Friday, August 31, 2007

Never Argue About Sex With an Idealist

Last night and this morning, I have been engaged in arguing about premarital sex with a friend on an internet forum. My friend is: (1) idealistic, (2) idealistic, and (3) idealistic. Apart from those three things, she's idealistic. But it's not entirely her doing, for she has been raised to be idealistic.

She's a bright, articulate, and humanely decent young person who has had the misfortune of having been sheltered from many of the realities of life by her parents.

Her parents even went so far as to home school her -- both in order to give her a superior education in some things and an indoctrination in other things. For instance: They did not think it was advantageous to her to know too much about the theory of evolution, other than why they considered it wrong. So now she's well educated about certain things and poorly educated about others.

I suspect her parents did a very good job indoctrinating her on the subject of sex and relationships. Added to that, she has never had a boyfriend. That is, she has had insufficient experience to contradict her ideals. She believes in Prince Charming. She really does! He is as real to her as the theory of evolution is wrong and she is holding out for him in more ways than one. Most obviously, she is holding out for him sexually. She wants to be a virgin on her wedding day. But more subtly, she is holding out for him emotionally. She does not want to date anyone who she thinks is not the Prince.

It has never really occurred to her that everything has a learning curve, and even love is no exception to that. In a vital way, we must learn how to love. And we can only learn so much about love from words, just as we can only learn so much about playing tennis from listening to words. At some point, if we are going to love well, then we must practice loving, just as we must practice tennis to play tennis well.

Ideally, in tennis, you hit the ball over the net, return each volley, and all goes well. But unless you have actually practiced doing that -- and practiced it and practiced it and practiced it -- you will be unable to do it well.

Of course, she would say she only wants to practice love with one special person, her Prince Charming. I think that's fine, if that's the way she wants to do it. I am not actually opposed to anyone holding out for their prince or princess. But I do object that she doesn't truly realize there will be a learning curve when she finally meets the Prince.

How do you keep your ideals when life smashes them down? In some cases, you simply don't. During the Korean War, the Americans attempted at first to conquer North Korea. Then the Chinese entered the war and the Americans had to change their goal or ideal from the conquest of North Korea to the defense of South Korea. They managed to accomplish this second goal or ideal, but had they not in time changed from the attack of the North to the defense of the South, they would have lost both goals, rather than just one. To accomplish anything in life you must sometimes be flexible about your ideals. And, somehow, I don't think my friend is flexible about her sexual and relationship ideals. She may very well end up loosing everything.

I wrestle with what to think about idealism. That's to say, I don't feel I understand it. And I don't feel I understand it because, for the most part, all I see are its follies and excesses. If you really understand something, then you tend to have a balanced view of it. But I do not have a balanced view of idealism: I see it's weaknesses, but not its strengths. So there is a large part of me that hopes she will find exactly what she wants in life. Even though I doubt that will be the likely outcome of her stubborn idealism.


Guitar's Cry said...

I used to be a sexual and romantic idealist, so I see where she is coming from. But those idealistic expectations kept me from some experiences that I could have enjoyed.

But, I am where I am now because of them, and I cannot change it--and shouldn't want to (alas! I am human!). I'm sure she'll find her way!

The ironic thing about romantic idealism is that it removes the chances for the perfect moments by building them up to be something they can never be.

David Rochester said...

What a terrible crash that girl is heading for. I hope she survives it.

Personally, I have mixed feelings about idealism. I know that in some arenas, it gets things done. It sometimes allows actualization of the impossible, if it's carried far enough. On the other hand, since I myself am a pragmatist, it's hard for me not to see it as an impractical waste of emotional investment.

I've always thought that the shattering and rebuilding of youthful ideals is key to growing up.

ordinarygirl said...

My parents raised me that way. Although I let go of the ideal, it still messed me up a bit in relationships for a while.

A year or so ago my dad showed me a movie called "Pamela's Prayer." Look it up to read more about it. In his way he was telling me that that's how he hoped I would find love. The fact that I was much older than the woman in the movie and also married didn't keep him from wanting to share it with me.

It's a horrid movie. Not so much for the ideal, but for the underlying themes. Having sex outside of marriage is treated much like murder and the woman herself is almost a non-person.