September 28, 2013

"Back in Paris, friends asked if I'd met someone new and assumed I must have fallen in love."

"But the reason I was so radiant was that I'd decided to be celibate."

Does celibacy make you "radiant" because you decided to undertake it? Will radiance not ensue if celibacy simply befalls you?

Was she really "radiant"?

"Radiant" is a funny word, lobbed automatically at brides, and therefore suspicion-provoking when aimed at the celibate woman.

"Radiant" means — according to the unlinkable OED — "Sending out rays of light; shining brightly" or "Of the eyes, a look, etc.: bright or beaming (as with joy or love). Of a person, esp. a young woman or bride: giving off an aura of joyfulness or health; glowingly happy." Amongst the OED quotes is one from a book that we once reveled in here at the Althouse blog, "The Great Gatsby":
1925   F. S. Fitzgerald Great Gatsby vi. 132   Perhaps some unbelievable guest would arrive, a person infinitely rare and to be marvelled at, some authentically radiant young girl.
Authentically. Oh! There's that adverb. Celibate sounds so pure. But authentically? Who on earth knows when she has achieved authenticity... especially in the radiancy department. Those auras must emanate from real joy.


PB Reader said...

Ah narcissism.

traditionalguy said...

Purity of soul can be seen on the face as radiant happiness.

How abstaining from normal sex has anything to do with happiness is the dilemma. Anais Nin would object to that approach.

But if one becomes a sex addict, then becoming free might make one happy, if not make one a better professional golfer.

Paddy O said...

Yes. It's about choice.

Poverty is the same way.

Choosing not to be materialist and live in a very simple way can be very empowering and renewing.

Simply being poor is often soul-crushing.

Choosing not to have sex with someone is a choice to establish identity and meaning in another way. Again, empowering.

Simply not having sex often means being denied the opportunity to pursue the identity and satisfaction you want. It's negating and dissatisfying not to be able to fulfi.l that which you think is necessary to be fulfilled.

elkh1 said...

My questions is: does celibacy make you "old"?

She is 39, 27+12. She looks awfully old. Her face is angular, her features defined, but her neck and back are fleshy with a little dowager hump. She looks 60 and tired, not radiant. Shorter hair may help.

John Lynch said...

Being single can be preferable to any likely relationship. Some people just prefer being alone. That's fine. There's no need to justify it. I wonder about what makes this article necessary. A 39 year old woman shouldn't have to explain anything to anyone.

If a man wrote an article like this it might be more interesting. The woman who tires of sex is an extremely common character, in art and in life. We don't hear about men tiring so much as losing the ability. Lessened desire is treated as a medical problem, to be treated. With women it's just normal aging.

colleen cafferty said...

@elkh1: She's 50, not 39 (that was when she had another relationship), the editor at French Elle, and here's a better picture:

Interesting article at link. This book caused a "furor" in france.

Terry said...

As a young teenager I was obsessed with sex: to be held in a man's arms would confirm that I was a woman. I didn't think any further than that. So I met a man in a nightclub and went to his hotel room the next day. I was naive, and when it all became a reality – that he did want to have sex with me – I was scared. I tried to explain I was unsure, that I'd made a mistake, but I still felt under pressure to sleep with him.
And then . . .
Twelve years on, when I was completely content with my situation, something changed. Through a chance encounter, I met a man. I trusted him immediately and he made me feel totally safe.

Before we made love, I was terrified that I would look ridiculous, that I had forgotten how to do it – after such a long time of abstinence, the actual mechanics of having sex appears bizarre – but when the moment came, I had forgotten nothing.

I can't be the only person to notice that her second experience with sex exactly mirrors her first. Years of celibacy in childhood, followed a by a sexual experience when she thought she was ready for it, followed by years of child-like celibacy, followed by a sexual experience when she thought she was ready . . .

FleetUSA said...

Like elkh1 something doesn't compute with the picture. She certainly doesn't look radiant. Maybe she feels radiant but it she doesn't seem to exude radiance.

I think she's over 55 and worn out.

FleetUSA said...

Wikipedia says she was born in 1962, hence 51. The NYT has a better picture too.

Saint Croix said...

Nature wants us to have babies. As the inspiring guy motto puts it...

Don't let your meatloaf.

tim maguire said...

She wasn't radiant because she'd decided to be celibate, she was radiant because she'd just gotten out of an oppressive relationship.

MathMom said...

Elkh1 -

It is possible that allowing herself to be used sexually like a blow-up doll in her youth put the years on her.

My niece is 19, is making bad choices with great frequency and intensity, one being meeting a man in rehab and moving in with him after knowing him three days, then finding him dead in bed with her from an overdose. She looks about that age.