Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dysfunctionality

While going through my old MSWord files this afternoon, I came across an essay I started about nine years ago, and I decided to try to finish it up and "publish" it here.

"Dysfunctionality" is such a buzzword these days, it surprises me that conservatives have not capitalized on it in the war on abortion. Well, maybe not, since so-called conservatives no longer seem to take a stand on abortion. But for the grassroots conservatives who do...

While the battle rages on, abortion is compared to murder and aborted babies are compared to slaves before civil rights came to pass. From the conservative point of view, this is well and good and logical. But it is an approach that continually fails to have any effect whatsoever on the right-to-choose psyche. It seems that it might be time to attempt a new approach and a new terminology.

Abortion is a symptom of a sexually dysfunctional society. The problem is an unrestrained and overindulgent national appetite for sex. But how can this be proven to people whose belief system approves of sex at any time, for any reason and in any way?

Perhaps we can try by comparing the basic drive for sex to the basic drive for food. People have a natural inner drive to eat. We have to eat, or we would die. However, it does not follow that eating everything we might like to eat (and doing so more often than a few times a day) is good for us. We know that we must put limits on our eating in order to remain healthy. Therefore, the United States government has gone so far as to create lists and guidelines to try to help people make healthy eating decisions: Eat more fruit and vegetables, lots of whole grains and a proper amount of lean meat. Limit fats, sugars and refined white flour. Do not over-indulge in huge portions. Drink a lot of water, an appropriate amount of milk and limit sodas and sugary juices. We all know these things. It is simple math, really. People know what they should do: if they do it, they are healthy but if they struggle to control their drive for food, they tend to get fat.

It isn’t so different with sex, except that nobody in the secular world seems to face the fact that there are guidelines that can govern our sexuality and keep us healthy. Guidelines for “safe sex” according to the Powers That Be (whomever they are—but they seem to have a real foothold in the public schools, libraries and clinics) consist of merely one rule, “Wear a condom.” Well, that’s kind of like saying, “Use Nutra-sweet instead of sugar.” It could be of mild benefit in some cases, but mostly it leads to a false sense of security, and in some ways it can cause more problems than it solves.

I’m not going to get into one of my anti-aspartame tirades right now, because that is a topic for a whole different day. Let me just say that the diet product industry is akin to the birth control industry. It’s all about trying to abet people in believing that they can have their pleasure for free—enjoy their indulgences with no cost. It leads to a twisted perspective on the meaning of eating and the meaning of sex. The pleasurable acts are taken as something separate from the function that they are intended to perform—the continuation of life, whether individually by nourishment or socially by procreation. God never intended for these things to be separated in this way. In His mercy, He made the acts pleasurable so that we would be motivated to continue life, but they were given to us for a purpose, a purpose that we often want to limit and escape.

Just as we need to eat or we will die, so we need to procreate, or humanity will die out. However, we can easily see that too much eating is ultimately unhealthy, and the parallel holds true for too much sex. Too much sex is disastrous for society. Too much unbridled sex leads to ghettos full of unwed mothers and illegitimate children, which leads to poverty which leads to crime and substance abuse. Um, bingo. The downfall of American society as we see it today. But nobody wants to admit it. Freedom of sexual expression has practically been written into the Bill of Rights. Sexual disorder? The only sexual disorder people seem willing to acknowledge is the inability to perform a sexual act. This is a frighteningly inaccurate way to view the issue.

Although deviant sexual behavior is rarely identified, it is generally agreed that there are such things as eating disorders. One of the most famous of these is Bulimia, where an individual, usually a young girl, binges on vast quantities of food and then proceeds to plunge her fingers down her throat and regurgitate the vile contents of her stomach. This is her way of purging her body and escaping the consequences of her previously overindulged appetite. There is a direct and obvious parallel to abortion here. When the sexual urge is overindulged in inappropriate ways, an unwanted pregnancy often occurs. To escape the consequences of this unwanted pregnancy, a girl (woman if you will) has an abortion, purging her body of the byproduct of her sexually promiscuous behavior.

