Redlining, Part V of V: Concave and Convex

Just because a thing can’t be, doesn’t mean it’s not good.

Let me clarify. Imagine this. Boy meets girl: call them Dick and Sandra. Dick falls in love with Sandra. Dick marries Sandra.

Now Dick and Sandra both get ten years older. They are no longer as young as they were, and no longer as changeable. The selves they have by this time become, are more or less the selves that they’re always going to be. They’re reasonably content, but for whatever reason, the selves they’ve congealed into aren’t a very good match for each other. Oops.

At this point, inevitably, Dick meets Jane. Jane is a good match for Dick. Not just in a superficial way, either: they seem to have been made for each other, more than Dick and Sandra ever were. Dick complements Jane and Jane complements Dick. If Dick and Jane were together, they would probably improve each other, make each other holier, more fit for Heaven, and incidentally, more fit for earth, too.

And even though Dick and Sandra aren’t unhappy, exactly, Dick and Jane would be much happier. Together, they would probably make a more ideal marriage than Dick and Sandra ever will.

If nothing and nobody existed except for Dick and Jane, we could say truthfully that Dick and Jane ought to be together.

But Dick and Jane don’t exist in a vacuum.1 Things being what they are, if Dick decides to leave Sandra, it’s because he’s an asshole. Not because Sandra is a better match for him. She isn’t! Jane is! But, sorry bro, a vow is a vow. You didn’t stipulate, “Unless I meet someone better.”

But it’s not even just the vow. If Dick pursues Jane, he’ll be pursuing something that is objectively good; but he’ll be pursuing it at the expense of billion other objectively good things: his children’s welfare, his wife’s happiness, his own integrity, the integrity of Jane’s conscience, his reputation, Jane’s reputation, to name a few. And what generally happens, when you drop four good things to run after one other good thing, is that you lose all five —

or even vanish screaming into a misty crevasse — or maybe, what’s worse, you poison all five. It never ends well, no matter how fuzzy the feels when it begins.

It’s possible that the erotic/romantic union of two men is something like that. Maybe, somehow, in the abstract, unimaginably, it’s good! But not in this universe, or not at this time, or not while we are what we are. Maybe in the hereafter. Who knows?

But whether or not there will one day be a place for the erotic union of two men, the fact remains that, here and now, there is not. Here, now, for me, the decision to feed the eros I feel for Ryan will always be a bad decision. Maybe in the resurrection Dick gets to be with Jane. Or maybe in the Resurrection everybody gets to be with everybody, or nobody with nobody. Maybe, as a friend of mine once postulated, Heaven is one big orgy.

Then again, maybe maleness is such that my eros for Ryan is nothing but an illusion and a snare, something doomed from the very start to vanish in the light of reality like shadows before the sun. Maybe the convexity of the male body is an image of the convexity of the male soul (if there is such a thing as the male soul), and a man will never fit into a man the way a man fits into a woman, either in the body or out of it, either now or later.

If that’s the case, then any attempt to fit a man into a man is going to involve some distortion, some violence done to the personality.

How deep does gender go, anyway? St. Paul says that in Christ there is neither male nor female; and Christ himself says that in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage. But I can’t believe that in Heaven we’re all androgynous. Doesn’t the resurrection of the body mean that I will have a penis forever? Even, one day, a Glorified Penis?

I don’t know. I tend strongly towards the latter theory: that eros between men is intrinsically, and not only accidentally, consummationless; unfulfillable in principle, and therefore wrongheaded from the start. But I’ve got good and wise friends — I’m looking at you, Mr. Blanchard — whose experience and conclusions are different. That’s okay.

For me, this is mainly a matter of personal experience. When I give way to eros for a man, I feel less myself, not more. If I decide to gaze at Ryan as a man gazes at a woman, I will always feel like I am violating our friendship, and violating a part of my own masculinity besides. So I’m going to keep not doing it, until finally, if I’m right, the idea won’t even occur to me any more.

