(Caution: This book is NOT for transgender women. It will not tell you how to actually become a physical woman. Such a book would, I have no doubt, be useful, but alas, it is not this one.)
The book that won the vote for next Snarktastic SDA book is On Becoming A Woman, by Harold Shryock, which I keep reading as “shy cock.”It was originally published in 1968 by the Review and Herald. In 2013 Pacific Press formatted it for the kindle. For this reason, I do not think I am snarking on some outdated book that nobody takes seriously anymore. This book was clearly meant to be read by modern teenagers. It is therefore my duty to pick apart the errors and point and laugh at the outrageous claims.
Harold Shryock died fairly recently, in 2004. Here is his obituary:
Harold Shryock, M.D., 97, died March 3, 2004, at Loma Linda, California. He was a respected medical educator, college administrator, author, counselor, public speaker, and family patriarch.
Born Edwin Harold on April 14, 1906, in Seattle, Washington, Shryock grew up at Loma Linda, where his father, Alfred, became the sixth physician at the newly established College of Medical Evangelists (CME, now Loma Linda University). Harold married Daisy Bagwell in 1929, graduated from Pacific Union College, and completed his medical training at CME in 1933. He was asked to teach at CME three years later and did so for more than 40 years. He served as dean of the Loma Linda University School of Medicine from 1951-54 and chaired the Department of Anatomy from 1957-69.*
Author of more than 600 magazine articles and 13 books, Shryock may be best remembered among Adventists for two volumes: On Becoming a Man and On Becoming a Woman.
Right. So, with that background knowledge in mind, on to chapter 1!
The Teen-Age Girl
The teens are the most colorful years of life. No other period surpasses the teens for the sheer joy of living.
Oh boy. He’s one of those adults.
Shryock goes on to talk about how, when you’re a child, you’re still learning about the world around you and don’t really have a whole lot of choice in your activities. He refers to being a teenager as a “thrilling adventure,” and I wonder what drugs he’s been smoking.
Now that you have reached this happy period of life you have the advantage of having already learned…how to get along reasonably well with people.
Well… some teenagers have learned this, I’m sure…
Shryock talks about how a woman will obtain physical developments, an awakening of the mental powers, and a maturing of one’s personality.
It is up to you to choose the way you will use these newly acquired assets, and thus determine what kind of person you will be for the remainder of your life.
As he refers to “physical developments” as an “Asset,” I’m going to assume that this is giving me permission to use my physical assets as I see fit. Quick, must find out how to use female assets.
In your 20s and 30s you will experience the realities of becoming bride, housewife, and mother.
This was clearly written in the 1960s. My mother has had those experience. I’m 3 years away from 30, and I have yet to experience either one of those things. Thank whatever diety does or doesn’t exist that being a single female has become less frowned upon, or I’d have been divorced like 4 times by now and probably killed myself after husband #3.
Shryock tells us that we’ll be so busy as adults that we won’t have time to realize that our cherished daydreams have come true.
My cherished daydreams involve being the first human on Mars, financial stability, and getting a dog. Neither one of those things has happened yet, Shryock. When are my cherished daydreams coming true?
In middle life you will be very busy and will find yourself even more the victim of circumstances.
Well, yes… and no. Yes in some ways I am a victim of circumstances I can’t control, and I have no way of knowing right now if there’s any way out. However, as an adult, I have way more options for trying to find the way out than I would have as a teenager.
…but living will take on a somber hue in contrast to the brilliance of adolescent years.
I wonder how many people killed themselves after reading that? No seriously, when I read shit like this I cried, because being a teenager was so horrible, and I was scared it would never get better. When adults would say something to confirm this, I would feel suicidal.
If any teenagers are reading this blog, please know that you can disregard such statements. Life is so much better after High School, I promise. I’m glad I stuck it out to live this long.
Shryock compares being a teenager to wearing a new dress. At first we are careful not to ruin said dress, then afterwards we stop taking such special care and just run about in it doing whatever.
Our lives are new, and we need to take care of our mental and physical assets. If we do, they’ll last us a long time. If not, they could cause handicap that could stick with you for the rest of your life.
Fear mongering much? I made some idiotic mistakes as a teenager, but fortunately, they don’t really affect my life right now.
Shryock talks about how being a teenager is difficult because you have to make major life choices before you’ve really had a chance to live. Fortunately, we are not alone in this endeavor, because we have parents and friends.
During your teens you are mentally alert and able to think clearly.
I’m not saying teenagers are bad thinkers. That’s not necessarily the case. However, they are inexperienced thinkers, and often don’t necessarily think long term. That’s ok, that’s normal. Normal as it is, I’m not sure I’d call it clear thinking.
We may not know our future exactly, but we still must make major decisions. Shryock talks about how we need to make good decisions so that we can become persons of integrity throughout the rest of our lives.
No, he doesn’t say “persons,” I added that.
It is largely during these teen years that you will become stabilized in your religious beliefs and will develop a philosophy of life.
