Sunday, June 14, 2009

And on That Note...

I have never cared much for chastity rings. Although, since becoming Catholic, my view of religious paraphernalia (even kitschy religious paraphernalia) has grown more generous, something about the chastity ring bugs me, something that until now I have been unable to frame exactly in words. Now I know what it is. A friend sends along this quote from Miss Manners (which you can find here):

Dear Miss Manners,
For my sixteenth birthday, my parents took me to dinner and gave me a beautiful ring set with precious stones (sapphires and a tiny diamond) that doubles as a chastity ring. I am now almost eighteen, and lately I have been considering moving my chastity ring from my right hand ring finger (where I have worn it thus far) to my left hand ring finger, which I know is traditionally the finger used for engagement and wedding rings. I like the symbolism of putting my chastity ring on that finger, but I don't want people to misinterpret my intentions. I would greatly appreciate your opinion.

Gentle Reader,
Allowing prospective suitors to believe that you are engaged is certainly one way to preserve your chastity. Perhaps in perpetuity.

However, Miss Manners feels obliged to warn you that polite society does not recognize such a thing as a chastity ring. It is so polite that it presumes that a lady is chaste unless publicly proven otherwise.

That last paragraph pretty much sums it up. It is a bad move to act as if men and women who treat marriage with respect are doing something extraordinary.

Of course, on the other hand, Miss Manners is talking about "polite society," and today that would be made up of, what, ten or twenty people? I recall an occasion in college on which, in the course of an ordinary conversation, a friend stated outright, erroneously, that I was sleeping with a certain young lady, and the young lady was even present in the room and participating in the conversation. Had this friend been a man, "polite society" probably would have obliged me to punch him in the face. (I should ask Miss Manners about that.)

What makes that incident remarkable is that the friend in question had no inkling that she was making accusations, ruining reputations, or being incredibly rude. Because she thought (again, erroneously) that the young lady and I were dating, she assumed we were sleeping together. Just as "polite society" assumes chastity, regular everyday rude society now assumes fornication.

Where exactly can I find this "polite society"? I'd very much like to go there.
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