The PC Monologues

AbbyDefaultAbby Hevert ’15

If I had to count on my hands the number of time I have heard: “But this is a CATHOLIC school” in response to different socially liberal initiatives at PC, I would have to grow five new sets of hands. Many students often get upset when the typical Catholic status quo is questioned at PC and I, being a fully disclosed social liberal, even have to say that this is warranted. PC is a Catholic school and I have to accept and respect the fact that it has the right to refuse certain events on campus. However, even though I am a practicing Catholic, I also believe in the institution of gay marriage, the freedom to divorce, and even the opportunity for women to become priests. Yet, I also am a sister, a daughter, a friend, a student, an employee, a Modern Family fan, a traveler, a Mid-Atlantic enthusiast, and a lover of Adele’s music. So yes, even though I am a faith-filled Catholic, I am also many other things. Just as I chose PC because I loved that I could actively practice my faith, I also chose it for its Social Work program, its sense of community, and even its fabulous gym. People often claim that PC is too homogenous and then some of us get upset with each other when we try to break the mold, perhaps even cause some controversy. And so, I am afraid that too many students are afraid to pursue avenues that are perhaps too different from the norm.

Nevertheless, this past week, a group of PC students did actually succeed in breaking the PC mold. These students put on the annual production of the “Vagina Monologues.” Although the show is not supported or funded by the college, it has become a tradition for students to put the show on and raise money for “V-Day,” a catalyst movement that encourages donations for women’s organizations as well as awareness about the realities of sexual violence. This year, the PC students donated the proceeds from the performances, held at the Avon Theatre, to the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island as well as the V-Day Organization. The actual performance comprises various stories that women experience with their vaginas. These stories range in context from childbirth, to sexual pleasure, to rape. In essence, the performance explores all facets of female sexuality as well as female biological capacities. It investigates the entire scope of the female reproductive system in a way that validates and sympathizes with the characters as well as educates the audience about the realities that cannot be silenced, concerning the positive and negative experiences that women have with their vaginas. Of course, the title alone, as well as some of the stories in the performance, do inspire some controversy, but that is to expected with any kind of work at the intersection of social activism and art.

And, no, this article is not a plea for PC to change its rule and host the Monologues. It is instead intended to praise the sheer courage of the students who focused on a part of their identities that does not exactly coincide with the conservatism that accompanies the identity of being students of a Catholic institution. Instead of waiting for approval from the school or simply giving up because of the difficulty involved in hosting a production that is not sponsored by PC, these young women decided to do something different: they rolled up their sleeves and made their own rules. Too often, PC students forget that the college does not have to be their only avenue for personal fulfillment or change. Although it is more convenient and, perhaps, more comforting to attend an institution that jives with all of our personal beliefs, it is unfortunately impossible for any organization to completely understand the wholes of any of our identities. So, although I believe it is our place to challenge our school to be better, it is also our responsibility to develop parts of ourselves that are outside of the PC mold. I am very proud to be a friar, but it is not my only identity. Being a PC student is not my only interest. This is why the organizers and performers of the Vagina Monologues deserve a huge “kudos” for their work on a piece of art that is not part of PC. They are fulfilling themselves as people and, perhaps most importantly, seeking to educate and raise money for a cause that speaks to them. They set an excellent example of putting the motto of PC into work: “transform yourself, transform society.”

You may never agree with the production of the Vagina Monologues. You may never believe in anything that challenges the social Catholic constructs of our school. This is just fine. I respect you, just as I expect that you should respect me. We are all different and we all can learn from each other: I fully believe that. However, no matter what you believe, it may be prudent to look to the group of PC students who put on the Monologues as an example. They cared about something and put into action a plan that both fulfilled their interests and helped a cause in which they believe. And while they did it without the approval of their school, they did it with focused eyes, open hearts, and hands stretched out to vulnerability. They took a chance and stayed true to themselves. So, no matter what your interest, remember to stay true to yourself. Challenge when necessary, listen, learn, talk, do not wait, be courageous, and be you.

 

After all, your own monologue is still a work in progress. It is not going to write itself, you know.

