Feb 23, 2011

On Anatomy & Physiology

In keeping with yesterday's post
Here's a gorgeous poem by Dave K. Wheeler.

I still remember just how you look
naked, the pale curve of your back,
the quiet inlet where it bends
to meet the taper of your waist,
shower water wending where it will
along the architecture of your form.

There may have been studies of a form
such as yours, that begged charges look
and chart the firm geography they will
find around each smooth surface and back—
from the ankle to knee and knee to waist—
while changing, adapting as the figure bends,

saying, Note where the wrist starts, thumb ends,
and how the hip tendons each transform.
And every student might attend to your waist
but neglect the collective, assembled look
produced by the bones in your neck and back
how they form a straight line of poise and will.

Maybe what I saw when I saw you naked will
amount to what makes or breaks or bends
me. I caught your eye, and you glanced back.
You didn’t flinch or show the slightest form
of embarrassment. I remember the look—
a subtle nod and smile—you might waste

as if it were a familiar gaze, might waste
in calm, in nonchalance, in pure goodwill.
Or maybe this gaze is the way you look
into me, past the way my own body bends
to cover my soul, to hide and conform,
to be sure and have my own back—

to hold close and hold tight and hold back
like anxiety for being seen from the waist
down, naked, vulnerable, without form.
Maybe it won’t matter, and maybe it will;
but, having caught you so bared unbends
me, makes me measure, take another look

at my maudlin self—a cruel look to see my back
still bends wrong, my legs, trunk, hands—a waste
of time to contest if ever I will match your form.

On Anatomy and Physiology is from the collection 
Contingency Plans: Poems (T. S. Poetry Press, 2010)

Feb 22, 2011

Love, Sex, Marriage. All or none of the above

I just spent a lovely Valentine's Day with my husband. It was our sixth Valentine's Day together. We met in January of 2006 and were married that August. (Hey, when you've spent your entire adult life unmarried, you don't waste time dating Mr. Wrong or letting Mr. Right get away.) It's been a terrific four and a half years. We'd each spent years in counseling before we met, so I like to say that Larry came “plug-and-play.” We get along well and enjoy each other immensely. Nevertheless, we've had lots to unlearn, like selfish behaviors, weird habits, and how to enjoy the perks of marriage we'd survived without. The Nike slogan, “Just Do It,” goes a long way.

A year ago I sat down for an hour-long interview with Craig Spinks of “Recycle Your Faith.” We talked about a lot of issues, including sexuality. Craig posted a portion on Valentine's Day and titled it, “Christian Sexuality: Shut Down.” Ouch.

I grew up in a nice, polite Lutheran church that didn't discuss sex. As a single adult in a hip groovy nondenominational church, I was taught I needed to find my identity and contentment in the Lord first. Only then would He bring the right person my way. Aren't you glad this idea wasn't taught during the Black Plague? The human race would have died out. The only real directive I got was like Nancy Regan's anti-drug campaign: “just Say No.” But as Reverend Jesse Jackson famously remarked, kids also need something to say “yes” to. Christian singles need something more than 'Just Don't Do It.'

Not long ago, Jonathan Acuff, author of Stuff Christians Like, blogged that Christians have ruined sex.  (I'd inject that Satan has done the lion's share of ruination). Acuff cites four ways he believes Christians ruin sex.
1. Sometimes we teach guilt, not abstinence.
2. We have few ways to discuss it.
3. We write 10 books about lust for every one about the gift of sex.
4. We are afraid to be creative in sex

Are you uncomfortable yet? Good, I'm not alone. This isn't an easy topic to discuss. In Point 1 Acuff points out how we grow up hearing how destructive sex is outside of marriage (and boy, is it), but then don't know what to on the wedding night. “You're supposed to magically, instantly shed all your guilt and fear about sex. We're taught guilt for years and then left on the doorsteps of our marriages to figure it all out by ourselves.” That brings him to points 2, 3, and 4. It leaves one the impression that the world is having all the fun and we're left with bland, boring procreation tools.

But what has secular society have to offer? We live in a dysfunctional age, in which we are biologically ready to procreate at age 15, but the culture wants to postpone adulthood until we're nearly ready for the rest home. You know this is true if you've watched Seinfeld, Friends, or seen any of Judd Apatow's movies.

This week author Kay Hymowitz wrote in the Wall Street Journal, Where Have All The Good Men Gone? It's excerpted from her book, Manning Up. “Today, most men in their 20s hang out in a novel sort of limbo, a hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and responsible self-reliance. This 'pre-adulthood' has much to recommend it. But it's time to state what has become obvious to legions of frustrated young women: It doesn't bring out the best in men.”

