The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes Onby Dawn Eden
Finally, a book for single women who, unsatisfied with living a worldly lifestyle, want to give their lives a new and godly direction. Author Dawn Eden, a Jewish-born rock journalist turned salty Christian blog queen, gives these readers the positive and uplifting message that they've been wanting to hear-that spiritual healing and a renewed outlook await them.
Finally, a book for single women who, unsatisfied with living a worldly lifestyle, want to give their lives a new and godly direction. Author Dawn Eden, a Jewish-born rock journalist turned salty Christian blog queen, gives these readers the positive and uplifting message that they've been wanting to hear-that spiritual healing and a renewed outlook await them. Using her own experiences in the New York City singles jungle, she shows women how they too can go from insecurity to purity, and from forlorn to reborn. She tells women who have been around the block how to find their way home.
Among inspirational books for single women, The Thrill of the Chaste is a pair of hip Ray-Bans in a field of rose-colored glasses. This isn't a book for dainty damsels in lacy white dresses patiently awaiting their handsome prince. This is for real women who need strong, motivational, and deeply moral messages to counter the ones they receive from a superficial, sex-obsessed world.
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Read an Excerpt
the thrill of the chastefinding fulfillment while keeping your clothes on
By Dawn Eden
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Dawn Eden
All right reserved.
Chapter Onenot the same old song
Late one night, walking home from my newspaper job, I passed by a Johnny Rockets-the chain of Fifties-style burger joints-just as it was closing. As the bored waiters in their starched white uniforms and matching caps wiped the chrome tabletops, one last jukebox tune crackled from the outdoor speakers onto the deserted streets: the Shirelles' "Will You Love Me Tomorrow."
The song brought up bittersweet memories-more bitter than sweet. Like many songs from that more innocent era, "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" expresses feelings that most people would be too ashamed to verbalize. There's something painful about the way its vulnerable heroine leaves herself wide open. She's not looking for affirmation so much as absolution. All her man has to do is say he loves her-then a night of sin is transformed into a thing of beauty.
* * *
Do you believe that you have the right to own an Uzi? If you're a staunch defender of the Second Amendment, maybe you do-aftert all, the right to bear arms is in the United States Constitution. But having the right to own one doesn't mean you necessarily should-and you might not like to live in a place where people tote them around.
Likewise, the pursuit of happiness is in the Constitution-and it's safe to say that many single women in the New York City area where I live believe that part of that right is an active sex life. Magazines like Cosmopolitan, many TV shows from Oprah on down, as well as films, books, and pop songs urge single women to take the sexual pleasure that's due them. While love is celebrated, women are told that a satisfying sexual "hookup" does not require love-only respect. If "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" was good enough for Sixties soul diva Aretha Franklin, it's supposed to be good enough for us too.
The fruits of this accepted single-woman lifestyle resemble those of a drug habit more than a dating paradigm. In a vicious cycle, single women feel lonely because they are not loved, so they have casual sex with men who do not love them.
That was my life.
At age twenty, when I was still a virgin, I lost my beloved boyfriend to a sexually experienced friend who seduced him. He had been a long-distance beau for two years, and I'd dreamed of having him live nearby. When he finally moved to New York City, just across Central Park from my apartment, we celebrated together. Then, a mere month later, he sprang the news that he was breaking up with me. At the time, he denied there was another woman, but eventually he admitted to me that he had lied, hoping to let me down easy. As it turned out, my friend had come on to him-and he'd left me for her.
The crushing blow convinced me that I had to gain experience if I wanted to hold a man. I wound up losing my virginity to a man I found attractive but didn't love-just to get my card punched.
Once I became experienced, instead of being supremely self-confident, I only became more insecure. I learned that if I played my cards right, I could get almost any man I wanted into bed-but when it came to landing a boyfriend, the deck was always stacked against me.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't transform a sexual encounter-or a string of encounters-into a real relationship. The most I could hope for, it seemed, was a man who would treat me with "respect," but who really wouldn't have any concern for me once we split the tab for breakfast.
That's not to say I didn't meet any nice guys while I was casually dating. I did, but either they seemed boring-as nice guys so often are when you're used to players-or I KO'd the budding relationship by trying to rush things.
Don't get me wrong; I wasn't insatiable. I was insecure.
When you're insecure, you fear losing control. In my case, the main way I thought I could control a relationship was by either introducing a sexual component or allowing my boyfriend to do so. Either way, I would end up alone and unhappy-but I didn't know how else to handle a relationship. I felt trapped in a lifestyle that gave me none of the things that the media and popular wisdom promised it would.
