Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Love

Why should I have thought I was anything other than a girl? Because I was attracted to a girl? That happened all the time. It was happening more than ever in 1974. It was becoming a national pastimte. My ecstatic intuition about myself was now deeply suppressed. How long I would have managed to keep it down is anybody's guess. But in the end it wasn't upt o me. The big things never are. Birth, I mean, and death. And love. And what love bequeaths to us before we're born.
Pg. 388, The Gun on the Wall

Every once in while Eugenides seems lazy to me. There was a passage (although I can't find it now) where Cal admits finding breasts attractive, but the narrating Cal dismisses it as consistent with every other person with testosterone. I can see how most people would skim right over this, but doesn't it seem on point with the whole book that not everyone with testosterone finds breasts attractive?

And then there's the passage quoted above. Sure the rhetorical ambiguity of love is a great literary device, but why even stick it in that paragraph? I'm sold on the unchoosable nature of birth and death, but love? I'm reminded of Fiddler on the Roof where Tevye and Golde sing "Do You Love Me?"

...
(Golde)Do I love you? For twenty-five years
I've washed your clothes
Cooked your meals, cleaned your house
Given you children, milked the cow
After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?

(Tevye)Golde, The first time I met you
Was on our wedding day
I was scared

(Golde)I was shy

(Tevye)I was nervous

(Golde)So was I

(Tevye)But my father and my mother
Said we'd learn to love each other
And now I'm asking, Golde
Do you love me?

(Golde)I'm your wife

(Tevye)"I know..."But do you love me?

(Golde)Do I love him?
For twenty-five years
I've lived with him
Fought him, starved with him
Twenty-five years my bed is his
If that's not love, what is?

(Tevye)Then you love me?

(Golde)I suppose I do

(Tevye)And I suppose I love you too

(Both)It doesn't change a thing
But even so
After twenty-five years
It's nice to know

The crucial aspect of love in question, of course, is attraction. That's Eugenides meaning I wouldn't dispute, but I'm not sure it's a meaning that is always consciously attributed to the word "love" in passages like the one I quoted above.

One of the parts of Oaks interview on lds.org I found interesting was his discussion of whether SSA members should enter heterosexual marriages. He said:

...Persons who have this kind of challenge that they cannot control could not enter marriage in good faith.

On the other hand, persons who have cleansed themselves of any transgression and who have shown their ability to deal with these feelings or inclinations and put them in the background, and feel a great attraction for a daughter of God and therefore desire to enter marriage and have children and enjoy the blessings of eternity — that’s a situation when marriage would be appropriate.


Feel a great attraction? What kind of attraction? This seems confusing to me. If it's a strong sexual attraction he's talking about, then why is it even an interesting topic? To marry someone you love to whom you have a strong sexual attraction isn't particularly problematic, is it? It's when the attraction is strong, but not sexual, that things get complicated--when the strong sexual attractions are likely to never be there. But Oaks doesn't get quite that specific.

Love.

<sigh>

13 comments:

Scot said...

I can see how most people would skim right over this, but doesn't it seem on point with the whole book that not everyone with testosterone finds breasts attractive?

That caught my attention too (as well as the passage you quoted). Maybe I should have my testosterone levels checked?

It was so blatant that I assumed it was meant to show Cal being somewhat imprecise and hasty in his defensiveness regarding his masculinity. I assumed this was another opportunity for him to point to his masculinity, to his testosterone level, that it affected his mind, endowed him on the inside and made him a man in ways it did not for his anatomy. A disclaimer about folks like us, with brains affected similarly to his more obvious sexual anatomy, may have been awkward.

But who knows? I’m struggling :-).

Loyalist (with defects) said...

I've always felt that love is not singly defined as physical attraction.

love, at least how I see it, is defined by emotional compatability, potential, and the giving ones heart, to open oneself to another and allow for the possibility of risk , only to find that they care for you equally so.

The acts of service that are rendered between a couple is the lubricant of the marriage.

Like you, I was confused by Elder Oaks comment of "great attraction". But I think I will interpret through my own, albeit limited, understanding.

loyalist (with defects)

Unusual Dude said...

