On Becoming A Man Chapter 8

Chapter 8

Going Steady?

We begin this chapter by reading a story about a teenage boy living in a dorm at Academy. Jack is depressed because his girlfriend Joanne broke up with him.

We’re told that Jack and Joanne had a lot in common and never quarreled. That last bit to me is a red flag. You never argue? That suggests that you bury any disagreements rather than talking them out. I’m not saying you have to have huge screaming fights about things, but having minor arguments is a normal part of any relationship.

Jack was only 18 and still being mostly supported by his parents. Fair enough, he hasn’t graduated high school yet. He realizes that this means he’s probably not in a position to marry, but assumes that when he is, Joanne is the one.

Even though Joanne was still very young she was already wishing that she could become engaged.

She’s probably really horny and realizes it’s the only way for her to have sex without feeling a metric fuckton of guilt.

Joanne believed that she loved Jack, but had become impatient because he seemed to think more of his plans for obtaining an education than he did of her.

In chapter 8 of OBAW we also saw a high school couple where the man wanted to go to college but the girl didn’t. It seems that girls are the ones who worry their silly heads about marriage while boys are the sensible ones who want to get educations first. Tell me the author couldn’t have found a story about a girl who wanted to postpone marriage until she got an education.

Jack goes and confides in the boy’s dean.

Life just didn’t seem to be worth while without her. “In fact,” he said, “I just can’t stand to have our special friendship end. She is the only girl for me.”

If you are so tied to your girlfriend that life doesn’t seem worth while without her, you may have some skewed priorities. I get that young breakups seem like the end of the world, but  “life is worth nothing now!” seems a bit of an extreme attitude, even for a teenager.

The dean could understand that Joanne did not really appreciate the importance of Jack’s plan for an education. He knew that she did not realize how much better it would be for her to have a husband with a thorough preparation for his lifework than to have one who was dependent upon odd jobs and the kinds of employment that did not require any particular training.

Silly woman! Doesn’t even know that it would be good for her if Jack got an education. She doesn’t want to be poor does she? The author doesn’t seem to think much of women, or of low skill jobs.

This book was written in the late 1960s. I have heard that back then you could get away with not going to college and still be financially well off. This part of the book would tend to suggest that that’s not really true.

Joanne was a lovely girl, but she did not care to risk the possibility of losing out in social competition by staking her hopes of marriage on her friendship with Jack when Jack was not yet interested in getting married. As long as this was Joanne’s attitude the dean did not blame her for accepting a date with someone else.

Most of high school social competition revolves around boyfriends not marriage. At least in my day, only the really silly girls thought they were ready for that right out of high school.

The dean was wise and didn’t argue with Jack about whether or not Joanne was a good girl for him. I wonder if Shryock actually was the dean in this story? It would not at all surprise me if, at some point, the author had been a boys’ dean,or at least worked at a boarding school.

The dean asks Jack to give him 6 months to prove that Joanne is not the only girl for him. Jack sees nothing wrong with the plan and agrees, though he doesn’t think it possible.

And so time goes by. And then more time, and then more time… finally, the 6 months are almost up and Jack approaches the dean.

The dean smiled knowingly and said, “Yes, Jack, and I am just about ready to prove my point.” And, with a twinkle in his eye, he said, “Didn’t I see you walking across the campus yesterday with Helen?”

That’s…. that’s it? That’s the Dean’s proof that Joanne isn’t the only girl for him? He saw Jack possibly showing interest in another woman? What if Jack hadn’t found a new girlfriend? In fact, what if he still hasn’t? What if he was walking across campus with Helen because she is his platonic friend. It would be a great monkey wrench in the story if Jack shot back at the dean, “Helen is my cousin!”

In this book, as in most works of fiction on Planet Adventist, the dean is wise and nearly all knowing. The dean knew he had to wait around for 6 months and Jack would show interest in another girl. The dean either knows that Jack has a history of moving on quickly, or he got lucky.

The author points out that this story is very common among teenagers. They form strong bonds and assume they’ll last forever, until they don’t. Often, several “special friendships” come and go until the right one comes along.

In the early teens, a boy may have a mere crush on a girl, who may or may not know that the boy is even interested. As he gets older, the boy moves on to little things like carrying a girl’s books to class or taking her on a date to vespers.

