Monday, February 21, 2011

Good is the New Bad

Once, while helping a friend of mine to move, I took out a desk drawer, as is the protocol, and I saw three glossy, black-and-white photographs of a naked girl staring up at me. She was in her twenties and posing proudly -- shamelessly -- for an anonymous photographer. She was standing in the bathroom -- in a hotel or a dormitory or something.

Having had no respect whatsoever for the privacy or feelings of my friend, as was the dynamic of my group of twenty-something pals at the time, I yelled: "Yo! Who is the naked girl in your desk drawer?"

My friend, sweaty and annoyed by the work of the day stepped into the room, mopping his brow with an old shirt. "What?"

"The naked girl."  I held her up. "Who is she?"

Genuinely puzzled, he took the picture from me. Finally recognizing it, he laughed. There was a story behind the photo (which I believe completely, by the way, knowing his morals well). It had something to do with an old roommate and his ex-girlfriend (our saucy starlet) and an act of gallantry on my friend's part regarding the photos. They had, forgotten, remained intact despite the intent to destroy them and protect the girl's reputation. He asked me to shred them and throw them away and he walked out.

I took one more look, but not for the reason that might seem obvious. They were actually pretty artistic shots -- about as tasteful as pictures of that kind can be, despite the bathroom backdrop. She posed in a sort of classic nude painting way. But, the real reason I looked again was her face. (Ah, shut up. I'm serious.) I was genuinely surprised by a feeling of admiration for her. In short, she was gutsy and unashamed. I had to give her credit.

Josephine Marcus Earp:
The rebellious "outlaw" actress wife
of a lawman.
Unfortunately, I also had to give her the shredder, which I did.

Now, let me make this perfectly clear: I do not respect what she did. It was stupid and it was not something I would want my own daughter to do, if I had one. (Don't try this at home, in other words -- we know the trouble people get into for this, especially with today's technology.)

But at the time -- perhaps fifteen years ago -- at the very least, the act seemed to have taken some courage and a real commitment to not caring what other people would think. That part, I respected. She looked intelligent. She looked like someone who was not a victim; she was someone who made a conscious choice, regardless of how anyone else might judge her.

Here's the key: she stood out as a rebel to me then -- a sexually unfettered, if misguided, young woman. Would she stand out today? I don't think so.

When everyone is a rebel, no one is. Today, with a plethora of foolish people (male and female alike) sending compromising pictures of themselves over phones and over the Internet, my acquaintance from the desk drawer looks to have been almost discreet.

There is simply nothing to respect in someone with loose morality in a world that makes it easy for him or her to be that way.

Now, don't  read this as the violin-playing of misty curmudgeon who thinks fifteen years ago was the good old days. Think of it more in the spirit in which I deliver it: that it is a simple fact that if everyone is the bad kid, the good kid is the rebel. If everyone is sexually loose, the person with morals and self-control is the dissenter -- the one who is swimming upstream.

My message to the people who jump on the bandwagon of unashamed promiscuity today is simple:

You're the opposite of what you think you are. You're a follower. You're boring. You're telling a tale full of sound and fury signifying nothing but your own lack of originality. You make me yawn. You'd be so much more exciting if you were real -- if everyone didn't think you were available for the mere asking.

Morality and logic are often inseparable.


  1. In principle, I agree that the 'good kid' is the rebel if the majority does the opposite.

    But, while it's true that the statistics support the rise of sexual activity in young folks (about 1/3 of 14 yr olds in America, 2/3 of 12th graders have had 'sex', for which I did not read the operational definition and am willing to assume the statistics report conventional intercourse), I haven't seen much data on the number of partners these kids have had. What if their sexual relationships occur with one partner? Should we then include those kids as 'promiscuous' because they performed certain acts at a younger age?

    I did some research in college on sexuality, with all my participants aged 18-25 (440 participants took the surveys). The VAST majority of my participants who reported sexuality activity had had 3 or less partners, and more than 10% reported being virgins (I had a small sample of married folk too). Of course, on the flip side, more people than I'd have predicted reported having had more than 20 partners.

    I guess I'm stuck on the idea that perhaps not as many people are as promiscuous as I think. My research also had a heavy population of people reporting some high religiosity, which would (and did) reduce the level of sexual activity reported. (my study was on how strongly correlated religiosity and sexuality are, as well as a sister discussion on television watching and sexual experiences).

    I went off on a terrible tangent - sorry. I generally agree that good kids go against the norm. I was a good kid, though, so I'm biased.

    ~ Matt

  2. Also, the story you included is really cool. And thanks for the picture, too - it gave me something to research.

    ~ Matt

  3. Matt -- good points. Maybe it is more the promiscuous outward persona I'm addressing, in the end. Check out the movie TOMBSTONE,if you get a chance. A decent introduction to Earp and Josephine. (Off course, not a reliable historical source, but it contains some interpretive ideas of what might have gone on.)

  4. Funny thing, I've watched and loved Tombstone since I was in high school, but I never once thought to study the character of Earp's wife. I blame Val Kilmer and Sam Elliott, the former for etching the words, "I'm your huckleberry" into the 'Hall of Cool Things', and the latter for oozing cowboy charm (an honorable mention goes to his glorious silver mustache).

    I will rewatch it with and eye to Josephine.

    ~ Matt

  5. Kilmer is fantastic in that. Happy rewatching!