Why I don’t want to marry Bruno Mars

Dear Daughter,

It’s been a while since I’ve picked on a pop star and/or pop song, and it’s just so much fun to do, so here’s my latest rant…

Bruno Mars has a new song out called “Marry You.” When I first heard it, I loved it because it has an old-school feel, like 60s music, and I absolutely love music from that era. But, like Katy Perry’s Friday song, the catchy sound distracts from the appalling lyrics. When I finally listened to the words of “Marry You,” I was so disappointed.

The song in general appears sweet because he’s basically begging this girl to marry him. But if you really listen, a few themes come across that are simply maddening:

1) Who are you, again? It appears that he doesn’t know this girl very well. “Is it the look in your eyes or is it this dancing juice?” (Dancing juice is alcohol.) So he’s basically saying, “I don’t know if it’s because you’re hot or I’m drunk but hey, let’s get married!” How romantic. I sure wish my husband proposed to me that way. Throughout the song it seems he wants to marry her just for the fun of it, not because he’s actually in love with her. In fact, the song has little to do with the girl at all; he’s mainly just trying to convince her to join him in his little prank.

2) Something borrowed, something… dumb? The point above is blatantly reinforced by the lyric, “We’re looking for something dumb to do.” So now marriage is dumb. Why couldn’t he have said “fun” instead of “dumb”? I wouldn’t have had a problem with that. If you’re looking for something dumb to do, Bruno, go teepee someone’s house. Marriage does not and should not fall into that same category.

3) All hail king alcohol. I already mentioned the “dancing juice,” which I’ll admit is kind of a cute, old-school way of describing alcohol. But the eloquence stops there. Because a few verses later he says, “Who cares if we’re trashed…” Nice. And then he says something about how they’ll take shots of Patron (a very strong liquor) to help ease them into the decision. What should be a lifelong commitment, something that should be entered into with clarity of mind, is here being degraded by alcohol, and lots of it.

4) The morning after. I think I would tolerate the song better if it weren’t for the following lyrics: “If we wake up and you wanna break up, that’s cool/ No, I won’t blame you/ It was fun girl.” Those words encourage the common belief that it’s no big deal to end a marriage, and they reinstate the fact that his desire to marry this girl is for the spontaneous experience, not because of love.

The song just saddens me because it is a reflection of our culture’s jaded view of marriage. It’s saying that marriage—one of the biggest decisions you could ever make and one of the most character-building things you’ll ever do—is as easy to walk into and out of as a convenience store. The song totally waters down any respect one might have for the institution of marriage. I’m sure Bruno Mars just wanted a fun, upbeat song that he knew would be a hit, but he’s promoting a dangerous perception of marriage, a perception that’s already pretty screwed up. We didn’t need this song to make it worse.

I told you, I’m sensitive about this all-too-popular view of marriage and I hope you will be too. I also hope that, if a guy were to someday write a song about why he wants to marry you, it’ll be filled with reasons why he can’t live without you. And it won’t include the words “dumb” or “trashed.”

Love,
Mom

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Why you shouldn’t hate on marriage

Dear Daughter,

We live in an anti-marriage culture. Often, marriage is jokingly referred to as slavery or prison. Some people truly believe it is akin to being locked up, kept from true freedom. Divorces are more common than anniversaries. And everywhere on TV, we see story lines of extramarital affairs, fighting, separation. It’s rare, in fact, to see a happily married couple on TV or in the movies.

I’m not sure how it got this way. I don’t think it’s always been like this but who knows. Some say that people have always been unhappy in their marriages, but until recent decades it wasn’t socially acceptable to get divorced, so they just “suffered” through marriage till they died. How depressing.

I know I’ve only been married for a little over a year now, so I guess I’m still a naive newlywed. But I refuse to fall into this way of thinking… that marriage is miserable, unnatural, a metaphor for bondage. I believe that God created marriage to be a blessing. I, for one, love coming home to my best friend every day. I love having a companion to hang out with all the time. I love that I can make decisions with someone rather than having to decide everything for myself.

Is marriage easy? No, not at all. But I think the challenge of it is what makes it even more special. Kind of like parenting. Nothing about parenting is simple, yet you go through the tough times, figure things out, and then cherish the good times even more. The same can be said for marriage.

I feel it’s premature to give you marriage advice, since I’m so new to it myself, and since you have a long way to go before you’ll need it! But I do encourage you now to avoid falling into the culture’s way of thinking about marriage. In fact, not only should you avoid it but you should defy it. I hope you’ll get angry like I do whenever someone “jokes” about how awful their wife is, or when you hear about yet another celebrity divorce. I hope your generation can turn around the stigma that marriage is bound for failure. Instead of focusing on the negatives of marriage, focus on the many positives, and shout those positives from the rooftops.

