A poem by Megan McDermott
What I Imagine When I See a Christian Publisher Advertise a Book Called Sexless in the City
I. Charlotte is exhausted because she was meant to marry at 22, 23 max, wear white, have 2 or 3 babies by now. Instead, she is a born-again virgin. Again. The church tells her to be submissive, and she is without reserve,
so how can she help herself from following men’s leadership right into bed and then back to repentance?
She wonders if she’s ruined her chances at a true godly man by falling for men who say they can wait, but mean it with an asterisks.
She’s gotten close, engagements, shiny rings, advice on pleasing a man from older church women who don’t know that she has. II. Miranda is the best at being sexless because she finds men the least impressive,
because she’s made peace with masturbation even if it might be a sin,
because evangelical men are scared of sarcasm and women lawyers and short hair unless you’re a mom and a thousand other things,
because sometimes she thinks about sex with Carrie, losing her hands in all that hair
and what if she does have sex with a man for the first time and all she can think about is being curled up in Carrie’s bed spooning like a normal Saturday night, about church with her in the morning, and then she’s stuck with a Forever she doesn’t want and a truth she refuses to name?
Samantha came to Jesus late. Confessed the lifestyle choices. The sex, the sex, the sex. Even in public. Considers it “testimony,” as she tells herself and everyone it was destruction, sin.
She is known for being totally changed, walking, abstinent evidence of the Spirit’s power. She’s always been good at PR. At night she wonders if it was so wrong. A man plucked from the many emerges in her dreams to touch her the way she hasn’t been in years. She wakes up and grabs a glass of water, opens the Bible, and sits cross-legged naked on her bed,
wonders at her body when she means to wonder at God. Thinks: miracles are supposed to be shared; God blessed her to be a blessing; what blessings her lips have given over the years. Goes to bed determined to throw out all the restrictions that have recently defined her life but wakes up to a good morning text in the church girls group chat and doesn’t know how to be her old self and still this loved.
IV. Carrie is abstinent partially for religion and partially for drama. Her greatest concerns: the vision of wedding night lingerie, couture, a performance of delicate trembling, also making men prove their love by a willingness to endure - to get so close and then go home, for her, for God, for her. On a Saturday a few weeks after their first meeting, she lets Big spend the night at her apartment, something she rarely allows.
He scoffed when she told him he could stay to cuddle but they’d go no further, though they end up doing just that. “You’re a strange one, Kid,” he says in the morning, making himself coffee in her under-used kitchen.
Carrie smiles from under the covers. She is rumpled, in more ways than one, but fully dressed. “You’re really waiting until you’re married? I didn’t think people did that nowadays. Unless they’re nineteen.” “I’m not people.” “No, you certainly aren’t.” And she feels his eyes size her up, feels his imagining of all the things she’s told him are off the table, and she imagines too, imagines that maybe he’s the one who will break her resolve,
imagines that look means they’re as good as married
and God is saying, Girl, this is it.
Megan McDermott, a poet and Episcopal priest, lives, writes, and watches copious amounts of television in Western Massachusetts. Her debut chapbook, Prayer Book for Contemporary Dating, will be published later this year by Ethel Micro-Press. Connect with her at meganmcdermottpoet.com or on Twitter @megmcdermott92.