Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Just Friends

One difficulty that Serious Singles have is convincing Searching Singles that they are perfectly happy being Single and are not interested in a romance with a Searching Single. They might enjoy a bit of light, flirtatious conversation, but that is it. Back off.

I believe that young priests and male religious often have this problem. They must have done in my theology school where frivolous women like me conversed late at night about who was cute and who was most likely to run off with one of us. I do know that one or two young male religious were seriously bored by the histronics of a woman (not me) who had had an unhappy love affair with another male religious. Och, it's a fallen world, hen, aye.

The solution for young priests and male religious is to make friends with young married couples, and if they are more the friend of Mrs. Layman than Mr. Layman, it really doesn't matter, as long as Mrs. Layman is firmly attached to Mr. Layman and everybody knows this. Of course, there are also serious-minded Single women who would never dream of trying to attach their priest pal. But also thinking back, I seem to remember male religious stringing along such serious-minded pretty Single girls who amused them and then dropping them flat when they moved to another post. Och, it's a fallen world, etc.

Anyway, obviously in the case of male and female religious and priests, there has got to be a lot of prudence. Quite obviously young priests and nuns need friends, and as there are no longer flocks of young priests and nuns around, they are going to have to choose friends from among the laity. And those lay friends had better have their heads screwed on right.

Priests and religious, however, have the advantage of custom: even though the Baby Boom's priests and nuns abandoned ship in great numbers, in general other generations expect that priests and nuns will always be Just Friends. This is not the case for ordinary men and women who are happy Serious Singles, or are happy being Single right now.

So what are you lay Serious Singles to do when it comes to friendship? How can you avoid the agonizing "We're just friends" conversation with besmitten Searching Singles? Well, I am sorry to tell you this, but--short of locking yourselves in a tower with your pets--I don't think you can. And if you think that is hard, imagine being the Serious Single with SSA who has to tell the Searching Single with SSA that they will always be just friends.

Yes, you can minimize the hurt. When the subject of romance comes up, you can and should state your position flatly: You love life, you love people, you love your Serious Single state. You're open to friendship. You're open to flirtation and joking around. You're open to keeping things light. But not every friend is going to believe you because not everybody is rooted in reality. Many people think they can reshape reality according to their will and are gobsmacked when they find out that they can't.

Perhaps then you should look for friends with a high level of social sophistication and maturity. You could find other Serious Singles to befriend: merry widows and contented widowers, calm women with SSA, integrated men with SSA, nuns who are firm in their vocations, priests who are solid in theirs.

But you might even find friends among those who are much younger than you. Some young people are utterly charming in their surprise that "old" people, people whom they do not think sexually attractive, might find them sexually attractive. And therefore they can happily enter into confidential friendships with wrinklies and semi-wrinklies without any expectation of either party wanting to "take this relationship to another level."

Then there are married folk, although I caution the Serious Single woman who very much wants to pal around with a Married Man that the Married Man's wife might not give a damn how Serious a Single the Serious Single woman is: any time spent with the Single Woman is time the Married Man should have spent with her.

This, incidentally, is not just a problem for Serious Singles. Married people also enjoy having friends of the opposite sex and sometimes friends of the same sex who have SSA. I very much enjoy spending time with my husband's friends, and occasionally I have spent time with them without my husband. I suppose it wouldn't do to do this too often, for I might be dubbed The Wicked Mrs M, and how annoying would that be, eh?

Anyway, sound off in the com-box, my little Singles. Tell Auntie your woes.


Anne-Marie said...

Can serious singles wear matching t-shirts or coloured bracelets? It would save the embarrassing conversation . . .

Alisha said...


Brava! It did me a world of good to read this post today and could not have been more timely...

"But not every friend is going to believe you because not everybody is rooted in reality. Many people think they can reshape reality according to their will and are gobsmacked when they find out that they can't."

This is so true! The tough thing is, that when you are rooted in reality you often forget that others are not, because you yourself cannot conceive of NOT being rooted in reality. So sometimes it's hard not to take someone's advances as a Serious Thing, and if it's sincere, or even only persistent, it becomes painful because you don't want to have to turn people down and it pressures you (if it's with a friend that you like, especially) to give a justification that would reveal more of your inner life than you are willing or that is necessary.
I know I definitely don't want to share my vocation story with most people, at least not the history of it - it's personal and close to my heart, and there has been quite a cost. Most people don't get it. And there are days that I feel weak about it and wonder if I'm mistaken...
Anne Marie, I'm TOTALLY with you on the bracelets! (t shirts would have to be cleaned)...religious have the benefit of habits or priests have collars to set them apart, after all!

some guy on the street said...

