May 09, 2005

Sound the Retreat

IN RE: MASON/WILBANKS, I have found myself roundly condemned because I said the ditched groom, John Mason, should be commended for sticking with his decision to marry Jennifer Wilbanks, the bride-to-be who left him at the altar. And ran away to New Mexico. And told authorities she'd been kidnapped, etc. etc.

I had written my essay before I read this article in The New York Post. Based on the article, in which it emerges that Ms Wilbanks allegedly HAD DONE THIS TO SOMEONE ELSE BEFORE, I must now disavow my prior words of encouragement. I would also ask Mr Mason to consider the following advice:

Run, John! Run like hell!

UPDATE: But there is good news!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at May 9, 2005 08:48 PM | TrackBack

I knew you'd come around eventually, Ben.

Posted by: Geoff Brown at May 10, 2005 08:20 AM

Ben, Don't take the condemnations personally. Your readers responses showed they were touched by your kind spirit and idealist view of love, and those are good things. Still it is indeed wise (and necessary) to be realistic before making a lifetime committment. Your retreat on the issue shows a great balance between realism and idealism.

While Ms. Wilbanks' actions definitely peg her as an intolerably risk candidate for a successful marriage, I do feel a certain nostalgia for the time (before cable news) when these type of relatively small (in the scheme of all the evil in the world) personal transgressions don't become a national obsession. The cable news stupidity could have gotten far worse if Ms. Wilbanks hadn't surfaced when she did. Fox News was already making noises and setting the wheels in motion to que up Mr. Mason as the next Scott Peterson because he would only submit to a police polygraph under conditions that protected his rights.

Posted by: Swammi in Solon at May 10, 2005 09:03 AM

Remember, too, that Mr. Mason was one of those "born-again virgin" types. Like, you pledge to not have sex before marriage (but only after you have sown your wild oats throughout your entire town and gotten a reputation as a "party boy slut") - but then somehow - with the pledge - you magically become a virgin again?

I know it's absolutely none of my business (but I can't help it if the press decides to do an entire article on his new-found virginity) - but my view is - he's nuts. What's wrong with just saying: "I am now deciding to not consummate any relationship outside of marriage"? That is perfectly legitimate, and not so ... er ... INSANE. "Born-again virginity"? Sorry, dude, hate to break it to you, but once you "lose it", it's lost for good.

Posted by: red at May 10, 2005 12:02 PM

Oh, and I am totally with Swammi. The fact that this personal story - between two lunatics (or idiots, or however you want to call it) is now front-page news is kind of ridiculous.

The way the press jumped on this relatively small story was disgusting.

Posted by: red at May 10, 2005 12:04 PM

HEH! Look at this Ben:

ATLANTA (AP) - Runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks has checked herself into an inpatient medical treatment program to deal with "physical and mental issues" that drove her to skip town just days before her wedding, a spokesman for her family's church said Tuesday. The news about the treatment came as more details about Wilbanks' previous brushes with the law emerged. She was charged with shoplifting on three occasions in the 1990s, including one case in which she allegedly swiped $1,740 in merchandise from a mall, according to court records. That felony charge was dropped after the then 24-year-old Wilbanks completed community service and paid restitution, according to court records.

Posted by: Jesse at May 10, 2005 03:47 PM

I'd have "physical and mental issues", too, if I was engaged to a "born-again virgin". I'd probably just break up with the dude, though. And waaayyy before I had a bridal party larger than my high school graduating class.

Head cases. The both of 'em.

Posted by: red at May 10, 2005 05:15 PM

Nicely put, Ben. And please know we were never condemning you, just urging you to use your considerable intellect AS WELL as your generous heart.

Posted by: Chris Weinkopf at May 10, 2005 05:52 PM

Hi all --

Gad! Great to see so many comments.

First off, please know that I didn't take personally anybody's response to my prior essay. Trust me, I long ago learned to not take criticism, disagreement or what have you personally -- and I like a good argument besides. So if I'm wrong, then for God's sake, tell me. :-D

Now that all -- well, a lot -- of the facts are out on the Mason/Wilbanks case, I can clearly see that I was wrong in my original post. Thus this entry! But now to the rest of the comments ...

