Sunday, July 20, 2003

From blog correspondent Lee Penn
The taming of the dude
by Rod Dreher
Lee Penn: Occasionally, I have some Good Stuff to forward. Here is some writing by Rod Dreher on marriage and on growing up.

Foreword by me: I've seen people marry because of love, or perceived obligation, or desperation. Mr Dreher describes the transforming, maturing power of marriage for love. (Basically overcoming some of the worst influences of secular culture on boys and making them men.) Profoundly Christian - Mr D is Catholic.

The article:

My guy pals were raising their glasses to me at our favorite saloon in Fort
Lauderdale. I had flown the previous weekend to Austin, Texas, a ring in my
pocket, and returned with the promise of marriage in a year's time. I was, of
course, exhilarated.

But something was wrong. The bar had lost its gloss. I was jumpy, bored,
restless. What was the point of sitting here, working on a hangover? My friends
were great, and this was the best bar in town. So why did I feel as if I were
drinking a flat Coke?

This is a story about the taming of the dude. My fiancee, Julie, was in
college halfway across the country, but putting that ring on her finger had
broken
the spell of the pick-up bar. It had been years since I'd actually picked up
someone in a bar, mind you. A conversion to Catholicism does tend to rein in
the bad boy. But I still went out all the time. What else could I do? Stay home?

Hey, my True Love might turn up any night, I told myself. We might discover
our joint destiny sipping bourbon, talking about God and the movies, and
uttering witty imprecations against modernity. If Walker Percy were a young
bachelor, wouldn't he be doing the same thing?

But the desire to go out had almost vanished since the day I met Julie in an
Austin bookstore. I'd assumed I'd want to get in as much carousing as possible
before I was lashed to hearth and home. But I was wrong. The e-word
(emasculation) came up among my unmarried male pals. But I didn't care.
Something subtle, inchoate but real was happening: I wasn't like them anymore.

Julie and I were both worried about merging households. She has always been a
fastidious housekeeper, while I was a Boy Whose Mama Picked Up After Him.

When we married and moved to New York, it was not the easiest transition. I
was twenty-nine years old, and it had never occurred to me that dishes needed
to be done daily, not whenever the sink got full. Under the new regime, dirty
clothes didn't remain on the floor where they fell; sheets were changed with
dazzling speed (anything more than once a month).

This is the stuff of bad domestic comedy, I realize, but learning to live
like a grownup instead of a superannuated teenager effected a spiritual
transformation within me. I began to see taking care of domestic chores as part
of
taking care of Julie. Though she never put it to me like this, it became clear
to
me that loving her meant that I would have to quit adoring my piggish bachelor
self so much. It meant sacrificing the freedom I had to keep house like a
layabout.

On a higher level, it meant leaving the worn-out melodrama of guyhood for the
awesome adventure of manhood. I expected that I would learn these things of
reluctant necessity.

What I didn't expect was the joy I would find in taking on the burden of
these responsibilities. The life of the married man is a wondrous and fearful
thing to the single guy. The single guy wants the timeless joy of married life,
but he is terrified of its potential cost to his everyday happiness.

I am not so far along into marriage that I've forgotten what it's like to
have those fears. But now that I am here, I am grateful beyond all telling. If
someone had told me only three years ago how much fun it would be to spend
Saturday night roasting chicken and playing Scrabble, I would have mocked him.
If
that man had told me I would quit fantasizing about fast convertibles and start
coveting a Weber grill, I would not have believed him. The single guy is
weightless: he can choose to stay out till 3 a.m., or not; he can break up with
this girl, and start an affair with that one, and very little of it matters at
all. But once you've freely yoked your own life inextricably with another's,
and taken on the burden of manhood, all your choices gain moral and
philosophical weight. Things matter. Life ceases to be melodrama, or comedy, and
becomes something altogether more satisfying and substantial.

Milan Kundera once observed, "The heavier the burden, the closer our lives
come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become." This is the secret
treasure you discover when you give up a bachelor's freedom, a lightness that
may have itself become an intolerable load.

Having tamed the dude, we are preparing for yet another miracle. In October,
God willing, my wife will give birth to our first child. I will on that day
become, with Julie, wholly responsible for another life. Very few burdens are
weightier than this, but what is that to a man who can leap over all of Brooklyn
in a single bound?

Rod Dreher is the chief movie critic for The New York Post.

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