Chastity is Better Off Forgotten

Rod Dreher is the senior editor at The American Conservative. He penned a piece a few days ago about chastity and how it’s been relegated to America’s social trash heap.

The article was in response to Pope Francis’s recent letter, Amoris Laetitia, a rather tortured explanation of the Catholic Church’s continuing lack of comprehension where sex and real people are concerned.

If you are interested at all in what an old celibate man has to say about intimate relationships, you can read his take and others outrage on sex, marriage, divorce and remarriage here, but I am going to focus on the Dreher piece because I find the idea of chastity and the way its been used/continues to be used so repugnant.

Dreher references a young female reader of his blog as the basis of the argument that chastity as an idea has been forgotten by most adults and that this is – in her (and his) view – a huge loss for society.

When you consider chastity as an idea that has always been problematic at best and violently oppressive at worst, I don’t agree at all.

Chastity has been forgotten for a good reason. It only existed is the first place as a way for society and religion to shame and control women and LGBTQs.

It’s a tool of oppression that has – among other things –  allowed sexual abusers to flourish in the priesthood specifically but also in families and society at large. It’s part of what has helped keep females second class and physically vulnerable for thousands of years.

Chastity is the more evil twin of modesty. Both are tools of subjugation, and teaching our children that sex is dirty and their bodies are shameful is one of the deepest roots of the ills of modern society.

Dreher’s young reader bemoans the fact that her friends couple physically without regard to what the church thinks about it.

And not in “scandalous” ways. What she references to is nothing more than dating, consensual sex, and co-habitation. Just the normal stuff of life. Behaviors that humans were engaging in long before religions and governments decided that it was in their best interests to introduce restrictions and instructions. And let’s not kid ourselves that this occurred for any other reason than politics and power.

For some reason though the young woman Dreher quotes, thinks that people don’t value relationships because sex often happens before marriage and sometimes marriage doesn’t happen at all.

I would argue that people don’t value each other because of the screwed up messages they get from religions and pop culture, the latter being a backlash of the first. But the religionists are stuck on the idea that humans are incapable of valuing each other or understanding love and intimacy sans a whooping doses of shame.

Because that’s what chastity is. It’s shame disguised as a virtue.

There’s nothing healthy about teaching young people – females in particular – that their bodies are such a corrosive distraction and temptation that they should not only be well-covered but they should be kept off-limits sexually until  safely housed within the confines a lawful marriage.

There are a lot of good reasons to be choosy about who you form an intimate relationship with but preserving one’s chastity would not top any list I might make.

And I wouldn’t argue at all with the young reader’s idea that intimate committed relationships are something that a some people don’t put much serious thought or effort into. But not because of a lack of chastity. Not because they are knowing or unknowing “sinners”.

People are thoughtless because they are human. They live in the past and the very near future. Seldom in the moment. Rarely thinking far ahead. Mostly self-interested. It’s our humanness that sometimes makes us terrible partners. Chastity and rigid, unrealistic rules about how to date and mate aren’t the fixes for these things.

The Catholic church (much like other faith beliefs) is only interested in sexuality because it allows them a means to exert undue influence and even control over people.

The Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar was among the first to legislate and reward state-approved sexuality. Long before Christianity, Augustus realized that people could be more easily controlled this way. It wasn’t about sin. It was about consolidating power. Regulating women to a more subservient role. Marginalizing LGBTQs. Chastity was a part of that and it’s no small wonder that when the Christians arrived, their religion eventually became the state religion. Roman rule and Catholic aversion to healthy sex were a match made in their particular twisted versions of heaven.

If someone wants to practice chastity as a part of a personal belief system or to be more mindful of themselves and their partners, more power to them. As it stands though, chastity is a blunt tool of suppression with both eyes ever on the prize of control. It tells those it is aimed at that they are shameful, bad, deviant. It teaches people wanting or participating in sex is a personal failing. It springs out of the idea that all sex is sinful – consensual and non-consensual alike.

Chastity is why women are still not equal.

When chastity becomes a choice rather than a coerced obligation, I might be inclined to amend my views, but I don’t see that day on the horizon.

Chastity is best forgotten. And the sooner the better.

