Busted: Dawn Eden

The former rock journalist talks about her conversion and The Thrill of the Chaste

BustedHalo: In the book it’s clear to me that though you were a rock journalist, you weren’t like the groupies in Almost Famous who sleep around left right and center. You make it very clear that you weren’t living a chaste life, but I also got the sense that you weren’t waking up in a different bed every morning.

Dawn Eden: I was looking for something deeper and looking in the wrong places, but at the same time, I would go through phases where I was particularly depressed, and if I really had a low self image then I would seek to be found attractive by some guy, because I would think, well you know if this guy finds me attractive then there must be something good about me. It’s a terrible way to go through life. And the thing is a feminist can say, that it’s not good to have sex with someone because of low self esteem. But the thing is, if you’re a feminist, you can never say that any reason to have sex is a bad reason, because women have a freedom of choice, so you can’t actually say that there are bad choices. What I discovered upon becoming chaste is that it’s always wrong to treat people as though they are interchangeable. The thing is, any time you have sex with someone outside of marriage, you’re treating them as though they can be replaced. Because the only irreplaceable person is the person you marry.

BH: You say something interesting in the book when you talk about the morning after sleeping with somebody and you go out for breakfast to a diner; you felt you were more choosey about your morning order than the men you were sleeping with.

DE: Yes, that’s true, at breakfast at a diner I would order two poached eggs on rye toast, no butter, and coffee with skim milk no potatoes, and I realized, I have four specifications on my diner breakfast, and I can’t be choosy about the one man with whom I would want to spend the rest of my life.

BH: In the book as well as your blog the Dawn Patrol you go into great detail about your love of music. When I first met you a number of years ago, your knowledge of certain pop music was just encyclopedic. When I first met you, you would play me all this obscure music that I’d never heard of—all these really cool things. I thought it was fascinating. To be honest, my own love of rock and roll music was fed by that. I liked that Dawn. Is that part of you gone?

DE: Oh well, I’m really happy to hear that I helped to fuel your own love of rock and pop music. I still love that era in music, what’s changed about me is that, I’m not obsessing about it so much and I have other obsessions. I’ve always been a bit obsessive. You know that.

BH: I can vouch for that. Anyone who had the kind of obsessive interest you had in bands like The Association or the Left Banke would definitely qualify as pretty intense.

DE: I have a new rock star now, and I bought all the videos of him that I can and I listen to his MP3’s.

BH: Who’s that?

DE: Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, he is a rock star! “Life is Worth Living!” (laughs)

BH: I met him when I was a little kid. At a prayer breakfast for the mayor Philadelphia, Frank Rizzo. So I met Frank Rizzo and Archbishop Sheen on the same day. My folks have a picture of it.

“I don’t care what they say about how unstable marriages are, if you haven’t actually taken those vows and signed that paper, it’s far easier to just say to your partner ‘see ya’ than if you’re married. “

DE: Oh wow. That I would love to see. Archbishop Sheen was, if you go to YouTube, and you look up Bishop Fulton Sheen, you see some those of your Life is Worth Living TV show from the 50’s. He was so ahead of his time, using media to spread the faith. And he was such a funny guy. He was rivaling Milton Berle in the ratings who had the top the TV show of the time.

BH: But in my own life I’ve seen how people can come to experiences of truth through art. Certainly the connection I experienced through music felt like it was part of some larger truth so I guess I am a little hesitant to throw it all out.

DE: Oh I don’t think you have to throw it all out. One of my favorite albums is still, the Zombies, “Odessey and Oracle” and that kind of music, as I said before, is transcendent. It makes you think that maybe there is something more than this material world and it makes you want to reach higher, reach upward. Anything that causes us to realize we didn’t make ourselves, that there is something larger than ourselves is a good thing. The striving that can ultimately have its end in faith, C.S Lewis talked about that in Surprised by Joy.

BH: I would agree that there can be a type of nihilism in certain kinds of music, and yet I’ve found tremendous hope in the experience of different types of non-sacred music. I think a lot of our readers find it hard to put up a wall between faith and their experience in the secular world.

DE: Oh there is not a wall. The Pope says that we are called to find the faith experience in each form of art. It’s very important to be able to find that in rock and other forms of art.

BH: But this Pope as I’ve written about thought that Bob Dylan was a poor choice to perform for Pope John Paul as he did in the late 90s.

DE: I read that, but I don’t think he was speaking ex cathedra. [dogmatically]

BH: Looking back on your rock and roll experience was there anyone else that was instrumental on your faith journey?

DE: Well Del Shannon. I was the last person to interview him. I interviewed him about 18 years ago this week, back in the spring of 89, and he inspired me because I saw that he was someone who and been through a great deal of emotional hardship, but he also had that emotional striving, and a lot of love.

BH: Was he a Christian?

DE: He was a Christian. And he had a great deal of love and humanity, which, as you know, can be rare in that biz.

BH: What are the reactions to your becoming a Catholic. I’m sure some of your Jewish friends have taken issue with that, and what’s been the reaction not only to conversion, but to the book. What’s that been like in general, being out there on tour.

DE: Well, the reaction to my conversion, overall wasn’t too bad, except for my sister, who is now a Reformed Rabbi and she didn’t talk to me for about a week. But my Dad was able to bring about a turn around so we’re friends now, but I’ve heard that she did sit Shiva for me. Shiva is the mourning process that observant Jews do when somebody dies or when somebody converts. So apparently, I’m the walking dead.

BH: Hopefully in your relationship there is some healing going on.

DE: Yes, there has been, and as far as the reaction to my book, its been very exciting, I’ve been hearing from people who, like me, felt that having sex before marriage wasn’t bringing them happiness but felt that they were stuck in that lifestyle.

BH: So have you found people who are on the same page as you faith-wise. It sounds likethat across you are talking to a sort of general audience. Not just a Catholic audience.

DE: It is a general audience, and I find that what people respond to the most is when I talk about the reason why I discovered, as I mentioned earlier that I had this realization that all the sex I had ever had brought me further away from marriage. The reason for that is that, this is all in John Paul the II’s, “Theology of the Body” as well, when you have sex with someone, the most self sacrificing act that you can possible do with your body, you’re saying to your partner. I give my entire self to you, I give my breathe to you, I give my sweat to you, I give what’s inside me to you, everything. So when I was doing that with a partner, even with someone I was in a loving relationship with and hoped to marry. Because each of us weren’t married, we still had an easy out.

I don’t care what they say about how unstable marriages are, if you haven’t actually taken those vows and signed that paper, it’s far easier to just say to your partner ‘see ya’ than if you’re married. I know that my partner and I had an out, and that I couldn’t pour out my entire self emotionally to him. And the way that we are called to do in marriage, you are called to not hold back anything in marriage. And so, I had to build up a shell between myself and my partner, I had to detach, even just detaching a little, so that I would be prepared in case we broke up, because if I poured myself out completely when we broke up I would be devastated.

It’s hard enough to break up when you haven’t done that. And so every time that I had sex with person that I wasn’t in love with I would have to build up more of a shell. So it was this terrible irony that this sex that was supposed to bring me closer to marriage, according to what the culture told to me, because what “Cosmo” and all these women’s magazines, say that sex should open the relationship. Sex that was suppose to bring you closer, taught me how to detach, so in becoming chaste, I had to learn how to—and this is true now when I go out on dates—how to not focus on building up a shell, how to learn to be emotionally vulnerable with people. And that’s really only possible to develop that when you’re not shortcutting intimacy by having sex.