Back before we were married, Ron and I believed playing sports together might be fun. Being foolishly in love will make you think stupid things sometimes.
During our very first weekend together, when he visited me at my graduate school in Oklahoma, we went to the university recreation center for a rousing game of basketball, and then racquetball. He creamed me at both, even making a joke about my tendency to whiff at the racquetball.
“A Swing And A Miss,” he kept saying, thinking he was being funny or something. He wasn’t catching my nonverbals—you know, like the increasing shroud of silence—until I said I didn’t want to play racquetball anymore because I wasn’t having any fun. I sulked for a bit, blaming my lack of skills on poor eyesight and a Walmart-brand racquet.
What maturity! What grace!
And not really a great way to get to know the partner with whom you are deeply infatuated, especially when that partner is also competitive, athletic, and sees his or her strength and fitness as integral to personal identity.
But readers, I still married him. Or he still married me, rather. This after he tried to go for a two-mile run with me and told me to stop being so cheery and talkative. And after I yelled at him during a tennis match because he kept serving as hard as he could, as if blowing a ball by me made the game more fun. And after he endured a round of golf or two when I cursed a blue streak because I couldn’t hit my ball beyond the tee.
Yes, indeed. He still married me.
These days, almost sixteen years into marriage, we don’t need feats of athletic strength to establish our relationship with each other. He’s clearly better at some athletic stuff, and that’s okay. I’m clearly better at others, and that’s okay too, until the moment when he starts getting almost as good as me at the stuff I’m good at. Then, we will probably need to re-evaluate.
A pastor in Arizona, though, has made me think some of our competitive rituals need to be re-established, if only because my own role in our relationship is becoming distorted by my understanding that I am my husband’s equal, and he is mine.
Pastor Steven Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Ariz., apparently believes women shouldn’t have a say in how the country is run because the Bible tells us so, and them “lying, atheist, devils down at the university!” have been feeding folks myths about women’s rights and evolution and a bunch of other stuff.
And so, just to make it clear what kind of order is established in the household, Anderson carries his wife around the house every morning, something he admits in a sermon given earlier this year. By carrying his wife around, he says he is asserting “Hey, I’m stronger than you. I’m the boss.” Though I wasn’t aware of this, it’s a “feminine thing” to be carried, and a “masculine thing” to hoist your wife over a shoulder like a sack of potatoes and march around the kitchen.
Or maybe not the kitchen, since that’s a woman’s domain.
This routine, at least, allows Anderson to affirm that their marriage isn’t the “50/50 relationship that’s garbage that the world talks about.” So maybe the wife isn’t so much a sack of potatoes, but garbage? I’m not sure.
Anderson isn’t afraid to speak truth about this, he says, because “It’s a Male/Female relationship. I’m the man. You’re the woman. I’m gonna pick you up and show you that. And if I ever want you to go somewhere that you don’t wanna go, you know what? I’m just showing you, I have the power to pick you up and take you there.”
So what’s a weaker man with a bigger wife to do to show his role in the household? I reckon get some muscles, and most definitely tell that wife of his to get skinny so he can pick her up. He’s in charge, after all, and should be able to make such demands. And, as Mark Driscoll has pointed out, any wife who has gotten a little too big in the can is destroying the marriage by her laziness and her willingness to let herself go.
A part of me thinks Mr. Anderson is some kind of outlier, a crazy man whose wife somehow puts up with his antics every morning. A part of me thinks Mr. Anderson is only a product of a particular Christian message which asserts that a manly man will exert strength over women because of his God-designed role, and that a man’s proper role is to be able to carry his wife here, and then there, just because (a particular reading) of the Bible tells us so.
Because our marriage is stuck in this “50/50 relationship” that’s apparently “garbage,” I’m thinking we need to reinstate those feats of strength that were so healthy in our pre-marriage relationship. Perhaps Ron can smoke tennis serves past me, just to let me know whose boss. Or, who knows, maybe he could carry me around the house every morning. I might be a little sweaty from my morning run, and he’d probably have to get out of bed to complete the chore before I head off to work, but I also imagine that getting carried around the kitchen would really show me whose boss. That is, if he can get my feet off the ground.
*I found out about Pastor Steven Anderson on the Patheos blog The Friendly Atheist, a feature I read regularly because Hermant Mehta, The Friendly Atheist, is insightful, interesting, friendly (duh!), and offers an interesting lens through which to view the evangelical culture in which I am deeply embedded.