by Mel cross posted from her blog When Cows and Kids Collide
All quotes from the book are in blue text
The title of Chapter Eight is “That’s Why You Have Parents: How to Draw Strength, Wisdom, and Protection From Your Father and Mother”.
Chapter Eight has the dubious honor of the second-most overwrought history lesson in the book. (I think the “Western civilization is being undermined by evil Socialists” section of chapter three wins for the entire book. )
Oh, woe is us! We have it harder than anyone in history!
“You wouldn’t have bought this book if you didn’t already know that it’s a complicated time for boy-girl relationships. Maybe even the most complicated in history. It’s true that yesteryear’s mating dance involved a labyrinth of intricate courting rituals – floral communication, fan sign language, courting candles, bundling bags, calling cards, dance cards, basket auctions and whispering tubes. But today it’s complicated not because there is an impenetrable fog of arbitrary rules (thank goodness we don’t have to know whether receiving a bunch of yellow roses means “friendship” or “extreme betrayal”), but because there are no rules. It’s a Wild West of anything-goes. The single world has morphed from Victorian parlor into Dodge City- no law and order, no higher court of appeal. It’s every man for himself!
After all, there’s no law to protect the stood-up or led-on. There’s no one to bring a serial heartbreaker to justice. There’s no advocate for the emotionally weak. There’s no one to defend a lady’s honor, or to challenge the town scoundrel to a duel. Guys know they can get away with almost anything. Who would stop them?” (pgs. 133-134)
- I sometimes wonder if the Botkin Sisters (or at least one of the two) has a very dark sense of humor and enjoys playing jokes on their readers or their parents. Of the list of “courting rituals”:
- Floral communication existed to send messages without any chaperones knowing. Hint: Yellow roses mean “joy, jealousy and/or friendship”. Spider flower or spiderwort means “Elope with me”
- Flag sign language existed to send messages without any chaperones knowing – although you’d only look slightly less obvious than if you started doing semaphore.
- Courting candles are an history myth.
- Bundling bags….well, that lead to an entire webpage about how wild ‘n’ crazy young people’s romantic lives were in Colonial Williamsburg. The bundling bag was basically a way to be sure that a given suitor could be forced into marriage if the woman got pregnant.
- Three other ‘courting’ rituals – calling cards, dance cards and basket auctions – may have been used by young people, but were also used by their elders. It’s like adding “text messages, a Facebook profile and eating at restaurants” to a list of romantic interactions today; the ritual/technology was used by everyone – including romantic couples.
- As for the rest of the snippet, the Botkin Sisters are parroting a highly sanitized history of upper-middle class life.
- There’s never been a law about breaking someone’s heart or being a serial heartbreaker
- At best, a woman’s family had some social recourse to pressure a man to marry their daughter if he was the same social class as her when she got pregnant. Second best, the family hid the pregnancy as best as possible and adopted the baby out. Worst-case scenario, the woman was on the street.
- My grandfather had twin sisters. It wasn’t until the girls were adults that they were told that the girls were actually first-cousins. My great-grandmother was married and pregnant at the same time that her unmarried sister got pregnant. They lived next door to each other, put out a story about one sister being gravely ill and *poof* the other sister gave birth to twins!
- Women who had sexual relationships that crossed social classes had no recourse. If you were a servant who got pregnant by a middle-class or upper-class man, he might give you a sum of cash to go away – but you had no legal recourse.
- Dueling was a way that men settled debts of honor – but since you had weeks or months to arrange the duel, it wasn’t the best form of social stigma available.
Clearly the only solution is covert incest relying on your father to run your love life.
*Shudders convulsively* Ew….
- Let me lay the problems out:
- Most parents teach their children (age-appropriately) how to judge the intentions and actions of others. When children are small, parents need to do the screening of other adults to protect their children. Ideally, this parental screening doesn’t stop until their children are old enough to protect themselves against potential predators (e.g. until children are truly adults).
- At the same time, healthy parents teach their children how to judge the actions of other children to determine if those kids will make good friends or should be avoided as the children get older. Parents start at playdates or in the neighborhood playground teaching kids how to interact politely and how to break off relationships if there is an unequal power dynamic (in other words: avoid bullies and jerks).
- By the late teens, parents should still be keeping an eye on other adults in their teen’s life, but should be letting teens navigate peer relationships unless there are serious danger signs the teen is missing. (This assumes that the teen is mentally competent and not undergone a history of abuse and/or neglect that requires additional monitoring time.)
- Geoffrey Botkin, however, manipulates this normal, healthy adult responsibility and taught his daughters that they would never be capable of judging men – not even “boys” of the same age and/or same generation as Anna Sofia and Elizabeth. He’s reinforced this lesson by teaching them “the games men play” which is a great way to paint all other men as dangerous rogues while increasing his daughters’s dependence on him.
- Geoffrey Botkin becomes even more inappropriate when he teaches his daughters to accept “manly” affection, affirmation and attention from him instead of the “fatherly” interactions he should be giving to them.
- There’s a big difference between the two. My dad has given me fatherly affection, affirmation and attention throughout my life and expected that I would eventually seek “manly” attention from romantic interests. I remember when I was in a community production of “Oliver!” when I was 16. (I was chorus member #12; my dad played Fagin.) I had a summer-long mutual crush on another cast member. The young man and I were inseparable during and after rehearsals; I remember trying to be a bit subtle around the “real” adults in the production out of general teenage angst. Looking back, I was about as subtle as a bull in a china shop :-). So, the young man and I were hugging and cuddling in a drawn black-out curtain while waiting for our entrance with the rest of the chorus during one of the dress rehearsals when my dad was getting ready for one of his entrances and walked in on us. He looked surprised – but that was probably because you don’t often find people in closed curtains. The young man startled; I smiled at my dad and kept my head resting against the young man’s shoulder. A brief expression passed over my dad’s face, then he smiled at both of us and disappeared. I couldn’t quite figure out what the brief expression on his face meant until I started teaching myself. The expression was wistful pride – the happiness that comes when a teenager I taught (or Dad raised) is becoming a real adult which means that they are moving beyond relying on their parents or teachers.
- Geoffrey Botkin has stolen that from Anna Sofia, Elizabeth and himself.
The next post….well, the whole chapter, really….is a mishmash of Botkinesque history and covert incest. Be prepared – or come back for chapter 9.
Mel is a science teacher who works with at-risk teens and lives on a dairy farm with her husband. She blogs at When Cows and Kids Collide She is also an very valuable source of scientific information for us here at NLQ. Mel is also blessed with the ability to look at the issues of Quiverfull with a rational mind and break them down to their most basic of elements.
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