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After the Passion A Conversation Between Two Jews About One Thing, by Meredith Gould
As a Jewish convert to Catholicism, I won’t let the bitter debate over The Passion’s alleged anti-Semitism overshadow forty years of reconciliation between Catholics and Jews.

Finding Feminism, by Meredith Gould
Imagine my surprise: I'm with a bunch of women and I'm having fun. Were the women at my local parish the sisterhood I’d been looking for my entire life?

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Laid Waste

Hearing my neighbor’s teenage daughter having sex outside my window made me think about my own youthful sex antics—and their lasting negative consequences.

Meredith Gould

It's a hot, dark summer night—midnight without moonlight. And someone is getting laid on the tennis court that just happens to be right next to my little home. This would be the ranch style townhouse I affectionately call, "The Hermitage" and friends characterize as a sanctuary. Get the scene?

I was jolted out of night prayers by sounds I initially had trouble placing. First, I thought I was hearing deer. Did you know they screech in the night? This is something I discovered when new housing construction forced their exodus from the nearest forest. Next, I thought maybe my tabby, super mouser that she is, had eviscerated something I'd be swabbing off the kitchen floor by dawn.

But more gradually than it probably should have, I realized I was hearing the sounds of sex. After all, it was highly unlikely that given the gift of human speech, my cat would have opted to cry out "David, oh, oh, David" in increasingly louder and more frantic bleats.

Moans. Gasps. Grunts. Giggles.

Next, the unmistakable sound of a pop-top can being opened; contents under pressure released. Their post-coital conversation was not quite soft enough to mask the fact that these kids were already squabbling.

I don't want to hear any of it.

Their post-coital conversation was not quite soft enough to mask the fact that these kids were already squabbling.
Nor do I want to march out of my house with a flashlight to tell them...what? Knock it off? Too late for that. So I call the township police who, on a hot summer night, are only too happy to dispatch three cars to the scene. The police officer who arrives on my doorstep for corroborating information is a model of decorum. If he thinks any of this is silly or that I'm being stupid, he's gracious enough to not let me know.

No, they're not minors. The girl is eighteen. The boy is twenty-three. They're playing this night game because her parents don't want them in the basement rumpus room. A few other interesting factoids help me figure out that these parents happen to be neighbors. They're sleeping through the whole thing not even five hundred feet from where their daughter is calling out to God at the point of orgasm, a phenomenon I've always found fascinating. When I finally get to sleep at around two o'clock in the morning, I have nightmares that I don't remember, thanks be to God.

Joy does not cometh in the morning. What's wrong with me? God knows—because my parents sure didn't—that I luxuriated in quite a bit of lusty sex the summer I was eighteen. For years, and even now, I'll claim that I didn't lose my virginity but instead chose to relinquish it, doing so under optimal conditions. My high school boyfriend and I were virgins. My parents were away. We explored the physical expression of our abiding adolescent love in my childhood bedroom. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon on that hot summer night on July 21, 1969.

Sex turned out to be quite a powerful drug, although I didn't know it at the time. Nor, could anyone have told me, which is why I spent most of the day after this other girl's hot night feeling annoyed, and then embarrassed, and then uneasy before settling into just plain sad because she has, for whatever reason, decided that this communion with her body isn't sacred enough to warrant vows and a bed. And who, at the point, is going to tell her?

Years after my youthful sex antics, I found myself repenting my chosen abortions and two failed marriages.
For sure, had anyone told me that my youthful sex antics would have lasting negative consequences, I'd have laughed and said something snippy. But my youthful sex antics did indeed have negative consequences, something I could not perceive until, years later, I found myself repenting my chosen abortions with choking sobs and petitioning the Church to annul two—count them, two—immature, damaged, and damaging marriages. And these, you should know, are only a few reasons why I'm choosing celibacy at this age and stage of my life.

I've told both men and women friends about this midnight tennis match. The men break into goofy grins as their eyes dart to the place of memory. They groan and say, "Oh man, weren't you ever young?" when I get to the part about calling the cops.

The women react in the exact opposite way. They groan when I mention the time, place, and manner of this event. They love that I called the police and I, approval junkie that I am, love receiving their affirmation.

The next afternoon, my neighbor's daughter is back on the tennis court, this time with her clothes on and a racquet in her hand. (Oh, I forgot to mention this kid landed a college scholarship based on her tennis game.) I walked to the gate and called her over.

"I'm the one who called the police," I confessed.

She flushed and looked up at the sky before looking back into my eyes. I told her that I, too, was once eighteen.

"You're getting ready to leave for college. You have a great game. Don't mess it up."

"I'm embarrassed," she said.

Oh, how I wish I'd had the guts to answer with, "Good."

