Recently I saw a woman in Church. She was a young, attractive blonde, with a husband and small child and was sitting the pew in front of me. She was wearing a pretty and somewhat revealing blue dress, yet a dress that was still very modest. It was actually quite a nice combination, saying, yes I am attractive and sexual and a woman but I still have standards. Then at the end of Mass as people were leaving she turned around and looked at me and smiled. It was one of those moments, a brief moment of hidden yet palpable eroticism. There was a spark, a sense of something more than simply a smile.
What her motives where I am not sure. Perhaps she just enjoyed the validation. Yet somehow I think that is not the case, there simply was not enough time for such thoughts to form. It was simply a moment when two people come across each other, acknowledge a slight electrical charge of attraction, and move on. What makes it most interesting is that it happened in Church, and it happened for the second straight year, but only once. I saw this same woman a year ago and she smiled then too. It was around Christmas, so I get the sense she was visiting with her family, since I do not see her in Church at any other time.
I remember listening to a certain Deacon on a certain popular Catholic broadcast network say that he was at Church one day, and was sitting behind an attractive women, and he wanted to look at her, but he did not. No, it would have been a sin to look at her. So he gritted his teeth and made damn sure his eyes did not touch her alluring form. Apparently she was wearing a short skirt or something, which I admit can be problematic in that setting. Still, I would have looked at her. I would have enjoyed and acknowledged her beauty. If I did not look at her then I would have obsessed the entire Mass about it, until I finally looked at her. So I would have just looked at her right off the bat and gotten it out of the way. What is so wrong with looking at a beautiful woman?
I think the problem with sex, beauty and Christianity is that most Christians take the meaning of lust to an extreme. Alte actually sparked a nice discussion of this and of chastity on general on her blog: http://traditionalcatholicism.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/close-but-no-cigar/. I don’t think looking at a pretty girl is lust. Now I am not theologian, but lust to me is when you let your base, animal instincts take over, and you start desiring a woman beyond what is healthy. Lust is when you let your desires completely take control of your reason, and you begin doing things that harm yourself and others in pursuit of that lust. The strange fact of traditional Christian teaching is that it does not take into consideration that most women enjoy being “lusted” after, if you take that to mean they enjoy the desires of a virile, masculine man who is not afraid to be a man. Women dislike prudish men. In fact, I have heard many women say that they find the sight of men preaching about chastity a little weird and creepy. I have even heard Christian women say this.
But as far as my moment with that married women, what it shows is that attraction and desire are present everywhere. They are not bad; they are simply a part of life. They can appear at the most unexpected places. They are always a delight and when they do occur in such settings, they reflect more of the mystery of life, love and desire than anything else.