Dating While Widowed: Staying Present in a New Relationship

Marriage Day

Marriage Day (Photo credit: Fikra)

I read a lot about widowed in new relationships and the push/pull that goes on between the new love and the dead love. That might sound a little odd. Dead people really haven’t anything to say about the moving on business of their still live spouses.
Which is as it should be, really. But a surprising number of widowed who are just dating or newly involved in relationships of a serious nature seem to feel that they owe some sort of respect and continuing vigilance to their departed love.

I won’t say that when embarking on new relationships isn’t a trigger for occasional tugs backward on the heart-strings. It is a decidedly odd feeling to date again when you never really had an inkling that you would ever need to step back into that arena again in your lifetime.

Divorced and long time singles tend to scoff but most widowed folk I know really never contemplated a life without their deceased partner. When you are settled in a relationship, for the most part, you don’t dream of wandering among the single again in a predatory fashion. Most widowed were – faults and all – fairly content to stay with and work on their marriages, so it is a shock to their systems to be thrust back into the dating world. There is push/pull between resenting it and allowing oneself to be caught up in the excitement and pursuit of new love and new future.

Some work through this rather quickly. It helps if they don’t have extended family or friends or recalcitrant children haranguing them, but even those who do eventually find their inner back bone and assert their right to live their lives as suits them best.

However, there are some people who go back and forth and the reasons for this are as individual as the widowed themselves, but some of the bigger ones are as follows:

1) Guilt – Widowed feel guilty moving on and being happy with someone else. They just don’t see how this can be and it torments them and consequently their new partners. It’s partly a survivor thing. Why me? Why her/him? Why us? How unfair! Blah. Blah.

It’s also likely a personality thing. Some of us are just very dramatic. if late spouses could come back and chat, they’d likely have more than a few words to impart to new partners about the award-winning drama tendencies of their spouses, so my opinion is that if a widowed is someone who can’t seem to not get caught up in the melodrama of anniversaries and looking for sympathy on Facebook, it’s probably something that won’t change. It’s just who they are. They’ve bought into the idea of the ghostly threesome, aided and abetted by like-minded friends and relatives, and the new love can learn to put up with this or move on him/herself.

2) Benefits – Some widowed discover that there are benefits to the widow status that they simply don’t want to give up. If they are “fortunate”, they might have had a support network that encourages them to stay in the comfy cocoon of widowdom. Widows make new friends among their widowed peers, join groups, – real and virtual, blog, start foundations, write books (that sometimes sell, make them quasi-famous and become movies) or simply discover a new life’s calling. These are all hard, even incredibly difficult – to walk away from, even if the reward is a new relationship. And again, a new partner might have to make a choice between finding a way to live with someone who loves widowhood as much as he/she loves the new love, or walking away.

3) ambivalence – Despite the emphasis our culture (and I am talking first world here) places on the individual and the awesomeness of being independent and on our own, the truth is that we still hold coupledom as the holy grail or existence. Some widowed discover that being single is not hell on earth. They enjoy relationships and even love again, but they are not interested in co-mingling on a marriage minded level again. Signals are mixed. Feelings are hurt. Mostly because the widowed person can’t/won’t be clear about what they really want. Love and companionship but not marriage. In this case, it is important for all parties to be honest, recognize that everyone’s needs are valid but that time/patience isn’t going to change anything and that it is sometimes better for the commitment minded to move on.

So what’s with the title “staying present”?

If you are in a relationship, whether you are marriage minded or not, it’s imperative to be with your new love when you are with your new love. Not mixing sadness, backward glancing and any other griefy- ness with the rather serious business of showing your new love that they are front and center. And if they aren’t always front and center, you should be honest about it so this person can move on to someone who will value them more than you do.

But I do value and love my new boy/girlfriend, you say. Indignantly.

Not if, in my opinion, you are expecting them to be okay while you moan, groan and weep over your late spouse, or if you are constantly praising and glorifying said dead spouse right in the face of new love.

If you had to listen to your mate sing arias to their last partner, how would it make you feel? Especially if this was the norm rather than the rare, rare exception.

