Saturday, 31 July 2010

More Thoughts on Modesty

Yesterday I came home to the Historical House with my shopping in a cloth book bag. I don't think I was too dowdy a figure: I was wearing a black brocade frock coat, a black brocade kneelength skirt, electric blue tights and a green shirt. I thought of this at once when, approaching the gate, I saw a foursome of young women in short shorts crowding through it. They were laughing and noisy and looked fun, so I smiled as I waited them to step aside and make way for me.

They didn't. They lurched towards me, and I had to duck around them as they made their way, four-abreast, into the woods. This and something else I couldn't put my finger on changed my first impression of them as Nice Young Things. The short shorts, which had merely startled, now seemed a mark in their disfavour.

I went in through the gate and saw my husband in front of the House with a plastic bag and an annoyed expression, picking things up.

"Darling," I said, when I was in hailing distance, "have you been having a party?"

He had not been having a party. He had come back from his office to find the four girls having a drinks party on the 300 year old raised porch. There was broken glass on the staircase; somehow an empty glass vodka bottle had been broken. There were other empty bottles on the green apron of the lawn.

Here come the girls...!

Four female friends, walking four-abreast. Who did they remind me of? But Samantha, Carrie, Charlotte and Miranda never dressed in uniform short shorts. They wore interesting, often classy, clothing they had obviously chosen with care. They were also older and, although they certainly drank cocktails, they never lurched around drunkenly before seven in the evening. They never blocked the way of an ordinary, less glamorous, woman on her way home to make supper.

But what have they engendered? It is a lot of fun, being in a group of female friends. It makes a woman feel powerful and, strangely, more free. So does vodka. I love few things better than getting together with three or four of my BFFs and chattering over a drink, even if that's only coffee. Three or four BFFs with two or three cocktails--that would be amazing. But there is a limit. Classy women remember to keep their voices down--not when they are decrying injustice--but when they are having fun. They don't sit on the porches of other people's houses--even when other people means merely a trust or "The People"--and smash bottles against the steps.

The world is not a stage set. It is not a telly advert in which young women, strong and free, stride out of the chemist's shop with bags of shampoo to a Sugababes soundtrack. The world is a community. Walkmans, CD players and now mobile phones and facebook have greatly blinded us to this fact, but we are noticed by those around us, and they judge us on our behaviour. Our lack of modesty--our virtual solipsism-- annoys and inconveniences others. It tears at the social fabric. It cheapens society. It cheapens us.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Swan Single

On my way to coffee with Cath, I found this tale of Single woe in the free newspaper on the bus.

"Swan Accused of Killing First Wife, Driving Away Two More" really sums it up. What I find greatly amusing is that visitors to the pond get very upset at the sight of Swanny Boy swimming all by his lonesome. It's a SWAN! Who cares?!

Still, I think there's a novel in this. There's even a tripartite structure:

The First Mrs. Swan: murdered.

The Second Mrs. Swan: flees with, er, cygnets.

The Third Mrs. Swan: flees to nearby pond, dies of acute depression.

Frankly, I think all the other lady swans have been taking notes and are too smart to get involved with Swan Single here. This makes them way smarter than a lot of human females, who under similar circumstances, would flock to him. ;-)

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Poor Weak Male Eyes

Update: And a big HELLO to whoever's been reading from the "Our Sunday Visitor" offices. Got any column space going? Need someone to write amusing articles? "Saint of the Day"? Handle the junk emails? Sell advertising...? <:-D

I found this in the online Telegraph today.

The bad news is that, according to researchers at the University of Montreal, all men in their twenties have seen porn.

The good news is that they still seem to have "normal" sex lives--at least, by University of Montreal standards.

I hope I have not just, like, totally ruined your day. If so, I will try to come up with some warm and witty consolation to put it all into persepective. There will be generalisations.

Men are famously weak about sexual temptation; they have gone on about this at great lengths for all of human history. Women are not so weak about sexual temptation, although this may be partly because we get into much bigger trouble than men do if we give in. This is not just society; our minds and bodies simply can't handle promiscuity in the long run. It can actually give us cancer. I am not making that up. Go read Natalie Angier's, Woman: An Intimate Geography.

Men are also famously visual about their sexuality. Incidentally, am I the only person in the world who has noticed that all Leonardo da Vinci's women look like men, often men with breasts just stuck on? Mona Lisa is NOT the beauty of the ages. Can I say that? This has always niggled at me, and then I saw a Da Vinci Madonna in the National Art Gallery of Scotand, and she had the top of a man's bald chest instead of breasts, so I am more sure than ever that this is true. Titian, however, makes me blush because he was so obviously into women, especially women who looked somewhat like me. Where was I?

Men are famously visual about their sexuality, which is why the world is spotty with strip joints. Their poor male eyes are so easily transfixed by even the shape of secondary sexual characteristics that strip joints don't even have to try very hard in their signage. I remember walking down a very seedy strip of Toronto's main street and feeling so sorry for men. I grew up thinking that strippers were exploited, but it struck me then that men who pay strippers are even more exploited. They have this tragi-comic hard wiring that drags them towards naked bodies, and the sex industry exploits that.

Women, less famously, have a problem with erotic fiction. If you go into a big-box bookstore, you will discover that the biggest section has been give up to romance novels, and the sweet, safe-for-modest-women romance novels are definitely in the minority. As far as I know, men do not read romance novels. (Note to self: invent male character who is addicted to romance novels. Credible? Knew man addicted to bridal magazines, so possibly.) So who is buying all that crap? Women.

A man I knew in my undergrad years told me that romance novels were "women's pornography" and, after denouncing him, I marched off in a holy huff. But that's because I had never read the romance novels he was talking about--except once, and I had temporarily forgotten that.

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I once in my youth got my hands on a Regency romance (not by Georgette Heyer) my mother had borrowed from the library and put on the "adult books do not touch" shelf. I never, ever, touched anything on the "adult books do not touch" shelf (even as an adult), so this book must have been lying around somewhere in the house. Incidentally, my mother does not as a rule read books like that, and screens them out by seeing if blurb on the back cover contained the word "passion." If it does, she doesn't borrow the book. (The "adult books do not touch" rule was more to protect children from the sex scenes in the crime/sci fi/fantasy paperbacks.)

Anyway, I read parts of this erotic "Regency" romance (the heroine being saved from going the distance with her slimey suitor by her stern guardian/stepbrother), so I have to admit that I, Seraphic, have read women's pornography, and could not be in a control group for a research project on the subject, weep weep.

So that said, and keeping in mind that I loathe pornography in all its forms and think it should be stamped out and argue that Freedom of Speech and Expression should not extend to images, I think pure womanhood need not forswear male company forever just because (according to the University of Montreal) it has all looked at pornography. It's so public now, men can barely help it, especially when they are very young. So don't despise them, just tell them, when the subject comes up, that it is totally unacceptable and next door to crack. If you have enough emotional leverage/sisterly influence, tell them that they must never look at it again.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Not on My Wedding Day, Thanks

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

I have just begun reading Andrew Cohen's mainstream column calling down blessings upon the woman he loved on her wedding day. It is EXCRUCIATING, so I don't think I'll finish it, and I won't link to it here. Instead, here's a link to a woman explaining to men why they shouldn't do things like that.

Your ex-girlfriend's or ex-boyfriend's wedding day is NEVER about you. The best way to handle it is to keep your mouth shut and your typing fingers otherwise occupied. One of my ex-boyfriends--bless him--went on holiday and came down with food poisoning so bad he forgot it was my wedding day. I'm sorry he got food poisoning, but I'm glad he did not write a weepy column on how fabulous I was and am.

The most embarrassing wedding I ever went to featured not just the photos of the bride and groom on the bulletin board outside the ballroom, but photos of the bride with her bestest friend, who was a man. The bestest friend was the M.C., and he talked more than anyone. He told us all about his relationship with the bride, and how her mother was like his second mother, and how he and the bride went to the prom together. The air crackled with tension coming out the ears of the groom's relations.

I was dating the groom's cousin, so I just sat back and experienced the excruciating embarrassment of it all with something akin to awe. Somewhat psychic about these things, I could feel the people in the room wondering A) if the M.C. had slept with the bride and B) if he would actually tell us straight out.

The groom smiled placidly. I didn't know how he could stand it. The M.C. went on and on. His obvious obsession with the bride was not lost on the D.J. who, no doubt paid in advance, observed aloud during the "Garter Toss," "The bachelors are lining up for the garter. They're pushing. They're shoving. The M.C's hurtin' for it!"

I will never forget until my dying day (or until dementia sets in) what an absolute ass the M.C. made of himself, and how bad it all looked on the bride and groom. Hmm... I wonder if he had known that in advance?

Monday, 26 July 2010

How Low Can We Go?

