Monday, June 21, 2021

Faithful






Good Monday morning. 

When I was a sophomore in college, I was standing in a grocery store checkout line one day when a blurb on a magazine cover caught my eye. "Is Monogamy Sexy?" the cover asked in large, glossy letters. I cannot recall the magazine, and I didn't read the corresponding article, but that one three-word headline launched a thought train that took me down roads I'd have once never imagined would be a part of my life. 

I was enrolled in Advanced Writing that semester. My grade in that course was based largely on three short stories I was asked to compose. It was in this class taught by Dr. Rosanne Osborne I realized that while I'd always enjoyed academic writing, I absolutely loved writing fiction and dialogue and the immense thrill that comes when you can simply write without stopping and citing a source. I am sure those short stories are saved somewhere on a  giant floppy disk; I likely have a printed copy of them in my notebook I no doubt still have from Advanced Writing. I'm sure they would seem terribly juvenile now, both the content and the form, but they meant a lot to me at that time, and one of them was inspired by that brief line I noticed on a magazine cover. 


Not only did what I learned in Advanced Writing stay with me, that kernel of a thought planted in my head in the checkout line stuck, and it grew. I wrote a novel that is, among other things, an exploration of fidelity. A young lady named Edie Moreau finds her literature professor, Dr. Foster, attractive (there's nothing new under the sun, right?) in the rawest sense, meaning he is physically attractive, but he's also an academic whose professional life is steeped in a subject she finds fascinating, the life and work of Ernest Hemingway. She assumes based on the ring he wears he is not available to her, and yet at times he behaves as if he is. This tension eventually leads to this scene in which she lets him (and the reader, who is privy to her internal monologue) know where she stands. 

Edie’s anger from the night before resurfaced as he flashed a boyish, flirtatious smile and then slid her thesis proposal, the article, and her letter into his briefcase.  

“Dr. Foster, do you think perhaps another professor would be better suited to supervise my thesis?” 

The words flew from her mouth as the knot that had taken permanent residence in her gut tightened, superseding the surge of longing she felt when his eyes were on her and the inevitable goose bumps that pebbled her flesh when he smiled. 

Dr. Foster dropped his briefcase, some of the contents spilling on the floor. After the thud of the leather hitting the hardwood, there was silence for several moments. 

“Miss Moreau, I . . . well I don’t think that is necessary, unless you’re considering changing your topic, which I assume isn’t the case given the proposal you’ve just handed me.”

“No, no change of topic, Dr. Foster.” Her tone was as icy as she could muster in his presence, his winsome eyes sad and even repentant, she thought.

“Well, good. As I’ve said, I am new at this and I hope you’ll be patient with me, but no, I don’t think there is a need for you to find another thesis director.”

“Well, I’ll leave you to your reading then,” she said as she stood. 

“Miss Moreau, I . . .”

“Yes, Dr. Foster?”

“I hope your weekend is wonderful. I’m sure you’ve missed your family.”

“Yes, terribly.”

“Have they ever been to Boulder?”

“No. They’re both eager to see the city.”

“And you, no doubt.”

“Yes, of course, and me.”

“Well, it’s supposed to stay cold over the weekend, but no snow is expected, so you should have nice weather.”

“Yes, well, see you Monday, in class” she said, wanting to end the conversation as it segued into her personal life.

He stepped out from behind his desk and matched her footsteps toward his office door.

“If you want another advisor, I will make that happen,” he said sincerely, now standing a few feet from her, blocking her path to the door. 

Edie’s resolve to leave his office and never again open his mail or return a flirtatious grin or accept coffee from him wavered now that he was in arm’s reach. He was intoxicating, his towering frame filling the doorway, his scent invading her nostrils, his eyes soft and forlorn as they watched her. She wanted to reach up and run her fingers slowly down his unshaven cheek, lingering on the patches of gray that dotted his stubble, and she was certain he would welcome her touch.

But it wasn’t her cheek to caress. She was appalled that she had allowed this nonsense to continue. She was also unsure of the ramifications of asking for another PhD to direct her thesis. Academically, Dr. Foster was her best match, and she knew the alternative would likely be Dr. Lizenby.  

“I’m sorry I mentioned it.  Please let me know what you think of what I’ve written, of my thesis proposal, that is.”

“Yes, of course. I look forward to reading it and discussing it with you. Your writing is a nice reprieve from undergraduate essays.”

“Well, thank you. I’m enjoying the work, so far.”

“Good. I’m glad to hear it. Enjoy your weekend.”

“Thank you, Dr. Foster. We will.”




Alas, all is not as it seems for my dashing literature professor and Miss Moreau. You'll have to read the book if you've not. I didn't want to write another book in which a professor and his student have an affair. I wanted to write about a young woman who recognizes and respects the boundaries at which our culture so often scoffs. She is attracted to him not only physically, but intellectually, yet she realizes a great deal of his allure would disappear instantly were he to betray the confidence of someone she believes trusts him.

And yes, I know; I know it's ironic that my love birds both adore Hemingway, a man for whom fidelity remained elusive, while they wrestle with their feelings for each other and the resulting guilt. 

Yesterday was Father's Day, and I was thinking a lot about the crisis of fatherlessness that plagues this nation. There are simply too few men who are selfless enough to put in the work it takes to remain faithful to their wife and their children. I was thinking about the Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, because his wife shared this lovely picture of him with his children. 


I am a fan of Ron DeSantis. That is really not much of a secret at this point, especially if you've ever glanced at my Twitter feed.  


