The Girl Worth Choosing

For the BOY who Chooses and the GIRL who wants to be Chosen.

(Part Two)

By Rev DANIEL A. LORD S.J.

Part One is Here.

Painting by Gregory Frank Harris

Father continues this wonderful list on what to look for in a Godly woman.

HOME-LOVING

In the normal course of life your wife will spend most of her energies running your home for you.

Perhaps right here and now a boy doesn’t realize how important his home is to him. He entered his present home in infancy without much responsibility for its happiness. For years the home exists for him, and he accepts its comfort and its safety, its meals and its peace as his simple due.

It will be a long time before he knows how much of his character developed out of the home atmosphere that his mother and father had created for him. He will — only with deep maturity — come to see the relationship between good meals and good health, quiet and calm and sound nerves, pleasant laughter and family gaiety, and his attitude towards recreation and sports and fun.

Well, once you marry a girl, you have taken the partner upon whom will depend the happiness and wholesomeness of the home you are to occupy for many a long year.

Will she be home-loving and a good house-keeper?

“How in the world shall I be able to tell that?” you demand.

Easy, lad; just take a look at the girl in her own home.

How does she feel about her present home? Does she love it and is she proud of it? Does she take you there with an air of happily showing it off? Does she introduce you to her parents with real pride and satisfaction?

You can carefully keep your eyes open and make a few more important discoveries.

What does her mother look like? Well, allowing for the better food eaten by modern girls and the fact of current diet and exercises, your wife will someday probably look very much as her mother looks today. How does that strike you?

Can your young lady cook? “Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy?” the old folk tune used to ask. Or is she the kind of girl whose mother carefully bakes the chocolate cake prepared for your coming and, just before your arrival, coaches her daughter with “Remember, when you tell him it is your cake, say, ‘This is a cake I baked for you,’ and not, ‘This is a cake I cooked for you’!”?

Is she proud of her home in such a way that she willingly plays a part in its upkeep? You may well shy away from the girl who “just hates to wash the dishes; they ruin my hands.” Your dirty dishes will ruin them just as fast as her father’s.

“Mother never lets me do anything around the house; she just spoils us, but I love to be spoiled.” “Next week Mother is house-cleaning; I’m going to spend the week with my girl friend; house-cleaning drives me crazy.” Danger signs, my lad! Great big flashing danger signs! Note them and take the nearest detour.

Your home is, you hope, going to be a place of safety and happiness, of meals well prepared and floors spotlessly clean, for you and your children. You can foresee it as a refuge at the end of the day, a retreat from life’s battle, an oasis in the tough journey over the commercial sands. Go on and add your own figures of speech.

Well, you alone can never make a home any of those things. Only a woman can turn a house into a home. Only a wife and mother can make an apartment or flat a thing of beauty and calm and security and peace.

Do you think your girl is capable of that? Better be sure . . . oh, very, very sure!

CHILDREN

All this, I said, is to be for yourself and your children. Time was when philosophers maintained that the instinct of motherhood was one of nature’s deepest; nothing could root it out. I’m not so sure. One meets some pretty selfish women these days.

They dislike babies because, they state incorrectly, babies ruin their figures. They are too nervous for the noise and squalls of infancy. They don’t want their homes cluttered up with disorderly children. They are individuals with a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and children have a way of demanding a share of their life — cutting down their liberty — and restricting the forms their happiness may take.

Unhappy the good man who marries a girl who resents children.

How can you know? It’s not too hard:

Find out how the young lady feels and acts towards her little brothers and sisters. If she regards them as brats, nuisances, inconveniences, bothers — she won’t change too notably when the children are yours.

Watch her with chance children who come your way. Listen to the words she uses to describe the dirty-faced kid whose clumsy and sticky hands imperil her spring outfit. Watch for distaste when she sees a mother with three or four small steps trailing along behind. Listen for her tone of pity when she says, “Susan has had her third baby in three years; the poor thing!”

Love of children is a deep, maternal, beautifully feminine instinct. But it has been left for our highly competent and often savagely selfish modern women to tear it from their hearts. You are lucky if your future wife loves children. You may find her regarding you as a brute and a taskmaster if you expect her to bear and love and bring up children, when she regards motherhood as a curse, and children as an interference with her peace and personal life.

WHAT ABOUT GOOD LOOKS?