Controversial Talk Postponed By Sponsor

Breaking News

Dr. Matthew Cuddeback, sponsor of the controversial “Who Am I?” talk by Dr. Michelle Cretella, has announced the postponement of the event due to concern that “Dr. Cretella may be the object of animus were she to present at PC next week.” Dr. Cuddeback alleges inconsistency in campus support for academic freedom. But, as has been pointed out, many contest not the event itself but rather the way in which it has been advertised. The announcement was made by email to to the PC faculty at about 9:40 Thursday morning. The full text of Dr. Cuddeback’s email is below:

Dear Colleagues,

I extend my appreciation to those who have defended my arrangement of the talk by Dr. Michelle Cretella, MD. I arranged this talk—as well two others still to come this semester—in response to the call by Dr. Nick Longo, Dr. Chris Arroyo and other signers of a November 3 email to department chairs, for faculty to initiate programming around the issue of homosexuality. I am struck that many of the indignant voices raised for academic freedom in the wake of the cancellation of Dr. Corvino’s talk have been absent or ambivalent in the discussion of Dr. Cretella’s talk. Where are those voices now? Some have been silent. Some are harrumphing about NARTH, science, and reparative therapy. Some, who proposed to advocate for a campus-wide discussion that would include all perspectives, are trying to shame faculty who invite a speaker holding one of those perspectives, as irresponsibly insensitive to LGBT students. Do they believe that the freedom to speak belongs only to those who agree with their position?

I must observe that while Dr. Cretella is identified on the flyer as a board member of NARTH, the subject of her talk is not reparative therapy. Rather, as the flyer reads: “in this presentation, Dr. Cretella will describe her journey to navigate the controversial issue of homosexuality as a physician and a Catholic.” Dr. Cretella is not a therapist, and had no intent to speak as one. Her intent was to speak of her journey, as a physician, from rejecter to appreciator of the Catholic and natural law traditions concerning homosexuality. Her account deserves to be listened to—in the way that, at a university, such an account should be listened to rather than shouted down or shamed before it is heard.

Because I sense that Dr. Cretella may be the object of animus were she to present at PC next week, I have advised her that we shall postpone her presentation.

I believe that open academic discussion of homosexuality, from different perspectives, can be fruitful for our campus. I would ask my faculty colleagues to support the two talks that I have scheduled for early March and early April (see below). Perhaps some of the department chairs and program directors who signed the November 3 email from Nick Longo, and who have sponsored other events surrounding the topic of homosexuality, might be willing to serve sponsors of these talks too.

Respectfully, with my best regards,

Matthew Cuddeback

Assistant Professor of Philosophy

 

THE TWO TALKS:

The Global AIDS Epidemic: Hope Through a Person-Centered Response

Dr. Timothy Flanigan, MD, Brown University Medical School

Tuesday, March 4

7:00pm

Moore III

 

The Catholic Church and Homosexuality:  Charity and Clarity

Fr. Paul Check, Executive Director of Courage International

   With a member of Courage International

Wednesday, April 9

4:00pm

Ruane LL 05

In Defense of Good Science

Megan Grammatico ’15

I have to preface this: the whole making waves and writing blog posts thing? Not me. I’ve always been a keep-your-opinion-to-yourself kind of girl, and I’m usually of the mind that there are plenty of people out there that know a lot more than me. But yesterday I checked my email, and I was horrified. Horrified enough to need to say something, and not just by texting my dad to vent. So here goes: 

By now, you’ve heard. PC is once again buzzing about a speaker invited to campus by the philosophy department—talking about what else? Homosexuality, of course. This speaker is Dr. Michelle Cretella, M.D.  Her talk has been billed as being “attentive to science and to faith,” but a quick googling of her name and credentials reveals a pretty big problem with the “science” part. I am not going to go into the academic freedom thing. I am also going to stay away from the fundamental lack of regard this shows for PC’s LGBTQ population, since others have already done that far more succinctly and eloquently that I could. But there is another angle here, and it is one worth considering.

