by Aletha cross posted from her blog Yllom Mormon
(Trigger warning for that awful honeymoon story of crabs and abuse)
*I plan on posting these reviews on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. It’s a lot at once, but reading this is like walking through mud. Mud that gets stuck in my head and makes me question my marriage. So I’m trying to get through this as quickly as possible.
In this Chapter, Michael talks about his first love, sex, and his first sex. Get ready.
[9 year-old Michael walks down the road after Bible school and sees a girl in a pretty dress. He walks on the other side of the road and tries to walk “with her”] I never spoke. She never looked at me, but I studied her profile and her dainty little walk. It was the most amazing and wonderful thing I had ever seen. I was in love. I WANTED ONE. (emphasis mine) But it was all too scary to this skinny, bug-eyed boy. The thought of even speaking to this splendid apparition made me tremble with a feeling of helplessness.
Later that summer, my mother took me along to visit a family that lived about a quarter mile down the road. I remember entering the strange house and seeing Sharon. Her name I can remember. She had the most dazzling red curls hanging all the way down her back, and her nose and cheeks were covered in beautiful freckles. I fell in love again. She shyly stood in the background watching the exchange between the ladies, and I fumbled uncomfortably, feeling the intimacy of just being in the same house with this beautiful creature. Again, this girl is a “creature”. Does anyone else find it a bit odd that he can remember so many details about these girls from when he was 9? I mean, I was in 4th grade when I was 9, and still (vaguely) remember my crush’s name. I think his hair was brown and he lived in the government apartments where I grew up. But to describe his features in loving detail, after 20 years (let alone 50)? I think the Bible calls that “lusting”.
In the coming years, many of those beautiful and intriguing creatures caught my eye and stole my heart. Some I spoke to. Most I just looked upon from across the room. I never declared my affection to any, for such a commitment seemed too deep and out of control for me to manage. I knew it was an adult thing to do, something I must defer until I was old enough.
If I were a drinking person, I would create a game where we all take a drink every time he de-humanizes a woman. I predict it wouldn’t take long until we’re all drunk. And does anyone else get the feeling Michael was that creepy-stalker kid that lurks in the background giving the popular girls the googly eye?
But then I went through puberty. That was like entering a cool tunnel and coming out the other end in the middle of a fire. I gave my life to Jesus Christ about the same time, and had been well brought-up and taught the Word of God, so I was quite clear on moral boundaries. But the fire burned and the only thing I wanted more than god was to have one of those lovelies they call the opposite sex. After awhile, I began to wonder if maybe the devil-rather than God-hadn’t created sex. SEX with the big X in it, like “Danger. Don’t touch.” It seemed like such a consuming indulgence.
I was fasting and praying, studying my Bible, and walking down the road with my blinders on. I found all TV programs to be designed to create lust. Every billboard with a woman on it was a doorway to hell. The Sears and Roebuck catalog was pornography. Many of the women at church were seductive whores. Cleavage was an attempt to damn me. Tight dresses were designed to make me wet my pants. It was enough to make a monk or a whore monger out of a fourteen-year-old. The world was on fire and I was trying to keep from burning.
Holy cow. Where to start? One thing I’ve noticed growing up in a conservative Christian religion is how, ironically, sex obsessed things are. Billboards and catalogs are created to tempt you! Heaven forbid they show off the merchandise they are trying to sell you. It’s kind of scary how violently he reacts to women. They are whores trying to damn him because they showed a bit of cleavage-and he grew up in the Bible belt in the 50-60s, I’m sure there wasn’t that much cleavage on display. It’s kind of sad to think that he was full of this much self-hatred and desire at 14. I’ve watched enough Law and Order to know that this combination can result in a serial killer.
I was a normal youth, with one exception: I resisted my urges and made a commitment to walk in holiness. Many of my friends and peers succumbed to their bodily passions and I observed the results of their folly. I studied the Bible and asked God to deliver me from my lust. I can’t tell you I stopped lusting in my middle teens, but it was never voluntary. Lust was my enemy.
