Help! Help! I’m Being Repressed!

The Bright Maidens, Topic 10: “On Dating Nice Catholic Girls” by Max Lindenman: a (delayed) response

“Help! Help! I’m Being Repressed!” by Julie Robison
“On Reading Confused Catholic Writers” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day
“Please Don’t Call Me A Prude” by Trista at Not a Minx, a Moron, or a Parasite

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

Is it wrong that every time I tried to write this response post, the Beastie Boys’ lyrics kept playing in my head? “Her pants were tight/ and that’s okay!” they chorus, and I know Mr. Max Lindenman agrees, even though he scathingly used the adjective “tight” three times in his Patheos article “On Dating Nice Catholic Girls” in reference to three different girls’ bottom apparel.

The Beastie Boys, on girls: “I like the way that they walk/ And it’s chill to hear them talk/ And I can always make them smile/ From White Castle to the Nile.”

Later in the song, however, they lamented what happened during a walk down to the bay: “I hope she’ll say, “Hey me and you should hit the hay!”/ I asked her out, she said, “No way!”/ … So I broke North with no delay.”

Mr. Lindenman, I’m afraid dear readers, also broke North with no delay. His sub-byline is misleading, a backhanded compliment of “No hook-ups but no long-term ego-busts; nice Catholic girls teach tenderness and the valuable security of the everyday.”

Within the article, he confused readers by first he accusing the JPII generation of women of being “godawful” teases like Sexy Puritans (a.k.a. attractive Christians), then admiring his ex-girlfriends’ sunny dispositions and adherence to Catholic sexual morals before sharply criticizing those very virtues within the same page, and, the worst of offenses, did not properly fact check. Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae as our dating guide? Please. That encyclical is for married folk. Nice Catholic Girls read the Theology of the Body lectures first!

Mr. Lindenman does address an excellent topic though: how can girls only cuddle? How can they not succumb to their desires for more intimacy than handholding and playing footsie? If kissing is okay, why not taking a few tips from the Kama Sutra?

In the 2007 film Juno, after the 16 year old main character Juno MacGruff tells her father and step-mother that she’s pregnant, her father says, “I thought you were the kind of girl who knew when to say when.”

Juno replies, “I don’t know what kind of girl I am.”

I found this part of the movie incredibly honest, and a good reflection of how sexual education is addressed in America. My own began at home: by the time I had my first sexual education class in the fifth grade, my parents had given me four siblings, with one more to come. My parochial grade school education was all scientific explanation of sexual intercourse, with a dose of religious reverence. My parents were extremely upfront about sex not happening before marriage, and God’s plan for sex within marriage. It was easy to see why saints had died for their virginity, and why they offered it up to God.

But there the formalities stopped. We spent one week in Postponing Sexual Involvement (PSI) lectures my freshman year of high school, and barely skimmed the touchy subject in Ethics my junior year. I made friends with many boys, took boys to dances, and occasionally went on dates, but avoided more intimate relationships. When I did go to college, I was completely unprepared for the advances of some boys and, all I can say at most is that I am glad the teachings of the Catholic Church were so firmly pressed upon me and my conscience, because my emotions would have dictated me astray.

Catholicism’s response to the sexual revolution

I didn’t learn or start reading about Theology of the Body until after my junior year of college and into my senior year, giving me now more of a foundation for what was only a protest before. As Juno later and quite aptly said, there were times when I was “just out dealing with things way beyond my maturity level.”

Through all of it, I valued honesty, whether the guy bravely breached the gap or I had to step up and address the awkward silence of unsaid triflings. My heart, therefore, sank a bit deeper into my chest as I read Mr. Lindenman’s belittlement of such an effort.

He wrote, “My nice Catholic girls were completely different animals. Straightforward and unaffected, they sent no mixed signals, crowned their bedposts with no negative notches. In their orgies of chaste snuggle-wuggles I see evidence for a startling truth: where sexuality decreases, tenderness and sensuality increase.”

I, in turn, see evidence of confusion. Chaste snuggle-wuggles (hereafter known as “cuddling”), for starters, are the antithesis of orgies, which are unrestrained and excessive sexual activities. I submit as my thesis that in a pre-marital, non-sexual relationship, sexuality does not decrease, but remains consistent, in check, and in anticipation, as well as increasing tenderness and sensuality, not to mention creativity for fun and romance.

