The Other I

April 4, 2008

30 and counting

Filed under: Just Stuff,Life as a Nun,Uncategorized — theotheri @ 3:18 pm
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You may not have noticed, but my story which I have been blogging about in fitful stops and starts includes a fairly sizable gap between the night I walked out of the convent and the beginning of my relationship with Peter, who is my husband.  The gap is sex.

I left the convent in 1967, the era of hippies and the civil rights movement, of anti-war protests, drugs, free sex, and communes.   I was in terms of sexual experience still a naive 18-year-old from the mid-west, completely unprepared to understand the “liberated” world into which I waded in New York City.  I never got into serious drugs, but apart from that, I tried pretty much everything else on the list.  I discarded any sense that premarital or even extra-marital sex was immoral.  What was wrong with it, as long as one did not become pregnant and bring a child into the world without a functional father?

But I thought that for most people, sex was at least personal commitment.  Not necessarily marriage, but certainly that it represented some kind of  serious caring.  Oh wow, was I wrong.  And oh wow, was I cynical by the time I met Peter.  He was serious, but I dragged him through the mill, behaving with as much carelessness toward him as others had treated me.   

It’s not a time I remember with guilt, but I do remember it with some embarrassment at my simplicity, and with profound gratitude that I met someone like Peter.   It’s not a period I find any delight at recounting in any detail. 

With maturity and many years of marriage, I am still of the view that premarital and under some circumstances extra-marital sex is not de facto wrong.  But I now respect other women enough to feel that their partners are not free for the picking, whatever justification for wandering is proposed by the male half.  Even more importantly, perhaps, I do now appreciate that being faithful to ones partner creates a relationship of a depth and richness that is most unlikely in a situation of “free love.” 

In that context, I was somewhat appalled when the leader of the Liberal Democrat party here in Britain volunteered quite candidly that he had slept with “no more” than 30  women in his life.  The journalist reporting the story said they’d had a whip round the office, and it was agreed that this is about par for the course for a man today in his early 40’s.

My response is not that I’m an old fogey who is out of contact with the “real world” of the younger generation.  My response is that this is a middle-aged man who has not grown beyond the egocentric selfishness of childhood. 

It’s not 30 that I find so appalling, but the fact that in middle age he’s still counting, and doesn’t seem to think that this casual promiscuity is something he perhaps should have grown beyond.  The 17-year-old who reported recently that he was the father of five children by five different women seems irresponsible, but at least he’s not 40. 

Though come to think of it, the mind boggles if he follows the same stunted path as the Liberal Democrats’ leader.  Whose name, by the way, is Nick Clegg.  The press are referring to him as “Clegg-over.”

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