"Great attraction" is such a broad term, and I wonder if Elder Oaks didn't get specific about it on purpose. I don't think they really intend to get prescriptive down to the tiny details on when to marry, other than saying that it's probably not a good idea to marry if your SGA feelings are out of control, and if you feel no attraction to your potential mate whatsoever.

I still basically feel hardly any physical attraction. But I still think I fit in the description that Elder Oaks put out, because the emotional and spiritual attractions were definitely there.

My two cents.

Chris (hurricane) said...

Elder Oaks wrote: On the other hand, persons who have cleansed themselves of any transgression and who have shown their ability to deal with these feelings or inclinations and put them in the background, and feel a great attraction for a daughter of God and therefore desire to enter marriage and have children and enjoy the blessings of eternity — that’s a situation when marriage would be appropriate.

L wrote: Feel a great attraction? What kind of attraction? This seems confusing to me.

No kidding. It's not just you.

At what point is the "great attraction" great enough? At what point are homosexual feelings sufficiently in the background? I think Elder Oaks would find that a lot of gay Mormon men thought they fell into this category when they married, only to find as the years passed that their homosexuality is not something they can so easily shed or put in the background.

I find this to be not only vague, but deeply ill informed, irresponsible and potentially quite harmful guidance.

Scot said...

”I find this to be not only vague, but deeply ill informed, irresponsible and potentially quite harmful guidance.”

That’s the trouble for the church, isn’t it? Do they know? If not, they must somewhat vague with their advice, to have room to maneuver later. The Catholic church’s writing do this same thing with such skill that I can only be left for respect for what attacks me :-).

Still, I don’t think it’s as vague as posed here.

If asked as part of the marriage vows, while drugged with sodium pentothol ;-):

1. Have you cleansed yourself of any transgression? (Pornography viewing and imagining sex with a man for sexual release is a transgression too, right?)
2. Do you have an ability to deal with these feelings or inclinations? (Doesn’t the question presume some don’t have this ability? Anyway, again, whatever “deal” means… I’d think it’s to not transgress, as in #1?)
3. Have you put them, these gay feelings or inclinations, in the background?
4. Do you feel a great attraction for a daughter of God?

How many out of all gay LDS men married to women could answer yes to all that? Vague and a bit confusion, sure, but enough so? If Oaks read all these blogs, for how many would he think his conditions were met? If I’m reading him right, not many, but so what? That’s his advice for the unmarried gay and I’m 100% certain he’d not want couples to split now (unless you’re a gay couple).

Now, I’m reading that book, someone re-relate it back Middlesex. ;-)

Chris (hurricane) said...

Well, I'm not reading the book. But I felt like chiming in anyway. :-)

johngalt said...

Chris, I like you... but I disagree.

It is vague for a reason. Each of us recieve inspiration and guidance for our own lives. Elder Oaks should not be prescribing the exact point at which our "attraction" is "great enough" to pursue marriage. Nor should he be defining it. You yourself said the church should not define how we feel as gay men. I agree. He is not presuming to know what "great attraction" means to you as opposed to me or him. When you feel it, you know it.

I may have questioned everything else in my life but I will never question my decision to marry my wife. It was the absolute right thing for her and I both. And yes, I had "great attraction" for her. I didn't want to get naked with her every moment but my heart pounded when she called me and I missed her when she wasn't next to me and I thought she was beautiful and I loved how she loved me and I knew her soul. Elder Oaks didn't need to tell me that that was a great attraction. I knew. It was my personal experience, between her and I. And I think most of these gay men who have fallen in love with their spouse have also felt that. Reading their blogs, I do not believe that any of us fell into marriage with our eyes closed. Each of us love our wives.

Later, as the whirlwinds of life engulf us, as we realize how hard the battle actually is, as we weaken ourselves with our choices, as we separate ourselves from Him and begin to feel hopeless and defeated, as we allow our own needs to take precedent over the needs of our family and the Lord, we may find ourselves questioning that decision, but it does not negate the truth of what we felt at the time and the absolute correctness of that decision. Just because it's difficult does not mean it isn't right.

As for "sufficiently in the background"... to me, it is about commitment. When I got married I was committed to making it work. That was suffient for me at the time. But as with any commitment, time wears us down. As I later faced the reality of my commitment, indeed how lonely and difficult it would be, I felt frustrated that no one had warned me. This frustration led to rationalization. And yes, I failed to keep my commitment. I gave up because I felt it was stronger than me. But that was a lie. I just WANTED it so badly that it was EASIER to give up than to fight.

