samedi, avril 22, 2006

Naked and unashamed

Have I gotten your attention now? A warning to any of my more staid readers, not to mention those of you who think that I have no personal or professional reasons to know anything about this subject: this post contains sexual content. Now don't get your hopes up. It doesn't have anything too explicit. I'll leave that to the experts. Have I lost any of you? 'Didn't think so. For all kinds of good reasons (like not wanting Dick Cheney or even Michael Chertoff to scan my browser records) I avoid websites with a lot of explicit sexual content. But there are times when the bawdy and weird can be found without a whole lot of looking.

Take craigslist, for example. Somebody sent me there for job postings, and while I was hanging out I decided to look at the personal ads. My oh my, haven't they changed since I last read the back of the book Philadelphia Magazine ads advertising Doris Day lookalikes and courtly widowers. Did you know that in the Bay Area there are men seeking voluptuous females, guys lusting after bi or bi-curious evening companions, fellows panting for stoner chicks (not the word, but this is a GP-rated blog) and gentlemen who are into foot massage?

I didn't even look at the casual encounters part of the website. I like not knowing what I'm missing sometimes.

You don't have to go as far as the ubiquitous craigslist to find some pretty far out personalities. Just open up the New York Times "Modern Love" essay on Sundays, and prepare to be amazed, amused and sometimes incredulous. How did the woman torn between two lovers maintain a bi-coastal relationship with her fiance when she was carrying the child of the fellow from New York? Just the commute would have made me crazy. How about the gay couple who adopted the child of a homeless teenager? Today's story is written by a stripper (a Williams College grad) who fronts for a rock band and is so busy with her career, her chiropractor and her vet that she doesn't have time to have sex ( it baffles me that she thought going on a couples therapy talk show would be the answer, but I'm not a stripper rock chick).

I'm not naive enough to be amazed that there are people of "diverse" tastes in love and sex out there. I am puzzled, however, by the seemingly routine nature of the kind of soul-baring (not to mention the other kinds) that appear with such regularity in newspapers and online. I would hate to think that I am so stodgy that there's been another sexual revolution and, once again, I've missed it completely (last time, at least, I had the excuse of being too young). Sexual diversity has become less a matter of "Jerry Springer" shockjock talk and more something to be discussed over coffee and bagels along with the latest Washington cabinet reshuffle or rise in mortgage rates.

Which makes me ponder why, in all of my years of counseling parishioners, and late night chats with girlfriends, I've never had the opportunity to meet a certified foot fetishist or a woman juggling two men on different coasts. I've started to look at the men I see jogging in the park or the women in the beauty salon in a whole different way. Could the guys with the golden retrievers beside them be the ones exchanging sonnets in smokey boiteries with gorgeous foreign women while their wives are shuttling the kids to the next football game? Are the ladies getting their nails painted toddler pink getting ready to parade around in seamed stockings for male admirers while their significant others are filing overdue tax returns for boss's daughter-in -law? I have no idea. The explosion of sexual revelations is another sign that many upstanding citizens, probably even school bus drivers and carpool moms, live private lives that would astonish their neighbors if they only knew. Or maybe the rest of the folks on my street do know...and its only me who has once again missed out on all the really hot gossip .

jeudi, avril 20, 2006

The power of a peacock

Driving down Little Conestoga Road toward Route 100 this evening after Sian's ballet rehearsal, I almost ran over a peacock. know, the showy ones with the iridescent feathers. They say all that color and cockiness is an evolutionary adaptation on the part of the male of the species, but that's hard to believe. This fellow, tail lofting over the tarmac, didn't seem to give a hoot about the SUVs and mini-vans whose owners had slowed down to let him take his half out of the middle. It is possible to imagine that two decades ago Little Conestoga might have been the kind of bucolic place where you could see dairy farmers leading cows to the barn or sheep crossing the road. No more. Thronged with the blandness of new subdivisions, it has little remnant of its rural past. The chickens pecking by the roadside of one of the few farms left on that stretch of road seem like an artifact of a time both elusively close and already long gone. When Sian and I saw the peacock, we, too, moderated our pace to a respectful crawl. As we drove on, Sian looked back and viewed it parading behind our car, apparently oblivious to the peril of wandering unescorted on a busy street at dusk. Once we were on the busy highway, Sian said: "A wasn't supposed to be there." Then she laughed...caught up on the delight of an unscripted moment of dislocation. Part of the reason I made the decision to move out here, a right and a left and another right beyond Little Conestoga, was to allow my kids the opportunity to have those precious times. They chase deer in the backyard, the varmints, as though the they were domesticated pups. Colin and Sian greet the rabbits in our yard as though they were members of the family. Wildflowers and groundhogs and flowering cherry trees are part of the backdrop of our local environment. All children deserve to have times in which they are taken completely and pleasantly by surprise. We all do. Sadly, so many children don't have the chance to experience what Sian and Colin and their friends do when they open the front door in the morning to wait for the school bus, or bike down the street to play with the family around the corner. Yet that doesn't mean that sick kids or disadvantaged kids or kids in war torn countries are shorn of wonder. In holding a new car, playing soccer with a friend, sharing an ice cream cone with a buddy or a giggling with a friend before lights out, children find ways to create their own grace and joy. Wonder is the birthright of every child. We adults simply have the challenge of keeping our eyes open so that we aren't preoccupied and miss the comet or the peacock when they come. Then we have the privilege of slowing down, which we so rarely do, and allowing ourselves a moment to savor, and gape, and grin in delight.

mardi, avril 18, 2006

How about God AND the Girl?