If I’m wrong, I’ve got a longer fight ahead of me than I thought. It’s a small price to pay for love.

1 Because if they did, they’d asphyxiate and/or explode. Bam!

16 Comments on “Redlining, Part V of V: Concave and Convex”

  1. Alejo says:

    It’s all so complex. As a gay Catholic trying to live out church teaching it can be hard not to constantly question my motives for every relationship I pursue. I can agree with what you write here but I’ve learned that for my sanity it’s better just to ride out the emotions than to question them too much. So this doesn’t go with that? Well it feels natural to me to pursue another man, want to get to know him, etc and whether parts fit or not just doesn’t seem to matter at that point. Like you’ve said before sex is the by product of the emotional and affective connection. I know theologically and through reason that gay sex makes no sense but to ponder that is to remember my otherness and despair on why I can’t have the feelings for girlsthat everyone else does. I wish I did but I just don’t. While the guys are pushing me to date this or that girl I’m thinking of this or that guy and how I wish I could just tell my macho Catholic friends that I find nothing sexy about women and that the cute guy with a nice butt that works at the gym is a better fit. But of course I can’t. So yeah the less I think about this the better.

  2. Sasha says:

    Just wanted to let you know, I really, really loved this series. 🙂

  3. AspieCatholicgirl says:

    Typo alert: You said “If Dick decides to leave Jane” when you obviously meant to say “If Dick decides to leave Sandra.”

  4. Sarah says:

    I have always strongly maintained that gender is not merely a description for the body, but part of the soul. There are male souls and female souls, and we’e not androgynous deep down at all. Feminist though I am, I do believe men and women are *fundamentally* different. As you said, we’ll have our bodies back at the Resurrection, and I will have *my* body, as it is now, but better. Thinner and with great biceps, I hope. And whatever the female version of a Glorified Penis is…? (I guess technically that would be a Glorified Vagina, but we don’t actually care as much. It’d probably be Glorified, *Symmetrical* Boobs.)

    It only occurred to me a few days ago that after the Resurrection, we’ll all be naked all the time.

    I dunno, bodies are weird.

  5. Yeah says:

    I rarely post here–maybe I never have. Not for lack of interest: Quite the opposite. Almost everything you say resonates with me, a whole lot of it much more than anything else I’ve ever read. It gives me a vocabulary for understanding and describing my own emotional life. It alerts me to parts of it I never knew. But I just never know what to add.

    Well, here I feel obligated to add, for anyone looking for more information to make their own decisions, that I have exactly the same experience of the harms of indulging my erotic interest in other guys. It has never satisfied me, not even a little, not even for a while. Every time, it makes me feel hungrier and smaller. In any affected friendship, you can trace the strength of the bond — and my satisfaction — by when and how well I’ve renounced the lingering gazes, the wistful dreams of a home life together, the ecstatic delight in the shape of his face. But sometimes I forget that it really does get better that way, and I’m back where I started: frustration, sadness, and not a little shame. I wish it could work. A part of me really wants it — the chaste romantic friendship with a dude — to work, for myself. But for me it never has.

    Here’s my moderately good news, though. There is something close to this sort of romantic love and yet pretty far from it, which my SSA has helped me attain: a completely asexual but very tender friendship that involves no formalized demands, deliberately demure expressions of affection, zero mutual suspicion or possessiveness–basically, the freedom characteristic of friendship, and so far from eros’s neediness, but having something of its depths.
    For me, making and keeping that distinction has been a matter of trial and error. But some guys who used to be the first ones I thought of each morning, the last I thought of at night, the one I fantasized about when my conscience wasn’t looking, have moved entirely into the friendship column, and when they do, it’s always to the tender-friendship one. So, if you, your crush and your friendship all survive the crush, it can be very good indeed.

  6. JBT says:

    Well…………. I’m very, very slightly ashamed of myself for this, but since you’ve already tagged this entry under “dick jokes,” I feel obliged to see your Elsa reference and raise you with, “There! The crevasse! FILL IT! WITH YOUR MIGHTY JUUUUUICE!!!!”

