Thursday, 12 August 2010

Womanly Dignity

Goodness, what a preachy sounding title. I can just see the Pre-Raphaelite style painting now, never mind that the Pre-Raphaelite paintings were basically 1860s pin-ups.

I could write about Womanly Dignity with all the zeal of an ex-smoker fulminating against cigarettes, but I will try not to, for fear of falling from the moral high ground at the next opportunity. Give me a drink and a half, and I am suddenly seized by the impression that life is just one great game of "Truth or Dare."

My drink-inspired imprudence usually manifests itself as outrageous flirtation or awesomely inappropriate questions. The latter can be excused away in Britain as Colonial Gaucherie, for which all kindly Britons have made allowances since 1700. The former is somewhat worse, so I try to keep a lid on it around my husband's friends, although not necessarily around my friends' husbands, woe.

But there are much worse paths of betraying Womanly Dignity than channelling Lucille Ball or Mae-West-at-90, and gritted-tooth discipline and now marriage has directed me from them. I greatly blame Bizet for giving us Carmen, the Seville cigarette factory girl who hunted down her man, got him, and was later artistically murdered by him. Oh, how romantic! I came to school dressed as Carmen for Hallowe'en one year, and perhaps someone ought to have sent me to Sister Mary Anthony in Guidance for a little chat.

I have a policy of not discussing my sins on the internet, so I will not write a list of the many, many ways in which I have made an utter ass of myself over a man. They do not, thank God, include the murder of my own children so as to keep a man interested. I mention that only to remind you that some women will actually do that kind of thing, and what the Sam Hill is wrong with us? (Original Sin, probably; see Genesis 3:16b)

Feminist historians and philosophers have written about the various straitjackets women have been fitted into to keep us quiet and pliable. And so when the padded bras and girdles came off in the 1960s, the moral girdles came off, too. Now, I notice, the padded bras and girdles (now called shapers, etc.) are back, but the moral girdles have not returned. Getting drunk and chasing men are still politically correct.

The snappiest, easiest-to-remember, guide about womanly dignity re: men is called The Rules by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, which might surprise Fein and Schneider, since that is not the stated goal of the book. I should say that I do not agree entirely with The Rules, and I acknowledge that men simply hate it. One of the Rules should be (if it was not included in The Rules II), "Never Tell a Man You Have Read The Rules". Men think it is a CIA-style manual on mind control. However, I have always held that it is a good guide to never making an ass of yourself over a man.

My copy is away in Canada, so I will just give you a quick list of ways I think Single women are most likely to betray their womanly dignity. Keep in mind that I am not some sexist wacko. I love women, and I usually take our part against men (if need be), unless I think a particular woman is crazier than a sackful of ferrets. Even then, I am sure her behaviour is not entirely (if at all) her fault.

Seraphic's List of Don'ts

1. Writing letters or emails that contain the words "I feel" or "You are" to men.

2. Making social telephone calls to men you are interested in. If you have to (e.g. inviting them to a party), keep it short. If they phone you, keep it relatively short. You can talk to your playpen chum Scooter for hours, if you want. It's the hotties you need to be strict about.

3. Asking men out on dates. Invite them to parties, and see if they take the hint. But don't ask them out on dates. Don't invite them to be friends on Facebook, either. Wait and see if they invite YOU to be a friend on Facebook. Don't be so available. Really. I mean it.

4. Telling men your secrets. If you're dying to tell a man your secrets, go to a Catholic church on Saturday afternoon, go into a big box, and tell your secrets to the man on the other side of the grille. (If you're not Catholic, find an Anglican church with a sign inside claiming it is "Catholic." Then go into their box, but don't blame me if the man behind the grille turns out to be a woman.)

5. Reciting poetry or singing under their windows. It always feels like a great idea at the time. It isn't. Believe me.

6. Walking past their houses or workplaces accidentally on purpose. Doooon't do it! Dooooooooon't!

7. Wearing sexy clothes hoping that they'll notice. It always amuses me how horrified young women are when the wrong men notice them. Sadly, there is no sexy outfit out there that will entice only Mr. Wonderful and his respectful pals. I'm a big fan of knee-length skirts. I am a big enemy of thigh-bearing shorts, even when worn with black tights, which, though more modest, is severely ugh. I am also an enemy of skin-tight denim jeans, especially when worn with high heels and pointy toes. What happened to pretty? Can't we just be pretty?

8. Effing and blinding like a soldier sent out on a 20 mile march in the rain. It isn't becoming. Yes, sometimes it makes people laugh, but it really isn't becoming. Neither are arm-wrestling, getting tattooed, dressing like a drag king, fighting for women's ordination or smoking. If you are very feminine-looking and wish to shed a frighteningly goody-goody reputation, you may accept the occasional cigar. (BTW, Freud officially died of tongue cancer.)