I did not have male friends until I was eighteen, and even then I didn't yet accord men the easy confidence I naturally give to friendly women. Oh sure, I had known friendly male acquaintances, but I had divided them mentally into crush objects, around whom I was uncomfortably hyper, and the rest, about whom I was almost entirely apathetic or almost entirely afraid.

As a result, I had no idea until my mid-twenties what men of my generation thought or believed or loved or hated or enjoyed or suffered. I definitely did not know how most of them thought about girls. I remember one party, given by a girl who had a lot of male friends, during which one boy said to another boy with great excitement: "I hear she gives, man. She gives!"

I had no idea who he was talking about, but I most definitely felt sorry for the girl, and I decided that my hostess, if she hung out with boys like that, was Not Nice to Know.

Most of my information about boys and dating came from seventeen magazine, and yes, I hear your shrieks of horror, but seventeen was a lot more intellectual in the 1980s than it is now. But seventeen was firmly in the camp of those who believed it was okay to pursue boys by calling them up and asking them on dates. So occasionally I did, and I never understood why those boys who did agree to come with me to the movies or the high school musical or whatever, never reciprocated. Nobody had written He's Just Not That Into You yet.

Once upon a time, it was understood that teenage girls and young women never ever ever called boys and men on the telephone. We certainly never asked them to dance or to go out on dates. Nope--the most we could do was look pretty and be good conversationalists and, perhaps, host parties to which we invited all the men we liked along with our female friends. Although limiting, these strictures prevented us from making utter asses of ourselves.

Can you guess where this is going?

This is not about me, for once. This is a story that was told to me by a male friend because now that I am a million and two years old, I have male friends. I apologize in advance if your eyeballs are so offended by this story that you long to pop them out. When I heard it I wanted to scrape my ears off, pull my shawl over my head and wail like Pegeen at the end of The Playboy of the Western World. It is that embarrassing.

Once upon a time--ugh, ugh, I can barely type this--this male friend was invited to a "Come as what you want" party. This theme sounds like an imaginative twist on "Come as you are", and it must have inspired all kinds of interesting conversations. (What would you come as?)
And at some point during the party, this male friend was approached by a woman in what I assume was a rather butch costume, and she said to him, "I've come as you."


"I was so embarrassed," said my friend. "I didn't know where to look."

"My ears," I was thinking, "my ears! Scrape them off! Scrape them off! Somebody shoot me!"

If you have missed the point, coming to a party dressed as the man you want to cart away and then telling him was a Very Wrong thing to do. I cannot think of any woman who could pull this off. Not Marlene Dietrich. Not Angelina Jolie. Not anyone.

I told this story to Cath, and she looked like she wanted to scrape off her ears, too. "Oh heavens", we wailed--or words to that effect, "why do women humiliate ourselves like this? Why? Why?"

And I think the problem is that, without any regard for male psychology whatsoever, our magazines told us to go forth and actively court men. They may have also given us the impression we'd get extra points for creativity. They lied.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

An Amazing Film for Singles

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride. No, I am not kidding. It is a fantastic film. First, it treats marriage as an irrevocable social and spiritual tie which nothing save death can sever. Second, it seems to accept that the bond is more important than personal feelings of concord. (Victoria's dreadful parents ask her if she assumes that they like each other. They don't. And yet they agree on everything: interesting!) Third, it suggests that there is something more important than getting married one day. Finally, it can be watched by anyone without moral harm. Cartoon eyeballs continually fall onto the floor and into soup, etc., but so what?

Really, if you haven't seen it, see Corpse Bride.

Another good film on the subject of Searching Singledom, though with salty humour and "adult" situations, is Private Benjamin, starring Goldie Hawn.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Your Turn

There have been no new reviews of Seraphic Singles/The Closet's All Mine for awhile, so it would be nice if those of you who have read it but not posted reviews, posted reviews. I love reading reviews. So far everyone has been really generous.

I was half-hoping an ideological opponent would trounce the book in a mainstream publication--shriek at the traditional assumptions about gender and sneer at the gentle Catholicism--and thereby generate sales through controversy. But that hasn't happened yet, so instead I enjoy reading the comments of the likeminded.

Canadians:; Indigo

British & Irish:

Americans and Les Autres:

If you review it on your blog instead, let me know!

Friday, 23 July 2010

As Strong as Death

Yesterday I went for a walk, bought a coffee and sat on a bench by the sea. I thought about the tide and love and gravity and the little dogs running about on the beach. I thought about reality and the illusion of reality. This is not a total cliche when you are 39 years old and squashy.

What I determined, in all these thoughts, was that there are real, solid, permanent loves that affect you invisibly, like the pull of the moon upon the tides, and there are the little crushes, little infatuations that make us run hither and thither like the little dogs on the beach. The solid loves look dull but are as terrible as the grave, and the little crushes look exciting but are basically trivial in themselves.

Crushes are like matches. If you're playing with matches, you light one, it looks pretty, and then it goes out. Sometimes a match lights a warming fire, which is marriage, but unfortunately sometimes it burns down the house, which is your crush ruining your life and perhaps the lives of other people, too. However, both things take fuel. Again, a match on its own is pretty trivial.

Family love is like the moon in that it certainly has an invisible pull and it can seem terrible (terrible as an army with banners) at times. We spend our lives arguing internally with our parents and perhaps also with our brothers, sisters, and children. Families speak languages that no-one else can understand and have dynamics that outsiders cannot see. People panic as they hear themselves sound increasingly like their parents: despite all their attempts to escape mom and dad they find out that, to a certain extent, they are mom and dad.

Family love is the cradle for married love, which also has an invisible pull and can also seem terrible (terrible as an army with banners) at times. It is not the same thing as romantic love; romantic love is its rebellious servant. Married love is as wonderful and terrible as love of one's mother. Incidentally, about 70% of all divorce actions in Scotland are at the instance of wives. Elderly widows, as we know, usually survive widowhood for decades. Elderly widowers usually keel over within a year. Men, often so reluctant to marry, are equally reluctant to allow marriage to stop.

I doubt I'm ever going to blog much on marriage. B.A. is the most patient, tolerant chap alive, and I don't want to take advantage. But I will say that there are terrible moments in which I have to choose between "Non Serviam" and "Serviam" and grace alone gets me to choke out the latter. And no doubt B.A. experiences the same.

Friend love can also exert its pull and be terrible (terrible as an army with banners). However, such friendships are rare--except, and I am guessing, inwar zones, where soldiers put themselves in serious danger ultimately because of their buddies. Women are used to seeing our good friends suffer, and we bring them soup, perhaps, and sometimes we talk about them behind their backs and say "Isn't it a shame?" and "If only she wouldn't bring it on herself!", but sometimes we suffer agonies because our best friend is suffering agonies. We can't even talk about it. At such times, friendship isn't fun, and we're back to the choice between "Serviam" and "Non Serviam."

Then there is romance and flirting and crushes and wit, and these are all very nice, when you don't allow them to muck up your life, but they are really secondary. I wonder, though, if love of romance isn't the biggest marriage killer out there. Men don't read romance novels. Women read romance novels and, in Scotland, 70% of divorce actions are... you know.

But I like romance, just as I like the little dogs that run around on the beach, and I like flirting and crushes and wit. Like novels and paintings they add not a little colour to the strong outlines of life. But in the grander scheme of things, they are just human inventions. They don't really matter. What really matters is family love, married love, friend love and, of course, the love of God, which is truly, truly terrible (terrible as an army with banners) indeed.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Valuable by Stevie Smith

(After reading two paragraphs in a newspaper)

Alll these illegitimate babies...
Oh girls, girls
Silly little cheap things,
Why do you not put some value on yourselves,
Learn to say, No?
Did nobody teach you?
Nobody teaches anybody to say No nowadays,
People should teach people to say No.


Oh these illegitimate babies!
Oh girls, girls,
Silly little valuable things,
You should have said, No, I am valuable,
And again, It is because I am valuable
I say, No.

Nobody teaches anybody they are valuable nowadays.

Girls, you are valuable,
And you, Panther, you are valuable,
But the girls say: I shall be alone
If I say 'I am valuable' and other people do not say it of me,
I shall be alone, there is no comfort there.
No, it is not comforting but it is valuable,
And if everybody says it in the end
It will be comforting. And for the panther too,
If everybody says he is valuable
It will be comforting for him.

From "Valuable" by Stevie Smith (1902-1971)

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Do Not Wig Out On Dates

I was at a boozy lunch, and a boozy luncher in his sixties confessed to having been telephoned by a friend's widow and told that he was escorting her to a soiree. Being fond of this widow who was, incidentally, most incredibly rich, the bachelor of my tale agreed to do so.

But on the evening in question, some flirtatious siren told our hero that she was chilly and asked if would he put his arm around her. Chivalrously, he did, and caught sight of his friend's widow looking daggers at him. Oh dear.

