Plenty to spare.

A nice moment today, as I was finishing a piece I’d promised to an editor by noon. Looked at the clock: 11:57 a.m. Looked at my buddy list; was he online, with his chat program open? He was. Was he at his desk? Sent him a shout-out. He was. Dragged my Word file over to his name on the buddy list, which sent him an automatic message saying a file was coming his way, and would he accept? He did. The file transferred in a few seconds. Glanced at the clock: 11:58. I beat deadline by two minutes. I rule.

All the world’s a newsroom when everybody has a Mac.

Magazine deadlines are more elastic than newspaper ones, but deadline is a drug, and freelancers don’t get enough of it. Oh, we have deadlines, but we don’t get the deadline energy that comes from a newsroom, when everyone’s clattering away, focused on beating the clock. It helps you work. When you’re alone in your home office trying to meet a deadline, it’s just you and your flop sweat.

So, then.

Another deadline slain, and a little time to breathe. Detroit buried Proof today. (The other guy shot in this incident died earlier this week.) I recommend the photo gallery, which revealed the details of the $48,000, 24-karat gold-plated casket, the wide range of outfits and, of course, the funeral “family” credential. And what funeral would be complete without bomb-sniffing dogs? The world is a remarkable place sometimes.

If half the city was at Proof’s funeral yesterday, the other half was at the zoo, which is where we were. The crowd was so dense we were directed to park on the sidewalk. Since we are, I have been informed daily this week, the only family in the whole school that didn’t go out of town for spring break, I was surprised to find so much company; I figured we’d have the place to ourselves. (When pressed, Kate will acknowledge that one or two of her classmates are not vacationing in Florida this week, and surprise, we saw them both at the zoo.) My favorite feature this visit: The Japanese snow monkeys, who were sitting in the sunshine on this fine day, grooming one another. The body language is so close to that used by my hairdresser when she touches up my roots that I couldn’t help but smile.

And back to the bloggage: John Scalzi mentioned the “Purity Ball” earlier this week, the strange ritual in some evangelical cultures in which fathers escort their daughters to a dance and then publicly sign this pledge:

I, (daughter’s name)’s father, choose before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity. I will be pure in my own life as a man, husband and father. I will be a man of integrity and accountability as I lead, guide and pray over my daughter and as the high priest in my home. This covering will be used by God to influence generations to come.

It’s all about virginity, obviously. (And just to ratchet up the creep factor for those fo you who haven’t spent much time in livestock breeding, “cover” is the verb that describes what the stallion does to the mare. What it means here? Up to you.) The very thought of any father taking this much interest in his daughter’s sexuality, and at such a young age — here’s a Focus on the Family story that says some of the girls escorted to this shindig were as young as 4 — would send me running for the hills, but then, I’m not of this world. Show me a culture where female virginity is prized to this extent and I’ll show you one that has a real problem with women.

Anyway, here are some Purity Ball photos from the 2005 affair Van Wert — presumably Ohio. Draw your own conclusions. Me, I’m grossed out.

Posted at 8:21 am in Popculch |

31 responses to “Plenty to spare.”

  1. brian stouder said on April 20, 2006 at 8:45 am

    even using the term ‘purity ball’ strikes me as funny/icky! Are they something you add to the washer before the spin cycle? Are they what General Ripper had dangling, thanks to his pure grain alcohol and rainwater?

    Anyway, being the father of two daughters, I could not possibly agree with Scalzi more firmly (leaving aside that his style is ‘rather’ an acquired taste)

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  2. Dorothy said on April 20, 2006 at 8:56 am

    I’ve been reading about another funeral this week – this one in Pittsburgh. This story is heartbreakingly sad – I don’t know how to do that trick where you type the word here, and the hyperlink is there. But anyway, here’s the story:

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  3. brian stouder said on April 20, 2006 at 9:07 am

    Dorothy – what a wrenching story.

    The nature of their deaths made me think of the first-responders and rescue workers, and what they must have had to deal with…it was therefore uplifting to see that they were included in the funeral services, as an honor guard.

    Gave me a bit of a flashback, to the most affecting funeral service I ever attended

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  4. Dorothy said on April 20, 2006 at 9:42 am

    I first read about the accident last week because I read the P/G every day (my old home town). As the details came out – triplets in the car with their dad, him a school teacher, etc. – it just got harder and harder to read. I cried reading about the funeral. And knowing they were all buried together – it’s just too much to stand.

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  5. MichaelG said on April 20, 2006 at 9:45 am

    Yeah, I read about these “purity balls” the other day. And that phrase “…cover my daughter”!!! My eyes popped out. I mean, whatever are these people thinking? They obviously (I hope) don’t have any idea of what they are saying. The whole thing would be hilarious if it weren’t so creepy, sick and pathetic. It also reminded me of the extremely high percentage of girls who are molested at home.

