Friday, December 10, 2010

"Well, I know you were influenced by......."

I really hate hearing this in debates. Yes, we all have biases, due to our upbringings, our status in society, and a multitude of other factors. At the same time, I find people use this one when they're so sure they are right that they pity your inability to come to their truth. I hate hearing this line because the person using it basically uses it to smear any credibility you have, usually without knowing or considering your life story, your thoughts, or your reasoning. I'm not going to lie. It pisses me off.

Guess what? I'm young. Yet I'm still an adult, I still possess a brain with relative intelligence. I've been living pretty independently for someone who is still in college. Hell, I've been living in Kenya for the last three months. Unlike most of my elders, I grow up in a much different time, in an era of constant exposure to information and enough mental stimulation to send the entire Roman Empire into a perpetual state of sensory overload. Thus I am quite capable of finding information, analyzing it and deciding my viewpoints on various topics after having that exposure to different viewpoints. It's how I've formed (and CHANGED) my political views, how I've researched for my IR and Economics courses and how I've decided (questioned and evaluated) my own religion. After living in Kenya, I've been exposed to even more diverse viewpoints, extreme situations and have been forced to reconsider views I long held to be sacred convictions. So, yeah, I think. I think a lot. I still have to make a decision about what I think.

No one decides my viewpoints but me. Not my parents, not my Church, not a rock band, not my friends, nor anyone who manages to sweep me off my feet. Yes, they've all shaped my viewpoints, somewhat. However, at the end of the day, it is I who decide what I believe and what I will stand by. I'm the one who stands before God. He gave me the gift of free will. Why don't we all do likewise?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

I know I write about abortion a lot.........

Women's health has always been an issue of passion for me. I remember being ten and wanting to be a doctor, "the kind that delivered babies." Even today, I still waffle about going into nursing, midwifery, or public health or even back to a medical school path. At the same time, I remember being pro-life. In middle school, I accidentally found a website with photos of aborted babies and it haunted me. Even earlier, I remember being a second grader in Catholic school, being told (likely on the Roe v. Wade anniversary, it was January) that we were going to have a moment of silence for "unborn children murdered by their mothers." It horrified me. I think I came home and asked my mom about it and I wonder how uncomfortable she must have been with it. It seemed to always be part of my life.

My thoughts and beliefs, my ideas haven't changed. I still think abortion is hard. I don't think most of us wake up in the morning and think, "I'm going to have an abortion." I find that yes, there are ways to reduce the need. However, I have come to see that there are times when it may be necessary. Times such as, two doctors think this woman will die or harm herself. Times such as, birth will kill the baby. Times such as, there is just no other way for my family right now. I think we should absolutely provide more support to women who want to keep their babies, support such as, increased chances for education and employment, affordable housing, fair practices in the workplace, paid maternity leave, access to childcare and healthcare. I also think there should be increased sex education and access to birth control (hey world, married people use contraception too). I don't think most pro-choice people only support a woman's desire to abort. Choice also means the choice to give birth, whether to parent or place the baby up for adoption.

I also don't want women to feel their only option is to engage in dangerous activities to end pregnancy. I don't want women to feel trapped by issues (such as health) that make it impossible for them to have a baby. I don't want a girl, a little girl, to die giving birth (and lose the baby, too) all because she was abused. I don't want women to be without access to procedures that could save their lives (abortion procedures are also used to help with a miscarriage, to ensure that a mother doesn't get an infection). Finally, I don't think medical decisions belong in the hands of politicians or the public. What happens between a woman, God, and her doctor should remain between those parties.

I probably wouldn't have an abortion. I do still consider myself a Catholic. I do support organizations on both sides that genuinely want what's best. I still want to ensure that all women have access to health care that is right for them. I'm not God. I don't know all women's situations and reasons. I don't think it's fair to paint all women or all doctors with a broad brush. Women need to be trusted. End of story.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Older Post But Still.......

Some people in my life are extremely shocked by my switch from pro-life to pro-choice. I will admit, if you had told me three years ago that I would switch, I would have called you a liar. Back then, I was so committed to a pro-life vision, even planned on going to medical school to become a pro-life doctor (and would not have offered birth control *shudder*). Back then, I was also still pretty naive. I was always able to have good dialogs with pro-life and pro-choice friends yet I still believed in it. That was until I realized something: an ideology that puts an unborn's rights above all else can actually serve as a detriment to the child and the mother. It was when I started reading stories like these that convinced me to change my mind. Yes, this is a January post, but think about it.

If we were to give full legal rights to an unborn baby, what does that mean for the baby's mother? Let's say, she has a smoking addiction or a drug problem. Withdrawal is hard enough on an adult's body and can prove dangerous for a fetal one, so doctors will either put women under very strict care or tell them to wait till the baby's born (many rehab centers won't take a pregnant woman for liability reasons). With regard to smoking, they may think it's healthier for her to quit after birth for the same reason. Should this mom be put to jail for child endangerment?

If so, where do you draw the line? Should women be arrested for drinking alcohol, even one sip of champagne at a party? What about eating too much fast food? Or not exercising? Or not taking prenatal vitamins? What if women get so sick from morning sickness, they can't keep anything down and have a difficult time gaining a healthy amount of weight for the baby? (No lie, that DID happen to a friend of mine). If a baby is stillborn, should she be charged with manslaughter? What about if she miscarries?

Finally, what if a woman aborts a pregnancy? Should she be charged? I hear many pro-lifers say no, that she's a victim. OK, does that mean she doesn't have the agency to make a decision with full knowledge and consent of will? At the same time, is she really a murderer?

Having health issues during pregnancy sucks. Going through the pain of a miscarriage or stillbirth or having to make the decision to keep or terminate a pregnancy is extremely difficult. With all that pressure, do we need the State cracking down on every personal and private decision we make?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Finding a Mate

Oy veh. Dating. Those two syllables are enough to send shivers down my spine. As a young teen, if you asked about my relationship status, I probably would have told you dating was a fate worse than death. Even today, my response is usually to laugh in someone's face and make a snarky comment about not wanting to commit incest (as my male friends are "brothers" to me). Honestly, it scares me. It's not because I fear commitment. I've come to realize it's because I want it too much.

In reality, I don't want to date lots of people for fun. I'd rather learn about people, discern if there's a mutual attraction, compatibility in personality, values and life goals and, once I find that in a person, marry him. However, I find that I simply am not ready for marriage. I have hobbies, talents, and dreams I'd like to pursue first and I find my life simply moves too fast. After graduation, I don't know what will come next and I'd like to make a decision without a relationship deciding for me.

Then there's the issue of my "dude friends." I have a lot. People say the ideal person is found in someone who is already your best friend. Here's the issue. Some are truly like your brothers in the sense they may be good buddies, they may be attractive, and they may be someone you mesh with but you feel related to them. You don't feel a romantic context is possible. For friends that have the potential to be "something more", the prospect is terrifying. Especially if you are emotionally close, the risk of losing a dear friend to a bad breakup can seem too costly. Or, you may put yourself out there only to realize your feelings are completely unrequited and then it's just too embarrassing to try and go back to where you were. Though many couples are together because of a friendship, getting past that first barrier is a wee bit difficult.

Then there are my values. On the one hand, my Catholic faith is important. I attend Mass every Sunday, I do believe in things like Confession, I want to marry in the Church and raise my kids in the faith. I also don't want to have premarital sex. For some people, this is a problem. At the same time, I am very liberal politically and believe in gender equality (I probably won't take a man's last name when I marry). I've found it difficult because I know guys who will respect the faith aspect (as in, they'll go to church with you or couldn't care less if you did and wouldn't mind marrying/raising kids in church), are liberal themselves or respect a liberal viewpoint, but still expect premarital sex. On the complete opposite side of things, there are guys who would respect the premarital sex decision, go to church and practice the faith, but they'll tend to be much more conservative about even non-political issues. For example, there are those Catholic guys who think girls shouldn't take birth control pills for their periods (a situation I am currently in). Or there are those who insult other faiths which, as a descendant of Protestants and Jews and as someone who has friends of all faiths, would not sit well with me. And, I'm sorry, but I can't be with someone who defends the Pope in cases of sexual abuse committed by clergy yet thinks a woman who makes a difficult decision to abort a pregnancy due to health or caring for other children should be excommunicated.

My conclusion? I do hope to be with someone at some point. In truth, I'm not a complete cynic about romance. I understand the time will come and I will be ready to pursue it. I'm just realizing why, even as my friends are marrying, I find it so hard to cross the first bridge.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Women's Health, Lives, and Autonomy

A few years ago, I never would have guessed I'd be writing this today. I would have been shocked at myself, fearful of my immortal soul, and wondering whether I was committing acts of good or evil. Yet, I have realized that I can no longer espouse an ideology I've held so dearly. Ladies and gentlemen, I am not pro-life.

I can no longer accept a movement that places women's health and lives on the back burner. I can no longer accept a movement that spreads misconceptions about health care in their quest to fight for an agenda. I can no longer accept a movement that puts the onus of reproduction completely on the woman, regardless that it takes two to have sex, regardless of whether she even consented to sex. I can no longer accept a movement that will do everything possible to criminalize abortion yet do absolutely nothing once the baby is born (granted, there are good pro-life organizations, like Feminists for Life and others that address needs for fair pay, maternity leave and others but they are not the majority, nor are they the ones leading the pro-life movement). I can no longer accept a movement that fails to do anything about pregnancy prevention (again, there are the pro-life organizations that work on that but, once again, think of who's LEADING).

