Forbid Them Not: The Media Circus and the Marital Interview

Forbid Them Not: The Media Circus and the Marital Interview December 7, 2018

Forbid Them Not, pp. 374-397

Laura is upset. She watched the Politics and Hollywood segment, and it upset her. She watched it at her parents’ home, in Florida. That didn’t help.

It had been hard to see them sitting next to each other. She had died a thousand deaths when Jody Easler told the world that she had tried to engage Cooper romantically, and had indeed managed to get him to kiss her. It was even harder to watch the obvious admiration that Cooper had expressed when Jody resigned from her ambassadorship. … Her parents expressed words of understanding for Coopers’ actions although it was obvious that her father was a little perturbed over the scene.

Laura really should take some time before jumping into things with Cooper. She’s fresh off her own long-term relationship, and there’s all this with Cooper to deal with too. The fact that Laura doesn’t seem to completely trust Cooper, too, is concerning. If she can’t wait to be with him, perhaps she can wait a bit before getting engaged, and just date him?

She spent a fitful night imagining Cooper and Jody in the same hotel, albeit on different floors. There was nothing in his words or his tone that gave her any objective reason for worry, but she concluded that objectivity wasn’t the only way to look at a situation.

So healthy, this relationship.  

Nothing in that night of fitful sleep and worry prepared her for the morning. There on the front page of the paper lying on her parents’ doorstep was the photo of Cooper and Jody kissing in front of the New York hotel. Worse yet—if it could be any worse—CNN news kept running clips fo Easler’s on-air resignation, punctuated with regular doses of the New York photo. The media spin—fed by the backroom whispers of Kadar and her allies in the White House and Senate—was that Easler had changed her political position because she had fallen hard for the handsome young lawyer.

Wait. Kadar has allies in the White House and Senate?

The current chair of the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child is Renate Winters of Austria. She serves as a member of the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court of Sierra Leone, an international criminal court tasked with making judgments on crimes committed in Sierra Leone during its civil war in the 1990s. Before this, she adjudicated war crimes in Kosovo, and before this, she was a judge at the Vienna Youth Court.

The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child currently has four vice-chairmen: Suzanne Aho Assouma of Togo, who previously served as Togo’s Minister of Health, and is currently the Vice Mayor of the town council of Lomé, a city of 800,000 people; Olga A. Khazova of Russia, who is a professor of family law at the Russian Academy of Sciences; Clarence Nelson of Samoa, who serves on that nation’s Supreme Court; and Jose Angel Rodriguez Reyes of Venezuela, is an advisor to the National Autonomous Institute Rights of Children and Adolescents in Venezuela.

Farris has seriously inflated the influence, importance, and reach of the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child. Its members are not typically people with significant connections or influence outside of their home countries (or outside of their areas of expertise). Furthermore, its members do not serve on the committee full time, typically retaining jobs and positions in their home countries. These are not people with serious international cache.

Anyway, Laura even gets a call from Nancy, Cooper’s secretary, asking her to tell Cooper, when she picks him up at the airport, that “eighteen newspaper reporters, all four television networks, nine radio programs, and the National Enquirer” all wanted interviews. Butting Laura in the middle of this, even as a message bearer, seems in bad taste. Nancy really had no other way to get this information to Cooper?

Laura spoke kindly to Nancy and promised to deliver the message, but what she really wanted was to be delivered from the enveloping horror of living inside a media romance scandal.

Then, maybe, don’t start dating a guy who is in the middle of a national sexual scandal? Just a thought! To her credit, at this point she starts to freak out and wonder if she made a mistake. Her parents drive to the airport with her in the back seat, to pick up Cooper. Guess who else shows up? Reporters, and lots of them! And television crews!

When Cooper gets off the plane he’s mobbed. He wards off the microphones, hightails it to Laura, and puts his arm around her. This is all captured on camera, of course.

“So, Mr. Stone, a girl in every port? Is this your mode of operation?” the TV reporter said, with a smirk.

Something inside sent a message to Cooper’s right arm to smash the square jaw with a clenched fist. Fortunately, however, the desire to make a good impression on Laura’s family was stronger. “I have no idea what you are talking about,” Cooper replied, his arm still around Laura’s shoulder. The flashes continued to burst intermittently.

Laura is being used as a prop. She was not asked, or given a choice. With no thought for her whatsoever, Cooper put her right in the middle of the very media circus that’s making her so heartsick.

As reporters pepper him with questions, Cooper finally responds.

“There is no romantic relationship between Ambassador Easler and me. She was assigned to create one, but I refused. That is what she said on national television last night, as I am sure you know. I am here in Tampa to meet the family of a young woman I intend to marry. There is nothing, I repeat nothing, going on between me and the ambassador. Do I make myself clear?”