The widow took him aside and told him how lonely she had been and how she just wanted to get married again and--it is too painful to go on. Essentially, the widow wigged, and in hearing this story my heart bled for her and me and anyone else who has ever wigged on a date because it happens to lonely people all the time.

But it must stop. We must retain our dignity or we will feel like hell the next morning. (I say "we" because you never know: I might be a widow and therefore Single again myself one day.) There are some very simple rules that I believe every woman should follow: I don't care how old or rich she is. Indeed, widowed Baby Boomers need most particularly to know these rules because if they got married in 1972, they have no idea of what is out there. They haven't even read The Rules. Hello, yes, your generation ruined sexuality. Thanks a bunch. Welcome to our world.

1. Don't ask men out on dates. If a man wants to go with you somewhere, he will ask you. If you want to try your luck, ask him to a party with a lot of other people and trail yourself about like a fishing lure. Touch his arm and laugh delightedly at his jokes. And then back off. Back off, I say.

2. Do not break down into weepy confessions before men, ever, unless you are a Catholic and the man is a priest. Only a priest is trained to hear "I am so lonely, and I just want to get married" without wanting to rip his ears off. (This is where my beautiful friend Alisha will rush in to say she weeps in front of her male friends all the time, and they give her hugs and consolation, but Alisha doesn't want to get married, so ignore Alisha on this point.)

3. Never betray envy of other women on a date. If you spot your date with his arm around another woman, smile and fake complicity ("Who was that sultry siren?") or say nothing and file away the data away for a telephone chat with a female friend. I think faking complicity is better, though, as it gives Mr. Date the chance to explain. Incidently, if you asked him out, you have no reason to get upset. Don't ask him out again.

4. Keep in mind that some men are crusty old bachelors who simply never want to get married, and never having sex is a price they are willing to pay for their freedom. They actually enjoy their routines and their soup out of cans, and the idea of female clutter fills them with horror.

I think it is absolute nonsense to assume that "confirmed bachelor" is a euphemism for homosexual. I live in the UK. Heterosexual confirmed bachelors potter from one end of the island to the other, and there is no-one who can make a woman feel like she is no more than a garden slug on the face of creation faster than a heterosexual confirmed bachelor Englishman, or a heterosexual confirmed bachelor Scot who sounds like an Englishman. (Bastards!) But that is beside the point. Some men just don't want to get married, and if they have got to the age of 65 without ever having gotten married, then they have probably accepted this fate with alacrity. Leave them alone.

Monday, 19 July 2010

A Different Petition

A Single person who has been praying for a spouse for years and years, sent me an email about it. I was not sure what to say, for once, because I am not really in the spouse-finding business. I found a spouse not because I am wise, witty, wonderful, well-dressed, well-proportioned, addicted to the internet or any of those things. I found a spouse because God willed it to be so. My task, I feel, is to help Singles accept Singlehood as God's gift to them, even if it turns out to be a temporary gift.

In theology school, I discovered there were two camps on the subject of impassibility of God. There was the orthodox camp, strictly followed by my professors, that God was impassible and omnipotent, and He didn't change His mind. Then there was the squishy camp, which came dangerously close to saying that God was helpless before evil, just weeps along with us when we suffer, and makes things up as He goes along. (There is a proper name for the squish, but as I disagree with it, I have forgotten what it is called. It has something to do with a man named Whitehead. Process theology?)

As a result of wanting to distance myself from the squishy camp, I decided that the best petitionary prayer is "Not my will, but Yours be done." Sometimes I waffle, because I don't know if I should pray for a baby or not. There is certainly a lot of petitionary prayer in Scripture, including for babies. Perhaps the best plan is to say "Please, may I have a baby? But not my will, but Yours be done."

Anyway, here is the prayer I suggested to my reader in place of his/her prayer for a spouse. I first said it when I was writing my Seraphic Single blog in Boston, so you can call this the Seraphic Single's prayer, if you like. But I think this covers all kinds of life plans, especially life plans that involve other people.

Dear Heavenly Father, You know me and love me better than I know and love myself. I trust that you know better than I do what is best for me. Please help me to accept Your will and to find the happiness that You wish for me, whatever it is, in Jesus' Name. Amen.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

My American Progeny

Yesterday I got a little package in the post from my Canadian publisher, so I carted it down to Edinburgh and opened it up with Cath. It contained two copies of The Closet's All Mine, and they look fantastic. My eye fell upon the word "honor" and shuddered at the foreign spelling, but the quality of the paper made my mouth water. Ahhhh....beautiful paper! The lay-out was great, too, but the paper....


Now, not to insult my Canadian progeny, but it has been printed on romance novel, mass paperback, paper. It is kind of rough and tan. The paper on which The Closet's All Mine is printed on fine white paper, the kind of paper I've seen in theology books. Bibliophile B.A. flipped through it lovingly.

"I like the shoes," Cath had said.

"Yes, I like the shoes, too" I replied.

Everyone likes the shoes. I think that is why the book is entitled The Closet's All Mine: it's to get that photo of shoes on the cover. However, that is just a theory because nobody asked me. That Death of the Author thing happens when you sign a contract, unless you're J.K. Rowling surrounded by a fleet of lawyers. Eventually the Author gets paid, though. I'm looking forward to that bit.

Meanwhile, the gorgeous paper is a nice surprise and takes the sting out of "honor." There is nothing wrong with American spelling, per se: it's just that there is such a thing as Canadian spelling, and it has always stuck in my craw that the editors of the Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan, craving consistancy in the work of a man who used British, American and Canadian spelling, depending on whose journal he was writing for, chose to render Canada's most important theologian in American.

"Bernie wouldn't have cared about all that," said his 90 year old editor/friend, waving aside my nationalist complaint.

Mmmmm! It smells like a theology book, too! God bless Liguori and their pots of American cash.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Almost 25 with no Boyfriend

I haven't had an Auntie Seraphic letter lately, but someone wrote in the combox about being 23 and never having had a "relationship." And I am torn between envy, compassion and exasperation. Picture envy, compassion and exasperation as little gnomes pulling on my green pyjamas. (Green pyjamas are my blogging uniform.)

Ah, twenty-three, twenty-three... Actually, I did not like being twenty-three. I was dead poor, I had just got a rather ho-hum Bachelor of Arts degree, and I was working in a secretarial job I was absolutely no good at and then in a coffee stall with a manager I depised. Oh, and I was being pursued by two men I wasn't in love with and, being addicted to Drah-ma, this to me was akin to having an addiction to cocaine or so I'm told: you love it and you hate it at the same time. I asked a priest for help, and he laughed at me. He's married now. Hmmmm.

Argh! It is so hard to be young! Why does nobody tell us this? When you're a kid, you think Sweet Sixteen is where it's at, and you thrill to the Beatles singing "She was just seventeen", and the magazines push the idea that the pinnacle of human life is between 15 and 25. But this is crap because life gets really, really hard at 15, and it offers you constant chances to screw up, and it does not get better until you are over 25--as long as you haven't wrecked your life by then.

One of the ways you can seriously screw up your life--in fact, it is THE way that a woman usually screws up her life--is to get sexually involved with men too young, or with the wrong man any old time. And it makes me furious that dating and making out are shoved at girls as perfectly harmless activities, right from the first moment we watch "Happy Days" or read Archie comics. The happy-go-lucky innocence of "Happy Days" and Archie comics have nothing to do with present day realities, and possibly had nothing to do with any historical reality whatsoever.

Breathe, Seraphic.

I want to look at the word "relationship." We are all in relationships from our conception. As soon as Mum knows we're in there, we're in a personal relationship with Mum. If Dad is around, we're soon in relationship with Dad because we can hear him. We might even already be in relationship with our grandparents and siblings, too--they certainly feel a relationship to us. (I remember the split-second I went from non-aunt to Aunt.) And then we are born, and we develop more and more relationships, learning about our environment and, more slowly and painfully, human nature. The definition of a person, say personalists, is someone "in relation to".

It is impossible, therefore, for a person to reach the age of 23 without having been in a relationship. Even if she were brought up by wolves, she'd be in relationship to her wolf pack. So when a woman says "I've never been in a relationship" she is unconsciously aggrandizing the fact that she has never been in a short-lived socio-erotic encounter with a man. But I congratulate her. Love with an expiry date is not love at all; it is an occasion for sin and very often the highway to disaster.

Now--here is the tricky thing--young women do, in fact, belong to wolf packs. (Thank you, Clio, for reminding me.) Mature adult women manage to break free to a certain extent and devote themselves to a cause or a family, but most young women feel a great need to belong to a pack of other young women. And if all the other young women around are entering into short-lived socio-erotic encounters with men, a young woman is going to feel anxious about differing from the pack. This is no doubt why the supreme indicator of whether or not a young woman is going to have pre-marital sex is whether or not her friends are already having pre-marital sex. The answer to "If all your friends were jumping off a bridge, would you jump off too?" is "Yes. Duh."