“What kind of book is this anyhow? Here he’s been going on for pages and not one word about how the girl looks! I want to marry a beauty myself. Life for a husband must be pretty dull if his wife isn’t pretty. I’d hate to spend my life looking at some of the girls whose only recommendation is a pleasant disposition.”

One thing that has always puzzled me is the faces of some men I’ve known who demanded beautiful wives. How come that homely men think they are entitled to pretty wives? You’ll hear some most unattractive male demanding for himself an extremely attractive female. There ought to be some balance in looks, I’d say.

When the onlookers say, “What a handsome couple!” I find myself thinking it quite right that beauty should draw beauty; when I hear a man demanding beauty in his partner, I always look twice to see if his partner will find good looks in him.

However, if our newspaper records are accurate, marriage to a raving beauty seems to lead to some raving divorce proceedings. Beauty is natural in some women, painfully acquired in others, and in still others retained only through a lifetime’s service.

I can think of no husband as likely to be neglected as the husband of a professional beauty. She owes too much of her time to the care and cultivation of her good looks. And when she is out, she is constantly walking in the presence of an audience to which she carefully plays. Beauty, like all natural gifts, demands a lot of time. If a woman hasn’t the inner spirit to keep her beautiful, then she has to put in tireless thought and continued effort to keep the fragile flower of physical beauty from withering.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN, BEAUTY?

It is important, however, before answering the demands of the young man bent on finding a beautiful wife to ask just what he or anyone else means by beauty.

Regular features?

A perfect complexion?

A figure meeting the latest standards from the Power’s Agency?

I doubt if those are the types of a beauty with which it would be pleasant to live. For regular features, like anything else regular, soon seem less regular than routine. Right now Hollywood is far less interested in regular features than in the expression that lies back of them.

There are a thousand girls with regular features waiting counter in cafeterias and pounding typewriters in Los Angeles; the girl who registers in the present tests for good looks has lack of those features — regular or irregular, according to the classic tradition or in the current eclectic vogue — aliveness, interest, character, charm, an inner glow that comes out in her eyes and her general expression.

The day of beauty, classic and orderly, comes and goes.

In the end, beauty is what pleases the beholder; and it is amazing how attractive people defy the rules of art and are beautiful despite a slight twist to a nose, freckles, eyes that are just a little off alignment, a mouth with a fascinating quirk, and a chin that would look odd indeed on Venus of Milo.

Beauty is worth having only if it attracts. Beauty is worth possessing only if, after the passing of time, it remains.

And that is why surface beauty is a poor thing to look for and a worse thing to marry in a girl.

Good health, that wholesome look, the “well-scrubbed look” praised by the current novelists, the face and eyes and figure that mean a lifetime of decent food and enough fresh air and clean living — these are what matter on the physical side.

But looks will fade. Sickness, child-bearing, the passing of the years singularly alter the physical aspects of a woman. Then the inner girl begins to show more and more, to dominate the looks and bring the character to the surface.

Her face is charming because she is constantly cheerful. Her features remain surprisingly unlined because she smiles easily, her mouth curves upward, and she doesn’t let worry or annoyance dig furrows into her forehead. She moves rapidly and easily because she has an inner spark that keeps her alive. She has something better than regular features; she has regular habits; and the regular possession of virtue and of sanctifying grace.

It is amazing how, with time, the soul comes to dominate the body. Selfish people get the hard, selfish look. Generous people grow more physically attractive each day. People with the peace of God’s friendship develop expressions that instantly attract and constantly charm. A mouth that speaks kindly becomes a beautiful mouth. Hands that serve generously become characterful hands. Eyes that look out for affection on mankind are eyes that radiate an inner beauty not difficult to find.

A young man is wise to ask of his future wife a wholesomeness and moderate health.

Her smile soon comes to compensate for regular features.

And if she has a lovely character, she will year after year, indeed day by day, grow into a comfortable, attractive, gracious, beloved adornment of his house. Her virtue is the only kind of beauty that does not decay; and the virtue of her soul will take over and mould to full charm the beauty of her whole person.

HER PERSONAL GOODNESS

All this means that a young man should expect his future wife, the guardian and in a way the maker of his home, the mother of his children, to have personal goodness.

Modern young men have freely expressed a theory which I find horrible. They feel they have a right to “test a girl.” That is the famous “pass” about which so many ugly jokes are made.

“A fellow has a right to find out how far a girl will go. If she is willing to let him get away with something, that’s her lookout. If she isn’t, then let her take a stand and a decent chap will respect her attitude. You’ve got to experiment to find out whether a girl is good or not.”

