Monday, August 15, 2011

My conversation with Donald Miller's "How to Live a Great Love Story, Vol. 1"

It's funny how the Internet works. One blog led me to Donald Miller's blog last week, and I obediently followed the link because I like the guy. Read his books, I think he's generally well-spoken. And the title of the article piqued my interest:

"How to Live a Great Love Story, Vol. 1," which if you try to Google it, it's hard to find because he deleted it along with the second volume addressed to men. Instead, you'll find this article in which he apologizes for and explains his haste in writing the two previous volumes.

News of my intense dissatisfaction over his writings spread quickly amongst friends and family mostly because I can't keep my mouth shut. My overriding question was: do people actually still believe this shit in the 21st century? Much less perpetrate it?

Well, naive soul, the answer is yes.

My friends have asked if I accept his apology, and I do. I even commented on his blog and said I was humbled by his attempt at smoothing things over because his misguided posts caused quite a splash in the religious blogosphere, which I don't pay any attention to at all unless people are fighting. Nothing is more funny than Christians fighting on the Internet. Pop the popcorn, pull up a seat, it's about to get remove-the-log-out-of-your-own-eye-crazy.


I'm a blogger, a writer, blah, blah, blah, and as such I have a lot of things to say especially when it comes to things I feel passionate about.

As it turns out, my love story is one of those things. To sum it up, dude tried to dictate my love story and I didn't like his version. So I hammered out my reply on a keyboard and thanks to popular demand, you get to read it:

I became disinterested in the current issue of Woman’s Day after an article about defining the type of get-the-kids-off-to-school morning routine woman I am. This was before stress-proofing your marriage. There just wasn’t a whole lot there for this woman in her day, and I left my magazine-reading-bath-session feeling a little cheated and that I’d have been better served reading Sports Illustrated.

I had the same feeling when I finished Donald Miller’s How to Live a Great Love Story Vol. 1.

First of all, any article that claims inadvertently in its title that it is the how-to guide on a nebulous thing like love is gravely mistaken. As it turns out, there is no how-to guide, and the how-to-ness of a guide means one thing: condemnation and guilt when my love story doesn’t follow the preceding guidelines. It’s as haughty as its own presumption that the guide to love is contained within the following thousands of words.

To commiserate then for thousands of words and inconsistencies is offensive to the people who took the time to read it, including myself. Below you'll find my differing opinions under his boldened ones.

How do we live a great love story? Here are some suggestions:
1. Don’t hook up: Girls shouldn’t make it too easy on the guy. Don’t hook up, in other words…if he thought of her with respect, he’d sit and ask questions about her life and her family…In other words, guys don’t hook up with girls they would marry.

Regardless of if he’s thinking “I’m going to marry her and have sex with her” or “I just want to have sex with her,” sex is going to be a thought. Just because a guy asks questions about life and family does not mean they’re not looking for the “hook up girl” - the kind you’ve told us (twice in three sentences) not to be.

…And when your husband finds out you were the “hook up” girl he’s going to have to have a lot of grace, which is fine, it just puts you in the category of “charity” in his mind and not “equal” or “partner.”

Time out. Hold the phone. So a guy has married the hook up girl and then realized she was that girl? THE hook up girl? If the guy who has married the hook up girl, married the hook up girl because he saw something in her he wanted to pursue, than perhaps her hook up days are over? Forgiven? Under the blood, as common Christian liturgy would refer to it as? And if it’s a relationship worth having, wouldn’t he know before he tied the big fat wedding knot? How do you suppose he’d ’find out’? Rummaging around in her closet of skeletons only to find “Oh honey, you were THE hook up girl? I’m devastated.” Why would a torrid past place anyone in the “charity” category (I’m not even sure I know what that is) and is his past perfect that it would also eliminate him from such a subordinate position in her mind? Maybe that will be addressed in part two.

…Unless you get over it and move on and do a period of time where you put it all behind you, he will and honestly should lose respect for you.

While I’m adhering to a list of requirements to get back in his good graces, what else can I do? Climb stairs on my bare knees while whipping myself with a hand-picked switch? The author wants to belabor the damage of being the hook up girl, but seeks to relegate its consequential fix into a mere sentence - get over it, move on, do a period of time (whatever that means), put it behind you. And as a bonus, you might get his respect back! Oh, when can we start?

2. Make him work for it: When a guy is made to fight for a girl, he esteems her much more highly. She becomes more attractive in his eyes, and for that matter she becomes more attractive to other men, too. That said, most of the time this will backfire because lots of guys are just looking for cheap and slutty sex and for her to get lost afterward.

How can I say this? I vomited in my mouth and laughed at the same time. I’m envisioning this in my head as a football huddle. Third down. Ball’s in the end zone, or on the 50-yard line, doesn’t really matter for the sake of this analogy because as your coach is wrapping up calling the next play, he finishes the mesmerizing speal by declaring, “It won’t matter, actually. You’re going to lose either way.” Nice! Inspiration epic fail. So ladies, what I’m gathering here is: make him work for it but *pssst* it’s going to backfire. Wait. He just said that.

3. Weed them out: …By weeding them out you definitely end up with a smaller pool of guys to choose from. It’s unfortunate and that is truly bad news. But there’s good news, too. There are fewer girls with the strength to not have one night stands, and those girls become much, much more attractive to men…
In other words, it’s a great strategy to be more attractive to a smaller group than cheap and easy to a larger group.

