oh, I know it wouldn’t have any effect on these people–the only fiction available to them seems to be Left Behind books and Amish romance novels, it seems.

        I just thought it would make for an interesting story if done by the right author.

      • Japooh

        Sherri (Sheri?) S Tepper wrote one somewhat like you describe called “The Gate To Women’ Country”. It could stand alone as a novel but I found it more interesting as a social commentary, if one is inclined to read it that way.

  • onamission5

    So apparently it never crossed Debi’s mind that maybe Lydia was at the meeting against her will, or that her husband put his arm around her to emphasize a point that was brought up in discussion that he knew she didn’t like, or because he’s irrationally jealous of one of the other dudes at the meeting and was claiming his property? All of those are, IME, equally if not more likely in such a scenario than Lydia “chastising” her husband for vanity’s sake.

  • Susanna

    Did anyone else notice this little tidbit…..
    The men sat in a circle, with their wives sitting beside or right behind them.

    Seriously – the men are in a circle, and at least some of the women are OUTSIDE the circle, BEHIND their husbands?! Not even allowed to sit BESIDE their husbands and thus be a part of the circle?????

    – Susanna

    • Kathleen Margaret Schwab

      I noticed. It was weird. Some were inside, some were outside? Were the bad ones on the outside?

  • luna

    Just wanted to share this with you and your readers: https://www.facebook.com/NPR/posts/10151858349191756

  • The_L1985

    I’m not sure what to think that this is the first thing I thought of when Debi mentions wanting to shake “Lydia…”

    We’ve talked into the early hours, we’ve talked the action through,
    Talked through the scenes where all you say is “I can’t be with you,”
    Then I see you in his arms and watch you set that pattern true
    I want to slap your face and shake you–but then that’s what he would do

    [...]

    I’d like to see you blossom; I’d like to see you thrive;
    I’d like to see you take control of you and live your own good life;
    I’d like to see your grieving stop and catch some smile in your eye
    I’d like to see you in ten years or so–that is, if you survive his kind of love

    –Christopher Bingham, “Cooling His Fire”

  • Abby Normal

    Maybe it’s just me, but public PDAs like that strike me as more of a “teenager” thing. I mean, when my husband and I were dating in college we were hanging onto each other all the time, but we just don’t do that as much now that we’re married. It’s not that we’re less in love or he’s less romantic–it’s just that we’re comfortable enough around each other that we don’t need to “prove” our love out in public all the time.

    Oh, and people that randomly sneak up and give back rubs freak me the hell out.

    • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

      Might be just you.

      I am a very touch-oriented person, and am constantly doing mini PDAs. It’s not because I need to show off to people; it’s just because I really really like holding hands, really don’t like small talk, and really like the tiny bits of reassurance I can get by holding hands with my fiance when I’m trying to last through a long period of small talk.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        I like leaning back into my partner. I’ll also do this to close friends, depending on comfort level. Then again, I’ll also give gentle headbonks, slow-blinks, and do the chirpy-meows, so…

      • Conuly

        You’re a cat!!!

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        Furry, but… yes.

      • The_L1985

        Mew! :3

    • sylvia_rachel

      I would agree with you on stuff like public necking, but my spouse and I hold hands or put an arm around each other’s shoulder/waist all the time. My ILs used to make fun of us, but they seem to have moved on finally (we started dating almost 21 years ago and have been married for almost 16 years).

      So, the Charles/Lydia situation doesn’t seem too wacky to me. But everyone’s different!

    • Mogg

      That seems reasonable. Any unawares invasion of body space is freaky.

  • smrnda

    “A man’s ego is a fragile thing.”

    That seems like *his problem* to me. If this guy is so hyper-sensitive, he needs therapy.

    It seems like a lot of conservative Christians don’t really demand that men mature, grow up, and be adults – they seem to take adult men who are more like 10 year old boys as normal, which really shows low standards for men.

    • Japooh

      Thank you for bringing this up. The thought that I keep having when reading these posts is that Debi (and seemingly the entire purity culture in general) has a really low opinion of men. That awful attitude (whenever it took hold for a group) just feeds itself by repetition, and the next generation of males raised in that perspective are at risk to become just as shallow, insecure, and superficial as the movement tells them they are – that’s a recipe to create a Michael Pearl clone. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • Monala

    Speak for your own man, Debi. My Sean’s ego is not at all that fragile. But then, my Sean is a mature adult. Love it!!

