Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Priceless Women

There is a scene from the 1950 movie version of Cyrano De Bergerac (an exchange I can’t find in the script itself). The beautiful Roxanne has told her confidante, Cyrano (who secretly loves her), of the exquisite lines of poetry sent to her from her beloved Christian—lines Cyrano had written for Christian, who lacked the talent.  

Cyrano: And when do you bestow the laurel wreath? How many prodigies of poesy must this new Hercules perform? 

Roxanne: I do not know. My friend, you men own the world and all that’s in it. Woman is at best a prize, a property valued much the same as a horse or a dog.… Well, if I must be chattel, then the terms shall be mine, and the price according to my own values: dear. 

I do not mean to say that I agree that a woman is chattel, a property. I don’t know that Roxanne, in the early 1600s would have been taught otherwise, but nevertheless, she knew she could set the terms of her value, and she could set the value high. The high value included many things—her beauty somewhat due to chance. But her mind, her appreciation for intellect and soul, and her virtuous purity were within her control. She would not bestow her willingness to marry someone unworthy. Nor was giving love without marriage even part of the thought process—although the France of her day was not particularly virtuous. When it could be found, a man highly valued such virtue in a wife—so Roxanne knew her value was high, and she could thus choose the man according to his worthiness.  

When parents are raising a daughter, what do they want her to know of her value? I would want her to know that her price is far above rubies (Proverbs 31:10). I would want her to know that she is worthy of love in a committed marriage, and nothing less is worth her consideration. I have taught that—to my own beautiful daughter, Social Sphere, and to other young women as well. 

I known many beautiful, infinitely valuable daughters of Heavenly Father, and wish for them to know the value God places on them. I want them to make decisions with this powerful knowledge, knowing they are able and expected to choose the most worthy man to partner with in forming a new forever family. 

I also know a number of young women who don’t know their value, who think that because a young man expresses affection for them, that is enough. I know that they are told in pop culture that this is acceptable, normal, and worthwhile. But I with they would think this through. If a young woman decides that her value is not dear, it is just enough to merit temporary affection from a young man with plenty of raging hormones, then she values herself little. 

There’s a word we don’t use anymore, but maybe we should: concubine. It means a woman who cohabits with a man although not legally married. In some ancient societies, she was legally entitled to care and keeping because of her willingness to submit to the man (translates as mistress today), but she did not garner the societal respect of a wife. When we see our lovely young women friends choosing to move in with the boyfriend, because of convenience, because it’s the thing to do, because there’s no time and money for a big wedding right now or even the surety that a wedding will come—we are seeing them value themselves as just a concubine. These young modern women are not empowered; they are cheapened, because they have been deceived—both by men and by women who claim they are gaining them freedom but are in actuality limiting the value of womankind to some kind of lower chattel. 

If a woman is treated to dinner and a movie, is she expected to “put out,” to provide sexual favors? If she is, that is very cheap as street rate prostitution goes. Yet that is a common mindset in the dating world. How many dates (or how much money spent) before a young man has bought what he expects? 

If she knows her value is “dear,” like Roxanne of centuries ago, then she knows that what she is giving is the opportunity to be with her enough to determine both her worth and her compatibility with the young man. She is not selling her body in exchange for the perks he offers. 

I have not used the word concubine with the young women I know who make this choice; I don’t want to purposely offend. I want them to grow and learn in whatever way is necessary for them, so they can eventually make the choices that will lead to happy, successful womanhood, and possibly motherhood and the life blessings that go with civilized choices. 

But maybe if more of us identified that negative word with the behavior they don’t know is negative—if we spread that message before they make the decision—more young woman would hold themselves dear. And then more young men would make themselves worthy of the priceless woman whose love they wish to win. 

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