I will admit, there are good pro-life organizations that do awesome work with regards to addressing needs for policy and comprehensive sex education. There are conservative pro-life organizations that do not work to deceive people but are up front about the services they offer and referrals they provide (in fact, abortion clinic counselors will refer patients to some of these honest ones, if she decides after all that she wants to keep the baby). There are those who live it with their lives, who take in women with no place to go, adopt children no one else will adopt (older children, children of color, children with disabilities), and give time and effort to fighting hunger and other wonderful causes. I have utmost respect for these people and hope that we can all work together on gaining rights for women and children.

At the same time, I cannot believe that making abortion illegal will solve problems. It will not solve the problem for a girl so desperate, she turns to a coat hanger or harsh chemicals. It will not solve the problem for a woman who has health problems and could die in childbirth (not to mention that usually, there are also health risks for the baby). It will not solve the problem for women who will lose their jobs, be trapped with an abusive partner, or be put out of streets (I understand that there are larger issues involved, but a baby may mean she can't buy time). It will not solve the problem for a woman and her husband struggling to provide for kids they have already and spending sleepless nights wondering how they will keep their house or provide groceries.

Do I like abortion? No. I will still work for policies to reduce the need for abortion. I will still work for policies to allow for maternity leave, access to health care, harsher punishment for rapists and abusers (as well as a greater involvement of good men to support women in all of their choices and stand up for equal treatment), access to education and job training and comprehensive sex education (as well as access to birth control). I will still support the good organizations that offer a helping, non-coercive hand to women, whether pro-choice or pro-life. At the same time, I cannot consign the women in my life to coat hangers and back streets. After living in Kenya, where the results are more painful, I can no longer say abortion should be considered criminal homicide.

Regardless of what anyone says, I still hold true to my faith and beliefs. These include a just, forgiving, merciful God who understands more than all of us what suffering is like (as I do hold belief in Jesus Christ). I hold true to a belief that God hears the cries of desperation in mothers and that even He Himself has fought with the desire to create (Noah's Ark, anyone?). I hold to a belief that, as the Holy Mother said, God will cast down the proud and lift up the lowly. For centuries and across cultures, women have been treated as the lowly ones, unable to make decisions. It's about time that this changes.

Will abortion necessarily solve all of this? No. But a woman needs to consider ALL of her options when faced with a crisis and be able to exercise her rights to make the best decision for herself and for her family. God gave women the unique power, yes, power and blessing, of bearing life. With that power comes an enormous amount of responsibility. A woman needs to decide whether or not she can accept it.

For all those working for a better world, regardless of which side you've chosen, I salute you. I sincerely hope people will use their fire, their passion for these issues in a creative, controlled manner rather than in a destructive, oppressive one. I hope we can all look at ourselves, in the hope of changing, to ensure we're doing more good than harm.

I don't have all the answers. I just know I am sick of reading of desperate deaths in the news.

Monday, November 22, 2010

"I LOVE the smell of death in the morning!"

During my time at AU, I have come to appreciate the sensibilities of my vegetarian friends. I love how light and healthy their diets are and I appreciate their reasons for eating as such. Whether to keep themselves healthy, to protect the environment, to make a stand for animals or to follow their God, they have their own reasons for doing so. At the same time, there are those I cannot support. Like any other group, vegetarians have their own proselytizers. Those are the ones who grate at me to no end.

First, I am not a vegetarian. While I do like the idea of becoming a vegetarian, I simply like meat too much. In addition, I have a high metabolism and plant proteins have done little to alleviate this. I need at least a small amount of meat to make me feel full. This actually hits me hard on meatless Fridays. While I like the idea, my stomach has a harder time with it. I am glad I can at least have fish but fish even gets tricky some days. Thankfully, the Vatican does make allowances for people with health concerns. So, while I certainly support reforms in our meat industry (organic meat, better treatment of animals, sanitary and humane slaughter practices) and believe that we all should eat healthier, I do not see myself joining the ranks of vegetarians. I think some vegetarians should keep aware of metabolic differences and tastes of their omnivore colleagues (as well as remember that they too are omnivores by virtue of biological structure). It's not like we wake up and scream, "I love the smell of death in the morning!"

Second, I have a hard time with people who think their way is the only right way. Aside from basic morals and ethics, as well as the laws of our countries (unless they prove unjust to people), there are many gray areas we face in terms of moral and ethical decisions. Whether it's our path to religious salvation, methods of fertility control, whether elephants or donkeys make one a great politician, or which animal is OK to eat on which day, human beings will never agree on these gray areas. A Muslim girlfriend of mine may feel called to protect her modesty via a head covering while jeans and a T-shirt may suffice for me. Likewise, I may have to attend Mass on Sundays, to fulfill my requirements to God but my Jewish friend does not. Our cultures, climates, legal systems, and beliefs may mandate different things for different peoples. I believe vegetarianism is one of those things.

Fight for a healthier world. Fight for fair treatment of animals, whether used in meat or not. Just please accept that my strategies may be different and that my needs may be different. A love of meat does not make one a brutal killer. Just like vegetarianism does not mean you're helping the environment (please tell me you don't fly private jets to make your point to developing nations...............while you criticize people who dare smoke a cigarette.......).

Now, I must finish this post so that I can attend a PETA meeting. What does PETA stand for? People for the Eating of Tasty Animals, of course! Bring on the meatballs!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Average Should Never Mark A Leader

One of my nightmares may end up coming true. Sarah Palin has stated here that she may end up running for President in the year 2012. Her reasoning? She's just your "average Joe", a "hockey mom" who is just like "everyone else." She believes she can beat Obama because she is not as "isolated" from the American people. Because of her so-called commonness, she believes that this will make her an excellent leader. Naturally, I beg to differ. Aside from the fact that she's really not in touch with most of America (I doubt she even knows what she's saying half the time), I also find that being merely "average" can backfire in your quest to lead a nation.

If you are a leader, it means there is something special in you that calls others to follow. Intelligence, charisma, integrity, compassion, courage, these are what mark a leader. While the ability to relate to people, to listen, understand, and identify their concerns, is crucial, I doubt that it makes one an "average person." Sadly, I find those qualities to be rare. Even in good people, there is a tendency to do what is easy, to follow the crowd. There is the attitude of talking more than listening, of instant gratification, of "me first", of never going one step further that I find in the average person. A true leader makes sacrifices the average person does not make. Thus, I do not think a Presidential candidate should market themselves as average. Nor do I think that the American people should value that over all the qualities I've listed above.

Second, I'll admit, I want my President to be "above average" in a few qualifications. I want my President to be intelligent and well-educated. While a Bachelor's or Master's is not the only thing that should qualify you for the Presidency, I want to see that my President cared enough for her or his education to pursue it full throttle. If he/she doesn't care about his/her own education, how will he/she care about the education of the nation? I also want my President to be wise on foreign affairs, to have traveled a bit. As President, you would have to deal with the leaders of nations, all of which have their own diverse cultures, internal issues, and complex histories. While I wouldn't expect my President to be an expert on all the nations of the world, I'd want them to be familiar with world issues and have some foreign experience. No, seeing Russia from your house is not world experience.

"To whom much is given, much will be demanded." To be President, much IS demanded. The Presidency is no average job. It is a job that demands energy, service, sacrifice, foresight, quick decisions, and integrity. Why should we give it to an average person?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

If I Don't Like You

This is not meant to be a hostile post. Rather, I've found more than a few things that irritate me. What irritates me most, however, is when other people make it clear that they would not associate with you yet, at the same time, will pretend you're their best friend when they see you. Like, they'll be overly nice to you in public yet either treat you like scum in private or talk to you in a condescending yet saccharine manner no matter whether you're in public or private. On the other hand, should you call them out on it, they will deny it (even if it's obvious, which does little more than insult your intelligence) or throw a fit when you respond to their overtures with markedly less enthusiasm.

Let me preface this by saying that I don't believe in hating people. However, I also finally acknowledge that I'm not going to mesh well with certain people and that I may not come to like them. Now, I don't believe in ardently praying for their death but I also believe in being honest with yourself about feelings you may have for other people.

Thus, if I don't like you, the following goes.

If I don't like you, I'm not going to respond to you with more than politeness. I'm not going to say I'm happy to see you when I'm not. I'm not going to open up about my life to you because I don't trust what you'll do with it. I'm not going to invite you on outings, drink with you or shower you with affection. If I found you dying or cold on the streets, I would do what I could to save your life and, if you were hungry, I would feed you. That does not mean that we are going to love each other forever. If you are in authority over me, I will treat you with respect but I won't go out of my way to suck up to you. I still have my dignity.

I understand people wish to be civil and I do believe in that. I also will acknowledge that I am not perfect and certainly have no right to claim moral high ground. At the same time, I really don't like this attitude of pretense to avoid humiliation. I don't like the idea of refusing to stand up to people simply because we're afraid of not making waves. I think it prevents us from being honest and true and I find that idea very depressing.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


How come, when I refuse to kowtow to society's expectations of femininity, people accuse me of being ashamed, of not taking pride in my womanhood? If I decide I'd like to ask a boy out, rather than wait, it's a sign of denying my womanhood. Having ambivalence about parenthood (as I am young, have many dreams about my life and little interest in a romantic relationship) makes me unnatural (though I understand my opinions can change). Wanting to pursue a career and more education makes me intimidating to men. Not caring about traditional feminine beauty makes me unfeminine. Why?

I am not ashamed of my biological sex. However, I do not define my identity by what society expects of me as a female. I am diligent, intelligent, stubborn, caring, passionate, and dedicated to what I do. I enjoy making music and furthering my talents in that area. I love to cook, especially Italian, Spanish and increasingly Kenyan foods. I consider spirituality important and I do make the time to pray, attend Mass, and I work to improve my character. I believe service to others is crucial and devote time to volunteer work and activism. I place a high priority on relationships with other people. I am not perfect and certainly have my flaws. At the same time, these are the qualities I am proud of.

