Thursday, 15 April 2010

Hostile Waters

"...Second, we don't like getting threatening letters from people even though they benefit from the traffic they get from [Catholic dating website]..."

ROFL! The "threat" was me cordially adding to the bottom of my letter that my lawyer would be pleased to offer them more information, if required.

That hasn't inspired them to take down "Modest Millie", but I digress. This most unbusinesslike passive-aggression (in lieu of a quick and apologetic email) is very bad PR, and I could amuse myself very much by writing about it in the Catholic Register, were I not loath to give [Catholic dating website] more publicity. (Update: their PR person, much more diplomatic, has now sent me a polite note. Further Update: And now they've taken down "Modest Millie". Problem solved, albeit with their head-shaking over the "odd" situation. Yeah, professional writers LOVE to have their stuff stolen and then be insulted to boot.)

I am glad that some of its members have decided to keep reading Seraphic Singles, but I don't see any economic benefit, unless they buy my book. And my book is definitely not in the spirit of Catholic dating websites, which I think exploit the suffering and loneliness of Single Catholic people. Yes, I know some people do actually manage to find spouses through them--as the Jesuits teach, God in all things.*

The snapping and snarling I found on [Catholic dating website's] forum shocked me very much (and made me once again grateful that (A) I no longer subscribe to such things and that (B)Benedict Ambrose never wrote or writes like that). But after thinking about it, I realized that what ailed the men, at least, was that they were horribly lonely, sometimes bitter and in a few cases kitted out with anger goggles. As the focus of their ire, I realized that they could not have been reading my work either word for word or in the spirit it was offered. And, poignantly, they could not have had the slightest idea how they might appear to the woman they were insulting. On the other hand, perhaps they didn't care. Some clearly had a grudge against women.

(Incidentally, I hope the woman who was posting my stuff wasn't kicked off her dating site. I believe she initially meant well, and I initially took the posting as a compliment. As for her decision to link to my photo (see above) to mock my appearance, this was nasty, but I'm not angry any more. We are all sinners, and we all screw up occasionally, for whatever reason. So if you are sorry, poster ...)

Religious websites can be very nasty. B.A. has a great devotion to "Ship of Fools", an ecumenical Christian (I believe) website where Christians of all stripes practise apologetics, polemics and seething rage. Once again, the posters probably have no idea of how awful they appear in the eyes of strangers. And yet most of them are probably very nice people.

It's amazing what people will write when they think they are anonymous which, unfortunately, they very often aren't, on account of leaving too much information about themselves on the internet. So my unsolicited advice today, my dear Singles, is to remember, whenever you write something, that someone somewhere might know who you are, and that the objects of your derision might find out what you say about them. I myself have gotten into trouble more than once by describing anonymous people at anonymous events, for somehow someone always seems to recognize them and inform them of their new internet immortality.

But besides that, you will want to put your best face forward in public, as the internet actually is, so as to look like the ladies and gentlemen you actually are or are striving to be. And, since I know many of you long to get married one day, I will let you in on not such a big secret: you don't have to pay a monthly fee to meet Catholic Singles on the internet.

Across the Catholic blogosphere there are witty, intelligent Catholics who write entertaining blogs about their favourite interests. Many are married or priests or vowed religious. But many others are indeed Single. Since bloggers enjoy writing about themselves, who these Single people are will become quite apparent as you read a variety of Catholic blogs. Perhaps I should begin keeping a list.

As many of you know, I met my husband through my blogs. He was a friend of two men who read my blogs, one who seemed to do so to engage me in theological battle and also because two of his best female friends (one Single, one now Religious) were avid fans. (Bless them!) He himself kept a blog, and I thought it--and therefore him--very funny and witty. And my first impressions were not wrong.

So, my dear little Singles, of whom I am fond because I was Single so long myself (and did so many dumb things because I was Single and unhappy in it), that is my advice to you. If you are feeling lonely, don't go to Catholic dating sites. Go to the Catholic blogosphere and make friends with the bloggers. Become a Catholic blogger yourself, writing as well and as charitably as you know how, and prudently examine the offers of friendship that are made to you.