Cooper does not appear to have talked to Laura at all since the scene on Politics and Hollywood. He flew straight to Florida, where her family met him at the airport, assuming that nothing is changed. Now yes, Laura knew about what Cooper had done with Jody already. But, he wasn’t in the middle of a media circus when she said yes to him.

Anyway, Cooper lets a few reporters follow him asking questions about the case as he walks to the baggage claim with Laura while her parents go to pull up the car.

He tried to hold hands with Laura, but instead of warningly taking his hand, she seemed stiff and distant.

YOU DON’T SAY.

“All right, just one more question, and I really hope you don’t take offense at this. I am just trying to do my job. Can I ask who this young woman is at your side?”

She spoke very kindly and Cooper was inclined to answer her, but he wasn’t about to do so without Laura’s permission.

WTF? He already announced that she’s his fiance, and her face has been on the media enough times already—including Good Morning, America—that it’s odd that the reporter even has to ask. And now he realizes he should check with her?

“What do you want to do?” Cooper asked Laura.

“I want to get out of here,” she pleaded, looking at him with pain in her eyes.

“OK.” Cooper was so embarrassed that he had trouble looking directly at her.

So observant. What a catch. 

After a further whispered exchange, Cooper convinces her that he should be allowed to introduce her to the press. So he does. He only says her name, and doesn’t mention that she’s also involved in the case—and they somehow don’t catch on. They do have time to smirk at his statement that they’re not actually engaged, because they have to get her parents’ permission first. Farris isn’t big on the media.

On the drive home, Ed Frasier, Laura’s husband, asks if Cooper plays golf. And of course he does. He loves golf, he says! He’s just not all that good at it. Points for humility and self-deprecation!

“Laura, your young man is off to a good start,” [Ed] said, grinning at her in the rearview mirror.

Cool.

Ed was an avid golfer, and the fact that Terry hated to play golf was always a bit of a sore spot in that relationship.

Double cool.

Laura seems da little happier during dinner and the rest of the evening, but there ewes no real time for the two of them to be alone for longer than a few minutes at a time.

This is why insisting on constant chaperoning of courting couples gets in the way of a pair forming a solid relationship—without alone time, they can’t talk about a lot of things that actually matter. Like, in this case, the deal with Jody. Without alone time, you’re constantly performing for an audience. Like, in this case, Laura’s parents. 

At this point the scene changes. Randolph Suskins is having a meeting with Erzabet Kadar in an “elegant office tower”  overlooking the UN building in New York City.  Randolph tells Kadar that they are certain of four Supreme Court votes, but just as certain that four justices will vote against them, and that the remaining vote is unpredictable. In order to ensure their victory, they arrange to murder one of the court’s four conservative justices, who is in poor health anyway.

Yup, you read that right.

This book has gone so far off the deep end.

The next day, Ed and Cooper go golfing. Ed says they’re going to play a game: “on each tee I will ask you a difficult question that will determine my willingness to let you marry my daughter.” I mean. Okay? I guess?

“[H]ere’s your first question. What makes you think that Laura is the right one for you to marry?”

“[L]et me get the obvious things out of the way first. She is a Christian—and that’s essential. I think she’s gorgeous—”

“So do I,” interrupted her father. .

“She has a good heart toward others and wants to serve. I’ve watched how she has placed her own career at risk to help her friends Rick and Deanna. To tell you the truth, I first started falling for her when she came to help me with the paperwork for the case late one night.”

I get that this is the very least issue out of all of this, but Cooper fell for her that very first night at Rick and Deanna’s house. He spent the entire next day counting down to 5:30, when he could finally go by her place to pick up her notes from the Sunday school lesson again, because he wanted an excuse to see her again—and to ask her out.

So, what are Cooper’s reasons for believing Laura is the right one for him to marry? There are three: she’s a Christian; she’s pleasing to look at; and she has a servant heart. None of this has anything at all to do with how the two of them interact, or whether they have similar life goals, or whether they like being around each other or enjoy doing the two things. That, of course, may be because Cooper has no way of knowing any of those things, since he doesn’t actually know Laura, at all. He’s just after a cookie cutter Christian wife, and Laura meets the check boxes, so clearly she’ll do.

Cooper adds one final thing:

“And when I am with her, I think I can be myself without any pretenses—just who I really am. And she always seems transparent to me too—well, almost always.”

