Forbid Them Not: The Proposal

Forbid Them Not: The Proposal November 23, 2018

Forbid Them Not, pp. 341-353

Guess what? It’s the Fourth of July, and Deanna is hosting!

She had insisted on returning home, even though her parents begged her to stay awhile in Richmond. The UN was not going to spoil her Fourth of July traditional barbecue.

You don’t skip one of Deanna’s barbecues.

Deanna had invited a crowd—nearly a hundred people were expected. Church friends, neighbors, families from Little League, and others who had supported them in prayer over the past months—few turned down her invitation. For Cooper it was a no-brainer. He knew better than to cross Deanna Thomas once she had made up her mind.

Oh lord.

Women, amirite?

Rick and Cooper take Rick and Deanna’s kids to the Fourth of July parade in the morning while Deanna stays home and cooks. Afterward, Rick and Cooper return to Rick and Deanna’s to help set up chairs, etc.

Cooper joined Rick in helping to set up folding chairs rented from Leesburg in a big, double semicircle flanking the back deck. Deanna had asked a family from the church, Steve and Trish Domenech and their eight kids, to play some of their great bluegrass music and to lead the crowd in a few hymns and patriotic songs.

Oh dear. Did they all wear matching dresses?

Deanna was intent on creating  an atmosphere of unadulterated American patriotism.

Of course she was.

Everyone wants to talk about the case, which means Cooper is in high demand. Farris tells us that he has trouble finding time to eat his own food, because people keep him answering questions.

Well, most people.

Cooper was only able to eat when self-appointed expert Belinda Spriggs, who lived on the edge of Purcellville and who had run unsuccessfully for the town council in 1977, began to pontificate on the dangers of the UN. She may have been a bit quirky, but Cooper thought she was extraordinarily well-informed and accurate in her analysis.

Ten bucks says she was a Bircher.

But lo! What yonder doth await?

The noise and vigor was sufficient to allow a taxi to come up the driveway and drop off a single female passenger without anyone noticing.

She went inside the front door when no one answered the bell. She called out. No one answered. She set her suitcase down in the foyer and headed through the kitchen to the backdoor.

Much suspense! Who could this female stranger be?

Our stranger quietly finds her way outside where the Domeneches are performing, to the adulation of the crowd. The Domenches end their performance and invite Cooper up to offer him “a little present from all of us to thank him for his great work in Richmond.” They give him “a life-sized bronze-colored bust of Patrick Henry.” No, really. That’s what they give him.

“We wanted to give Cooper this reminder of the great orator of the American Revolution, as a token of our thanks for the sacrificial work Cooper has done for all of us.”

Quick reminder—Cooper is getting paid for his work.

They call Cooper up to “say a word.”

Amidst an enthusiastic standing ovation, Cooper walked to the microphone. “Wow, with all that applause, maybe I should announce my candidacy for some office,” Cooper said, with a big smile.

Another big cheer arose with shouts of “Cooper for President” laced through the noise. “I am too young to be president,” Cooper laughed.

This guy’s ego knows no bounds.

Cooper says some words. But what we really want to know, of course, is who the woman is—the one who let herself in and came through an empty house to emerge in the middle of the Domeneches’ performance. Is it Laura? Or Jody? We’re on the edge of our seats!

Cooper spots her.

“Laura! I thought you were in Florida!”

“I was until earlier today. I just landed at Dulles less than an hour ago. Deanna begged me to come to her party, and you know how insistent she is. She wanted everyone here who had helped her.”

I mean jee golly, you know Deanna. You just can’t say no to her!

It comes out, by the way, that Laura left her car in Florida, and she’s headed straight back there—see, Rick sent her a plane ticket, and that’s why she’s back. Because, you know. Deanna. 

Cooper has troubles finding words, but no worries! Laura can speak without words. This is how she communicates when Cooper awkwardly asks if she’d like to go for a walk:

Laura nodded and smiled in a way that told Cooper there were some issues on this beautiful young woman’s mind.

Such powerful communication skills!

Cooper does eventually find words.

“I think it has been pretty clear for a long time that I have been interested in you—really interested, it would be fair to say. But, you were reserved about everything—for an obvious reason named Terry.”

She nodded her head in acknowledgement. “And I tried to honor the loyalty you showed to him, even though my feelings toward you were increasing just about every time I saw you.”

She nodded affirmatively once again. “Yes, you were pretty good about trying to at least say the right things. But I could still tell.”

