Shuah Jones, 15, stuffed clothes under her bed blankets in the shape of a body, grabbed her diary and Bible, and crept downstairs. Wearing a long blue linen skirt and clunky buckled sandals, she opened the door, slipped outside, and paused to look back at her house: a historic residence in Plymouth, Massachusetts, known as the Blue Blinds, where she lived with other members of her church. Good riddance, she thought. On the street she broke into a run toward the only payphone she knew of, at a gas station near the center of town, half a mile away. She’d never been outside alone at night before. As she sprinted down the main drag, Court Street, men in bars called out and wolf-whistled. She was terrified. When she reached the phone, she called her brother Noah, who told her to wait for him in a parking lot next to the Blue Blinds, so she ran all the way back. He was an hour away. She hid in a bush, heart thumping. When at last he pulled into the lot, she leaped into his car.
“Just breathe,” he told her as they drove away. “Breathe.”
This just gets more depressing:
In late August, Shannon Neuman and her husband Chris went to the municipal court in Calgary, Alberta, to get a divorce. They had already filled out the forms and taken the requisite seminars. They navigated the 24-story Courts Centre and dropped their papers off.
Then, on their way out, Chris and Shannon — no longer the Neumans — paused in front of a courthouse sign. They snapped a selfie, both smiling.
“Here’s Chris Neuman and I yesterday after filing for divorce!” Shannonwrote in a Facebook post that was shared 11,000 times within its first hours online. (Wrote Chris, in the comments: “I couldn’t have hand-picked a better ex-wife if I tried.”)
Er … what is going on here? This isn’t at all the type of dialogue we expect around divorce, particularly since we’ve been taught that marriage is the only viable type of adult relationship or family structure. But in the era of platonic parenting and conscious uncoupling, these sorts of friendly, even triumphant #divorceselfies have become increasingly common. If you search the hashtag on Instagram, in fact, you’ll find over a hundred of them.
FYI there are some suggestive images in this piece as well as some mature language. That said, it’s telling a sad story that seems, to me, to be important:
Thurston Von Moneybags (not his real name) was scammed once by a girl in Houston. He had arranged to meet her so that he might size her up and determine whether he wanted to give her a monthly stipend in exchange for regular sex and sometimes maybe dinner. In other words: Was there chemistry? Was she blonde and blue-eyed, the way he liked them? Was she thin “but not anorexic, a shapely body, you know?” Could he talk to her? That was very important. It was a little important. It wasn’t that important. Anyway, she asked for money up front, and he sent her $800. She didn’t show to the meet, and that’s the last time Thurston Von Moneybags ever got hustled again. Now he meets the girls for lunch before he offers them an ahem arrangement, and he is very clear. He doesn’t give them money until their second date, when they’re in the bedroom, which sometimes feels bad, which sometimes chips away at his this-isn’t-prostitution line—Thurston was raised Catholic, after all—but what’s the alternative? Getting scammed again? I don’t think so. A thing you should know is that there are very few people to root for in this story.
Leigh Benrahou began laying plans to have a second child almost as soon as she had her first, a daughter named Johara, in 2011. Benrahou, 32, wanted to time the next birth so that when she returned to work, her mother, who works at an elementary school and has summers off, could babysit. Most importantly, Benrahou wanted to spend as much time as she could with her new baby while also keeping her relatively new job as the registrar at a small college.
While her husband, Rachid, 38, earns enough at a carpet cleaning company to cover their mortgage and food, without her paycheck they’d be forced to live close to the bone. And if she quit her job, Benrahou, who has a masters in nonprofit management, would take a big step backward in what she hoped would be a long career in higher education.
So Benrahou, who has wavy dark blond hair, blue eyes and a tendency to smile even through difficult moments, set about what may be the least romantic aspect of family planning in the United States: figuring out how to maximize time with a newborn while staying solvent, employed and, ideally, sane.
Damon Linker is unhappy—unhappy with the tone of a recent post by Ross Douthat. Linker says that people like Douthat—but he really just means Douthat, because he doesn’t refer to anyone else in his post—are “losing their cool. And their heads.”
Linker calls Douthat’s post “harsh and angry”—a description I won’t contest, though I’m tempted—but notes that it is “uncharacteristically” so. Maybe he could have spent a few minutes contemplating why a writer as consistently irenic as Douthat might have lost a bit of patience on this particular subject. Might it be that title of the post Douthat was responding to describes his position as “glaring hypocrisy”? A touch on the provocative side, wouldn’t you say? (Yes, writers typically don’t choose titles, but they can protest inaccurate ones; I’ve done it myself more than a few times.)
Or might it be something that runs a little deeper? In that earlier post, Linker writes, “I have faith that Douthat’s honesty and intelligence will lead him to concede that he’s lost his debate with [William] Saletan”—the magnificent condescension of that line would have me banging on Linker’s door to challenge him to a duel—but Douthat demonstrates pretty thoroughly in his reply that hehasn’t lost that argument. And it’s interesting that in his lamentation over Douthat’s so-unfortunate tone, Linker never acknowledges any of the arguments Douthat makes or the studies he cites. It’s much easier to tut-tut over people “losing their cool.”