Dr. Cretella is a board-certified pediatrician, as well as the vice president of the American College of Pediatricians. The American College of Pediatricians is a socially conservative organization that formed in 2002 as part of a protest regarding the American Academy of Pediatrics support of adoption by gay and lesbian couples. Among other things, it advocates support for selective parental use of corporal punishment in child discipline, support for abstinence-based sex education, and discouraging the adoption of children by same-sex couples or single parents. Many of the views it holds are in direct contradiction with the recommendations made by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is

a professional membership organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical sub-specialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety, and well being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults”.

For comparison purposes, the American College of Pediatricians does not disclose its membership statistics (trust me, I looked everywhere) but Wikipedia estimates its membership to be between 60 and 200 members. So herein lies the first problem. Dr. Cretella is already biased. She is the vice president of an organization that was formed originally to oppose adoption by gay and lesbian couples, and relies on bad science to do so. See the heavily criticized research of Mark Regnerus here.

I might be going out on a limb, but it seems to me that an organization founded to protest a sociopolitical issue cannot be very scientifically objective.

Dr. Cretella’s talk poster also advertises her position on the Board of Directors of that National Association for Research of Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). NARTH’s stated mission is to provide service to those with “unwanted same-sex attraction”—a fancy way of saying that they support “conversion therapy,” a practice that has been denounced by the American Psychiatric Association as most certainly not beneficial and quite possibly harmful. The APA says this:

Psychotherapeutic modalities to convert or ‘repair’ homosexuality are based on developmental theories whose scientific validity is questionable. Furthermore, anecdotal reports of “cures” are counterbalanced by anecdotal claims of psychological harm. In the last four decades, “reparative” therapists have not produced any rigorous scientific research to substantiate their claims of cure. Until there is such research available, [the American Psychiatric Association] recommends that ethical practitioners refrain from attempts to change individuals’ sexual orientation, keeping in mind the medical dictum to first, do no harm.”

So let’s get this straight. The philosophy department invited a speaker who belongs to two organizations that expressly contradict the viewpoints of major, established, well-respected groups (the APA and the AAP). Furthermore, the groups that Dr. Cretella belongs to rely on misuse and misrepresentation of the work that other scientists have done. At Providence College, we have a name for misusing or misrepresenting the work of another author: we call that plagiarism.  For example, in 2010, the work of Dr. Gary Remafedi, a pediatrician at the University of Minnesota, was used by the organization in a pamphlet mailed out to superintendents across the country to advocate not supporting gay and lesbian students that come out in high school. This was most certainly not what the body of Remafedi’s research as a whole was saying. In fact, Dr. Remafedi wrote a letter to the American College of Pediatricians that reads in part:

“Dear colleagues,

I am deeply concerned about misstatements attributed to our research on the “Facts about Youth” website of the American College of Pediatricians (http://factsaboutyouth.com/ [accessed on April 12, 2010]), as they appear in the “Letter to School Officials” and “What You Should Know as a School Official.”

The first reference to our research in these documents deceptively states: “Rigorous studies demonstrate that most adolescents who initially experience same-sex attraction, or are sexually confused, no longer experience such attractions by age 25. In one study, as many as 26% of 12-year-olds reported being uncertain of their sexual orientation1…”

Although the finding (“26% of 12-year-olds…”) is accurately reported, the sentence preceding it invites misinterpretation. Our original interpretation, as presented in the discussion section of the paper, is: “Taken together, these data suggest that uncertainty about sexual orientation and perceptions of bisexuality gradually give way to heterosexual or homosexual identification with passage of time and/or with increasing sexual experience.” 

The letter goes on to ask that all reference to his work be removed from the website, a request with which the American College of Pediatricians did not comply. On top of totally misrepresenting his work by taking several statements completely out of context, in all the citations of Remafedi’s work by the American College of Pediatricians, his name was spelled wrong. That makes me doubtful those at the American College of Pediatricians even read Remafedi’s work in its totality; it certainly does not increase my confidence in the scientific accuracy of what ACP claims.

