Friday, August 10, 2012

Taming the Beast Within: Approaching Manhood

Win Blevins.  Stone Song: A Novel About the Life of Crazy Horse.  New York: Forge, 1995.  ISBN: 0812533690.
This is part two of an extended meditation in which I imagine my soul as a wild animal (the spirit Hawk of Crazy Horse as portrayed by Win Blevins) and talk about our relationship over the past twenty-odd years -- when Hawk was struggling to grow up and I was trying to keep her from killing me.

Serving a mission at age 19 was good.  The mission routine gave me something to focus on that was not my terrible, impossible sinfulness, and Hawk even came back sometimes without attacking me savagely -- though she was not happy when mission leaders told us that it was our lack of faith that kept the people of Spain from converting to Mormonism.  Hawk was just never good enough for God (or the other people that invariably end up speaking for him): he was always trying to break her, and because I thought that was for the best, I helped him do it, actively collaborating to humiliate and torture my soul (for its own good, of course).  But it was on the mission that I started to ask myself sometimes whether I were being too cruel to Hawk, whether there might be a better way to treat my animal spirit.  As a missionary, I learned that Hawk was not as lascivious or inherently unstable as I had been led to believe.  She had no problem being polite with Spanish women who walked around all but naked.  She only rebelled when I demanded that she refrain from thinking about sex, ever, or that I submit to the will of God without discussion, without argument, without complaint.  By the time I came home from the mission, we had a sort of awkward truce: I would do my best not to beat her up too much (when she failed to live up to God's impossible demands), and she would not torture me with impotent rage or impossible fear.

When I returned from my mission to pick my studies up at BYU, I was in a very vulnerable, uncomfortable place.  On the one hand, I knew that God expected me to get married, and I wanted that for myself (not only because God expected it: I believed the Mormon doctrine that family relationships are extremely important, and I was eager to enlarge my own family, which has always been a source of joy to me).  On the other hand, I had no idea how to approach women romantically.  From my training in church and my personal experience reacting to that training, I knew that romance was very close to murder, that it could call down great wrath from God, and that I did not know how to get remotely close to it without calling down that wrath.  Whenever I got close to a woman, Hawk would start tearing me to shreds inside, and I would flee away for safety, bleeding and weeping in the quiet recesses of my mind.  As a result of this situation, most of my time at BYU was devoted to study (not an entirely unprofitable outlet, though it backfired when I started getting really critically interested in Mormon history).  I did not date.  I did not make friends among girls.  I did not think actively about marriage (except to laugh nervously and cry out in pain to Hawk whenever well-meaning acquaintances -- usually older, married LDS men -- asked me, "So, when are you going to find a nice girl and settle down?  You don't want to wait too long!").  I was still trapped.

Then, I met the woman who would become my wife.  She saw past my broken psyche.  She did not judge Hawk.  She did not hate Hawk.  She was not jealous of Hawk.  She was nice to Hawk, much nicer than I had ever been, and for the first time, I felt safe with sex.  I could stop worrying.  I could stop fighting.  I could stop waiting for the world to end every time I had an erection (though it took me a long time to get that far: in the beginning, it was all I could do to let my new girlfriend touch my hand or shudder! kiss me goodnight).  I went into my new relationship full of the old dread -- sure that something awful would happen to overthrow the latest mirage of happiness being thrust upon me unexpectedly.  Right up until the last moment of our Mormon wedding, I expected some priesthood leader to have a moment of discernment and removed me -- firmly and permanently -- from the arm of the young woman I had somehow managed to seduce into loving me despite my obvious depravity.  Somehow, Hawk and I managed to sneak through the whole ceremony without setting off God's radar.

No comments:

Post a Comment