At the Register: Something Other than God: Jennifer Fulwiler’s New Memoir

. . . is great! Of course it is. But it’s even better than I expected.

Don’t you love the cover? It’s finally ready for just plain buying, rather than pre-ordering. And check out Jennifer’s site for the launch party including a HUGE contest with LOTS of excellent prizes. Dammit, it’s no fair that someone who write so well should also be such an excellent promoter! Well, I hear she has big feet, so there’s some comfort.

And that’s exactly why I wrote my book.

Okay, so I’ve been trying not to grouse publicly about it every time someone says boo to me. This is not that!

I came across a review that thought the first two third of my book (“NFP and your spiritual life” and “NFP and the rest of the world”) were good, but he really didn’t like the third part (“NFP in the trenches”).  He’s an NFP teacher, and thinks that maybe we need to talk about intimate things, but only in an intimate setting:  literally, person to person. His review got a comment:

I, too, have taught & used NFP for a long, long time and see or been told all sorts of things. In short, this is difficult ground to cover and perhaps this book has sold out too much to the sexual comfort levels of our current culture.

And I says to myself, I says, Well, that’s exactly why I wrote my book.  This person teaches NFP, and she thinks that sex should be uncomfortable. For way too many people, that is the message they’re getting about sexuality and their faith: don’t get comfortable! Don’t be honest. And God forbid you should be a product of “our current culture.”

But what if you are a product of our current culture? What are you supposed to do? When people are already wounded, it’s not very helpful to say, “What a shame there are wounds.” We need someone to lift the bandage.

Listen, I know this book is not for everybody. I may have a monstrous ego, but I never imagined I was writing The Definitive Compendium of Ideas that are Perfectly Suited for All Conceivable Audiences.  I know there are plenty of people who don’t want or don’t need to get really specific or frank about sexual matters. The cover was supposed to serve as a warning: Attention, squeamish people! Nakedness inside! If the cover freaks you out, you should probably pass on what’s inside.

But there are an awful lot of people who are hearing nothing but, “Sex is beautiful. Sex is meaningful. Sex is profound” and they want to believe it and they want to live it, but they are having a hard time figuring out how it applies to their actual specific naked bodies.  Many people read about covenants and veils and sacredness, and end up thinking either (a) this doesn’t apply to me. There must be something wrong with me or (b) this doesn’t apply to me. There must be something wrong with the Church.

So, that third section of my book, where I get pretty specific? It’s not supposed to answer all your questions about sex. It’s to help you and your spouse ask and answer those questions together — and to let you know that it’s okay to talk about these things. Yeah, I can live with that kind of “selling out.”

*****

(DISCLAIMER: I didn’t link to the review, because I’m not trying to heap shame on anyone’s head, or encourage any kind of comment duel. I love getting reviews, good or bad, and I don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t criticize me! I just thought the remarks I quoted were especially telling, and highlighted something important.)

Two great questions from men about NFP

I had a great interview with the witty and insightful Scott Eric Alt of Logos & Muse yesterday, and he incorporated parts of our conversation into his review, Seven Reasons to Read Simcha Fisher’s Book on NFP.  This question came up:

Why should we trust this mother of nine to make the case for NFP? That’s a fecun­dity beyond all rea­son! Either she’s not using NFP at all (oh the deceit!) or it does not really work. Nancy Pelosi infa­mously said that you call NFP-users “mama” and “dada,” and Sim­cha Fisher is exhibit A.

He’s not the first one to delicately inquire how I presume to write about NFP, when I’ve had so many kids in such a short time.  The short answer is that even exclusive breastfeeding is no match for my incredible, invincible, almost inexplicable fertility.  I’m not kidding.  You will just have to take my word for it that I do know what I’m talking about when I talk about abstinence.

The other answer is that this book is not based solely on my own experience. I was lucky enough to belong to a message board of NFP-users for many years, where men and women felt free to complain and console each other through the trials of NFP.  Not only did I learn about other people’s experiences, I learned that one’s own experience is not necessarily The Experience.

Check out the rest of the interview here.  We also talked about how God’s will works with free will; how NFP is not another kind of contraception, but another kind of life; and why I chose to write around NFP, rather than writing about NFP.

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Next, Peter of Lightly Salted has written a really nice review in which he appreciates various points I made . . .

 … but all these things do not make the book as valuable as the main thread of her argument that runs through each chapter.

Fisher’s main point is this: sex is for grownups. So if you want fantastic sex, you need to grow up! When we are childish, petulant, selfish and lazy in our approach to sex, it will be disappointing to say the least. So the struggles with married life are a gift in that, learning to be a grownup in our most intimate relationship not only makes that relationship much more fun, frolicsome and fulfilling, it teaches us to be grownups in every other aspect of our lives. In short, marriage helps us grow in holiness.

Right on.  Then Peter asks the second question that has come up more than once: why isn’t there more in the book directed at men?  He says:

 I can hardly fault Simcha for writing from a woman’s perspective. After all, she writes as a woman who has listened carefully to men and seems to understand the basics. But  I wanted a chapter for men! A chapter from a man’s perspective might have rounded off the book as an even more excellent resource for couples than it already is. I don’t mean that she is hard on men. I think she is too soft in places. Sometimes it takes a man to tell other men to ‘man up’, and give some practical tips on how to go about it.

The book has a lot of chapters which are addressed equally to men and women, and then several which are addressed to women, encouraging them to understand, express themselves to, and encourage communication from their husbands.  This was deliberate.

The first reason I addressed women more directly is that women are more likely than men to buy and read a book about relationships, so I designed the book for women to read and then share with their husbands.  I did paint in broad strokes when describing how men and women usually think, and what most men and most women need.  (My editor made me take out a lot of tedious “of course, this may not apply to you”s and “naturally, there is a lot of variation”s.)  The goal of the book was not to tell men and women what women and men are thinking, respectively, but to encourage them to find out what their particular spouses are thinking.  In general, women are more motivated to broach that territory.

The second reason is that the book was already extremely personal, and I really didn’t want to write a chapter that would inevitably come across as “10 Things Simcha Wishes Her Husband Would Understand; Sheesh, What Do I Gotta Do, Write a Book?” or “Mistakes that Husbands Such as Damien T. Fisher, 39, of Southern NH, Make When Dealing with Their Wives.”

Okay, three reasons: my plan original plan was to sell maybe 250 copies of a self-published ebook and that would be the end of it, so I wasn’t really attempting to put together the definitive compendium of NFP-related issues.  But I fervently hope that my book will be the first of many about NFP, and I would love to hear more from and about men.

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Thanks for the great reviews, Peter and Scott, and for the opportunity to answer those questions!  Readers, if you’re not already familiar with Logos & Muse and Lightly Salted, you’re missing out.