Saturday, June 9, 2007

On Dawn Eden & Chastity

Written from a woman’s point of view, Dawn Eden’s 212 page analysis of chastity is a block buster. Even the clever title , “The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding fulfillment with your Clothes On” boldly challenges the Sacred Cows of the 2nd avenue bar Crowd. Perhaps, even those of the 3rd avenue bar Crowd. The interpersonal fraudulences, the phony conversations so obviously marked by the roving eye searching for a potential “contact”, the in-authenticities, and most of all, the drab emptiness of the un-chaste life are ruthlessly exposed. Her notion of the “thrilled” life of the chaste is essentially different from the contemporary sad notion of the thrill of the chased.

The “hip” stereotyping of the chaste ones as frigid, sexually frightened, up tight and boring does not square with her present thinking or her own personal past experience in the hip world. While, on the one hand, she had the healthy and profound desire to marry her Prince Charming who hopefully would treat her as a Princess sharing her values, at the same time, she had great fear of rejection as well as intimacy, big time. She had huge urgencies which never seemed to be resolved. She was the one who was always “dumped” (her word). One can wonder and even faintly understand why so many young women, in that painful, confused state, have, in effect, thrown good sense and caution to the winds and “hoped” that a little sex experience would open the doors to marriage and romantic, eternal love.

She, like so many other young women on the modern scene, might hear the biological clock ticking, be desperately lonely with little to do beyond watching television and “getting drunk on weekends.” Insert panic into that scenario and one has a recidivistic and insecure way of life. It looks like an emotional Merry-Go-Round which pattern-like probably ends in the same unfulfilling way. It, also, sounds close to what the Shrink world calls “unconscious depression.” She notes (p. 3) that “the most I could hope for, it seemed, was a man who would treat me with “respect”, but who really wouldn’t have any concern for me once we split the tab for breakfast.” She describes as “pathetic” the old game where it was just one more uncomfortable morning after breakfast with her loveless partner oozing with “respect” (at least what qualifies as respect in the dating world). His “I’ll still respect you” line became more than she could bear.

I wonder how any naïve young woman would feel if she heard the locker room talk among young men discussing the “broads” they recently “Conquered” (they usually use another street term, raunchy and inelegant)? There is little “respect” in the descriptions of their exploits. Again, on the unconscious level, it is rather dis-respect they feel for the girl who gave in! In fact, the Morning after guy is handing out Balderdash![1] It is, on the contrary, goodness which wins real, if grudging, respect. The goodness which vibes out from human beings is powerfully attractive and I suspect that on some level, the “modern” yearns for the nostalgia of his own lost virtue. Let us face it ---in some ways, goodness can be very sexy!

Dawn had thought, incorrectly, that by introducing the sexual component into the relationship, she might “control” her lover and nudge him a tad toward marriage. But, contrary wise, she writes of her feelings of being “trapped” and getting none of the goodies promised by the media and popular wisdom. She had the infantile fantasy that merely having sex with “him” would make him love her. It was once again the age old myth of the famous non-equation: “Sex equals love.”

From my private practice, I recall an interview, with a young woman in her mid-thirties, a graduate of a prestigious Catholic college who enthusiastically “slept around” looking for love, closeness and, most of all, marriage. Her dominant involvement was with a middle aged man who loved to roller blade and go to black tie parties but who required a sexual dimension in his relationship with her. She desperately wanted a baby and assumed that her partner would come around to her mode of thinking, especially after a year’s tossing in the hay! In a painful counseling session with them, I raised the question of marriage which totally surprised the Bon Vivant. Not only did he clear the air by surfacing his hip value system which insisted that sex before marriage is far better than after any ceremony, but, with a straight face, he informed the deluded young woman “I don’t owe you anything—certainly not marriage.” Subsequently she suffered severe emotional reactions, becoming an alcoholic with puffy eyelids and another bewildered Modern. How dopey can a young woman be? Or is common sense irrelevant here?

Dawn is too intelligent to irrevocably follow such a tragic regimen. Her intelligence coupled with a gracious turn of God’s grace led her to become chaste whereby she has found a joy she never even suspected was available.

