Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Cruel Assumptions

When I was a teenage pro-life activist, one of my fellow teen activists made a sly remark about Catholic couples with small families. One of the boys around, usually a very placid, cheerful boy, took this as an insult to his parents' commitment to orthodoxy, as it very well may have been.

"Not everybody can have children easily, you know!" he snarled.

This conversation would have bewildered a Protestant or a Catholic who grew up with liberal ideas about Humanae Vitae, but we tradition-minded Catholics all understood why the boy had risen so angrily to his parents' defence. And I have heard the question again in adult life about other couples:

"If they're such great Catholics, why don't they have any children?"

As a married woman who didn't, as did her mother, friends and sister-in-law, get pregnant within months of her wedding, I am increasingly touchy on the topic. I had let go my dream of having children as part of my Seraphic Single project, but then I met B.A. As I married before menopause, I thought we had a chance to have children. And we still might have a chance. The stories of Abraham and Sarah and of Saint Elizabeth prove that God can do whatever God wants in this department. But how angry I will be if we don't have any children, and I overhear someone ask why.

I was reminded recently of one of the great fears of chaste long-term Single men and some chaste long-term Single woman: rumours that they aren't "partnered" or married because they are gay. This is not as terrible an assumption as it was thirty years ago, before it became a social crime to think and say homosexuality was a blight. But it is none the less still painful for those who very much long to find love with the opposite sex.

It is probably still more dangerous for men to be thought of (or identified) as gay than it is for women. But unless the world has changed very much indeed, the word "lesbian" may still be being used as a weapon against women who are discouraging the attentions of Mr. Wrong. "So, what are you? A lesbian?" is a terrible thing for a man to say. But men say it. You should take it as your cue to leave the building.

"She must be a lesbian!" I heard a drunken acquaintance groan one time. "My ego refuses to let me believe that she could be straight!"

I don't know what advice to give about this. I'm just acknowledging the pain and fear some Singles have about being falsely identified and labelled. And although I know much less about this, I want also to acknowledge the pain and fear of Singles who do have same-sex attractions who are trying to live as chaste religious people in the world with dignity and respect.


Agellius said...

I know the feeling. My kids go to a very conservative Catholic school (thank God!), and many of the families have 5, 8, 10 or even 13 children. Whereas my wife and I only have two. I sometimes feel defensive and want to blurt out that we wanted more kids, we really did, but we just got married a little too late.

Smiley said...

I know what you mean.

Seraphic said...

Agellius, I don't think you need to feel defensive! After all, you have chosen to send your kids to a conservative Catholic school, so people must know you know "what the score is" as we JP1-JP2 generation in Toronto said when we were kids.

But I bet when people with huge families think such thoughts, it is because they are just overwhelmed by parenthood that day. The rest of the time, when they think about other parents at all, they probably feel sorry that parents of one or two miss out on the fun of having a big brood.

It's self-appointed Inquisitor teenagers who make remarks about other people's small families who deserve a good whack.

Smiley, good to see you on the blog!