But has Cooper been himself without any pretenses to her? He didn’t tell Laura about Jody until after Kadar mailed the pictures to Rick and Deanna, and Deanna showed them to her. He also decided not to tell her that Terry was the source of the case’s leaks. He’s been lying to her in some fashion or another the entire time he’s known her.

As for the almost always, Cooper admits that “something seems to be bothering her since I have been here, and I can’t totally figure it out.” That could, of course, be because he hasn’t actually talked to her. He wasn’t able to get her alone all the previous evening, because her parents were all over them, and well, this is a 7am tee time.

“I think she is worried about that ‘ambassador woman,’ as she calls her,” Ed said. … “I guess I need to hear it straight from you. I want you to tell me straight up, man to man. Is there anything going on between you and that … that …”

“Ambassador woman?” Cooper said, completing the phrase. “There is nothing at all sir.”

And just like that, Ed believes him. Completely.

A lot of lies are told on golf courses and regular golfers can usually tell. Ed Frasier knew that he had just been told the truth.

Cool talent!

With that, Cooper is off the hot seat.

Ed mixed the round with light conversation, along with serious questions about Cooper’s faith, his relationship with his own parents, his finances, and his views of children.

Hey! Ed now knows more about Cooper than Laura does!

That’s actually the end of the chapter, but I’m going to keep going, because they’re still in Florida, and that feels like the same subject—and it’s a short chapter.

Cooper takes Laura out to a restaurant to talk to her alone. It takes a while for Cooper to get Laura to tell him what’s bothering her. She says that when Cooper was on Politics and Hollywood, Jody was making eyes at him. Really.

“I know you love me, and, Cooper, I love you, too, so much this whole thing is killing me.”

“If we love each other, then I don’t understand what is wrong.”

“I don’t want anyone else even thinking they are in love with you,” she replied.

“Why is that so important to you? If I don’t choose her, isn’t that the end of the line? Who cares what she thinks?”

“Do you want Terry Pipkin to still think he is in love with me? How would you feel if you saw me on television with him and he kept going me those goo-goo-eye stares she was giving you?”

Cooper caught his breath, suddenly realizing the impact that the events had on Laura. Just the name Terry Pipkin churned his stomach.

What, are these guys in middle school? Sure, exes can suck, but this is just a bit much .

“I hate it how the world’s system of dating and romance works. All I want is to love only you, and you have said that you love only me. I wish there had been no other girls I had ever cared about romantically. And I really wish there had never been a Terry Pipkin in your life. … But we can’t change our pasts, and we can’t control the feelings of others. All we can do is focus on each other and keep everyone else out of our hearts.”

I’m actually glad my husband dated before we got together, and I’ve heard other people make the same statement about their own significant others. We learn through relationships, we grow and become better people.

“There is so much pain from early and random romances. Can’t you get the Senate to do a treaty banning that?”

There is a serious lack fo emotional and relational maturity on display here. Now bear in mind that this was written by Michael Farris, a huge influence in the Christian homeschool community of my youth, and you can see how an entire generation of homeschooled evangelical youth ended up completely screwed over when it came to dating and romance.

Two days have passed since the day of the tee and the restaurant, and Laura’s dad takes her aside for a private chat. Cooper feels all awkward in the kitchen with Laura’s mom, Bonnie, not knowing what Ed is saying to Laura.

Laura’s mom says things like this:

“It’s a good thing I made salads for lunch Anything else would have gotten cold or stale by now.”

Finally, Laura enters the room, looking like she’d been crying. But good crying! Ed has an announcement.

“Cooper, Bonnie and I are very pleased to give you our permission and full blessing to marry Laura.”

Laura, remember, is somewhere around 26 years old.

They all set to talking and planning, and they decide on a December wedding date, so that Laura ” would only miss a week of teaching by having the honeymoon coincide with the school’s Christmas vacation.” Laura teaches at a public school. They don’t call it “Christmas vacation” anymore. They call it “winter break.” Anyway, Laura decides that while she isn’t sure whether she’ll teach in the future, she does at least need to finish out the year, because she signed a contract.

Yep. Laura and Cooper are that old school. Laura doesn’t even get to have kids before she seriously considered giving up working, because, you know, married. 

There’s a tacked on bit at the end of the chapter stating that, by late summer, people finally caught on to Cooper being “innocent” in the whole affair with Jody, and Cooper started getting clients: “enough to support himself and a frugal bride.” He and Laura are finally actually dating, taking walks, going to concerts, and sitting under the starts and talking. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is deciding whether to take the case. Finally, they announce that the case is accepted.

Just weeks later, one of the Supreme Court’s conservative justices, while in the hospital for a routine checkup on his prostate cancer (which had been going well and was stable), had a stroke and died. We all know what this means.

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