Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Melodic answer to a universal problem

I love, for its sane and progressive attitude. Cary Tennis has a "Dear Abby" sort of column there, and this particular article touched me deeply. The question was: how does a woman handle a boyfriend who is freaked out about her sexual past. The woman's boyfriend, from the reader's telling, considered her dirty and "impure" and wanted her to fix her past (?!?). Here, in it's entirety, is the response:

"You are not a product. You do not have an expiration date. You are not sold used or new. Your value does not go down with every sexual experience. You do not have a finite capacity, like a phone card, after which you are used up.

Neither are you a substance that can be pure or impure. You are no less pure now than when you were born. You will never be less pure than you are right now.

Nor are you an object upon which men have left marks that your boyfriend may discover and interpret. You are not a public place were things are written for others to read. You are not an exotic land that men have visited and reminisce about in comfortable chairs.

You are not a collection of experiences like snapshots in an album, subject to perusal and approval by your boyfriend.

Your past is not a term paper for him to grade. Your past is not something that needs to be repaired. You can't get up on top of it with a ladder and fix it like a roof. You can't do anything about it except regard it with awed attention. It is like the sea, far beyond us, far too deep, far too wide, far too powerful.

You are not a product, or a substance, or an object. You are not any of these things. For want of a better term, you are a creature, a spiritual being.

We are creatures of flesh and light and movement. We go through life. Things happen. We do things. We remember things. Things hurt us, things delight us, things frighten us. We go on. We describe the things that have happened to us and look for the light of understanding in someone's eyes. We are creatures who love and hate. We love and hate and are loved and hated and we go on.

Our past is not a map on our skin, visible to the male gaze. Our past is something we tell. Once we tell it, people sometimes turn away. They can't bear it. They're not strong enough. They have to find the strength. We can't give them the strength. They ask us to put the past back in the past, but we can't do that either. Once we tell it, it's with us in the present.

So tell your boyfriend to lay off with all this talk. Tell him to get some wisdom and some understanding. Tell him to get some humility and some awe. Tell him to go sit by the sea and think about it for days on end until his head hurts and he's thirsty and all he wants is you -- however you are, whoever you are, wherever you've been, whatever you've done."

I, who have dealt with a shady past, appreciate this answer, even though my situation is different than the readers. This answer reaffirms, to all women, that who and what we are is sacrosanct, and not to be judged by imperfect people, no matter if you love them or not. I find it inspiring.