Friday, 1 January 2010

New Year's Resolutions for Singles

This year my principal resolutions are to get into shape for my book launch, to write more fiction and to do more housework. But I am also determined to meet more local writers. And maybe I'll even make some more girlfriends. This last, though, is not entirely up to me as friendship is a bit like a new discovery in a chemistry lab: this element might turn that element an encouraging colour, or it might blow up the test tube. Only time will tell.

All Singles, Serious or Searching, need friends: people who offer emotional support, and people who gratefully accept emotional support in return. Married people, too, need friends, even if just to give their spouse some time to rest from the demands of emotional support. The loneliness of Single life is less acute if the Single person is in regular contact with friends and congenial relations.

The Searching Single often puts him- or herself through an awful lot of pressure about forming relationships. In recent years, I have become less enamoured of the famous The Rules and more keen to encourage Singles think in terms of making new friends instead of in attracting boy- and girlfriends. I'm more for cultivating a real detachment instead of, as The Rules suggests, faking one.

My caveat, of course, is that the Single person be aware that "hanging out" with a friendly and attractive member of the opposite sex is a kind of "dating". I never formally dated my husband, for example. At Gatwick Airport I blushed and assured the young, suspicious border agent that my host B.A. was "just a friend." Which he was, until ten days later.

Now because I love lists even more than I love giving unsolicited advice, here is a list of some resolutions I might suggest to Singles:

1. To appreciate your freedoms as a Single person. Write a list of what you love about your life right now.

2. To stop complaining about being Single. This is a hard one, but it's worth it to your mental health and general attractiveness. If you must complain, make sure you complain to a fellow Single or someone whose job it is to listen to such complaints, e.g. your spiritual director. Very occasional outbursts to parents might be okay. I remember rather histronically announcing to my father that I was a ripe fruit withering on the vine. I forget what he said, but I found it comforting.

3. To stop resenting people in other states of life (if you do). It's in the catechism: virginity does not denigrate marriage; marriage does not denigrate virginity. And although this is not in the catechism, don't tell male or female religious that if what they're living is poverty, bring on chastity. Yes, Tom Clancy, S.J. doesn't have to pay his student loans. But he isn't going to like you if you keep reminding him. Any form of vows entail sacrifices that you might not see.

4. To stop thinking of yourself as socially handicapped. Are you shy? There is no shy! Are you, a woman, unfeminine? For women, there is no unfeminine! There's just different ways of being attractive. So in all social situations, take the plunge. Find someone with open body language in a socially respectable place and talk to them. If, of course, you'd rather be a hermit, that's okay. Singles are free to be hermits. Strangely, though, the hermit Thomas Merton wrote tons of letters, had a wide audience for his books, got visitors like Joan Baez and had an affair with a nurse.

5. To get yourself out there (if you want to make new friends). Getting involved in the blogging community counts as getting yourself out there. Make sure you put your best face forward, so to speak. If you have a blog, make sure the dominant note is happy or witty or at any rate reveals a zest for life. Through three years of blogging, I have met Benedict Ambrose, Berenike, Boaciana, Notburga, Aelianus, Cath-the-Calvinist, Invocante, Invocante's Lady & Bairns, MarkM, Zadok the Roman (Europe), Clio, Belloc, Geography Lady (Canada), some readers in Boston, and two charming Trid readers from Montreal offline. Plus I have long-established regular readers whose comments I very much enjoy, and sometimes new regular readers come along and add new zip. Then there's the book contract. Ahem. So if you use your brain and are not afraid to discriminate and self-protect, to say nothing of being The (Best Version of the) Real You online, you really can make friends over the internet. Meanwhile, there are classes and clubs and parish groups and yadda-yadda.

6. To take care of other Singles, including the junior members of your family. People need to know that others are thinking of them. Send greeting cards. Send valentines at Valentine's Day to all your Single friends (and any kiddies in the family). Remember their birthdays--more cards. Plan Singles' parties for sensitive holidays. Have Girls' or Boys' Nights Out. (By the way, consider inviting married friends to these GoBNO. We really miss them. Depending on their situations, nun/priest friends might like to come, too.) If you train yourself to think so often of others and their own sense of isolation, you avoid the besetting sin of so many Singles: self-absorption.

The photo represents Baby New Year, in case you were wondering.


theobromophile said...

Good advice... although tough to follow!

In recent years, I have become less enamoured of the famous The Rules and more keen to encourage Singles think in terms of making new friends instead of in attracting boy- and girlfriends.

Out of curiousity, why do you not like The Rules? (I always hated them and thought that there were counter-productive to my own love life; everything was presented in such a manipulative fashion that I vowed to do the exact opposite.)

Seraphic said...

"...that I vowed to do the exact opposite."

Yikes! The hectoring tone aside, there's a lot of good common sense in "The Rules". They're flawed, but they're not fatally flawed.

To me they're not about manipulating people but about modifying one's own behaviour, being able to pinpoint which of one's male acquaintances are really interesting, and being able to cut one's losses as painlessly as possible.

The reason why I'm less enamoured with them is that they advocate forcing you out of the house into Singles events to meet romantic prospects. If a women thinks of her outings that way, she might very well be shooting herself in the foot. It's better to go out hoping to meet interesting people instead of hoping to meet interesting men, if you see the difference.

Seraphic said...

Oh dear. My cold is back with a vengeance and I can't write properly: the Rules helps you figure out which men are truly interested, not truly interesting.

theobromophile said...

There's good and bad reasons for doing most things in life. "He's Just Not That Into You" seems to take a healthy tack (I've only seen the movie and have never read the book): it encourages young women to use common sense, look at how a man acts, and adjust accordingly.

"The Rules," however, seem to be focused on finding a man above all other pursuits (which you mention above) and tell women to do certain things, which may be perfectly sensible, for all the wrong reasons. According to "The Rules," one shouldn't call a man because he needs to feel as if you are some wild being who should be chased and captured; in reality, though, one should wait for a man to call and should let a man pay for dinner because those are excellent indicators of his level of interest.

I also hate that The Rules is very much into semi-casual sex. Even Steve Harvey (American comedian and author of a dating book for women) says that women should wait a minimum of three months; The Rules, last time I checked, says that women who wait more than about five weeks are being teases. (Also, in your linked "Rules for Jennifer Aniston," there is a mention of "He's just not that into you if he doesn't ask to be exclusive after sex." AFTER?!?!?)

Seraphic said...

Well, obviously, one has to pick and choose, especially with non-Christian advice books. The annoying thing is, many, many people do see sex before marriage as a legitimate form of courtship. If you market your advice books only to chaste, traditionally-religious women, you might not get a zillion sales or a six-figure advance with a multinational publisher. (My advance was definitely not six-figure!)

I don't remember any mention of five weeks in the Rules (my copy, alas, is in a box in Canada), although I do recall the ladies saying that if you don't believe in sex before marriage, you should inform the men you're dating of this fact. My friends and I always call this "the Talk", and we know "the Talk" either means a girl gets broken up with or that her boyfriend really loves her.

I liked Greg's book, too, and I enjoyed how he shamelessly flatters the reader. But interestingly, he says basically the same sort of things as the Rules lady, only in a much more sympathetic way. But Greg, you'll notice, says that if a guy's that into you, he wants to sleep with you. Well, if a guy's that into you, he'll wait. And, in fact, he might even hide how much he wants to just make out with you, because he wants to be chaste. So that rule of Greg's doesn't necessarily work for us women-of-religion!

Definitely, when it comes to advice books, we have to be "cafeteria" readers!