Money can't buy you love.

Update: I have now received a belated but polite email from [Catholic dating site's] PR person promising to look into it.

Update 2: And also a nice message from the help desk after a brusque message from the co-Founder, who shares the Christian name of the chap quoted above.

*Berenike would like me to firmly state that KathTreff, an Austrian Catholic matchmaking service, does not exploit people. She knows the people who run it, and says they are normal working Catholics hoping to spread the gospel of life in Austria. Presumably they do not send out ads reading "Alone this Christmas/Valentine's Day/Easter? You don't have to be."


berenike said...

Again, I don't think you can say categorically that Catholic dating sites are out to exploit people. I know the people behind only one, and they are neither weird nor exploitative nor mad nor Bud McFarlane, but normal working Catholics who decided that a good way to help the gospel of life thrive in Austria was to help bring together more German-speaking Catholic-minded Catholics. So if you are going to say that Catholic matchmaking sites are exploitative or predatory or whatever, please add (excepting KathTreff). Thanks on behalf of Gudrun and Monika :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Seraphic,

Your book came in yesterday's mail and I read it straight through, especially since it was snowing all day and I stayed home most of the day. It was great. I did have to take my cat to the vet, who liked your book too since I was still reading it in the waiting room.

I'm confused - why would somebody link to your picture to "mock you"? You look pretty and not "mockable", even if that mattered anyway. I must have meanness blinders because I miss all the good fights from being to unaware to know they are happening.

Just curious - why is internet dating so bad? I've never tried it but . . . Can only have a certain birthday so many times before I start looking ridiculous.

isabella of the north

Seraphic said...

Dear Isabella,

Thank you for buying my book! It sounds like a very cozy day, staying indoors while it snowed outside.

I am not SURE why the woman who posted my picture to make fun of my fashion sense and my hair did so, but I have a theory.

My theory was that she was confused and distressed by all the mud-slinging and bad feelings her posting of my blogposts had created on the dating site's Single Life forum (especially among the men). And I think she thought she could somehow rescue herself from the situation by radically distancing herself from the material she had posted--by putting up a picture of me for everyone to laugh at.

Finding (and slaying, either figuratively or literally) a scapegoat is a natural (if wrong) way to try to make peace. (See "I Saw Satan Fall Like Lightning" by Rene Girard.)

Now, as it happens, I have twice as much (maybe three times) as much hair on my head as people usually do, and it is very light, dry and kinky. I am frequently mistaken for a black woman who has dyed her hair light red (especially by black women). When I was a child, I was teased about it mercifully and even in a racist way by other white kids.

Sometimes I have my hair ironed straight, as it is in the photo, but it rarely looks like "white person hair" for more than a few days, and goes back to being its thick, flyaway self. Some people love my hair, but a lot of people find it simply weird.

Anyone with a physical abnormality or rare variation (like brick-red hair or albinism) knows what it is to be mocked from time to time. I have never gotten used to it myself.

Now, as for internet dating, the problem is that it is long on shallow thrills, and short on substance. Instead of meeting people right away for coffee, internet daters tend to spend hours on line flirting, chatting and arguing with men and women they never really plan to meet.

These relationships are largely imaginary, and sometimes people don't want to really meet each other because then their imaginary boyfriend (or girlfriend) will disappear, leaving the real person, with all his or her imperfections.

The best way to save oneself from one's own temptation to fantasize is to actually meet people IN PERSON, and not to waste all one's time in idle online chatter. One can do this through a dating service, yes, but one could also go to "blognics", to singles' nights at arts venues and (most important) to parties with friends. One can write to public people one admires (but not movie stars) and ask what their next project is, and if they are looking for an audience. One can take classes at night school. One can volunteer.

The world is full of great people, but they are rarely at their best on dating site message boards and instant message!

When you meet people in person, it is not at all like shopping from a catalogue (which dating websites resemble). Deep down, because you can see and hear each other, you recognize that the value and dignity of each is so much more than his/her potential (or lack thereof) to be Mr/Ms Right.