But I only blog, you say. Or I only volunteer for hospice, on messages boards or dead spouse only comes up when I promote the book or foundation I started in his/her name.

Think about. How would you feel if you were the one in your new love’s place. Probably not someone who’s been widowed (although even fellow widowed can lose patience with this) and who really takes to heart all the effusive praise heaped on the dead one and the previous relationship? Even the most self-actualized person is – over time – going to start to feel like warmed over shit on burnt toast. It’s human nature to want to be the most important person to the person you love. You want that yourself, right? So why aren’t you giving this to someone you say you care about and love – maybe even want (or have) a future with?

Looking back, should be, something that becomes occasional and private. If it is in the face of your new love/spouse, you need to be pretty damned sure that he/she is 100% okay with this and not merely tolerating it and seething silently. Silent sucking up always erupts at some point and the fissures never really heal over.

Despite the fact that we are living through an era in which widowhood is again romantic, glamorous and glorified, don’t buy in to the point where you are cutting off  – one by one – the facial appendages of your new relationships. If you must “widow”, don’t expect your husband/wife/boy or girlfriend to stoically support you. Widowhood and it’s side hobbies are not couple activities. Know that you are being unreasonable and even an asshole to ask that much from your new partner and relationship. Don’t make a widowhood widow out of them.

Dating While Widowed ….. and everyone has baggage

Young Widow

Young Widow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“….. and everyone has baggage.”

I ran across this quote on a widow blog. It was written by a widow, lamenting/raging/venting after her second break up with a post-dead husband boyfriend. And the thing that struck me was the negativity of it. Which is odd because the idea behind the concept of “having baggage” is relatively common in our modern culture. Most people, at some point or other, will christen their histories with the term because they are frustrated and see the past as an obstacle to what they want right now.

It’s a curious way of framing things. After all, how can events that are chronologically behind you be blocking your future? Unless, like Lot’s wife, you are still looking back. In which case, the fact that you are tripping up shouldn’t come as a surprise. Walking backward is a good way to fall down.

After the question of “how soon is too soon to date again”, the problem of how to put away the past and not use it as a measuring stick in potential/new relationships is one of the bigger issues of dating again. Whether our late marriage was good, bad or ugly, any future significant other and the relationship formed deserves its own space where it is not judged by or compared to the late spouse and marriage.

Sure, everyone has “baggage”, but its less than helpful to label what is merely a chronology of events as such rather than simply calling it what it is – your history.

You have a history. It shaped you, taught you what you know for good and not so much good, and that is all that it is. The minute it becomes “baggage”; it’s time to rethink your readiness to date or to be in a serious relationship. Nothing good is likely to spring up from negative comparisons, blame and generally wishing your new someone was your now deceased someone, who has magically stopped being human and levitates in an photo-shopped state of romantic perfection. Constantly going back to “SoNso would never have x, y or z.” whether it’s just in your head, or worse, thrown out into the open spaces  at your new partner, is the teenaged emotional blackmail weapon of choice that adults should hesitate to pick up again.

Baggage is synonymous with issues. And still having active issues will, more often than not, hamper the development of a new relationship. It’s good to know what you want out of a relationships and what can’t be tolerated no matter how sexy, charming and good on paper someone is, but don’t confuse idealizing the past and the dead with a checklist for new love.

Love me/love my baggage?

Um, no.

Why should anyone have to sift through your issues in order to get to know you?

And why should anyone have to be your grief counselor or help you work through your bad relationship habits (the ones your late spouse let slide because you were both too young to know any better)?

The answer, of course, is that they shouldn’t. If you are ready to date again, you are ready to be an adult who is honest with yourself about who you are and what might be a problem as you move on with your life. Seek real professional help if your “baggage” needs to be filed away under “past life”, but don’t expect someone else to carry it for you or accept being treated like crap because “… everyone has baggage”.

Everyone has a past – a history that often has bruised squishy spots in it – but no one but your mother has to “love you anyway”. If you want love, you have to earn it and part of that process is getting your history together rather than using it as an excuse.



Another Anniversary

From a certain point of view, I haven’t much actual marriage experience. In fact, I am still years away from having spent more of my adult life paired than single. So in some ways, my basis for comparison and analysis is short on actual “seat time” and what I know as “normal” can’t necessarily be taken as gospel. There are those who have spent more time in the so-called trenches than I have, but I have to say, I have yet to find marriage trench-like.

