Sunday, February 20, 2011

We all have our roles in life . . .

There was a brief piece in this week's The Week about princess-to-be Kate Middleton. She's "starting to channel Princess Diana," said the author.

Two months before the April 29 wedding, we’re already seeing “that familiar coquettish glance at the camera,” coupled with some “rather dramatic weight loss.” But if Kate “has any sense,” she won’t model herself on her true love’s mother but rather on his stepmother, Camilla.

“When it comes to handling a royal husband,” Camilla is far savvier than Diana ever was. She has internalized the most important lesson for royal brides: “You always come second.”

Diana stole the limelight from Charles. She attended every gala, premiere, and awards ceremony she was invited to and “reveled in the attention.” What the prince needed, however, was a consort “by his side, or in the wings,” not standing in front.
And Camilla, by contrast?

She "has never tried to upstage her husband." She "even plays dumb when necessary, as when she famously pretended she couldn’t work a video camera and let Charles demonstrate it for her."

"Sure," the article concluded, "such behavior is old-fashioned, even anti-feminist. But if you want a marriage of equals, don’t marry a royal."

--Whew, boy!

It reminded me of something Sarita and I discussed with someone in southeast Asia. We were talking about the astonishing cooperative, "I'll do anything to please you" (or, at least, make you feel good), "let's all work together" spirit in that part of the world.

Our source has taught at the university level. He said students in his classes would find friends who would work like slaves, in awful--I mean, truly awful--circumstances for hours and days (and days!) on end . . . to help their friends complete certain creative projects.

He said he never heard them argue or bicker or fight. There was no ego involved. They simply did everything necessary to get the job done. Excellently.

Such a culture has real strengths that ours in the west lacks.

Wow! If you need massive manpower to complete a task, you will find it and the task will get done.

But at what cost?

I mean at what cost to the participants?

And, ultimately, to society as a whole?

With all the astonishing technical excellence and productivity, these Chinese/southeast Asian students, our friend said, just--for some reason (probably related to the sublimated ego, the almost non-existent "I")-- . . . they just seem to lack some of the artistic excitement, the creativity he has seen elsewhere.

Sometimes it's hard, even, to put your finger on.

But that portion of the conversation eventually wound around to talking about the differences between (most) American and (most) Chinese women: "If you want a partner, marry an American woman. If you want a servant, marry a Chinese woman."

I have been so blessed to be married to an American woman partner--someone who is willing, ready and able to stand up against me, call me on my foolishness, suggest better, smarter, more effective ways of going where we (together) have agreed to go.

How grateful I am for such a relationship! Instead of the almost obsequious, "Oh, my master! I will do whatever you say! Oh! You are so smart! You are so strong! You are so ______! Whatever you say, my dear!" complaisance of the supposedly ideal southeast Asian woman!


PS: Much as modern American evangelicals--and especially women--would like to suggest the Bible does not present us obsequiousness as "the" model taught in Scripture, isn't it taught?

Oh, yes! We can find plenty of counter-examples of the women who don't seem to fit the model--Deborah, Jael, Mary, Jesus' mother (and Mary, the sister of Martha, who sat with the men to listen to Jesus while her sister did all the kitchen work [and who got criticized?]!), Lydia and Priscilla and Junia and the Proverbs 31 woman, etc., etc.

But then we're stuck with the obsequious verses and passages as well: Ephesians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:13; 1 Peter 3:1-6; and so forth.

It does strike me that there is a big difference between being strong and obnoxious on the one hand, or between being obsequious and holy (or non-obnoxious) on the other! (Put another way: Just because you are obsequious doesn't guarantee you're not obnoxious. And just because you are strong doesn't mean you must be being offensive! Strong does not have to be obnoxious. And being a doormat doesn't mean holy.)

--Just a little side-thought . . . because, I'm afraid, I've met too many women who think they have to lay themselves down as doormats for their men to step all over or they won't be "godly"!

Forget it!

Maybe you will be most godly when you encourage your man--by standing up to him!--to quit being such a [jerk].

Afraid you might hurt his feelings?

He's a man! He needs to get over it!
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