May 19, 2008

Purity Balls: Sealing the Lips of Our Female Youth

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:44 pm by LG

Double entendre intended.

This article in today’s NYT highlights the national rise of Purity Balls, which I consider to be the most disturbing effort yet of the evangelical abstinence movement. These twisted father-daughter galas celebrate the public affirmation of the girls’ (often in grade school, mind you) commitment to abstience before marriage. Curiously, these girls go to these ceremonies dressed up like grown women (up-dos, floor-length gowns, tiaras, and makeup) and adorn the arms of their fathers who take their own purity pledge: “to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity.”

In other words young women receive the following message: Despite whatever personal qualities you think important, you are only as valuable as your vagina is pure. And because your emotions prevent you from deciding what to do with your body, we declare ownership…until you get married, at which time we will deed the rights to your husband.

There’s something about this kind of conservatism that really freaks me out because willful ignorance leaves no room for logic or rational discussion. No matter how many studies show that teens who have declared abstinence are more likely to have unprotected sex than those who have not, The Abstinence Clearinghouse will continue to mail out purity ball kits to interested groups

I understand that kids don’t always make good decisions (I certainly made a few bad ones myself), but asking them not to give into very powerful desires is not only naive, it’s downright moronic. I hate to break it to you Purity Pops, but your daughters will likely be horny at some point (I cringe at the use of that word, but it’s necessary here). And because you haven’t included your sons in these Purity Balls (telling, isn’t it?) those young boys are going to be preaching a different sermon to your daughters…one that’s a lot more exciting than yours.

Perhaps there was a time when abstinence was reasonable (??) – namely, when girls were being married off at 14. But now we are in a world where marriage isn’t necessarily the default. (What happens if these girls decide not to get married – can they still never have sex??) In this day in age, women can have their own careers, their own homes, their owns lives. They certainly need to understand that they have — and can control — their own private parts too.

If you want to help young women make good decisions, teach them. Give them tools. And I don’t mean birth control only (although it’s necessary and I still can’t believe that it isn’t free and readily available on every street corner) . . . I also mean self-esteem, confidence, and independence. Give your daughters a voice; they will use it.

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May 18, 2008

Am I Too Good For You?

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:16 pm by LG

I’m discovering a trend in the relationships I’ve found myself in since Dutch. In short, I think I’m too good for the guys I’ve been dating. I know this doesn’t sound like “nice, sweet, modest Little Girl,” but lower your judging eyebrows and let me explain. When I say I’m too good for The Guy (just fill in the blank at this point) I don’t mean “good” in the sense that I’m better than him; I mean “good” in the, let’s say, virtuousness sense. And, at first, I think The Guy is really attracted to this quality in me. I mean, duh, right? After all, I *am* a good girl. I’m trustworthy, I’m loyal and considerate, I have a strong moral compass, I’m ambitious and independent, I’ve got an incredible career, and I value, inter alia, intelligence, curiosity, and being kind to others. *And, I’ve gone through a lot of feelings of rejection since the divorce, so I feel less boastful and more entitled to recognize these attributes about myself now.* To be frank, I’ve got my shit together. In fact, I probably do more on a Monday that a lot of people do in a month (and some in a lifetime). But, the preceding personal rave notwithstanding, I am also very humble, approachable, feminine, and (at least I believe) non-threatening. In fact, one of my older guy friends always tells me that I’m the kind of girl that makes a man feel like a man. And, in the beginning, I think this is true. The Guy generally enjoys basking in Little Girl’s glow of girlie goodness…. but only until it makes him feel like shit, which it inevitably does.