Is it typical to still lust after your husband five years on? I found myself wondering that for the umpteenth time the other evening.

“There is an awful lot of gropage that goes on around this house,” Rob remarked as we exchanged send-off affections at the back door this morning.

Rarely to if ever do we arrive or depart solo without excessive lip servicing and declarations of love and perhaps this is normal for the time frame. Having never made it past a sixth anniversary, I wouldn’t know personally. But I don’t see this in other couples and wonder if perhaps it is just me. Or just our circumstances? Or maybe evidence that too many people in the world take far too much for granted and no wonder there are as many failed marriages as there are successes.

Five years ago, Rob and I stood on the banks of the Athabasca River and exchanged vows, rings and kisses. Papers were signed. Pictures were taken. Food and drink was consumed. It seems like yesterday and history at the same time.

The card I left next to his steaming tea-cup this morning broke cardinal rules of relationship comparison and favoritism, but it brought a smile to his face and kisses and hugs to me, so who cares? Now is what counts because it’s the basis for tomorrow.

We will celebrate with lunch at the elementary school because it’s the last week of school and they always hold a family picnic, and then follow-up this evening with attendance at the last game of the outdoor soccer season. With our latest babysitter having outgrown the job, we couldn’t have scheduled a date even if the schedule was cleared anyway.

Rob bought me a new watch, a stylish but comfy pair of leather sandals and a couple of summer outfits I found at MEC this last weekend. I gave him a kick-ass miter saw. I am pretty sure that year five is marked with accessories and tools.

The search terms here have been lit up again with sad queries concerning widowed love or the lack of it. Despite my limited experience, the advice I have remains the same: disregard the dead spouse thing. It’s not central to the issue. Someone loves you and is interested in building a life with you or they simply aren’t. Why is beside the main point. If you don’t feel loved, do yourself the giant favor of taking steps to make yourself available for someone who is ready, willing and able to love.

Yesterday as I drove back to The Fort from yoga class, I noted that the fields are yellowing. Solstice has passed. Canada Day looms. The bonus months between school ending and starting up again, which as a former teacher is really the only way I know of marking time, awaits.

And it’s our anniversary. Not officially a stat day, but nearly enough.

What Not to Wear: The Skunk Hunting Edition

Striped skunk, Mephitis mephitis

Striped skunk, Mephitis mephitis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I am already snuggled up in bed, heating pad on my low back and ice pack around my neck. It’s been a tough week of Yoga Challenge and semi-ear infections. Suddenly, I hear Rob on the main floor,

“Annie! mumble, muffle, completely unintelligible!”

Responding to the urgency of his tone, I call back,


What? I was in bed! Covered, comfy, wrapped in heat and ice. His call wasn’t followed by a thud, so I could reasonably assume he hadn’t collapsed and it was highly unlikely that any of the mainly septuagenarian crowd at the hamlet’s annual chicken supper had gone wild and stormed our back porch in an ice tea induced frenzy.

However, he didn’t reply, so I uncomfied myself, put on my robe and headed downstairs where I found him with his toothbrush in his mouth (which explained the muffle), peering out the bathroom window into our backyard.

“What’s wrong?” I inquired, thinking that this had better be earth shattering enough to have pulled me out of bed.

“I saw the skunk,” he said. “It was walking toward the shed but disappeared as it got close to the retaining wall.”

Okay, this was news.

Our neighbors discovered a skunk den under their shed, which borders our property, last spring. Mama Skunk and a half-dozen wee ones. They filled the hole and attempted to block it off with plywood and concrete blocks. We all thought the matter resolved. However, one of the skunks returned when the rains came this year and dug out the old den. Last weekend, Rob and I woke in the middle of the night to find our entire house awash in eau de skunk.

All the windows were open and the malodorous creature had gone off either in our back yard or the side yard under our bedroom window.