I came to Providence College to get an education. I have spent the last almost-three years studying biology and neuroscience at PC, and I have been lucky to have incredible professors. But my professors are not just good teachers—they are excellent scientists. And through my biology, chemistry, physics, and psychology classes and lab work, I have learned a lot about the way good science is done. It relies on a special methodology, a certain “way of knowing” that insists that hypotheses must be made, tested, challenged, supported, challenged again, tested again, and only “accepted” until evidence to the contrary presents itself. So, if Dr. Cretella is going to bill her talk as being “attentive to science,” I would hope that she was going to discuss the myriad of studies done by the APA, the AAP, the American Sociological Association (ASA) and other reputable pediatric scientists—but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case at all. And that’s a problem. It’s a problem for the reputation of the school, particularly in a year when negative publicity by the New York Times was discussed ad nauseum. In a very short time, myself and many other science students will apply to graduate school or medical school. When institutions we apply to see the name of our school, we need it to be synonymous with the well-respected, Catholic institution that provided an excellent education in both liberal arts and biology that it is. We just don’t need any media claims that Providence College cannot distinguish between science and pseudoscience—it does the reputation of our students, faculty, and institution great harm.

Let’s be clear: I have absolutely no problem with Dr. Cretella coming to talk about her moral, religious, and philosophical convictions regarding homosexuality. In keeping with academic freedom and my belief that good people, people of faith, can respectfully disagree about this while still upholding human dignity, she absolutely should come to campus and present her viewpoint—no respondent necessary. My issue lies solely with the way the talk has been advertised. It is not going to be “attentive to science” because the positions of the organizations Dr. Cretella is a part of are not attentive to science.

If she is going to put the fancy letters after her name, and call herself a doctor and scientist, she should probably keep in mind the first and most important part of the Hippocratic Oath: “First, do no harm.” Inviting a speaker to campus, and advertising her as a scientist, while she advocates for the “curing” of homosexuality, does great harm. I trust my doctor. I do not thoroughly vet every piece of advice that she gives me with my own research, because I truly believe she will live up to the highest standards of her profession, and give me only the most up to date, well-researched, evidence-based advice that she can. I do not think this is uncommon among most patients, and I shudder to think of the harm that might be caused if her position is taken as medically sound by LGBT students (because, well, she’s a DOCTOR). Furthermore, though I in no way downplay the message this sends to the LGBTQ students and faculty at PC, this false advertising is harmful to the college as whole. And you know what? That’s worth a totally-out-of-character, opinionated blog post about. 

CITATIONS: (Because good authors, like good scientists, cite their work)

Choose.

IMG_497604574877~2Matthew Henry Smith ’16

I have never been more confused. Someone give it to me straight. What is Providence College?

It chose me. Actually it chose us. Somewhere back in the Novembers of our high school days we chose to apply to PC and somewhere in the springtime it chose us right back. This is important. Let us not forget that PC chose us.

Why is this important? Because it means that PC chose every LGBT person on this campus – and out of an undergraduate body roughly 4000 conservative statistics would show us that means there are probably around 160 LGBT students on this campus. It did not choose them for this reason – it could not have known. But there we were: queer and accepted to Providence College.

And then it chose us a second time when you included sexual orientation and gender identity in its non-discrimination policy. So now when people point to folks like me and say, “why did you come here if you were gay” I say, “because PC chose me.” And there we were: queer and accepted at Providence College.

In these actions PC did not only choose the LGBT folks but all of our allies as well. It asserted that is a credible institution that deserves our time and diligence and dollars.

But then Providence College reversed. The Philosophy Department announced yesterday that it is hosting a speaker on February 18th. Her name is Dr. Michelle Cretella, MD and she represents NARTH: the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. This group is a niche community of individuals who work to convert “homosexuals” with unwanted same sex attraction. The American Psychological Association has this to say:

“Lesbian, gay, and bisexual orientations are not disorders. Research has found no inherent association between any of these sexual orientations and psychopathology. Both heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality. Both have been documented in many different cultures and historical eras. Despite the persistence of stereotypes that portray lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as disturbed, several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations in this country to conclude that these orientations represent normal forms of human experience. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual relationships are normal forms of human bonding. Therefore, these mainstream organizations long ago abandoned classifications of homosexuality as a mental disorder.

