My mother-in-law loves this. After five years of her telling me how great her minivan is, and me telling her that I would rather die than drive a van, and that a little piece of my soul would die every time I turned the ignition (despite knowing that I wanted a large family), I have decided to get a minivan. Just in time for my 10 year high school reunion!
So, I started looking casually online. Zoe is four-months-old, and I’m 28-years-old. If I want six kids, I need to be open to having them a lot closer than 3.5 years apart from here on out. But with two five-seater cars, neither of which can actually hold three car seats, we would need a new car by the time Baby Three arrived.
Really, I’m cool with getting a minivan, especially if I can get one that doesn’t look like a minivan. I thought I would go for a cross-over, but a very practical, funny mom who owns one told me that she regrets it because it’s much harder to fit in strollers, bikes, etc. And she’s right.
So a minivan that looks like a minivan. But I can get one that’s sleek-looking. A black one! You won’t even notice it’s not an SUV because I’ll be driving that fast in my kick-butt car. So I filtered the cars that met my criteria on usedcars.com to only include black Toyota Siennas. But then a lot of the deals dropped off the list, and I can either buy one that’s 8-years-old and has 114,000 miles on it, if I want to stick to my budget. Or I can buy a used car that mysteriously costs the same as a new one.
So, I’m okay with getting a red one. Or a gray one. Or a poop-colored one. Because when I think about it, the only thing I really need to do if my car color sucks is go to cafepress.com and make a bumper sticker that says: I’M COOLER THAN THIS CAR LETS ON. Or I could pay $1,000 to get a cheap dung-colored deal painted black. But then I will have spent $1,000 on my car’s appearances, instead of my own. Let’s face it. If anybody is having a $1,000 makeover, it’s me. Although I’m pretty sure you can’t get a chin tuck for $1,000. And I don’t have $1,000.
As I go through this minivan process, I realize that it’s a lot like discernment. By realizing early in the game which criteria I really care about (lots of seats and space, low mileage, safe, affordable) and which I don’t (color, ability to blend into the background should I see an old friend in a new car), I can make a better decision because I’m already choosing from better options.
Fortunately, when I was a young single woman, I was blessed with the right books and ideas. In high school, I read Wendy Shalit’s A Return to Modesty repeatedly and loved me some Joshua Harris’ I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I also read some crazy feminist books that made me both militant about my rights as a woman, and disgusted with feminists who thought that a woman’s highest calling was acting like a man. It all added up to my own personal All Children Left Behind Act: if I felt at any point in dating someone, whether it was our first date, or God forbid–our second, that the guy wasn’t marriage material, I ended it. I went on A. Lot. Of. First. And. Only. Dates. A lot.
Anyway, I chose early and often and I quickly ended up with a catch. I went on at least 15 one-date-only-dates my sophomore year, and had keenly dated three people between junior year of high school and then. (Fifteen may not sound like a lot, but when you balance how much I hate hurting people’s feelings with having to specifically clarify that “It’s you, not me,” you can understand why it was a sufficient number to make me feel weathered.) I was actually tired of dating and about to swear off of it when Fierce came along. We didn’t really interact much until a few months after our writing class ended.
Things with Fierce were not always smooth, and it took a few attempts at dating, with friendship in between, before we really found our groove. But I continued to choose early and often. I let him know what wasn’t working in the relationship, I was always ready to walk away if it became clear that he wasn’t marriage material after all. Until we said our vows, I was always ready to end it, since I really, truly do not believe in divorce. It’s better to run away from the altar than your spouse.
Some people argue that this dating mentality is a way of “using” guys. Which is odd, since I thought dating was about finding a lifelong mate, and dating with no purpose was about getting someone else to pay for your dinners and movies. Basically, people who say this are wrong, and I’m right. I know this not just because of the aforementioned logic, but because something unfortunate happens in today’s mating and marriage market: the good guys get snapped up. Women who wait may end up waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and then they may end up settling. According to Helen Alvare at the 2010 Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life, even atheistic economists are realizing that today’s mating and marriage market gives women a lot less than it gives men, and that without a huge cohort of women saying no to commitment-free sex, all women will be subject to a mating and marriage market where they put out and eventually settle. The reason women initiate 70% of divorces isn’t because they’re running off with their poolboys, it’s because they married a boy and it’s intolerable.
By choosing early and often, pruning every useless relationship, hobby, friendship from our lives, we become talented at spotting the people and things that are really good for us. We can prune charitably, but we’re not running a dating or friendship charity. The way we spend our time, and especially, the way we invest our hearts with other people, is what makes the difference between having real relationships and real choices, instead of having relationships that never quite fit and choices that leave us wanting more.