I feel like this is matter of mathematics now and subsequently way over my head. But this is my hang-up (not hook up! I am so not that girl): statements such as that presume that I want to be attractive to anyone. And that’s the problem with how-to guides to love stories, and in this case living a great love story. You’re grossly unaware of the fact that I’m walking my journey for myself. I’m not holding myself back from being the hook up girl for a smaller pool of bastards who want to have sex with me as much as their impure counterparts. Is strategy really the best advantage you could think of to holding ones self back from being the hook up girl? Is that the incentive you’re using? So girls can wait and find the best husband who will make the best babies and be the best partner in raising a family?

4. Be willing to suffer: What this means for you is that your love story needs to have a lot of lonely crying in it.

No, no it doesn’t. There is one constant in your love story and that’s you. And you don’t have to suffer, you weren’t made to suffer. Your love story starts at the center, the core of who you are, and if lonely crying isn’t there, don’t cry. If lonely crying is there, by all means wail it out. But then get a hobby. Don’t keep crying. Don’t keep suffering. Get a dog. There’s a reason why I raise puppies - I have to nurture something. Babies aren’t in the big picture for me right now, but it doesn’t make me cry. It makes me look within myself for a way to satisfy that longing. As a result, I’ve been the best babysitter, best puppy raiser, best nanny, best bring-muffins-to-work woman ever.

Believe it or not, there will come a day when a man will fall madly in love with you....

Will he? Again, there’s a reoccurring assumption here that my vagina automatically needs a friend. It’s like furniture stores and liquidation sales - where there’s one, there’s another. But maybe not in this case. So you’ve directed me to have lots of lonely crying in my love story with the guarantee that a man will fall madly in love with me. I say bullshit. You’re laying a stack of cards claiming they’re aces, and I call bullshit. The only thing you can be sure of is that I am involved in my love story. I/me am the common denominator and as such the only thing I can guarantee is that my love story journey begins and ends in my heart.

...and you will have the honor of sitting down with him one special night to explain that, while you weren’t perfect, you turned down plenty of guys and cried yourself to sleep hoping somebody would come around and treat you with respect.

If I said that to any guy I was interested in, I would hope for two things: 1) that he would start laughing, or 2) run away.

If he doesn’t have the same story, he will feel intensely convicted and unworthy.

You still don’t get it, do you? Every person has a story, no two are the same. And I’m not looking for someone with the same story. We all have our own journey to walk and we’ve all made choices to get to this point in our lives, whatever this point is for every one. Our stories will never be the same.

And like all great how-to guides, the disclaimer:

You’re love story may not work, it’s true. Plenty of them don’t. But the chances of your love story succeeding are greatly increased when, on race day, you can actually run.

So, what do you do if you’ve completely screwed this up: (because chances are, you have.)

1. Be honest about it…You shouldn’t share a bunch of details, but you should definitely share you went through a slutty season and have very few, if any, excuses. Be honest, but not too honest.

Is the author going to be there when I have this conversation so I can know exactly what I need to say? What’s a “bunch of details”? How will I know? Instead of silencing the voice within us by pretentious step-by-step guides, what about equipping that voice to speak for us? Our hearts are more powerful than you think.

3. Start training for the freaking marathon. Marriage is the hardest job you’ll ever have. It works nothing like a hookup.

This is actually good information, because in my head, marriage and hook-up were the exact same thing.

If you’re used to one off sex acts where you’re having crazy experiences, you’re (your) husband is never going to be able to match up because, well, he’s got to stick around and do the laundry and argue with you about the electricity (electric) bill.

If I were to poll all of my married friends right now, I could promise that him sticking around to do laundry is not part of their love story. And that if it were, it’d probably make for a little crazy sex experience in the laundry room that he might “match up” to.

…It feels boring in the moment, but twenty years in you’ll be crying your eyes out over this man who stuck with you through the thick and thin and who honestly didn’t care that you got fat!

Wow. So many things going on in this sentence. First of all, I’m not sure the kinds of women you hang/hung out with, but they sure are some weepers. You’ve got us crying a.lot. Secondly, in the hallucinogenic love story you’ve created for me, please don’t make me fat!

The world needs some great love stories, but few people are willing to do what it takes to tell them.

With a list like this, it’s little wonder the line isn’t pulsating. What I would rather invest my emotional, spiritual and mental health and energy in is living my love story (my unique-to-me story shared by no one else) that starts with me and ends with me. If it happens to include a life partner, how wonderful. (Seriously, wonderful.) But if it doesn’t, the love story I started with myself will continue. My journey won’t end just because someone in the fractionized pool wasn’t attracted to me. My journey is powerful because I’m the one living it. It’s my love story being told every day.


RHEA said...


Anonymous said...

Are you sure you aren't a lesbian?

Mary Zolene said...

I will have to read this again...but I chuckled several times. And I can relate. Love you!

e. said...

I loved reading this, and you are hilarious! Thanks to Donald Miller I have reactivated the word "douchebag" in my vocabulary.

The Logarithmic Spiral said...

"There is one constant in your love story and that’s you. And you don’t have to suffer, you weren’t made to suffer. Your love story starts at the center, the core of who you are, and if lonely crying isn’t there, don’t cry. If lonely crying is there, by all means wail it out. But then get a hobby. Don’t keep crying. Don’t keep suffering."
I love this post for SO MANY reasons, but I think this quote is my favorite. You are so incredible and I am so blessed to call you my friend.

PS, I can't wait to tell you about my newest obsession that I want to incorporate into our road trip somehow. It has something to do with the Appalachian Trail. And by "something to do with" I mean it has everything to do with it :)