All major national mental health organizations have officially expressed concerns about therapies promoted to modify sexual orientation. To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective. Furthermore, it seems likely that the promotion of change therapies reinforces stereotypes and contributes to a negative climate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons. This appears to be especially likely for lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals who grow up in more conservative religious settings.

Helpful responses of a therapist treating an individual who is troubled about her or his samesex attractions include helping that person actively cope with social prejudices against homosexuality, successfully resolve issues associated with and resulting from internal conflicts, and actively lead a happy and satisfying life.”

Let me go on the record as saying that I am not the spokesperson for the queer kids at PC: I just happen to be an outspoken queer kid at PC.

This comes with some things (not baggage but… things). While I have been harassed and harangued once or twice for my sexual orientation, I can always cry a little and then get over it. People know my politics and make assumptions about me before they meet me and I’m fine with that it comes with the territory. But many folks here have made one big mistake: they think I do not love my school. I have been accused of trying to figuratively burn the reputation of this institution, which I love so dearly, in effigy. This is incorrect. I chose PC.

The students at Providence College are not the problem because students can be put through workshops to increase sensitivity on issues like these. The problem is that so many students have stood up and identified themselves as LGBTQ, yet Providence College will not identify. It says one thing and does another. It says you are welcome then says you are sick.

The students of Providence College are not here to simply exchange money for room, board and degrees: we are active in the development of this institution’s reputation. But this is not a call to arms. I am not advocating for a protest. We should allow controversial speakers to come to campus. But I was told that we would be protected and I am looking for the other side of this. I am looking for the faculty member who is going to get up and present the contrary argument, the truth and the message that promotes respect for human dignity and rights. This is not an academic freedom issue but instead a mental health malpractice issue.

And mostly I worry for those I do not know. I declare that I am not sick and neither are my brothers and sisters (and those gender-nonconforming siblings of mine). But what about the students who are not connected to the resources I am. I am part of an organization that networks roughly 30 queer and allied folks to support, education and protection. When our house is rattled by this we will stand together and know love and truth.

But the students that we do not know – the ones who have not identified – won’t be connected to the same support system. Already isolated, they may feel diagnosed. And so the guy who hasn’t come out to his family or roommates yet is going to hear that PC hosted a speaker (again, an unopposed speaker) who believes his “condition” is treatable. What does this do to a person?

To close I will be explicitly honest: I shouldn’t have been made to feel by this institution like I had to put my identity on the line (time and again) to make this a safe place. I am not the only one who has been pushed by the inconsistent identity of this institution to do so. We dutifully do what we must, but we should no longer be responsible for teachable moments.

Not to mention that Providence College didn’t need this right now.

Providence College, you must choose: how do you identify?

In Defense of “The Biggest Loser”

NickDefaultNick Wallace ’14

The world has been buzzing about the results of Tuesday’s Finale of The Biggest Loser. Rachel Frederickson, a 24 year old from Minnesota, lost a total of 155lbs to win, weighing in at 105lbs. But Rachel’s success has become overshadowed by concerns over her appearance, and outcries that she is now “too skinny.” She has since been described as “gaunt,” “frail,” “skin and bones,” and “disgusting.” People have called her a bad role model, and have written negative things to her via social media. Her before and after photos can be found here.

This article will not attempt to delve into the controversial aspects of The Biggest Loser. While the show may inspire others to embark on weight-loss journeys, some argue that it exploits overweight individuals in the form of capitalistic reality television, conveying the idea that being overweight is a condition that in unacceptable. Instead, I wish to defend Rachel as a person, and illustrate the double standard that has emerged as a result of her “controversial” appearance.