    I’m glad you shared about having personal touch issues, because (as a touchy-feely person myself) that wouldn’t have occurred to me. Instead, i would have thought that Charles and Lydia had had a fight earlier, and he had either forgotten or was putting his arm around her as a peace gesture, and she wasn’t yet ready for it. Charles’ response to her rejection would then mean that he’s feeling bad that they’re still at odds.

    And I wouldn’t feel disdain for either of them, but probably sympathy, since I have had occasions when I have had to be someplace public but my spouse and I haven’t yet worked out some conflict. It happens, but it’s not a comfortable space to be in.

  • Anna Y

    Ugh, I hate to say even one word in Debbie’s defense, but I think I’ve got to.
    Just as you read what happened between Lydia and Charles and immediately related to Lydia, I was immediately appalled.
    You see, touch has a very high importance and significance to me. It’s not that I want to get hugs from every stranger I meet, but once I designate someone as a person who is welcome in my personal space, physical affection is always very welcome from them. My spouse or significant other would absolutely be in this category. Something has to go very wrong between us: I have to be very angry or frightened of them for this to stop being the case.

    Moreover, touch is my “love language”: this is a very visceral thing that communicates to my emotions faster than I can consciously analyze and override it. So if my significant other were to reject my touch, whether in public or in private, the effect of the gesture would, to me, be equivalent to being slapped. Yes, I realize there’s a difference, with different boundaries and violations being involved. Yes, I’m capable of consciously reconciling myself to such an event, at least to some degree, and acting reasonably in the situation. But the immediate visceral emotional reaction would be shock/hurt/disbelief, because my significant other has just non-verbally told me that he/she hates me or is terrified of me. It doesn’t really matter if they meant something entirely different, like “I don’t feel like being touched right now” or “you startled me” or “I’m a little uncomfortable with this p.d.a.”, because in my language that means something entirely different, and it takes many conscious steps to persuade the part of me that reacts immediately, before thinking, that there can be many interpretations to the gesture, and I shouldn’t jump to conclusions.

    Just to venture a theory… maybe Debbie feels about touch the same way I do, but is much less inclined to allow for alternative interpretations of anything she observes? She clearly takes things way too far in extrapolating this episode (however it’s interpreted) to Lydia and Charles’ entire relationship (but then, that’s kind of her trademark in this book, so not unexpected).

    I do still think Debbie’s message is abhorrent. But just as you elucidated something to me a moment ago (that, apparently, not everyone always feels comfortable being touched even by “designated safe” individuals), I feel the need to provide an alternative explanation for Debbie’s extreme reaction to her observation.

    • J-Rex

      I can see that. My boyfriend and I both really like physical touch and I would be pretty hurt if my boyfriend rejected me without explanation. If I reject his touch, I specify that I’m achy or now’s not the time, or whatever the reason is. Then again, me and my boyfriend already know this about each other so there’s never really a problem there.
      Maybe Charles and Lydia don’t understand each other’s love languages. Maybe Lydia was uncomfortable and it never occurred to her that Charles took offense. Most likely, Debbie is exaggerating the story and mistaking Charles’ disappointment or concern over whether his wife is feeling okay for humiliation.

    • Sophie

      It has been my experience that it can vary dramatically person to person, how a person feels about being touched. And that those feelings can change throughout a person’s life. I used to be like you, I was a very physically affectionate person and even just touching hands with my partner was very emotionally charged. I got a lot of reassurance from contact. But then I developed chronic back pain and became disabled by it, and I like to be touched a lot less because it often hurts me. So now I only accept hugs from people who know how not to hurt me. Being in a wheelchair means I can’t hold my partner’s hand when we are out, now I brush my hand against his when I want that reassurance.

      So my point is it varies so much from person to person, that Debi’s interpretation just doesn’t work because she can’t know what every person in that room thought. Some of them might have agreed with her but others might have been appalled at Charles’ behaviour not Lydia’s! Maybe everyone was uncomfortable because they thought he was being inappropriate.

