Sunday, October 08, 2006

What to do if you're middle-aged, Catholic, female, and can't find a husband

This is really kind of sad. 42-year-old Lori Rose Cannizzaro of East Aurora, NY, admitting to herself that "Dating wasn't working. I wasn't connecting. Not that I never wanted to be married or never wanted children," has chosen to "consecrate her virginity" in a strange Catholic ceremony.

People deal with loneliness in all kinds of ways, some positive, some destructive. I can see how some folks might defend Ms. Cannizzaro's choice — and I'm all for freedom of choice — as a positive one, channeling her loneliness so that she feels a stronger connection to Jesus or God or what have you. Indeed, it's a well-understood trait of religious belief that it provides insecure people with the sense of security (a placebo, perhaps, but it's there) that comes from thinking you have someone watching over you and looking afer you.

But I worry that there's some potentially psychologically damaging role-playing involved in this kind of thing.

The rite is available only to virgins, who agree to abstain from sex so they can dedicate their lives to Jesus Christ in what the association describes as a mystical marriage and a profound spiritual blessing. Each woman wears a band on her left ring finger as a symbol, much like a wedding band.

So what we have here is a way for lonely women who can't find a husband to play like they're married, even down to wearing a pretend wedding ring. Yet at the same time they're told their virginity makes them pure and sanctified, which doesn't sound like a statement with very flattering implications for Catholic women who do marry and procreate. Or perhaps they're "sanctified" in a different way.

When I was a younger guy, I went through bouts of loneliness, as most people do. I decided the problem was that I was placing too much importance on the notion of Having a Partner as a key ingredient of Happiness. Once I realized it wasn't, not only was I happier in all the areas of my life that do matter — friendships, career, hobbies — but, voila, it became easier to make those personal connections I'd previously found so elusive.

Ms. Cannizzaro may feel like she's done the right thing for herself, and I hope she's happy. But will her pretend wedding ring really take away that pang she likely feels in her heart whenever she sees a happy young couple strolling hand-in-hand through the park, or leaning closely together to talk and laugh over a couple of lattes at Starbucks? And to be honest, she's cutting off her options. 42 is not necessarily past the average person's sell-by date; who's to say she might not have met a charming widower or gentleman at some church or social function next week, or next year, or when she's fifty? It's never too late for people to find romance if they want it.

I'm afraid that here we see Christianity — with its never-too-subtle message that unmarried people are better off denying their sexuality at all times if they possibly can — offering someone a false sense of "happiness" that may work for a while, but is sure to lead to greater unhappiness once the bloom is off the rose, so to speak.

After all, if it was such a great choice for lonely women to do this, you'd think there'd be more than 2000 of them worldwide lining up for these "consecration" ceremonies, you know?

1 comment:

  1. I'm going to make a general assumption here about this woman--and admit that I may be totally off base. However, my experience parallels your own. I was never able to find a partner until I stopped looking, exactly for the reasons you described: relying on someone else to add something to my life that was missing was unfair and a recipe for disappointment. I will say that 99 percent of the time, a well-adjusted person who decides they'd like to pair off, will have little difficulty finding and cultivating a healthy, working relationship.

    My bet is that this woman is somehow sabotaging her goal without realizing it (perhaps she's been too desperately seeking?). Ironically, if this is the case, I believe that shortly after she quits looking (gives up), she'll have the opportunity to focus more on herself and actually realize she can create her own complete happiness. Once she has that, her plan to consecrate herself to god may actually backfire, since a self-assured, happy person is more likely to actually meet another self-assured, happy person...and she may end up married after all in the next few years. I certainly wouldn't discount it.


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