I don't believe people should be ashamed of themselves, irrespective of gender. Rather, I believe that we should do all we can to become more of who we are, to further our best qualities. That is what we should be proud of and that matters to me more rather than if someone acts traditionally masculine or feminine. I am not ashamed of my racial background, yet I find no need to act stereotypically "white".

Why should my womanhood be any different?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


If you are unsure about my religious leanings, you either do not know me or have not read my blog. I will admit, subtlety is not my best quality. In any case, I am a Roman Catholic, having grown up in a very Catholic area and officially choosing it as my faith as a teenager. Yet my views are not as cut and dry. While I identify with Catholicism on many levels (emotional, cultural, intellectual), I cannot identify on an organizational level. As attached to this faith as I am, I still have other issues. It is difficult for me, as I cannot embrace another faith for many complex reasons. At the same time, I do believe God is too big for just one faith.

I joined the Church for many reasons. One, I was drawn to Christianity in general (my family being a mix of mostly Catholics and Protestants, with some Jews and Mormons). It was familiar to me, the teachings of Jesus resonated with me, and I knew I could never be anything else. Catholicism became clear to me as the oldest Christian church, one that has held faithful through generations and preserved something timeless. In addition, I also was educated in a Catholic environment and elements of Catholic doctrine and practice (Eucharistic adoration, Mass, the Sacraments, the prayers, role of Mary and the saints) appealed to me in ways elements of Protestant practice could not. Cultural elements existed for me, as I have always sought identity with my Italian roots. Finally, Catholic social teaching: consistent life ethics, poverty eradication, and life's dignity echoed back what I had believed about the Gospel.

After seven years, I can find no separation possible. Missing Mass, whether intentionally or not, leaves me missing something. Praying the Rosary fills me with peace and clarity. I find service mandatory and am committed to making my world a better place and myself a better person. One of the first things people learn about me is about my faith. This is before my education, job, age, family or even my love of food.

At the same time, I have my issues with the institutional Church. I believe in leadership, I do not believe the Bible alone suffices in deriving God's will and authority. However, I find myself questioning why God would enlighten someone more, simply because they were chosen by an established hierarchy. If God is above gender and made man and woman in His image, why is it so heretical to also refer to God as Her? Or for a woman to consecrate the Blessed Sacrament? While Jesus was fully human, why would a physical sex determine the worthiness for generations of women?

If sin is between man and God and a priest is bound by the seal of Confession to never tell, why does the Church derive power to excommunicate someone? If we can condemn sin without condemning the person, what use is this power to us? Further, if God is all powerful, why would we impose something only man could lift?

These are only a few of the many questions I have. Yes, I have prayed, yes, I've read the Catechism, Theology of the Body and a variety of texts. I have no easy answers. As much as I believe God resides with all who seek them, seeking another faith is difficult when your identity rests in one.

Trying to figure this out............

Cool Down Sonny..........It's Strictly Business

I've been finding lately that I have an inner Sonny. If you haven't seen The Godfather, Sonny is the hot-headed eldest brother who gets himself killed by acting on impulse. While I haven't lectured my younger siblings on how to knock someone off or thrown a guy in a trashcan for mistreating my sister (though I probably would do the latter), I do take things personally. After reading my last post and looking back over my life, I've realized this. I take things personally, particularly when no one intended any slight, and I react as if someone were invading my country. Not only is this unhealthy and revealing a significant lack of people skills, it could put me in danger.

I cannot control how other people treat me. Some people are ruthless, deceiving, cunning, lecherous, wrathful (cough:yours truly:cough), unforgiving, or overly controlling. I have as much power to change their hearts as I do to move mountains with a tooth brush. I can, however, control how I react. I do have the power to bring something positive, enlightening or peaceful to the table. None of this will come if I refuse to control my fire.

If you take things too personally, you will never be able to build truly healthy relationships. People will just anticipate your reaction like one does a ticking time bomb. They will never be able to make jokes, call you on serious issues, or show you affection. In the workplace, people will either purposefully piss you off (if they dislike you and want you gone) or will never trust you with anything because you can't keep a cool head. If you're ever in true danger, few people will come to your aid because you'll interpret every slight as a sign of impending doom. Finally, you'll never be able to enjoy life because you'll keep misinterpreting everything.

After realizing this, it made the streets more approachable for me. I no longer feel intense anger at people who really otherwise have nothing to do. I feel more in control of myself and my temper. I feel alert, yet relaxed. I feel I can also enjoy people more.

It's a start. After nearly twenty-one years, it's about time I changed some things.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cultural Sensitivity? Or Putting Yourself in Danger?

Whenever someone catcalls me, I find it annoying. But when someone gropes me, I don't take it lying down. My parents taught me from a young age that, while violence for its own sake was wrong, it's never wrong to defend yourself. In addition, throughout my upbringing, people put emphasis on self defense, carrying my keys in my hands, ready to strike, all they believed a young woman should know. Girls especially needed to know how to defend themselves.

So, how come, when I go to a foreign country (specifically Kenya), people start acting as if none of that mattered? As if YOU'RE at fault for being "culturally insensitive", should you dare to fight back? As if these guys are so conditioned by their culture, they just can't help themselves? I mean, isn't that another way of saying these guys are incapable of respect?

Here's the thing. If a guy dares to grope me, I don't know if he's going to stop at that. Men have tried to grab me, tried to pull me into cars and matatus, all manner of things, in public. In broad daylight. How do I know if he's going to stop at that one feel? He dared to touch something he KNOWS he shouldn't have. Who am I to risk my personal safety? Thus, I will push the guy away, maybe punch him in the arm to show I'm not going down without a fight, and yell and cuss as loud as possible. I don't do it to hurt him as much as to call attention, as to show that this WILL NOT be tolerated. If I had to get even more physical, I would. It's not that I look for trouble, it's more that I won't accept my own violation. Not from an American, not from a Kenyan. I like to believe human beings are capable of both respect and restraint.

Sadly, not very many here seem to share this attitude. All I hear are how I'm too rude, too confrontational and too insensitive. But what? Should I accept it if a man tries to put me in a car, take me far away from a safe place and do God knows what with me? Should I accept it if a guy (or girl, women aren't intrinsically non-violent) anywhere assaults me and gives me a disease I have to live with for the rest of my life? Should I accept it if someone tries to kill me and no one knows what happened to me?

I'm sorry, but I find myself surrounded by little girls who look up to me, no matter where I go. While I don't want them becoming bullies, I do want them to realize that they are not objects. They are people and they should NEVER accept it if someone tries to hurt them or otherwise cause harm. Same goes for the younger boys. If people would just learn to not act like animals, we would not be forced to react as such in the name of survival.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My Biblical Romance

Seal me to your skin
Like an artist's ink
Seal me to yourself
Unbreakable link

Our love is immortal,
Fiercer than the grave,
A fire unquenchable
In the hearts of the brave

Your waters, Love,
Overtake without kill
Your floods do not drown
Rather, they thrill

I'd give all for you,
Even my life,
To be at your side
Through toil and strife

For the fire shall burn
The flames never cease
Rather their warmth
Shall fill me with peace

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

St. Maria Goretti

*This may contain triggers for sexual assault survivors*

As a teenager coming into the faith, St. Maria Goretti was one of the first saints I heard about. I randomly caught a documentary about her on EWTN (for those who don't know, Eternal Word Television Network, aka Catholic TV). She was born a poor farm tenant's daughter in 1890 in Corinaldo, a town in central Italy. She grew up a devout Catholic girl and was known for her kindness and generosity. When she was not even twelve years old, a neighbor began harassing her until one day, he took her and attempted to rape her. She resisted him physically and, as a result, he stabbed her fourteen times. She died in the hospital, forgiving the man on her death bed. He later repented (after years in prison) and she was canonized a saint by the Catholic Church. She was canonized for "defending her purity".

I have a bit of a problem with that last bit.

I don't have a problem with St. Maria being a saint. I think such forgiveness, at any age, is something to be commended very highly. I also find that she showed courage in the face of huge adversity and worked hard to show a generous and loving soul, no matter what she faced. I believe it is important for young people to learn how to say no, to defend themselves in the face of attack, and, at the same time, to forgive the acts committed against them. However, I do have a problem with the Church using her as a defender of chastity.

You see, when the Church holds her up as a model of chastity (when she's barely even pubescent), it implies that Maria somehow wanted what was done. It implies that she was fighting, not a man trying to attack her, but her own sexual desires. It implies that she was somehow "asking for it." It implies that this violent act, had she submitted, would be "her fault."

It bothers me even more because she was still a child. She was not even twelve years old, may or may not have started her periods, may have just started liking boys, and she's considered a defender of purity? Even if it was his purity she was fighting for (and she did protest the act for the sake of his soul), why would that be her responsibility? As he was the adult in this picture, why shouldn't he be considered the defender of his own purity?

Further, are women who do submit (whether to save their lives or because they simply want it to end) somehow responsible for these crimes? Are children who choose not to fight an abusive adult somehow sinning? Are people who survive an ordeal such as this somehow "less" because they "allowed" someone to sin with them? What kind of message are we sending our Catholic youth, especially the young women?

I believe we should continue to hold Maria as a saint and role model. She is a model of forgiveness, of her willingness to stand for herself and could be considered as someone who stands with those who do suffer from these atrocities. However, to hold her as a model of chastity is inappropriate, as the acts were done without her consent. St. Maria was a child who was brutally killed by an adult who should have known better. This was not a turmoil of inner demons and sexual self-control. This was an act of violence that she had little control over.