This is why it is so crucially important, if you are a young Christian woman intent on living the Gospel, to have other young Christian woman friends. And this should not be too terrifically hard, as Roman Catholics alone make up one billion people. It is crucial that you be in touch with women who do not think that keeping out of short-lived socio-erotic encounters with men is a massive tragedy, a mark of immaturity or whatever your current wolf-pack thinks.

It blows my mind that for all the advances women have supposedly made since 1960 (many of which we had made by 1930, but never mind that for now) we still feel anxious if we are Single at 25. But history is jam-packed with great women who were Single at 25. And, indeed, we don't necessarily even look our best at 25, if that's what you're worried about. (Go look at photos of movie stars at 25 and 35, and you'll see what I mean.) And given that Western European/North American human lifespan is now well over 75, and that in general we can be healthier and more active in middle-age and old-age than humans ever have been before, 25 is positively adolescent.

So, to recap:

1. Everyone has been in a myriad of real relationships by the age of 23.

2. Young women who run with packs of young women are anxious when they differ from the pack. However, maturity for women consists in mental freedom from the pack.

3. Short-lived socio-erotic encounters with men are not all that and a bag of chips, no matter what your friends say.

4. You are fortunate if you manage to avoid short-lived socio-erotic encounters with men. Wait for a real, honest-to-God, respectable suitor who is your real friend and whom you have good reason to trust.

5. Twenty-five is really young from the perspective of everyone over thirty. Meanwhile, being young has a very sucky side, and I heartily recommend being over thirty.

I have two more things to say. The first is that you are never the only girl on your campus or in your work place who doesn't put out. Anyone who tells you so is either flattering you or insulting you, and I'd wonder about their motives. You should never be ashamed of chastity, but you should never become a monster of pride about it either. Just because the girls around you believe in pre-marital sex doesn't mean that they're actually having it or would have it with just anybody. Very few women, actually, put out for just anybody. That is why there are courses for pick-up artists, aka scumbags. Some of the most chaste women I've known were far-left, feminist hardliners.

The second is sunscreen. What I miss most about being 23 is the absolutely fabulous quality of my skin. And I must say that the ol' skin is not doing so badly now, thanks to good genes and sunscreen.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Po-land! Po-land!

A Polish publisher has bought the Polish-language rights to Seraphic Singles. So--as you can imagine--I am having a very good morning!

I love the Poles. Can I say that? Will the Poles mind? Because I have always loved the Poles. A great, romantic, Catholic nation.

Also the first boy who showed any interest in me whatsoever came to Canada from Poland on holiday. I think he was eight. I was about ten. He didn't speak a word of English. I didn't speak a word of Polish. I was confused by his instant rapture with me. However, it was a happy moment in an otherwise ugly ducklingy childhood.

Yay, Poland!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Single By Choice

When I write something about loving the Single Life, I usually try to cast my memory back to before I met B.A. and determine if I would have said it when I was Single. Married people seem to forget what being Single was like: we forget the bad stuff and we are nostalgic for the good stuff. Very often we don't want to hear the bad stuff, for Singles' bad stuff triggers memories of things we don't want to remember. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

But I think I would have said, even when I was Single, and therefore I probably did, that most Single women are Single by choice because (wait for it) if you were willing to throw all your standards to the winds, you would get a guy, no problem.

If you had no standards at all, you could do the following horrible things:

1. go down to the local pub/bar at closing time and start hitting on men,

2. put an ad for a husband in any African or other Third World newspaper,

3. start writing love letters to a convict in prison,

4. go to a holiday resort in Greece, Egypt, the Dominican Republic, and start throwing your money around on a local.

My guess is that we'd all be amazed at how many women do those things. I was going to say sometimes I just don't understand my own sex, but I realized that is not true. Some women will do abso-freaking-lutely anything to get a man, even for a few hours, even just by mail, because they honestly think they are nothing without one. There are women who work three jobs, have three children, do all the housework, and have a boyfriend who does nothing, nothing at all, for them, and they are frightened rigid that he might leave.

This is why my blogging for Singles has always concentrated on being Single, not on how-to-find-a-husband. I know very well that most young Single women long to find a husband, and I am happy to share my reflections on how to do that, although they're mostly about how to stop chasing men who don't give a damn and how to encourage men who actually might. But for me the heart of the thing has always to find the dignity and the freedom inherent in being Single. And every time you refuse to compromise your standards (which I hope and pray are high), you are honouring that.

Someone wrote to me about traditional, God-centered, Christian men being rare jewels. I told her that she was a rare jewel. It is in the Bible: a good woman is worth more than rubies. I assume that all my readers are precious jewels, worth more than rubies. And a ruby looks absolutely beautiful and precious on its own. Nothing more is needed.

Keep your standards high. Nobody puts a ruby in a plastic ring. Meanwhile, find work you enjoy and that earns your keep. Keep your living space beautiful. Take care of your body, your skin and your hair. Meet often with friends and family who love you. Read good things that interest you. Get enough exercise. See beauty as often as you can: visit the art gallery or walk by the sea. Find something simple and undemanding to love, something that will always reward love with love: a puppy, a kitten, a bird, a garden. Pray, especially for others. Breathe.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

The One Year Rule

Quite a few men, including very good men, are terrified of getting married. They are not usually afraid of sex, mind you. Nor are they afraid of good home cooking and warm baskets of laundry washed, dried and folded by somebody else. They are just afraid of getting married.

Sometimes they need help. The best help I know of is called "It's very important to me that I not have sex before I am married." I love this line. This is the line that separates the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys and the husband potentials from the wastes of space. It is a tough line for girls to say, for it is also the line that separates the women from the girls.

One of my readers (I think it was Maggie) observed elsewhere online that women who do not sleep with their boyfriends get engaged a lot faster than girls who do. I don't know if there are scientific studies on this, but I've noticed something similar in my own acquaintance. My acquaintance, however, is mostly made up of Roman Catholics, a community that has not entirely come to terms with the virgin-whore problem bedevilling some of its younger, more sensitive, more conservative (whether they know it or not) male congregants. (Bless their hearts.)

Incidentally, girls, we are all sinners and we all make mistakes, but for heaven's sake don't make the mistake of sleeping out of wedlock with a sensitive, conservative Catholic man. Insanity! Have you learned nothing?????!!!!

Shorter Version of the Letters between Heloise and Abelard

Dear Abelard,

I try to be a good nun, but it is difficult because I remember how hot you were. I long for you. I dream of you.



Dear Sister,

I think you should try harder to be a good nun. Personally, I'm beyond all that now. And I cannot help but reflect that I will have 100,000,000,000,000,000 extra years in Purgatory because of our youthful madness. Woe is me.

Yours in X,

But, as I said, people make mistakes, so maybe some of you are sleeping with your boyfriends. Others of you have been chastely dating the same guy for months and months and no mention of marriage has he made. Alas.

So here is my advice. If you are out of school, and by school I mean secondary school/post- secondary training program/undergraduate college, you should give a man no more than one dating year of your young and precious lives before he pops the question. If he doesn't know that you are the Perfect Girl for Him within a year, you must broach the subject. If he bridles, freak out and dump him. Don't take him back if he doesn't bring a ring.

Is this easy for me to say? Yes. Have I done this before? Yes. Was it painful? Yes. But now I am married to B.A. instead and we got our new fridge today and tra la.

If a year seems awfully soon, reflect that I shorten this time to six months for childless ladies over 35. Ladies over 35 who would like to have children have even less time to waste than young sprigs in their twenties. And really, I think it's worth repeating that the easiest way to see if a guy is that into you is to refuse to have sex with him while assuring him that you think he is marvellous. Don't do any wife stuff whatsoever. If he wants you to do wife stuff, he'll have to wait until you're a wife. Make him work for it. Seriously. It's kinder to you and it's kinder to him. Friends don't let friends become woman-exploiting swine-dogs.

We have all heard stories about people who met, fell in love within a couple of weeks, got married ASAP and lived happily ever after. We have also heard stories about people who met, became mutual but unequal admirers, resisted marriage for months or years, finally got married, and broke up in a hideous acrimonious divorce. I've lived both stories, and the first is better.

One of the more hilarious aspects of my Seraphic Meets Bridezilla days was the poor parish priest's face when he informed me that I had got permission from the diocese to marry, on one condition. (Don't think your annulment papers make all ways smooth, people.) The diocese's condition was that this time I made sure I knew my fiance really, really well before I married him. The p.p. had a kind of hopeful-puppy-dog-begging look on his face, like I was going to say, "Okay then. We'll get married next year instead." Ha ha ha! I think not. Although at the age of 25 I was pretty dumb, at the age of 38 I was pretty smart. I knew who I was, and who I wanted, and I got him that May, just as planned.