      • NeaDods

        Debi’s interpretation just doesn’t work because she can’t know what every person in that room thought.

        She certainly likes to think she does, though. This is far from the first time she has outright says that what SHE thinks is what EVERYONE thinks, giving her the authority to speak for the crowd – and the crowd the authority to shun those she disagrees with. She likes to talk for “everyone” even more than she talks for Mi – I mean, God.

      • Guest

        Oh, I know, it’s insane how she tells us what every person there is thinking and feeling (and somehow, they all agree with her).

    • Sally

      I can imagine the scene in such a way that Lydia makes quite a scene with her rebuffing of her husband’s arm and that it could make even “regular” people uncomfortable. But I think the problem is in what Debi does with this scene. Rather than offering to help the woman privately, and ask with sincere concern what is bothering her, she uses this scene to reinforce her bizarre rules about men and women. If she had talked to Lydia later (if she were a kind person whom the Lydia could trust with her feelings), she might have found out it was nothing, or she might have found out it was something that Lydia needed to be encouraged to discuss with her husband privately. Debi might have been right to counsel Lydia not to make a scene (again, depending on whether this really was a nasty scene or just nothing) *because it makes the other people in the room uncomfortable* and to work these things out by communicating with her husband privately. But we already know that in Debi’s world, that’s not an option.
      Just to illustrate my point about it possibly being something Lydia shouldn’t have done, my son’s girlfriend (both young teens) has a tendency to get into very personal discussions with her mom at the door when her mom is picking her up. It’s totally inappropriate, and makes me (and anyone else in the room) uncomfortable. It’s not that they shouldn’t discuss this at all, it’s that they should discuss it privately. If I were mentoring them (which I’m not), I would advise them to communicate, but to do so without everyone else standing there.
      So I agree that it may have been a big deal what Lydia did even to regular people, but Debi does all the wrong things with it.

  • Saraquill

    I’m autistic, and my skin can be really sensitive. Some touches are enough to make me scream or get PTSD like flashbacks. If I get an unpleasant touch, I will not sit there and take take it. Anyone who treats me as a bad person for defending myself gets my wrath.

    • Liz

      Oh yes! I have really strict personal boundaries and it makes me absolutely furious when people don’t respect them. I cannot fathom a reason why anyone should *not* be entitled to their boundaries.

  • sylvia_rachel

    I wrote a whole comment and the computer ate it :(

    The gist of it was, I’m a very tactile person — I was that one mum in the new mums’ group who *didn’t* feel “touched out” despite having The Amazing 24/7 Velcro Baby — and have had to learn by experience that not everyone is. My spouse is normally totally down with the high-touch lifestyle, but he suffers from clinical depression and there are times when he just does. not. feel like being hugged, back-rubbed, snuggled with, etc. So sometimes I have to suck it up, and understand that he’s not rejecting *me* and that things will go back to normal soon. Because that’s the grown-up thing to do.

    Debi really does seem to think that all men are three years old inside. Sheesh.

  • Kathleen Margaret Schwab

    Rapey is the right word.
    I once read a book about the mindset of rapists, and it sounded disturbingly like Debi’s whole rant. I really think this is why Debi’s opening description is that Lydia was very attractive. There she is, just incredibly attractive, until he can’t stand it and just has to touch her, and then she crushes him with her magical attractiveness baton which is capable of stealing his ability to function.
    Of course this results in fury! What’s interesting is that it is Debi’s fury, not the husband’s – I personally think Debi has internalized rape culture to the extent that she oozes it from every pore into every situation. Debi’s so angry at Lydia that she needs to call the whole room’s hatred & distain onto her. (And that is a communication pattern of the deeply insecure. An insecure person can’t simply say, “I thought’ or “I felt” – she has to claim that a whole roomful of people thought and felt these things.)
    Debi’s need to punish Lydia is downright creepy. Again with the rapey thing.

  • sceptinurse

    You could have called her ofCharles. I’m surprised that Debi doesn’t go by ofMichael.

    • NeaDods

      But then Debi wouldn’t be able to tell herself that she’s still a strong, independent person, *really.*

  • Jurgan

    “To reverence is an active verb.”

    Okay, I know it’s beside the point, but I have to get this out: How is “reverence” a verb at all? Isn’t the verb form “revere?” Dictionary.com says it can be a verb, but it just seems gramatically wrong, and makes me cringe every time I read it.