I don't believe fighting against a rapist merits a "defense of purity" recognition. It would be the same as if a murder victim was recognized for "defending life" because they fought their killer. Does that mean those who do die are somehow participating in the sin of murder? Absolutely not. Why would we imply the same for those who suffered sexual violence?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Catholic Books for Teens-Disturbing.....

I converted to Catholicism as a teenager. I came into faith precisely at a time most of my friends were starting to fall away, so I was desperate for role models. I found websites such as Pure Love Club, Life Teen, Revolution of Love, and Catholic Answers. For most teen issues, they provided information mainly on the Church's teachings on sexuality, birth control, and abortion. A review of Catholic Answer's available books for teens will show multiple books covering Theology of the Body or Jason Evert's chastity publications. Looking back at this, I am a bit disturbed.

I'm not against the idea of teaching teens about the proper use of sexuality, according to our faith. I understand how crucial it is, especially as young people are just coming into their own sexuality and desperate to figure things out. However, I find myself disturbed by one aspect: sexuality is the main focus in the Church's attempt to reach young people.

Don't believe me? At Catholic Answers' online store, for example, the options for young people are here. Aside from basic guides to the ABC's of our faith, I spot seven tracts on chastity and three books dealing with Theology of the Body. Other than that, I see one book on Catholic faith in college, others on basic discipleship and the rest being geared toward little kids. In addition, an advertisement for a book on Maria Goretti talks about how she "chose to die rather than be violated by a neighbor" and how it can help young people grow in chastity.

Why is this a problem? As I mentioned, there is the assumption that youth issues are mainly sexual ones. There are no books on the Christian way to handle peer pressure, on teachings of alcohol and drug abuse, none on the Christian way to handle parental disagreements, on expressing individuality within a Christian context (ex. "Are tattoos OK?" "Is coloring your hair purple OK?" People do think Christians have to dress a certain way and many young Catholics can get confused. Answer to both? Yes, you can). Nothing on how to manage your money (including tithing/giving to charity, supporting companies with values of justice, consumerism, and debt). Nothing about going to parties or the pressure to fit in. Nothing even on music, on Christian rock stars, punk artists, etc. For college aged students, you would think you could find books on how to handle those situations in a Christian context. Nope. Nada. You would also think there would be resources for teens on how to discover their talents and use them to serve God's glory (and how to stand against an opposing parent who may have good intentions but isn't going with their best interests....including on how to financially support themselves as soon as they were old enough, if it meant following their desires and integrity). Nope. Zilch. Anything on how to handle bullying? Haha, you must be joking!! How to handle abusive situations? Yeah, right! How to form true friendships with people who respect you? As the wise guys would say, "Fogettaboutit!!!!!!"

There also are few resources for Catholic teens and college-aged students who want to take action in various causes. On the websites I've found, abortion and contraception use were the big issues. Taking action meant praying or protesting abortion clinics (a practice I've found to be morally repugnant, even as I identify as pro-life), volunteering at crisis pregnancy centers, teaching abstinence to high school kids, but very little on other issues such as homelessness, teen prostitution, environmental stewardship, ending the death penalty or hunger (global and local). While our Church teaches that these are important issues, I've seen little to no marketing to young people on how to get involved and organize. Even as we've had a tradition of activism domestically and internationally (with figures such as Dorothy Day, Oscar Romero, Dorothy Stang, etc), there has been little incentive to get young people involved.

What are my findings? We've reduced teens to "one thing" even as we try to tell them they're worth more than that "one thing". We've told them that their goodness wrests, not with how just they are in other areas, but with how well they can keep it in their pants. We've neglected to address other areas of their lives because we've decided which teachings are most important. I find this problematic. I think it's about time we started addressing other issues.

Five, Six, Seven, Eight! Time to Excommunicate!

Excommunication is a big deal in the Catholic faith. Ex, for outside, communication for community, it means "cut from the community". It means your sins are so great that you can no longer participate in the sacramental life of the Church, unless you either confess or have it lifted by the bishop. The principle of excommunication is taken from various New Testament passages where St. Paul declares apostates to be anathema (Gal 1:8, for example). One has to wonder: What can you do that is so terrible, the Church can basically cut you off?

According to the Church, you can be excommunicated for the following: 1) Violating the sacrament of Confession (whether using it to solicit sex or by breaking the seal), 2) Using physical force against the Pope, 3) Desecrating the Eucharist (the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ), 4) Procuring a completed abortion, 5) Belonging to the Freemasons, 6) Heresy, apostasy or schism. In recent news however, excommunications for abortions have been the most prominent (Sister Margaret McBride, for example or the Brazilian mother whose nine-year-old was carrying twins). For some reason, given our recent scandals, this bothers me.

First, with the teaching of abortion, we profess that all life is sacred, from conception to natural death. While very strict exceptions are made for self-defense, war, and even the death penalty (though the bishops hold that there is no justification for its use in the U.S.), it is a serious crime to kill anyone. So, I'm wondering why you cannot also be excommunicated for participating in euthanasia or serving as an executioner. Furthermore, since quality and dignity of life are included in our pro-life definition, should you not also be excommunicated if you allow someone to starve or otherwise fail to aid the least of these? Should you not be excommunicated if you pulled a Bernie Madoff and made so many people lose their livelihoods?

Second, with the issue of abortion, we also have teachings on the levels of culpability. For mortal sin to take place, there must be three qualifications: 1) Grave matter, 2) Full knowledge, 3) Full consent of the will. You have to be extremely convicted that the decision is wrong, but you decide to do it anyway. However, if you are coerced, if you do something because you believe it will save someone's life or otherwise produce good, your culpability is lessened. In addition, with regards to life threatening complications in pregnancy, the idea is that doctors must try and save both the lives of the mother and child but, if they can't, they have to at least save one. For the nine-year-old girl raped by her stepfather, she was carrying twins. I can only imagine her mother's agony, whether at the fact that her husband betrayed them both, at the fact that a prepubescent child was impregnated, or at the fact that now she's faced with the decision of having her daughter's pregnancy terminated to save her (not how most of us imagine becoming first time grandmas). For the more recent woman, her baby would have died anyway (because she would have died and her child was not viable) but the doctors decided that abortion was the only way to save her life. I can only imagine Sister Margaret's inner turmoil as she made this decision. So, while I am not God or these women, I cannot imagine that these were acts willfully done with the intention of shedding innocent blood. They were faced with a difficult decision of either ending one (or more than one) life to save another or to watch all lives end in the process.

Third, I cannot imagine that there are no political motives behind the decision to (not) excommunicate. As we all have seen, there have been horrible scandals involving the institutional sexual abuse of children and teenagers at the hands of parish priests. The Pope's initial response has been an accusation of media bias and bigotry. While he later amended this and realized the necessity of protection, he has taken little measures to either punish this crime inside the Church or emphasize the need for cooperation with law enforcement. Indeed, when I mentioned my disgust, Catholic friends of mine made excuses, saying, "You don't know what's been confessed!" and "The Church isn't perfect!" While it is true that priests have been defrocked for these crimes and that dioceses have taken stronger measures, it is dependent on the individual bishops and we have yet to see the clergy as a whole address this. In addition, within my home state of CT, the bishops have actually lobbied against a law that would end the statute of limitations, stating it would harm them. What relation does this have? The Church considers a sin to be so great, you can be excommunicated (regardless of culpability or complications) but lets its own leaders off scot-free for the crimes of not only sexual abuse (horrific in and of itself) but the abuse of power and the very destruction of an individual's relationship with God.

While I believe it's important to protect the dignity of the sacraments, of life, and the unity of our faith, I do believe that we have been failing in accountability. I also believe that the priorities used for excommunicating have not sent a strong enough message to protect all tenets of our faith. In addition, I believe it has been used more as a political measure rather than as a genuine concern for our faith. Rather than pointing the finger at people, I believe the Church hierarchy needs to take an honest look at itself and realize what truly is worth fighting for. I want to see my Church truly defend the innocent, not just paying lip service and meting out severe punishment in the process.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"OMG, Fat People" and Other Inane Comments

I wish I could say I was shocked by the elitism, arrogance, ignorance and prejudice I hear out of the mouths of the college educated, especially those who claim to be all about "peace, love, and social justice." However, hypocrisy is common in many areas, including this one. Recently, at my job, I was part of a conversation where two coworkers started bashing on people's body types. The conversation was originally about clothes, but then a girl mentioned a lady she saw in short shorts and how that lady was "not the smallest." The conversation spiraled downward and I ended up changing the subject, because I got uncomfortable. Still, I was amazed at the comments.

"So I had to sit next to two fat people on an airplane. How gross!"

"Well, that wasn't OK that she wore it!"

Et cetera. Et cetera.

I found it appalling for a few reasons.

First of all, it's amazing how we can judge a person for their body type, all the stereotypes and such we come up with without having lived that experience. The girls in question have society's mandated body type: small bones, slender waists, noticeable breasts, and a slight curve for their hips. They've probably never had to deal with weight issues, they've never given birth to children, they have no idea what it's like to not have that body. While people like to think they're acting out of concern for the person's health, that really isn't true at all. I know because I'll tell people that I work out and try to eat healthy and they always respond with, "But you don't need to! You're so skinny! You have such a cute figure!" I cannot begin to tell you how many of my friends are on crash diets or talking about how they need to fit a dress. To them, it's not about health as much as they don't like the way they look after finals week. The whole prejudice against those who break the body mold have nothing to do with health but more to do with our idea of physical beauty, our idea of what bodies, especially women's bodies, should look like.