For a while, Jennifer Pan’s parents regarded her as their “golden” child.
The young Canadian woman, who lived in the city of Markham just north of Toronto, was a straight A student at a Catholic school who won scholarships and early acceptance to college. True to her father’s wishes, she graduated from the University of Toronto’s prestigious pharmacology program and went on to work at a blood-testing lab at SickKids hospital.
Pan’s accomplishments used to make her mother and father, Bich Ha and Huei Hann Pan, brim with pride. After all, they had arrived in Toronto as refugees from Vietnam, working as laborers for an auto parts manufacturer so their two kids could have the bright future that they couldn’t attain for themselves.
But in Pan’s case, that perfect fate was all an elaborate lie. She failed to graduate from high school, let alone the University of Toronto, as she had told her parents. Her trial, for plotting with hit men to kill her parents, ended in January, and she’s serving a long sentence. But the full story of this troubled young woman is just now being told as a complete and powerful narrative by someone who knew her — and indeed, it’s searing.
As more information slowly seeps out about Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old who murdered nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, one fact should surprise exactly no one: Roof came from a broken home. Roof’s parents divorced three years before he was even born, later reuniting just long enough to produce a child who would later become a mass murderer.
The media loves to find an easy scapegoat for mass shootings, whether it be thepharmaceutical industry, the National Rifle Association, or even Donald Trump. Of course these scapegoats are designed to fit the politically correct narrative, and they are an easy sell (especially when it’s all Donald Trump’s fault, as Americans increasingly love to blame the proverbial 1 percent for their sorrows). Scapegoats serve another purpose, too: they ensure the media can avoid the uncomfortable truth that unstable homes produce unstable individuals.
In the aftermath of tragedies like Charleston or Sandy Hook, Americans hear the shared characteristics of the shooters: typically they are young males who obtained a gun (duh), used drugs (legally or illegally), dropped out of school, and committed or planned suicide as the grand finale to their murders. But to focus on these characteristics is to focus arbitrarily on the 12 to 24 months before the shooting. It ignores the roots of the problem: the household.
As University of Virginia Professor Brad Wilcox pointed out back in 2013: “From shootings at MIT (i.e., the Tsarnaev brothers) to the University of Central Florida to the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga., nearly every shooting over the last year in Wikipedia’s ‘list of U.S. school attacks’ involved a young man whose parents divorced or never married in the first place.” His observation is largely ignored.
Christopher Emanuel first met his girlfriend in the fall of 2012, when they were both driving forklifts at a warehouse in Trenton, South Carolina. She was one of a handful of women on the job; she was white and he was black. She ignored him at first, and Emanuel saw it as a challenge. It took multiple attempts to get her phone number. He says he “wasn’t lonely, but everybody wants somebody. Nothing wrong with being friends.”
Emanuel, who is now 25, describes himself as a non-discriminatory flirt. He was popular in high school and a state track champion. According to the Aiken High School 2008 yearbook, he was voted “Most Attractive” and “Best Dressed.” Even his former English teacher Francesca Pataro describes him as a “ray of sunshine.” Emanuel says he’s “talked”—euphemistically speaking—with a lot of women: “Black, Puerto Rican, Egyptian, and Vietnamese.” But before he met this girlfriend, he says, he had never seriously dated a white girl.
Emanuel’s girlfriend didn’t respond to multiple interview requests, so some details of their relationship remain difficult to confirm. But her affidavits and her text-message exchanges with Emanuel align with the key elements of his story: Their relationship began in February 2013, after months of friendship. When her parents were away for the summer, his girlfriend invited Emanuel to stay at her house for a while. And in May, she took a home pregnancy test, which came out positive.
One afternoon this past April, a Florida mom and dad I’ll call Cindy and Fred could not get home in time to let their 11-year-old son into the house. The boy didn’t have a key, so he played basketball in the yard. He was alone for 90 minutes. A neighbor called the cops, and when the parents arrived—having been delayed by traffic and rain—they were arrested for negligence.
They were put in handcuffs, strip searched, fingerprinted, and held overnight in jail.
It would be a month before their sons—the 11-year-old and his 4-year-old brother—were allowed home again. Only after the eldest spoke up and begged a judge to give him back to his parents did the situation improve.
Given some of the bombs dropped in my post over on the main page, I wanted to use this space to fill out some of my thinking on education, the home, and family life. I’ll preface all this by saying that my three masters are Francis Schaeffer, CS Lewis, and Wendell Berry. If you spend enough time with them and find them generally persuasive then I imagine you’ll probably land in a place not dissimilar to what was outlined in the post on the main site.
That said, if you want to know what I’ve read that has caused me to think in these ways, here you go:
- Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community (book)
- Life is a Miracle (book)
- Standing by Words (book)
- The Joys of Sales Resistance (essay–read online at this link)
- The Scouring of the Shire (found in Return of the King, learn more at the link)
- Death in the City (book)
- What is a Family? (book)
- Hidden Art (book–yes, the full title on the Amazon page is Hidden Art of Homemaking. But Edith hated that title. Ask anyone with L’Abri ties and they’ll tell you it should be “Hidden Art.”)