Rachel has been universally described as “too skinny.” According to Body Mass Index (BMI), which is the universal standard used to assess obesity in the world, Rachel’s BMI is 18.0. Anyone with a BMI less than 18.5 is considered “underweight.” Therefore, technically speaking, Rachel is “underweight.” But there is an inherent problem with BMI as a measure of health and wellness. BMI was first developed by a nineteenth century astronomer who was trying to find the relationship between the “laws of the heavens” and the earth. In doing so, he sampled army conscripts from France and Scotland, and noticed that the “average” person’s weight in kilograms was proportional to his height in meters squared. BMI became popular among insurance companies in the early 20th century in order to assess risk; each standard deviation greater than the mean subsequently led to a “high-risk” consumer. So what’s the problem with BMI? It is simply a height-weight ratio. An astronomer who only sampled army men created it. It doesn’t take into account someone’s resting heart rate, their family history, their body fat percentage, their muscle mass, their cardiovascular health, their diet, or any other wellness factors. Rachel may technically be “underweight,” but it is foolish to speculate whether or not she is “healthy.” Knowing her blood pressure, her diet, and her exercise habits would give us a much better indicator, not simply her weight. Oh, and by the way: at 6’0 and 187 lbs, BMI tells me that I am overweight; I promise that I am not.

Furthermore, I’m willing to bet that Rachel isn’t actually 105 lbs. The contestants on The Biggest Loser compete in a weight-loss competition; the finalists had a chance to win $250,000. Thus, I am sure that the contestants use all of the tricks and tactics used by bodybuilders (or other athletes that are required to compete in a certain weight-class) in order to get the lowest possible number to appear on the scale. What does that mean? It means periods of hardcore dieting, carbohydrate cycling, sitting in saunas, manipulating your sodium intake, and drinking tons of water. My guess is that Rachel would normally weigh in around 110-115 lbs, which would put her BMI in the “normal weight” category.

Rachel’s story is actually quite touching. This young woman was once a world-class athlete. She was a three time state champion swimmer in Minnesota (including holding multiple state records), an All-American, and had full scholarships to Division I schools. Rachel, however, decided to quit swimming, and moved to Europe with her boyfriend following high school. After the break-up, she turned to food and gained over 100 lbs. What’s my point? Rachel is a fierce competitor. She’s a winner. And she was competing in an incentivized competition. So what did she do? She did everything in her power to win that quarter of a million dollars, and it worked. Perhaps she pushed the boundaries and her limits too far. Perhaps she went a bit “overboard.” But the bottom line is that she was trying to win the title of The Biggest Loser, and a quarter of a million dollars. Like most Biggest Loser winners, I’m sure Rachel will put on some weight now that the show is over.

I’m not saying that I was not shocked by Rachel’s appearance. In my opinion (which doesn’t really matter), she did look too skinny. However, our society is often too quick to associate “skinny looking people” with eating disorders. Although, anyone who describes Rachel as “gaunt” or “twigish” should take a look at her legs: they look pretty healthy and muscular to me. Too many people took a look at her arms and cried anorexia. While we are all entitled to our own opinions and preferences, we are not all physicians. Our bodies are all created differently. Rachel’s appearance may have shocked me, but besides from her arms, nothing concerned me.

However, the main point I wish to make is that even after this woman worked hard to “take her life back,” she is still be scrutinized by everyone else around her. At 260lbs, people were calling her lazy, fat, and ugly. Now at 105 lbs (remember that its really closer to 115), she is being demonized for being too skinny. There is no difference between calling someone grotesquely skinny or grotesquely fat. In either case, doing so is judging the person by his/her appearance, and it is immoral and wicked.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion. You are allowed to think Rachel looks too skinny. You are allowed to think that she would look better if she gained some weight. But you cannot judge the type of person she is, or her health, by her appearance.

Ironically, my last article touched upon this subject a bit. I questioned the need to label a model as “Plus-Sized,” simply because of the fact that she not below a size 8. Well my message remains the same. To those of you who are judging Rachel for her appearance at the Finale, realize you are no different than those who judge people for being over-weight.  At the end of the day, Rachel is Rachel. This whole article is presuming that Rachel lost the weight without harming her body. If she did not, we have an obvious problem. But we cannot assume such actions, and therefore, I am going to give Rachel the benefit of the doubt. As long as she is healthy, likes the way she looks in the mirror, and feels confident about the person she has become, none of us are in any place to judge.

