Now don’t tell me that part of the story
Where the cowboy falls in love
When he traded in his pistol and his saddle
And the stars above
But when the candles’ burning down
And when midnight comes around
And all the best that we can hope for
Is to be laughing when we finally hit the ground
--The Refreshments, “Sin Nombre”
I tried writing this post once before. I even set it to publish this morning but when I woke up I deleted it. It was too bitter. Too…not at all the point.
I suppose I was just feeling bitter the first time I tried to write it. I don’t know. That happens.
This morning I was reading Slacktivist’s latest Tribulation Force entry. He finally got to the end of one of the worst romantic comedy of errors plots in the history of fiction, which lead to a discussion of the general fucked-up-ness of Evangelical attitudes towards sexuality. Growing up in that world I was well aware of its…well, fucked-up-ness, but I’d always believed I’d emerged from that world more or less unscathed.
I generally avoid the Madonna/whore dichotomy, for one. I’m well aware of the crazy idea that women can, and often are, horny while men aren’t always uncontrollably sex-crazed. I was even aware of the fact that the sex drive is a completely natural and human thing that couldn’t just be prayed away. These, by the way, are the sorts of things that help tremendously in the process of deciding to leave the crazy little world of Evangelicalism. It’s not so much that I was like, “I wanna leave so I can have sex!”* but the bit where I realize that my church world was actively attempting to deny reality and insulate me from those things that might cause me to embrace said reality.
Either way, as I was thinking about Buck and Chloe’s, um, romance-ish thingy, and the post where I attempted to conjure thoughts of a girl who I once thought could make or break my world.** I suddenly recalled a stray thought I’d had upon reminding myself of her. It went, “I can’t actually imagine her engaging in something as crass as sex.”
Now, remember, for a while in my life she was my image of perfection. Not just, um, potential mate-ly perfection (to invent a word), but godly perfection. She was both the wonderful woman and the Knight of Faith. I know that she didn’t see herself that way. First of all, she did have faults. I was largely shielded from them, since it’s not like we hung out all the time or had intimate discussions of our failings and sins, but I know that she had fault since I know she was, in all actuality, human. And I know she was aware of her faults and wasn’t exactly living in denial. Second, I’m pretty sure that even if she was that wonderful, she wouldn’t have let it go to her head.
But perhaps I’m letting the sepia tones of pleasant memory color my opinions. To make a completely pointless side-note, I’m pretty sure that this is the sort of thing that would ruin any sort of “angry atheist” persona people might want to paint me with. There are still people, places, and times that I remember quite fondly. What I’m not a fan of is the part where I basically had to sneak away because I knew that there would be people who treated me as less than human for leaving. I’m also not a fan of the bits where I learned that I was only valuable as long as I was perceived as being on the right side and doing the work I was expected to do.
Really, though, one of the reasons that I know the woman I once thought was the greatest paragon of virtue probably wasn’t and was probably aware of it is because I know myself. There were people who looked up to me as a great example of what a Christian should be. Hell, as I recall, there was a time or two when she told me that she admired certain aspects of my faith. Yet for much of that time in my life I was angry and hoping like hell no one would discover who I really was. And, of course, my doubts about the reality of the Evangelical worldview started long before I left. Long before I realized them, really.
This isn’t to say that I think she was the same as me. It’s just that I’ve realized that the doubts and sins were far more prevalent than anyone wanted to admit. And I’ve found out that attempting to cover such things up was far more widespread than anyone probably realized. Because if we dug too deep in to someone else’s convenient cover we would have had to face our own lies and denials. There’s no fun in that.
So what’s the point of all this, then? Honestly, I really don’t know. In general I’ve grown past the place where I was six years ago. But it’s a little strange to realize that there’s a still a little bit inside of me that can actually run the phrase, “engaging in something as crass as sex,” without any reflection of the connotations of such a thought.
It also makes me wonder if I don’t still have a little bit of the attitude that there’s what type of woman I want to be with and what type of woman I think I can be with. Then again, “Wouldn’t actually deign to have sex,” seems like a really, really shitty quality to desire in a potential mate. It’s got to be right up there with, “Doesn’t want to be seen with you in public,” or, “Has a real thing for the comedic stylings of Dane Cook.”
Maybe I’m just over thinking it. Perhaps that thought was something random. Perhaps it was just an artifact of my Evangelical existence. Maybe it just means that I can’t see her engaging in something as crass as sex with me.
I’ve come a long way in the last four years. People who have met me in the last couple of years actually find it difficult to believe when I casually mention my previous religiosity. I guess it’s kind of the reverse of when people who haven’t talked to me in a few years suddenly get caught up on where I am. I think I’m a walking mental whiplash generator.
Either way, I’ve realized that I’ve been running for a long time. I move from convenient excuse to convenient excuse. I wasn’t good enough once. I wanted to dedicate myself to god once. I was too hurt. I was too damaged. I couldn’t find the right person. I was too busy to look. I was moving to Texas. I’m going to be moving back to Chicago as soon as I possibly can.
Rode hard and put up wet
I ain’t down but I can’t get up yet
It’s a long ride back
To the way I want to feel
Sun down all across the plain
I been sore before I’ll be sore again
No place to hide
To keep from running
--The Refreshments, “Sin Nombre”
I think I’ve always wanted to be a cowboy. I’ve always wanted to be able to pack up and head off at a moment’s notice. I used to think that I wanted that for the romance of the idea. It’s pretty cool to be unattached, able to go where you want to go and do what you want to do. It sounds a lot like living the dream, that dream that comes without mortgages and desk jobs and nagging and whiny kids. That dream that says you never have to worry about growing up and fucking up because there’s always a horizon and a sunset a few hours away.
But what if that isn’t it at all? What if I’ve wanted to be an outlaw because I didn’t think anyone would actually think enough of me to want me to stay?
That changes the story a bit, doesn’t it?
*…Yeah…fat lotta good that did me…
**This, by the by, is an interesting thought, too. I remember feeling quite strongly at the time that it would somehow ruin my life if nothing ever happened with her. This was the sort of thing that kept me up at night. It’s been about six years since I talked to her last and in between now and then I’ve had one spectacular failure of a relationship and a string of non-starters. Even at that I don’t regret the bit where nothing happened with this one-time end-all-be-all. Now, that’s not to say that I’ve decided she’s not worthwhile. If she popped up again I’d totally be in favor of hanging out and, say, finding out what she’s been up to. There are even conceivable scenarios where actually starting a romantic relationship of some sort with her would be cool. But, ultimately, I’ve made it through these last six years without her in my life and I’m reasonably certain I’ll be able to handle another sixty without seeing her again.
It’s weird, but that realization creates in me a great deal of hope. There’s always something or someone new around the next corner. It's just hard to realize that when you're young and haven't lived too much of your life just yet.