A boy in his early teens is not wanting to have a real love affair. He is simply curious to know whether he possesses the ability to attract the attention of the girl he admires.

I’m not 100% sure what the author means by “real love affair.” Does he mean sex? If so, plenty of young teen boys are, or think they are, interested in that.

In passing through these early experiences of special interest in girls, a boy learns enough about girls to develop his own ideals for the kind of girl he especially likes.

What the author really means is that a boy is told in bible class what traits to desire in a girl and see if the girl he likes possess those traits.

Sometimes in one of those early special friendships a boy finds himself interested in a girl who proves to have a poor disposition. A boy naturally expects a girl to be a good sport and to manifest a sense of humor and tolerance, even when plans have to be changed or disappointments develop.

Girls must never complain when their plans to go bowling have to be canceled because her boyfriend’s obscure relatives are coming over for dinner.

If he discovers that the girl he admired becomes cross and unreasonable merely because a change in the weather makes it necessary to abandon plans for an outing, he logically concludes that this girl does not have the buoyant disposition that is necessary to future happiness.

In a way I kind of agree with this. If a picnic gets ruined on account of rain and the girl throws a fit, that could be a sign that she has a temper problem and it may not something you want to deal with.

But this also assumes neuronormativity. Some people’s brains are just wired differently, and when something unexpected happens, their brains don’t adjust very well. Now, the person like this is probably going to have to learn coping mechanisms to deal with this because shit happens. I merely bring it up to point out that this does not make someone a bad person.

A boy may discover that the girl on whom he has focused his attentions is fundamentally self centered. She may insist that things go her way, and refuse to cooperate in following anyone else’s preferences.

I can agree, some people insist on having it their way, and it’s really annoying. I also know that sometimes I’ve been that girl. I’m working on it.

Then there may be the girl who comes from a home in which there has been luxury. Such a girl may not mean to be selfish, but because of her parents’ shortsightedness in providing everything she could wish or desire, she may have formed habits of expecting expensive gifts beyond what an ordinary boy can reasonably supply.

As someone who came from a particularly well off family, if someone gave me a non expensive present, I did not care. All I cared about was that they thought of me. As far as I was concerned, it truly was the thought that counted. Not all rich girls are assholes who expect rich things.

Somewhere along the course of a teenage boy’s acquaintances with girls of his own age, he usually becomes the temporary victim of some girl who has “set her cap” for him. Such a situation becomes repulsive. It is typical of a man’s nature to desire to play an “offensive” rather than a “defensive” role.

Wait, so, girls who ask boys out are repulsive? Fuck that!

It is an axiom in human relations that the young man does the courting, and the young woman accepts or rejects as she chooses.

I actually had to look up the word “axiom.” According to Miriam-Webster

: a rule or principle that many people accept as true

So basically, the statement “boys do the asking, not girls” is true because society decides it’s true, not because it is a good or a right way of doing things.

The author is basically saying that a girl who “plays offense” is repulsive because society says so. Yet in another chapter he says that just because something is customary does not make it right. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say in one chapter “It’s right because society says so” and then in another chapter say “just because society says so doesn’t make it right.”

Teenage girls reach their maturity at a slightly earlier age than do boys. In doing so they often become interested in social things and special friendship sooner than the boys in their own year in school.

This is why it was easier for me to make friends with boys than it was to make friends with girls. Girls in my class became interested in boys roughly around the age of 11, so they weren’t much fun to hang out with.

You’d think a perfect all knowing designer would have made it so that boys and girls reach maturity about the same time, but I digress.

Girls in this stage of life are often referred to as “boy crazy,” and this period of life doesn’t tend to last too long.

However, this tendency to be the aggressor in social matters sometimes persists into the later teens. If such a girl is tactful and otherwise has winning traits of personality, she may succeed in building a special friendship on this “leap year” plan.

A girl going after a guy isn’t so repulsive if she has a stunning personality!

The author then goes on to talk about how a woman’s mother will sometimes feed the daughter’s plan to be the aggressor. Ummm what? I don’t know of any mother that would scheme and plot to get her teenage daughter hooked up with the boy she likes. An adult daughter, maybe, but not someone in the age ranges Shryock is writing this book for.

But when such a plot or design is recognized by a normal “he-man” type of boy, means are usually found rather promptly for terminating the special friendship.

Good. I don’t want no “he-man” boy anyway. Whatever that even means…. and if someone is going to dump a girl just because she asked him out, then that’s his problem, not hers.