Second, if we truly are concerned about health, why don't our politics and culture reflect that? For example, why are we still subsidizing corn products and dairy products, when we could be subsidizing organic vegetables for the health of our nation? Why don't poorer neighborhoods have grocery stores and farmer's markets (the latter being very affordable) instead of families having to rely on convenience stores and the high caloric/low nutrition content of the food options there? Why do our work weeks allow us little time to exercise, to cook our own meals instead of relying on processed quick ones, to really strengthen our bodies? And why don't our beauty standards reflect those of healthy people (regardless of body type) rather than an airbrushed ideal who barely exists?

Third, ladies, you won't stay Skinny Minnies forever. Pregnancy and breastfeeding change your body forever (not in a bad way, necessarily, just different). Age slows your metabolism. Maybe you'll end up with medical conditions that cause you to gain weight or medicine that includes weight gain as a side effect. Your life may become so busy at times that going to the gym is out of the question. You may not be able to afford or want plastic surgery. You may end up as one of those people you like to make fun of. And no one will have mercy on you, either.

So, dear fellow college students, grow up and educate yourselves. The world is better off without your "benevolent, concerned" condescension. And seriously? You can survive an airplane ride. Besides, long plane rides aren't supposed to be the epitome of fun anyway. Get over it.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pro-Life and Pro-Choice.....Yes, We Can Be Friends.....

My social circle is full of interesting people. From artists to economists to activists, my friends are very unique, which is why I love them dearly. After graduation, they take their own paths, whether through Teach for America, Peace Corps, the military, entry level jobs (private, public and non-profit), or other adventures. For many of my friends, these paths take them along a journey to work toward their ideals for the world. This includes my friends who work for pro-choice organizations. Of course, people wonder: As a Catholic, should I support these decisions?

While I am irrevocably pro-life, I believe the answer is yes. For one, I believe that pro-life and pro-choice activists, those ardent and pure in their intentions, truly believe they are fighting for the best quality of life for all women and children. While they both disagree on the methods and importance of the life of the fetus (the latter causing a huge divide), there is a genuine desire to reduce situations that leave women feeling stuck. They both find a need to increase access to education and health care, to remove stigma against pregnant women (especially low-income women, women of color, young women, and single women), and to love a woman no matter her choices (note I am not speaking of the judgmental, hypocritical, violent anti-abortion activists out there). While none of my money will go to these organizations, I do understand where my friends are coming from and commend them for fighting for a better world for women and children.

I also find it the same for friends who choose other adventures. For example, I can support my soldier friends, even as I find myself disagreeing with the war in Iraq. I can support friends in the Peace Corps, even if I have major problems with the organization. I can support friends in Teach for America, even if I don't find it an effective solution for America's educational issues. I can support my friends in the Foreign Service, even if I am not a fan at all of U.S. foreign policy motives. I have my ideals to live by. However, they do not include alienating everyone I know for the sake of following them. I can fight for my own and pray that God's will be done in this world. That's the best I can do.

Of course, people will tell me to admonish the sinner. First, who am I to tell someone that they are in a state of sin? Second, my faith teaches that there are levels of culpability. If you are doing something with the best intentions, even if it turns out wrong, God does not hold that against you as if you knowingly and willingly committed it with evil in mind. Third, at this point, my friends know where I stand on everything and they know what I fight for. I can only live by what I know inside is right. They can only do the same for themselves. We live in a broken world, we're doing the best we can.

I pray one day, we can all see the full picture, whether we be right or wrong. I pray that we see the beauty that was intended from the beginning of time. Until then, we're simply trying to fight for what it was. Yet, as humans, beauty is all about perception. We see what we see and we can't acknowledge what doesn't pass our field of vision.

Monday, June 28, 2010

This just in.......

I will be flying to Nairobi on August 29th. It's official. Ticket has been purchased.

Thank you for prayers and support.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


I will never understand the compulsion to treat an eighteen-year-old, that is, a legal adult, like they are still a child. While, presumably, such a young person is leaving the nest for the first time (and therefore needs guidance), one would hope that the parents of this young person have guided them to where they need to go. Whether or not the youngster leaves for college, the military, trade school, a job, a gap year program (volunteering, interning, or what have you), whether or not the family contributes monetary aid, one would hope this new adult is ready to take steps, however faltering, into the path we call life.

Though I am almost twenty-one years old, I remember the last month of my senior year like it was yesterday. My best male friend and I were both accepted into our top choice university (we were the most politically active within our class, so it wasn't surprising) and our mothers were talking about how different it would be to send their children so far away. No one understood why. They thought our parents were crazy to send us to such a "dangerous" city (because living next door to Joe Biden inspires terror in the hearts of men), that our mothers would miss their "babies" terribly and beg us to come home, and even more absurd accusations. My mother often responded with, "If I allowed myself to think of every possible situation she could get herself into, I'd be paralyzed with fear!"

Looking back, I'm so glad my parents were willing to send me so far away to school. Throughout the past three years, I've started learning to stand on my own two feet. For the first time in my life, I had a job and started teaching myself how to budget. I questioned my faith and every aspect of my upbringing and personality. I learned to cook well. I chose a major I've loved and have been on the Dean's List for two years straight. I got my own apartment and never missed a rent payment. I've interned and started my own club. I've developed hobbies and interests. I've joined a parish and started making friends and networks. I had articles published. I developed friendships and learned how to stand up for myself. I learned to appreciate my family more and am more motivated to honor them. I chose to go to Nairobi this fall and I'm doing what I can to make it happen. In short, I've started finding myself.

I say this, not to gloat or to brag, but to show that independence is a wonderful gift, a blessing that you can bestow upon your adult child. Sadly, throughout my home community, there was a tendency to coddle, to smother children in affection and to attempt to shield them from the hard things of life. My parents never did that. If we failed a class, we failed and took the consequences. If we had drama with friends, we were expected to deal with it on our own. We had a cornucopia of chores. When it came time for college, my parents offered financial support with the promise of good grades and hard work. Of course, they were always there to provide love, support, and advice, but they wanted us to learn to be responsible adults. That way, turning eighteen wasn't so scary.

People have told me that I have a strong work ethic and sense of dedication to the tasks at hand. They tell me that I seem strong, mature, and able to take care of myself. I have my parents to thank for that. Their whole lives, they've worked to help us become the people we were meant to be. Through discipline, an emphasis on dedication, and a strong amount of love and support, they aimed to guide us in that process. I am thankful for that. I am thankful that they believed in me enough to let me make those choices. I am thankful for the respect they gave me, as an adult and as a person. The ability to do well in school and simultaneously pay my bills fills me with a sense of accomplishment. I'm glad my parents set me on that path.

It's bogus to think that college aged adults need constant coddling. Not to say that families shouldn't support them or help them when times really do become tough, but that it's ridiculous to assume that we're incapable of caring for ourselves. We learn from our mistakes and our successes, we learn where we need to fix things and what we're truly capable of. We become creative and resourceful in our attempts to make it "out there." By the time we are truly out in the world, we've already experienced it and know what it's like. We're more than our society expects us to be. I wish more people would see that.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


I'm a very social person. People have described me as talkative, friendly, gregarious, extroverted, warm, and open. I always feel the need to connect with people and I love long conversations. While I appreciate my alone time (especially after busy nights of work or when I'm sick), I typically do not fare well under it. However, at the end of this school year, I've found myself spending my days off with little company. As a server who works most weekends, I find it difficult to find friends free at the same time that I am. It was then that I decided to experiment with loneliness.

What I've found is that I can use this time, time that I have not had in my recent past, to grow into myself. In the past two days (both days off), I have learned new guitar tricks, written for pleasure, read multiple books, practiced my singing, lifted weights, tried new recipes, and most importantly, taken time to reconnect with my faith and go to Confession (hey, I needed it!). I've found that my quiet time has helped to regenerate my soul and led me to develop hobbies and interests. I've also found that, when I have run into friends and met new people, I appreciate encounters more. I've learned to value what other people have to say, rather than just waiting for my turn to talk.

When school is in session, other factors split my attention and consume my life. I pay my own rent, so I'm constantly working, in addition to taking a full course load (and working as hard as I can on my schoolwork). I also tend to take leadership positions and fill my time with extracurriculars and social events, anything to build my resume and increase my networks. In addition, I find a need to see my friends as much as possible and keep maintaining relationships. The little quiet time I get is usually the hour I spend at Mass, if that. As I'm constantly with people, I feel the need to talk all the time. I tend to speak more impulsively and I find silence impossible to deal with, as I feel either too lazy or too lonely. With the stress I experience during school, I am very surprised my health (emotional or physical) has endured as much as it has.

I'm finding that I'm learning to deal with myself in healthier ways. I'm more aware of my flaws but I don't feel they are as insurmountable (as my need for perfectionism has lowered significantly). I feel more motivated to work on them and to become a better person. I feel a stronger drive to create, to leave something of value. I don't feel the need to fill every space with words or to retreat away from the world as much. I feel refreshed, stronger, and more ready for challenges. I can appreciate my time with people more.

Most importantly, I'm learning that I have to rely on my own inner strength, the strength only God gives, when challenges arise. I need that strength to humble myself when I need help and to give to others, when they need help. However, developing that strength is an inner process, one that needs to happen when I'm one on one with God. For if I can learn to be strong when it's only me, I can be strong when I'm against an adversary. As a result, I'm much more confident, peaceful and self-assured.

I guess I'm not so lonely after all :)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

J.Lo's New Movie and Cultural Identity

OK, disclaimer: Katie has NOT seen the movie! However, I found this interesting article on Feministing and I had a few things to say. Also, some spoilers.

First, read the article here. Read all the comments, while you're at it.