    • Lucreza Borgia

      It’s an archaic usage, but still a valid verb.

      • The_L1985

        Just like “curtsey” used to be spelled “courtesy.” As a verb.

    • Cathy W

      I always understood it to mean the physical act of bowing – the image in my head is “on the knees face to the floor, wait until the person being reverenced says you can look at something other than tile”, as though one is being graciously admitted to the presence of the God-Emperor. “Revere” refers more to an emotional attitude – to hold in respect/admiration.

      I think it’s just one more of those things where some Christian subcultures do not use words – possibly intentionally – with the same meaning as mainstream culture. Also coming to mind: “defraud”, “prosper”.

    • Sally

      “…but it just seems gramatically wrong, and makes me cringe every time I read it.”
      I think that’s the point. By accepting the term (in order to avoid the cringe feeling), you begin to buy into this secret better life denoted by archaic words used in this secret life. It’s also a quick way to know who’s in and who’s out. If you hear people using the word help meet and reverence the way Debi does, you know instantly that you’re like-minded.

      • Conuly

        And people do that ALL THE TIME. Use of a particular jargon to indicate in-group status is… Well, it’s just part of speaking, and everybody does it.

        Every time you’re with your friends and one of you cracks a joke about another person using a special nickname only you use, that’s the same thing. Every time you’re talking in your family and you use a special word that your sister used when she was two and couldn’t say the normal word correctly, that’s the same thing. Every time you’re with a group of people of your profession and you refer to some object or task using the technical term instead of the laymans term, even though “cold” is just as accurate as “rhinitis”, that’s what you’re doing.

        It’s just that some of these groups are more respectable than others.

      • Squire Bramble

        Don’t forget 19th century “cant” used by the criminal underworld. If people don’t understand you they won’t know what you’re up to.

      • smrnda

        I think the difference is that some people realize when they’re communicating with potential outsiders and they modify their language accordingly. After spending a lot of my life communicating with non-native speakers of English, it’s really changed what words I choose to use.

        Paolo Freire was a Brazilian educator who had a lot of interesting things to say about language use, sounded like someone you’d either be familiar with already or would like to read .

      • Conuly

        Yeeeeeess… But in the quoted case, Debi isn’t talking with outsiders. She has no need to codeswitch, and doing so wouldn’t help her, ahem, credibility.

      • wanderer

        It’s also an indicator of a cult or cult-like mentality to have words that are loaded with special meaning.

      • Conuly

        It can be, yes, but everybody does it. It is pretty inescapable.

      • The_L1985

        Only if those words are used to control you, which in Debi’s case is definitely what’s going on.

      • Sally

        I am fully aware that everyone does some form of this. The term jargon is not “jargon” to me. :)
        Debi is making up a new field of expertise, we could say. By using these archaic words not used previously among fundies, she’s setting herself up as the originator of this new field. That’s what I mean when I say secret words being part of this secret, superior lifestyle.
        Many of these Debi threads have a comment about the weird words used by Debi, almost as if those words indicate she’s kinda out of it, or dumb to use them the way she does. My comments in this and those other threads are to say she’s not dumb at all; she’s very clever.

    • Conuly

      There are hundreds of millions of people who speak English as a first language, and many many more who speak it as a second language.

      It’s really asking a lot to expect them all to use words the same way you do. Reverence is a verb because it is used as a verb by at least some native speakers. Those speakers do not speak the same dialect (here I am using that as a gloss to include sociolects and the like as well) as you do. That’s all.

      If you say spigot where I say faucet, does that make one of us wrong? No? Well, this is the same thing.

  • persephone

    Been there. Mine was much more emotionally abusive and very careful in the physical abuse to not leave marks.

  • Ella Warnock

    Apropos of absolutely nothing, this reminds me of some pictures I saw of Russell Crow meeting his wife and kids at the airport. He was all over her, but her body language showed that she was v-e-r-y uncomfortable and just not into it at all. I thought that he might have seen the paparazzi and decided to put on a lovey-dovey show for them, and for whatever reason, she wasn’t having any of it. It wasn’t too long after that that they announced they were separating. No s*@t, said I.

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