Thursday, 22 April 2010

Auntie Seraphic & Nixon's Sister

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

My brother is a man in his late thirties who would like to be married very much. His continued single status could be attributed to being somewhat socially inept (he is a stereotypical Science Guy), or perhaps to his career choices. He has lived a nomadic life abroad for the last several years where cultural differences have made it even more difficult for him to connect. Or perhaps he just hasn't met the right woman yet. He's dated some rather nice Catholic women in these various places, but none of the relationships have developed into anything serious.

Recently he was offered a choice of jobs. The first job was in China, a very prestigious position which would both further his career and be exactly the kind of work he most wants to do. However, it would be very unlikely that he would meet anyone there he could marry. The second job was a lower level position, but located back in the US, at a university only an hour away from my parents, in a city with a rather large and thriving community of Catholic young adults. It seemed more likely that he might meet someone there he could marry.

At one point in his discernment he asked me what I thought. I told him that basing your choice of job on the potential for meeting a future spouse was not a good criteria. I said that it didn't work that way, that if getting married were just a matter of meeting enough good Catholics of the appropriate gender, I would have been married years ago. I said that you should choose what makes you the most fulfilled, and if God wants you to be married, He'll make it happen. People meet their future spouses in all kinds of ways, in all kinds of places. In the end (and probably unrelated to my advice) he chose to take the job in China.

However, I'm not sure if I gave my brother the right advice. It's always a good idea to trust God and go on doing the best you can, living the life He gave you to the best of your ability. And I don't think there's anything you can do to make your future spouse show up even a moment sooner than God wills. However, there are things people do that make themselves much less likely to marry, like making themselves unavailable to potential spouses. The truth is that it is highly unlikely that my brother will find a good Catholic woman to marry in China. However, stranger things have happened, and perhaps God is bringing him there in response to my future sister-in-law's prayers. Or maybe not.

Anyway, I would like your take on this. Faced with a choice between two jobs, one of which would be good for your career but would make it less likely that you would marry, and one which would be not as good but potentially make it more likely for you to marry, what would you choose?

Nixon's Sister

Dear Nixon's Sister,

I'm glad your brother got his dream job. I think your advice was good, and that your brother made the right choice.

My one quibble--and I hate to say this because for once I am not sure I am right--is that the rules for men are different from the rules for women and that men can be more aggressive than women in their mate-search. As annoying and retro and sexist as this sounds, it is the man's job to get out there and find a wife, if that's what he feels he's called to do.

However, that said, God has a plan for each one of us, and if a future Mrs. Nixon is in His plans, than He will use whatever Nixon gives Him to bring that about.

When I was 34, I chose a career path that I knew would significantly lower my chances of marriage. In fact, when I told my family I had been given a Ph.D. fellowship to a prestigious theology department in the USA, the first thing my sister said was:

"How long will this (the degree) take?"

"Four, five, maybe six years," I said.

Her big blue eyes bugged.

"So when will you have babies?" she demanded.

There was a studied silence from the rest of la famille, and all the air went out of my balloon. I knew the theology department would be packed with the same men all Catholic theology departments are packed with: priests, religious, openly gay men, and cute young things who married at 22.

But I went ahead and picked career over marriage prospects.

Now, the Ph.D. didn't work out, and so the career didn't work out either. BUT because I took the fellowship, I met Ted, my blogging flatmate. And because I met Ted, I started blogging. And because I blogged, I met Benedict Ambrose. And because I met Benedict Ambrose, I am married. And the blog led to another career, the one I wanted when I was a kid.

In short, you just never know. We just control what we can control, e.g. career trajectory, and leave the rest up to God.

But I will add one more word about active courtship because you are writing about a brother, not a sister, and because he is living in China. So far your brother has indeed "been out there", actively meeting women, the way I think men should. That's great. Now I would suggest he somehow actively market himself, perhaps by finding the blogs of other Westerners in China and becoming a faithful, commenting fan or by finding a matchmaker to the local Chinese Catholic community, if such a person exists.

Frankly, I think your brother sounds very attractive: there may certainly be many women reading this who think the idea of meeting a faithful Roman Catholic American man in his late 30s with a great career he loves in romantic and exotic China very thrilling. I'm assuming he'd be delighted to support a wife and not demand that she be a fellow economic powerhouse in a foreign country.

Finally, I think you are a good sister. I have two younger brothers, and I understand.

Grace and peace,


some guy on the street said...

I may have a word or two of comfort, in re. China: it might be harder to deliberately clock a good Catholic in China by throwing a brick at Beijing, but of course that's not how people move through whatever circle they find themselves in. In fact, due to their minority, it should be easier to find a representative sample of the good Catholics in China. That's the comfort.

On the other hand --- and my news may be out-of-date --- for myself I'd worry more about the difficulty that many Chinese Catholics must actively conceal themselves lest they be arrested, imprisoned, summarily shot, or whatnot, for prefering explicit obedience to Rome over obedience to The Party in matters of faith and morals.

I think my advice would be "Proceed with Extreme Caution".

Maggie said...

@ some guy
I think you're right that openly practicing a religion is discouraged in China. Although, the gentleman in question, being American, might have some sort of diplomatic immunity wherein he's able to practice his faith with an openness native Chinese do not enjoy. So it might be difficult to find a Catholic Chinese woman to marry, but another American/European studying or working in China might also be looking for a nice Catholic person to marry. God works in mysterious ways, as they say!