Wednesday, I posted the bottom half of my "Top Ten in 2005" posts. After some agonizing (I did put up more than 500 posts this year) here are my favorite five.
5. October 24th's Reunion Review: A Note on Memory, Myopia, and Grace. (Link corrected). Excerpt:
The glory of this reunion, for me, was not that I got a chance to "show off" the new Hugo (and, of course, his beautiful new wife.) The glory was that I got to see my classmates, finally, as human beings. I had been so intimidated and so awed by so many of them when I was that shy, introverted teen. I had seen "jocks" and "preppies" and "cowboys" and "cheerleaders", but I hadn't seen human beings. I had felt abused and picked on, but I never realized how badly -- even cruelly -- I stereotyped my fellow students when I was in high school. This weekend, more than twenty years after I left high school, I was able to see these same people and rejoice in the kind, fun, interesting human beings that they had become. Heck, I realized that perhaps they had always been those things, and I, in the special narcissism of the high school loner, had just been too judgmental and myopic to see them for who they were.
4. July 26th's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the Right to a Private History. Excerpt:
When we marry, we promise each other many things: fidelity, devotion, and a willingness to share all one has. For many of my generation who come to the altar after years and years of "experience", we perhaps ought to give another kind of pledge: the promise to focus on the future together, not on the past. Real love rejoices in all the things that have made one's husband or wife who he or she is today, knowing that without those experiences he or she would be a fundamentally different person. But despite the often overwhelming temptation to pry, I'm convinced the wisest course is to acknowledge that there are some things none of us need to know, and we can give our partners and spouses the gift of an uncondemned, unchallenged, unquestioned past.
3. November 7th's A very long and personal post about men, women, childishness, and responsibility. Excerpt:
I'm not proud of the fact that I prolonged a sulky and mercurial adolescence for nearly two decades. I'm not proud of the fact that I chose to spend years and years stuck in the role of the irresponsible boy who wouldn't grow up, who both wanted women to take care of him and resented the hell out of them for doing so. But with the help of God and a whole bunch of folks here on earth, I've been busy in recent years letting go of these old patterns. I no longer believe anything is, to paraphrase Barb, hidden too deeply in the psyche to change. When I came back to Christ, I became enchanted with the idea that we are, as C.S. Lewis writes in the Last Battle, always called "further up, further in." I see too many of my male friends and family members stuck in patterns set years and years ago; they seem to lack the desire, the willingness, and the faith to change. But where my faith and my pro-feminism intersect best is in my belief that my conditioning and my biology and my past excuses are not determinative of how I will live my life as a man. There is no "nature" we have that we cannot overcome, no habits we cannot break, no baggage that we can't finally zip up and stow away for good.
2. May 18th's More on older men and younger women, a long response to "Kate". Excerpt:
Kate, I don't know you. But I can tell you I've known a few young women who've said things very similar to what you've said. And I know that in the end, what many of them really wanted from older men was not a sexual or romantic relationship, but validation and recognition and attention. In our highly sexualized culture, however, they couldn't believe that a man would really love them and care for them unconditionally unless they could offer him something sexual or romantic in return. They shortchanged themselves, and sadly, they found older men who reinforced the notion that their sexuality was the most valuable thing they had to offer. I don't know if that's what's going on with you.
Adults always tell teens to be patient, and teens get tired of hearing it. But if I can give you a piece of advice, it is to be patient just a while longer. Let whatever boundaries you have in place that have served you well stay in place just a little bit longer. Keep those boundaries in place especially with the men who have a sworn (even sacred) responsibility to care for you as your teachers and mentors. There's nothing wrong with wanting. But there's much to be gained by waiting, just a little longer, before "taking the next step" with anyone, especially someone considerably older than yourself. Once you become a legal adult, and (perhaps) are in college, you will begin to meet many different men who will be unlike those you knew in high school. You might even find someone closer to your age who does share your interests and your passions. Stranger things have happened.
Ultimately, I believe a man's body is fully his and his alone in a way that a woman's generally isn't. I don't bemoan that fact, nor do I celebrate it. Rather, I'm increasingly focused on the notion that as a result of this unmerited privilege, men have a special obligation to do justice with their bodies. What on earth does that mean? First and foremost, it means "do no harm." Unrestrained male appetite for food, sex, and alcohol, wreaks tremendous devastation on both a small and a global level. Am I saying that women don't abuse all three of these things? Of course not. But I think it can be safely argued that when speaking of sex and alcohol, male uncontrolled desire has done far more harm.
I love my body, and not merely because it is "in shape" these days. I love it because I have arms to hug with and a tongue to taste with and legs to power up a mountain with and hands to reach out with. But I also recognize that my body is, to borrow a phrase from Stephen Carter, a "bundle of desires", some good, some not so good. When I indulge myself in the latter, be it with a steak or a visit to a strip club, my choices are harming other living things. My right to pleasure stops when it extends to another's exploitation, another's degradation, another's life, or even my own health.