In my experience, neither my wife nor I were "suffering" from whatever we were missing in our marriage until I met Isaac and allowed myself to experience things that any man in any marriage of 5 years would find ENTOXICATING... who doesn't want hot sex every night if they aren't having it with their wife??? That goes for homo- or hetero-sexuals. It was not a battle of "finding my true self"... it was a DESIRE that I permitted myself to indulge in. It felt great. Of course it did. The weak will never truly understand how hard it is to be good because weakness is easy.

Marriage as a homosexual man is tough, yes. But it is not impossible. And these young men need to know that. That is what Elder Oaks is saying. There is hope. Not as a cure. Not as an escape. But as a PLAN.

I didn't mean this to become a defensive thesis, sorry. :-)

Loyalist (with defects) said...

I say! Well said John.

Chris (hurricane) said...

johngalt,

Don't misunderstand me. I loved my wife--I still do. I had "great attraction" to her. I believed my homosexuality simply wasn't an issue. I don't regret for a moment that we married. I don't think she does either. It was, in so many ways, a miraculous relationship.

In my vision of a perfect world, I would not rid myself or others of homosexuality. I would rid us all of the shame and ignorance that is so prevelant. I would rid of us the dogma that damns us to the closet.

johngalt, I do believe that we each need to come to our own understanding of what it means to be gay. Once we do, the choices we make our ours, and we should own them, proudly. Candidly, when I read what you believe about your challenge and struggles, it seems to me that the Church still very much defines your understanding. You view your relationship with Isaac as selfish and indulgent. I view it as a natural expression of the way you were created. You made a terrible choice, not because you chose to have a relationship with a man, but because you chose to do it while you were married to your wife.

I truly and sincerely believe the church is 1) wrong about this issue and 2) not what it claims to be. That is not an insignificant difference when it comes to understanding our homosexuality. I do not judge you for the choices you are making--they are, it seems, entirely consistent with your faith. But I do judge what I view to be bad advice. And I do that without regret for the choices I have made--then and now.

santorio said...

some thoughts on cal's infatuation:
how did it start: an unconscious sexual attraction?
a desire to be part of the in crowd?

i never experienced a teenage infatuation. i know that may gays remember infatuations with peers or other men, and often point to these experiences as a beginning of self-awareness. but with me nothing even close, until i met my wife [5-6 years before marriage] i was certainly smitten, not sexually at all, but by her personality and ideals. so instead of having erotic dreams about her, i reformed my study habits because i knew that would please her, even though of course i didn't tell her.

now, isn't that a better way to start a relationship, rather than to base it on a sexual attraction? cal's infatuation climaxed and then he never looked back at it. been there, done that, time to move on.

Kengo Biddles said...

You know, I love Elder Oaks, but that comment has absolutely befuddled me.

I understand that it would be better for "strugglers" (to use a term that AtP hates) to not get into marriage covenants, since statistics would show them more likely to break them.

All the same, if I'd heard that, I would never have married my Wifey and I would not be happy and have kids like I am (despite my trials).

I think that anyone that is in our positions should work it out with the Lord, and if they feel it right, both within themselves and with the Lord, then, by-gum, they should do it. I think that maybe when Elder Oaks said attraction, he was meaning a desire to be married? If that _was_ his intended meaning, that would fit my situation to a T.

John, I think what you've said fits right in with my feeling on the subject.

-L- said...

This post didn't end up very clear did it? I was skipping around from topic to topic without ever making it too clear how they were related. My thought is that my marriage is perfectly appropriate and within the realm of Oaks' appropriately vague "great attraction". However, the sexual attraction is minimal at best which makes for a situation in which our love doesn't fit what society usually calls love. It fits somewhat better with Tevye's: we share our life experiences and care for one another with absolute commitment. However, further than that, we also have an intimate emotional bond that I think is exactly what is necessary for a husband and wife to have. I think it's, in a word, the real kind of love.

santorio said...

which is the message of cal's infatuation with obscure object: intimacy, attraction, shared experiences, but not love [i.e., no intimate emotional bond], which is why once it was over, it was over

by the way, what is it with 'obscure object' and 'chapter 11' etc?