So much nodding.

Cooper asks whether Laura’s engagement with Terry is really off, or if they’re still together. Laura says Terry thinks they’re still together. Cooper wants to know her true feelings.

“You have never really said how you feel about me.”

Laura stopped walking … She reached out and took Cooper’s hand in both of hers. “Just look at me, Cooper Stone. Look into my eyes. If you can’t see the answer to your question, then you are not the man I have thought you to be.”

What the hell is this? Read my mind, Cooper Stone. I only marry fellow telepaths. 

Cooper sensed that this moment was an opportunity for truth, and anything but looking was out of the question. He lowered his eyes after a few seconds, to temper his emotions that had become to race out of control.

He sighed deeply and let go of her left hand, while maintaining his grip on her right hand with his left. “I think I see,” he said, with a smile that bubbled up from deep within his soul.

Apparently regular old verbal communication is not romantic enough. Or something?

Cooper asks Laura why she hasn’t told Terry it’s permanently over, if that’s how she feels about him. Laura asks Cooper why there are photos of him kissing Jody, if he truly feels so much for her. Boom. Cooper says he thought Rick explained it for her—not a good look, Cooper. Laura says she wants to hear it from him. 

So then we get this weird speech:

“First, most clearly, I was disloyal to Rick and Deanna and the Garvises by doing anything at all with someone associated with the other side of the case. That was mental disloyalty to them. It should have been obvious to me and I blew it.”

I’ve heard it said that conservatives view the world in terms of loyalty, and liberals view it in terms of fairness. That’s the only way I can really understand the emphasis on “disloyalty” here. I’m pretty sure there’s an entirely different rhetoric focused on ethics that should be used here instead.

He goes on:

“But I was also disloyal in my heart not just in my head. Even though you were engaged to Terry, I had given my heart to you.”

Wait wait. This is fascinating. So if you give your heart to, say, a married woman, and then you go on a date with a single woman you might actually marry, you are cheating on that married woman. This is utterly fascinating and completely messed up.

Cooper acknowledges that he should never have given his heart to Laura, given that she was seeing someone else:

“I know that is crazy and in some ways wrong. … Even though I haven’t lived this way all my life, I have come to believe that I shouldn’t date or pursue or kiss any woman unless I view her as someone I might marry.”

Laura asks the obvious:

“So why did you give your heart to me when you knew I was not free to return your love?”

Cooper sighed. “I guess I shouldn’t have. From early on I have been seriously interested in you. There was just this huge roadblock in the way.”

Let’s pause here for a moment. Both Cooper and Laura are using this “giving your heart away” rhetoric as though they’re on the same page, but I’m fairly certain this rhetoric isn’t so very well used outside of their subculture. And frankly, the entire concept feels off to me.

Love is not finite. You can love many different people in many different ways. “Giving your heart away” is proxy for falling in love. Or really, in this case, infatuation, because Cooper doesn’t really know Laura. They only met a few months ago, and I can count the number of times they’ve actually spent any amount of time together on one hand—and all of it has been in the context of this case.

Laura muses on how quickly Cooper was ready to commit to her, when Terry couldn’t commit even after they’d been together for seven years. Cooper uses this as a segue into his own history. As he explained once previously, he was engaged to marry his high school sweetheart sometime before this, but she broke it off right before the wedding, and that was devastating.

“I can’t really explain all that emotionally. But what I can tell you is that I wish I had waited until I was much older before I gave my heart away.”

I’ve said before that it felt as though Farris was issuing a critique fo Josh Harris’s I Kissed Dating Goodbye, which was published only a few years before Farris wrote this book, but now I’m not quite so sure. Yes, Farris writes a story with two characters who began dating in high school, “gave their hearts away,” and ultimately saw those relationships tank. But he doesn’t actually seem critical of the “giving your heart away” nonsense. He just seems critical of early dating.

“Everyone tells you to start dating so young. My friends thought I was an idiot because I waited until I was in high school. But with every date, you give away a little of your heart. And when you go through a longtime early love and it goes sour, you not only give away a piece of your heart, you send it through a shredder. And I just think I have learned the hard way that people shouldn’t date except at an age and with a person where they both are seriously contemplating marriage.”