9. Suggesting to a man that you have a romantic relationship. If you have to suggest it, it's probably not going to work out. But if it looks like a romantic relationship, and it quacks like a romantic relationship, you may ask "Is this a romantic relationship?" If he says No, dump him. If he says Yes, don't bring up the topic again until you have been dating for a year and he hasn't brought up the subject of marriage. You'll know when he has because he'll say something like, "So have you ever kind of, you know, thought that I might be, you know, the kind of guy you think you'd, uh, like to marry?" If you've been crying into your pillow every night waiting for him to say that, say "Yes." Then wait. Many men have this incredibly stupid idea that it is much more important to come up with a "Romantic Proposal" featuring cracker jack boxes, fancy dinners and a TV appearance than to set your mind at ease right where you are. So annoying!!!!

10. Putting out. No, no, no. If he loves you, you don't have to. And, anyway, you never have to. As Catholics and lots of other religious people know, you shouldn't. It will never, ever, ever make a man love you. Lots of men love the girlfriends they sleep with, but not all of them love the girfriends they sleep with. So, even if you don't believe God doesn't want you to do it, why take the risk? And don't tell me it doesn't really matter anyway because it does. It so does.


Jen D said...

Thanks for this excellent post! I have read The Rules and try to incorporate them into my life, but of course the temptation remains to try to jumpstart things with men to whom I am attracted.

The waiting is difficult, but I love how The Rules free me up to do other things in my life. Instead of JUST waiting, or trying to manipulate situations, I feel free to do my best at work, to fill up my weekends with plans with friends, and to go out of town when I feel like it.

In my last relationship I put everything aside for him, to be available as much as he 'needed' me, and to keep my time open for him outside of that just in case. My work, school, and sanity suffered - and the relationship didn't work out anyway! The Rules way makes so much more sense.

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

Just curious:

Why a cigar, but not a cigarette? (I'm allergic to tobacco smoke, so my curiosity is strictly academic.)


Seraphic said...

Cigars are classy, daring and expensive, whereas cigarettes are just cancer wrapped in paper. They have zero shock value for a woman. The only possible excuse for accepting a cigarette is to show off your cigarette holder.

I was a little afraid of my now-friend Wodkatonik because she she was so feminine, poised and proper. But then we were both at a Men's Schola dinner, and the Bass offered cigars, and Wodkatonik accepted one. And I thought, "Yay! Maybe I am not too zany for her to be friends with after all!"

A less happy cigar memory is standing on the front porch of a Jesuit residence smoking cigars while we all argued over the question of Karl Rahner's love life. At the time it all seemed so glamorously tough and one-of-the-boysish... Sigh.

Christine said...

Maybe I'll take a look at "The Rules," (which a grain of salt.) I have a hard time holding my own, especially in avoiding the trap of making myself "too available" with regard with my schedule on weekends, etc. Thanks for the recommendation!

fifi said...

I'm dying laughing over number 4! Too great!

Any other advice for women who are very feminine, trying to shed a frightfully goody-goody reputation? I can't bring myself to smoke, not anything.

fifi said...

Maybe the fact that I can't bring myself to smoke is the source of the frightful reputation? Hmmmm...

Seraphic said...

Nobody start smoking to lose a goody-goody rep or any other reason!!! Being offered a cigar is a rarity, at least in my experience. You're not allowed to carry one around yourself! The bulk of the goody-goody thrill is the surprise of all around when you accept it.

Barring cigars, I suggest a stick-on or paint-on tattoo, especially for an evening occasion. You could also incorporate a startling accessory into your daily outfits, like a Goth handbag or "Emily" T-shirt.

There is nothing wrong with a virtuous reputation. But you still want to look like a fun and friendly person who doesn't take life TOO seriously. This is best done through SMILING, though as it is easy to forget to smile, I suggest the occasional sly fake tattoo or Goth stuff.

sciencegirl said...

extra piercings, even just in your ears. It will give you an edge, at least in the eyes of some people. Eek, I couldn't though.

Listening to surprisingly dark or edgy music could help too, especially if your friends like talking about music. Anything that will surprise people (without being immoral) is great in my book.

theobromophile said...

LOVE number 4! :)

There is also a masculine dignity, of not throwing oneself at a woman who is not interested, in not propositioning her for sex, or not getting excessively drunk, etc. The errors that women are prone to are not those that men are just as prone to, but there's a human dignity that we should all try for.

We all know that I hate The Rules, and some of that hatred is because the book takes perfectly good ideas (have a life of your own, don't suffocate your significant other, have some dignity, etc.) and turns them into a self-serving mind-game. There isn't a good idea on this world that can't be twisted into a bad idea, and The Rules are a prime example.

The other thing that I hate, hate, hate about The Rules is the part wherein it told women to dumb down for men. While there's no point in making it an intellectual competition (because relationships aren't about one-upping each other), any man whose interest in you is predicated on you being "smart but not as smart" is a lousy catch. Your relationship will also suck, too.

Seraphic said...

Theob: where does it do that? I don't remember that. My copy's in Canada, so you'll have to quote chapter and verse.