You Won’t Find It

WARNING: BRUTAL FRANKNESS AHEAD.

The worst, most heartbreaking thing to come out of the emerging scandal surrounding state senator Paul Stanley, is the revelation that many if not most male legislators act like the session is one big frat party with the female interns.  From an intern’s email to Post Politics:

What I can also tell you is that almost every man up there feels entitled to look, touch, and flirt with any female in that place, regardless of whether she is an intern, lobbyist, guest, etc.

I was shocked when I heard about this, but not really. The ego that exists in most men up there is enough to make me sick. There are people that you respect and admire who wouldn’t think twice about giving you a good up and down look in the elevator.

I had been given looks, creepy smiles, and strong drinks made by those very legislators who are probably laughing right now at all of this, those hypocrites. most of them married, too.

I’d like to talk to the men of of the state’s Capitol Hill, especially the ones who hang their hats as social conservatives. 

This is wrong.  It has to stop, now.

No, I’m not going to wag my finger at you about sin, the commitment of marriage, and prayer.   I could, and probably should, but I’ll leave that to others.  You are political animals, though, so let’s talk about your behavior politically, shall we?

Certainly you know that with every revelation of bad behavior, small minded people with an agenda proclaim very loudly that our worldview is invalid, or at the very least that we do not have any right to pursue any legislation that advances that worldview (not recognizing that they do the very same thing themselves with different values).  Since nobody likes a lech,  and the world does not share our view of human frailty and forgiveness, you lose any high ground you might have had.

But, let’s go a little deeper, OK?

If you are a predatory person, if you glare and grope and improperly propose and otherwise act like a jackass toward women in your office, just stop reading now.  I have nothing to say to you, and I hope you are exposed and lose your position as soon as possible.

But, for the rest of you, whole truly struggle with temptation and unfortunately sometimes give in to it, I’d like to talk about that temptation.

First off, know that simply having the temptation is not a sin.  It isn’t a personal failing.  Christ was tempted, after all.  Too many Christian men think that, because we are Christians, when a temptation comes along we should be able to extend our hands Gandalf-like, say some incantation like “the power of Christ compels you!”, and the temptation will go away.  When it doesn’t, they view it as a personal failure, and give in.

In my experience, this is not how things work.  I can only tell you my experience.  I have been married for 22 years, and I have managed to not only stay faithful to my lovely wife, am blessed to have a thriving, soul-sustaining marriage.

Yet, I am no eunuch.  I understand temptation.  I understand the psychological confusion a man feels when a beautiful young woman is friendly with him.  And I understand the darker temptation, where thoughts unbidden come, where availabilities are considered, where the thoughts almost consume you.

But God did not give me a magic wand to wave while chanting “Away, evil temptress!” (which isn’t really fair anyway to someone who’s just being friendly, anyway).  No, I was given a more powerful gift: the ability to see things as they are.

First, this kind of temptation is never really about sex, it’s about ego.  It is so incredibly gratifying, especially as a man gets older, to think “this beautiful young woman is interested in ME!  She finds ME attractive!”  Trust me, this allure is almost impossible to resist for a man.  Our main need, no matter what anyone else says, is to be considered Good Enough.  Worthy.

When this happens to you, do me a favor.  Go home, strip down naked, and look in the mirror.  What, are you in your late 30’s?  Your forties?  Fifties or even later?  Look at yourself, then do it again.  It should become clear, even if a young, beautiful woman really is flirting with you, that it’s not YOU she’s attracted to.

Oh, she might be attracted to your power.  Or maybe your charisma, or your money, or what she thinks you can do for her. 

But, there is no way, outside your current position, this young girl could be chomping at the bit to have YOU. 

Just look at yourself.

Do you think she stays up at night, fantasizing about your bald spot?  Although she’s surrounded by hard-bodied young men at school, do you really think ear hair is what turns her on?  That she can really, really relate to your stories of the Frampton concert in 1977?  That she prefers a flabby belly and disappearing butt?  Do you really believe that she thinks it’s cute the way your breath whistles when you take out your partials?  Really?

No, if a young woman is flirting with you, or just being very friendly, you can be rest assured that it isn’t because she’s just got to have YOU.

You ain’t all that.  Maybe at one time you were, but that ship sailed long ago.  And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

If you give in to a sexual temptation, you will not find the validation you are looking for.  It’s hard to admit, but it’s all an illusion.  You may be a great guy, but you won’t find what you are looking for, deep down, by pursuing a woman young enough to be your daughter.

Your emptiness will only grow more profound, and that’s after you’ve destroyed everything you hold dear.

You will not find the validation you are looking for.  If you can strip things down to the harsh realities, you can overcome temptations that are sure to come along, some real, some just a psychological misunderstanding.

And the amazing thing?  God has given you an incredible gift.  Your wife, unlike some 20-something who doesn’t really know you, actually does want YOU.  She has been given eyes to see you as you are and still want you, even love you.  It is there you will find some of the validation you are looking for.  And only God can give you the rest.