DeSantis understands the nature of the issues facing his state of Florida as well as this nation, but I also see this man you see above, and something in me sighs softly. We respond to this wholesome image positively. Why? Because it speaks to ancient God-breathed desires we have. God is so wise. Women are designed to seek a provider and a protector, and women demand fidelity from this man they choose. 

Faithful men are attractive, but the appeal of the married man who is faithful to his wife and kids . . . is that he's faithful. Part of what you find attractive about him would disappear in the second he touches you. Do you understand that, ladies? You don't want him; you want what his wife has, a faithful husband and a loving father. 

Women on Twitter chat about Ron DeSantis. This is a younger Ron DeSantis:


I mean, he is not ugly. Part of his appeal, I believe, at a time when everyone seems to have left every vestige of their morality in the 1980s, goes beyond policy. There is much to be said for him in the policy arena, but I believe part of his appeal is that he is a visible representation of what America aches for, namely young, stable families led by men who are devoted to their wives and children. Is monogamy sexy? Yes, yes it is. 


Is monogamy sexy? So long as I have my mental faculties, I will remember seeing those words and the maelstrom of emotions they launched. I guess they launched a maelstrom of emotions, a short story, a novel, and now, decades later, I continue to return to them. Not only is monogamy sexy, it is absolutely everything. Are you familiar with the story of Abraham and how he attempted to take matters into his own hands when he felt the Lord was slack concerning his promise that Abraham would be the father of many nations? Do you know how that turned out? Abraham, impatient with the barrenness of his wife's womb, impregnated Hagar, his wife's handmaiden. She bore him a son named Ishmael, and this decision of Abraham's continues to impact the world tremendously to this day. 

Monogamy is everything because the family does not work well without it, and nothing works without the family, not our churches, not our schools, not our nation. We are failing to reproduce ourselves. We are living for ourselves, shirking responsibility, and is it any wonder we've arrived at this moment when twenty years ago the culture was in such a state that magazines were running articles titled, "Is Monogamy Sexy?" I sometimes wish I'd read the article. I do not know what the author concluded. If the answer is No, it is not sexy, then what is sexy? Cheating? Polyamory? I don't want to know, which is, I suppose, why I never read the piece. 

A handful of the young people I taught in high school a few short years ago are now married or will soon be married. I attended a wedding shower for one such young lady over the weekend. I pray for their marriages, and I am glad to see them marrying young. My mom was twenty-five when she had me; I am her first child, and she was considered old at the time (1980) to be having her first child. Twenty-five is now considered young to be having a first child. I pray these young men and women I taught have found God-fearing spouses who will love them for life and raise any resulting children to love and fear the Lord. Ron DeSantis, despite his many attributes, cannot turn this nation around by himself, but thousands of young people committing their lives to each other and to the families they create can. I firmly believe that. 

The quote above (I'm not unfaithful, darling. I've plenty of faults but I'm very faithful. You'll be sick of me I'll be so faithful.) is credited to Ernest Hemingway. He of course penned these lines spoken by the lovely Catherine Barkley in A Farewell to Arms. Catherine is a nurse whose character was inspired by the woman who nursed Hemingway back to health after his injuries during WWI, a woman named Agnes von Kurowsky. Agnes broke Ernest Hemingway's heart, and I believe he never fully recovered. A decade after she left him, he wrote A Farewell to Arms, a novel that depicts a nurse falling in love with her patient, an injured American. Catherine falls in love with her patient, and then she leaves him, though it is not by choice, and it is not before she utters many things Hemingway no doubt wanted to hear from Agnes, lines such as the one quoted above: You'll be sick of me I'll be so faithful

After Agnes, Hemingway left women before they could leave him. I am not excusing his behavior, but I do think knowing a bit more of his biography sheds tremendous light not only on his writing but on the human condition. We crave the security of knowing we are loved. We need this first from our parents, and then we need it from our spouse. Many people sadly live a lifetime never certain of either; I think Ernest Hemingway was one of these people. He turned his heartache into exquisite prose, but he no doubt died (by his own hand) a tremendously unhappy man, likely a shell of an old man housing a young teen whose tumultuous relationship with his parents bled into a string of tumultuous relationships with women. 

You can break that cycle. You cannot control the parents to whom you are born or the home in which you grow up; you can control yourself and how you choose to treat your spouse and your children. Be, like Catherine Barkley, ridiculously faithful to those you love. 



AZ

2 comments:

  1. Preach! Preach because this message might help young people (and older people) who are inundated with the lies of “free love”. There is no such thing as free love. There is always a price. Should we talk more about the price that is paid? Do women pay a higher price than men? I am thankful that my mother and grandmother not only preached fidelity but lived it as well. When I was young, I took it for granted that all mothers were like mine in this regard. Girls who hear this never-changing truth are blessed. How can more of them hear this message? Thank you for using your platform to share the truth.

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  2. Oddly, I'm narrating an audiobook right now, and was just editing this little bit here, about a young, lonely Navy wife whose husband is away for 6 months:

    Melanie could sense the weekend beginning as she passed by each house. Teenagers were heading out on dates, families were packing their cars for San Antonio or Mexico, and shirtless men were cutting their grass or working in their garages.

    She slowed her pace to watch a particularly handsome and muscled man mowing his front lawn. As Melanie got closer she saw his wife on the porch sipping tea and keeping eye on two little girls playing on the steps.

    The fact that he was a family man only made him sexier.

    As she passed, Melanie kept facing forward. A lump rose in her throat.

    She was jealous of the woman.

    She can’t appreciate how lucky she is just to have him home, Melanie thought to herself. What a luxury to sit on the porch while her husband does yard work, to have someone to help her with the children, to have a man to share her bed. I’ll bet she even has a career. She focused on her kids again. Meanwhile, I’m basically a single mother.

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