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  6. brian stouder said on April 20, 2006 at 10:04 am

    Dorothy – indeed. Maybe it’s male menopause, or midlife feet of clay – but stuff like this just hurts me to read about, anymore.

    A few years back, one of Pammy’s friends from high school days lost her 8 month old son; he was murdered at his day care center. The funeral was in a brand new Zionsville church (had that new house smell) on a bright sunny day; the little casket was open; the songs included Jesus Loves Me, This I Know; the broadcast press kept at a respectful distance, and the woman from the Indy Star who was covering it appeared to be taking it all just as hard as the rest of the mourners (her published accounts were nonetheless excellent)

    I guess, at a certain age (if we live long enough) a person experiences a few of these things, and is ever after able to imagine (all too well) the implications of stories which they are NOT involved in….and such stories become almost unbearable

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  7. alex said on April 20, 2006 at 10:45 am

    Jesus gives great cover!

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  8. mary said on April 20, 2006 at 11:16 am

    Those photos from Van Wert? I think the girl in the turquoise sweater is already doing it. There’s just something about the look on her face.

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  9. joodyb said on April 20, 2006 at 11:28 am

    Purity Ball? eww. they put the Big Love characters to shame! why don’t these people do something worthy and really Xn with their days on this earth? Jesus said feed the people!
    it’s like observing beings from another planet. and the convoluted rhetoric! a daily source of amusement, as it crops up EVERYWHERE in the daily news biz.

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  10. John said on April 20, 2006 at 11:38 am

    Mary! You are sooooo bad!!!! Actually, I saw her and had the same thought.

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  11. Nick said on April 20, 2006 at 12:38 pm

    Photo 5 of 27 at Proof’s funeral titled “A man waits outside the Fellowship Chapel.” Is it just me or is that guy wearing body armor personalized to match his bling?

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  12. Dorothy said on April 20, 2006 at 12:47 pm

    The woman in the foreground of picture 13 looks like her facial features are slowly disappearing into the fat in her neck.

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  13. brian stouder said on April 20, 2006 at 1:20 pm

    She could be Jabba the Hut’s auntie

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  14. JRG said on April 20, 2006 at 4:09 pm

    Re the Purity Ball: 60 minutes did a piece that connected:
    – the new abortion law in South Dakota
    – what the circumstances were regarding abortion prior to the passage of the law (one clinic in the whole state w/ a doctor who flew in from Minneapolis)
    – a creepy woman who was a leader in the effort to pass the new law and a major advocate of abstinence only sex education (condoms, she says, aren’t safe enough)
    – and a local Purity Ball.

    The whole thing was just awful. When the pledging was going on, it wasn’t clear whether it was the fathers or the daughters who were more ill at ease, a phrase that barely begins to describe their nonverbal behavior. Ick!

    The Proof funeral: Do you think those tattoos of his name that those two young guys had on their faces are permanent? That would be awful too.

    And awful in an entirely different way is the story about horrible death of the father and his two children. What a sad, sad thing.

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  15. Jeff said on April 20, 2006 at 4:12 pm

    For what it’s worth, and i not only agree with the “ick” factor re: purity sock-hops or whatever, but think a little ironic self-awareness would go a long, long way here . . . but.

    What they mean is “prayer cover,” as in (cue ironic self-awareness) “cover me, guys, i’m going in!” It goes back to the concept of “spiritual warfare” as popularized by Frank Peretti and his “This Present Darkness” trilogy, which to be fair was banned on a number of Christian college campuses. The books had kids thinking every rustle in the leaves was demonic, and promoted the idea that your prayers were the primary source of power for your guardian angels, and for those of others.

    So prayer cover is, literally in the context of this metaphor, laying down some covering fire so your good angels can go in and fight off the dark forces.

    Now, you like it a whole lot better, dontcha? At least you know now . . .

    Pax, Jeff

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  16. ashley said on April 20, 2006 at 4:15 pm

    I don’t know why, but I want to photoshop a pic of John Holmes into one of those Purity Ball photos.

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  17. mary said on April 20, 2006 at 4:50 pm

    I think all this focusing on hymen retention is weird. According to teenagers I know, lots of girls are virgins only in the sense that they have hymens. They’ve had lots of sex. To have a dance party to celebrate that seems beyond ick.

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  18. Bartleby said on April 20, 2006 at 9:38 pm

    Ah, yes, you’re all correct, of course. How creepy for fathers to make any attempt to protect their daughters from the modern, healthy course of events, in which their loutish peers will treat them like the meat that they so obviously and gloriously are. Man, that just grosses me right the hell out! Those dads ought to do the right thing: pony up for a breast augmentation or something.

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  19. alex said on April 20, 2006 at 9:53 pm

    Piousness, wickedness. They’re one and the same if you’re a Freudian like me. Enjoyed much the gander you’ve given us at the Van Wert sex offender registry, Nance.

    Hmmm… they call cotillions “coming out.” Indeed.