You know how strong odors eventually fatigue your sense of smell, so even though the smell remains your sense of it collapses under the strain and it seems as though the scent is gone? That doesn’t happen with skunk. Just when you think your poor nose is about to give up, and you are darn grateful for Mother Nature’s thoughtful gift of olfactory fatigue – it ramps up again. And again. And again. It’s like a skunk is right there next to you, stiff-tailed and spraying.

Ever since, we’ve been on the look out because Pepe LePew is not keeping to the neighbor’s yard.

As I am peering out the window, I realize that Rob has disappeared, followed by the sound of the back door opening and closing and footfall on the deck.

I hustled up the stairs to the landing window and observed my brave skunk hunter, armed with a pellet gun, stealthily stalking his prey through our back yard, clad only in a bath towel and runners.

No, it’s okay. The neighbors have seen him in a towel before and given the fact that even though it’s 9:30 our quite northern exposure means that the sun won’t be setting for at least another hour. Excellent light for skunk spying and getting a great view of your neighbor, brandishing what looks like an actual gun, wearing a towel and exposing a titillating amount of thigh.

I must say that I admire my husband’s casual attitude and the feline ease with which he hunts. If I hadn’t been so intent on spotting the smelly intruder, I might have had presence of mind to grab my phone and record the event. It’s not something you see everyday … in most neighborhoods.

Rob slowly covered ground. The garden. The driveway. The shed area. He even got up on tip-toe and checked out the neighbor’s yard. As he did this, I kept an eye out for Monsieur Skunk. I had no idea where I find tomato juice at this time of the night and didn’t want the creature to sneak up on Rob.

Later, when I told Rob my sole concern was what I would do if he got sprayed, he replied,

“Do you think I don’t know what signs to look for before a skunk sprays?”

It was the tone of a Mountain Man aggrieved.

“And thanks for being concerned about my actual safety,” he said. “Skunks can carry rabies, you know.”

I didn’t know that, and now I have that extra tidbit to make me paranoid about allowing Dee to play unattended in our back yard until the skunk is caught and relocated.

It will have to be trapped and removed. Rabies. Stink. The prospect of a summer of tomato juice baths. I am shuddering already. Back in Canada’s lawless un-gun-controlled days, a man would simply take aim and fire. End of skunk issue. Today the county brings traps and comes back to pick them up when said nuisance wanders into one. I can’t even begin to imagine how foul an experience for the neighborhood that will be.

Better that, however, than my semi-naked husband losing his terry loin cloth in a spray of stench. The neighborhood might recover from that less quickly.

On Being One Half of That “cute old couple”

Affectionate old couple with the wife holding ...

Elderly love(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You know for a certainty that you are indeed old when young women begin to refer to you and your husband as “so cute”. As in “Today I saw this old couple walking through the park holding hands. They were so cute. Someday, I hope I am an old woman who still holds hands with her husband.” The assumption being that the elderly couple in question are actually with their spouse and aren’t widowed folk who’ve randomly hooked up at the retirement complex for entertainment and recreation purposes.

But whatever. Far be it from me to disillusion a young person who still believes in marriage. It’s not as if they exist in droves anymore.

Rob accompanied me to the doctor’s office yesterday morning. I have a pesky polyp and removal involves a certain amount of slicing and frying. My doctor, a lively old fella who resembles a garden gnome – minus the hat and fluffy whiskers – assured me that I would not feel a thing. Not exactly true and Rob was concerned that I might be too distracted to drive myself home safely.

He also hates to allow me to go to the doctor’s on my own where skin things are concerned. This particular problem has been recurrent and benign, but being a fair-haired natural ginger (the latter part only when I feel like it), one can never be complacent where skin is concerned. I’ve had skin enough slashed and burned off to know that the derma can turn on you without warning. He doesn’t want me to be on my own should that happen because he lived the aftermath once before and it isn’t something you do again when you can easily prevent it.

So, we are sitting in the waiting area, chatting and holding hands, when the assistant came out to collect me. Before I followed her, I gave him a quick kiss and then proceeded down the hall to one of the many treatment rooms in the hive that hides behind the waiting room door.

As I seated myself, she smiled at me and said, “You two are just like newlyweds. That’s so cute.”

She left the “I hope I can have that one day” part unspoken, but it hung in the air nevertheless.