Meanwhile, we were not put on earth to get married but to love God and serve Him in the manner He calls us to. Since the Great Dispensation, the single celibate life is the better form of life as it is a precursor of the Kingdom. Not everyone is called to live all their lives as celibates, but most of us are called to live many years as celibates before marriage and, even, after our spouses die.

Kate P said...

I'm so sorry to hear about this hassle, Seraphic. Isn't it a strange coincidence that on the one post you did (the one for girls, I think?) we were talking about cutting out the negativity? And then here comes this giant wave of negativity coming at you out of nowhere.

I've been blogging for a while now, and while I may not have found love per se, along with the other changes in my life I do feel my life is much fuller and more satisfying with each day. Thanks for the encouragement!

Seraphic said...

That's great news, Kate P! Embrace that auntiness!

You know, I don't think anyone can spend a lot of time on a dating website and still remain Seraphic, or attain Seraphicness!

(Big sigh.) I wish it all wasn't so hard for single people. But today I read a comment by a woman who has been married for a few years, and hasn't managed to conceived yet. She use to cry at Mass when she was Single and saw all the young couples, and now she cries at Mass because she sees all the young couples with babies. And I thought, At that rate she's going to cry through Mass her whole entire life, no matter WHAT God sends!

I have no inclination to cry over other people's babies. I'm going to get a little dog and see if what happened for Sarah-in-the-Bible and St. Elizabeth happens for me, too!

Seraphic said...

Sorry for all my typos! 8-O

That's "mercilessly" and "to conceive."

Kate P said...

". . . I don't think anyone can spend a lot of time on a dating website and still remain Seraphic, or attain Seraphicness!"

You are probably right. I know two couples who did well, but they met in 2006 or earlier--something changed with those websites, I think. I don't know. It was a tremendous disappointment for me. I decided I'd rather meet someone doing something I enjoy, such as browsing in the bookstore.

A dog would be lovely! Do keep us posted on that development.

Seraphic said...

Back when I was on Catholic Singletons or whatever it was, there were monitors who kept an eye on message boards and conversations and broke in when things were getting too rancorous. [Cathoic dating site] doesn't seem to have that, although I can't say I really know. Perhaps they were asleep at the switch the days my stolen blogposts caused such a commotion.

It is amazing to see all the chatrooms and forums laid out for people to waste their time in. Yes, I suppose an online conversation (through instant message, yet--"Wassup?" "Not much" "You work today?" "Nope took mental health day lol! :-)")is better than no conversation to the lonely. But in the old days, the whole point was to MAKE DATES to meet people.

Despite knowing a marvellous couple who met through lavalife (in a very "lets-meet-soon", business-like way), I still believe that the best way to meet attractive strangers is through friends, even if those (in my case) are long-distance friends.

Alisha said...

Dear Seraphic,

I think you should take these attacks as signs that your work is effective...the devil can do things like that when he's mad people are able to lead happier holier lives. And you've already taken the opportunity to show how classy you are by not retaliating. I freely admit I'm not that classy (says the girl who always signs her real name on this blog!) - I would have linked to her profile, saying, by the way, Catholic gentlemen of the world, THIS is the person who linked to my picture to mock me...don't marry her!!
I did, once, however, befriend someone online who mocked some voice acting work I did - I basically just called her on her behaviour and once she made the connection that the voice was a nice (albeit fiery) human being with feelings, she actually apologized, became a loyal fan, and even did an online interview with me which she posted on her message board, and linked to my youtube videos - so you never know what this could turn into :)

Seraphic said...

Hmm... I wish it could end that way, Alisha! I know who she is, so maybe I could find her on facebook.

Meanwhile, the mean comment (and all the other mean comments) is gone because international electronic copyright laws compel [Catholic dating website] to take down stuff stolen from other sites. Excerpts are fine; taking the whole of an article is not.

I still feel a bit badly, but--mustn't grumble!