The Day I Almost Became the First Wife

To the Chinese, they say, there are only two countries in the world: China, and America. This bothers the Norwegians to no end, but we have little pity for them.

This hypothesis was borne out the other day when Jared was getting a shoe fixed in a small shop near our apartment. While he was in there, watching the shop owner carefully stitch up his shoe with strong thread, another Chinese man came in and began talking.

“You so strong! You so handsome! You must be an American,” he said.

Jared replied, “Thank you! I am an American.”

“You’re so good-looking,” he intoned again.

“Uh, thanks.” Jared said. “You are a teacher (he asked in Chinese)?”

“Yes,” he replied in English, “I am professor.” But his English wasn’t quite good enough to specify what it was he professed. So he returned to his favorite subject–the attractiveness of my husband.

“You are so good-looking, you can take care of two wifes,” he matter-of-factly stated.

Jared was a little shocked, but managed to croak out, “Uh, thank you, but I’m happy with the one I have.”

“No,” the man insisted, “you can take care of a second lover, one with nice legs, because you’re so handsome.” (No, this was not a comment on the state of my legs–I wasn’t there, and as far as I know the man had no idea if Jared was even married or had a wife!)

Jared was nonplussed by that, and could think of nothing more to say than, “Um, have a nice day!” as he ran away with his newly-fixed shoes. Chinese may admire America more now, but apparently traditional China isn’t dead yet!

All of this seemed particularly reminiscent to us as we’re reading Pearl Buck’s famous book The Good Earth, which tells the story of a Chinese farmer, Wang Lung, in traditional China. He begins poor. But then he gets a wife who up till then had been a slave in a Great House, and who now works beside him in the fields, bears him lots of sons, and makes him rich through her diligence (and talents at acquiring jewels). He then does what every self-respecting wealthy traditional Chinese man would do, and buys himself a second wife, appropriately named Lotus, for she was the human form of the flower: dainty, sweet smelling, useless in the fields, but my, what a sight to behold. Anyway, in the story, once he gets his Lotus, as you can imagine, the First Wife (O-lan) wasn’t very pleased, and his household became a very unhappy place. Wang Lung then forgets about his First Wife and enjoys his flower. Only when O-lan begins to die does he notice her again, but by then it is too late.

So I’m thankful Jared had the moral fortitude to run away from his hypothetical second wife with beautiful legs. He told me he didn’t need another flower–he already had his Rose.

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Whither Sex?

Some days you just feel so. . .assaulted by messages from everywhere. Everyone’s obsessed with sex—who’s having it, who’s not having it, who’s complaining about people having it, who’s trying to “stop two loving people” from having it. Can we just say “Enough?!”

All this obsessing about it makes me think that perhaps you’re actually not happy in all your many sexual relationships because you feel the need to shout to the whole world that you’re happy with what you’re doing and it’s really wonderful and OMG everyone should be doing it. You’re not fooling anyone.

Yes, sex is vitally important. It’s so important, in fact, that the survival of the human race depends on it. And that’s a fact that tends to be forgotten in all the hullaballoo. Sex isn’t only something created to fulfill our personal needs. It does do that, and it’s wonderful, but it’s far more than that. And for this very reason, it should not be taken lightly.

Perhaps it’s your body and you’re consenting—but if you happened to create a new life, would you desire to destroy it with your next breath? Then you’re not ready to have sex.

Perhaps you’re overcome with longing for a person and want to express your commitment to them. But you’re not ready to really make that commitment, to say, “I give you my body, my soul, my whole life—I am wholly yours.” If that’s the case, then you’re not ready to have sex.

Sex isn’t just about love, or about consent, or about any of the other things we’re told it’s about (growing up, becoming a man/woman, expressing yourself…you name it, we’ve all seen it). It’s beautiful, and heartbreaking, and vulnerable. And, at its core, it’s about creating life.

That’s why sex belongs only in marriage between a man and a woman. When a man and a woman have sex, they truly become one. They’re not just making love: they’re creating love. And if they happen to be fertile at that time, their love may truly take on the tangible form of a new human life.

That’s why marriage matters. Marriage matters because life matters. If marriage, or sex, is only about two people who love each other blah blah blah, then they’re both meaningless. Go ahead, enjoy your vain life with the girlfriend or boyfriend or wife or husband whom you love all your pointless days on earth. Lots of people love each other all the time and don’t solemnify it. But marriage is different. Where else can you incarnate love?

Not only in having sex, not only in being open to having and raising children, not only in living together through everything—but in combining all those things. Marriage isn’t about any of them separately. It’s when they combine that they make a marriage. In marriage, two people are united, and marriage itself is an expression of their unity, a strong and true commitment.

Sex isn’t just another way to say “I love you.” Nor is it simply a way to provide yourself with a physical good, like, say, eating is. It’s a giving of yourself, a profound, meaningful, and quite ridiculous way to truly become one with another. And for that reason, it can only be completely experienced where it was designed to be experienced–within the confines of marriage.