This is the experience of a friend of mine. He told me this once and I thought it was so touching I put it here in my own words. I wrote it in the first person in an attempt to keep it as fresh as when I heard it for the first time.
I was once invited to speak about love to a group of teenagers. From the start I assured them that I could learn more about love from their experiences than from my own. I prayed that my words to them would be useful in some way. After all, I am only a writer, and they did not seem too interested in my writing.
They centered in on my marital status: married. In spite of their youth, somehow they intuitively detected a love story that started thirty-five years ago and has only gotten better since the time we were engaged and promised before God and men to be forever devoted to one another.
Those adolescents were, of course, consumers of television, alcohol and more. They engaged in the ongoing festival of “safe sex” techniques that our educational system has been pushing for decades now. They also had first-hand knowledge of the horrors of unwanted pregnancy terminations, to use the politically correct euphemism for abortion.
At first I thought they were not going to understand. When I speak about love my words are full of realities very different from the entertainment industry’s depiction of love and sex. I speak about fidelity, patience, optimism, determination. I decided to put before them the challenge of eternal love. That reality not even death can defeat because it lasts forever: a man and a woman absolutely united in a kind of happiness that doesn’t fade.
I was surprised by the sudden, expectant silence. Their attention reminded me of that line of Yeats, “We sat grown quiet at the name of love.” Regardless of how much the forces of evil pervert this tired old world, the idea of love as the mysterious, central universal force is always there in everyone’s mind. My young audience discovered that this love worth experiencing comes with conditions.
The first condition is patience. One has to have patience to get to know the soul of the other, preparing for the moment when commitment is total and definitive. The second condition requires the renunciation of one’s privacy. One has to learn to be like Adam and Eve in the beginning…the whole inventory of the soul open to the other’s inspection and possession. One has to strive to exist for the benefit of the other without using, without manipulating a single thing, always giving.
Even when physical virginity may be lost, chasteness can rebuild it during that patient wait. To be fully prepared for the moment of declaration, “Yes, I do,” requires pondering the whole weight of our final commitment, “I love you forever; I will never look back.”
This reminds me of something I saw on TV when I was a teenager. Many years ago, when Italy was about to legalize divorce, there was no minor row going on in Parliament between the advocates of divorce and those who opposed it. At that time someone was interviewing a young Italian singer on one of those inconsequential television shows. The interviewer asked, “So what do you think of divorce? Should it be legalized? What do you think?” The artist was expected to repeat the line of the media in favor of divorce but no one ever told him what he was supposed to say. He looked at the interviewer and said, “Yes. They are going to legalize it, I think… but laws can’t make a wrong right. Divorce is only for those men who do not have the spine to love a woman forever.”
There was a silence. The interviewer, a lady, was shocked out of her shallowness for a few seconds and had to blurt out something to go into a commercial break. Even the idea of true love can turn a man into a sort of giant.
I asked my audience, “Do you think it’s impossible to recover virginity?” I was risking being called a fool, a nut. The long, sustained applause in response took me totally by surprise. I knew then that many of them had seen the light of love and were resolved to find it.
Originally published 4 July of 2010 in The New James Magazine.