Friday, July 10, 2009

On Vulnerability, Redemption, and a Continued Recovery from Feminism

I was a feminist in high school. Of the courteous, egalitarian school of feminism, but still. For instance, if I were walking into a building and the guy walking with me held the first door for me, I would thank him and hold the next door for him. If a female friend complimented my appearance, I would quickly scan hers for something upon which to compliment her. Accepting a compliment without returning one seemed almost ungracious.

I was alerted to the fact that I treat compliments this way over four years ago. In a long end-of-year conversation appreciating an amazing friendship, Joe kept giving me compliments, and I just didn't have as many to return as he had to give. And he called me on it, telling me that to simply accept a compliment was enough. This rocked my world, and I worked to become proficient at sometimes graciously accepting a compliment without returning one.

Back to the egalitarian side of things. Even as a feminist, I didn't think that men and women should be the same, just equal. So the way I now work out visits to my chivalrous guy friends would have been perfectly acceptable to me then, too: they pay for things, because they want to, and I pay them back by accepting it graciously and then making them dinner. Perhaps not always an even exchange, but an exchange nonetheless (and one that allows me to sneakily spend money on him without breaking the taboo on the woman paying for things).

Too, the man paying for dates in a relationship rarely bothered me. Perhaps because I knew the woman would pinch hit on occasion, or because their finances would ideally be united in the end anyway, or because she contributed to the relationship in non-monetary ways.

But a man going out of his way, freely spending his time and money on a woman just for the joy of her company? That's a little humbling. That's a part of the equation I don't like to think much about.

But I was thinking about it at Mass yesterday morning, my eyes fixed on the crucifix as the priest offered prayers at the altar, and the Lord reminded me that He spent much more than money on me. My naive response (we silly humans always think we're right): But it wasn't just for the grace of my company!, thinking of all the great victories the Paschal Mystery won for us.

Ah, but it was. I spent all I had for the grace of your eternal company with me in heaven.

Oh. Don't I feel dumb. Check, please!

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