Horrible as it is that the self-confessed “stronger sex” should make what they call “the weaker sex” decide how good they both will be, girls might as well know that many a modern young man actually puts them to the test. His attitude is contemptible but common. He does not make love to them because he loves them; he makes love to them to find out whether they are worthy of his possible love. And, in strange and savage contradiction, if the girls accept his insistent love, he decides they are not fit for married and maternal love.

Just as many a pagan-minded girl today thinks she has to indicate to the young man who takes her out that she is a “good sport,” so many an equally pagan-minded young man makes the test: Is she going to be a “good sport,” or is she someone whom I might consider for a partner in marriage, my wife, the mother of my children?

There is no real need for such contemptible experiments.

Goodness has a way of manifesting itself in a thousand instinctive signs. It is shown in speech and in reaction to speech. The girl of personal goodness is clean of tongue and quite clearly is not happy when the speech of others around her grows soiled.

Personal goodness shows itself in the kind of amusements a girl enjoys, and in her attitude to a film in which suddenly something off-color appears, or to a nightclub performer who turns blue.

It appears in the way children take to her attitude towards boys and men; a boy may frankly wonder a bit when a girl is a little aggressive, inclined to be too free with her gestures of affection, hangs on him, sits too close, has a way of finding the arm of the chair he occupies and sitting there rather than in a chair of her own. None of these things are too morally wrong in themselves; they are the signs of her habitual attitude.

A good girl is a pleasant companion. She likes to dance, but she dances with blended verve and modesty. She enjoys happy conversation but not off-color conversation. Her laughter is tell-tale; for it should be wholesome and natural and not strained or too loud or rising a little hysterically when things are doubtfully decent.

She is a girl who loves her home and is content with a quiet evening. She does not expect the boy at the movies to put his arm around her shoulder, and she goes well forward in the theater and does not herself stay back among the young couples whose interest in the film is largely secondary.

When she rides with a young man in his car, she does not imperil his driving by plastering herself against him; and if he suggests parking, she understands and differentiates between parking to admire the beautiful vista and parking as instant prelude to undeclared courtship and love-making.

No boy has to “test a girl” as the moderns would do. The thousand simple, easy, quickly rising signs tell the story of goodness or its lack. What does she read? What magazines does she eagerly page through? Who are her friends and what kind of boys and girls has she been going with?

PASSED ALONG

It is vital to remember that the goodness of the children is, next to the grace of God, going to come from the goodness of the mother. A girl of easy virtue may be “fun”; she is nobody to trust with a family. She may be a good sport, but will she be a good mother? After marriage she may reform, but it is wasteful effort for a girl to marry a drunkard to reform him; and it is prelude to heartache when a man marries a girl of easy virtue in the determination to turn her into a virtuous wife and mother.

Your future wife should have the health from which will come strong, vigorous young bodies. But she should have the spiritual health from which will arise strong, vigorous, virtuous souls.

HER MIND

While we are on the subject of what a woman passes along to her children, we may take at least a swift glance at the girl’s mind.

Certainly, unless you yourself are a young Einstein, you need not demand that your future wife be a Phi Beta Kappa. A book-worm or the ridiculed college grind is not necessarily a person with the kind of mind you’d enjoy living with for years.

Yet this is the day of universal education. Despite the value of modern schools, children will always find their mothers their best, as they surely are their first, teachers.

You will be happy if you marry a girl with an alert and inquiring mind. The physical aspects of marriage are extremely limited even in actual time. The rest of the day you live with a woman’s disposition and mind and soul. What she did in school and how much formal education she received is far less important than the quality of her thinking and the kind of mental attitudes she has developed.

Were her parents people who liked books, took her to good films and plays, had good music on the radio or their disks, and believed in pleasant conversation among themselves and with intelligent friends? Or, if they were not, has she herself developed such attitudes?

Did she detest books and class and almost deliberately do badly in her studies, so that now, self-defensively, she brags about what rotten marks she made?

When you are together, what does she talk about and what does she like you to talk about? Is she bored if the conversation rises above the latest Voice with the name-bands or the last piece of gossip about her girlfriends? Does she know at least something of what is going on in the world, and when you talk of your ambitions and dreams, your work in life, what you hope to make of yourself and your job, is she alert enough to follow?

We can’t stress this too demandingly; yet you will have to depend during a long married life upon the interests and mind and alertness of this girl. And your children’s minds will take their first character and formation from hers.