In my diligence to walk in holiness, I wrestled with my worldview. Why were we created thus? What is our purpose? Is there an avenue to victory? The Word of God enlightened me and I came to see that God had a great plan for the human race and that love, sex, and marriage were at the center of it. By the time I got to be 16, I had learned how to manage my sexual impulses and maintain equilibrium from one hour to the next. It never ceased to be a battle, but I began to see that I was like the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace: there was fire all around, trying to consume me, but I could walk in it without getting burnt. I saw the challenge as part of the training and the victory as preparation for a glorious tomorrow. By the time I got into my late teens, I knew I could, and always would, have the victory over my flesh! I awoke every morning to a battle, and sometimes I got slapped around by my own flesh (anyone else see a euphemism for masturbation in that last comment?), but the Devil lost the war. Thanks to the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, when I was married at 25, I was still a virgin and had never viewed pornography.
For about 17 years, since I first viewed the delightful girl I loved, I had anticipated the day when I would finally get one of those beautiful, female creatures for myself. I knew that one day my life would begin.
OK. So Michael, still obsessed, is bragging how he’s holy. Though I’m curious to know what follies befell his friends that gave in. He wrestled with the Devil! He was taught by the Word of God! He was a virgin on his wedding night! And still, it’s women that are the tempters, not his sex-crazed mind. Sex and lust don’t have to be a battle. My shrink would call that a feedback loop. You have a thought, attribute some emotion to it (like lust), feel guilt or shame, get angry, and blame the cause of the thought. All this makes the next time you have a similar thought more powerful, because you attribute more emotion to it. So every time he thought of sex or lust as a battle, he just made it that much harder for himself to have a normal view of what he deems “part of God’s great plan”.
Here’s where it gets really…well…Michael.
My immediate goal in marriage was to make up for all those sexually frustrated years-the sooner the better. A friend of mine that married two years before I did had bragged that he was able to “know” his bride five times on their wedding night. He was a puny fellow, so I had no doubt I would best his brag, but the truth is, three times was all I could muster, and just barely.
What. The. Hell. We get that Michael is sex-obsessed. But his main goal for marriage (not to have a happy, healthy, productive union for years to come) was to make up for lost time in the sex department? Then he turns it into a competition between him and one of his friends? And feels the need to brag to us about his prowess?? Does anyone else feel bad for his poor wife? If I remember correctly, the first time hurt, was awkward, and I was sore for a day or so afterward-and my dear husband was trying to be nice! I don’t imagine Michael was big on foreplay, so I’m assuming it was a “wham-bham-thank you, ma’am” kind of experience. But, oh, it gets better. Trust me.
[Talking about the actual honeymoon] It was midnight before we got to our room, and we were up at six, headed to the Gulf Coast where we would honeymoon for a few days in a cottage on the beach.
It was a long day’s drive. We arrived at the cottage well after dark. We had brought all the gear for fishing and crabbing , as well as the groceries for her to be able to prepare our meals. That way we could save a lot of money and be able to stay longer in the cabin. We dug all the gear out of the station wagon and placed it in the cabin. Deb fixed us a big supper, after which I tried to break my record. One time and I was asleep. Notice the subtle “groceries for HER to prepare our meals.” Michael’s got a wife now, no way in hell he’s cooking anymore! Also, yet again, we get a glimpse into how the thinks about sex. “Breaking his record.” Something else I noticed. It takes 2 paragraphs in the honeymoon section (and none at all in this chapter until now) to say his wife’s name. It’s always “her” or “she”.
Now we get to learn about what a crab (pun intended) Debi was on her honeymoon.
I awoke in the middle of the night and remembered that crabs sometimes run along the beach, so I woke Deb and excitedly said “Let’s go crabbing.” My new Mrs complained about me not giving her enough time to unpack her tennis shoes. They were still packed somewhere and I was raring to go. Anyway, I had seen her going barefoot many times. As we scurried along the beach, she complained about not having a flashlight. I was using it up ahead to scout the way and to chase crabs. I heard her say something about shells hurting her feet. For the next hour or two, I ran along the seashore and she dragged along behind, carrying my crab-sack. This was my first time to ever go crabbing and I was having a blast! What more could a fellow ask for? A cottage on the beach, a hot bride, plenty of crabs…this was living! We made it back to the cottage, where we grabbed a couple hours of sleep before I woke hungry and had to make love to a woman half asleep. She was willing, but not very active.