In regards to the media coverage, I do think it was a bit out of hand, especially as poor Mr Mason was seemingly about to get the Scott Peterson treatment. And I agree that a lot of this was due to the big cable news outlets, who are on a 24-hour news cycle and as such are desperate to find new information.

However, in the media's defense, this certainly had all the elements for a great story. Missing bride! Big wedding! Attractive people! Potential for foul play! So it was understandable they would all jump on it. And in the beginning, it made sense for the media to do so, because everyone thought there WAS potential for foul play.

NOW, though, I have to agree that things are getting a bit silly. Maybe the solution is to watch C-SPAN!

As for Mr Mason's "born-again virgin" status, I agree it does seem a silly concept. It is one thing to commit (or re-commit) to chaste living outside of marriage, but one can't turn back the clock when it comes to virginity. It's as if resolving NOT to take an apple EVER AGAIN from the Tree of Good and Evil was the same as not taking the apple in the first place.

But setting the theology aside for a moment, I do agree these two SHOULD HAVE HAD A GOOD LONG TALK about whether or not they'd get married before going at it. That talk would have given them a lot of knowledge each could have used to evaluate their relationship together.

Finally, I can only pray to God that, should I someday get married, I will not have 600 people at my wedding.

Posted by: Benjamin Kepple at May 10, 2005 09:33 PM

Swammi: I think Ben learned not to take condemnations personally way back at the Michigan Review. Indeed, we all but reveled in personal condemnations back then.

Ben: I agree -- this "born-again virgin" stuff is just silly. Amazing what people think qualify for a "do-over" these days. Also, as far as weddings go, Amy and I become surer and surer that there will be maybe five people at our wedding -- the person doing the ceremony, a couple of witnesses, and us. Seems a lot easier that way, and if she wants to bolt, she won't have to make up some story for fear of offending hundreds of guests.

Posted by: Geoff Brown at May 11, 2005 06:31 AM

OK, I'll be the poor sap who defends the "born-again virgin" stuff. Yes, the terminology is goofy, and the literal-minded among us are right to note that virginity cannot be magically restored. That said, cut the guy some slack. Get passed the poor choice of wording and give him credit -- or at least don't mock him -- for doing something decent, namely, learning from the error of his ways and changing his conduct accordingly. Better to be a "born-again virgin" than an unrepentant libertine.

Posted by: Chris Weinkopf at May 11, 2005 03:29 PM

Hi Chris--

It seems to me this facet of the argument is purely a matter of semantics. As I mentioned in my comment above, it's one thing to re-commit to chaste living and another to proclaim one has somehow managed to reclaim one's primal innocence of such matters. As doing the latter is impossible, it's prideful; and perhaps worse, it cheapens the accomplishment of those who HAVE waited until marriage.

All that said, I think his intent was laudable -- even though it may have deep-sixed his marriage. But that goes back to the beginning of this whople discussion, doesn't it?

Posted by: Benjamin Kepple at May 11, 2005 06:26 PM

Hi Geoff,

I had a friend of mine in school who got married -- this was back in the late 1990s -- with just the wedding party and immediately family present. They invited everyone else to the reception.

Posted by: Benjamin Kepple at May 11, 2005 06:32 PM

This is one of the main reasons that I will probably elope.

My response to the born-again virgin thing is a personal one. I don't mean to dis it universally, but if some guy I was dating told me he was a "born-again virgin", I would be out the door. Not because I don't respect such a choice - but because I think it's a goofy silly immature way to look at one of life's little issues. Can't you incorporate what you did in the past? Can't you just accept it, as opposed to making-believe that you can clean the slate? That's what I think is silly about it. It seems like a little kid saying, "All gone!!" - when - uh - NO. It is not all gone. You just hid the toys in your closet, mkay? They still exist.

But then again, I am an "unrepentant libertine", so that probably explains a lot.

Posted by: red at May 12, 2005 09:11 AM