Strong marriages equals strong families equals less hatred, violence, crime and greed. Be the generation that understands that equation, strives to make it a reality, and therefore changes the sad state of this world.

Love,
Mom

The right kind of man

To this quote, I say “Hear hear” and ” Thank you” and “Amen!”:

“We need to teach our daughters to distinguish between a man who flatters her, and a man who compliments her …. a man who spends money on her, and a man who invests in her …. a man who views her as property, and a man who views her properly …. a man who lusts after her, and a man who loves her …. a man who believes he is God’s gift to women, and a man who remembers a woman was God’s gift to man.”  -Unknown

How to recover from the worst kind of breakup

Dear Daughter,

The other night, while watching my new favorite show Parenthood, I started bawling. I always cry a little while watching that show, but this particular episode really got to me because in it, 18-year-old Haddie is dumped by her 20-year-old boyfriend Alex. He breaks up with her simply because he fell out of love with her. He isn’t a jerk about it at all; in fact, it’s clear to see that it breaks his heart to hurt her. He just doesn’t have feelings for her anymore. What was once there simply is not anymore.

I think the reason this hit me so hard is because… well, for one, I’m pregnant, but that’s besides the point. It was devastating to me because I was watching it from the perspective of both Haddie and also her mother, who is pained by her daughter’s heartache.

Daughter, I’m gonna give it to you straight: this kind of breakup is the worst kind there is. When a boy dumps you, you almost want it to be the result of something you’ve done wrong, so you know exactly what happened that made him want to leave. But when he tells you he no longer is attracted to you, it’s so hard not to feel badly about yourself. You’ll ask yourself questions over and over again: “Does he think I’m ugly now? Did I annoy him? Is there someone else?” And there’s no real closure, because you can’t pinpoint the exact moment that everything went south. But it did and the man you cared about is gone.

Now I’m depressed.

But there actually is a bright side to this. Because what happens after the breakup can be one of the most uplifting, character-building opportunities you’ll ever experience. This is when the people who love you—who will always love you no matter what—come to your side to support you and help you realize that you are wonderful, just not meant for this particular man. It’s when you look back at the things you could have done differently, the result of which will benefit future relationships. It’s when you come to a point where you can choose to keep wallowing and wondering, or you can get back on your feet and move on. You will survive this, after all. It will get better every day, and someday, believe it or not, you’ll stop thinking about it altogether.

I’ve had a few of these painful breakups in my past, and I know I’m a much stronger woman because of them. I can handle rejection better because I’ve lived through it and survived it. Plus, now that I have a man who couldn’t be more perfect for me, I’m so grateful that it didn’t end up working out with those guys. I’m grateful that they helped pave the way to a loving, fruitful marriage, to a man who loves me without fail.

It pains me to think that you might someday experience a breakup like the one Haddie did. But I know you will bounce back from it and will be stronger because of it. And any time you need to hear a reason why you are worthy to be loved… well… I’ll give you a million and one.

Love,
Mom

What’s your love language?

Dear Daughter,

A few years ago, a man named Gary Chapman wrote a book called The 5 Love Languages. This book describes five different ways in which people give and receive love. Chapman states that every person is born with one of these languages, and it’s best to know the language of your spouse, significant other, and anyone close to you, so that you know how to better communicate with them.

Here are the love languages and their descriptions, from 5lovelanguages.com:

1) Words of Affirmation. Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.

2) Quality Time. In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.

3) Receiving Gifts. Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.

4) Acts of Service. Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.

5) Physical Touch. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.

I think the assessment of these languages is right on, and knowing them is helpful in all relationships, not just romantic ones. Learn the languages of your closest friends and family members, and try to start speaking to them in their language. They’ll appreciate your willingness to reaching them in a way that makes them feel most loved and secure.

For example, let’s just say (hypothetically, of course) that your mom’s love language is Words of Affirmation. If you want to make her happy, then tell her all the reasons why you think she’s smart, beautiful, talented and all-in-all fabulous. She’ll be like putty in your hands…

Love,
Mom

On men and football

Dear Daughter,

There’s an old song that says, “When a man loves a woman, can’t keep his mind on nothin’ else.” I feel the songwriter should have added a line: “(Unless it’s football season.)”

It’s one of the many mysteries that perplex women. She could be the center of her man’s world, the subject of his undying attention, but come Sunday afternoon, she’s as good as non-existent. On Sundays in the fall and winter, be prepared for your man to focus more of his adoration on the Tom Bradys and the Brian Urlachers on the television screen rather than on you. It will feel akin to infidelity, but don’t worry, after about four hours you’ll have his undivided attention again. Well, unless his team loses. Then he’ll continue to be preoccupied by loathing and self-pity.