Wow. Just wow. Does he not realize how mean he sounds? He wants crabs NOW and can’t wait 5 minutes for his brand-new wife to find adequate shoes. It’s disturbing how easily he dismisses her discomfort of having to walk barefoot on sharp shells in the dark. Pulling his sack of crabs. All that matters to him is how good of a time he’s having. Not to mention the sex. With a half asleep, non-participatory woman. Call me crazy, but that really doesn’t sound “willing” to me.
Afterward, she got up and fixed us a fine breakfast. Great cook. Her mother taught her well. She wanted to go back to sleep but I talked her into going back out for more crabs. By mid-afternoon, we had a sack of crabs and headed back to the cottage. Wow, I was tired. I told her I would just take a little nap while she prepared supper. I don’t know how long I slept, but I awoke to her screaming and jumping about and crabs were crawling all over the cabin. The silly girl had left the sack open while she was trying to get the first crab into the boiling kettle! I sat up in bed and offered some constructive advice and she had a personality change right there in front of me, and us not married 48 hours. Who could have imagined a female could carry on in such a crazy manor? I tried to calm her down, but she just stomped off, leaving the french fries turning black in the hot smoking oil and the crabs crawling. I yelled at her retreating form, “I don’t need to hunt crabs, I married one!” Somehow that one remark has hung around our marriage like a ticked-off ghost. It seemed appropriate at the time.
Every paragraph, I think his arrogance and condensing attitude can’t get any worse. And every paragraph, he proves me wrong. There is so much wrong with this paragraph, my brain is having time computing it all. After her unresponsive sex, he decides she should cook. First compliment to Debi in the book! She’s a great cook! Her mother taught…oh dear. I don’t know why I’m surprised. Conservative Christians (and conservative any religion) think that women are for cooking and baby-making. Guess it was too soon for her to prove her prowess on that front. I’m imagining poor Debi (which I never thought I’d say) being forced to go crabbing, cooking, and sexing rather against her will. Everything is on her “godly” husband’s time frame. Then, she has the audacity to scream and wake him up! That “silly girl”! I’m imagining she’s freaking out because there are pinchy crabs everywhere, and he just sits up in bed saying “Do this, you dumbhead!” Then looking surprised that she goes off on him. And then he yells a snarky comment at her. That’s what she deserves for burning his dinner!
To her credit, she did come back and finish cooking. After we ate I was ready for some more sex, but she just wanted to sleep. I had read in a marriage book how women always have excuses like being sleepy, having a headache, etc. I felt a sense of satisfaction when I was able to so completely change her mind; it wasn’t that difficult. She is wired right.
What a good bride he has. Even after she gets emotional, she finishes cooking his dinner. His description is starting to sound a bit rapey. He talked her into sex? It was easy because she was “wired right?” I’m getting the creeps.
It made me sleepy, so I dozed off again. I was just dropping off when I heard the crash. It came from the bathroom. She looked dead lying there all twisted up in a weird position, half in and half out of the shower. The curtain and rod lay flung out on the floor around her and water was spraying everywhere. It was one scary moment-my new bride dead on our honeymoon. I quickly turned off the water and bent to cradle her in my arms. I gently shook her while examining her injured forehead, which was quickly swelling and turning blue. “What’s wrong, honey? Are you sick?”
OK. He’s been married to Debi (I’ll use her name, since Michael won’t) for what, 2-3 days? This seems to be the first time he has been gentle with her. All it took was for her to pass out in the shower and have a swelling, blue forehead. What a gem of a husband! Also note, his first reaction was “How terrible for me it would be if my wife died on our honeymoon!” Not “Holy cow, my wife seems to be hurt!” Ugh. Just ugh.