Basic synopsis: They're pissed because J.Lo seems to play a "white" character when we all know the actress herself is of Puerto Rican descent.

OK......First, J.Lo is an actress. She's not allowed to play people of a different ethnicity if she can pass and she's qualified? Also, must she incorporate something about PR/Hispanic/Latina identity into every chick flick she makes?

Second, you'll notice I put "white" in quotes. I hope we all know that race is not always related to either national or cultural identity. The author, a Cuban herself, makes many assumptions about J.Lo's character, including that she can't have any European ancestry whatsoever or that it would be near impossible for her to have two redheaded babies. Never mind that people who identify with Hispanic or Latin cultures can have a wide variety of ethnic diversity. Never mind all the fair skinned, light haired Caribbeans and Central/South Americans I know and work alongside with. Never mind that it was European nations who colonized those countries, especially the islands (where many indigenous populations did NOT survive and, as a result, may have more European or African descended people than anything else). Never mind the influence of WWII and European immigration to many South American countries. After all that, it's unheard of for someone we've LABELED as "Hispanic" to be WHITE??

While I'm not Hispanic, it reminds me of the cultural labeling I constantly face. Because I'm fair-skinned but with darker features and because I'm multilingual, people are constantly trying to guess my ethnicity. I've been mistaken for everything from Puerto Rican to Greek to Sicilian, yet I am a mix of European ancestry and I identify with my Italian heritage (from Tuscany, a northern province). I've had people think I didn't speak English. At the same time, I always hear, "You don't LOOK Italian." What, because I don't have a certain kind of nose, my skin isn't dark, and my hair isn't thick, my ethnic and cultural heritage and identity just doesn't exist? Really? Should my professor, of Indian descent, be allowed to identify as Kenyan, even though her family is from Nairobi, just because she doesn't appear as your typical African?

What do these have in common? They involve someone telling someone else that they can or cannot identify as something based on appearances. J.Lo's character can't be seen as "Hispanic" because her two babies are "white" and her relatives are "white" (never mind that she may not actually be using her identity in this film. Also, Cameron Diaz, a blond woman, is of Cuban descent). My ethnicity is always called into question because I look a certain way and I can talk a certain way. National, regional, and cultural identities of people can be questioned, simply because of how things appear (remember Teresa Heinz Kerry coming under fire for identifying as "African American", even though her family is from Africa?). And most of it is arbitrary. For example, Hotel Rwanda has a scene where a journalist is asking about the difference between Hutus and Tutsis. The journalist then asks two women what they identify as (one was Hutu, the other, a Tutsi). He said they looked exactly the same.

I am appalled that a community like Feministing, a community that claims to fight this sort of stereotyping (whether with racism, classism, or sexism), is actually making use of it. Not every movie (certainly not one meant for mere entertainment) needs to be a soap box for ethnic pride. As for the issues of identity, having a kid with red hair doesn't make you anything but a parent of a kid with red hair. It's our blood, our upbringing, our personal experiences, and our choices that choose that sort of identity. That last bit, the choice, was what I thought people fought for.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Katie's Stand....

Today, someone raised my temper.......That is, until I realized that the person who did it holds very little power over me. I realized that there will always be people like that, thorns in your side that get under your skin. That is, until you realize you hold the strength to pull them out, even if the pruning is quite painful. While the pain is intense, it doesn't last that long in the grand scheme of your life.

I don't need anyone dictating my life, telling me how to be or whether my reasons for action were legitimate. Time will tell the tale and I will reap the consequences of my actions. While yes, there will always be rules I need to follow, whether through work, school, church, or other aspects of my life, no one can form my soul to their measure. No one can mold me to a cookie cutter shape, will me to bend in their direction or take the pieces they like while discarding the ones they don't.

I am me. I am many things. I am a student, a worker, an activist, a musician, a writer, a blogger, a daughter, a sister, a friend. I identify as American by nationality, Italian-American by ethnicity and culture and Roman Catholic by faith, but these cannot begin to capture my essence, who I am as a person. I'm passionate about pro-life but also the environment and I take strong stands against poverty. I don't like to identify myself with my looks, for I understand that they will change, with age, with style, and with other factors. I'm sensitive, fiery, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes brusque, but always striving to know, to learn, and to love, despite my many imperfections. I love learning languages. I'm deeply spiritual, not just religious. I drink a lot of tea and coffee. I'm obsessed with the French and the Florentines but am bound for Africa. I'm a city girl and NYC and DC are my two loves. I'm loud. And I've just realized that I no longer care what others may say or think about me.

This is who I am. I'm sick of people's efforts to change me, to make me something different. I'm not who you want me to be. I'm trying to be who I want to be, who God wants me to be, as He made me. I cannot do both, just like I cannot have two masters. If the former was my master, I'd die a cruel death. Thus, I make this as my stand.

"A King may move a man. But the soul belongs to a man." Kingdom of Heaven.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sexual Abstinence and Empowerment

"Why do you want to wait?" "Is it hard?" "But sex is FUN!" "You can't pay the mortgage off all at once, Katie." These are just a few of the myriad statements I hear when others learn of my decision to wait till marriage. As a twenty-one year old student (at a liberal university, in one of the most liberal cities), a self-proclaimed feminist, someone who's questioned her own sexuality, and someone who seems to have a crush a day (hey, I meet a lot of wonderful, beautiful, attractive people!), it seems shocking. Combined with my Catholicism, I seem an anamoly, especially given my previous statement. Yet I find this decision to be one of the most liberating ones of my life. To me, abstinence is empowerment.

First, I don't have to deal with some life-changing complications. I carry a ton of stress in my life. I go to school full-time, work nearly the same amount, carry some extracurriculars, plus I make time for things I deem important (music, connecting with friends and family, writing, reading for fun, church). What would I do if I got pregnant? Abortion repulses me and I tend to be a maternal person.....yet I know I could not be the mother I should be, should I be blessed enough with a child. At the same time, I know I'd grieve a baby I placed for adoption. I'd rather not have to make that choice, given the tensions I already face. I also do not wish to put my physical health at risk for STI's (even with protection....I don't trust it with my city's AIDS rate) or cervical cancer (NIH says that risk is greater with greater numbers of sexual partners).

"But there's protection!" Except, what are my options? I don't like the idea of putting (potentially carcinogenic, see WHO and NIH) hormones into my body unless I had serious medical conditions that required it (side effects also have me worried). In addition, with concerns rising about hormones in the water, I feel these would have social and environmental costs attached (not to mention, the cost out of my pocket!). For barrier methods, I'm not so sure how much I like the idea of synthetic materials entering my orifices, not to mention some also require leaking chemicals through my body (and again, going back into the water, reiterating my point on the environment). Furthermore, most options are only for the prevention of pregnancy. For STI protection, we only have condoms. What if it breaks, despite best efforts? Are a few moments of fun worth the rest of your life? I'd rather say I waited till marriage and have my friends laugh at me, rather than say I have AIDS and see tears on their faces.

Also, protection only works for the body (and again, not 100% of the time). What about the heart? Yes, I know, some people will have encounters and not regret an adventure. I am not one of those people. For those who know me, I get very attached to other people, especially people who are affectionate with me. I receive love through hugs, kisses, and other forms of physical touch. If I were to engage in sex with someone, I know that it would have to be within the context of a lifelong relationship because, for me, it would be a bonding experience. Further, I would not want its power clouding my judgment if someone were truly not right for me. When I date, I'm looking at the person as a potential life partner (which is why it remains an infrequent part of my life). I don't want their ability to romance and seduce me (in ways sexual or not) to get in the way of my judgment of their character and our compatibility.

This brings me to my final point. I've found that our over-consumerism has spilled into our romantic lives. Dating is no longer about who would make a suitable spouse. It's about who's the best at flirting, the most attractive, the most sexual, the most lavish and extravagant, and maybe we'll get married at some point. Our society has discouraged us from looking for commitment, encouraged us to focus on the superficial, and forgot one of our main institutions. Even if someone is amazing, we're expected to look for someone "better" because we're "young". When it comes to sex, they must please us from the beginning or they're out the door. If they lose their physical appearance, they are also eliminated. What a sad outlook!

No thanks. For me, I'd rather focus on becoming a more complete person, rooted in her values and embracing the crazy directions life takes me, while still maintaining a level of sanity and practicality. I'll look carefully for a spouse when I'm ready to look. When we've found each other, we'll embark on adventures together, sexual and non-sexual alike. We'll learn how to make a relationship withstand every fire, build a life through good and bad, storm and sun. We'll learn this particular dance in the same way a band learns to play together (after all, the guys in U2 were complete novices. Yet they've become a piece of magnificence) and appreciate its power and beauty, even if it's not always earth-shattering. We will embrace joy, sorrow, children, careers, age, economic booms and bust, war and peace together, until one of us dies. That's what I want and that's worth more than a thousand lovers.

Now, THAT'S sexy ;-)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Art, God, Hierarchy, and the Poor

I took a trip to Europe when I was eighteen. For two weeks, I traveled around four countries, performing, touring, and visiting historical sites, while using rudimentary French to get around. I've visited small towns, big cities, mountains, beaches, cathedrals, and concentration camps. I flew for the first time in my life. It was incredible.

Everything struck me when I was there, but a visit to an old church in Dinkelsbühl, Germany gave me a moment of pause. You see, St. George's Catholic church is over a thousand years old, still standing to this day, with all of its beauty intact. When it was built, it was a huge community effort. The wealthy donated money for materials and labor, the artisans made use of their talents in crafting stained glass windows, paintings, and sculptures of the angels, prophets, and saints, and the laborers contributed the work of their hands and strength of their bodies. Not one person was left out. As a result, everyone in the community, regardless of class, age, or social standing, had a place to come together as fellow human beings, and glorify God every Sunday (granted, it never falls exactly to this ideal, people still bring their prejudices, etc, but you get where I'm coming from).