Some friends and family, trying to be helpful, would counsel me to simply stop looking. I did manage to stop looking, sometimes for months at a time-but then, when I would meet a potential boyfriend, I'd once again bring the relationship down to the lowest common denominator.
I hated the seeming inevitability of it all-how all my attempts at relationships would crash and burn-yet, in some strange way, it seemed safe. By speeding things up sexually, I was saving myself from being rejected-or worse, ignored-if I moved too slowly. And after all, if I was eventually going to be rejected anyway, I thought I should at least get something out of it-if only a night of sex.
It all sounds terribly cynical, thinking back on it now, and it was. I was lonely and depressed, and I had painted myself into a corner.
* * *
In October 1999, at the age of thirty-one, my life changed radically when, after being an agnostic Jew for my entire adult life, I had what Christians would call a born-again experience. Having read the Gospels, I had long believed that Jesus was a good man. What changed me was realizing for the first time that He was more than a man-He was truly God's Son.
With my newfound Christian faith came a sudden awareness that I badly needed to "get with the program"-especially where my sex life was concerned. But even being aware of what had to be done, I had a long way to go between realizing what was wrong with my behavior and actually changing it.
Thankfully, over time, I found that whenever I was tempted to return to the vicious cycle (meet intriguing guy/have sex/dump or be dumped/repeat), a new thought would emerge to give me pause-an antidote to the pleasure principle. I call it the tomorrow principle.
* * *
All my adult life, I've struggled with my weight. When I'm walking home at the end of the day, there's nothing I want more than a bag of Cheez Doodles or malted-milk balls. If I'm trying to slim down-which is most of the time-it's hard, really hard, to think of why I can't have what I'm craving.
The little devil on my left shoulder is saying, "Get the Cheez Doodles. You'll be satisfied, and you won't gain weight. Even if you do gain, it'll be less than a pound-you can lose it the next day."
And you know what? He's right. If I look at it in a vacuum, one indiscretion is not going to do any damage that can't be undone.
Then the little angel on my right shoulder speaks up. "Uh-uh. If you buy those Cheez Doodles, you know what's going to happen."
"I'll get orange fingerprints on the pages of the novel I'm reading tonight?" I reply.
The angel lets that one go by. "You'll buy them again tomorrow night," he nags. "And the next night.
"Please-" I groan. I know where this is going. The devil on my left shoulder is pulling my hair in the direction of the snack-foods aisle.
"And remember," the angel continues, smelling victory, "how your jeans kept getting tighter and tighter? And you had to-"
"I know," I say, exasperatedly.
"You had to lie down to zip them up," he says triumphantly. "Finally, one by one, you busted the fly on every pair of jeans you owned."
By that point, the devil has usually fled, and I am left looking for a nice, dry, fat-free, high-fiber bran muffin. But I am not happy. Quite the contrary-I feel deprived.
That's how I used to feel before I understood the meaning of chastity-when I was following friends' and relatives' advice to "stop looking." I knew some of the negative reasons for forgoing dates with men who were out for casual sex-such encounters would make me feel used and leave me lonelier than before-but I lacked positive reasons.
To lose weight without feeling deprived takes more than just listening to the warnings of the angel on my shoulder. It takes a positive vision. I have to imagine how I'll look and feel far into the future-not just tomorrow, but tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. I have to widen my perspective and see the cumulative effect of temptation: every time I give in, it wears down my resistance, but every time I resist, I grow stronger.
The tomorrow principle requires that vision to be able to see how chastity will help me become the strong, sensitive, confident woman I so long to be. I hate acting out of desperation, feeling as if I have to give of myself physically because it's the only way to reach a man emotionally. And I hate feeling so lonely that I have to take caresses and kisses from a man who essentially views me as a piece of meat-a rare and attractive piece of meat, deserving of the highest respect, but meat nonetheless. I long with all my heart to be able to look beyond my immediate desires, conducting myself with the grace and wisdom that will ultimately bring me fulfillment not just for a night, but for a lifetime.
* * *
I first discovered the value of the tomorrow principle late one night in the spring of 2002, as I was preparing to leave a party in a Brooklyn apartment. The host, Steve-a quirky musician with a bashful, puppy-dog face like Friends star David Schwimmer or Graduate-era Dustin Hoffman-was an acquaintance I'd known for years, though never very well. We'd long had a mild flirtation going, but nothing had come of it because we didn't really have much in common other than physical attraction. So I was caught off guard when he asked me if I'd like to stay the night.
