Posts tagged " susan lapin "

Who’s the Puritan Now – originally posted March 5, 2009

March 13th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

One delight of Pacific Northwest living is the sheer pleasure that a sunny day provides. Shortly after we moved here, a guest at our Shabbat meal told of a meeting that took place around his company’s conference table, which overlooked Puget Sound. A representative of top management, flown in from the east coast for the occasion, was sitting with his back to the window informing those present that their office branch was being shut down. To his amazement, as he delivered this devastating news, those sitting opposite him broke out in huge smiles. When he expressed his bewilderment at their reaction, he found out that his news had been eclipsed by the appearance of sunshine breaking out over the Sound.

And so it was a few week’s ago, on an unseasonably warm and sunny day, that my husband and I and our daughter, Tamara, celebrated by going out for ice cream. After all, a cheery day might not appear again for months. We had not patronized this ice cream parlor since the previous summer, and so it was a bit of a shock to find that renovations had taken place. The tables and chairs were the same, but alongside the name of each ice cream flavor was a new and unwelcome addition –the calorie count,

Now I am perfectly aware that going out for ice cream is neither good for my budget nor my waistline. At the supermarket, I can get a half gallon container that will serve eight for less than it costs the three of us to get one scoop apiece at the ice cream parlor. And it comes as no revelation to me that despite the claims I made when I was pregnant that ice cream was vital for the calcium it supplies, I actually am cognizant that there are more efficient and less caloric ways to get the same amount of required minerals.

When we go out for ice cream it isn’t to assuage hunger pangs or to check off a box on the food pyramid. We do it as a treat, and just as it would detract from our pleasure if the chain trumpeted how highly priced their ice cream is, it detracted from our delight to have the calorie count thrust at us. Instead of enjoying making a choice between flavors, Tamara and I found ourselves asking if the one we really wanted was worth 40 more calories than our second choice. Instead of taking pleasure in savoring the ice cream, I found myself figuring out how many minutes of exercise would be necessary to counteract the activity. All in all, Tamara and I had less fun than we anticipated (truthfully, I don’t think my husband even noticed that the calorie counts were posted).

I frequently find that the media label as old-fashioned and reactionary those who hold views similar to mine about sexual matters, family issues, art and language. They metaphorically pat on the back those whose thoughts are opposite mine, calling them progressive and realistic. Yet, I am convinced that the Puritanical streak is universally thriving. The food police support my view. For each of us, certain things are simply beyond the pale. As for me, while I agree that good physical health is important, I can’t help thinking that most traditional sins pose an even greater threat to society than obesity.

It’s the Genes, Stupid – originally posted Feb. 2007

February 8th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings 2 comments

February. An often bleak, cold and dark month. This may be the reason why, aside from the obvious commercial implications, cheerful, bright, pink and red valentines endlessly bombard us as soon as February approaches. For women’s magazines the theme of the month’s issue is pre-ordained – romance. Generally this means that even more clap trap than usual will be disseminated. Hollywood couples who have made it past the five week mark will be lauded as proof that enduring love still exists and “experts” will step forward to explain the new, advanced methods for attracting and holding on to a mate.

Right on track, in a statement so absurd that one knows without checking that the author is an academician, comes a quote from Melvin Konner, MD, professor of anthropology and behavioral biology at Emory University. Commenting on a study of rodents which suggested that injecting male meadow voles with the chemical vasopressin increased their likelihood of linking up with female meadow voles, the doctor states,

“There’s something at work with a couple that stays together for 50 years, bad years included. It’s hard to imagine that it’s just a question of compatible personalities or strict beliefs.”

Imagine. If we only had universal health insurance we could have a nation of young couples streaming to the nearest chapel and we could assure them that divorce is no longer a threat. A regimen of injections would turn us into a nation of long term, happily married couples.

I don’t mean to pick on Dr. Konner, who after all sounds like he was simply wondering out loud rather than recommending a policy. Later on, in the same magazine that featured his quote, is an article highlighting committed couples, including one who has passed the fifty year mark. It is clear that indeed they were initially attracted by compatibility but weathered and continue to weather difficult times through shared beliefs and views.

But in today’s cynical and bruising world thousands of young people are reaching marriageable age as products of broken homes; probably just as many as products of unfulfilled ones. It is easy for them to believe various academics who proclaim that marriages were never meant to last for fifty years. It seems sensible to them that as the expected life span increases it is only normal for couples to divorce and pair up with new spouses, or that marriage itself is obsolete and meaningless.

Studies such as the one that made the cover of news weeklies a number of years ago suggesting that there is an “adultery gene” or ones that suggest that commitment is biologically driven advance the argument that people are helpless beings who can only act as we are programmed. As such we are not responsible for or capable of controlling our behavior.

What a dismal message to send. And how different it is from the message that God gave to Adam and Eve in Eden (when life spans were even longer than they are today). As my husband and I have been preparing the newest volume in our Genesis Journeys  series, focusing precisely on what that message is, I can’t help recalling a February event that I was privileged to attend two years ago. Hosted by then Governor and Mrs. Huckabee of Arkansas, the focus was on promoting commitment in marriage and it had nothing to do with a magic pill or monthly injection.

The highlight of the evening (aside from my husband’s speech) was a moving video of the president of a respected Bible college announcing his resignation in order to stay at his wife’s side while she dealt with the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. Like the thousands of other women in the room, my eyes were overflowing as he explained how his wife had supported him in all his endeavors and now she was in need of his company. Although she didn’t seem to recognize him, his presence calmed her down and gave her peace, and so he was choosing to free himself of other obligations to be with her. Not because he thought it was “only fair” or as a “payback” but because it filled him with joy to ease her distress.

I imagine that this man and his wife probably felt they were compatible when they embarked on their marriage many years earlier. But I doubt if it was hormones that led them to stay together. My guess is that there was a constant recognition that communication, hard work and common goals were needed to keep them compatible and, indeed, that strict beliefs laid the foundation for and built the protective fence around their relationship.

I don’t think there was anyone in the Altel Arena in Arkansas, male or female, who didn’t say a silent prayer asking for a marriage as blessed as that one. And I also don’t think there was anyone there who thought that achieving that kind of marriage was a function of winning a genetic lottery or having access to new drugs rather than of making a constant and sustained effort, through good times and bad, to attain it.