T was very much this way. He had a history of tumultuous love affairs with “edgy” women: women who do drugs and have vast and varied sexual experiences; women who are high-maintenance, disloyal, self-obsessed and selfish; women who punch walls, threaten suicide or homicide all while exuding, or seeming to exude, some kind of “you can never tame me but I know how to make you keep trying” aura. I think T needed a break from that (and even though I certainly have *some* craziness, it paled in comparison to what he was used to) and I quickly became a safe haven from the lousy, lonely terrain he had been traveling…. I was the “light” he never thought would shine in his world of darkness. (I know, puke, but I totally ate that up at the time, given my prior need to “fix” my partner.) I was a “good influence” and he felt good about being with me because it was as if he was doing something good for himself.  After awhile, however, things changed and my goodness — what had attracted him to me in the first place — began to bother him. He thought I was naive for being so optimistic about life. I think he was mad that even through my struggles, I found some happiness in life, while he had to endure whatever demons lay in wait for him every night in bed. And I actually started to feel ashamed of myself; like, I was this silly Little Girl who just had a lot of growing up to do, and, in time, I would understand the excruciating tragedy of life and stop being so damn cheerful. I convinced myself that I should, indeed, develop an “edge” (after all I’m going to be a prosecutor and this could only help me in my career): So, I cussed more, I downed shots of whiskey instead of sipping martinis, I smoked a few cigarettes, I became pessimistic about my job and my friends, I held back gasps during barroom talks of sex, drugs, and women, and I didn’t freak out about tattoos or sexual exploration. But, in the end, I could only go so far before I realized that it just wasn’t me. And, thankfully, I started to become more secure with who I was and, perhaps more importantly, who I wasn’t.

In subsequent relationships, I fear that my goodness has been (or will be) a liability.   The Guy is drawn in by it, certainly, but in the end, I think he comes to hate it because it makes him feel badly about himself. He realizes that he’s been modifying his behavior around me to “protect” me, to not offend my “innocent” sensibility; and resentment sets in. He realizes that, despite valuing authenticity, he’s never actually shown his true self to me and that it’s just too damn difficult to maintain this “I’m really a decent guy, LG” role. He convinces himself that he prefers a girl with an edge — after all, he can feel more worthy around a tatted-out, pot-smoking, trash-talking drama queen.

I’m still tempted to try out the “bad girl” role every once in a while, because it *is* a lot of work being responsible to myself and responsible to the world . . . but in truth, I think that I push myself to the *real* edge of life more than most women, and it will just take a pretty special guy to recognize that.

So in my personal edginess, I remain hopeful.

May 6, 2008

The Derby Experience

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:51 am by LG

I survived the infield at the Derby….not to mention staying in a tiny hotel room with another girl and two boys, all of which are a few years younger than me. I didn’t think the age difference would matter, but as 1:00 am approached Saturday, after a long day in the sun with the rowdiest crowed I’ve ever encountered, I felt old. The rest of the group went out until 5:00 am and I went back to the room to crash. I guess as much as I try, I just can’t party like Cancun ‘96 anymore. Lord, who am I kidding, I barely survived Cancun ‘96 when I was there.

I loved the Derby. I found it to be an incredible study of culture. Walking in to Churchill Downs, I was amazed by all of the classy beautiful people. The hats and the clothes were simply stunning. The little girl in me longed to play dress up, join the high-society crowd, sip mint juleps, and share a dainty laugh or two with all the muckety-mucks. Our crew, however, had our sights on the infield, and I certainly wasn’t dressed for the stands. So we forged through the glitz and glamor, descended under the track, and emerged into wonderful madness.

Having research the infield experience a bit before heading down — and realizing that I was partying *way* out of my league — I vowed to check all judgment (and wide-eyed gasping) at the door. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of wild nights (Maggie, let’s keep those on the d-l), but I’m realizing that “wild” is largely subjective. For most of the afternoon at the Derby, I was just savoring the sun, watching the crowd, and generally feeling connected to the people of the world. It was great. But there was a distinct point in the late afternoon, perhaps two hours before the derby race, when I realized that I needed to limit my ventures beyond our safe tarp-and-lawn chair home. Not because I was scared, but because I was nervous that if I saw one more skirt go up or tube top go down, I wouldn’t be able to resist a discussion on whether our society has somehow repackaged sleazy sexual exploitation as empowering to women. I kept having these internal debates in my mind when I passed a near-naked woman posing for pictures, or girls announcing that they weren’t wearing any underwear. “Oh my gosh, does she really know what she’s doing…I wonder why she’s doing it…maybe she has low self esteem? ….oh, Little Girl, you can be so judgmental; she’s probably just enjoying sexual freedom. Loosen up LG!”

And I did loosen up. I kicked back, enjoyed (or, stomached) a julep, and cheered on my horses.  But, at the end of the day, I couldn’t help questioning whether this Girls Gone Wild “freedom” is actually a victory for women. Whether displaying our bodies – being on display – is helpful or hurtful. There’s a lot of power there, for sure, but I can’t decide who’s holding it.