I’ve learned there are three types of men in the world:

1) The kind who could care less about football. These are few and far between, so don’t expect to find one easily. And even if you do, he likely will replace the obsession with something else, like art or music, and those are year-round things so really you’re not much better off.

2) The kind who likes football just enough to watch it every week, but that’s about it. This is the most ideal kind of guy. He probably has one team he favors so he watches only that team’s games. He’ll still ditch you for the game, but it’s only a once-a-week thing. He doesn’t have any extracurricular interests. (See below.)

3) The kind who lives, breathes, and dies football. I’m guessing about 80 percent of American males fall into this category. These guys watch every game they can, not just their team’s, just so they can assess the competition. They listen to sports radio during the week, wear their team’s jersey to church on Sundays, and obsess about their fantasy football team almost as much as, if not more than the real thing.

If you end up with Guy #3, may the good Lord bless you. I recommend starting a hobby of your own, or a support group with other unfortunate wives. Or, you could share in your guy’s obsession… follow his team just as closely as he does, help him select his fantasy picks, wear matching jerseys to church. Hey, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right?

I’m lucky to have found a man who resides in the second category. When the Bears game is on, he goes into his own little world, but the rest of the week he’s present and accounted for. I hope you find such a man, but if not… don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Love,
Mom

If I were Rihanna’s mother…

I wrote this post for my parenting blog a couple years ago, right after the news broke that Chris Brown had physically abused his girlfriend Rihanna. That situation affected me deeply and I wanted to share my thoughts on it with other parents. I’m reposting here because it’s a lesson for young women as well…

There is a lot of speculation as to what went down when hip-hop star Chris Brown abused his hip-hop star girlfriend Rihanna. There are rumors about the specific incident itself. (Chris received a text message from another woman, which made Rihanna jealous, which started the brawl…) There are psychoanalytical theories as to why Chris resorted to hitting her. (He himself was beaten as a child.) And then there is a disturbingly large number of people—primarily TEENAGE GIRLS—who think Rihanna “deserved” the beating and that Chris only deserves “better.” Hmmm.

I’m not going to pretend I know the intimate details of Chris and Rihanna’s relationship. No one knows except for Chris and Rihanna. What I DO know is, no matter what the reason, this shouldn’t have happened. It shouldn’t have happened to them, it shouldn’t happen to you, it shouldn’t happen to me, it shouldn’t happen to anyone.

And yet it does happen. All the time. And as a parent of a beautiful little girl, I want to figure out exactly why and how and what I can do to keep it from happening to her.

I’m no parenting expert, but I think there are some obvious things that we parents CAN do, even (in fact, especially) while our children are young:

1) Never, ever hit, push or grab your child. If you believe in spanking as a form of discipline, do so when you are calm and collected, not out of anger or desperation. And give the child warning ahead of time that you will spank her only if she continues to misbehave. This way the child inherently knows that the spanking is a decision made out of control and composure. This is discipline, not abuse.

2) Never fight with your spouse/significant other in front of your child. Kids learn how to settle conflict by watching the adults in their lives. If your spousal fights include yelling, name-calling or hitting, the child will think this is the normal and appropriate way to handle conflict—and he’ll likely be doing the same thing with his spouse later down the road.

3) If your child is a girl, pour your energy into teaching her self-worth and independence. Easier said than done, I know. But when my daughter is 21 years old, and if her boyfriend gets a suspicious text message from another woman, I don’t want her to feel jealous and worthless. I want her to say confidently, “I’m the best you’re gonna get, but if you want someone else, see ya!” And if—heaven forbid—a man ever hits her, I want her to run as far away from him as she possibly can and never contemplate going back to him (which is what Rihanna is reportedly contemplating right now). I want my daughter to know without a doubt that this kind of treatment is wrong and undeserved—and likely not a one-time thing. The only way she will know that is if I teach her.

4) If your child is a boy, pour your energy into teaching him gentle strength… that he can have power without resorting to domination over other human beings. I’ve never been a victim of physical abuse, but I do know that abuse of any form usually stems from profound insecurity. My own psychoanalytical theory is that Chris Brown was so afraid of losing Rihanna that he wanted her to believe it was HER fault that this happened. Our culture has been trained to believe that it’s okay to hurt people when they’ve hurt you first. Action films only glorify this belief. So in the weird and twisted world of abuse, victims are made to feel deserving of supposed vengeful treatment. But in reality, the abusers are just so scared to be rejected that they use force and manipulation to project fear onto the victim instead. My point is, boys need to feel just as loved and secure as girls do. And that’s our job, folks.

All of this is scary and overwhelming, and it’s easy to believe that it only happens to other people. But it happens to a lot of people, and your child could be one of them. If anything, I think the over-exposure of the Chris Brown/Rihanna incident is good in that it’s a big wake-up call to abusive men, abused women… and parents who can stop the abuse before it even begins.

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