So congratulations, Rachel. Let the haters hate. Don’t spend the money all in one place.

What Are You Looking For?

IMG_497604574877~2Matthew Henry Smith ’16

It would seem that our generation has brought with it the culmination of a cultural romance narrative that is utterly exclusionary and totally tragic. This manifests itself in apps like Grindr, Tinder, and OkCupid.

I won’t say I don’t use these apps. In fact I wont swear off this narrative totally, as after personal evaluation I see it as something that might perhaps work for me. Apps like these have allowed me to form relationships for which I am grateful.

But while the side effects of these apps can be pleasant and beneficial the purpose of them is to perpetuate the urgency of our desperation and to provide a false-cure for omnipresent loneliness.

This editorial functions under the assumption that when we hookup up or pursue hookups we are not exclusively seeking sex but more profoundly we are seeking a moment of closeness or intimacy that comes from holding someone close through a night on singular orb of life in a vast and quiet universe. Currently we are looking to fill one-another’s voids.

“This is worth earning my empathy. I’m saying I love you.” -NGE

A few days ago someone casually came out to me as asexual and my world was totally rocked.

Even as a gay man (a socially acceptable term I use to inaccurately describe the whole of my identity) I have privilege in this culture over someone who identifies as asexual. Unlike celibacy, which is a choice, asexuality is a sexual orientation. Asexual people have the same emotional needs as everybody else and are just as capable of forming intimate relationships. [1]

Being gay can be hard, but I can only imagine the unique challenge of being asexual. More than the battle against heterosexism, the experience of the asexual individual is thoroughly misunderstood by those of us who are more conventionally sexually oriented. Our culture provides a framework of widely acceptable opportunities for our self-actualization through romantic relationships, and by over-emphasizing marriage as a means of ordering our valued relationships we end up excluding folks. Our culture’s most celebrated method for individual fulfillment is not one that gives everyone a chance.

I have spent a great deal of time in dialogue with queer folks who don’t support marriage equality for this reason.

Someone whom I hold in utmost esteem is nearly 60 years old and has never been married. She is not opposed to marriage. She has had romantic relationships. But she not lonely, because she knows the value of being alone and has relationships of varying forms which she treasures and invests in heavily.

We tend to look at people like person this as folks who failed. They didn’t find someone to love them and isn’t that a shame? But maybe they’re better off than folks who are chronic daters who move from romance to romance in order to create their own identities.

But even beyond the reality of marriage and long-term romantic companionship’s cultural exclusivity, we are failing with the concept of marriage for an even bigger reason. We make marital relationships the most import relationship a person can achieve in their life and in doing so discredit all other relationships. Marriage isn’t the right choice for many of the people who choose it, but folks feel obligated by our culture to fulfill their “duty” to get hitched (and for women, to produce children). Further, because we are directed towards this end and function under the assumption that marriage is our destiny we declare that the state of not being in a relationship is inherently a state of loneliness.

There is nothing wrong with seeking romance and companionship, but when this becomes the primary motivation for seeking out a relationship it reveals in the seeker emptiness and perhaps even a lack of identity. Because our culture is on board with this approach to relationships we reveal in our culture a broad emptiness. We propagated our own loneliness. And now we use the extraordinary means of romance applications to remedy it.

What can you do?

Well, our culture needs to ask itself the question that we are asked on Grindr, Tinder and OkCupid at the beginning of almost every interaction:

“What are you looking for?”

As well as these subsequent, telling questions:

Do you think of yourself as lonely or as alone? Do you know why you want what you want? Do you know how to be alone?

This all may sound disparagingly pessimistic, but it isn’t. Loneliness is the state of not knowing how to be alone, and it is not corrected by filling the void with another person. We stop being lonely when we can be alone with ourselves. The second step is deciding to value relationships other than those romantic – for instance our relationship with God, our parents, our close friends. In this we do our part to increase the health of our species by promoting a diversity of relationships. We invite all people to feel authentically connected. When folks we loved leave this life, we know how to continue living because we know our relationships were valid in and of themselves. We would do well not to wait for a romance to affirm us, but to affirm and be affirmed by our friends.

