Monday, July 24, 2006

I once met a guy…

As promised, another morality tale.

While I was going through a grocery line in LA (in my much younger days), the guy in line in front of me struck up a conversation and gave me his card. He seemed nice enough, and meeting someone at the grocery story had a kind of "Hollywood" feel to it, so later I emailed him to say hello.

We went out a few times. He had a lot of money to flash around and took me to some very nice restaurants. And from what he said, he had a glamorous, exciting life. He mentioned some famous relatives, a job he was doing for fun because he didn't need to work, a life history of travel and adventure, even how he was able to park anywhere because he had diplomatic immunity. He told me a lot of this was secret, though, so I shouldn't tell my friends about him until we'd known each other longer.

I just listened and nodded and smiled because this was outside my experience and I was just interested. And he was a nice enough guy, although kind of physically suggestive and aggressive.

Okay, I was naïve. And I shudder to think now what could have happened if I had approached this in any other way. But I had by then made a commitment to chastity.

Mary Baker Eddy writes, "Chastity is the cement of civilization and progress. Without it there is no stability in society, and without it one cannot attain the Science of Life."

When I was a kid, I did *not* understand what she was talking about, so I just did my own thing. Years of hard experience taught me, however, that for me anyway, she was dead-on correct.

I looked up chastity at one point, and discovered it's not celibacy (which I thought it was). It's not the entire rejection of sexual desire. It is keeping sexuality within legal limits, i.e., fidelity when married, abstinence when not married. And without chastity, my life had become increasingly unstable. Once I hit a wall and changed my ways, I gained more stability.

Now, at the point where I met this guy, stability was the norm and I was enjoying it. I also was striving to "attain the Science of Life," which to me included learning how to heal spiritually. I earnestly yearned to be a healer, and was applying myself assiduously to this course of study.

So I told him early on there would be no sex any time soon (although he kept trying). But it never even occurred to me to waver. I'd just laugh it off and be at least happy he found me attractive.

I did as he asked and refrained from telling my friends about him, but I did tell the one best friend a girl could ever have—a wise and protective mom. My mother, who is very well read, knew about some of the famous people he mentioned and some of the history he claimed to have happened. And she very quickly ascertained that most of what he was telling me were the biggest whoppers ever.

She broke it to me gently. When I emailed him about it, saying hey, he didn't have to make up stuff for me to like him, I liked him anyway, he just wrote back in a huff saying I'd broken my word to him not to tell anyone and that was that. End of a story that could have been much messier.

How did I feel? I felt protected. By Mom, of course, but also by the standard I'd adopted. I suddenly saw morality as a protection that allows freedom, not a straightjacket that denies it. I was free to move through the world however I wanted as long as I stayed protected with the armor of morality. Sleeping with that guy would have been a disaster; not sleeping with him made the whole thing just a learning experience.

I also learned it wasn't what he did or didn't do that could harm me. It was what I did myself. Now I know—it's my own conduct that keeps me safe.


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