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?