Saturday, October 18, 2014

Marriage and Beauty

One of my favorite bloggers is one of my favorite people - Sarah, who writes with Tess over at The Feminine Gift. She wrote this nice piece about marriage ideals falling apart and all that. "Replying" to it a good chance for me to get away from Synod nonsense.

You should probably share a great many of the beliefs of your friends, because otherwise, why are you friends? And so I do with Sarah. I am not going to disagree with anything she wrote, just comment on and amplify a few things, and this for a few reasons.

Adjusting to marriage is an incredibly hard thing. And Sarah is right to point to the huge disservice media does to this end. Media ruins everything good. One example that never ceases to cause me to chuckle: sex on TV. The thrashing about and frantic ripping off of clothes. Have the directors of these shows and movies ever even had sex? What they are portraying is, to my mind, unpleasant, kind of like wolfing down an ice-cream bar as fast as you can, as opposed to actually tasting it and enjoying it. I know these scenes are meant to be titillating but I find them so absurd! Do you like my analogy with the ice-cream bar?

That's just one little example. It's not just religious people who have myths to sustain them. Some of secular cultures most basic and important myths revolve around sex. Conrad Black, I just noticed, a person with good political judgement but silly religious judgement wants the pope to change his mind on the pill. Now, why would he do that? Is pill culture really working out for anybody? I know you would like to think it is, but is it, by any measure that means something, like human happiness?

Other myths: artificially (or naturally) swollen body parts are important to human happiness, whether these be attached to men or to women. Living together before and without marrying is all fine and good, and one can go happily from one cohabitation to another happily and with self-respect. One can be happy without marriage: i.e. realizing that no one in the world wants to be committed to you for life. Sex-acts are the same as love-acts. My high-schooler is being subjected to this myth right now in 'health class.' And so on and so on.

Sarah mentioned the move 'Hall Pass.' I think I watched ten minutes of it, or just read the preview on Netflix. And yes, I am morally superior to Sarah. If I wanted some addition freedom 'granted' to me from Anne-Marie it wouldn't be having sex with another woman. That only sounds attractive to someone who hasn't thought it through. Most of us haven't. Yes, one is still attracted to other people, The idea of them sexually can be compelling, but sex by itself doesn't fulfill so why do we act like it does, allow ourselves to think that it does? One way to help you stay on track against temptations like this is to remember the reality of relationships: sex without love is dehumanizing, people who we are attracted to our wonderful (probably) and, therefore, just having sex with them would hurt them. People are great and wonderful - and they have all sorts of baggage. That baggage is not a part of a casual sexual rendezvous - and that's too bad!

If I wanted a special "freedom granted to me" by Anne-Marie it would be... I don't even know, I suppose her washing the dishes and letting me have a nap. That's way hotter! I think all Catholic men who deserve that name will agree with me here. Their special favor might consist in a poker night with the guys or something like that, but it wouldn't involve the punishment that would be sex with someone who didn't love us.

I want to put an accent on something Sarah didn't though, and she didn't because she is not a man. I have seen plastered here and there on Facebook an article saying something to the effect that "men don't need porn and woman don't need to give it to them". I haven't read it, but I see that it is about the Hunger Games girl's nude pictures. She said that she did it to keep her man from looking at other naked women. Yes, that's silly and stupid, but everything non-Christians do is silly and stupid. (But not Seneca, of course. I am reading him and loving that pagan!) I am sure I agree with everything in this article and that's why I have no intention of reading it.

On the other hand, it is too easy to dismiss men's sexuality because it doesn't coincide with a woman's. I see well-meaning Catholic women tending to this. I am not saying Sarah is one of them by any means! Rather, that article's title made me think of it and the context of disappointment in marriage that Sarah does actually raise made me want to talk about it in this context. Men are not perverts because the visual has a greater meaning for them than it does for women. Of course, pornography is no answer. A man should be enjoying his wife's beauty, not pictures of it, as the Hunger Games girl suggested, but the actual thing. A man who has not disciplined himself against pornography will not be kept from it with pictures of his wife, no matter how infinite in number nor how attractive she is. That's not the nature of the beast called lust.

Let me say this. It's something I've thought a lot about but not something I have 'figured out.' Let me try this: Men are visual creatures. They should be more stimulated by inner-beauty and spiritual values than by physical beauty. but it is not for the woman to make this switch for him by guilt or by ascetic measures she imposes upon him. He has to do it himself. His enjoyment of his wife's inner and outer beauty is an important part of his growth towards less of the lesser kind of beauty and more of the better kind.

I thought this picture was so funny when I first saw it.
And then I realized that it's actually sweet.
One kind of disappointment we might face in marriage is how he or she no longer puts the same effort into his or her appearance. And you are right, very few married 30- or 40-year-olds put as much attention into their appearance as they did when they were unmarried 20-year-olds. I would say if they did they are probably not spiritually maturing very well. Sarah says 'to each his own,' whatever the couple wants. I agree, of course, within reason, as I am sure Sarah would agree too. I cannot insist that my wife wear a ballgown and be coiffed to the max all day every day. But I should be attentive to her wants to some extent and she me. If it's flowers, then flowers. If it's a clean t-shirt, then a clean t-shirt. But the essential truth I discovered ten years too late was realizing that I must love my wife even if she never changes a single one of the things I don't like about her. Can you do that? And, for goodness sake, don't take ten years to come to that realization, as I did!


  1. beautiful writing Colin, made my day,

  2. Colin, you're very kind. You flatter me. And you write good too.

  3. And where, oh where, do you find those photos? Very appropriate to our day at marriage prep with some couples who got down in dirty with why it is wise to live together before marriage. It was good, though; I just listened and asked some questions that questioned their worldview. And sweat a lot. More of us need to spend time with those who don't think exactly like us - it shakes you up and is very humbling.

  4. Down and dirty. We didn't play in mud.

  5. Thanks all. It is always good to get a refresher on why people think as they do outside the Faith.