It is a cliche that women get sad and men get angry. It is also a cliche that women blame themselves when something goes wrong, and men blame the equipment or other people. (This is why baseball fans shout the cruel taunt, "It's not the bat; it's the batter!") Women internalize their disappointment. Men externalize. Or so it is in Canada and the USA, the two countries I know most about.
Because I began my blogs assuming I was writing for women, I haven't thought too terribly much about how men approach Singleness. For one thing, young men are not under the same pressure to marry. They can have children, for example, up to half an hour after they are dead. And they are not under the same social constraints as women, since they can actively seek spouses without anyone suggesting that this is psychologically unsound, unmanly, etc.
Mary: Hey, Tom! How about coffee?
Tom: Hey, Mary. Sorry, can't do it. Later!
Mary (thinking): Oh, that was stupid of me. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Why didn't I let him approach me first? Maybe I'm too ugly? Maybe he likes blonde girls? Ugh, I hate myself.
Tom: Hey, Sandra! How about coffee?
Sandra: Can't, sorry.
Tom (thinking): ...
Tom sees Fiona.
Tom: Hey, Fiona! How about coffee?
Fiona: Sorry, Tom! Got class now.
Tom sees Siobhan.
Tom: Hey, Siobhan! How about coffee?
Siobhan: Great! You paying?
Actually, men can take this too far. I once had a downstairs neighbour who chatted up all the waitresses in his favourite bar. He asked one for her phone number, and she wouldn't give it to him. So he asked the next one for her phone number, and she got mad because he had just asked the first girl. And he was annoyed that she was annoyed. As far as he was concerned, since the first girl had said no, it was full speed ahead.
"But they were both in the same place at the same time," I said, exasperated. "The second one would think you were just looking for anybody."
"Hey," said my neighbour. "It's a numbers game."
But then there are men who act the opposite way. They don't even bother trying. Or they sort of try for awhile and then give up. For all I know, there's a guy in New England who will never try again because he met me through a Catholic dating site, drove to Boston to take me to coffee, and discovered he had forgotten his wallet. Ouch. Meanwhile, he had anger issues, as I discovered from subsequent Catholic dating site internet chats, so I quit talking to him completely.
I don't like angry men. They scare me. I'm not Lauren Bacall, surveying angry men coolly through cigarette smoke, knowing I can protect myself with my magic female power. No way. The more advanced part of my brain knows that male frustration is usually a lot more light than heat, but my reptile brain shrieks, "Run away! Run away!" And the prejudices of my reptile brain are reinforced every time an angry Single man shoots up a lot of people or writes his angry screed to the advice columnist: ("I'm a nice guy, how come only the bastards get girls, maybe I should be a bastard too.")
However, I have a husband and a dad and brothers and nephews and male friends, so in honour of them I want to rise above my fear of angry men and try to see beyond the anger to a man's sense of frustration and helplessness. I don't know whether I should use a soothing maternal tone or a bracing drill sergeant's shout. In ministry school, I was taught to listen, not to advise. Sigh. Unlike Michele Fleming, I'm not paid for this.
Well, if asked by men for advice about meeting women, I would say that the first thing a man has got to do is take off his anger goggles. Angry men get blind to their mission. They lose their powers of observation. For example, a man who is angry because women don't talk to him, fails to notice when women are talking to him. A man who is angry because he hasn't met anyone special, fails to notice that he has met three or four women who might be special. A mild example of this would be the male reader who leaves comments in my comm box, is addressed by the nice young Single Catholic women who read my blog, and then does not bother to reply to them.*
The extreme example, and I mean extreme, and I am putting him in a whole different paragraph from my male readers, whom I don't want to insult, is the Health Club shooter. The Health Club shooter was so obsessed with the fact that he hadn't had a girlfriend in 20 years, that he got upset that he was being distracted by a woman who was nice to him from his plan of shooting women in his health club.
Now, yes, the man was probably insane. But I suggest that he drove himself insane. How tragic that he did not take the approach of my happy-go-lucky downstairs neighbour, who cheerfully hit on every woman that moved, in the hopes that eventually he'd be lucky. Like too many men, the HCS seemed to think women were supposed to just fall into his lap.
Bitterness makes Single women unpleasant. Anger makes Single men blind. And I would love to reach over to every angry Single Catholic guy and take his anger goggles off. Searching Single Catholic women go to Catholic events with strong hunter-gatherer instincts. (I still have my radar up when I go to a new parish; I think a lot of young married women are like that. We're just so used to checking out the talent that we can't turn it off.) We surreptitiously scan Catholic crowds for men our age. If we see one who strikes us cute for some private reason (I'm an eyebrow woman myself), we check him for a ring. If he looks at back, we look away because we are afraid of looking like brazen hussies. But then we sneak another look. And the smart man catches the second look and does something about it.
The operative word for female behaviour at Catholic events is surreptitious. Women are subtle. We don't shout "Notice me." If we're dying for men to notice us, we express it through clothes, not words. But religious Catholic girls are in a bind because we want only Nice Catholic men to notice us, and so far there is no outfit, short of a white mantilla, to draw only the eye of a Nice Catholic man.
But men, unfortunately, are not usually as subtle as women. They aren't as quick as we to read faces, gestures, tone, atmosphere. And when they are angry and frustrated, they are slower than ever.
Men like game plans. So here's a game plan, boys. Don't go to Catholic social events for the content. Go for the women. After I wrote "The Spring Roll Guy and Mr. Bargle", some chivalrous woman wrote in furious that I thought the men were just there for the girls. Well, the men should have been there for the girls. If a Single man really wants to hear about "The Role of Catholics in Political Life", he can sit at home and listen to a podcast. And, incidentally, the event I was talking about was a lecture on the "Theology of the Body." Robert F. Kennedy! (This is my new fake swear word.) When my pal Boston Girl went to a T of the B lecture, she wore a tight shirt unbuttoned down to there.
And a Single man at a Catholic event should engage. If there's a break, ask the girl next to you if you can get her something from the buffet. Ask if you can get anyone a coffee. This makes you look like a nice guy. You probably are a nice guy. But how can we tell unless you start doing nice stuff right away?
*If I never answered the people who wrote in my combox, I would not be married today.