A teenage boy also has to worry about the teenage girls that know too much about sex. It’s not clear, here, how much is too much. As a teenager, my mom made sure I was clear on the mechanics of sex. I knew, possibly before my peers did, that you needed to insert tab A into slot B, and that it felt good somehow, and that there was kissing involved.

Compared with what we were told about sex in this book, even that is too much detail.

A boy who has good judgment and high personal standards will not have to know such a girl long before he realizes that the friendship is an unfortunate one.

Oh no! I can’t have a girlfriend who knows where I’m supposed to put it! She might notice I’m bad in bed!

Such a girl’s conversation will soon betray her interest in indecent things.

Hang on, you were talking about knowing too much about sex, not wanting it. Just because I know about inserting Tab A into slot B doesn’t mean I’m going to want to actually do it. Eesh. You’re jumping topics so fast I’m gonna get whiplash!

Note that this is also a good scare tactic for the parents reading this. “If I tell little Susie about Tab A and slot B, she might want to go do the no-no with little Tommy next door. I’d better not tell her.”

A person is judged by the company he keeps. And if a boy continues a friendship with a girl of questionable ideals, he is quickly stamped as having similar ideals.

Not really, it’s usually the girl who gets thought of as a slut. The boy is just “being a boy.”

Also, after having a friendship with such a girl, the guy will be unable to have a normal relationship later with a better girl who’s standards are higher.

More scare tactics.

In any case, as a man reaches his late teens or early 20s, he develops a serious relationship with a woman. This was the case when Jack met Joanne.

But this early conviction of “Now I have met the girl of my dreams” is not always reliable.

Wow, something the author and I can agree on.

Many a young man has found that it is better not to lavish his affections too quickly on the girl of his preference, even though early evidences convince him that she is  the “girl of his dreams.”

Well, probably… but it isn’t the end of the world if he does. That’s just kind of part of life. You grow up, find someone you love, it doesn’t work out, you break up, you move on. It sucks, but it happens.

If it is true that she is really the one for him, the friendship will endure the test of time. If not, it is better for him to have been conservative, than to have fallen so deeply in love that he feels crushed with the termination of the friendship.

Ah yes, the idea that you must “guard your heart” so that you don’t get it crushed. Joshua Harris didn’t come up with his ideas for I kissed Dating Goodbye in a vacuum. The ideas were around long before he popularized them for a modern audience. The idea is that  you are supposed to avoid close relationships because you could get your heart broken if it doesn’t work out.

In theory it’s a good thing, in practice it’s often very harmful. Getting your heart broken is kind of a part of life, and it isn’t the worst thing in the world as long as you learn from the experience.

Or so I’m told, in any case. I wouldn’t actually know from experience.

If you have an experience like Jack’s, how are you going to deal with your disappointment?

Your answer depends on whether you have been forewarned. If you understand that it is a part of life that many early friendships do not survive as special friendships, then you can develop toward your friendships an attitude that will spare you much disappointment.

Except that most teenagers don’t believe the warnings. They suffer from “it won’t happen to me” syndrome, until it does.

But you ask, “isn’t there some way that a young person can tell, in advance, whether he has found the right one-the one who was intended for him?” The answer to this question is beyond the scope of a book for early teenagers. It pertains, rather, to those in their later teens and early twenties, who have reached the age when they should properly be concerned with the final choice of a life’s partner.

I have been wondering, throughout this whole book, exactly what age the author has been speaking to. Sometimes he seems to be talking to young teenagers, sometimes older teens, sometimes early 20 somethings. It’s nice to have a concrete answer, even if it did take him 8 chapters to get there.

There is, in fact, a way to know if your “special friend” is The One. Are you ready to hear it?

The Christian can properly expect providential circumstances to indicate to him what the Lord’s will is in the matters of a special friendship.

Go ask your invisible friend, boys! He will tell you all the answers!

Except for when he doesn’t, but nobody ever talks about that. Nobody ever talks about a guy I knew who was seeking he Lord and trying to figure out if Girl X was the one for him…. he never got an answer, and he and Girl X eventually broke up. I imagine there are many such stories out there, but no one ever gets up in church and tells them because no one wants to hear it. No one wants to deal with the implications of such a story, and no one wants to hear that there may not be a way to know for sure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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