Our 'blog hostess has earlier written against "purity" rings; does declaring oneself a Serious Single constitute an invitation to conquest attempts? And I'm rather in favour of the liturgical uses of colour...

The consecrated religious, if they know what's good for them, have habits; but they also tend to live in community and enjoy other protections. Designating a kind of visible habit for something as broad as the Seriously Single vocation seems to distract from the holy ordinariness of living a chaste single life in-the-world. Put another way, I should expect decent folks to respect an honestly-discerned vocation in another, whether that vocation includes special habit or not.

theobromophile said...

A thought:

When I was in my non-Searching Single state (i.e. actively did not want to be in a relationship, or even date, at that point), I got the most male attention.

This is often because men want what they cannot have. Some of it (less so, perhaps) is that people are attracted to happy people, and those who are happy with the state of their relationships are attractive.

It's not a huge problem, just something else for Serious Singles, especially women, to consider.

Seraphic said...

I remain steadfastly opposed to purity rings. By saying, "I don't have sex", purity rings bring sex to mind immediately and offer a challenge to those kind of men who love a challenge or see the world as a war in which women control all the sex and men have to wrest it from them.

Special clothes for non-clerical Serious Singles might not run the same risks, but it is unlikely that lonely Searching Singles would really believe in them. Not even a priest's collar protects him from the questing glances of some besmitten souls.

Besides, it isn't complete strangers who want to take your relationship to a "higher" level. It's people who know you and for whom presumably you care for. And this is why the "We're just friends" speech is both so painful and so inescapable.

I can't get annoyed at Searching Singles who throw out their lures at Serious Singles. Sometimes people are hopelessly in the grip of a crush and are therefore temporarily insane.

Of course, it is our responsibility to nip our crushes in the bud ASAP, but if we are already slaves to them, we are a bit like drunk people. We are annoying, we make asses out of ourselves, and our friends, being friends, understand that we are drunk, don't take what we say seriously, make sure we get home okay, and forgive us when we call the next morning to apologize.

Julie said...

... and some of us are just clueless. I mean, the case of a priest or religious is obvious, but a Serious Single In The World, unless you have talked about vocations in a specific and personal way -- is it so crazy to think, "I've never seen him/her with a boy/girlfriend but maybe they just haven't met The One, and we get on well so maybe it's me"? I suppose it is. But then, as someone who has never been seen by anyone with a boyfriend, but who nevertheless is not a Serious Single, I would much rather that a boy who 'liked' me take that line of thought than overthink it and never broach the subject at all. Heck, I would rather know that someone I hated thought of me that way than not. I appreciate that it is an awkward conversation to have but does it not go along with the vocational territory? Have pity on the poor dumdums like yours truly who have never picked up on a signal in their lives and who have sadly been born with optimistic dispositions.

Seraphic said...

It's not crazy. There is no way of knowing a non-clerical Serious Single is a Serious Single until they say, "I'm a Serious Single."

After a certain age, whenever you meet a cute man, you always wonder what his story is. (Well, you do if you're me.) Is he married? Is he gay? Does he have a girlfriend? Does he have kids? Did he just lose his wife? And I suggest that "Is he just a Serious Single?" should be one of the questions we women naturally ask ourselves.

Some men love love love love love their bachelor freedom. Some men--believe it or not--are just not that interested in sexual relations with anybody, ever. I had a very dear friend like that back home. Oh, and that reminds me of another wonderful man, who is probably too mentally ill for a relationship.

But you are not crazy to wonder if a given available man is available. There is no harm in wondering. The harm is only when you do not hear him explain that he is a Serious Single.

Girl: So, tell us about the Secret You. Wife, girlfriend?

Serious Single: Nah.

Girl: Ex-wife? Kids running around?

Serious Single: Me? Nah.

Girl: Pet porcupines?

Serious Single: No porcupines. I do have a golden retriever, though.

(Men are totally imperious to hints, you'll have noticed. Poor Girl here is getting desperate.)

Girl: So would this golden retriever mind if you took me out for coffee sometime?

Serious Single: What?

Girl (starting to sweat): Would your golden retriever mind if you took me out for coffee sometime?

Serious Single: You mean, like on a date?

Girl: Yeah.

Serious Single: I don't do dates.

Girl (thinking): Hmm. I didn't quite catch that.

Serious Single: I mean, I'm not really a dater. I'm a just-friends kind of guy.

Girl (thinking): His mouth is moving, but I hear nothing.

Serious Single: I mean, it's not like I'm gay or anything.

Girl (hearing kicks back in): I never thought you were.

Serious Single: But I'm just, well, I just like being on my own with my golden retriever.

Girl (thinking): He is so cute. And he isn't married. And he has no girlfriend and he isn't gay. This could really work out!