Upon hearing this, and stories of churches and cathedrals worldwide, it always angers me when I hear how we need to, "sell our art and give to the poor." While yes, as Catholics, we are obligated and commanded to give to the poor and fight for social justice, I don't believe this is an accurate statement or effective method. Here are a few reasons.

In the Bible, Jesus did command His disciples to sell what they had and give to the poor. However, there is a striking passage in John, where a woman anoints Jesus' head with oil. Judas rebukes her, stating that the ointment was expensive and the money from its selling could help so many people. Jesus makes an interesting comeback. He says that we'll always have the poor, but only Him for a short while. Sounds contradictory? Not really. Jesus was not being greedy or suggesting we forget about the least of these. Instead, He was acknowledging the importance of giving our talents and resources to God. In our faith, we believe that being generous with God, something we can't see, allows us to be more generous with each other, whom we do see. Does it always work like this? No, because we are broken. However, if one is truly open, you couldn't give your talents to God without sharing them. Should musicians who advocate justice sell their instruments and give to causes? No, because otherwise, others might not hear the message in the same way, as if the musician had written a song about it (hey, it was because of Bono that I made myself learn about world poverty). Same with the art in churches. It helps us to focus on what's really important and can give more voice to the causes of justice (considering you're focusing on a guy who was beaten and killed by an unjust government for suggesting a revolution of love).

Another issue I have with that is my own beliefs about art. I don't believe art was meant to be confined to the hierarchy, to those privileged enough to buy a painting or see a concert. Art, whether in its creation or appreciation, was meant to be enjoyed by humanity. That is our way of manifesting emotions and beauty in ways that mere speech cannot. Because of the Church's preserving art such as that of Michelangelo's, people all over are able to view and share this art, to share the messages (like Mary's grief over losing her Son in the Pietá). If we sold this art, this treasure of humanity, it would go into the hands of the hierarchy, of those who'd make its sharing much more exclusive, those who don't appreciate the significance and profundity of its creation. Further, with the issue of these churches and cathedrals, we're sending a message saying that art is merely for the rich, a luxury item, an exclusive club. For those who made their living through these creations, as well as those who've sacrificed more lucrative careers for art, this is a huge slap in the face.

Finally, while I agree that there are those leaders who could live more simply, I don't believe art is responsible for this poverty. First, in many of these communities, the Church is providing health care, school systems, and other programs not provided by governments (and it's Catholic movements who have been known to call governments to accountability. Think Brazil's land reform movement or Archbishop Romero in El Salvador). Second (and I'm hoping this is true in all cases), we stand against slavery, so I am sure that these workers are paid to create this art. This could be a livelihood for people who otherwise would not have had one. For local artisans, this is a way of preserving culture, showcasing talents, in ways that they might not have been able to otherwise. Poverty is caused by social injustice and unequal distribution of resources, as well as economic turmoil. While maybe some church leaders could do more, I'd hardly peg beautiful churches as the reason for infant mortality.

As Catholics, as people of faith (or no faith), as human beings, we have a responsibility to fight poverty. We have a responsibility to fight social injustice. Yet to take a tool that binds people together, manifests our own creative desires, and to condemn it to hierarchical prostitution is a crime against humanity. We have a right to create and appreciate creation, sacred or otherwise. Art is not a luxury. For some of us, it's how we breathe. Without it, life is mere survival. Beauty is not a privilege for the powerful. It's why we're here, to show the world how it is and what it could be. Blame governments, blame attitudes, blame unkind hearts for poverty. But don't blame humanity's creative power.

Cultural Identity.....Again.....

This seems to be all I think about lately. For my program in Kenya, I have to complete an internship with a not-for-profit organization. My International Development professor recommended I do something with cultural identity. A dear friend of mine (who completed the program during his time in school) stated agreement with that assertion. I'll admit, I was surprised. I always saw myself doing something with maternal health care or microfinance. Yet, upon pondering, it doesn't seem that surprising. It doesn't surprise me because I spend half my time analyzing my own.

Everyone who knows me knows I identify with my Italian ancestry. My paternal grandfather was from Florence and my father was born there. In addition to having that influence, I grew up in two very Italian American neighborhoods and had gone to Catholic school at an Italian/Irish parish. I grew up with the food (my mother being the cook that she is) and was always fascinated with the culture. Later, when I became a Catholic (due to other factors), I found the need to learn about the country that not only housed my biological ancestry, but my spiritual home as well.

Yet, I'm not 100% Italian. I'm not even 50%. I'm a whopping 25% Italian, which causes some to raise their eyebrows. If I were to give an honest description of my ethnic identity, I'd have to say I'm half English, a quarter Italian, an eighth Austrian (and Jewish, if you count Jewish as an ethnicity as well as a religion), and some German, Scottish, and Spanish mixed in, with percentages unknown. At the same time, I've learned that ethnic composition doesn't always jive with cultural identity. Nor does it always mix with national identity (you can identify as American and be of any ethnic or cultural background). It's a complex phenomenon unto itself, one influenced by many factors: ethnicity, regionalism, nationalism, home environment, sometimes religion (and culture influences that as well), sometimes class (especially with privileged cultures), politics, resources, customs....pretty much everything that impacts a human being.

At the same time, our society feels the need to label and describe everything, according to perception. However, even these labels come into question. I have a professor of Caribbean descent, with family from Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. She's always told she could be Latina (due to her DR family) but she doesn't have enough blood or influence for that (WTF?). People describe her as "black", which she doesn't like, simply because she feels that there is an established "black culture" in the U.S., one based on the influences of slavery and not one necessarily inclusive of recent African, Caribbean, or Afro-Latino groups. I have friends of Native American descent, on both sides, but are blond and blue-eyed (and, while a good portion of their ancestry is, they don't have the "blood quanta" to register with any of the tribes). Or how there's a whole different category for Latin Americans, regardless of actual cultural or ethnic influence. Let me tell you, there is a WEALTH of difference between the German/Italian descended Argentine and the Mayan from Guatemala.

Cultural identity is complex, regardless of where you come from or what you choose as your identity. I've come to find that it goes beyond Census statistics and societal labels. It transcends even blood quanta and genetics. It's one of the markers of who we are, where we come from, and who we hope to be, what we hope to give to our children. At least, that's what it's taught me thus far.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


A Muslim friend and follower of mine posted an amazing and humorous article of the problems and awkwardness associated with teen dating (find here). In addition, the author speaks of the benefits of following Muslim tradition with regard to marriage. She emphasizes the need for consent, community involvement, and familial support in choosing a life partner. While giving me a good laugh (the lady has a wonderful sense of humor), the article also made me think about my own views on dating and marriage. As a Catholic, I found myself agreeing with most of the article.

You see, my faith teaches that marriage is to be for life. When you get married in the Catholic Church, you are assenting to always practicing fidelity, to staying together till death, and to raising a family, as God sees fit to bless you (whether through birth, adoption or any other means). As a result, the Church is very strict on its marital teachings. Sex is meant for your spouse only, for bonding and the creation of children. Engaged couples must prepare for marriage extensively and take classes and counseling before a priest will consent to a wedding. While couples are free to choose their form of dating or courtship and there is no specific Church teaching regarding the subject of teen dating, many priests will emphasize the need for discernment and traditional Catholics tend to see dating as a means to an end, not merely a fun activity for young people.

Because I do agree with all of these, I find myself shying away from mainstream dating. Many people say it's a way of getting to know people and figuring out what you like. The thing is, I could do that just as easily while being friends with someone, without feelings getting in the way. At other points, I'm trying to find someone who shares my values. Unfortunately, sex has become an expectation and traditional values are often looked down upon. I also have my future to consider. I know I'm not ready to marry at this point in my life....I don't want to start considering it before I have some basic factors in order.

I am not judging anyone who chooses to date or follow mainstream society. However, I am proposing another model. I don't need to go to the movies with ten different guys to see who'd make the best husband and father. I also don't need to put myself at risk for things like pregnancy or STI's for the sake of being young. Instead, I'm preparing myself for an enduring, unconditional, lifelong journey. Until I find the one who will take it with me, I can at least start becoming the person I want to be, the person who is ready for any adventure. I find that type of love all the more thrilling.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Liberal vs. Leftist Intolerance

If there's one common point of contention among most of my friends and family-whatever their political beliefs/faith/lifestyle-it's the frustration we all hold with what we call the liberal elite. Don't get me wrong. I'm fairly liberal in most of my politics. I believe in health care reform, am against the war and torture, try to stay out of people's bedrooms, advocate for labor rights, and intend to experiment with veganism at some point. However, I try to be open-minded toward others' beliefs (and, if I've acted elitist and arrogant, I humbly apologize). I know others who try to do likewise, regardless of their ideology. Unfortunately, this cannot be said for all who profess "liberalism."

These are the people who protest animal experimentation but condemn those who fight abortion. These are the people who claim to think for themselves, yet feel the need to condescend to those who practice faith. These are the people who will travel to the most impoverished countries in the world yet who act like the South and Midwest are the most oppressive, backwoods places, regardless of the intelligent people they know from these regions. They'll stand for women's rights, unless those rights include choices like having lots of children and staying home with them. They'll stand for the rights of the blue-collar worker, unless he wants to date their daughter. They'll disrespect the military, even if these same soldiers are the reasons for their freedom. Yes, I'm talking about these people.

