INSCRIPTION on a tombstone, (probably apocryphal):
lie the bones of Sarah Jones,
For her, life held no terrors:
A virgin born, a virgin died,
No hits, no runs, no errors.
What are we to think of Sarah? Was she happy? Was she unhappy? Did she make the right decision?
I think most people's first impulse is to say, 'No! Sarah should have gotten laid! No hits! No runs! 'Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all!' But there's more to Sarah than that. She also made 'no errors'. Life, free of the possibility of having her heart broken, or breaking someone else's, 'held no terrors' for her. What did she do with her life instead? Was it spent as well as those of Emily Dickinson or Elizabeth I, two other notable virgins? Moderns tend to think that if you're not getting laid, you're a loser. But I think that's a fairly recent attitude, generated by a time when pregnancy can be prevented, most sexually transmitted disease can be cured, and the standard of living is high enough that in developed countries, even people of modest means can afford to marry.
It was not always so. A hundred years ago, even fifty years ago, in Europe and America, there seemed to be a lot more unmarrieds: most nurses, for example, were expected not to marry, and to quit their profession if they did. There were many unmarried female schoolteachers. There were many more people of both sexes in religious orders than there are today, when the average age of a Roman Catholic nun in the US is over 60. The unmarried men are harder to spot, you find them running through the novels of George Eliot as bachelor uncles, younger sons destined never to inherit, spending their lives on cards and horses, alcohol and cigars, hanging out in bars and at racetracks in large convivial groups. Like all those non-alpha male antelopes, destined to be excluded forever from the joys of antelope love, once the alpha-male antelope has established his dominance, and collected his harem, who spend their lives hanging out beneath the African shade trees, peacefully and lustlessly grazing. Do they ever regret what might have been? Or are they happy with their lot?
Of course, those are antelopes. Non-alpha male chimps, on the other hand, look for every chance they have to bang the alpha male's females behind his back, and the females seem to welcome the attention. Few Sarah Jones's among the chimps. And garter snakes just ignore the whole alpha thing, and the entire neighborhood mates together every spring, in one heaving, squirming, Medusa-like mass of a garter snake orgy. And mallard duck sex is basically gang rape. Good thing Sarah wasn't a mallard.
Maybe animals aren't the best analogies or guides for human sexuality and love.
Where was I? Oh, yes, Sarah. I don't know what to think of Sarah and her life. Which is probably reflected in the fact that I have been trying to finish this post for the last day, and haven't been able to. Enough! I'll post it as is.