(…& should be considered pre-nuptials)
On Sunday I got engaged, and on Monday, the well-wishes began to pour in. Facebook is a horrible place to talk about impending nuptials, because your mom’s oldest friend’s cousin always comes out of the woodwork with all the well-meaning, horrible advice she can conjure up out of thirty years of archaic cultural standards & committed Kool-Aid drinking. Suddenly, the choices that I make with my body are everybody’s business, and believe me, they lost no time in reminding me.
As a child, I read the story of the Velveteen Rabbit with more devotion than any other I can recall to my imagination. Every dog-eared reading would leave my heart aching for the little rabbit that couldn’t be real because he was, in fact, stuffed, and the love of the little boy that eventually gave him legs to bound with. My confused, precocious child-brain fused its fantasies of love and romance with this borrowed hope of the stuffed bunny – I thought, if some body ever loved me & my body, then maybe, just maybe, I could run and explore and love like the others that I looked like but never was. I mean, come on, people, True Love’s Kiss? That’s in like, every Disney Princess movie ever! You think that your child doesn’t feverishly intake every fiction & fairy story they hear, gathering the bits that they like & constructing their hopes for the future out of that tangled, sparkling web? (Let me clue you in, as a former child & also a preschool teacher: they DO. But I digress.)
Having a body seemed such an overwhelming, frighteningly big deal that when I met a man who wanted to kiss me & hold me & wasn’t awed by the fact that me & my body were next to him on the couch, I was almost put off.
It was like he couldn’t see how I was transforming from velveteen into a real human woman at his touch!
It was almost as if he took for granted that I’d been a woman all along!
I can laugh at myself now, but it’s a bit sobering too. What if I had waited? What if I had stored up all of my kisses and all of my touches until after the wedding day, when there was no longer any hope of easing myself into it? What then? I probably would have recoiled in fear. I probably would have blamed him for my insecurity. We probably would have grown apart before we ever had the chance to grow together.
I’m not even sure that I believe physical or sexual compatibility is anything automatic; electric; instantaneous anymore. It might be a slow burn. It might be a bean sprout tenderly watered. It might be something one can cultivate, even in the most awkward of relationships, as long as both partners can and want to offer consent long enough to make it happen. However, in the case of modern Christian marriage, I’m not sure that physical compatibility isn’t a primary cause in the overwhelming – and growing! – prevalence of divorce within our ranks. I don’t get the sense from my rapidly growing group of newly married friends that any of them take their vows lightly or have any residual Plan B’s lurking in the recesses of their imaginations when they commit their lives to one another. And while I’m not by any means discounting the effects of sin & the slow, lapping wear of suffering against our best-laid intentions, I have to wonder if our white-knuckled clinging to all the supposed biblical literalism of purity culture, our clamors of “not even a hint” of sexual immorality have so gnosticized us that we forget that, in a very real way, we are two bodies promising to coexist in (often!) a very small space for the rest of our foreseeable heartbeats.
We are not just souls.
We are not metaphors.
We are REAL.
It’s exciting & gross & mesmerizing & terrifying & glorious & REAL.
I’ve learned more about the man I love lying next to him & staring into those tender, piercing green eyes than in any of our through-the-night, long-winded monologue exchanges. His touch draws out my tenderness. I wilt with happiness.
I am not gonna tell you what to do – that is the work of purity culture & legalism & I want no part of it. But I am gonna ask you – please, for your sake, for your partner’s sake, for your marriage’s sake & for the sake of the generation you will likely bear & raise – do not neglect your bodies. Not yours, and not your partner’s. You were created, fearfully and wonderfully, and you get the sobering, exhilarating task of being REAL together.
Don’t miss it.