So, if you have been participating in this circus, and you aren’t evil and lecherous (just tempted), I’m begging you, stop this, now.  The young women in your midst are not there to hook up with you.  NOR DO THEY WANT TO.

See things as they truly are.  Be a real man.

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Trouble

If you watched last week’s incredible Open championship (that’s British Open for Americans), you most likely saw this advertisement, currently my favorite.

I don’t know, it just seems to capture the spirit of the age.  My reaction is visceral.  I love the song (“Trouble” by Ray LaMontagne), and the imagery of the dog and his unease just speaks to me.  It’s almost hard to put into words.

It’s rare that one feels he is seeing A Truth when viewing an advertisement, but, on some level I don’t understand, I know I am. 

There’s something eerily beautiful about this ad.

Of Life And Waterbeds

Today, Lintilla and I celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary. As time passes counting the years, marking the milestones becomes an ever-increasing source of wonderment.

It does not escape me that I was 22 years old the day we wed. That means that this time next year, I will have spent more time in my life with Lintilla as my wife than without. That just feels right to me, because my heart cannot imagine any other way to be. I know at one time I was something else besides her husband, but I can no longer fathom such an existence.

That kid, that lonely, silly, unfashionable, hyperactive young man was not me – just a child using my body until I could become “me”. That transformation began when I stood at the front of Blakemore United Methodist Church with my bandmates beside me – and looked down the aisle.

Approaching was an old man who really didn’t care for me much; his face was a mixture of sadness and frustration. To his credit, he followed through with grace and dignity.

On his arm was my best friend- only different. This woman who was “one of the boys”, who had spent so many nights with me and my friends drinking beer at The Boro, shooting pool at Amy’s, participating in belching contests while we hung out at my brother’s place watching movies – she walked down the aisle, looking comfortingly familiar, yet different.

She was stunningly beautiful. Not that I hadn’t consered her beautiful before, but this?

A part of me, deep down, leapt for joy upon seeing her, in spite of myself trying to look cool.

So many years have passed since July 10, 1987. It’s a little disturbing that most of that time is now considered “history”; it is disturbing to me that even the 90’s are now considered “a long time ago”.

We’ve seen three stock market crashes, four recessions, five presidents, the reported death of liberalism, and the reported death of conservatism. The Berlin wall fell, China ascended. Japan went from ominous financial power to just a fellow troubled country. Our country’s biggest threat dissolved into nothing, and a threat we really mostly didn’t see coming wiped out 3,000 lives and destroyed part of the NY skyline.

Nashville grew, and grew and grew. Changes came: the area of town that used to be known for salvage stores (we bought our first furniture at Turrentine’s) is now a kind of local ethnic United Nations. (I consider this an improvement!)  Downtown went from a place you didn’t go at night unless you wanted to catcall the hookers, go to an “adult” theater, and step over bums, to a thriving core filled with annoying urban hipsters (part of me preferred the hookers and bums).

It used to be that for sports, you went to a Sounds game, or to TSU or Vanderbilt, else you travelled to Knoxville.

Now, Nashville not only has hockey (HOCKEY!), but an NFL team. The freaking NFL is in Nashville. And our team went to the Superbowl in its first “real” season in town.

As a city, we’ve gone collectively from wanting to be Memphis, to wanting to be Atlanta, to wanting to be some combination of Portland, Oregon and Charlotte, NC.

Lintilla and I have gone from two young people making minimum wage, starting out in a 700 square foot apartment in Murfreesboro, with a waterbed from Wonderful Waterbeds in Hickory Hollow (remember that place?) and not much else, to two second-shift state employees living in Paragon Mills, to buying our first house (back to Murfreesboro!), eventually getting a bed with a real mattress. We’ve had horrible auto accidents, and even more horrible family losses.

We’ve “moved back home”, accepting the whispers that we couldn’t make it on our own, knowing we were really doing so to take care of an ailing old widow.

We’ve felt the sadness and frustration of infertility, and shared indescribable joy as we stood before judge Muriel Robinson on two different occasions, officially adding our two wonderful children to our family.

We’ve felt the pride and joy as our careers advanced, and the fear and despair as we watched everything we had burn to the ground. We’ve experienced all the joys and pains of raising children, planning and fretting, fretting and planning. Most of our days now are a haze of activity, and the time is passing so quickly.

We have seen and been through so much.

Does she get on my nerves sometimes? You bet. Am I a jackass sometimes? Most definitely.

And yet, even today, (even this morning), when she walks into the room, a part of me, a part deep inside that I still scarcely understand, leaps for joy.

When I see my friend, my companion, my lover, my advisor, I cannot help but thank the Lord that He has allowed me to love her all these years, and amazingly, surprisingly, she has loved me. I am certainly not deserving of such a kind, beautiful person as lifetime companion.

I love you, Lintilla. How about another 22 years?

I might even get us a waterbed for our 44th anniversary, if I can find one. Whether we’ll be able to get out of it at that age is another question.