I’ve noted in other posts the dire cultural consequences we’re currently dealing with as a direct result of the so-called sexual revolution and women’s liberation of the 1960s. In a two-part column entitled Cyberspace and the Single (Conservative) Girl, which appeared on Parcbench, The Republican Temple and Palin Drone, I explored the ramifications of the “turbulent” decade for traditional women like me, based on a real-life experience with a guy I’d met online last year.
Sadly, for those of us who were raised to actually demand respect from men, believe in the joys of sex within the confines of a marital — or at the very least — an exclusive, committed relationship, and appreciate such antiquated courtesies like a man holding open a door, picking up the tab for a meal or offering his seat on a bus, dating in the contemporary world is daunting at best, and depressing at worst.
While the men who engage in bad behavior are by no means unaccountable, their confusion is certainly understandable. Women who claimed to speak for their entire gender — people like Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and Betty Freidan — made it crystal clear through their activism that “girl power” meant having meaningless sex with multiple partners, procuring abortion on demand for any ol’ reason (no matter how dubious), diminishing the important role of fathers in the lives of children, condemning all acts of war regardless of the facts, and overall zealously subscribing to the gospel of liberalism.
Never mind that that female pioneers like Susan B. Anthony were staunchly pro-life and pro-family, with a focus on holding men accountable to their crucial roles as husband, father and family provider.
Having been raised in a traditional home with parents who fall somewhere in-between the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers, I am eternally grateful for my upbringing and for my first-hand observation of what it means to have a loving, respectful marriage and household. Unfortunately, it also meant that I was in for a very rude awakening when it was time to participate in the dating rituals of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries.
Without rehashing the Evolution of Water Signs here, I will just note that when the flood of memories initiated an almost out-of-control stream of consciousness that demanded the creation of a novel, I realized just how dramatically different my experience with the real-life Ken had been from just about every other guy I’d ever dated. Therefore, I purposely included many of them as fictional characters, for the purpose of setting up a contrast to the Ken character, and to assist (no matter how painfully) in Madeline’s personal growth and spiritual development.
So let’s take a look at them in-depth, shall we:
Jake Winston – Jake is modeled after a guy I’d dated after college, my first “long-term” boyfriend. Although in reality, this relationship lasted about a year-and-a-half, in the book I changed that to two years. More than any other non-Ken suitor, Jake is also an embodiment of the novel’s theme of forgiveness, and the sole non-Ken suitor with any real redeeming qualities. Like his flesh-and-blood counterpart, he is overly and cruelly critical at times of Madeline’s appearance, as well as her family’s cherished customs, including getting dressed up for holidays. Thanks to Jake, Maddy’s insecurities have been intensified to the point where it’s all but impossible for her to trust in Ken’s sincerity during their first go-around. But to his great credit, this character (like the real man) eventually undertakes a self-imposed, spiritual housecleaning, prompting him to call Madeline out-of-the-blue to genuinely seek her forgiveness years later. Although there’s no desire on her part to reignite that relationship, she truly appreciates and respects his courage in taking such a bold action, and offers her complete absolution.
Gary Snyder – Gary is also inspired by a real-life character I met while conducting outside sales calls for an employment agency in suburban Philadelphia. Like so many I’ve encountered, he committed the ol’ bum’s rush, apparently noticing (and liking) me as I gave my best sales pitch to the receptionist at the insurance company whose business I’d been seeking. Although I saw him pass by briefly, I’d hardly given him a second thought — that is until I received an unexpected delivery of white roses upon my return to the office. Actually, that’s how it went down for Maddy in the book; in real life, it was quite a comedy of errors as he’d inadvertently sent the flowers to the wrong woman. However, for both Madeline and me, the rest of the story is the same: after a few good dates where we’d seemed to connect well, we made plans to meet up at the Jersey Shore. But when I showed up at his rental in Ocean City as agreed upon, he couldn’t get rid of me fast enough. And that was the extent of my interaction with Gary “white roses” Snyder (and yes, I did change his name for the book).
Jim Russo – Ah Jim, bless his heart, another high-powered businessman I unknowingly attracted during yet another outside sales call when his friendly, gate-keeper receptionist took my card and promised to call if they ever had a need for a temp. And just like me, Maddy follows up with him the next week with a promotional gift. That leads to the flirtatious Jim asking her out, initiating series of lunch-only dates and cutesy faxes to her office but curiously, no after-hours get-togethers. In the book, a suspicious Maddy finally gets to the bottom of it via Jim’s receptionist, who informs her that he not only has a serious girlfriend, he’s about to get married; in real-life, I never did get a straight answer out of the guy and thus, ran as far away as I could. Real name changed for the novel, although most everything else is true to life, including the upscale lunch at the famous Duling-Kurtz House. And yes, my sister-in-law (Vanessa in the book) was very impressed by his choice of venue, though not so much his behavior.
Mark Donnelly – Next to Jake, Mark is probably the most significant non-Ken suitor. In a slight departure from real life, this character is the very first guy Maddy dates in South Florida (in real life, I’d gone out with a quite a few guys, though nothing serious, before meeting him) — right around the time Ken breaks her heart by announcing his engagement to Erin. Physically, Mark shares many of Ken’s characteristics: six-foot, masculine build; blue eyes; sandy blond hair; and an irresistible smile. These similarities prompt her to project many of her true love’s qualities onto him. Like Ken, he’s also quite charming and initially, very persistent in his pursuit. And just as it went down with the others, Maddy is tending to her own affairs, participating in a business networking function where she unknowingly catches Mark’s wandering eye. True to reality, when he calls her at the office to ask her out a few days later, she cannot for the life of her remember even meeting him, in spite of the fact she’d written him a follow-up note.
Like the others, Mark also comes on strong, then abruptly disappears, although the circumstances are a bit more complicated. In contrast to the other suitors, he’s the first divorced man with children that Madeline dates, causing a great deal of sexual tension, thanks to the intense, mutual attraction they share. And while it’s safe to say he’s quite curious about Madeline’s moral virtue, unlike Ken it’s not something he respects or is willing to deal with for any extended amount of time. This is after all, South Florida, and if Maddy thought other women were way ahead of her up north, it was about one-hundred-thousand times worse in paradise — where pretty girls are not only a dime-a-dozen, they’re more than willing to put out for a successful guy with the means to afford fancy cars, boats and designer clothes.
Mark’s penchant for breaking engagements and loving-and-leaving-’em is regrettably an accurate reflection of the actual person. And although this character’s time in Maddy’s life is short, it is pivotal in her character development, serving as another descriptive example of the conflict between normal, human desire and ingrained morality — but this time in a scenario lacking in any genuine feeling on the guy’s part. To Mark, Maddy is just another attractive girl in a sea of hotties. In fact, their 10-year age difference, coupled with Madeline’s innocence and insecurities, leads him to view her as a “babe in the woods”, not a serious contender for a real relationship. Yes, his name has been changed. And yes, Chapter 23 is — well — an embarrassing, albeit instructive, experience straight out of real life. Enough said.
Well, this post has gone on a bit longer than intended and I still haven’t discussed the characters of Ray Smith and Tag Russell. To be continued.