Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Open for Business


I started taking birth control last week. And, of course, my nine-year-old discovered it yesterday when he came with me to my room to grab my new Glee CDs.

Sam*: (picks up my birth control) What's this medicine for?

Me: (trying not to panic visibly) Uhhh, it's something I have to take every day.

Sam: (puts it down without reading the label) Why do you have to take it every day?

Me: (looks wildly around) I take a lot of medicine every day. I take this, this, and this every day too. (points to Pentasa, calcium supplements, and Omega-3 capsules) This when I have a cold, and this when I have a headache. (points to Dayquil, Nyquil, and Tylenol)

Sam: Wow, you take a lot of medicine! How come?

Me: (relaxes) I have Crohn's Disease. I have to take medicine not to be sick.

This is why I shouldn't let my kids in my room. That, and the fact that I insist they keep their rooms clean while I have a pile of laundry in my desk chair, stacks of books on the floor, half-unpacked shopping bags on the floor, and seven pairs of shoes scattered about the room. Hypocritical much?

But, yeah, you're probably thinking that the real hypocrisy is the virgin on birth control. If I'm not planning on having sex, why do I need to be taking even more drugs?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Virgin Myths: Male Virgins are Conservative

Cherries graphic via

I realize that at this point, you probably think I'm, like, the Goddess of Virginity and the Sophia of Abstinence. I understand your misconception (I am an awesome writer, let's be honest, of some pretty sexy and controversial topics), and I'm flattered, really, I am. But it pains me to admit that with all my experience in not having sex, I too have fallen victim to stereotyping virgins. Specifically, virgins of the male variety.

Myth Number Three: Men who save themselves for marriage have other conservative ideas about gender roles.

Out of the fifteen guys (and four girls) I've French-kissed, thirteen were definitely nonvirgins, three were probably nonvirgins, two could have been nonvirgins or virgins, and only one was definitely a virgin.

This in and of itself doesn't mean anything except to indicate the rarity of virgins in their 20s. I'm special and sparkly, like a unicorn, and I'm totally okay with that. ;) But because of this, I also came to accept years ago that it's unrealistic of me to expect to marry another virgin one day. Obviously that would be AWESOME, but I'm looking at pretty slim pickin's if virginity is a non-negotiable for me in a future spouse.

I also (wrongly) assumed that if I were to end up with another virgin, he would be an ultra-conservative, head-of-household, wives submit to your husbands kind of guy. If you haven't figured out by now that I'm a bit of a feminist the way Katy Perry is a bit sexy and J.K. Rowling is a bit of a writer, well, news flash, I am. Don't get me wrong; I'm all about putting other people first, but in a relationship, I want a partnership, not a benevolent monarchy. Based on my undergrad interactions with fellow virgins, most of whom I knew from my on-campus church group, I drew the conclusion that men who saved themselves for marriage also had other traditional views on marriage. Views that would never sit well with me.

Sidenote: This is the origin of stereotypes and generalizations. We take our personal observations about a small sample of a larger group of people and assume that everyone in that group shares characteristics with the small sample. It is very easy to fall into this trap, but very important to avoid it if at all possible.

So. All that said, part of me has always thought I would end up with a nonvirgin because that would be my only chance of marrying a man who would be okay with me keeping my last name and us co-leading our family.

Then I kissed the only definite virgin out of nineteen.

And my entire perspective changed.

Because he's not saving himself for religious reasons either. Because he likes how fiercely independent I am. Because he bought me dinner, but then didn't say a word when I bought our drinks later in the evening.

For the first time in my life, I wasn't the only one setting the pace whilst making out. Don't get me wrong, I've (mostly) made out with gentlemen who didn't push me to go any further than I wanted, and I greatly appreciated their respect for me. But I discovered that it's so much better when I share that with a man. When we have a mutual understanding of how far to go and when to stop. When I'm not the only one stopping, the only one moving hands away, the only one saying “No.”

This is my formal and public apology for any men out there who are proud and intentional virgins. I'm sorry I assumed your values on sex automatically transferred to your beliefs on gender roles. I realize now that just like women save themselves for many reasons, men do too.

P.S. Virgins can be pretty damn good kissers too. ;)


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dating, Sex, & Marriage

A reader asked me if I'd read I Kissed Dating Good-Bye by Joshua Harris. I had to admit, I had not, but I was intrigued by the title. Sadly, my library does not carry this book, but I did read several reviews and summaries of the book. I've passed midterms with less prep work, so I feel slightly prepared to discuss the topic.

According to wikipedia, clearly the ultimate authority on everything, “dating is a form of courtship consisting of social activities done by two persons with the aim of each assessing the other's suitability as a partner in an intimate relationship or as a spouse.”

Um, okay. Is that really applicable to the modern world of dating, though? I mean, is that honestly how we treat dates?