One topic not addressed by the author is the difficulty for a Nice Catholic Girl to find a Nice Catholic Boy.

Nice, of course, means more than pleasant to be around and no less than respectful in words, actions and thoughts; it is a vague word that indicates the virtues of men and women are being honed and prepared for delivery when called upon or needed.

Well, says the dear readers, maybe you two shouldn’t have gotten that far in the first place.

But would two people sitting feet apart, refraining from most contact, cultivate anything but sexual frustrations and tension? Holding hands would perhaps alleviate that, without overdoing it. To avoid temptation, one must avoid the near occasion of sin. But if two are both committed to not sinning, does proximity of one’s bodies determine the occasion?

I am not prepared to address every specific situation a couple may face together, but I think every situation can be correctly handled according to the Church’s teachings and without the tease of a Puritan courtship. This is where I quarrel with Mr. Lindenman.

Say what?!

He tells a tragic tale of woe: of Melissa, his former girlfriend, the nursing student. She was beautiful, but either didn’t know or didn’t care. She could draw parallels between saints and X-Men characters, participated in Eucharistic Adoration, and was courageous enough to ask Mr. Lindenman via e-mail postscript if they were dating since, apparently, he failed to properly ask her out.

He said his security was Melissa, and that he inadvertently told her he loved her during a hike. They talked long into the night, but the nuances of their relationship began to haunt him, like Dimmesdale’s guilt in The Scarlet Letter. Unlike Hester, however, Melissa did not keep things secret in the crevices of her heart. She was kind and open with all she met and knew, and her “buoyancy, the way she revealed herself as recklessly as a patient on a couch, worked on me like a stimulant.” But in the end, instead of admiring this trait, Mr. Lindenman “cooled off pointedly.”

No reader was shocked when Melissa broke up with him. He said, “That was Melissa: scrupulous in honesty and generosity, a nice Catholic girl to the end. …There’s a great deal to be said for nice Catholic girls: the up-front quality, all those depths made visible, like the ocean in a color-coded map. Even the prudery has its advantages. Getting kicked to the curb by a girl you’ve never slept with means never having to wonder whether you’re a bad lover. That cuts the ego’s recovery time exactly in half.”

I am sorry Mr. Lindenman did not take more time to “recover” from this relationship, or rather, reflect. Melissa was no prude. She was not shocked nor did she shun the topic of sex. She discussed it, and at length. She did not physically give her body, but she opened up her soul. This can be more terrifying than being physical with another person, because it requires a different kind of affection that people crave more than touch. This kind of affection has fewer lines, and allows for more creativity. To say I Love You is one thing; to show it is another.

“For God so Loved the world that he sent his only Son,” says John 3:16. Good experiences and good memories only really happen once. Nothing in this world can be repeated, even though it can be done again; the world writes its history based on the choices of individuals. Sex is a choice every person faces, and the idea of chastity is a contradiction to modern sensibilities, for which freedom is the ability to do whatever one wants to do, opposed to the freedom to do what one should do.

The bomb-diggity.

This is exactly what John Paul II persuasively argues for in his Theology of the Body lectures. The Catholic Church preaches authentic freedom through Christ, which leads to an authentic love. To love someone is to recognize their dignity. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13: 7).

In this same thread, dating a Nice Catholic Girl or Nice Catholic Boy is about seeing the other person as a whole person: not just someone to have sex with, not just someone to pass the time with, not just a possible vocation, and not just because they’re Catholic. The intimacy two Catholics seek in a relationship is beyond a want of sex. Of course they both want it, but they’re willing to acknowledge its significance, which is a true bond, but not as the pinnacle of the relationship, nor an indulgence for one’s own gratification.

Mr. Lindenman sees all the accidents of Love, and none of the essence. He gets distracted by the tight pants and sees pious hypocrisy in that same girl if she wears a mantilla too. He thinks not having sex is a decrease in sexuality, and downplays the honest desire to get to know another soul before allowing the bodies to join. He relishes in the feminine touch, but rejects its liberality if it won’t go beyond the cuddle.

Well, he can write his bishop about the tight shorts all he wants, but I think he’s missing the Church’s point. H.L. Mencken defined Puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time.” Catholics know how to have a good time, and do. Just because we’re not having sex before marriage doesn’t mean we’re prudes or Puritans. It means we bring the party when the time is right, and give the perfect gift too.