“I am me. I want to be myself. I want to continue existing in this world. My life is worth living here.” -NGE

If you determine that the current cultural narrative is the one for you, know that it only works when you have become comfortable being alone. Don’t fill a void: find a companion. But even if it is the narrative that was written for you, allow for others to write their own relationship narratives. For when our culture, (and yes you, Friartown) can value diverse relationships and decide to be alone instead of being lonely, the communion of our human race will there be there to say “Congratulations.” After all this, too, is love


[1] The Asexuality Visibility and Education Network

Ditch the Plan. Live the Dream.

AbbyDefaultAbby Hevert ’15

I am a self-confessed planner, 99% of the time. Growing up, I always knew what I wanted in life and had created a plan to achieve it. In my third grade class, when everyone else wrote stories about their dogs and siblings during “author’s day,” I wrote a piece about my plan to become a therapist and receive my PhD at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in psychiatry. Don’t believe me? Ask my mother. At eighteen, I decided to attend Providence College. Since then, any sort of plan has been difficult to follow. I confess that, at times, I slip back into my third grade mentality and begin to plan out the next five years of my life. Unfortunately, I am too worried about time too much of the time. I am the girl who basically had a breakdown when I turned twenty because I was “halfway to forty.” However, since that birthday, I have tried to let go of the idea that plans are always necessary. And while it is not healthy to forsake obligations and walk aimlessly throughout life, sometimes, it is okay for me to ditch the plan and let life take me where it fancies.

Yes, plans can be useful. They can provide guidance and a means to a fulfilling end. The problem with some plans lies in their inflexibility. At age 21, I realize that it is okay for plans to be altered and that is absolutely appropriate that dreams change. If our dreams change, it means that we are changing and thus are fulfilling our most vital tasks as humans: responding to the call to live fully and happily. It is very important that we are always striving toward certain ends. This striving allows us to dare greatly and achieve our full potentials. However, rigid plans may force us to put unneeded pressure on ourselves as we view our lives as a list of things to do rather than stories unfolding. I now try to think of my life no longer as a plan, but as a kind of narrative, in medias res (or in the middle of things). I try not to devote much time to waiting for the villains to show up. They invariably will and I attempt every day to become more able to meet them at the door laughing when they do inevitably arrive.

I now understand that certain things do not need to happen at certain times. The beauty of living life in this way lies in the fact that it allows us to no longer put pressure on ourselves to become something by a certain time in order to fit a certain mold that was not molded by us. My right time to do something may not be your right time. Just as some babies walk before others, adults do things at different times. In fact, they do different things at different times. Our lives will never be identical. I now realize that my dreams are not plans and they are certainly not certain. And so, I plan to dream on, constantly. I plan to plan only when it is an original one to my life and has room built in for changes. After all, you want to hear the universe laugh? Tell it your plan. It has things in store for you that you would never guess. It has moments in store for you that you cannot fathom.

And while living life sensibly and always packing umbrellas for the rainstorms ahead may be quite practical and safe, it limits our time to have moments of true, uncertain, and perfectly unpredictable happiness. Just as the poet Nadine Stair says:

“You see, I’m one of those people who live sensibly and sanely hour after hour, day by day. Oh I’ve had my moments. And if I had to do it over again, I would have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of trying to live so many years ahead of each day.”

So, it is this planner’s solemn vow from now on to plan to have moments. I plan to have lots of moments where I am blissfully happy, lots of moments when I make other people feel peace, and lots of moments that provide me with an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. I plan to have moments where I truly live. I plan on stringing these unprecedented moments into one life, the product of multiple failed plans and changing dreams. I cannot live my life by Mondays and Fridays and Januarys and Junes. I can only live my life by moments. After all, I only have, with certainty, one moment ahead of me at each instant.

So for all of you twenty-somethings out there: ditch the plan. Live the dream. You only have this moment.