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  20. Nick said on April 21, 2006 at 8:40 am

    I don’t know why, but I want to photoshop a pic of John Holmes into one of those Purity Ball photos.

    I like where you’re going here, Ashley. I’m no expert on comedy, but instead of Mr. Holmes, I’d like to see Ron Jeremy photoshopped into the shot.

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  21. brian stouder said on April 21, 2006 at 8:56 am

    Ashley and Nick’s satirical remarks have the ring of truth –

    one thing I learned from the parade of strippers and porn stars on Howard Stern’s teevee show was that mostly all of them had been abused/raped/neglected as children.

    Bartleby’s point is well taken; I feel the weight of responsibility upon me, to properly raise our young folks – and to interact with my daughters in a day-to-day fashion that instills within them their own (suitably high!) EXPECTATIONS for how people who say the love them should act toward them.

    A father-daughter dance might be a fun distraction, but a ‘purity ball’ ain’t in the cards

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  22. brian stouder said on April 21, 2006 at 11:05 am

    Speaking of strippers and others who have made poor choices in their lives, maybe it is time for Nance to weigh-in on the over-hyped Duke LaCrosse rape allegations case (for a weekend open-thread)

    The DA in that case is faced with the sort of case that severely test the whole system; strong elements of race, class, gender politics, and election-year posturing (and second-guessing).

    The well-heeled white-boy/frat-boys, bolstered by a heavy-hitting, striped-pants legal attack machine – has proceeded directly to attempting to destroy these strippers in the court of public opinion.

    They seem to be succeeding all too well – everytime I see a time-stamped photo, or hear a cabbie comment, I have the distinct feeling that I’m being played. You can almost hear the underlying logic – what has this woman to lose if she’s lying; compared to ALL that these POOR BOYS have to lose (if she’s lying).

    Maybe those young men should’ve went to a purity ball with their mom’s, eh?

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  23. Danny said on April 21, 2006 at 11:35 am

    Bartleby, well put, bringing some needed balance to the discussion.

    And Brian, as usual, a voice of reason. After reading the comments down to Bartleby, I was thinking the same thing. There is no substitute for spending a large quantity of quality time with our children.

    The whole idea of this “Ball” kinda freaks me out. Not only do you have the obvious puke factor, but I wonder what tragic consequences could come of having hormonally-imbalanced, mistake-prone teenagers signing these heavy-handed agreements. Not that all guilt is a bad thing, but I can imagine a young girl and boy making a mistake and deciding to runaway from home, abort a baby, or even commit suicide. No thanks.

    I want my children to know the difference between right and wrong. To know that they are loved. And to know that even if they make a mistake, there are always second chances and options and they are still loved. THAT is what Jesus did, does, and will continue to do.

    These legalist drive me nuts. Paul’s words apply here. “O’ foolish Galatians, who has bewitched thee? Having begun in the Spirit are you now perfected by the flesh?”

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  24. Jim said on April 21, 2006 at 12:49 pm

    There is nothing like the thrill of writing on deadline, is there?

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  25. mary said on April 21, 2006 at 1:52 pm

    I want my children to respect themselves and others. How they view sex should tie into that.

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  26. Danny said on April 21, 2006 at 2:46 pm

    Mary, right. A good way to put that is, “possess your ‘vessel’ with honor” and “love your neighbor as yourself.”

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  27. Coggabitt said on April 21, 2006 at 4:12 pm

    Hi mother guess who it is

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  28. mary said on April 21, 2006 at 5:48 pm

    I don’t know about possessing vessels honorably, necessarily, but I would want my sons to use some judgement when they take a girl to bed. I think there are times when it’s ok. When both parties are invested at the same level and precautions are taken. Note I said invested at the same level and not committed or in love. There is, I think, a time and place for a good lay. It takes good judgement and mutual respect to figure out that time and place, and that’s what I hope my sons have.

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  29. Danny said on April 22, 2006 at 8:53 am

    Mary, we’ll just have to disagree on that one. If I had a teenager in my household, they wouldn’t be prompted to go out and just have a “good lay.” But it’s a free country. Do as you see fit.

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  30. Andrew Kaduk said on April 22, 2006 at 1:38 pm

    Although I agree in theory with Bartleby and Danny, I can’t help but think only “bad things” can come from turning a young girl’s sexuality into a friggin’ dog & pony show for the benefit of the media and us bloggers. I somehow feel these girls would be mortified if that had any idea we were writing about them….

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  31. mary said on April 24, 2006 at 9:24 am

    I don’t tell my kids to go out and have a good lay. I tell my kids to be respectful and responsible. Teenagers don’t need to be told to have sex. Telling them not to hasn’t worked very well over the years. I want my kids to understand the consequences of their actions, and in the case of sex, that means emotional and physical consequences. Telling them their virginity is sacred doesn’t deal with either of those issues.

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