Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Captivate This

Several years ago a book sensation swept through the small and often strange world of Evangelical Literature. This book enjoyed a wave of popularity and then went on to spawn everything from camping trips to pocket knives, and of course the requisite Bible covers and crosses made of ropes.

Wild at Heart was (is supposed to be) a book about men. Men as they are supposed to be at their core, not the way that society and church and Wicked Women have diluted them.

Many of the men at my church read this book, and were enthralled. All of a sudden, my piano teacher who was petite and rather had a penchant for Dino wanted to kill a bear with his fingernail file and bathe in its blood.

I've not ever been a man (just in case you wondered) and therefore cannot appropriately respond to this book. I don't know if in the heart of every man there lives a wild boar who wants to eat with his feet and throw dung at passing buffalo herds. But I do recognize that in the heart of every man I know there lives a savage 12 year old boy who wants to leave his toenail clippings on my bath rug and throw water balloons at passing SUV's because they have 'given in to the system'.

I actually supported the whole Wild at Heart phenomena for awhile. I could understand the author's point that men needed time to just 'be men' and that masculinity has a place within the spiritual life. I agree with these claims, at least on a surface level. I do think that our society has tried to de-gender us, and make equality the same as neutrality. I don't think that anyone needs to give up their masculine or feminine tendencies because of the over-generalization of those same traits.

A few years after the incredible success of this book, the author's wife wrote her own book, this one being unsurprisingly about women. Christian men had looked to Mr. Eldredge for half a decade now on how to be a man, so surely the answer to being a women lay within the bosom of Mrs. Eldredge! It makes sense, right?

I was actually really excited about reading this book. The cover was pretty, in a sort of carefree, summer day with Monet kind of way. I put Sabra to bed and cozied up in the overstuffed ugly armchair that gives not beauty but comfort. The author begins by saying that women want to be romanced, play a role in their own adventure, and to display beauty. I don't disagree with this premise, as I can see myself in these three needs. Of course I want to be romanced, I sure as hell want to be part of my own adventure, and who doesn't want to be beautiful?

As the book went on, I became increasingly confused. Although I'm supposed to want to play my own role, I also apparently need to be rescued. And even though I want to be romanced, I need to understand that men are eternally going to act like boys and want to go fart and burp in a corner together while they eat raw meat. I shouldn't want to change them because God made them this way. And yet...who wants to be rescued by an adolescent? Do I really want to be rescued anyways?

The book went downhill from there.

The authors (both husband and wife wrote) of Captivating wanted to point out that men's needs and women's needs fit into a perfect little puzzle. Just like their body parts, men and women's needs go together! How neat is that?! If we would only be true to our true feminine side, we would be happy in life and love, and would captivate our man. Awesome. Whatever.

I liked a small portion of the book that talked about beauty. Little girls, it says, love to dress up. They like to twirl in glittery skirts and their mother's high heels. When they add some Bonne Bell, they are ready for the Prince (Daddy) to come in and exclaim how pretty they look.

I have two little girls who love to do this, and I understand the importance of Austin telling them how lovely they look. They are forming their ideas about beauty and its relation to self-worth. I tell them every day that I think they are physically beautiful. Having a father that does the same will hopefully have a positive impact, and do its job at keeping them from having crazy self-esteem issues when their 12 year old boyfriend only wants to fart and burp and eat raw meat with his friends.

I had had ENOUGH of the book when I came to a chapter that talks about the beauty of women and the ruined beauty of (ruined?) women. To illustrate the point, the authors open with a story about Stasi's beautiful garden full of flowers that I cannot pronounce and would probably kill if I had to take care of them. This garden of hers was completely ransacked and pillaged by a hailstorm. It came and went quickly and then left behind what my normal garden looks like. Barren....worn....wilted.

And then..this is the part that made me literally throw the book across the room...she cried. Not because of her hard work at coaxing a plant out of its seed and tending to it daily, but because of the lost beauty.

Perhaps only a fellow gardener would understand. I, however, was even more confused. I felt like how Austin looks when I tell him that I cannot possibly wear that dress this week because I wore it last week. He just does NOT get it.

I have to admit that I didn't bother to read the last chapter. I was DONE with this ridiculous book that told me nothing about what it means to be a woman, Christian OR secular. It told me that girls like to be pretty and want some romance.

Wow. That is just CAPTIVATING.

And completely obvious by anyone who has a shard of a brain.

I own the idea that I want to be pretty. I also own that a great romance would be awfully nice. Sometimes I want to be rescued (like from this job) but other times I want to go to war with paint on my face and kill someone (like at this job).

In short (or long, I guess) I just don't think that this book says much of anything. It takes an observation about the female sex and then expands that observation to encompass EVERYTHING a woman thinks about or longs for.

Where is the room for a Warrior Queen in here? A medicine woman? A receptionist? I didn't see them in this book, and I didn't see many other things either.

With so much emphasis on being the poor damsel in distress, locked inside a tower and waiting for the man to stop hunting stag long enough to want to come rescue you and then put down his hot wings long enough to do so, it fails to mention that 'being rescued' is such a small part of life. 'Rescue Me' is just another song on the grand playlist of life, next to 'R.E.S.P.E.C.T.' and 'Goodbye Earl'.

I have only to conclude, in raptures and delight, that if Captivating was not indeed an accurate portrayal of women, its male counterpart must also be lacking in 'the big picture'.

Men, it seems, might long for more than wearing a leather pouch over their nether regions and blowing things up on the PlayStation. Perhaps they want to rescue a female, but sometimes they might need a break just as much as I need a break from trying to feel beautiful all the time.

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