After she opened her eyes, it took her a minute to focus and then her expression changed. It was a mixture of pity and anger, although her voice was like a deep sigh as she whispered, “You really don’t know, do you?” Man, it sounded like she was accusing me or something! Since she was hurt, I let her have her say, and boy, she laid it on.
Really, Michael? It takes an injury for you to let your brand new bride have a say?
She sat up, pulling herself away from me, turning where she could look me square in the face. “In the last 48 hours I haven’t sleep more than two hours undisturbed. My feet have 20 or more tiny holes in them because you wouldn’t let me take an extra five minutes to unpack my tennis shoes. My shoulder is sore from trying to carry 30 pounds of crabs for hours [Michael’s note: “they didn’t weight that much”] My hand is burned from trying to stuff a fighting crab into a kettle of boiling water, which seems very much like torturing the poor thing, AND, all the while you lay in a state of repose. Due to lack of sleep and sun, my eyes feel like they are full of sand. I have had little to eat. I’m a female, for crying out loud. I just want to sleep without you pawing on me. Besides, I have body parts I didn’t know existed until now and they are killing me…so what’s wrong with me? I’m the weaker vessel, remember? It’s in the Bible!”
Good for you, Debi! Way to stand up for yourself! She makes great points. Though I felt she was being a bit dramatic with the weaker vessel part. He’s been insensitive and cruel. Depriving her of sleep and food, just so he can get more crabs and sex. So after this outburst, does he say “Oh, you’re right, I’ve been insensitive. I’m sorry.” Hahahaha. We all know better.
Strange creatures, these females. My brother never acted like that when we traveled together holding evangelistic services! “Well, she will get adjusted,” I thought. I won’t even tell you about the next day, when we went deep-sea fishing and she got seasick. This was just 3 days into our marriage. I would have to chase her down that hot gravel road a long way before it dawned on me that I was the one that needed to make most of the adjustments.
I’m just going to put this out there. No wonder his brother never acted like that! Michael probably didn’t treat him the way he treated Debi. And if he did, I don’t think I can stand to hear about it. Also, Michael, by saying “I won’t even tell you…”, you tell us. Nice try. At least he acknowledges that he needs to change. We’ll see what he actually means.
Okay, I am the first to admit I didn’t start out the perfect husband (actually the second one to admit it), and haven’t gotten there yet, but I have experienced the reality that two imperfect spouses can have a perfect marriage. She even agrees. She really does; she even says so publicly. For 10 years now my wife has been telling me I should pass on some of this hard-earned wisdom to you. But I keep telling her that after all these years I still don’t understand women. I have come to know one woman, inside and out, all the way, but I would hate to start over again married to your wife. It took me about 2 years to get mine conditioned to tolerate my selfishness, and another 10 before I understood her needs.
Why does Michael feel the need to keep saying “My wife thinks I’m great. Honest!”? Who is he trying to convince? Himself? Certainly not us. All anyone has to do is read “Created to Be a Help Meet” and you can see how she thinks of her husband! Notice the phrase “to get mine conditioned to tolerate my selfishness”. We condition dogs and other animals. Not people. It’s sickening. And 10 more years before he understood her needs? 10 years her needs were going unmet? Good gracious. I flipped out a few weeks into dating because my needs weren’t being met. I can’t imagine going 10 years. The more I read, the more I feel sorry for Debi.
He finishes the chapter saying how they’ve counselled hundreds of couples, and if we follow the formula he’s laid out in the book, we, too, can have a perfect marriage.
I still experience the wonder and mystery of a love that transcends all other relationships and passions. Together we have come to a quiet place, a noisy place, a beautiful place, and we merge into one, experiencing what God intended when he made the first bride and brought her to the first groom, saying, “And the two shall be one flesh. Be fruitful and multiply.” We can’t bear fruit anymore, but we still practice!
This book is written to help you create your own perfect marriage. Something every person should enjoy this side of heaven.
I would like to conclude by saying: Thank you Michael, for letting us know you still got it. I was so deeply concerned that since you are older and can’t “bear fruit” anymore, that your sex life had dwindled. I should have known better, you dog you. Thanks for putting my mind at ease. And for placing such a lovely mental picture in there as well.