Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Dance for Virginity

Recently, at the Broadmoor Hotel:

Following dessert, couples file into the adjacent ballroom. Seven ballerinas appear in white gowns with tulle skirts, carrying on their shoulders a large, rustic wooden cross that they lift up and rest on a stand. A woman cries as she presents each of their three ceremonial dances, one of which is called “I’ll Always Be Your Baby.” Afterward, two middle-aged pastors stand at the cross with heavy rapiers raised and announce that they are prepared to “bear swords and war for the hearts of our daughters.” The blades create an inverted “V” under which girls and fathers kneel and lay white roses that symbolize purity. Soon there is a heap of cream-colored buds wilting beneath the outstretched arms of the cross.

This lovely rite ended the Seventh Annual Father-Daughter Purity Ball. A hundred couples--fathers dapper in tuxedos, daughters resplendent in backless floor-length gowns, long gloves and tiaras--gathered together to celebrate and pledge to protect the girls' virginity until marriage.

Okay, I'm sorry. I cannot, for the life of me, think of anything creepier than being in a room full of middle-aged men knowing that each and every one of them, including my own father, is thinking about my vagina. My hymen more specifically.

Thank God I grew up Catholic where I only had to feign virtue. If my father would've suggested that he and I, or any of my three sisters for that matter, attend the Purity Ball to celebrate virginity, I would've perished on the spot. More likely I would've had sex with the mailman or my priest or someone, anyone, just to get out of going. "Too late, Dad," I'd say, bloodied and bedraggled. "I guess we can't go."

When it’s time for dads and daughters to take the pledge (some informally exchange rings as well), the men stand over their seated daughters and read aloud from parchment imprinted with the covenant: “I, [father’s name], choose before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity….” The men inscribe their names and their daughters sign as witnesses. Then everyone returns to their meals and an excited buzz fills the room.

Yeah, an excited buzz like "thank fucking hell that's over." I know, I shouldn't be so jaded. It's not like I'm exactly a fan of promiscuity. And I do think that a strong relationship with dad lays a foundation for future interaction with the male species. But this is just so icky. And, no surprise, ineffective.

88% of the pledgers go on to have premarital sex. Of course, with more than the usual dose of guilt. They are less likely to use condoms because that would mean planning to have sex. Best that it "just happens." They are more likely to engage in anal sex (PROTECT THAT FLOWER!), again sans condom, which is risky behavior. Thus, as a group, pledgers have a higher-than-average rate of STDs.

Ideally, the daughter goes from being under the virginity contract right into the marriage contract. More tuxes, more pretty dresses, more cake. Forget the hidden clauses and caveats. Just enjoy your big day. And your special night as you present your treasure trove of earthly delights to your new headmaster.

I deeply wish that the lovely things I have seen tonight—the delighted young women, the caring, doting dads—might evolve into father-daughter events not tied to exhorting a promise from a girl that may hang over her head as she struggles to become a woman. When Lauren hit adolescence, her father gave her a purity ring and a charm necklace with a tiny lock and key. Lauren's father took the key, which he will hand over to her husband on their wedding day. The image of a locked area behind which a girl stores all of her messy desires until one day a man comes along with the key haunts me. By the end of the ball, as I watch fathers carrying out sleepy little girls with drooping tiaras and enveloping older girls with wraps, I want to take every one of those girls aside and whisper to them the real secret of womanhood: The key to any treasure you’ve got is held by one person—you.

That's the lesson that we should be teaching our children.

Read the entire scary article in Glamour Magazine.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Win one for the Man(ning)!

Yeehaw, Peyton won the Superbowl!

Lots of articles this week. Is football America’s religion? Unless you go to New Life Church, hell yeah! We worship. We sing. We dance. We praise. We repent. We are slain in the aisles. We are redeemed. We are brothers and sisters. We sit at the right hand of God. NO DOUBT.

I have to admit to being a rabid sports fan. I don’t know why. I can’t explain. But last night, when it became apparent that Peyton was gonna bring it home, I cried and cried. My kids gathered silently around me in an adorable show of compassion, not completely understanding but knowing that my tears were not tears of sadness.

I guess it’s about connection. I think it’s about dreams. Drama. Victory. Superiority. I honestly don’t know.

My ex-hub is a maniacal Northwestern University fan. He attended both undergrad and Med School there. Unfortunately, NW is an egghead school. No one, except Fisher DeBerry, wants to talk about what that means. It means NOT GOOD FOOTBALL. I’ll go no further.

In 1999, Northwestern won the Big Ten championship. I cannot tell you what an astounding feat this was with the likes of Michigan and Ohio State as competitors. It’s like Vandy winning the SEC. Dave and I, of course, went to Pasadena to see the Rose Bowl Parade (amazing) and the game against the USC (the University of Spoiled Children….better, the University of Low Class Jerks where OJ Simpson was an idol). Never a ruder crowd have we seen. No appreciation for the history. No appreciation for the record books. Just masses running around drinking beer being assholes.

The next year Northwestern barely missed another Big Ten Championship. They, instead, went to the Citrus Bowl. Again, Dave and I went. NW played the University of Tennessee, clad in unbelievably garish orange, speaking with heavy Southern drawls. Because the game was in Orlando, not too far from Tennessee, the crowd was comprised mainly of Vols fans. A pep rally was held on the eve of the big game, thousands of people clad in orange celebrating, partying, laughing. Peyton Manning, at the tender age of 22, stood at the podium and admonished the Vols fans to acknowledge NW’s accomplishments and to invite us to participate. It was a much different experience than we’d had at the Rose Bowl. Real people. Kind people. A classy Peyton Manning understanding the greater significance of football and history.

I am the same age as John Elway. So is Dave. We spent much of our married life loving the Broncos, living and dying by John’s performances and his screw ups. I remember Craig Morton. A great man but unable to move well. Enter John Elway. Bliss and pain. Our lives forever different.

John’s contemporaries are some of the best in NFL history. Dan, Joe, Troy, Boomer, Steve, Bernie, many more. John was stellar. He was amazing. He was bright and classy and visionary. Somewhat erratic in the beginning. Then just magic. Especially in the fourth quarter.

The Superbowl victory eluded John for years. Though he was one of the most accomplished QBs in history, he was diminished by the fact that he never won a Superbowl. Sure, he didn’t have much to work with but, in history, no one cares about that. When the Broncos won in Miami in ‘99, I was there. I was overwrought. I was crying and laughing. I think the Rolling Stones performed at half time….I hardly remember. I just wanted John to have his scepter. And he did.

Peyton has had a similar experience. A first round draft pick, like Elway. An incredible record, like Elway. Victories. Accolades. Press. Passion. Love. But no Superbowl ring.

Dan Marino, possibly the greatest QB in NFL history, never brought home the big one. That will be his legacy. He will always be known as the great QB that never brought home the prize. I’m so glad that Peyton won’t have that monkey on his back.

Peyton! Peyton! Peyton!