This is one of those mornings when I enjoy saying the truthful unsayable. I don't know why it is that when I switch from Seraphic Goes to Scotland to Seraphic Singles I get stroppy and cynical. Cheerfully cynical, mind you, but still cynical. Is it because I'm married now, or what?
Maybe it's because I keep thinking about the chastity speakers who were my age now when I was your age then, and I don't want to be like them. Poor women! I am sure they did their best. But all they talked about was sex, and I am more into the social dynamics of being Single and, if someone thinks they'd like to marry, stopping being Single. So I tell you all the stuff your mother would tell you if she weren't so afraid of you getting mad at her.
So today, assuming that the majority of you dream of marrying Nice Catholic Boys, I am going to tell you how to present yourselves as Nice Catholic Girls, always remembering, of course, that your vocational fate is ultimately up to God and He is the Boss of you. Auntie Seraphic ain't no Pelagian, that's for darn sure. Incidentally, most of these rules will suit Nice Non-Catholic Girls, too.
1. Don't cut your hair short. Of course, if you are one of the very few women in the world who can pull off pixie, go for it. But men are attracted to long hair, and traditional men associate short hair with grandmothers and active lesbianism. In general, no shorter than a chic chin-length bob, mes filles.
2. Don't wear jeans or trousers all the time. Men who like girls like girls who look like girls, okay? Jeans are great for a collegiate look, and younger, slender women look marvellous in them. But trousers and leggings do not say "Hello! I am the beautiful princess you've always dreamed of!"
3. Nice Catholic skirts have two lengths. There is the knee-length skirt, and there is the ankle-length skirt. I wouldn't, like nuns of yore, kneel at your feet with a judgemental tape measure, however. If your knee length skirt rides up when you sit down, I'm cool with that. If your ankle length skirt reaches the floor, that can look very hip. Just make sure you don't trip. N.B. I was wearing a knee-length, sleeveless blue silk shift dress with pearls the moment my husband fell in love with me. I was freezing. Should have worn a cardigan, too!
I do not like below-knee or mid-calf length skirts. They look dowdy on almost everyone. Modest does not equal dowdy. Too many traddie Catholic women make this egregious error, giving the rest of us a bad name. Think modest, yes, but always think pretty.
4. Nice Catholic shoes don't wreck your feet. Classic, trendy, rock star, sporty: all these looks can work as long as you are thinking "pretty and feminine" not "sexy". Spike heels are not pretty and feminine. They're sexy. (And stupid, almost as stupid as Chinese footbinding.) Nice Catholic Boys find sexy unnerving. Whatever their embattled sex drives tell them, they really want pretty girls who will make them happy and help them get into heaven.
5. Do not advertise things on your bottom. Western Civilisation hit a new low when girls began to wear sweatpants with "Juicy" written across the bum. It is a good rule of thumb never to wear words at all. None of my best-dressed Nice Catholic Girl friends allow themselves to be used as billboards. You belong to God, not Abercrombie and Fitch, and so the only signature on your visible person should be the cross at your throat.
6. Do not exhibit more than the veriest hint of cleavage. I'm serious, girls. If you're an unmarried Nice Catholic Girl, you cannot get away with overanxious boobage. If you go to a party with it all hanging out, other Nice Catholic Girls will shoot you foul looks and the Nice Catholic Boys will start sweating and looking for the exit. There are better ways to get attention. I once saw a very modestly dressed traddie girl in a whole new light when she accepted a cigarillo after dinner. One cigarillo once a year is not going to kill you; boobage can kill your chances with NCBs. Yes, you do so care.
6. Be Seen at Daily Mass. Now that I've got you nicely kitted out in a pretty, knee length (or ankle length) skirt, a modest but stylish top and cute shoes, I'm sending you to lunchtime daily Mass. I'm sending you for the wrong reason, in the hopes that you will keep going for the right reasons: to further develop your devotion to and relationship with God, giver of all blessings.
The truest hallmark of a Nice Catholic Girl is that she loves God and wants to obey Him. And the truest hallmark of a Nice Catholic Boy is that he loves God and wants to obey Him. And just as a Nice Catholic Girl wants to meet the right Nice Catholic Boy, a Nice Catholic Boy wants to meet the right Catholic Girl. And if he sees her at Daily Mass, so much the better, because Daily Mass is a clue to her NCG-ness. As we know, we have to go to Sunday Mass. And, alas, many of us do it out of habit or identity. Those who go to Daily Mass or evening devotions, however, show a more signal devotion.
Once again, here are the three stages of praying for a spouse:
1. Fun. "Saint Anne, Saint Anne, send me a man."
2. Petitionary. "Please, Lord, help me! Please, please, please! Help, help, help!"
3. Accepting. "Not my will, but Yours be done."
Obviously, #3 is best, but I, no saint, always found myself bouncing back to #1 and #2.
7. Don't, however, look bizarre. At the Extraordinary Latin Mass, wear a mantilla if that's what the other ladies wear. At the Ordinary Form of the Mass, wear a cute hat like a beret or go bare-headed. Never be the only woman in the church with lace on her head. Never be the only woman in the place with nothing on her head. Avoid being mistaken for either the Tridentine Avenger or the Feminist Crusader. Both ladies scare Nice Catholic Boys rigid.
8. Read historical romance novels on the bus. Yes, you have a fierce intelligence, and if you ever found yourself in an elevator with Christopher Hitchens, you would leave him a crying, defeated wreck of a man. But you don't have to prove this every second of the day. Contribute to discussions as well as you can, and do the best job at work or school you can do. But don't brag about how smart you are, and don't pose in cafes with Jean-Paul Sartre novels.
9. Don't say bad things about babies. In general, Nice Catholic Boys don't give a flying fig for your career until they fall in love with you. Then they care about your career only because you do. They aren't looking for husbands. They're looking for the feminine companion of their soul, the guardian of their home and the possible mother of their children. So although your guidance counsellor was impressed when you said you would rather be an astronaut than a mother, Nice Catholic Boys won't be.
10. Don't say the F-word. Alas, when I am in great perturbation of spirit (e.g. once a day), I say the F-word. And I am sorry because a cussing woman is not a lovely creature. It's called the F-bomb for a reason, you know. Do not use obscene or blasphemous language, however mild, and although you shouldn't nag men for the occasional mild indiscretion, in general do not allow them to use obscene or blasphemous language around you.
11. Think about how your words reflect on you. Do not trash other girls in front of men. Do not complain to men about all the past miseries of your life. Do not refer to the Holy Father as "Ratzinger". Do not talk non-stop about yourself, your parents, your friends, your anything. Ask other people about themselves, their ideas, their opinions and their feelings. That way, you'll never be a bore.
12. Be clean and smell nice. Clean you, clean hair, clean clothes, clean teeth, clean shoes. Not too much perfume: soap and deodorant are usually enough. A clean soul goes without saying, too, so don't forget to go to confession. As a priest once upbraided me in the confessional, "Don't stay away so long next time." Yes, sir!
The photo is from 500 Days of Summer, and no, Summer was not a Nice Catholic Girl, but she did dress like one.
Update: I'm reading and signing copies of Seraphic Singles in Crux Books at 5 Hoskin Avenue, Toronto (sandwiched between Wycliffe College and Hart House) on Tuesday, April 27, between 7 and 8 PM. Come on time and consume refreshments, compliments of Novalis!
Update 2 (April 14): Hel-lo, Catholic Match! I may be an "authorESS", but I'll trouble to remind you that I'm Canadian. Thanks ever so.
Update 3 (Jan 13, 2012): Okay, who is the super-popular person with a facebook account because I am having an avalanche of hits here today!