Time for another book review!
My friends at TAN Books asked if I’d be interested in reading and reviewing –
I’ll admit the provocative title piqued my curiosity. If anything, I decided to read to see if it was as controversial as it sounds and see what all the fuss over the book (in Italy) is about. (Apparently Costanza has caused such a stir over her book, which came out first in Italian and now in English, that there have been “riots” and talk of banning the book in Italy.)
What I liked about it:
Costanza, a working journalist, writer, wife, and mother of 4, seems like a fun and interesting person who cares deeply and passionately about preserving authentic and mutually respectful loving marriages. She shares a lot of advice and wisdom to women who are either contemplating marriage or are already married in a tell-it-like-she-sees it but with a good amount of tongue-in-cheek quips to go along. That said, the translation is great although I think I missed out on a few punch lines because I’m not well-acquainted with Italian humor and culture. It was fun getting a little peek into what life for a mom, maybe a lot like myself, is like in Italy.
After reading it, I’ll honestly say this probably is not a book I would choose to read on my own but I’m glad I had the opportunity to see what it’s all about with an open mind. I can definitely understand why the title and the content would ruffle a few pretty feathers but it definitely gave me some munchies for my mind to chew on.
Without getting into any opinions as I know this can be a sensitive subject, I will say that I did not relate with everything Costanza writes about. However, I did find it interesting to notice the similarities between her – an Italian woman and mother somewhat obsessed with fashion and giving out unsolicited advice – and I – an “American” woman who generally dislikes clothes and shopping or telling anyone what to do if they don’t want to hear it (except for my kids, of course).
What is Submission?
Before I share more, I’ll also say that it’s essential to understand what the word “submission” really means in the context of marriage and loving relationships. Costanza did a good job going into a deeper explanation of that on pages 112 – 120. In short, know that, in Italian, sotto mettere (submission) means to place under so as to be supportive. I remember learning about this with a line drawn horizontally across the whiteboard and then a woman stick figure under a man on top with the woman’s arms holding up the man and the man’s hands holding up the woman.
Kind of like this…
sort of…you’ll have to use your imagination. 😉
So, in this context, it is not a submission that says a woman should basically do whatever her husband tells her and never speak up against him. It is a sub-mission – a loving and generous submitting and giving oneself to another and in cooperation with that other person for their own good and the good of their family.
For the record, she also has a book for men – Marry Her and Die for Her.
If you can understand the true meaning of the word submission, then you can more fully understand and appreciate what Costanza means when she says, “Marry Him and Be Submissive”.
In other words, Love Him Selflessly and Support Him Generously with your Love.
Like I said, I probably wouldn’t have read this book on my own, and I found her tangents into fashion and other unrelated topics distracting for my already distracted brain. That said, she shares a great amount of wisdom about Women, Marriage, Motherhood and everything that goes along with it.
Here are some quotes from the book I liked:
On Marriage and Commitment
[Your husband] is the means God has chosen to love you, and he is your pathway to heaven. Our vocation, whatever it is in life, is essentially to make each other happy. As Pavel Evdokimov, the Russian Orthodox theologian puts it, if the objective end of marriage is to generate children, the subjective end is to generate ourselves.
Without [your husband, you] cannot fully be yourself… And this task, with God’s help, you will regenerate yourself.
Nowadays everyone seems to be desperate to keep all options open…. What they don’t realize is that the choice to leave something open necessarily requires closing off some other possibility. Refusing to decide closes off the possibility of following a path that leads to depths of emotion and riches of spirit that the world has ever known. Experiencing an array of different love affairs won’t teach you as much about love as living a single experience of love in all its depth.
The choice of a profound and lasting love will help you embrace your everyday life…It will help you love your life… the path will lead you, through everyday life, up a slope that may be steep. But at the top, a great valley, will open up before you – a hidden and secret place that the back lanes of ‘feelings’ can never reach. It is experienced by very few…”
About Women, Emancipation, and Equality
“Today, we women are no longer required to act as servants, but we can choose to serve each other out of love and as a freely chosen response to a call. Men and women are very different, which has nothing to do with equal opportunities. We are not the same, and not recognizing this is a cause of certain suffering, as indeed happens every time we deny the truth.”
“Emancipation – which started out as a claim for Justice – led to a distorted idea of equality. Equality is not sameness. It is about giving equal dignity to two identities that could not be more different.”
To her young daughters –
“My hope is that your generation and women can finally be at peace with itself, and I hope that you can fulfill your deepest identity by consciously choosing it. And so – and this really is an unfashionable wish – I hope that you will be, more than anything else, strong and thus welcoming, open to others and capable of bringing people together. And in a word, if you can, be good.”
Advice for Motherhood
Pages 148 – 150 contain many good words and thoughts about motherhood that any mother of young children could relate to, for example:
“It might be useful for you to know that if you need to go to the bathroom and you still managed to retain the right to close the door, you can place a toilet role against the wall and use it as a makeshift cushion to grab a couple of seconds of rest.”
“Lowering your expectations is always a wise move, and at certain points, a goal simply to survive is a sign of good sense.”
“So I have come to the conclusion that the main challenge of our life as parents, and mine as a mother, lies precisely in this: We have to learn to give them their freedom…The challenge comes…when our children begin to take a healthy distance from us; when they are no longer little satellites revolving around us; and when they grow up, not always in the way we would like. The point is this: it’s not for us to choose how their life will pan out. We have to get used to running the risk that they won’t turn out the way we had planned… But that they may actually be better than we had ‘planned.'”
“We have to have patience, let time pass, learn to accept things, and acknowledge that, on occasion, times will be tough; they might be dirty, naughty, and much more, but they will always be our children.”
On Maternity and Openness to Life
“Maternity on the other hand offers the possibility of learning that precious lesson of how to give of oneself. And women who learned that lesson move up a gear in life. They flourish…. If you try, with honesty and humility,…welcoming a new life into your own life can convert you and help you to be less selfish.”
“…there is no need to be perfect to make the decision to being open to life, nor is it possible to wait until you reach perfection before trying to bring up decent kids. You just do it as best you can, knowing that none of us are perfectly balanced or free of anxieties. You do it knowing that mistakes will come every day.”
On Sacrificial Love (in Marriage, Motherhood, and all relationships)
“Keep on giving even while you’re running on an empty tank, without ever looking back. Otherwise what you have is not love, it’s a contract, and for that you don’t need a husband, you need a housekeeper.”
“There’s a secret that the world hasn’t figured out that allows us to follow a luminous path through the daily grind of boredom, habit, misunderstanding, and annoyances…. It is summed up in one word – sacrifice. The daily struggle is transformed from a stumbling block into another word for love. It is no longer something that gets in the way of love: rather, it’s something that nourishes it and helps it to grow. Love doesn’t go out in the daily grind; its flame burns stronger.”
If these quotes and the title, Marry Him and Be Submissive, have tickled your curiosity as it did mine I suggest you give