You know how every non-fiction book in the last three years has been about the author doing one odd, life-disrupting thing for one full year and then writing a book about it? I'm reading one of those books a week for one full year and then writing a book about it. It's My Year Of Everything, and you're soaking in it. CONTACT: Dave Holmesfirstname.lastname@example.org
Hephzibah Anderson’s “Chastened,” the account of her year without sex, has ground me down to a thick paste. I WILL GET BACK TO IT. I SWEAR.
Here’s a rule of thumb: books in which the author takes on new things for a year are engaging and fun. Books in which the author avoids things, especially fun things like sex, are books you can’t not put down.
But I haven’t forgotten about you. The NEW FALL SEASON has begun.
Reading books on electronic devices is no fun. Can’t see how far along you are, unless I activate that feature, and then that’s ALL I can pay attention to. Can’t do it in the sun. (YES, I know you can with a Kindle, but the last thing I need is another glowing rectangle to stare at.) Can’t smell the book smell.
Gonna power through “Chastened” on my iPad Kindle app, and then it’s back to actual physical books.
Trying to get through a book about a year of chastity while you’re in New York City, as thick-ass college-lacrosse-playing banker guys jog past you.
I do enjoy Los Angeles, but the dude situation in New York is just plain out of hand. To quote the Morning Zoo: BOI-OI-OING.
Hephzibah Anderson (which is a name that requires great concentration to type, no matter how many times you do it) is a month into her Year Without Sex. She’s dressing more modestly, and having more awkward dates. Welcome to our world, Hephzibah.
It’s too early in the book to see how the year is shaping up. I’ll get back to you.
But while we’re on the sex & love tip, the conversation turns- as it must- to the events in California over the last couple of weeks. As of this writing, August 13, 2010, Proposition 8 has been overturned and same-sex marriages can resume next Wednesday pending a stay from the defendants.
Good. Very good.
I honestly don’t know whether marriage is for me, since it’s never really been an option. I have a lot of thinking to do, which is good, because this isn’t over by a long shot.
But I do know this: somewhere in America, this very day, around 11,000 babies are being born. A few hundred of them will grow up to be gay men or lesbians (because that’s what’s programmed into them already).
Those kids will grow up in a world where their right to equal access to civil marriage will never be in question.
Those kids might never know they’re supposed to feel bad about themselves.
Some of those kids will abstain from sex until they are legally married.
Maybe just a few dozen.
Maybe just one.
But still, that’s one. That’s one more than when I was born.
If you’re Tony Perkins or Maggie Gallagher or Brian Brown or any of these busybody ghouls who’ve inserted yourself and your personal moral code into strangers’ lives and our state’s law: shouldn’t that make you happy?
So my iPad Kindle app tells me I’m around a tenth of the way through “Chastened,” and I’m still not quite sure about the terms of her Year Of Celibacy. Apparently, there is no penetration- makes sense- but I don’t know what is allowed. So far, we’re getting a lot of information about her ex-boyfriend, the guy to whom she surrendered her maidenhead or whatever hifalutin expression she uses. Not a ton of forward motion here yet, but when the action in a book is actually a lack of action, it’s hard to tell when the action starts.
I do know this: I miss actual physical books. My iPad is GREAT (especially now that I have Flipboard), but reading with it is clunk-a-roo. It’s summertime, and I want to do my reading in a deck chair in the sun, but the iPad is impossible to read in sunlight. I could get a Kindle, but my God the last thing I need is another rectangle to stare at.
Also I don’t want to get tanning butter on my iPad*.
*Also I still call it “tanning butter.”
Before I dive into Hephzibah Anderson’s “Chastened,” the account of her year without sex, I must point you to this article about the hot, hot Fire Island tea dance that is the Catholic priesthood. (Rather, it’s an article about the article, as the original is in Italian; don’t think I’m not pricing some Rosetta Stone software right now.) Celibacy has never seemed so tantalizing.
I am, as I have mentioned many times, a Catholic, so my early information about sex came straight from the ostensibly celibate*. The more I learn about what really goes on with Catholic priests, the more I think this is like hiring a bulimic to be your dietician.
I use this metaphor a lot, because I think it makes sense. Sexual desire, like hunger, is a morally-neutral biological need. Those who aspire to the celibate priesthood, like young girls looking at Seventeen Magazine, start to judge themselves harshly for having a biological need, and so they push it down and try to wish it away. But it doesn’t go away, it just gets warped and twisted. Some eventually make peace with it, some don’t. But in the case of sex, some of those who don’t will then go on to teach children about it, to suggest that their own immature understanding of the subject is God’s Word, to plant seeds of fear, shame, guilt and confusion that continue to bloom for decades.
Which is maybe not the very best thing.
* The celibacy requirement, draped as all things Catholic are in deep and mystical piety, is really about money and land; in the 12th century, children of priests were starting to inherit too much church property, so along with mandatory celibacy came the decree that all sons of priests- even married ones- were illegitimate. (The daughters couldn’t inherit anyway, so- then as now- they mattered less.)