Blog Confusion

Dear Readers,

If you direct other people to my website, would you tell them that the http code is "" ? Nobody can get into the original except me and my Canadian publisher.

I've had two or three emails about this now.



Monday, 12 July 2010

Bless Their Hearts

Some things are much easier to see and to say when you are 39 years old. It's a trade-off. You might not be as slim, and your skin no longer glows like a pearl, but you can see stuff than younger women can't see. The hard part is convincing younger women of the stuff you can see. There's this generation gap thing, after all.

Today we are going to talk about boys, and how even though they are sometimes seriously annoying they are our brothers. Also, quite a few of you want to marry one of them. The number one reason you're not married (if you're not married) is that it is God's will that you are Single. But the number two reason could be (could be) that you don't know how to get along with the men that wash up on the shores of your life. You're frightened of them. You get angry with them. And I understand because I was often frightened of and angry with the ones that appeared in my life, too.

As mentioned below, I was active in the pro-life movement when I was young, and some of the young men I was around weren't very nice to me. This was a great disappointment, and I didn't know how to handle it. I thought reasonable, spirited argument was the way forward. I thought generosity, like occasionally paying for a boy's dinner, was the way forward. I now think I was wrong. The most popular girl in our set was probably so popular with the boys because she did not take any of the ridiculous things they said seriously. She just laughed and changed the subject. She certainly never bought them treats.

No matter what their politics, some young men are bullies. Some improve as they get older, and some don't. I won't deny that. But in general, I discover that I like men the older they get and the older I get. I am no longer intimidated by young men, and I suspect that older men are no longer as intimidated by women as they once were.

The worst bully in my set married a Mexican girl, and I was always amazed that some woman wanted to marry him. However, it occured to me that this girl, being Mexican, being from a macho culture, may have grown up knowing how to handle macho men and put them, with grace, in their place. This is not knowledge I have or ever had.

American men, who often idolize a less misogynist machismo, often seem to want to marry women who are not American. Is this because American women take men too seriously? Is it because it is somehow more feminine not to give a damn?

I don't know. I just know that my relationships with men improved when I realized the following things:

1. When young men make pronouncements about men, they are revealing truths about themselves, not truths about men.

2. When young men make pronouncements about women, they are revealing their own issues about women, not truths about women.

3. Young men have to go to seminary/divinity for three to five years to learn things about empathy young women have known since age six.

4. Young men are in a painful hell of confusion quite a lot of the time, especially when it comes to love, sexuality, their parents and women.

5. A few men--a very few men--are utter bastards to be avoided as you would avoid an angry dog.

6. Male behaviour and attitudes vary from culture to culture.

7. I understand best men like my father and my brothers. My husband is a lot like my father and my brothers.

I have two social advantages over my young Single readers: I am 39, and I am married. So if a young Catholic man told me, in all seriousness, that all women should dress like the Blessed Virgin Mary, I would not be angry or frightened. I would not argue with him, or mention the Taliban.

Instead I would wonder why this probably unhappy (see #4) young man had said this very strange thing. I might ask questions to clarify. ("Do you mean all women? Your mother? Your sisters?") But it wouldn't really matter. By saying "All women should dress like the Virgin Mary", this young man would have blurted out a clue to the great shame of his young life, which is that he feels overwhelmed when he sees female arms and legs. Bless his heart. Of course he does. Of course he does. He doesn't need to be screamed at. He is suffering. He needs sisterly help. And the only sisterly help I could think to give him would be to suggest he talk to a priest or another reasonable man (like my husband) about his idea. And that would be it. I am a woman, after all, and Woman is what he is having a hard time with right now.

Yes, there are bullies. But, in general, Catholic men who go to Mass (or if we aren't Catholic, men of good will) are on our team. We have to get along with them, and that means giving them the benefit of the doubt when they say something stupid or simply refusing to argue.

I admire many men for their formidible talents: their professional expertise, their creative gifts, their diplomatic skill. But I like men best when I am reminded that once they were ten. If you were walking along a beach with my husband, and you gave him a flat rock, he would immediately skim it across the waves and eagerly count every bounce. I love that. Bless his little heart.

All men, even the most annoying, even the most confused, even the most pompous, were bright eyed little boys once. It helps to remember that. In all but the worst, those little boys are still in there. Bless their little hearts. Say it after me, right now: Bless their little hearts!

Update (July 14): Some people have voiced problems with the word "little" in the blessing because it can sound too condescending. If that is your trouble, may I suggest the word "wee"? "Wee" to my Canadian ears could never sound condescending. So try out "Bless his wee heart!" Does that work better?

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Auntie Seraphic & So Many Weddings

It's mid-July, and the wedding season is in full swing. And I know how much Singles looooove that!

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

I'm wondering if you have any tips or pointers on getting through a particularly active wedding season. Next month I'll be going to the seventh wedding in a year. One of my current roommates is engaged to be married next summer, and a new roommate moving in soon is also engaged. Two of the people I work with are engaged - one of them just got engaged last weekend. A number of other classmates/friends/acquaintances are also engaged, and most of them will be married by the time I graduate next May (master's degree in hand, no idea what to do with it because I was supposed to be married by now!).

The point is, it's a lot of people. And I'm so, so happy for them all, I really am. It's such a blessing, an awesome thing to know so many young, faithful, active Catholics getting married at a time when eschewing marriage seems to be all the rage, especially among my generation.

It is a little bit difficult for me, though. Not that they're getting married, of course, but that I'm not. Many of those I know who are getting married, or who have gotten married in the last year, are at or above the average age to marry these days. They had to wait longer than those just-out-of-college marriages to find the right people for them; most of them didn't meet until well after college. They had to wait and be patient, just as God is telling me to do right now. It's very good for me to remember that.

But that said, it's still so hard for me sometimes. (Or, really, a lot of the time.) I'll be 25 in a couple of months, which I know isn't old by any standards. That doesn't make it easier, though, to attend wedding after wedding single and alone. I really want to be happy for all these friends, happy without anything to mar it, without those behind-the-scenes feelings of "I wish it were me" while being excited for them.

I know that a) wishing is pretty pointless, and b) it's NOT me right now for a reason. God has a purpose. But as more and more friends get to experience what I've only daydreamed about (I've never even been in a relationship), it's been getting harder and harder to rejoice with them as I ought to. Especially lately, when it seems that I'm surrounded by wedding talk everywhere I go. At work, at home, at school. I want to be able to have fun with all the details girls love that go along with planning a wedding, but instead it's started to become a painful reminder of what I might never get to experience.

Long story short, I'm just wondering if you have any pointers regarding how best to get past these ugly feelings of jealousy, knowing that God is keeping me single for a very specific reason. I don't want to keep feeling happy-with-a-caveat. I want to be happy for them in the way I imagine already-married people are happy when they hear news of a friends' engagement. I really want to have hope and peace that maybe someday it will be me, but maybe it won't be. I want to be able to be ok with that, and enjoy each wedding (and the preceding preparation) as the joyous occasion that it is, and not as another reminder of my singleness - although it's hard to avoid being reminded that I'm single when the bride does the bouquet toss. I'm sure I just need to get over these wedding blues already and just let myself be happy for my friends, because I'm sure I would really want them to be happy for me if the roles were reversed.

Thank you so much for reading my disorganized thoughts.

So Many Weddings

Dear So Many Weddings,

You are so positively normal I am wondering where my weird readers are. Nobody ever writes in saying, "I'm in love with my step-brother who is also a priest-archeologist." Everybody always writes in saying, "I have gone to a million weddings, I'm Single, and why can't I just feel totally happy instead of jealous?"

Listen, no Single woman who isn't a nun or/and a living saint feels 100% happy about a wedding that isn't her own. I call this Singles' Wedding Angst, and if you don't feel it during a wedding, you feel it afterwards, when you're on your way home alone. I got it at every wedding I ever went to until after I was married to B.A. It's just part of the wedding, along with the cake and the boring speeches.

(By the way, Single men get it, too, and you can tell which ones have it worst, because they are the ones getting blitzed at the bar while shouting "I'm glad it isn't ME putting MY head in a noose!")

Of course you are envious. You're a fallen creature. I'm a fallen creature. We're all fallen creatures. And it is normal for fallen creatures to feel sad when everybody except us gets an ice-cream cone/to go to Disney World/a European holiday/a wedding/a baby. The thing to do is to realize that we are not Awesomely Alone in Our Outrageous Sinfulness but just boring, run-of-the-mill sinners, and that all Single women get Singles Wedding Angst anyway.

But your question is, how do you cope? Here is a list of things you can do to cope with Singles Wedding Angst:

1. Don't go to the wedding. You don't HAVE to go to every wedding you're invited to. If you send a gift instead, you'll save money, please the bride, and save her money on your dinner. Most guests at really big weddings are totally expendable. If the bride only invited 30 people, though, or is your sister, you should probably go.