July 26, 2004

Meredith Gould has written articles for numerous publications and is the author of four books including, most recently, “The Catholic Home: Celebrations and Traditions for Holidays, Feast Days and Every Day.”

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07.31.04   lubac says:
To Kennyw-What a roaring cri-de-coeur... It typifies the best style and content of Godspy's "faith at the edge".Thank you for sharing a fragment of your story.michael

07.30.04   kennyw says:
Meredith is not the only person who remembers her down-'n'-dirty youth. So do I. I remember this particularly: a gynaecologist telling my best friend's 18-year-old girlfriend "Anyone who stays a virgin is an idiot." It was like this guy drew a sign of the Cross over her head and said "Go thou forth and f---, and sin no more." I remember the living hell of being the last person in my "crowd" of potheads, drunks, and junkie wannabes (some of them became what they beheld) to Get There, on Christmas night 1966, age 22, with a young lady who later went on to become one of the great torments of my life.Indeed, the whole enterprise thereafter proved itself to be an overemphasized contest which, once the longed-for shudder in the loins (thank you, W. B. Yeats) had passed, left me spiritually as well as physically drained. Over the years, in and out of a marriage into which I entered in 1969, I sought "relief" with several other women. Right--a dreadful emotional life at home led to efforts to achieve that emotional life elsewhere. What I was seeking was love. It so happened because it was with women that it acquired a sexual dimension. I believe the word for this is what it always has been: adultery. They call it that because only people who are adult enough to handle it had better play. The joke is that nobody really is.What did it cost me, this pursuit of "love"? My marriage and my self-respect. Everything comes out.I'm not ready to go the "fornication's always a sin" route. Rather I'm critical of--no, I'm having at--the deification of sex that makes everyone into their plumbing and treats sexual intercourse or some variation thereof as a way to fill in the fissures in the heart. It's not. It can be a great expression of love, but like alcohol it can turn from your best friend into something that's trying to kill you.More self-revelation about the moral consequences?--I live with someone now--and have since August 2000--who started in with me in 1995 on the wrong side of the hotel room bed and of our lives, married to other people. For a long time it worked okay. But then the essentially different value systems surfaced: I acquired the Catholic Church from which she fled at age 8, I went broke--to her the unpardonable sin--and I went into Recovery which after almost five years has not purged all my demons, God knows, but a few of them so I no longer react furiously to her anger. Payback, like the saying goes, can be Hell. But I'm starting to view this in one of two ways: a second failed "European-style marriage" or payback of a different sort.Is sex necessary? Yes. Is it/can it be joyous? God, yes. Mishandled, can it be like sticking a 9mm pistol in your mouth and pulling the trigger? Happens every day....

07.29.04   MGould says:
Hi...I'm the author. I think Nancyn is right about the current penchant for self-revelation in writing. I try to do it only to the extent that it provides an appropriate context and makes my point. I always hope that what I share helps readers understand my point of view and to cultivate their own.

07.29.04   Nancyn says:
Yeah...I'm with the other female neighbors...I'm glad she called to cops. I am not against pre-marital sex. In this day and age I think it's downright stupid to marry someone without knowing if you are truly compatible not only sexually...but in terms of being lifelong roommates...(I endure endless hours of the sounds of football on TV in the name of love)MY problem with this girl's (and boy's) behavior is not the sex...it's that they were so selfish that they a) didn't consider the privacy of the people (Gould) who they forced to participate in their intimacy... and obviously their relationship was about sex, not love, if they were arguing right after "making love"....or worse, they were exhibitionists about it hoping someone would hear them...This is what really disturbs me about this scenario. This is a very interesting article!!!! I wonder if the author ever wonders about revealing intimate details of her life (abortions, crappy marriages, celebacy) to readers she doesn't know. I'm not turning the tables here...the author is NOT doing the same thing as the teenaged tennis player turned porn star. Gould is not forcing anyone to enter her column...she is not reading it aloud under people's windows at 2am....but it seems that it is necessary for most writers now to include this type of private material to get an audience and to get published these days. In one way it takes guts...but there is much dignity in personal privacy...are our confessions now not only between us and God but are they now considered more healing if they are between us and the Media?Nancy

07.28.04   paw says:
Wonderfully well written - and a reminder that parents need to rise to the job of teaching children that sex before marriage = fornication. Not only is it a sin, it carries weights that you don't need later in life. As the men Meredith shared this story with said, "Were you never young?", and indeed, teaching doesn't always equal obeying. However, I believe that more people are teaching their kids to use condoms and be careful than teaching them that sex without marriage is wrong.Just my .02

07.27.04   Godspy says:
Hearing my neighbor’s teenage daughter having sex outside my window made me think about my own youthful sex antics—and their lasting negative consequences.

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