(first of a two-part series)
FOR VALENTINE'S DAY: CONSIDER COURTSHIP
As Valentine's Day approaches, if
you are single, do you find yourself asking life's biggest questions: "Where
am I going? Who is going with me? How will I find my life partner, and
know that he or she is the one? Should we live together first to find out?"
There are nearly 50 million
nevermarried American adults -- more than ever before, because they don't
have good answers to these questions. In college, millions live in dorms
with both genders, with manifold opportunities for quick sex, what they call
Fortunately, Leon and Amy Kass,
married nearly 40 years, and professors at the University of Chicago for 25
years, have written an inspiring new book called "Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar:
Readings on Courting and Marrying." It is an anthology of the best writing
ever about wooing and winning a life mate. Instead of Seinfeld and Ally
McBeal, it offers Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," the Bible's "Song of
Songs," from Tolstoy's "War and Peace, the courtship of Emile and Sophie."
"We invite people to ponder why
Adam and Eve, when their eyes were opened, covered their nakedness," says
Amy Kass. "Can modesty transform lust into love? What does Socrates mean
when he says that love is of immortality; or Kierkegaard mean when he says
that absolute faith in marriage is the only attribute that makes a man
lovable? Why does C.S. Lewis think that Eros cannot deliver what it promises
without the promises of marriage?
"What does Robert Frost mean in
suggesting to his daughter and her groom,
"Two such as you with such a master speed
Cannot be parted nor be swept away
From one another once you are agreed
That life is only life forevermore,
Together wing to wing and oar to oar."
Leon Kass, calls their book and new
college course, "a superior kind of sex education. Present sex education is
stripped of the context of love and lasting marriage. We've found a way to
educate hearts and minds without preaching. The imagination allows students
to identify with characters they don't meet on the street, who can move
their hearts and souls to a finer, higher, truer understanding."
As Amy Kass put it at a seminar
hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, "We think the time is ripe for
a sexual counter-revolution and a renewal in love that leads to marriage.
More and more people, especially young women, are owning up to their
personal unhappiness with, and are looking for alternatives to, the hook-up
However, when asked how students
are reacting to this rich diet on courtship, Leon Kass said, "Their
reactions are mixed. There has been no active rebellion, no wild and
ideological reactions. They are taking it seriously. But some of their
sensibilities are odd. The class had a hard time understanding what shame
has to do with nakedness. One said, `Why should you be embarrassed about
Other student opinions are pitiful:
"The thought of living with the same person for 50 years is simply
incredible." :"We are not supposed to get married until we are 28, so we
know from the beginning of all our sexual relationships that they are
supposed to be impermanent."
However, the Kasses believe that beneath this
unromantic, self-protecting cynicism, young people really do have longings
for wholeness, intimacy and fidelity - longings that they do not yet realize
could be satisfied by marrying well."
They assert that women have power to demand
courtship. "Men make advances, women should offer resistance plus the
promise of yielding should the man prove worthy," said Amy Kass: "This a
woman does not because she is sexually repressed, but because it is marriage
she is after - not hookups, brief affairs, or even a long-term relationship.
If women as a group exercise more sexual self-restraint and eschew
cohabitation, men will be compelled to court them."
David Blankenhorn, President of the
Institute for American Values, is delighted that "middle-aged academics, are
telling the world that they have uncovered a new cure-all wonder drug for
young people who want to find true love. Amy and Leon have reinserted
courtship into our national conversation on sexuality, love and marriage in
this rich book full of beauty, truth and wisdom."
But Blankenhorn is alarmed by the
withdrawal of parents giving guidance to their adult children. "This
generation of adults lives in unprecedented ignorance about the mate
selection behavior of their own children. This book calls on parents who
have abdicated their responsibility "to reflect on what we might do to
Why not give the book to your
Copyright 2000 Michael J. McManus.