Before we go any further, I don't want anyone to form the mistaken conclusion that I am, in any way, shape, or form, an expert on dating. I have been on exactly seven official dates with four guys. (Four of them being with man friend... le sigh). But I am the queen of secondhand experience. Both my guy friends and my girlfriends come to me for relationship advice all the time. I also read a lot. Between the two, I've picked up on a thing or two.

So. Dating. Why do we do it? My first real date was with my best friend's boyfriend's best friend. Yeah. My best friend thought I was too picky when it came to guys, and I guess I was trying to be more open-minded? But the date wasn't about him; it was about me. What could I get out of it? What could I learn? What could I experience?

The whole thing was very self-centered. According to Harris, that's the attitude most people have about dating, and it's the wrong attitude to have. He states, “Every relationship for a Christian is an opportunity to love another person as God has loved us.” We should be putting God first, other people second, and ourselves last. This should be true not just in romantic relationships, but all relationships.

So far I'm totally down with this idea. I think generally I do a good job of balancing my own needs and desires with those of the people I love. I almost always put other people first unless that would negatively impact me. If putting someone else first affects me neutrally, or positively, then I usually do it. I'm not a doormat; I just like to see other people happy.

But... four steps? Casual Friendship – Deeper Friendship – Courtship – Engagement? It's a great idea in theory, but I'm not sure how great that works in practice. How many of my best guy friends have I fallen for? (Five out of eight. Rather hard for one and borderline in love with another). How many of them fell for me? (Just one). Was it mutual? (No, that would be too easy). Clearly forming deep friendships with (mostly) godly men did not lead to courtship for us.

What does Harris say about intimacy?

Again, I've just read through about 100 reviews and summaries of the book, not the book itself. Finding his exact stance on intimacy is not as easy as the aforementioned points. Overall, though, his thesis is that intimacy is the reward of commitment. That you should save intimacy for commitment. That one of our problems today is sharing intimacy with someone without commitment.

I have trouble articulating if I agree or disagree with this. I think that young people jump into sex too quickly. I think they use physical intimacy selfishly. I think the emotional scarring you can suffer by being too intimate too fast with the wrong person can affect your future relationships. So in this sense, I agree. You should save intimacy for commitment.

But. I also feel as though the two go hand in hand. Yes, there are a lot of people I consider my best friends (at last count, I think I hit 27...). But out of the thousands of people I've met in my life? It's a very small number who are rewarded with the best friend title. I click with some people in a special way, on a deeper level. They go on to be my best friends.

It's the same concept with men. I can't commit myself romantically to someone unless we've reached a certain level of intimacy. The reverse is true as well. For true intimacy to occur (aka not just hooking up, which I've done on many an occasion), I need to have a certain level of commitment as well.

I've refrained from blogging about man friend (even if I tweet about him incessantly) since sharing my present private life with the world is just a little more personal than sharing my past private life. But I feel as though a quick overview of my relationship with man friend is a good example of commitment and intimacy happening at the same time. (More detailed stories about us to come at a later date!)

Man friend contacted me via an online dating site. Soon we were emailing each other almost daily. After a few weeks, we met for dinner: our first date. A week later, we had our second date, and I kissed him at the end of the night. After our third date a few days later, we enjoyed a very nice make-out session. After our fourth (and final) date a week later, I stayed the night with him. During this time, we were still emailing and instant messaging constantly. I also saw him several other times that were not dates. My last night in town, he told me that if I were staying, he would ask me to be his girlfriend. I told him if I were staying, I would say yes. Now that it's been a month exactly since I last saw him, and probably still three months away from when I can see him again, I can say that I feel even more strongly about him. I don't even want to go make out with random guys and girls in a club (which is saying a lot for me). I just want to be with him, even in our current undefined long-distance unofficial whatever.

The more I learned about him, the more I liked him. The more I liked him, the more I wanted to kiss him. The more I kissed him, the more I wanted to know about him. See a cycle here? Commitment and intimacy went hand in hand.

At the end of the day, I think we need to be intentional in our relationships. We can't just sit back and let them happen. We need to consider carefully who our friends are and who are significant others are. We need to put love and effort into our relationships. We need to have a conversation with God about what we're doing and where we're going and who's coming with us.

What this looks like is different for everyone. For me and romantic entanglements, I don't have hard and fast rules. I'm careful with my heart, but I also let myself love freely. I have blurred guidelines for physical intimacy, but not black and white lines of yes and no. I talk things out with God, but I also express myself in writing and turn to my friends for advice. I make mistakes, I allow myself to be hurt, but then I learn from my experiences, and I move on.

Purity and goodness are different for everyone. As long as I can look myself in the mirror at night and be proud of my reflection, I'm doing okay.

Edit 05/27/2012: I just found this blog post with a thoughtful criticism of Harris's approach.


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