2. If you do go, sit with friends or family members you actually like. No friends or fun family there? Don't go. Send a gift instead.

3. If you go, look like a MILLION dollars. Go to the hairdresser. Wear a cute dress. Wear lipgloss. Knowing you look like a million bucks usually chases away the blues.

4. You remember that this is your friend's big day; it is not about you. Be a considerate guest. If you have to fake happy, fake happy! Just faking happy can actually make you feel better. I don't know why this is so, but it is so.

5. You begin conversations with strangers at the reception. You are going to look like a million dollars, so whoever it is will want to talk to you. Especially if they are Single, bored and about to be hit with Singles Wedding Angst. Always remember that you will not be the only Single woman in the bouquet-toss scrum.

6. Do not get tipsy unless you are having a GREAT time. Alcohol is a depressant.

7. If you're at the reception and you're getting bored and depressed, go home. Go home now! Take cab money because it is terribly depressing to go home from a wedding alone on the bus.

8. Have a big treat waiting for you at home, like a DVD of a comedy you really want to see.

9. Thank God it is your friend and not you marrying that specific guy. Only once in my whole Single life have I ever found the groom attractive enough perhaps to have dated myself. And since his wife is one of my best buddies, I should stop mentioning that. Seriously--most grooms are nice but not universally attractive.

When I got married, I really worried that my Single friends (and readers!) would feel badly that I was getting married. I definitely worried that my Single friends would get Singles' Wedding Angst at my wedding. But then I realized that there was nothing I, Seraphic, could really do to prevent that and, besides, my nose was bleeding from Brides' Wedding Meltdown.

MEANWHILE, I have three more things to say to you, Missy:

1. I know turning 25 is hard for Single women. I was a basketcase when I was 24, thinking about turning 25. It is not a coincidence that I made my first, disastrous, and now annulled marriage when I was 25. But 25 is really, really young. Go look at your 24 and 3/4s year old skin in the mirror and say, "I love you, beautiful young skin!" Do this right now!

Would you rather marry Mr. Divorceable when you are 25, or wait and marry Mr. Perfect for You when you are 38? I rest my case.

2. An M.A. is not something that you do to kill time before meeting Mr. Right. An M.A. is what you do to avoid getting a full-time job. But an M.A. looks great on your resume, so if you don't have a career-type job yet, get one as soon as you have the pricey piece of paper. Money, beautiful money! Whenever you start thinking about how you are Single, get a travel book from the library and research your first real, paid-by-you, adventure holiday. My first one was to Italy, and it was fantastic.

3. Congratulations on so far not getting suckered into a romantic relationship that went nowhere. Sometimes it is great never to have had a boyfriend. I have had eleven break-ups, and that is just ridiculous.

If I could do it all over again, I would have not dated at all, or I would have gone to Aberdeen in 1990 and waylaid B.A. on his way to First Year Philosophy class.

Me: Hello, it is I, your future wife.

B.A.: I'm sorry... Do I know you?

Me: You're going to eventually, so why don't we get married right now and save a whole bunch of people a lot of heartaches?

B.A.: Very well, then.

But life does not work out that way, alas. Meanwhile, believe me, not having had a "relationship" is not necessarily a bad thing. Keep on developing "friendships" and try not to worry about "relationships".

I hope this is helpful!

Grace and peace,

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Some Guys Lie

Many girls who are strictly brought up are sheltered from some of the great unpleasantnesses of the world and are therefore unprotected when they venture out to college or the workforce or even just to summer camp.

One of the things that strict parents ought to tell their daughters, but don't, is that some guys will do whatever it takes to get you into bed. They will try to drug you, which is why you always watch your drink. They will try to get you drunk, which is why you never get tipsy around men without a strict friend, your brother or a responsible chaperone. They will tell you the most outrageous yet strangely convincing lies to make you feel it's all okay and even necessary that you have sex with them. The first guy I dated more than twice actually told me that you can't get pregnant "the first time." He actually told me that. However, he was from Afghanistan and possibly misread "virginal" as "completely ignorant." Yes, I dumped his ass.

I thought of impure men and their outrageous lies the other day when I read Piers Paul Read's Knights of the Cross. It has spicy sex scenes, but it is a literary treat for any tradition-loving Catholic who can read (or skip over) spicy sex scenes without them becoming occasions for sin. There is a chapter with a married ex-Jesuit which I found screamingly funny, probably because all my Jesuit friends are as yet neither ex- nor married.

In this novel, a somewhat seedy young German countess confesses how she became the slapper she is, and it all started out with a horrific lie. (Incidentally, if you are German or Jewish, you might want to steel yourself before reading further.)

Babi was silent for a moment, as if considering carefully the words she should use. "Take the case of a German girl who, aged nineteen, goes to the Free University of Berlin. There she meets an American student who is Jewish. He tells her that his grandparents died in Auschwitz. Her grandparents, of course, fought for Hitler during the war. The past weighs heavily on both the German girl and the American. He makes little distinction between the German Army and Himmler's SS. However, rather than being repelled by the German race, the American is strongly drawn to the female of the species, particularly one with blonde hair and long legs. He wants to sleep with the girl. She does not want to sleep with him, but eventually she decides that it is the least thing she can do to make up for the Germans' monstrous crimes."

"But that is ridiculous."

Babi flushed. "Easy for you to say that, Father. Men can be remarkably persistent, and women easily confused. The girl in my story came to feel that to refuse the American student would be taken by him to mean that she was prejudiced against Jews.

"Did he accuse her of that?"

"Oh, yes."

"And was she?"

"Prejudiced? How could she know? He was the first Jew she had ever met. There were things about him that she did not like. She found him physically unattractive, but she went to bed with him all the same, just to prove to him and herself that she was not prejudiced."

"Did she grow to love him?"

"Oh..." She waved her hand dismissively. "You know how it is with girls at that age. She persuaded herself that if she was sleeping with him, it must mean that she loved him, until she found out that he was doing the rounds of her blonde-haired, long-legged German friends."

"Was she upset?"

Babi shrugged. "Not especially. At least she had proved to him and to herself that she was not anti-Semitic. But then others came who had to be persuaded."

"She had affairs with other Jewish students?"

"Yes. With two or three of his American friends."

"It is pernicious," I said, "to feel obliged to sleep with someone one does not love."

"And there is an ironic twist in her story," said Babi. "She subsequently discovered that none of them was in fact a Jew, but they had learned that pretending to be Jewish was a fail-safe method of getting German girls into bed."

--Piers Paul Read, Knights of the Cross.

So that is the most horrifying thing I have read in a month of Sundays. I comfort myself that it is fiction, although I can see it happening, and I counsel any girl in Germany fed the same crap to say, "If you hate the Germans so much, what the **** are you doing in Germany?"

I strongly believe you are allowed to, nay, encouraged, to use the F-bomb at men who are trying to get you into bed. Save it up, and use it then. Or practise saying "How DARE you!" in a tone of utter outrage and disgust. Repeat after me. "How DARE you!?"

In high school, a girl confessed to me that she had had sex with her permanently wheelchair-bound boyfriend, and afterwards he cruelly verbally abused her and accused her of having it off with his brother, etc. She was from a traditional Catholic background, and I can just imagine how Mr. Wheelchair may have played on her feelings of sympathy to get her to have sex with him in the same place. I have never forgotten how she wept.

Now, as then, I have no idea why she told me, since I was not a friend of hers. Perhaps she was inspired by the Holy Spirit to tell me so 20 years later I could tell you to scare you out of wrongheaded sexual self-sacrifice to men in wheelchairs. The number of times I have heard of women doing sexual stuff they didn't want to do out of a bizarre sense of political correctness! It makes me furious. Listen up, ladies. You're women. Woman trumps everything. Woman trumps wheelchair, race, poverty, everything--everything except "baby", whose special protection is our job. Once again, repeat after me, "No! How DARE you!?" (Then walk out.)

Uh oh. I am getting into a "men suck" mood, which means it is time for me to start chanting "bless his little heart" whenever I see one. Obviously most men are as good as most women. But there are some men (just as I imagine there are some women) who would do or say ANYTHING to get sex from the current object of their lust, and I feel it my auntly duty today to warn you and train you in the fine art of "No! How DARE you!" (Then walk out.)

P.S. No, it's not okay if you love him. It's not okay unless you're wearing a wedding ring, the guy involved gave you that wedding ring, and you feel like doing it. Kickin' it old-school, peeps. (Um... Did I say that right?)

Friday, 9 July 2010

Auntie Seraphic & Fed-up Trad Girl

Darlingses! I am not sure this is a "Dear Auntie Seraphic" letter as much as a cri de coeur letter, one I enjoyed very much because, although men in general are the caffeine in the cappuccino of life, some of them would pop if you stuck a pin in them. Although I know this letter will test the patience of some of my male readership, the girls will find it hilarious. So here we go:

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

If you don't mind (and you're probably used to this anyway), I have a serious gripe about a majority of traditional Catholic men.