There was nothing that was related to religion that was stable in my teen years. My religious beliefs were shaken when I entered academy at age 14, and continued to remain unstable till I was 25. Most teenagers I know, in fact, are questioning their religious beliefs. Do these beliefs stabilize by age 20? I don’t know. Maybe?
Shryock also tells us that during our teen years are when we develop habits that will help us to keep attractive homes and make us look nice. Um, I never got that memo either, actually.
He also tells us that the teen years are a framework into which our later lives must fit, and that the character and personality we are developing now is going to determine what kind of husband (of course the word is husband, none of you are lesbians, you silly geese) you will marry, along with whether or not you are going to be a selfish person or a person who does good things for others. Wow, all of that is determined by how I acted as a teenager? Good grief, how am I not a mass murderer?
Children are surprisingly alike. There is not much real difference even between boys and girls. Yes, there are minor anatomical differences; but as far as external appearances go, the obvious difference is that boys have short haircuts and wear trousers, whereas girls have long hair and wear dresses.
This is suprisingly liberal for the late 1960s, especially for an Adventist 1960s book. I half expected him to babble on and on about how different boys and girls are. I still have issues with the passage, of course, but credit where credit is due; Shryock does say, in the following paragraph, that sometimes boys will play “girl” games and girls will play “boy” games. I wasn’t expecting that kind of liberal (for the times and culture) thinking, so, cookie points? I guess?
In any case, most girls, during the tween years, lose contact with the boys they played with as children. I only agree with this because my family moved a lot. Otherwise, I was always way more comfortable playing with boys, and would not likely have lost track of them the way Shryock is saying we do.
But now, now that we are on the verge of womanhood, we are about to have a different attitude toward boys. We are about to start noticing the opposite sex.
You have put away childish things and have become concerned with feminine interests. You have even begun to think and dream about love and about the time when you will have a home of your own.
I only did this because religious books told me I should. I never really wanted to. Not all females are into “feminine interests.” I also never daydreamed about romantic love.
But now you have become curious, both as to the meaning of the changes in your own body and as to the changes that make men out of boys. This curiosity is perfectly natural.
Color me kind of shocked. Wasn’t expecting that one. Well, you know what they say about stopped clocks, I suppose…
It is the purpose of this book to help you satisfy this curiosity by providing wholesome answers to your questions.
I’m actually mildly curious now to know what these “wholesome answers” are. But then, the pressing questions I had as a developing teenager were very much off the beaten path of what is considered normal, and I doubt very much that Shryock plans to address them. Will this book tell me how normal tween/teen girls thought as they, um, developed?
Curiosity, when under proper control, is an asset. When not properly controlled it can lead to unwholesome experimentation and inquiry.
He doesn’t come out and say it, but I’m sure he means masturbation.
I also don’t like this. Controlled curiosity? I don’t even know what that could possibly mean, except to repress a desire for knowledge. Maybe Shryock means only get your knowledge from selected sources like parents or trusted Christian adults?
It’s kind of a red flag, to me. Discouraging people from following up on each and every question they have and things they wonder about is a terrible thing to do to a child. As is telling them they must filter all their answers through the filter of Adventist Christianity. It’s heartbreaking, how they brainwash the children.
There was a time a generation or 2 ago when a false sense of modesty kept young people ignorant…questions were often met with evasions or with prudish misinformation that drove young people to find the truth elsewhere, often from unwholesome sources.
Let me translate this for you: the adults wouldn’t tell them, so they asked their non Adventist friends, who told them all about inserting tab A into slot B. These worldly friends also probably taught the good little SDA children how to masturbate, the dirty heathens!
All that aside, I’m actually kind of surprised the author is aware of this at all. Credit where credit is due, this is spot on.
Now, I’m sure all of you are wondering something: how is Harold Shryock qualified to talk to us womenfolk? After all, he is the possessor of an almighty penis, what can he possibly know what it’s like to have a vagina?
Well, first off, he’s got a daughter who has just gotten out of her teens. I’m too lazy to look up exactly how old his daughter would’ve been at the time of this writing but if she just got done being a teenager I’m going to guess 20-23.
Shryock believes that this friendship with his daughter has given him special insight onto how girls this age think. Because one teenage girls speaks for all teenage girls, of course! We’re all alike, after all.
Shryock has also asked his friends who work with teenagers how they think, and they’ve given him some advice on what subjects to include. He phrases it that way, too. He doesn’t say, “I went to a child psychologist,” or “I talked to a social worker” or even a pediatrician.
Speaking of pediatricians, I’m actually surprised Shryock doesn’t bring up his medical credentials. I’d still prefer a female author, but if it was a doctor telling me about how my reproductive organs worked, I’d still take him seriously, because I assume they learn about all this in medical school. In my eyes, at least, this does give him a shred more credibility than, say, the local youth pastor.
I have attempted to prepare the book in such a way that it will be both informative and interesting. I believe you will enjoy it.
Well, thank you, Mr. Shryock, I do believe I will enjoy it. I always enjoy a good snark read.