  7. JBT says:

    Oh yes, also (maybe I should’ve led with this; too late now), St. Paul occasionally says stuff that, if it weren’t coming from St. Paul, I would simply dismiss as gibberish. “I complete in myself what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ,” for instance. But, by definition, NOTHING is lacking in Christ’s suffering, He literally suffered everything that everyone has ever suffered or will ever suffer. So–huh? (Not to mention his under-handed apophasis in the Philemon letter.) Maybe in saying there is no male or female, he was simply attempting to exaggerate a truth which he feared his *very specific* audience might be neglecting? Plus, of course, there’s a critical difference between “male” and “masculine.” Maleness is merely the physical manifestation of a profound spiritual reality. Although who knows if that distinction is accurately reflected in our translation of the original Pauline letters. Anyway, again, just a thought.

    1. Anna says:

      I’m late to this combox party, but just had to say that Paul has two letters where he has a list of the things there aren’t (no Greek, Jew, slave, free, etc). In one of them (I’m a good Catholic which means I can’t tell you chapter and verse, just, y’know, somewhere in Paul), he’s talking about the members of Christ’s Body, and how the different members can’t say they are so different that those others aren’t really part of the body at all. In that letter, Paul does not list male/female as one of the things with no distinction (because that’s fundamental for the person, and how s/he *is* as a member of the Body). In the other list of things there aren’t, Paul does include “neither male nor female” because he’s talking about our eventual participation in the Trinity and how we are made sons in the Son. So in our Sonship, the male/female distinction isn’t there because we’re Son in relation to the Father. (In other places, we all get to be bride as members of the Church, so everyone both contains masculinity/femininity, *and still* has a fundamental identity as man or woman, per the resurrection of the body.)

  8. Donald says:

    I really liked what you said about feeling less yourself, not more. In the distant past I have screwed up more than a few friendships with lust. In the theoretical, being with a guy was always wonderful, and although the sex would be great, afterward I would think, someone’s gotta be the girl in this relationship, and then things would just unravel. I would actually get turned off because the other guy was so gay, which was the prerequisite for having sex. Crazy, I know.

  9. Jason says:

    “And what generally happens, when you drop four good things to run after one other good thing, is that you lose all five –”

    Then was the “objective good” you decided to pursue at the cost of the other objectively goods “objectively good” to begin with?

  10. Angela says:

    Hum, good food for thought. The only parallel I can compare it to, if I may, is when I read graphic romance novels. I like reading them not for the sake of getting excited but read them knowing that it will happen, but afterwards it’s like I have ashes in my throat and a churning stomach. I can “rationalize” why I read them, but in the end it’s still wrong (in my own option). The band wagon is quite hard to climb up again (for the fifth billionth time) but I’m finding it well worth it in the end.

    The line between right and wrong can become very blurred in our society right now, it’s hard to take sometimes. I was recently brought to check on something I didn’t think about as I posted it on Facebook. It made me realize how much society influences our thinking to the point of right and wrong has no meaning anymore. Sometimes I wonder why I still try to fight the good fight in our declining morals and values of today.

    Your posting and reasoning on SSA is refreshing to me because it give me hope that there is a right and wrong way to live and grow and be a child of God. It gives me the air of relief and joy because all will be well (for the most part at least.) Not to mention you have a excellent way of writing that I tend to slightly envy.

    But yet again, thank you for being you. It’s helping with my own journey towards God and heaven.

  11. Alexis says:

    Thanks for this. You’re getting awfully close to being my spiritual director!

  12. Sandra Doe says:

    Thank you for writing this post. It helped me immensely! Question for anyone: What would the Church advise Dick and Sandra to do about sexual intimacy? Does the spouse have a duty to engage in sexual relations beyond the child-bearing years when the eros has transformed into friendship?

  13. Albert says:

    So refreshing. Glad to be back here

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