Nearly everyone agrees that Bulimia constitutes dysfunctional behavior. Indeed, psychologists and psychiatrists are hired and paid handsomely to treat it. Its detrimental effects are widely publicized to young women. Health classes in public schools repeatedly warn young people about the dangers of eating disorders. Who hasn't heard that Bulimia can burn out one's esophagus and rot one's teeth? No credible health practitioner would ever prescribe Bulimia as a method for treating obesity. However, doctors in professional settings routinely perform abortions to treat the consequences of overly sexualized behavior, while minimizing the health risks. This seems illogical, since hemorrhaging, infertility, and breast cancer would seem to be greater threats to one's long term well being than rotten teeth and esophageal ulcers.

Rather than identifying abortion as an unhealthy escape from the consequences of dysfunctional behavior, “education” systems present it as a viable option for dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. The root of the problem stems from the rampant acceptance that our society at large holds for dysfunctional sexual indulgence. Young people are actually encouraged to do such things as, “Discover your sexual orientation,” and, “Express your sexuality.” From movies and television programs to commercials that people don’t even make a conscious decision to watch, pervasive bumping, grinding, groaning, back-arching, panting and disrobing combine to convince the empty-minded public that orgasm is the ultimate raison-d’√™tre, and that You have both the right and the responsibility to obtain as much of it as possible.

So while the high school health teachers hand out photocopies of the FDA approved dietary standards and encourage young people with eating problems to seek help immediately, they lay out no real standards for healthy sexuality. This is incomprehensible when you realize that they do teach about AIDS, herpes and the plethora of other sexually transmitted diseases. Healthy sex should be recommended to take place between two people, preferably both over 18 years of age, only within the context of a heterosexual, single-partner, committed relationship (marriage), always with the understanding that sex is connected to procreation and should not take place outside of a loving family environment. These recommendations are based on what science shows us is healthy for our bodies.

We must somehow find a way to educate the public that abortion is a dysfunctional response to a dysfunctional sexual behavior. Women who have abortions need therapy, not "choice." (And doctors who perform abortions should lose their licenses to practice—whatever happened to “First do no harm…”?)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Vanity, pride, guilt and fear

I haven’t posted in a long time. This is not because I have nothing to write. It is because I have a lot going on.

For one thing, and I’m just going to put it out there: I got braces.

If that doesn’t feel like the most vain, self-centered, selfish use of family resources, I don’t know what is. And I do not say this to be disrespectful of other adults with braces. I know some absolutely lovely people who have braces. That’s why I had the courage to go through with it at all. I could think, “Well, she’s a really nice, loving, giving person, and she has braces, so maybe it wouldn’t be a mortal sin for me to get them, too.”

When the braces cause me pain, I can’t help feeling that it is penance that I am required to serve for my vanity.

I have bad gum recession and extremely sensitive teeth where some of their necks are completely exposed. This causes additional pain with the braces—especially when I am trying to dislodge food that has become stuck in the braces. More penance. And I have an additional fear that when all is said and done, my newly straightened teeth will all fall out and I will have to get dentures anyway.

So on top of the regular pain of braces, I have the “through the roof” pain of my sensitive exposed tooth roots, and loads of guilt and fear.

It was an experience having these braces put on.

I went in to the orthodontist’s office wondering if I really wanted to do this. The technician greeted me and said, “How are you today?” Suddenly, I felt tears welling up behind my eyes and a choking lump in my throat. “I’m kind of nervous,” I whispered, willing myself not to cry. Forty-two year olds don’t cry in orthodontist offices before anything has even happened. “You look kind of nervous,” the technician told me. I guess it’s hard not to look nervous when it’s taking all your powers of concentration to hold back a flood of humiliating tears. The orthodontist came over and the technician said to him, “This is Ruth. She’s a little nervous.”

“Well,” said Dr. Smith, “Ruth has had braces before, so maybe she knows what she’s in for.”

I’m thinking, Don’t remind me. Don’t make me think about this. Should I bolt? What would happen if I bolted? Could I get any of my money back?

Anyway, I laid down in the chair and they inserted numerous plastic frameworks into my mouth to hold it open, hold my lips back, hold my teeth apart. After they had everything jimmied open, wider than I thought my lips could even stretch, they took some more plastic, this attached to rubber bands, and used it like a sling to hold my tongue back. “Don’t worry,” said the technician as her sling crammed my tongue into the back of my throat, “Just breathe through your nose.”

