So, I have this feminine complaint. Very feminine and very complaint-y. After Dick’s and my customary Sunday afternoon nap, it was very apparent (olfactorally speaking) that he or I (or both of us) had a serious complaint. Is that you? I asked. I don’t know, he said, Is it you?
How awkward. (As if sex itself is not awkward (but fun!) enough.)
Being the martyr-like female that I am, I assumed that it was me (which it was). But how awkward. I certainly didn’t want to see my gynecologist about it. Ick. (I know, I know, I’d rather discuss it online, but I do have a point, if you can bear with me.)
So I went on WebMD.com, which has this great tool where you choose your symptoms, and view the possible diagnoses, read up a bit more about them, and then pick what’s wrong with you. My ailment was very apparent from the description. VERY. But before I got to that one, I read through the other possibilities:
*cervicitis (may be caused by STD)
*yeast infection (not enough good bacteria, not caused by STD)
*lice (“close contact”)
*trichomoniasis, chlamydia, herpes, HPV (all usually caused by STD)
The only bad thing about WebMD (versus, say, a real doctor) is that I start to wonder (especially late at night) … What if I have one of these other things? (What if I’ve got cancer and have only 6 months to live?) How well do I really know my husband? Can I trust him? Do I trust him? It doesn’t help that every few months there’s a House episode in which one spouse has to okay a form of treatment for the comatose spouse, a form of treatment that will be deadly if the person has never, ever cheated, but will save their life if it’s at all possible that they “slipped up” just once. I hate those episodes. Because it always turns out that in addition to lying, everybody cheats.
(By the way, I do trust my husband, and, as Tara pointed out, it helps that you can rule out the STD-caused problems.)
I spend a good deal of my time thinking that, as a minivan-driving Mormon, as a Christ-loving Christian, as a politically-conservative woman who hates Republican family-values hypocrisy, I’m really not that different from the other women in America.
I’m pro-life, but conflictedly so. I stay at home with my children, but I envy women with corner offices. I grind my own wheat and make my own bread (sometimes), but I would feed my girls Chick-fil-A every day if I could. I never miss a Sunday at church, but I nag Dick to let us watch Slumdog Millionaire, without the Clearplay turned on. (He stays firm, though.)
I have other, more serious sins, and other, more redeeming aspirations, but in short: I usually think of myself as an American first. Not so different from all the other American women who might read the same sorts of books and try to teach the same sorts of values to their children. Though I was married a bit young (21) and gave birth a bit young (23), I don’t think of my experience or expectations as being so out of the ordinary.
Until I start thinking about sex.
I read newspapers and blogs and think, well, so those politicians cheat and those parents think abstinence is unrealistic (if not also un-desirable) for their children, but surely most of us, the “us” that I count myself a part of, we all know that chastity and then fidelity are the right thing. Right?
And I keep reading, articles about studies and comments about real life, and I think, somehow, in my poor confused brain, that I can be cool, and hip (if that’s even a good thing any more), and most importantly, cynical and jaded, and REALISTIC — and, hey, I know that people cheat and kids don’t wait, and the world isn’t one sparkly montage of virginal unicorns in fluffy pink meadows.
But I’m hung up on wanting it to be. (Even if it means losing — if I ever had — my cool card.)
And then I watch a movie like He’s Just Not That Into You, and I am forced to the embarrassing conclusion that I, at age 31, college-educated, well-travelled to twelve countries on four continents, not a perfect example of anything myself; that I am in fact, compared to the rest of the country I love:
I am a religious fanatic.
How else do I explain being so thoroughly nonplussed by the acceptance and glamorization of extra-marital sex? I thought I was the target audience for the movie, based on the previews, but my life and my ideals, the life and ideals I want with everything in me for my daughters, are basically incompatible with most modern romantic comedies, and especially this one.
I really did think I’d like it, even before I knew that it quotes and creates a scenario from Some Kind of Wonderful.
If you’re going to see He’s Just Not That Into You, I’d recommend you not read further, but what I’d really recommend is that you skip it (the movie). It pretty much sucks, especially if you have a sister whose husband left her and you can’t stop thinking about how much this movie would make her cry.
