Men (and Women)

Last week, I was talking to my daughter Chenelle and she was telling me about life in "The Dollhouse". I guess I should explain. "The Dollhouse" is a large, yellow two story rental home that Chenelle shares with three (or is it four?) other girls. The young ladies are all twenty-something, and as crone-mother to one of the residents, I'm often amused by the stories of their various adventures. That's my reward for becoming a crone, FYI. I get to listen and smile as these young women struggle through their angst-ridden life lessons, grateful that I'm no longer going through all that. One must enjoy the scarce alms of seniority.

"Mom, you know what I've noticed about living with other women?" That was Chenelle's lead-in to the conversation. My response: "Mmhmm?" That's all a crone-mother has to do, by the way. Occasionally acknowledge that you hear the young person talking, and let her wear herself out.

Anyway, Chenelle said, "All we ever talk about is how all guys seem to be no good." I nearly burst out laughing, but I kept it inside. Chenelle doesn't take too kindly to my amusement when she is being sincerely serious. I've raised her, and knowing every nuance of her emotional ebbs and flows, I have no desire to provoke her red-faced, octave-skipping wails of "you NEVER understand me!" (Why is it that twenty-somethings seem to often speak in absolutes? Did I do that once upon a time?) So I asked her, "Why is that? Isn't there anything else you-all can talk about besides men?" "No." She was frowning, seeming to try to recall conversations with her roommates that didn't involve the opposite sex. "I don't know what to say anymore because I'm not hung up on anyone right now." Secretly, I breathed a sigh of relief. Her last relationship involved her wanting to pack up and follow a wanna-be guru back to his hometown somewhere in the backwoods of Illinois. Again, I kept my silence and just listened.

She described how her roommates seem to always fall for guys who treat them quite badly, or ignore them all together. It all sounded way too familiar. It's western society's dysfunctional rite-of-passage, I suppose. We really don't have any clear instructions on how to find a mate, so we flounder about like the salmon desperately fighting to make it to their spawning waters. Few of the salmon make it alive. Sometimes I think the same about humans. We might be physically alive, but far too many of us are quite emotionally and spiritually wounded by the struggle. The wounding also seems to last for a lifetime, which makes the possibility of ever finding a functional relationship (I'm too practical to say "perfect") seem too remote.

I wanted to offer my daughter some sage advice, but the wisest thing I could do is remain silent. I don't want her to learn from my jaundiced point of view. My last relationship was a pathologically bad marriage to her father, and it ended over twenty years ago. In the intervening years, I've had no opportunity to model a loving relationship for my children because I was busily rectifying my past relationship mistakes by establishing a loving relationship with myself. The process has taken an abysmally long time, and the years slipped by like mercury. Now, I feel a certain amount of regret that I have nothing more than the absence of a relationship to show as a prototype. It's difficult to work from zero, but it's considerably better than the destructive model that I had before.

There is help from a Higher Source available, but like many young people, my daughters question the practical relevance of "organized" religion (as opposed to unorganized?) to daily life. That's something that I have to accept. In the process of healing myself from dysfunctional relationships, I forgot about sharing the Writings of Baha'u'llah with my children. Sure, I read the Writings and said prayers. But did I do the same with my kids? No, in fact, there was a period inactivity that lasted ten years. I can't help but think that they would benefit greatly from the guidance contained in the words of Baha'u'llah, the Ba'b, and Abdu'l Baha'. Especially these words:

Among the majority of the people marriage consists of physical relationship and this union and relationship is temporary for at the end physical separation is destined and ordained. But the marriage of the people of Baha must consist of both physical and spiritual relationship for both of them are intoxicated with the wine of one cup, are attracted by one Peerless Countenance, are quickened with one Life and are illumined with one Light. This is the spiritual relationship and everlasting union. Likewise in the physical world they are bound together with strong and unbreakable ties.

When relationship, union and concord exist between the two from a physical and spiritual standpoint, that is the real union, therefore everlasting. But if the union is merely from the physical point of view, unquestionably it is temporal and at the end separation is inevitable.

(Compilations, Baha'i World Faith, p. 372)

This quote is only drop in the ocean of Endless Wisdom concerning a loving relationship between a man and a woman, which, as you might gather, means marriage in the Baha'i Faith. I used to shudder at the mere mention of the word, based on my own very negative experience. But while that reaction is understandable, it is also illogical. If I created a negative experience out of ignorance, it stands to reason that I can create, with the help of the Almighty, a positive experience. This is a piece of information that I never passed on to my daughters during their formative years. They only heard my lamentations about the dearth of good men (regrettably, I said those words like so many other women), and the soul-slaying imprisonment that signifies of the institution of modern marriage. Those words have come back to haunt me as my daughters echo them almost verbatim.

At this point, all I can do is pray that knowledge, wisdom and guidance from the Concourse on High leads my daughters to happier relationships than the ones their mother had.

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