They are a disgrace to the word liberal. Liberal derives from the word liberas, which means "free" in Latin. That's where we get the word liberty. It means being open to other viewpoints, even as you hold your own, understanding that life experiences, education, culture, and other factors impact people in different ways. It means being humble, understanding that no one is better or worse than you, and trying to understand where someone comes from. It means having the freedom to share your viewpoints, whether someone else assents or dissents. It does not mean shoving your lifestyle down someone's throat or treating them like scum because they do not subscribe to yours. It does not mean persecuting, insulting, or otherwise chaining people. It destroys freedom, therefore, it isn't liberal.

So, if you are one of these people, do us all a favor. Refer to yourself as a leftist, for that is a more accurate description. Please, do not use a word for freedom. You make people fear its ideas. Also, please keep your insensitive, nasty comments to yourself. And stop telling me I'm oppressed. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Boy All the Catholics Want-Procrastination......

I like the song "Girl All the Bad Guys Want"........and I was inspired.


Eight o'clock Monday night and I'm waiting
To finally talk to a boy a little cooler than me.
His name is Luca, he's a rocker with a rosary!
He wears a relic but I'm not quite sure what that means!

And when he walks,
The wind blows and
The angels sing!
But he doesn't notice me!

'Cause he's always serving!
Going for the ladies!
Listening to rock music,
Praying to the Queen of Peace!

It's like a bad movie, he's lookin' groovy
If you were me, then you'd be
Screaming someone shoot me!
As I fail miserably,
Trying to get the boy all the Catholics want!
He's the boy all the Catholics want!

He likes Switchfoot
And I like Bruce Springsteen!
His CD-changer's full of singers
That are praising their God!
He said he'd like to score a one trip to Italy!
He'll never know that I'm the best that
He'll never have!

And when he walks,
The wind blows and
The angels sing!
But he'll never notice me!

'Cause he's always serving!
Going for the ladies!
Listening to rock music!
Praying to the Queen of Peace!

He likes 'em with a Daily Mass
Scapulars and Pope pass!
Fighting for evil's end!
Does the medal make the man?

It's like a bad movie
He's looking groovy!
If you were me,
Then you'd be
Screaming someone shoot me!
As I fail miserably,
Trying to get the boy all the Catholics want!!
He's the boy all the Catholics want!!

There he goes again with a crucifix on
And holy water in his hair.
He broke my heart,
I want to be sedated!
All I wanted was the chance to date him!

It's like a bad movie,
He's looking groovy,
If you were me,
Then you'd be,
Screaming someone shoot me!
As I fail miserably!
Trying to get the boy all the Catholics want!
He's the boy all the Catholics want!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Vatican Abuse Scandals-A Cause for Outrage or Excuse for Bigotry?

The sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church are, unfortunately, nothing new. The U.S. Catholic Church has been dealing with the aftermath and subsequent media exposure for at least the last decade. However, this year we've been finding that there's more than meets the eye. With new findings in Ireland and Germany, as well as the revelation of more cover-ups in the U.S., Catholics and non-Catholics alike are angry. At the same time, there are those arguing that the media is persecuting the Church, that the Church is doing something good, but that no one appreciates it because Catholics are society's favorite scapegoat these days. Any call for justice is met with accusations of "vengeance" and "not respecting the seal of the Confessional," while any criticism is met with accusations of anti-Catholicism or, if one is Catholic, disobedience and pride.

In all honesty, I'm surprised more Catholics are not outraged.

Main reason: Sex abuse of children is horrific. It's even more so when committed by a spiritual leader, one who is supposed to have moral authority. By itself, this crime destroys the trust of children and manipulates their desires for affection, love and attention. Adults guilty of this misuse the tendency of children to obey and look up to their elders. This crime harms a child's ability to bond with others in many ways and can impede with their ability to have healthy relationships (platonic and not) when they are of age. When committed by a spiritual leader, this can harm a child's ability to relate to God and connect to their faith. These children grow up seeing God as someone who thinks they are sinful and worthless, only to be the plaything of His representatives. How can we not react with anger?

Pro-life ethics: As Catholics, we are called to uphold the sanctity and dignity of life. This includes ensuring justice, especially for the innocent among us. If we are so horrified by abortion, horrified enough that excommunication is the automatic punishment, we must also protect children after they are born, preventing them from harm and violent crime. We have failed in this. In order to save reputations, the Church instead relocated "problematic" priests to other parishes or sent them to ineffective therapy treatments, even when the psychiatrists themselves said it was ineffective. When children are in our care, we have a sacred and moral obligation to keep them out of harm's way, before or after they are born. How are people supposed to believe that we're right on saving the preborn if we refuse to protect the born?

Punishment: Some Catholics seem to think that my advocacy for punishment and justice is a call for revenge. Not so. Forgiveness is something we must all strive for. I never once declared that these priests and those who aided them deserved to burn in Hell. At the same time, we need to send a clear message to society that this crime is not acceptable. Is it not just to remove an offending priest from priestly duties, turn him to secular authorities and forbid him contact with children? This is not about eternal condemnation or hatred. This is about keeping children safe and sending a warning to others who may be tempted to abuse their power. Punishment serves as a deterrence. Confession is great, but does not suffice for society. Society needs to see that this crime is a crime and that no one's clerical status excuses one from the consequences.

Bigotry: While I will not deny anti-Catholic prejudice in society and through the media, I feel that accusations of using someone else's trauma as an excuse for persecution are misplaced. First, it is a slap in the faith to Catholics who are truly being persecuted or murdered by their governments (China, some Middle Eastern nations, etc). Second, while journalists and outlets bring biases with them, I'd highly doubt that no Catholics are present on any of the staff and could not at least fact check. Third, how is it bigotry to admit that our leaders did something wrong? If our leaders are truly the successors of Jesus Christ and His Apostles, should we not hold them to that standard? Is it not loving to keep them accountable?

To all Catholics: Criticizing a policy is not the same as promulgating heresy. We have an obligation to protect the innocent and to keep each other accountable on the path to Heaven. This is not unforgiving, prideful, or wrathful. Instead, it conveys humility, justice, and the courage to do what is right (as opposed to what is politically convenient at the time). Dear Catholics, we make a vow at our weddings to raise our children to know Christ through His Church. Let us make their journey one that edifies and uplifts their precious souls as they mature in His name. Let us ensure that they are not abused in the Holy Name of God, for that would be our greatest scandal.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mawwaige! Mawwage is what bwings us togethah today!!!

Excuse my Princess Bride reference but it seems I'm surrounded by weddings. I'm attending the wedding of a dear friend of mine this weekend. Another is getting married over the summer and two more in October (sadly, I will not be able to make these, but I should note them). I am very happy for all of them, that they're ready to take this next step in life. Of course, others want to know one thing, "Why are they getting married SO YOUNG??"

Maybe I just come from a young family, but I never thought young marriage was a bad thing. With my parents, it was expected. You found someone you loved, you knew you'd be together, you married them and that was that. It didn't matter if you hadn't yet opened your retirement accounts or if you hadn't gone to grad school and had an amazing career yet. It didn't even matter if you hadn't dated a ton of people. You struggled through various events, raised your kids, and enjoyed old age together.

Before you color me rose, I should acknowledge the couples who did and divorced later on. Yes, there are those who should have taken time to figure out life, to learn how to stand on their own two feet, who should have explored other options beforehand. I'm not saying everyone should marry young, but I am saying that young marriage does not automatically equal a bad marriage.

Now, I will attempt to answer some of these myths surrounding young marriage.

1. You need to have a career first: While I do believe you should both learn how to live independently and become financially stable, I don't think building a glamorous career is a prerequisite to marriage. First, we change jobs and careers so much now that we'd never marry if we took this advice. Second, when did marriage become an impediment to having a career? I'm pretty sure that if someone loves you enough to want to make a life with you, they should support you in following your dreams. Also, dreams can change. As long as you both are on the same page, I don't see this as a problem.

2. You need to shop around: What's the point? I don't buy the whole, "You need to kiss a ton of frogs before you find your prince." I'm pretty sure kissing is an acquired skill, one that comes with lots of practice, so if that's what you're worried about, fifty to sixty years could bring a ton of joy in that regard ;-) Second, I could get to know tons of people as friends and, if there's commonality and chemistry, THEN decide to take it to the next level. If I find that they truly are the one for me, why do I need to go out with someone else if I have no interest in them? Finally, if I'm preparing for a lifelong commitment, I find "serial monogamy" to be an impediment.

3. Young people only get married for the sex: That may be true for some people. However, I doubt this is true in all cases. First, I find that the people who say this often advise young couples to "know how the other is in bed" before you marry them. I don't think I need to repeat my "practice" comment here. Second, I know plenty of young, engaged couples who are sexually active now. I would conclude that they are getting married for more than just sex. For the ones who aren't, they understand that sexuality is fluid and that they can learn from each other. For both sets, they know that their "better half" is the one they want to be with in every way. Why should they delay it arbitrarily?

4. Young marriages always fail: Given the statistics for divorce combined with the rising age of marriage, I'd say that half of all marriages, young and not so, are doomed. No, you cannot know what will happen in the future. Yes, people change with age, with children, with life and it's not always good or bad. When you marry, you make a commitment and take a risk. However, if we didn't take risks, we'd never leave. The only issue that arises is if a couple is ready for such a risk. Some young people are, some older people are not. It depends on the person.

There are pros and cons to both marrying young and waiting. Marriage is a much bigger commitment than a career or a house. Yet delaying marriage for the sake of delaying is nonsensical. Only the couple can determine whether or not they're ready. Let us give support to those entering such a commitment, as well as those who've made it. Let us give warnings when there is cause and affirmations when things are well. Finally, let us raise our glasses and celebrate with our friends and family!