Why do so many of them act so stuck up, as if they are thinking that since they are a rare find, they are automatically a 'hot commodity'? Furthermore, why do they act less than masculine in the sense that they should be picky over the most insignificant things? They seem to be looking for a woman that will accomodate their inflated sense of self-worth due to their rarity. Please, let me give you some actual examples and let you be the judge. Here is just a sample of some of the objections I have come across:

* She's travelled abroad
* She's borderline diabetic (OK, so that's a rare one, but it's happened, and it's an example of some of the odd excuses that only seem to come from 'trads')
* She doesn't know enough about British actors (this came from an American)
* She's too pious *(i.e., she actually enjoys reading theology)
* She wears makeup
* She probably doesn't wear any makeup (can't tell from picture)
* She isn't a career woman (not very traditional, I know)
* She's been married --- must have issues
* She's never been married --- must not take marriage seriously enough
* She's not under the age of 30
* She's probably not exotic enough (many seem to prefer a woman who is young, foreign, and interested in them because they are American, where they can be the one to form them in the traditional ways and the traditional Latin Mass. I've seen this many times, actually. It's as if they assume that you are a naive, American, farmgirl, especially if you live in the midwest and you are a devout Catholic lady.)

Of course, however, most of these (except that last one) largely only apply to meeting men online. For some reason, men are often more ammenable when they meet a woman in person, perphaps simply because they are more visual.

I think traditional Catholic men are a lot more unfair to traditional Catholic women than vice versa. What are your thoughts? Have you heard similar complaints from other "traditional" Catholic women?

This is getting ridiculous. Really. I meet men in person who are traditional Catholics (just a few single ones) and they often have heresies (one is into eastern meditation but thinks it's Christian, another is a sedevacanist, another is just a neo-con --- all of them are pushy and a bit over-the-top narcissists).

Fed-up Trad Girl

Dear Fed-up Trad Girl,

I feel your pain. No--that's totally untrue because in 2008 I managed to snag a Trad Catholic Man and before I met him I had gone to only one TLM in my life and zzzzzz.

However, I felt your pain when I was heavily into the pro-life movement when I was much younger and--eeek! All the boys seemed to be into this one girl, and she was so kind and sweet and holy, it was if she were made of vanilla ice-cream, only warm. And what made it almost kind of worse was that she didn't take any of these boys seriously. She was on a mission from God and therefore spent a lot of time in minimum security prison, a confessor of the faith. Argh! Argh! Who could compete? Definitely not me, someone weekly denounced by her principal crush object for being a feminist.

Anyway, Trad Girl, thank you for your letter because I always enjoy a laugh at the expense of Catholic dating websites. The problem, my dear fellow Trad Girl, is not with the men in themselves. It's with the dating website culture. Dating websites are exactly like CATALOGUES. And I anticipated this bizarre culture in 1986, when I wrote a story about three schoolgirls who dreamed of finding a "Man Catalogue" from which they could choose dates based on hair colour, etc. This story was published in the school newspaper, and one of my religion teachers thought he and I should have a Serious Chat about A) my attitude towards men B) my character's preference for blue-eyed blonds, which my blue-eyed and blond teacher thought suggested neo-Aryanism.

But--hey, presto--it is 2010 and the internet is covered with Man Catalogues and Woman Catalogues, ones aimed at every taste and market. And just as I poured over "Consumers Distributing" catalogues as a child, dreaming over the jewellery section, now adults pour over "Catholic Singles" catalogues, peering at the photographs and examining the self-promoting blurbs. Is it any wonder that men and women are now quite open about their consumerist judgments of each other?

But even these days, there is one reason and one reason alone why an unmarried traditional American Catholic man will not pursue an unmarried traditional American Catholic woman. No, wait: there are three. One is that he is called to the priesthood and/or religious life. Another is that he has SSA. But the third, the one that all women should keep in mind is, that he is just not that into her. Borderline diabetes, forsooth.

Women, in general, are complex. Men, in general, are simple. Women can talk themselves into love. Men can't. I got interested in B.A. because he wrote funny, intelligent comments on my blog. I found his photo, and I thought, "Eeek! He has a beard and is therefore so not my type!" However, he was funny and intelligent, so I suspended judgment on his looks until I could see a better photo or him in the flesh. And when I met him he was wearing this BLINDING tweed jacket, and I thought, "Eeek!" once again. But then he said funny and intelligent things so often that the tweed jacket began to look like angel raiment.

A man, however, doesn't operate like this. He toddles around and then he sees a woman (perhaps even one he's known for awhile) and a bomb suddenly goes off in his brain, and he's in love. The bomb goes off and he's in love, or it doesn't and he isn't. End of story.

This God-given simplicity, however, can get warped if he's shopping on the Catholic Dating Catalogue, stoking harmful fantasies of ignorant French/Thai peasant girls longing to be gently initiated into the mysteries of the Traditional Latin Mass and sex. He needs to get off the internet. ASAP.

Now, let's talk about you. You, my dear, are being picky, too. Let's go back to eastern meditation boy. Is he hot? No, seriously. After kindness and basic religious compatibility, this is what counts. You spend a third of your life in bed, you know. Is his thing yoga? Because if it is, I bet he is hot. Flexible, anyway.

Heresy-shmeresy. All of us have lurking in the corners of our minds weird ideas that might startle the CDF, ideas that we might think are 100% Grade A orthodox. Speaking as a tradition-loving Roman Catholic, as long as a guy is a tradition-loving Roman Catholic and thinks Benedict XVI is a great guy, I don't see where the problem is. This, of course, shuts out the sedevacantists, but they might be fun to meet for coffee occasionally. Incidentally, one word, and I want you to remember this word: Episcopalians. The Anglo-Catholic ones make great husbands--I mean, converts. Convert-husbands. Convershands.

When all is said and done, the problem with narcissist trad men is not that they're trad or even actually narcissist. It's that they're young and afraid and hiding behind a lot of snotty-sounding bluster because they want to BE a hot commodity and think ACTING like a hot commodity will make them so. Their model is not our risen Lord but Tupac Shakur, poor things. They don't have an inflated sense of self-worth. They have an deflated sense of worthlessness. They need women around them to be comparatively "lesser than", so that they can be "more than." And this is sad. It's all so unnecessary. If only they would just be whomever God is calling them to be.

Bless their little hearts. Say after me, "Bless their little hearts." The only way to deal with men-in-general when we are becoming furious with men-in-general is to allow our Inner Mothers to silently embrace them all. They all start out as sweet little boys with innocent, happy smiles, and those little boys are often still in there somewhere. So think about that and say "Bless his little heart" every time you see a man (online or in person) for the next three days.

I hope this is helpful!

Grace and peace,

P.S. I had a sudden brainwave. Are you basing your judgment of narcissism on first dates? Because dollars to doughnuts, these guys think they should act on first dates the way they act during job interviews. Between their ads on Catholic Catalogue and their job-interview-style first dates, no wonder they look like arrogant twerps! They're using the wrong tools for the job at hand.

UPDATE: Internet Dating Tips:

1. Meet in real life sooner rather than later. This nips harmful, wrongheaded, exploitative fantasies in the bud.
2. Accept a second date unless s/he's really awful. Few of us are at our best on a first date.
3. Tell a friend where you're going and tell them you'll call when you get back. Never go anywhere private with a man/woman you barely know.
4. Listen more than you talk. For one thing, too much talking overwhelms the other person. And for another, people seem to blurt all kinds of interesting, personal stuff on a first date.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

So Sleepy....

Stay tuned tomorrow! Now that the fickle internet is back up (knock on wood), there can be new posts.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Swamped Today So Chat

Today I am swamped. Utterly swamped. So I will take the lock off the combox and let you all chat.

I was wondering just now about all my long-term readers/commentators--and you know who you are--and how far you have come in the past three years in terms of your vocation wait. I know Hip 2 B Square got engaged and then, wisely, disengaged. Sheila got married. Clio just got married. Boeciana is in a Benedictine convent, hoping to make her next vows.

So how are you doing, my dears? Give us an update. Anybody else get ordained, married, sworn in as a Consecrated Virgin? Anybody feel better (or worse) about being Single?

Monday, 5 July 2010

Goodie For Him

I don't know why the memory of this guy has swum to the surface of my consciousness. I think I talked to him for something like five minutes, although he might have been in the waiting room for an hour.

Anyway, I was working in a government office, behind a counter, trying to sort something out for a woman with three or four children. She was a veiled woman, from somewhere in the Middle East. The father of her children was dead, and she had a new husband. There were documents to read and questions to ask. But the person I was supposed to be talking to was her, not her new husband, who nevertheless wanted to be the focus of my attention.