I deserve this, I thought. I deserve this for being vain. The corners of many plastic apparatuses poked me in the gums, in the insides of my cheeks, in the end of my tongue. I certainly couldn’t talk, and I could barely breathe. It’s cottonwood season, and my allergies are under control only as long as I can supplement breathing through my mouth.

Then began the process. I looked out the window at the leaves of a birch tree and the light sky behind them. I tried to travel far away in my mind. But my lower face was assaulted by tubes, fans, solutions, things that gurgled and things that beeped. Something was sucking the saliva out of my mouth while something else was painted on my teeth. At one point, she rinsed each tooth individually with a blast of icy cold water. That about sent me to the moon when she came to the sensitive ones. When my body started arching out of the chair, she said, “Oh, did that hurt a little bit?” I closed my eyes and prayed, wondering if God would hear me if He was displeased because of what I was doing.

She put a pair of tinted glasses on me and one on herself and used some sort of laser light to do something. The heat of the laser light was wretched against the sensitive teeth, too. I wondered, What am I doing? How am I ever going to stand this for two years? How much is it going to hurt when they chisel these things off again? What if I die before I get them off? She handed me a piece of amber plastic on a stick, sort of like a mirror or a fan, and told me to hold it over my mouth. I had to hold it there for an eternity, and I have no idea why.

In the end I survived. Eating is no longer any fun At all. Milkshakes don’t even taste good after awhile. I eat breakfast and dinner and try to survive on liquids for lunch. Last night I found some forgotten avocados in the crisper drawer of my refrigerator and I made them into guacamole. I tried to eat some on a chip, but quickly decided that it was much better eaten off a fork.

My SWEET, LOVING, KIND, GENEROUS husband purchased me a Water-Pik for cleaning my teeth. This after I found that to brush and floss left me with a stiff neck, a flushed face, pulsing gums and throbbing teeth. Every time I brushed and flossed, I ended up needing to take some painkillers and lie down.

Now I have a tooth cleaning routine that takes forever but doesn’t hurt too much:
  1. Rinse with Listerine to dissolve as much stuff as possible (like plaque). Listerine really does make your teeth feel smooth.
  2. Brush the brackets and the tips of my teeth with a baking soda toothpaste.
  3. Clean my gumline and between my teeth with the Water Pik (and I put a solution of hydrogen peroxide in it).
  4. Rinse with Biotene, a mouthwash that is designed to restore an optimum balance to your saliva to help prevent plaque buildup and any other tooth or gum disease.

Little by little I am getting used to this. I still get palpitations when I have to see someone for the first time since it all started and explain why I have braces.

Make that, explain that I have braces.

Because why do I have braces? Why do I? I barely ever wear makeup and I do not color my hair. I hate shopping, and I rarely update my wardrobe. I rarely dress up. So why do I feel the need to fix my teeth?

Part of it is probably guilt because they are crooked and my parents had paid to fix them when I was a teenager (and they really, really needed it then). Nobody at that time told me I should wear my retainer forever, the way they tell kids now. But I did wear it fairly often until 1995 when we moved and I lost it.

In thirteen years, my teeth shifted drastically, and they were continuing to shift. I could feel them shifting, the itchy, achy feeling in my gums.

The worst thing was my upper-front-right tooth, which was shifting out. By itself. If both my front teeth had been shifting out together, that might have been one thing, but one front tooth shifting out in front of all my other front teeth, angling out to the right as it went (even if it had been angling in toward the middle I might have been able to stand it). When I noticed that it even left a bump on the right side of my mouth when my lips were pulled over it, I became ultra self-conscious. And as I lay in bed and felt the teeth moving around, I worried about where it would end… if it would end.

I was afraid to smile. This is why my husband was in favor of the procedure. He says he wants me to smile again.

I should have given up my vanity and pride and just smiled with the tooth sticking out, but it was so hard for me. I would smile carelessly, forgetting myself, and then a shock like pain would shoot through my chest as I realized what I had exposed and quickly pulled my lips back over the ugly tooth, wondering if I had frightened any small children.

God forgive me and help me, and please don’t let me die in braces and please don’t let all my teeth fall out.