TASTES

The use of cosmetics and the style of her dress really are important chiefly in this: they illustrate her natural taste. A girl with taste doesn’t paint like a freshly designed circus poster. Her clothes are attractive and not extreme. They are neither too short nor too long, too full nor too scant, not the styles of five years ago or of the Space Cadet era.

When she eats, she is curious about new food but content with the plain dishes of the restaurant you can afford. She is curious about and receptive to new music and new books and art; but doesn’t go overboard for the latest craze that may die before its names get into the loose-leaf dictionaries. She shows honest enthusiasm but doesn’t gush or rave. She is sweet to people but doesn’t, in the Irish phrase, palaver them.

All these are the signs of good taste; and after all, upon the taste of your wife will depend the tasteful or chaotic home in which you are going to spend a good deal of important time.

MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL

There are charming, well-mannered, attractive, beautiful, tasteful, well-dispositioned girls in every faith. All religions have their good and virtuous members, depending, of course, on what these religions believe and practice, and what they demand in virtue of their members.

But you are a great fool indeed if you allow yourself to fall in love with someone not of your faith.

If your religion means anything at all to you, it is Christ’s own revealed truth, Christ’s way of life, Christ’s road to salvation, Christ’s explanation of how to please His Father, Christ’s program for saving the world. Christ’s way is the only way to salvation.

It is not a matter of being a Republican or a Democrat, an Elk, a Rotarian or a Knight of Columbus. It is not a question of preferring the Dodgers to the Cardinals, golf to tennis, hamburgers to hot dogs. It is part of God’s plan for you to make a success of your life.

So you fall in love with a girl who does not share your faith. A lot of things inevitably follow…

  1. You hold deep down inside you a great many truths that she thinks are false, nonsensical, or certainly not in the least important. A great sector of your life is totally alien to her.
  2. As your wife, she has promised to raise the children in your faith. What are you asking of the poor girl? What demands are you making upon her tact, patience and ingenuity?

She must teach them truths she does not regard as truths.

She must start them off in religious practices that she herself does not practice.

She must create a religious atmosphere for the house when she does not accept that religion.

She must be so clever that she inspires the children to reverence and follow a religious way of life which she herself neither understands, accepts, nor externally practices.

You are asking a girl who may not believe in miracles to work them. You are going to ask your children to accept a faith that their darling mother does not accept. You are facing a life of religious loneliness; for you can never talk about your faith to the girl who does not understand what you are saying, and you must go off alone to Mass, to confession and Communion, to the parish mission or retreat.

And you must insist on a Catholic education for the children, following their Catholic Baptism, Communion and Confirmation, which means less money in the family budget, and sacrifices she must make just because you demand them of her.

Does it sound like prelude to a happy marriage, this fact that the girl doesn’t accept your faith?

The plain fact is that nothing so disqualifies a girl for marriage to you as the lack of your religious faith or the acceptance of a religion that regards your religion as false, misleading, and perhaps even of the devil.

Marry the girl of your own faith. Don’t ask a girl without your faith to accept you when accepting you means a lifetime separation from the soul and mind and practices of the man she has married.

ASK A LOT, GIVE A LOT

Perhaps by this time you have reached the conclusion that I am telling you to ask a lot of the girl you marry. I am. But I am also telling the girls to ask a lot from you.

The simple but vital principle for selection is this: You ought to demand a lot of the girl you marry, for the girl who marries you ought to be getting just as good as she gives.

Ask a great deal of the girl; but bring the girl a great deal yourself.

It’s a shabby marriage when either party short-changes the other in disposition, virtue, devotion and faith. It’s a blessed marriage when virtue weds with virtue, health finds health, a good disposition unites with a good disposition, and a faith is consecrated at the altar to a similar faith.

Marriage is too important to be fooled with. If shabby, third-rate people must marry shabby, third-rate people, the world will continue to know its makeshift, unhappy, fore-doomed marriages.

You wouldn’t have read this booklet if you did not want the right girl for the ideal and blessed marriage. Look until God leads you to her. And let her, when you make your offer, know that you are bringing her a man of integrity, pleasant habits and disposition, virtue, and a deep and shining faith.

Then God bless you both.

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“How often do the father and mother of a large family remain young at heart because of the love they give to, and draw from, their children and grandchildren? In fact, many say that old age is their happiest time of life because they can enjoy to the fullest the love of the children!” – Rev. George A. Kelly, Catholic Family Handbook

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