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!


IA_ said...

Maybe people say "all the good ones are taken or gay" because it excuses them for not having a spouse.

If people keep telling them, "you should be more outgoing," etc, it is pretty easy to get the impression that you're single because of what you have done or failed to do.

The taken or gay phrase is a defensive way of saying, "its not my fault!"

Happy Canada Day.

Kate P said...

I try to hope that the good ones that are taken or gay have nice available friends.

Happy Canada Day to my neighbors to the north!

leonine said...

Well, funnily enough, I did have this conversation in South Bend, Indiana. It went like this:

Nurse (while trying to find a vein in my arm): No husband?
Me (hyperventilating and trying very hard not to look at the needle that's big enough to draw blood from an elephant): Excuse me?
Nurse (still poking around in arm): You're a very pretty girl; I thought that when I saw you come in. I thought, 'There's a very pretty girl; I wonder why she doesn't have a husband.'
Me: Well, I've got a couple graduate degrees instead.

It wasn't a great line, but it was enough to change the topic of conversation and was the best I could do while my stomach turned over as I watched that needle out of the corner of my eye. I'll be using Mae West's line in the future.

One of the reasons people shouldn't make comments like this is that it's impossible know the whole story. For all she knew, my husband could have died the day before. The woman who answers questions about why she doesn't have children might have just had a painful miscarriage or be in treatment for ovarian cancer or any number of things.

On another note, I have a question, Auntie Seraphic. How does one retain hope in this whole process? [Dating, not-dating, breaking up, dating the wrong people, responding to irritating questions, watching the number of single friends dwindle, etc.] I'm sure the answer is, as always, "pray more," but do you have any other words of advice?

Seraphic said...

I will ponder this and answer in the morning, d.v.

In theology school, I was taught by a very good young Jesuit, "Pray briefly but often." This, however, was advice for everybody, not just Singles.

Hope is a many-splendoured thing. I will sleep on it.

theobromophile said...

Great post, Seraphic. :) Love Mae West's line.

It doesn't matter if you are cranky, overweight, poorly paid, or whatever, because lots of cranky, overweight, poorly paid people get married.

Another giant THANK YOU, because there's no shortage of women who claim that the way to find a man is to spend untold hours styling your hair, putting on make-up, wearing cute and semi-revealing clothes, getting one's nails done, etc., because "Best foot forward, honey!"

The taken or gay phrase is a defensive way of saying, "its not my fault!"

IA_said: I disagree.

I've dated some people and thought, "Decent person, not for me, and I hope he finds someone who is perfect for him and makes him happy", but even more men who are just bad people.

I usually say snarky things like "All the good ones are taken or gay" after a particularly bad run of men. It's not me trying to defend myself against it being my fault; it's absolute frustration. Single I can take; the same cannot be said of being thrown up against furniture, having men grab at my chest, and being chucked after two dates because I won't sleep with him. (Usually, one of my friends says something like, "Take me back to the Mothership; I've seen enough of this planet and its inhabitants" after things like that, but I lack her wit and philosophical outlook.)

Also, it's often said in response to, "There's loads of good guys out there, why haven't you found one yet?", as if we are deliberately disregarding this great treasure trove of awesome men who are just waiting around to rub our feet and gaze into our eyes. Sometimes, the best response to inanity is an equally inane statement, and "taken or gay" fits the bill.

hip2bsquare said...

I'm a bit confused. Are you suggesting that singles should not do anything proactive to move toward marriage (or else they're guilty of Pelagianism)? Or are you only suggesting that this line be used to quiet overly-inquisitive relatives?

It seems to me like it would be very hard for a man to get ordained as a priest (assuming he indeed had a vocation) if he didn't take some proactive steps, like talking to priest friends about vocations, going to the seminary, etc. Why would pursing the married life be any different?

I understand that the initiative lies with God, but once that invitation is issued, isn't it up to us to respond to it?

Of course, if I'm being heretical, please set me straight.

Seraphic said...

Cultural rules are slightly different for men and women. Women are naturally reluctant to chase men because A) they are sneered at for doing so and B) there is very often no point. Men, however, can (in general) court women with impunity.

I respect that people WANT to get married, but I don't believe people experience a clear CALL to be married unless they meet a specific person they feel destined to marry.

Marriage is not a "vocation" in the strictest sense, but the natural earthly end of the human person. A celibate vocation is an invitation OUT of the general stampede to marriage.

Men who have not received a vocation in the strictest sense and would very much like to find a lovely woman to marry and have children should indeed "get out there and meet women" as did their forefathers. Women, however, do not have this, believe it or not, comparatively easy solution.

The use of the word "Pelagianism" is a bit tongue-in-cheek, something to wallop aunts with. As a matter of fact, most Single women have done their best to "get out there", very often with heartbreaking results.

hip2bsquare said...

Ah, well that clears it all up. A belated Happy Canada Day to you!