Wednesday, December 14, 2011

An open letter to the Anonymous Stern Girl

The Duke Power Point remains champion of the genre, but now Yeshiva University has its own semi-literate-college-student-who-publicly-regrets-her-sex-exploits. Writing in the Beacon, a student run paper with loose ties to the University, a writer known now as The Anonymous Stern Girl, gave us a rambling  essay that might be summarized this way: "Hey everyone: I had some sex and now I'm second guessing myself."

For her trouble, TASG was parodied, criticized, and put on the front page of a terrible website. After YU (or, in another version of events, the Student Council) complained to the Beacon, the paper decided to cut ties with the school. It is now an independent publication.

No matter what your opinion of TASG's behavior or the University's overreaction, you have to admit it was a terrible article. Short on detail and long on cliches, the writer never seems to realize that she is not unique: College girls regret having sex all the time. Her problem is not specific to her religion, to her upbringing, or even to her gender. I know men who went too far, and hated themselves for it, too. This is an age-specific problem, aggravated perhaps by the religious upbringing, but not caused by it. In short, 20-somethings of every race, color and creed worry about their identities. In a few years TASG will know if she is, or is not, the sort of girl who sleeps with men outside of marriage. For now, I suppose we can thank her for sharing her crisis and inviting us to discuss it, but I find myself wishing the story had been told with more skill and self knowledge.

TASG's critics also seem to be without self-knowledge. From the uproar in the comments beneath her article, you would think no one in the Orthodox world has ever had premarital sex. You would also think that premarital sex between consenting adults is an Unforgivable Sin. Neither assumptions are true, and we don't help young people like TASG work things out if we're coy or, even worse dishonest, about the facts.

I suggest we, as a blogging community, restrict our objections to TASG's remarkably bad prose, while offering the person herself some support and understanding.

Here's my best effort:
Dear TASG:

So you had some sex, and it wasn't very good. That's often how it goes at first. As with everything, practice helps. Apart from the disappointment you are feeling about the act itself, I understand that you're upset with yourself. That's also normal.

In fact, it might make you feel better to hear that everything about you, and your experience, are completely normal. Stern girls - even the "good" ones - have premarital sex. Some of them are curious and choose to experiment with a friend or some other suitable candidate; others are in long-term relationships with men they expect to marry and prefer not to postpone the inevitable. Afterwards, even the best-adjusted people doubt themselves. Some fear they may have offered to much, too quickly; others worry about God; still others do as you seem to have done, and wonder Is this the kind of person I am?

TASG, I am here to tell you, its all good. You're not a bad person. You're not a bad Jew. And you're not (necessarily) a slut. You're just a typical twenty-something, doing what typical twenty-somethings do, and feeling what typical twenty-something feel. While its certainly painful and stress-inducing,your doubts are as normal and as unremarkable as a 40-something's midlife crises. Take it slow. Breath deeply. Let things play out. Your future and your identity are still yours to create.

One semi-drunken act in a hotel room doesn't define you. 
I think I'd tell my own daughter the same things...

Search for more information about TASG  at

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