Part Six: Courtship by Committee
The first hints of courtship drama started when Luke wrote a post that began ‘Word is getting around the church that Lana and I are engaged.’ For one, this was his way of leading into an explanation that we were courting, not technically engaged. For another, in our minds, we were practically engaged. Well in his parents’ minds, we were not. His dad called him on the phone, about as mad as Luke had ever heard him, saying he didn’t know we had gotten engaged.
Each parent had specific expectations for our courtship, and they were not clearly communicated to us or to each other, and often the expectations conflicted. It was stressful for me to be in the middle of all these expectations, one of the two people actually in the relationship and the person with zero agency in the relationship.
About a week into our courtship, there was another meeting. I was actually invited to this one, which was also attended by Luke and all four parents. This was the meeting when we were going to decide what our courtship would be like, and part of that was whether or not we’d hold hands. Yes, that was decided in committee. My parents said we shouldn’t hold hands because we would either ruin our natural sex drives by not having sex after holding hands, OR we might have sex before marriage and ruin our marriage (whereas if we waited, God would bless our marriage and we would avoid many common marital problems). Further, if we did hold hands, they probably couldn’t trust us to ever be alone together, because who knows what else we might do physically. But it was our choice. Riiiiight. Of course we decided not to hold hands. I was so disappointed — I thought that now that we were a couple, Luke could comfort me when I cried, but he still couldn’t do that, not by touching me anyways. I cried right then, feeling utterly alone. My parents were upset at me for crying.
Throughout the courtship I was still expected to email through my mom’s email account. One day, I was searching for something I had written but not sent to Luke, and accidentally found a letter she had written to Luke giving him permission to email me privately, but it was never sent. I always wondered if it was because she was disappointed with the way courtship was going.
According to my parents, Luke didn’t spend enough time with my family, and I spent too much time with his family. This is a feud that continued well into our marriage. (At the time, Luke was coming over at least every Tuesday, or some day of the week. I was going over there to film the movie or work on the magazine, and occasionally for dinner).
I really, in my parents’ opinion, shouldn’t have been going to Luke’s house at all, because I wasn’t courting him, he was courting me.
Luke and I were deeply in love, and couldn’t express it any way but through words and gazing into each other’s eyes. It kind of upset people. Luke once said in an email that no one had ever been as much in love, and the shit hit the fan. Mom, who was still reading every email, felt personally attacked by this declaration, and I was the one that got yelled at for it.
My parents also thought that maybe we were too emotionally attached, since we didn’t even have a wedding scheduled. There was talk of transferring me to a different university.
Our families began to not get along so well. My parents were pushing for a marriage very soon, while his parents thought things were moving a too fast. My mother-in-law has said many times since that she didn’t think we should have married so young or so soon.
There was a little confusion, too, about who had authority over who, now that Luke and I were basically betrothed.
So there was another meeting. Dad likes meetings.
At this meeting, Luke and his dad showed up to listen to my dad talk. Dad had been given a revelation from the Lord. Dad told them that they were like chiefs of their little Indian tribes (yes, this is a bit racist), and that Luke was becoming a chief but he didn’t have a squaw (I’m the squaw). There was a diagram to go with this analogy. It showed Luke coming out of his dad’s ‘chiefdom’, but I was still under Dad’s chiefdom, with something like a dotted line between me and Luke. So basically, Luke’s dad had no power over the relationship, Luke had very little power, and I had none. Dad, who didn’t especially want the authority, he said, had all the power. Dad was very excited to share this message from God, to help solve all our courtship problems.
Furthermore, this dotted line connected Dad to Luke through me, so Dad had authority over Luke through me, for the time being. Dad also used this diagram to excuse him talking to me about things he really needed to address to Luke (like when Luke needed a job, and Dad asked me daily what Luke was doing to find one). Triangulation anyone?
I wasn’t at the meeting but Luke filled me in, and Dad shared the diagram and analogy with mom and me also.
The Hobbs came over Christmas evening 2007, so Luke could give me his present. We were in the dining room with our mothers, while everyone else was gathered around the computer watching a video. Luke gave me a CD he had made of songs that reminded him of us. I was a little disappointed, as my little brother had told me that he told Luke I wanted a ring, but I read the list of songs anyways. While I was distracted, Luke got down on one knee reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a jewelry box. He asked me to marry him and I was like ‘duh.’ (but I think I said it more graciously than that.)
I put the ring on my own finger; not exactly like how I had pictured it when I was a little girl.
My parents later complained that Luke hadn’t asked their permission to get engaged, or told them when so they could prepare something special (Luke tells me they knew he was buying/had bought a ring, so I’m not sure what the problem was). But of course, they didn’t complain to Luke about that, only to me.
So we were engaged. It was a little anticlimactic. The only real difference, at that point, was I had a flashy new ring, and we could refer to each other as ‘my fiance’. A week later, we set a wedding date for after the spring semester ended in May.