I won't even pretend to remember how this conversation started or what he said exactly, but at one point it was along the lines of, "Don't you think I did a wonderful thing by marrying a widow with four children? These are not my children, and yet I married this woman. Am I not a generous man? I, who married a widow with four children?"

He wasn't joking. He honestly thought that he was the Duke of Earl and the Hero of the Hour because he had married this woman, this woman with four of another man's children. And he was happy to brag about it while beside him the widow stood there looking at me, outwardly as meek as a mouse. He seemed to think I would applaud or coo and smile and agree.

Maybe where they came from it is mind-blowingly generous to marry a widow with kids. In Canada, nobody thinks much about it. Men often die young, so hey presto, widows. Of course in Canada widowhood is not the one-way ticket to starving to death it might have been for the woman in front of my counter. But I wasn't thinking of that. I was wondering what it was like for this woman to be married to a man that thought he was a superhero for having taken her--and her fatherless kids--on. Every time she did something wrong, like burn the bread or not iron the shirt he particularly wanted that morning, would he look at her reproachfully, saying, "I married a widow! Is this my reward?"?

Anyway, off they eventually went, she in her Middle Eastern clothes, and he, though from the same country she came from, in his hip Western clothes. I doubt I ever saw them again.

I said it when I was Single-and-Divorced, and I say it now: there are worse things than being Single. Being Single--in the free world--is infinitely better than being yoked for life to a jerk.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

And Twice as Pink

O my little Singles. Today I saw my interview in the Messenger of Saint Anthony magazine (International Edition). The photos of me seem as large as life...and twice as pink. Nobody is going to look at those photos and say, "Well, of course, she got married! Look at her celestial beauty, etc!" Uh uh. Not going to happen. (I suppose men who love pink-faced women with orangey hair--B.A., for example--might say this stuff.)

I'm slightly less pink in my wedding photos, thanks to Albus, the man at the MAC counter who assured me I would thank him one day for selling me tinted moisturiser to eliminate redness on my wedding day. THANK YOU, ALBUS! But there was nothing Albus could do about my other photos, boo hoo hoo.

Anyway, if you live in the English-speaking world*, see if your mum or your grandmum or your local Catholic bookshop has a copy of the July-August edition of Messenger of Saint Anthony, International Edition.

Then buy my book (if you haven't already), for that, not sending my husband's pals into roars of cruel mirth, was the whole point, for me, of this interview.

*I'm not sure if this includes the USA. The letters seemed to all come from places like Bath, UK, Hamilton, Canada, Ghana and New Zealand.

Update: The Messenger of Saint Anthony has a monthly circulation of one million. I am going to go lie down now....

Friday, 2 July 2010


The other day a tipsy friend said, "I've never held anybody's hand, and I've only ever kissed my mother."

This was not a complaint. It was a boast. The boaster was well over thirty years of age. The boaster was a devout Christian and, I think I may safely surmise, a Serious Single and happy with it.

One of you has asked for a post on hope, and I worried what I might say about hope. But then I remembered the tipsy boaster, and I knew where to go with hope.

My hope is that you will become content with being Single. Yes, you could get called out of Singledom at any moment. Mr. Right or Miss Perfect may swan into your life tomorrow or is lurking incognito right now amongst your current acquaintance. But you have no control over that. In fact, you have little control over most things. Your kingdom is you. Walls do not a prison make--it is your own mind that makes you happy or sad about your Single state.

If you are Single right now, then it is God's will that you are Single right now. Why? I have no clue. I'm sure it must be for a good reason, though. Somewhere in the warp and weft of history, your current Singleness matters. It matters that Dorothy Day, after her conversion, was Single to the end of her life. It matters that Jean Vanier may very well be Single to the end of his life. It matters that Christ was Single throughout His earthly mission--and because Christ was Single, no Single need be ashamed to be Single ever again.

Christ is the model of the Single life. Christ mapped His human will onto the divine will, the will he shared with His Father. Christ said, "Your will be done," and on that occasion, this was about the Passion, not about a relatively good old life without a spouse in it. There is no scourge and no nails waiting for most of us; "Your will be done" should be comparatively easy to say.

Christ "got out there"--but not to find a spouse. He got out there because He had a mission, and He made friends along the way. He made a lot of surprising friends, too. Working class, middle class, upper class, possibly even Romans. People he freed from demons. Formerly crooked tax collectors. Formerly loose women. Just about every sort of person, and yet it was His relationship with the Father that counted most.

What's your mission?

Christ did not sulk at weddings; He saved one. Christ, implored by His mother, chose--in concert with the will of His Father--to perform his first "sign" or miracle at the wedding at Cana, and that is why today we recognize marriage as a sacrament, not just the boring old natural end of the breeding human being, but as another place where we meet Christ.

Where do you meet Christ?

I say "another place" deliberately, and in his congratulatory letter, a friend in a Franciscan monastery couldn't help but remind B.A. and me that marriage is the "least" of the sacraments. We giggled, but our friend was right. Baptism, Eucharist, Penance--these are the sacraments we most fiercely need. And two of those depend on someone, usually someone else, receiving the Sacrament of Orders.

"The Lord is my light and my salvation; of whom shall I be afraid?" (Ps. 27.1) Or, as it says on the cross I bought on a mini-pilgrimmage to visit St. Hildegard, "Der Herr ist mein Licht und mein Heil, vor wem sollte ich mich fuerchen?" I used to look at this cross in my cold student's bedroom in Boston and repeat this with my teeth gritted and my eyes filling with tears. When I was not writing or going about with Volker or Boston Girl, I was not very happy in Boston. However, I managed to say, "Your will be done" from time to time. "Your will be done."

It did not occur to me that God's will was that I would return home amid the wreckage of my PhD, crank out four manuscripts, visit Scotland, marry BA and live in a Historical House. I dreaded the first item, and I didn't as much as hope for the other ones, unknown possibilities too wild even for my febrile imagination. My one hope, the last I was left with, was that eventually I would accept what God had in store for me.

Practise makes perfect.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

The Gentle Art of Single Self-Defence

If it weren't bad enough, some days, to be Single, you Singles have to cope with Marrieds or Act-Like-Marrieds asking you why you're Single. Even worse, they give you--unasked--their private theories of why you're Single. How annoying is that? Can you imagine people giving me their theories as to why I don't have any children?

"You know, maybe you should invest in some nicer lingerie."

Really, people can be a pain.

Anyway, the reason why you're Single right now is that this is God's will. End of story. It doesn't matter if you are cranky, overweight, poorly paid, or whatever, because lots of cranky, overweight, poorly paid people get married. The Lord of History plunks the right people in each other's path, and there you go.

Look at me, I didn't even have to leave the house to get my future husband's attention. We met because he read my blog. I didn't HAVE "to get out there" or buy new clothes or change my hair or whatever. When he first laid eyes on me, I was wearing battered old glasses, and if I told you how crappy my outfit was the day he proposed, you would cry. Really, the one day I didn't wear a dress.

But telling people about me would take too long. A good defence is short and snappy. One of the best ones I know was Mae West's: when asked why she was Single, she said "Because I was born that way."

Now, as most of you guys are religious, you can just tell your naggers and well-wishers the real reason, which is that your Singleness is God's will. This should shut up a lot of people, either because they are religious and they have to admit you are right or look impious, or because they are not religious and God-talk embarrasses the snot out of them.

I hear in my mind's ear a conversation in South Bend, Indiana:

"Goodness, Mary Kate, how can such a beautiful girl still be Single?"

"Well, Aunt Joanie, I've prayed about this, and I've concluded it's God's will for me right now."

"Oh, um," says Aunt Joanie, totally embarrassed by the G-word. "Well, you know what they say: God helps those who help themselves!"

"Gracious," says Mary Kate. "Is that in the Bible? Anyway, that sounds like Pelagianism to me."


"You know, the idea that if you pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, independent of the help of God's Grace, you can reach perfection. St. Augustine was really down on that."


"Oh, Aunt Joanie, you're such a joker!"

With completely benighted atheists, you might not want to bother trying to feed them the strong meat of Christian truth. Instead you can impress them with Stoic fatality. "Che sera, sera," you say. "Whatever will be, will be. The future's not ours to see. Che sera, sera. Besides, all the good ones are either taken or gay."

This part is not true, incidentally. I wandered around for years saying all the good ones are either taken or gay, and there was B.A. on the other side of the ocean, bustling about, teaching philosophy, dating various Misses Wrong and wondering if he would ever make the jump to the Una Vera Fides, which he did two days after I arrived in Scotland. However, people love the line "all the good ones are either taken or gay" because it is a materialist cliche and unreflective people like atheists love materialist cliches.

Update: I see that it is the special day of "the land God gave to Cain." Happy Canada Day, mes amis!