My first thought was an image of the long, scary, late-night subway ride home, contrasted with the appeal of sharing Steve's bed. I thought about how he would kiss me, and how we'd joke and giggle as we experienced the novelty of being naked together. In my mind's eye, I could see his shoulders silhouetted against the gray morning light filtering in through the curtains during the one hour of the day when his bustling neighborhood fell quiet.
It was things like that-the easy camaraderie, the breaking down of boundaries, the fleeting romantic moments-that I really looked forward to in casual-sex encounters. The sex itself, I knew, could be hit-or-miss.
As my mind ran through the possibilities, I remembered that my spiritual situation had changed since the last time I'd received such an offer. I was a baby Christian now, still wet behind the ears, and I knew I wanted my life to reflect my faith. But what made me tell Steve no wasn't the force of conviction. It was another vision that flashed through my brain, sharper than the first-as though it had actually happened.
In that vision, I saw myself and Steve the next morning, at a diner. It wasn't a Johnny Rockets, but a bona fide old-fashioned greasy spoon in his neighborhood. I was wearing the same jeans and purple velvet blouse I had worn to the party. My hair was still a little wet from showering, and it was poking out in all the wrong directions-it doesn't hold up well when I don't use conditioner.
We were having breakfast and trying to talk about something light, as if we'd just happened to run into each other at 10:00 a.m. on a Sunday. In front of me was the same morning meal I always order at a New York diner: poached eggs on dry rye toast, no potatoes, and coffee with skim milk.
The image was pathetic.
Just the idea of one more uncomfortable morning-after breakfast, my loveless partner oozing with "respect"-that is, what qualifies as respect in the casual-dating world ("I'll still respect you")-was more than I could bear.
But the vision also had a more insidious quality, which I can describe only as grotesque. Here I was, so choosy that I insisted on four different specifications on my diner breakfast. Yet, I couldn't hold out for the one man with whom I could share every breakfast for the rest of my life?
The Shirelles' "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" suggests that a night of sex is redeemed if the couple declares after the fact that they love each other. The concept is also a popular theme in romance novels, TV shows, and movies-think Pretty Woman. People buy into such a fantasy because they want to believe that objectifying someone else is excusable.
Yet, in my vision of breakfast with Steve, even if he suddenly professed his undying love as I bit into my egg on toast, it wouldn't change the decision I'd made the night before-to sleep with him not because I loved him, but just because I could. And I then realized that if I wound up loving him back, it wouldn't change the fact that twelve hours earlier I'd intended to use him and be used.
If we ever got married, that would be our story-we were acquainted without being good friends, "hooked up" one night after having a few drinks, and fell in love.
Somehow, I don't think that's a recipe for a lasting marriage. If having sex with me were enough to make my husband fall in love, he might go on to have sex with another woman and fall in love with her too.
Likewise, if I were that easily swayed by a roll in the hay, I'd be liable to run off with the proverbial pizza deliveryman. But that's silly-I'm not like that, and I knew I'd be no more likely to fall in love with Steve after sex than I was at that moment. I would, however, feel more attached to him, even if it wasn't love. Sex does that to me whether I want it to or not; it's part of how I'm wired as a woman. That sense of attachment would make the separation after breakfast that much harder.
Once that image entered my mind, the choice was clear.
I thanked Steve for a lovely party and left. Somewhere during the journey from the midnight Brooklyn streets to my New Jersey apartment, I think I cried. Turning down intimacy-even the wrong kind-can hit hard when you're coming home to an empty place.
But I don't regret it. And I've lived by the tomorrow principle ever since.
If you have to ask someone if he'll still love you tomorrow, then he doesn't love you tonight.
Excerpted from the thrill of the chaste by Dawn Eden Copyright © 2007 by Dawn Eden. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Dawn Eden is an assistant news editor and columnist for the Daily News of New York City. A former rock historian, her writing have also appeared in National Review Online,Touchstone, People, and her own blog, The Dawn Patrol.
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This is a such a great book for women who have tried the 'sex and the city' route of living (well, maybe not THAT glamorous and lustful of a life), but, in other words, who have 'been there, done THAT' so the perspective is one not of virginity, but, one of redemption, salvation, strength and purpose. What this book does is give women a choice that is in line with God's Word and His will for their lives -- without the nun-talk that so turns most of us fabulously single women in our late twenties and thirties off. It's very easy to read and you'll find that you can't put it down before you have to finish just one more chapter.
This book is not quite what I expected - much more a personal memoir than an essay in moral theology. But it opens a revealing window on the world of single white females in New York - a world frequently portrayed in the movies and on TV, but one far from my own. Dawn Eden has written her own conversion story, which ends up being sort of an anti-Sex in the City. I'd recommend it even if you can't relate to most of it, more so if you can.