In He’s Just Not That Into You, the women are helpless, codependent, static characters incapable of growth or insight. The Jennifer Aniston storyline is rewarding, especially the part where Ben Affleck shows up unexpectedly. But why should a woman have to surrender and decide she was in the wrong to want marriage after seven years of living together, in order to keep her man? (Though I confess that if a man washed my dishes without my asking, I’d probably do anything he asked, even if he did look like Ben Affleck.)
The Ginnifer Goodwin/Guy from the Mac commercials storyline is a little bit cute, but it shows the Mac guy learning and changing, and the Ginnifer person stagnating at the irrational-obsessive level of infatuation. While the Mac guy grows up, she’s completely incapable of sustaining a mature relationship. And sex is not anything special, just something that accompanies dating like broken marriages follow Angelina.
And don’t get me started on that Will guy from Alias. Poor Scarlett Johanssen is in serious danger of being typecast as the whore of Babylon, and if I pass her in the street, I’ll probably slap her for Jennifer Connelly. In other words: Will cheats, and he’s a scumbag. The end.
So, fine: I’m a religious fanatic. But what does that mean?
It irritates me when people talk about how much worse the world has gotten recently. Because I read that part in the Bible where Cain killed Abel and that other part where those one chicks slept with their father. War has been happening forever, and I don’t think calling prostitution the oldest profession is hyperbole.
So I don’t think that the reality has changed that much. But our perception of the reality, our acceptance of the reality, has changed, not for the better.
And I’m far from perfect. I don’t honestly really know that many people who were perfectly, 100% chaste in thought and deed before marriage. But I know some. And the older I get, the more important it seems.
I don’t want to sound (or be) all evangelical or fundamentalist or fanatical (too late), but the truth is that if I could have one thing for my daughters, it would be chastity and virginity for them AND THEIR HUSBANDS before marriage.
When did that become the most outlandish, crazy thing? When did it become naive to consider abstinence a realistic and worthwhile goal?
When did it happen that I feel ninety-seven years old when watching a movie about twenty- and thirty-somethings?
Why is a determination of “unrealistic” considered the death knell to chastity and fidelity by some? There are a lot of other unrealistic ideals, like an end to poverty and war, but I don’t see any caring, conscious human being suggesting that we throw our hands up and turn our attention to making poverty and war as safe as possible for everyone. As if poverty and war can be made to be SAFE.
As if the fact of their inevitability somehow requires a relinquishment of the ideals of prosperity and peace.
Last week I got back in touch with a girl who was one of my best friends in eighth grade. We stayed in close contact throughout high school, but I haven’t seen her in fourteen years. She is now married with three daughters, and her husband is the boy that I was in love with for all my middle school years. In my mind, I was Anne and he was Gilbert Blythe. If I’d had a slate, I would have broken it over his head in order to increase the romantic parallels. (Of which there were many, not least being that we “hated” each other after being madly in love for approximately four months. I think he probably did actually hate me, or you know, didn’t care, but I was (not-so-secretly) pining, ever-hopeful, until my family moved away when I was thirteen.)
True love, at eleven, is pretty silly, of course. But, oh! did I love him. We met in fifth grade, in a tiny town, where elementary school ended at fourth grade, and we imagined ourselves quite grown up to be included in middle school, and especially the middle school dances. I still remember how it felt to dance with him, so close, so slow, so many hormones and so much heat. He was the first boy I ever loved.
We never kissed. We were chaste. (And yes, Mom, you were right to decide I wouldn’t go to any more dances until I was older, even so.)
The feeling I still feel for him, and for his wife, who was such a good friend to me, is overwhelming, when I think about it. I want their happiness, though we are not connected by any ties except old friendship, almost as much as I want my own.
And we never even kissed.
I cannot express to you how glad I am about that.
Chastity before marriage, and fidelity after. These things might be hard. They might be incredibly unrealistic, and uncool, and weird, and fanatical.
(And if my daughters are as imperfect as me, believe me — my idealism and my God do not in any way preclude understanding, compassion, repentance, and forgiveness.)
But chastity is what we are aiming for, and I’m not going to apologize or accept marginalization for that.