Well it certainly doesn't encourage the character Christians want to teach the next generation. Why grow up, the article asks, when young men have a Play Station, sports bars, and “lad magazines like Maxim, which makes Playboy look like Camus?”

Man, am I glad I got out of the dating circuit. Back in 2005 my roommate and I held a series of dinner parties for the singles we knew, in hopes that some might pair off and end up walking down the aisle. Over and over I observed a series of men, unable to make a move to ask a woman out. As frustrating as it was, I can't put all the blame on the guys. If it's true that men reach their sexual peak in their teens (and women in their thirties, oh the irony!), perhaps the motivation to get hitched is dead by forty. I also think that Christian men, in an effort to not do the wrong thing, do nothing at all. The church teaches them to be nice and tame. I also know that many men become addicted to pornography. And as the pool of remaining women shrinks, and those remaining become more desperate and shrill (I was guilty!) is it any wonder a man would be tempted to turn to pornography over a scary spinster?

This brings me to the article the Huffington Post ran on Valentine's Day: Why You're Not Married, by Tracy Macmillan, a TV writer with credits on Mad Men and The United States of Tara. Macmillan writes to secular women, giving six brutally funny reasons that are impossible to dismiss. I know, I was guilty of most of them!

1. You're a bitch. Meaning, you're angry. It scares men off.
Don't rant about politics. Least of all don't rant about men not being men

2. You're shallow. Ladies, are you looking for someone who loves Jesus, and has a six pack? Listen to the writer on Mad Men. “The only thing that really matters is character.” When I met Larry he wore his hair long. He thought it made him look young and artsy; I thought it made him look old and white trash truckery. He eventually cut it praise God. But I'll tell you, one day he looks like a frog and another day he looks like a prince, and it has less to do with Larry's grooming than with my mood.

One last look, and then say goodbye to the John Hamm poster hanging on the wall of your emotional boudoir. If it helps, tell yourself he's got lousy character.

3. “You're a slut. Macmillan mentions the hormone Oxytocin that is released when a woman gives birth or has the big O. It bonds a mammal to its partner or child. Here is a worldly, secular writer telling us we can't have casual sex because it effs us up. "Sex And the City" is a crock. Science is catching up to the Ten Commandments. Now we know.

4. You're a Liar. Macmillan refers to the woman who's afraid to tell the guy she's ready for marriage, because it might scare him off. I was guilty of this. I hung out with a Christian guys who I thought would come to love me eventually, or secular guys I told myself would come to love Jesus eventually.  Of the first type: ladies, the eighth time he gives you a foot massage, ask him if he's interested romantically. Just think of it as fact-finding. If he says no, you say, Check, please. If he says he doesn't know, you say, Call me when you do, check please. He's not going to 'grow to love you' at some later date because you've managed to convince him. Guys decide early. Guys who can't decide are incapable of dating, or at least, of dating you. If he wants that kind of contact with a woman, he can go to massage school or hire a therapist. Forget missionary dating and Christian babysitting. They turn you into liars; and the worst is, you lie to yourself.

5. You are selfish. Macmillan says we spend too much time thinking about our thighs, our clothes, our wrinkles. This is the female counterpart to men and their Playstation. Go volunteer at the library and teach someone how to read. Go sit in on the nursery or the junior high youth group. Because ladies, your cat hasn't told you you're moody. Your husband will, either by saying it or withdrawing from you.

6. You're Not Good Enough. And by that, she means you don't think you're good enough, which is why you're looking for some guy better than you are: to make you feel better about yourself. Don't look for someone to make you feel better. Look for a person of character. Because looks and money won't cut it.

So that was the cluster of info for Valentine's Week. What do you think? Does the church need to talk about sex? Is it the church's responsibility? How much have your expectations been shaped by secular culture? Are you ready to write a book about hot Christian sex? Good, because I'm not going there.

Feb 17, 2011

Dat Brit film, Dey Done Said What?

So like I done seen "Sexy Beast" wif Ray Winstone and Ben Kingsley. SOrry Sir Ben. Yeh, so like as much as I unnastood most a whut day done said, was a bittuva stretch. If you done had trubble unnastandin dem brit cop films you gonna like this here sendup.

Feb 14, 2011

Another video for Valentine's Day

A year ago I had the pleasure to meet Craig Spinks of "Recyle Your Faith." He interviewed me on camera, and we got onto a lot of subjects. Here's a fun one for Valentine's Day: Church and Sex. Yes in the same sentence. Or maybe I should say, "Christians and Healthy Sexuality.

For Valentine's Day

Larry shared this on my wall. A great song, written by Bob Dylan, played by one of my favorite musician, Phil Keaggy!