Chasten by Hephzibah Anderson
On the eve of her thirtieth birthday, Hephzibah Anderson glimpsed her college boyfriend going into a jewelry store with a smiling blonde-and in that moment realized it had been years since a man told her he loved her. This discovery led her to question a decade of emotionally frustrating relationships with commitment-phobes. As she examined her past, she recognized that most of these relationships went off course at the precise moment sex was involved. Anderson decided it was time to spend a full year without sex to rediscover its meaning and purpose in her life. In this confessional account, Anderson shares the results of that year, narrating each month as she flirts, dates, and swoons but doesn’t have sex. – Viking, 2010
Starting her tale right as she makes the decision to be celibate is great for pacing but robs readers of background information needed to understand why Anderson made such a ‘drastic’ decision. Why did she feel the need for a new chasten wardrobe of turtlenecks? Was she formerly a provocative dresser, and no longer wanted to the type of attention cleavage can garner? Knowing the type of men she had dated before the vow would help readers know if she would have rejected the men who propositioned her even without it.
Anderson states one of the reasons for the vow was to learn how to hold out for someone who would be devoted. Despite her declaration, she continues to entertain an old flame who blatantly shows he has no interest in giving her devotion. But then again, we have no idea what her definition/criteria of a relationship is, so maybe a man with a girlfriend is her idea of a relationship.
Anderson’s stream of consciousness goes in and out of play by play of dates, rants on women’s portrayals in movies, other cultures’ views on chastity, and feminism. There is no self-aware personal evaluation of herself, making it difficult to get a sense of who she is. What part of the stereotype of a girl who grew up without a father does she identify with or not? Does her international lifestyle hinder her date-ability? What cultural differences does she see between England and the United States, if any? I don’t know and Anderson doesn’t say. Her behavior and view of herself are unchanged after the year of celibacy, getting her no closer to the goal of devotion and making the whole ordeal feel like a weary (the only emotion she expresses) waste of time. –(Low) Burn it!