Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Once is not enough

My copy of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is due back at the library today, which I'm not exactly crying about. I enjoyed it well enough, but I don't find that it's sticking in my head in the same way as some of our other selections. However, I had been chewing over one point, and it just crystallized for me.

SPOILER ALERT for them as haven't gotten this far/picked it up: Young Mick and the boy next store go out for a pretty innocent picnic by the creek. They're in a kind of puppy love at this point, and dare each other to go skinny dipping. After this activity, they're laying on the bank in a pleasant state of tension, when they roll toward each other and Mick finds herself no longer a virgin.

This is neither exciting nor earth-shaking -- it just is. And then it's over and done. Mick knows something has changed, but she's not sure what. She doesn't like or dislike what she's experienced, but she doesn't really have any desire to repeat the experience.

I don't really want to make this a big sex post, but it strikes me that Mick's distancing first (and only) encounter proves the wisdom of waiting until you're married and then taking a honeymoon. Sex isn't something meant to be experienced in isolation -- one time, then you're through, and well, that was pretty damn uncomfortable. Part of acclimating to being married is the chance to go at it several times a day to get used to the weird physicality of the act. And to relax and unwind enough to get some desire back just in time for your body to be healed up enough for there to start being some degree of pleasure in the act. Sex is a learned activity.

But I think that girl like Mick, with her one strained encounter, is in serious danger of developing a warped view of sex as something unpleasant or disgusting. Although she and Harry seemed to be just doing what came naturally, it was actually a pretty unnatural way to develop a wholesome view of sex.


BettyDuffy said...

You just had to go and write a big sex post, Mrs. D. Haha.

Actually, something similar has been on my mind all day--not the big sex part--but the idea of the body left behind. I do think that one of the most efficient ways for spouses to get closer to the union of souls everyone desires is by union of body in Sacrament. And one of the biggest downsides to sex outside of marriage then, is that the union which occurs outside of lifelong commitment tends to end. Either in a few minutes, or a few years, eventually the bodies separate and depart, so often leaving the woman, especially, feeling a bit bewildered. Quite unsatisfying.

mrsdarwin said...

Betty, you know me! Actually, I talk about this stuff because no one else does, and I think that's a problem. What got me off thinking about it was something I wanted to wait until the comments here to mention it, because I wouldn't embarrass anyone for the world. I was just talking to a newlywed (very very new) who was wondering what was wrong with her because after being so eager while engaged, suddenly she simply had no desire. And something I'd been chewing on with this section of the book crystallized for me, which is the honeymoon period is so necessary, not as a time of sexual orgy, but of acclimation to the whole committed marriage relationship, which includes sex (and I think this applies whether or not one has had sex outside of marriage -- the stresses of planning a wedding are still going to wreak havoc with desire and energy no matter what anyone's previous choices!).

Anyway, I told my friend to give her body a week to drain out wedding stress and just get used to the whole thing, and then she'd be wondering why the world wouldn't leave them alone, and what is this job thing that keeps dragging him away from her? :)

BettyDuffy said...

I'm going to go a step further (since we're in the comments and all) and say that it's more than the honeymoon that acclimates the body--because I have also talked to women even after a year or two of marriage who can't find their groove. I'm going to say that it's the lifelong togetherness of it, that transformation of the body that comes from having kids; each kid changes it a little bit more, and those rough spots can arise even years into a marriage. But the bride (or the groom if the case should arise) shouldn't be left alone with all that, no matter how long she's been married. The two become one and all that, and it's his problem too, just as her pleasure is often his as well.

Anyway, I wasn't thinking about this in relation to the book so much, as in relation to the evolution of sex in marriage, and how surprisingly it keeps getting better (at least while we're still on this side of the hill).

mrsdarwin said...

the evolution of sex in marriage, and how surprisingly it keeps getting better (at least while we're still on this side of the hill).

This is the delightful truth, and ought to be better known. There is such a learning curve -- not just technique-wise (though that's good stuff too) but in the growth in intimacy, which is what really matters.

Why don't people have these discussions? I can't believe that popular conceptions (ha ha) of sex are mostly driven by movies and media. I told my bridal friend that basically, anything you've learned about sex from the movies is wrong. (Same goes for pregnancy and childbirth, BTW.) As a culture we've grown so used to either the "happily ever after" glowing ideal of marriage, or the squabbling stupid married couple of sitcoms that it's really rare to see an honest depiction of a married couple in real love. Even the real married couples I know, who do just fine, don't talk about this stuff, and the marriage prep stuff I've encountered has dealt not a whit with this topic. (Our class on sex in our marriage prep course was canceled because the couple teaching suddenly had something come up. Hm. And the class on communication had to be rescheduled because the couple teaching that one had gotten the date wrong. Go figure!)

Darwin just walked up and said, "Oh, you and Betty discussing Topic A?" So we have our reputations to maintain here. :)

BettyDuffy said...

Yes, you noticed I jumped on your big sex post right away. Some things really are more interesting than others. I think that people don't talk about it out of some sense of modesty (like the bra issue), or protecting the marriage bed, which is of course a noble intention but it leaves the stage open for those with less noble intentions to fill it how they choose, and they tend to perpetuate myths, or the unfortunate realities of contraceptive sex.

Emily J. said...

Sorry to pick such a downer of a book. But at least it led to this fun topic.

To bring the sex talk back to the book - was anyone else surprised slightly that Harry runs away? And then he drops out of the book. I assumed he ran away because he was afraid he got Mick preggers, or because he thought he would be chased down by Mick's dad. 70 years later, dads don't blink an eye when their daughters lay down on riverbanks or rent apartments with near strangers. Or they rage internally and say nothing.

Actually, since my husband and I just had an anniversary and I went to a wedding, I've been thinking about marriage and sex, too - who isn't? My thought was that one of the things that I miss most with my husband being gone is his proximity and that intimacy Mrs. D mentions. I know there are studies out there about the physiology of touch and the immediate endorphin release after a simple touch on the shoulder and even more after a kiss. Sometimes a couple hours spent spooning on the couch during a movie can be as bonding as a romp on the riverbank or wherever (although not as memorable).

Have read good things about the book Mrs. D selected.

eaucoin said...

The best sermon I ever heard at a wedding started out predictably about Jesus' first miracle at the wedding feast of Cana, but ended up being about how long-married couples find out even as their health begins to fail that God saves the best wine for last. My husband's hand found mine during this sermon and I remember thinking that all the older married couples were probably holding hands at that moment. (It is the first and only time I ever cried at a wedding.) Also my husband and I mourn quietly as two of our daughters live with their boyfriends. And relations with the (someday-to-be) inlaws are exceedingly awkward.

Otepoti said...

I just finished listening to the book. Oh, it was very good, but it hurt. So many good things in there, like Mick's thoughts about the Beethoven she hears - that it's the best pain there is (or words to that effect, obviously I can't flip back and find out.)

Still going with my "Singer-as-Jesus" hypothesis, though. Perhaps McCullers is saying, if Jesus were like Singer, i.e. only mortal, His earthly life would have meant no more than Singer's, and we would be "of all men most to be pitied", but, thanks be to God, this is not the case.

Anyway, thanks for choosing. Does anyone want to read a NZ novel, when it's my turn to choose again?