I’ve been reading a lot lately about women’s bodies – cat calling (her perspective, his perspective), what software engineers should look like, self-portraits and wearing jewel-encrusted lace. And even worse, how this impacts the way girls learn to be women and the way that we judge them.
I am so glad that I am old enough to be invisible now, but I am so afraid for the women that follow me.
And this led me to wonder whether there was a time when men were mercilessly judged by women, and actually there was; as a marriageable man. It was about their suitability as husbands so perhaps more realistically the scrutiny came from girl’s fathers, but girls were given advice about what they should consider and this is what I am presenting to you today.
The following is taken from What by a Young Woman Ought to Know by Mary Wood-Allen (MD). The book was originally written in 1899 and re-copyrighted in 1905 and 1913 (as there are references to the march of medical knowledge, I deduce the book was updated before it was re-released).
So here are Dr Wood-Allen’s criteria for marriage material men.
1. Does he love you selflessly?
There are two kinds of men; the one who selfishly loves you because you contribute to his happiness and the one who selflessly wants to contribute to yours. True love, the kind to build a marriage on, is built on a firm foundation of deep knowledge about each other and not a surface appreciation of intellectual or physical attraction. It is more than the “sweet pain” of stolen glances and caresses, it grows from a strong friendship, that is compatible on the intellectual, spiritual and physical levels. When you are assessing a man’s suitability as your life partner, you must take the flirtatious sentiment out of the equation and meet him from the position of friendship. Refuse to be toyed with, and demand to be treated as an intelligent being through talk of politics, literature, religion and other meaningful things. Observe how he treats your friends and family, and how he treats you in front of them him. If it doesn’t seem as though he loves you selflessly, dump him.
2. Does he come from a “good” family?
Bizarre as this sounds in the modern context, it’s still worth considering because it is generally still expected that a woman leaves her family to join her husband’s, and for better or worse you will be stuck with them. Even if you won’t regularly spend time with them, they give you an indication of how he thinks and what your children could be like – will they be pianists or pickpockets? Dentists or drug addicts? Knowing what his family is like will allow you to make an informed decision about whether you are capable of and prepared to train your children to maximise their positive and minimise their negative characteristics. Even if you don’t plan to have children you can get an idea of how much his family will cost you over the rest of your life. If you aren’t prepared to pay that price, dump him.
3. Does he come from “good” genetic stock?
If he has survived the social cull, there is still the other aspect of family life to consider. Heredity bestows good characteristics as well as bad; good strong bodies and quick minds as well as disease and deformity. Are there any medical conditions that you don’t want to pass on? (Dump him)
4. Has his family lived a healthy lifestyle?
Unhealthy living produces defects in the body which lead to weakness, and some people turn to substances to overcome them. These weaknesses affect the health of a pregnancy and the future life of the child; partly through genetic predisposition, partly the conditions of pregnancy, and partly early life training. If he is too fond of and consumes substances to excess just walk away because he is sick and you cannot fix him. He is a danger to you and your unborn children.
5. Has he sown his oats too widely?
A promiscuous man risks disease and moral degeneracy, both of which he will bring into the marriage. Many diseases that were once life sentences are curable now so this might seem less of a concern, but there are still the attitudinal issues to deal with; these might indicate tendencies to deception and disrespect. Dump him.
6. Does he meet your fundamental requirements of a good husband?
Do you know if your beau will be honest and hard working or will he be happy to live off you? Will he treat you as his equal partner or his servant? Will the money he gives you be a gift or recognition of the value you bring to the household. Are you a means to his ends or an end in yourself? You cannot know any these things without discussing them with him, and much better to know before you marry than after when it is too late. While you can of course easily secure a divorce these days, you will already have invested a great deal of time, money and effort into the marriage before you do. Would you invest the same in a job that you were only going to keep for a couple of years? Dr Wood-Allen considers the small things as well – do you agree that your bedroom window should be open at night? Are you willing to pick your clothes up off the floor if he wants a neat bedroom? If he can’t meet your deal breakers, dump him.
7. The final hurdle – the engagement.
Do not get engaged unless you have become good friends and are seriously considering marrying him. In older times, long engagements were common so that the husband-to-be could finish his education or apprenticeship and prepare for his manly life to come. The key question became how far should you go… And the answer is as far as you want in intellectual intimacy; deepening and strengthening the affection that is going to carry you through the rest of your life with this man. You might get the tiniest bit physical, but you should put 99.5% of the effort into developing your loving friendship because:
- you don’t know what might happen in the meantime, and
- you’ll need something to carry you through the time when passion fades.
Don’t marry a man who doesn’t come from a good family or treat you right.
I can’t help feeling that if someone had articulated all that to me when I was younger it would have made a lot of difference to the types of boys I spent time with. Does it change how you think about yours?