I am now so old that young women find my perfectly normal interactions with my husband “cute”. “Sweet” and “endearing” cannot be far behind, and gods help me when “you guys remind me of my nana and papa” tumbles off someone’s lips.

There are worse things. Mocking. Remember the YouTube video of the couple trying to figure out how to send a message with their Mac? Cute and hilarious.

Endearing and snuggly in a puppy/kitten sort of way and chuckle-worthy at the same time. The ultimate elderly hell.

Oh, I could view it as Rob and I being inspirational. That’s how the young woman will likely present the scenario to her friends as they gather around at some pub on Whyte Ave. They will breathe sighs of relief knowing that old people still held hands and kissed, which probably means they still have sex. The fear of romance-less unions once the honeymoon is over and a few offspring  pop up being a big nightmare scenario for the young. That and the shackles of matrimony. That archaic hold over from feudal days of yore. Good to know that some of us bet the odds and don’t arrive at the half-way mark grim-faced for our slog towards decrepitude and certain death.

Of course, I didn’t tear the dear thing’s fantasy to shreds by enlightening her about the fact that, from a certain point of view, Rob and I still are newlyweds. Barely married five years and blessed with the luxury of not having to raise a single child from scratch as they were all in various stages of walking, talking and able to attend to their own bodily functions. Kinder to let her believe that Rob and I represent some undiscovered by statistician’s norm. That unicorn of couples – cute, aging and still still glowing.


The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been reading a mythology based fiction novel to the child again. She simply can’t get enough Greek mythology. She’s discovered that our library has the entire Percy Jackson collection on cd and even though I have read them to her, and she has read some of them herself, she’s decided to start at the beginning and hear them again.

The book I am reading to her places the Greek gods and goddesses in a special high school where they are supposed to learn about their gifts and to be “better” deities. It’s a series and this particular volume deals with Aphrodite trying to atone for her faux pas with Paris and Helen, which launched the Trojan War, by helping a young sculptor named Pygmalion find true love.

Of course, the story of Pygmalion and Galtea has nothing to do with the Trojan War (or the Egyptian Goddess, Isis), and I have to give the author an “A” for her knowledge of myths in general and the clever idea of plucking them all in a high school setting. The gods of Ancient Greece were nothing if not teen-like in their demeanor and outlook.

Aphrodite is a fitting Valentine’s Day topic. Her Roman son, Cupid, after all, is one of today’s symbols and his arrows are supposedly the root cause of what we call romantic love. She herself, however, is not such a simple creature. To the Greeks she represented more than just love and superficial beauty. She is in fact one of the oldest deities in human history and might be among the first gods human beings worshipped.

According tot he Greeks, Aphrodite’s birth was the direct result of Kronos’s gelding of their father. As his manhood sunk to the bottom of the sea, semen and blood mixed with the salty waves and Aphrodite rose from the stew riding a conch shell. Like the goddess Athena later on, Aphrodite has no mother. She was sired only and as a result is quite a forceful deity who wore the pants in all her relationships.

She has many aspects that run the gamut of female existence, but she also held dominion over male potency and war. Currently an exhibit of her history and the art it’s inspired is running at a museum in Boston. One of the sculptures has never been out of Italy before and depicts Hermaphrodite, her son with Hermes. From the back it appears to be a sleeping woman but walk around to the front and there is a penis protruding from between the sleeper’s legs.

Dee is a bit young for Aphrodite’s full history. Rick Riordan, who authors the Percy Jackson series, deftly works around the fact that his demi-god characters are all products of adultery. Last night, Dee and I discussed the fact that Percy’s father was married but had girlfriends. She didn’t seem to think this was too awful until I asked her what she would think of Dad having girlfriends on the side. She wrinkled her nose in her most disapproving manner,

“I wouldn’t like that.”

I wouldn’t care for it much myself.

“So that’s why Hera is also so angry at Zeus then,” she continued as more pieces fell into place.

“Exactly,” I said.

“But why does Hephaestus need to spy on Aphrodite all the time to catch her with Ares if he has girlfriends too?”

“He’s just being mean.”

More puzzled forehead frown lines and pursed lips followed but no more questions – yet.