Farris actually makes an appearance in I Kissed Dating Goodbye. His daughter Christi had gotten close to another homeschooled teen, and the two had started a sort of pseudo-relationship. When Farris found out he ordered them to break it off, to go their separate ways, because they were too young. Several years later, when Christi is partway through college, Farris gives her permission to reconnect with her former love interest, and eventually, they marry. The moral of the story, maybe, is that if it’s actually meant to be, waiting until you’re more mature won’t change that.

Cooper asks if Laura would have picked him or Terry, if she’d met both now. She says Terry. Cooper says he asked himself the same thing—whether he would pick her or his old fiancé, if he had met both of them now—and that he definitely would have picked her. Cooper says that asking himself that question made him feel “liberated from the past.” The question is, which person fits the person I am today? So the moral is, maybe, don’t date until you’ve figured out who you are.

“Don’t date until you’re ready to marry” was one of the cornerstones of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, though. So really, this book doesn’t challenge anything Harris said, except to suggest that leaving your high schools sweetheart for someone else and thereby losing part of your heart, forever, is better than staying with someone you clearly aren’t suited for, even if you’ve already given them part of your heart. And that is perhaps better than the alternative.

Anyway, next we get this doozy:

“I was just too immature to understand all of what was at stake when I was in high school, but no one helped me build fences around my emotions and told me to stay emotionally pure. I got all the standard lectures about being physically pure, and I was, at least from the world’s standpoint. But, oh, man, it’s just such a crazy system that encourages us to let kids give away their hearts when they still have braces on their teeth.”

“That makes a lot of sense, Cooper,” Laura replied softly. She smiled. “Can’t we sue someone in Christian leadership for malpractice for not telling us any of this stuff? Why would we think that the world’s system of dating is God’s way?”

“If I knew who to sue, I would do it for you, my dear.”


I … just … wow.

I know a whole lot of ex-evangelicals who would love to know who they can sue, for the destructive results of the exact teachings Farris endorses here. My god. Farris wishes he’d gotten lectures about being emotionally pure, and not just about being physically pure, but those exact lectures have screwed over so many evangelical young people … reading this is like entering crazy land.

“Laura, this may break all speed records of all time. But I love you with all of my heart, and I know I want to marry you. Will you be my wife?”

Yeah. That happened.

“I love you too, Cooper. I think you are simply amazing. There is no question that God has made you to be a perfect fit for the person he has made me to be. But I am not ready to say yes to you.”

She let him agonize for only a moment before adding, “But if you were to ask me a different question, say, like, um … ‘Can I call your father and ask his permission?’ Then I would say yes in a heartbeat, and to get Daddy on the line even punch the numbers on that cell phone you have in your pocket.”

Yeah, that also happened. She’s a grown-ass adult, and her father doesn’t even know Cooper—they’ve never even met—but somehow, inexplicably, he gets to make the decision anyway!

They both laughed and he swept her into his arms and just held her for a long time. The pulled back to gaze in each other’s eyes. A kiss was inevitable. When it came, it was strong and passionate and pure.”

I mean this does suggest that Farris doesn’t see kissing before marriage as wrong, despite the strong suggestion in I Kissed Dating Goodbye that the best most godliest people save the first kiss for the altar.

Let’s review. Cooper and Jody met on April 19th. Cooper told Peter that he was in love with Laura on May 19th. Laura got engaged to Terry on May 20th. Peter kissed Jody in New York City on May 27th. On June 23rd, Deanna told Laura that Terry had been leaking information about the case to the press. On June 27th, Cooper received a letter in the mail from Laura stating that she had broken off her engagement with Terry and gone to Florida to stay with her parents.

It is now July 4th. It has been two weeks since Laura broke off her engagement with Terry. It has been just over two months since Laura first met Cooper. And now they’re engaged.

Cooper and Laura have never known each other outside of the high-stress environment of the court case they’re involved in together. They don’t know each other’s normals. They don’t know each other’s preferences. As far as I can see, the only time they’ve been in each other’s presences for something other than a hearing is for two or three case-related dinners at Rick and Deanna’s—and for at least one of those, Terry was present as well.

Getting engaged after two months of dating would be hurried, and these two haven’t even been dating. This is beyond fast.

Take a breather, Laura. You still need to figure out who you are, apart from Terry. Without him in your life, is there something she would change? Maybe a move she wanted to make but Terry opposed? There are so many areas where our choices are influenced by our significant other—and for good reason. She hasn’t been without Terry since high school. 

So there you have it. They’re engaged.

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