How many times, both as priest and psychologist, I have urged young women to follow the Law of God and the centuries of healthy human experience. Effectively, that means chastity. Time after time, speaking with some of them, I found it exceedingly difficult to dislodge the notion that chastity is some kind of grim, dour No-No. Some kind of symbolic chastity belt by which all joy is repressed, sexual feelings are inherently evil, affection is taboo and love is an academic word meant only for intellectual dissection. Chastity on 2nd avenue apparently means that life is essentially sad. In other words, the perception “on the street” is a total distortion. Is this simply an extension of the unspoken law that if I desire something, I should have it? And that I will become neurotic if I am denied my wishes? Is it 2nd avenue infantilism?

How does one explain and persuade that chastity is so much more[2] than the adult containment of libidinous drives? How does one illustrate that chastity means feeling interiorly clean and almost electrically alive with the creative juices flowing abundantly? How does one communicate the towering feeling of being on the “right side” of God? How does one sing of the energy and the vigor that comes with the new self respect (the running mate of chastity) making one independent of the approval of 2nd avenue? How does one proclaim the Great Feeling of truly enjoying the world and its beauty and not having to be “on the hunt” for a prospective partner for the night? How does one shout how great it is to jettison the Sad Eyes and the brittle, empty “Wit” of the Hip Crowd? How can one articulate the freedom that chastity gives to “behold” another without attempting possession and suffocation? How can one relate how rejection and intimacy fears have lessened and how self confidence and self respect have burgeoned? How to “teach” the Cross of Christ as a resolution for absurdity?

Dawn Eden can answer those questions. And better than most that I have ever read.

But, clearly, this is not just a question of good sense, data, experience and logic. The un-chastity problem stems from fantasy, archaic feelings, rampant urgent longings and biology run amok. If one reviews the reality, women, like Dawn, don’t have to be unchaste. The urge to marry is good and holy as planned by the Loving Creator, God Himself. Males and females are drawn to each other in the marvelous design of God. We surely can say “Vive les XX and XY chromosomes.” The Plan is meant for union, not only for the procreation of the human species (not nature’s trick to ensure survival) but also for complementarity. The Plan is not meant for Dead End one night stands, with the No Strings Attached Baloney, nor for eunicoids and unisexuals. Nor for the absurdity of Same-Sex Unions. Only Men and women can complete each other and, specifically, help each other to reach Holiness in the marital union. This is a good and beautiful Plan to which the overwhelming majority of the human race, at least in terms of completion, can subscribe.

Dawn saw that chastity, in fact, improved her chances for a happy marriage, not jeopardize it. She is a petite, pretty, intelligent, witty woman with a slight but charming stammer. She sees now through the lens of chastity that there is no need for her to flirt or bat her eyelashes at some attractive man or to say whatever she thinks he wants to hear. She knows that she is God’s own child Who loves her and is with her each second of her life. She is a free person. She didn’t need a physical make-over, in the fashion of some female politicos who trade horn rimmed glasses for contact lenses, who exchange dowdy clothes and frowsy hairdos for an expensive and relatively acceptable public persona. Dawn needed a spiritual make-over to rescue her from her “duping” by the ir-real![3]

I heard her discuss her book in a crowded hall recently where young people listened in rapture as she presented chastity--- straight, non-sugarcoated, replete with Scripture quotes, theological insights and thoroughly in sync with Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body. She spoke (as she writes) of closeness with God, through chastity, and its consequent reward of inner peace and self esteem. In a private discussion with her, she opined that should she write the book over she would make a greater point of promoting chastity as an end—for itself. As valid and powerful as is her thesis that chastity is THE way to find one’s mate, her expanded point is even more fundamental. Chastity is the integrating virtue that makes sense out of life. It is a key to inner peace and to that elusive treasure: contentment.

Her book is in my consulting office where I have already recommended it to patients, men as well as women, young and old, hip and square. As stated above, it is a blockbuster.

[1] There is a more colorful street term which accurately describes such behavior which I hesitate to use—in the name of good taste.
[2] Chastity certainly does “contain” sexual behavior as such , but does believe that full, passionate, joyful, physical expression belong only in marriage between a man and united lawfully so. There are no exceptions. In Marriage, sexual expression is holy and highly to be encouraged. Vatican II taught the two purposes of sex are 1)procreation—obvious and 2) “consolation” of the couple. God smiles on their sexual love.
[3] Not un-real, but ir-real or counter reality.

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