I am surprised at the vehemence of Singles against yesterday's unfinished post, "And don't mess with married men."
"Don't mess with married men" is standard advice in books for Singles, and I think I have written a dozen times that women should not mess with priests and seminarians, without anyone--including priests and seminarians--getting angry about it.
Where is the anger coming from? Have I finally said the unsayable? Or is it that we don't want to admit that Nice Catholic Girls ever have a longing thought or two in a Married Man's direction? And I am sympathetic to this taboo, for I had at least two crushes on Married Men when I was Single and I never wrote about them. Too scared.
But let us look at reality. I looked at reality the other day when a chance acquaintance brought the subject of Single Women pursuing Married Men to mind. Obviously I am not going to go into the circumstances, just as I've never gone into the circumstances of real women messing with real priests and real seminarians (and the priests and seminarians messing with women). But the thoughts that came to mind were, "What a shame." "But she's such a lovely girl." "Why doesn't she know better?" and even, "What would her mother say?" I have no idea if the girl is Catholic or not. Probably not.
I think I was thirty or so when I first got a crush on a Married Man. I had not planned on getting a crush on a Married Man, but he worked in my office and I was bored. He was very cute, and his wife gave him a hard time for everything and his in-laws didn't like his ethnic group (or something). I got a mild thrill every time he came by my desk, and I recorded our conversations in my diary. I meticulously referred to him there as MM, "Married Man."
Happily for everybody, I never acted on my mild crush in any way whatsoever (besides, of course, writing down our conversations). For one thing, I had the big MM taboo, still being a practising Catholic, and for another, he had a photo of a baby on his desk, so I think even if I hadn't been brought up to respect marriage vows, the photo of the baby would have stopped any word or gesture. But it didn't stop wistful thoughts of, "He's so cute and funny" and "Gosh, his wife sounds like a tartar." Generally, I believed everything anybody ever told me, so it never occured to me that his wife wasn't a tartar--just a busy working mother whose husband wasn't a saint. Younger women are very attractive for their credulity.
I can't tell you firsthand how miserable it makes you to get involved with a married man, for I never have myself. I can only tell you that women (even young women) do get involved with married men (even with young married men), and this causes widespread misery.
When Monica Lewinsky made the news for having had an affair with the American President, there were gallons of ink spilled on why Monica might have done such a thing. The fact that she had been involved before with a married man became front page news, and someone (perhaps Monica) posited that Monica's attraction to married men stemmed from low self-esteem. Apparently some women feel that they will never get "their own" man and so therefore "share" someone else's husband, making all kinds of justifications to themselves. Rose Macaulay, a deeply religious 20th century Anglican novelist, justified her long affair with a Catholic married man with the idea that the War had killed all the eligible bachelors.
The miseries attendent on pursuing a married man are legion. First, you make an ass of yourself as even chance aquaintances (like me) see you stepping out with a married man, his ring firmly on his finger, and wonder what on earth you're about. Second, you know that he returns after meetings to his wife and children and suffer the pain of loss and probably envy. Third, you either feel bad about him betraying his wife (in whatever way) or you undergo a coarsening of conscience as you simply don't care. And that's just your sufferings. There's his sufferings, his wife's sufferings and his children's sufferings to consider, too.
That all said, I will now look at why even mention of this topic (so much in the news these days thanks to Tiger Woods) is upsetting readers so much. It might be because Single women worry that Married women think their standard friendliness is a play for their husbands, and they feel insulted.
Well, obviously, I can't speak for all married women, but I have never worried about this. I would find it quite interesting news, actually, if someone hit on B.A. I love "Someone hit on B.A." stories. Someone texted B.A. to say that she had a B.A. shaped hole in her life. Unfortunately for her, that was two days after he asked me to marry him. As she is Single and I love Singles, I wouldn't normally tell you this story, which she must feel embarrassed about now, but I'm feeling on the defensive here.
I think only a woman who doesn't know her husband very well (or is going through an emotionally very bad time) would worry about random Single women talking to him after Mass or during drinks with the gang after work, so I really wouldn't worry about that if I were you, mes filles. On the other hand, if a woman gives you a mean look when you talk to her husband, that might very well be a warning that the man is not a nice person for you to know.
Then it might be that some Single women are frustrated that they never seem to meet eligible men, but just married men on the prowl. I agree that that is very annoying, but married men on the prowl are rarely a spiritual temptation to nice Single women. It's the dreamboat in the office who reputedly has a bitchy wife who is the real danger.
Then it might be a confusion as to what this post is about. St. Ignatius of Loyola says that when you are confused by a person's theological position, you should charitably make the best interpretation (and not just assume he is a heretic). When I write something about Single people, I would hope that three and a half years of writing for Single people would absolve me of any suspicion of warring against Single People. I am not worried about the vast majority of my readers suddenly rushing out to steal other people's spouses. I am worried about the one girl with a crush on a married man who might be reading this and, by reading this, might be saved from a hideous mistake that will make her and others very unhappy.
Update: Sorry about the moved post. I am really, REALLY busy and rushed lately, and "Whitsunday Report" was supposed to go on my other blog in the first place. Whitsunday is traditionally the name for Pentecost Sunday in the British Isles. Today is Whitmonday.
Update 2: Any nasty comments about my marriage will get you banned. If you are that upset about being Single, it is time for therapy. And there is nothing wrong with therapy, if you get the right therapist. I was in therapy for almost five years, and in spiritual direction for three. I found both therapy and spiritual direction very helpful.