Merry Mary’s Cherry

We here at SuperLefty try not to let a holiday go by without turning a critical eye toward the goings on. What is the real meaning of all the lacivious discussion of a dead, trussed bird? Why exactly are we gathering to celebrate the slaughter of the firstborn sons of our ethnically different neighbors? Why name a day after Labor in a country that has no political party for it? SuperLefty’s motto is, if you’re celebrating it, it’s probably because the Man wants you to. Buy this beeping piece of plastic! Eat this hormone-injected turkey! Act like that enormous talking bunny doesn’t terrify you! Pretend the Native Americans just mysteriously disappeared after they taught the Pilgrims about corn!

Yes, the holidays can be stressful, and just as with imerpialism, we have no chance of surviving them if we do not first deconstruct them. Every year, as my neighbors expend even more electricity keeping their lights blinking and their Santa balloons inflated, as my ears bleed upon entry to the most innocuous of retail outlets from the relentless playing of Christmas music, as I try to shut out the chatter of the Christmas outrage du jour, I ponder the true meaning of this holiday of holidays. It’s about flashing lights, I decide. No, it’s about orgiastic shopping. No, actually, it’s about fake snow. It’s about a fetishistic obsession with snow, will it snow, will we have a white Christmas, will Christmas be white enough? No, “White Christmas” is an insidious, racist metaphor disguised as a lullaby. It’s about family pathology as rendered through orgiastic shopping. It’s about the impossibility of trying to figure out what other people want and buy it for them with money. It’s about the sorrow of misunderstanding the ones you love. It’s about the unbearable gap between fantasy and reality, in weather patterns, in family interactions, in sweater sizes. It’s about scarves. It’s about felling entire forests of coniferous trees. It’s about the lumberjack sexual promise of Christmas tree salesmen. About the gritted teeth in the jaws of the in-laws of interfaith families. From the looks of the parking lot at Yankee Spirits Discount Liquor Warehouse yesterday afternoon, it’s about alcoholic beverages. It’s about the birth of a pacifist who would later be misunderstood and murdered, and later still used to whip a nation of nearly 300 million into a bellicose frenzy. It’s about an ever-increasing number of telltale white headphones on the L train. For my love and I, it’s about decorating a two-foot fake silver tree with nicotine gum (someone quit smoking in 2005), eating enchiladas and watching a documentary about the Holocaust. Christmas is about sharing the things you like with the one you love, be the things you like perversity and ethnic food or franchise-store shopping and raw egg mixed with hard liquor.

I was still at a loss for the true, essential meaning of Christmas when I hit upon this bit of wisdom from the source of all lucid thought, everyone’s favorite syndicated sex columnist, Dan Savage, to whom Christmas is apparently about running a contest for the goriest loss-of-viriginty stories. Savage writes:

“[W]asn’t Jesus Christ responsible for the most traumatic how-I-lost-my-virginity horror story ever told? Not His deflowering, I mean His mother’s. As everyone knows, Mary was a virgin when she conceived and a virgin when she gave birth. This means, of course, that Jesus busted His own mom’s hymen, kicking it down like a door on His way into the world.”

And suddenly I realized: Christmas is about popping Mary’s cherry. The whole national obsession–the whole global obsession–with this day and its meanings and reversals of meaning, its amalgamated pagan and Roman and Christian traditions, its songs and stars and mangers and little girls and boys dressed as angels and shepards, its gift bows and gift bags and countdowns and calendars, it’s all because of the blessed virgin birth of the little baby Jesus. And what makes this birth so blessed? So miraculous? So utterly unlike all other births?

The fact that Jesus’s mother wasn’t a dirty whore who fucked.

Mary is a proxy mother for millions of people, a replacement for the one who reminds them of the uncomfortably Freudian nature of their origin. Christmas is about the entire world pretending that their mother didn’t have sex with their father.

But as with most valorizations of that which is supposedly so pure, this one ends up inadvertently leaving us with an astronomically grosser image. As Savage points out, if Mary didn’t have sex before she got pregnant with Jesus, then it was Jesus Himself who took Mary’s prized virginity, not God forbid, the paternal penis. (Does God have a penis?)

I’ve always been uncomfortable with how much Republicans (and Catholics) talk about the things that supposedly so disgust them. The SEX. And the GAYS. And the GAY SEX. And the WOMEN, having SEX, so much SEX, and then not wanting to be PREGNANT. And the machinations of the medical procedures they seek, the THINGS they stick UP them and IN them, the things the go INTO and come out of their WOMBS. And the SODOMY. The GAY SODOMY we will all soon be having if the GAYS are in the churches, if the GAYS and their GAY, ANAL, sex are sanctified. The SODOMY that we are all inches away from, please, quickly, someone give me a VIRGIN to pray to for my soul, a pure, untouched, untried VIRGIN to meditate on to save me from my sick, sinful sexual predilictions. A nice, pure, innocent, VIRGIN, a mother and a nun all at once, let us never mention her name without mentioning that she’s a VIRGIN, let us preface her name with a word that means “untried vagina” every time we pray to her, this will keep us holy, this will keep us SAFE!

When you stop and think about how often the word “virgin” is mentioned in conjunction with Christmas and Christianity in general, it starts to sound a lot like porn. The only pornographically virginal word not used to describe Mary is “tight,” but that’s probably because none of the male gospel writers thought about what it might be like to give birth with your hymen intact.

Scratch the surface of our culture’s attitude toward female sexuality, from puberty to conception to pregnancy to reproductive freedom to the experience of giving birth itself, and you will find a culture obsessed with control and denial. Teenagers are sex objects for grown men, grown women should alter their body hair to look like little girls. There is no amount of scrutiny too great or invasive to apply to any experience in a woman’s reproductive life. Let’s have teenagers beg judges for abortions! Let’s strap women to hospital beds and drug them into birthing before their doctor’s next tee time! Let’s tell women to be sexually promiscuous and let’s still threaten them that they will be childless and alone when their ovaries dry up! Ask any man–straight or gay–about his relationship with the female genetalia and if he is honest, he will probably describe a cycle of fascination, curiousity, alienation and revulsion at this magnetic but alien territory.

The elevation of Christmas to its current status of Most Important Global Holiday is evidence of this complicated fascination with the female as much as it is a lust for the latest piece of beeping plastic or any ritual of family togetherness. Culture has a knack for building us structures in which to talk about that which we find fascinating and revolting from the safety of code and euphamsism. Culture, like people, has a way of bringing the conversation around to what we most want to talk about–but also don’t.

People who worship the miracle of birth without sex want to talk about sex–without talking about it. People who want to talk about virgins want also to talk about whores. Everything implies its opposite, and nothing exists without an antipode. A virgin isn’t defined by who she is or what she does, she’s defined by what she’s never done. It’s no accident that Mary Magdalene turns up later in the Bible. Where there’s a virgin, there’s a slut. They even sell soap that way. I just wish people would come out and admit it. If you’re into the Virgin Mary, you’re into virgins and you prefer not to think of your parents having sex. It’s okay–lot’s of people feel that way. The internet is full of pornography, some of it made by consenting adults, to cater to your sexual predilictions, and New York, at least, is full of therapists who can help us all deal with the somewhat revolting circumstances of our origins. But let’s not cover up these feelings with compulsive shopping, compulsive overeating and a lot of senseless bell-ringing. Let’s talk about what’s really going on. We’ll all feel so much better afterwards.

So Merry Mary’s Cherry, everyone. This is a beautiful holiday about snow, about shopping, about the smell of pine needles, and about a beautiful young virgin getting her cherry popped by her own son’s emerging head. And it’s okay.

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