Maybe its because I didn't have one date in three years at Princeton Seminary that I rolled my eyes when I noticed the premiere of a new reality show called "God or the Girl." Actually, this show is about the spiritual and emotional travails of four young men who are trying to decide whether or not to become Catholic priests. By the end of my time in graduate school, and for years afterwards, I was convinced that my clergy collar had the same effect on men as a silver cross is supposed to have on a vampire. If I had been the writer for a show on such a topic, I would have entitled it: "Why not the Girl, for Pete's sake?" But seriously, folks.Can we be optimistic about the product of a conversation in which three Jewish guys, vying with one another for the "craziest thing we could come up with," (as one of them told the National Catholic Register) decide to make a show about someone trying to figure out whether or not to go into the priesthood. It is reassuring to know that in addition to buying (I kid you not) 20 copies of Catholicism for Dummies, Darryl Silver and his colleagues also consulted many men already vowed to the celibate life.

Far, far be it from me to impugn the concept of a series that apparently pleased, or so says Silver, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops when they saw it screened. Could it be that some of them even wished that they had been given a chance, as a young man, to participate in such a show?

I must admit that "God or the Girl" did give me pause. Are decisions about religious vocation now seen as entertaining competition, kind of like a good Nascar race or the just-ended edition of college basketball's March Madness? What if these young men are expecting God to speak and He decides He's not going to show up on command? What, on the other hand, if He does and they don't like what they hear?

After giving the possible societal repercussions of "God or the Girl" serious thought for about five minutes, I decided that it probably didn't portend the end of religion in America. Maybe someone flipping the channels on a dull Sunday night will actually be inspired to think seriously about what it means to be countercultural in a trend-driven society. Possibly some watchers will admire the seriousness with which these young men make their decisions. Maybe the camerawork and location shots will be so enticing even indifferent viewers will stay tuned for all five weeks.

As an Episcopal woman in a Protestant seminary, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops could have used me as a vocational recruiter. After all, no sooner did a young, healthy Presbyterian show up anywhere near me, but he mysteriously turned into a monk. Just think what I could have done for the ecumenical movement, had they only known.

lundi, avril 17, 2006

Yes, I know that most normal people would not break into a cold sweat at the sight of the word "bun." I'm not talking about buns, as in the kind made with yeast. Some of us aren't confident of our culinary talents, and so we like to avoid baking. Some of us are also carb-averse, so a bun, particularly ones brimful of currants and topped with lovely rings of sugary icing, represents a temptation we must avoid. I don't mind baking... twice a year or so when I can't find something at the Acme. It doesn't scare me one bit, no sir. I love carbs in almost any form, the more sugar on top the better. Nor am I alluding to "buns" as in "buns of steel." Exercise tapes have the same allure for me as do correspondence courses that suggest you can learn ancient Greek in five easy lessons. The kind of bun that frightens me is the ornamental one that rests gently, neatly, and sedately on a schoolgirls head. It's the kind of bun that my daughter Sian is supposed to have for her ballet class picture, along with "light make up" and a suitably girlish attitude. This isn't Sian's blog, so we won't talk about her spunky, independent, and eclectic way of expressing her feminine side. At any rate, it isn't her femininity that is being called into question when she arrives at rehearsal with her waves spilling out of a ponytail perched atop her head like a waterfall. It's my inability to impose order on her unruly strands that will reveal to her teachers, and other interested onlookers, what really goes on in our household. In the midst of trauma involving such traditionally "feminine" activities as sewing buttons, ironing dresses, and household chores, I have often reflected on my mother. When she and my father wed, she informed him that housecleaning was not one of her gifts, and that they would need to find someone to come in to do it. I wonder wistfully who mom, who was a phenomenal cook and baker, recruited to sew buttons and iron. Possibly my grandmother, who did know how to braid her hair into a bun and was enough of a saint to try to teach me to make hospital corners on my bed as a child (anybody know what hospital corners are anymore?) At any rate, I cannot really blame my ancestors. Nor can I attribute my clumsiness solely to being a left-handed rebel in a right-handed world. I can only hope that, tomorrow, if I grovel long enough, one of the mom's with the sylph-like daughter in the immaculately pressed costume will take pity on my shortcomings and give Sian that classic ballerina beauty look that she least for one night!