Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Auntie Seraphic & Just a Male Friend

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

I think I have inadvertently given a Nice Catholic Girl the idea that I may be interested in her romantically. The fact is that I'm not; she's a nice girl who I enjoy talking to, but there just isn't that spark of attraction on my part.

I would be lying if I didn't say that this lack of attraction is mostly physical (though I'm a great believer in your axiom that men find attractive who they find attractive; most of the women I've been really into were not conventional beauties but were extremely beautiful to me all the same). Attraction is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for a relationship.

There's also the fact that she occasionally runs herself down in conversation, mentioning out of the blue that she wasn't popular and didn't have many friends in high school. Those things don't matter to me, but I'm very wary of girls with obvious self-esteem issues because it's hard to love someone when they don't believe they are lovable.

Anyway, I'd like your advice as to how to back off as gracefully as possible, with a minimum of hurt feelings.

My story goes like this: in the last couple months I've been frequenting a young adult Catholic group in my area. They meet weekly and I go [irregularly but often]. I knew a couple of the people who run the group from being in the wider [local] young adult Catholic social network, but I didn't know them particularly well. I consider myself to be a slightly extroverted person--I very much prefer to go out and be social than to sit at home alone--but I'm not a social butterfly and need time to warm up to a new group of people. When I do make friends, I tend to take a while to branch out.

I first remember meeting this NCG when about six of us went [somewhere] as a group-sponsored social gathering. We had a long wait in line, so I asked her about herself and we talked for quite a while. Later, at regular meetings of the group, I'd talk to her because I'd already gotten to know her better. She friended me on Facebook. A couple of weeks ago, at our diocese's Theology on Tap, she manned the hostess table. I must admit that I spent nearly all entire time talking to her (she, one of her friends, and I closed down the place).

Lately, I've been getting the vibe that she's into me. She encourages me to stay out later for the post-meeting social activities. She "likes" a large number of my Facebook status messages, even inane ones like "Happy Thanksgiving." She greatly encouraged me to show up to an event that the young adult group sponsored.

This may sound like thin gruel; perhaps I'm over compensating for past incidents when I failed to comprehend that a woman who asked for my phone and put her number in it at a party was interested in me romantically. I'm trying to trust my gut on this one.

I don't think I should just stop talking to her because, from what was discussed on your blog this weekend, that drives women crazy, apparently. I would like to continue the casual friendship that we have, but I think I need to act differently to avoid giving her the wrong impression.

Thank you so much for hearing me out. I eagerly await your advice.

Just a Male Friend

Dear Just a Male Friend,

How happy I am that you have written in, for we all love a guy's eye view and we all want to know what turns guys off. Wrong physical type. Check. Runs self down. Check.

I think your gut has got it right. Encouraging you to stay later and avidly following you on Facebook, complete with constant "likes" (including to "Happy Thanksgiving"), are indeed indications that a woman is into you. And as she friended YOU on Facebook, she obviously does not read Seraphic Singles because I hold that asking an eligible young man to be your "Friend" is just as bad as calling him up on the phone.

However, the girl may have got the impression that YOU were into HER because sometimes she seems to be the only person you speak to at events. I am shaking my finger at you. On the other hand, she ought to have introduced you to other people to speak to. If she did, though, I am shaking my finger at you again. Even though you knew she wasn't your type, neither she nor the people around her knew that. Without realizing it, you have may have been "making her conspicuous with your attentions", to use an ancient phrase.

Fortunately, your gut has told you what is up, so it is time to let the poor girl down as gently as possibly. Subtle is good. Women understand subtle. Therefore, I recommend that you change your status update to read "....is looking for a woman just like Rita Hayworth" or any other screen siren who very much takes your fancy and does not look at all like this girl.

The beauty of this is that you are stating who you DO want and not who you don't want. It is entirely honest yet positive. And this girl, who reads your status updates avidly, will not be able to prevent herself from comparing herself to Rita Hayworth or whomever you have chosen. (If the girl has red hair or is Hispanic, make sure you do NOT choose Rita Hayworth!) If she is a girl's girl, she will ask her female friends what they think, and the loving-but-unthinking ones will say you are shallow, and the loving-and-thinking ones will say, "Well, men love whom they love and not whom you wish."

Every once in a while repeat the Rita Hayworth theme, e.g. "....is still looking for a Rita Hayworth of his own " or "...saw a woman just like Rita Hayworth but wearing a wedding ring, alas" or "...wonders what the Aga Khan had that he doesn't have." That should do the trick.

Of course, it may not, and having derooted herself from reality and now floating amid the clouds of dreamland, this girl may ask you out. If she does, then you will be forced to say the dreaded, "Just as friends, right?" And, mortified, she will say, "Yah, of course!" And then you will say, "Great! Who else is going?" And it will be turned into a group event, and as she will not talk to you once anyway, feel free to cancel your own involvement.

P.S. to Female Readers: Five points:

1. You are somebody's type. Not everybody's, but somebody's. Imagine my excitement when I discovered that funny blogger Benedict Ambrose had had a lifelong crush on singer Dame Emma Kirby, who has fuzzy red hair and could have been my aunt. That was an awesome moment.

2. Never run yourself down in front of a man. Are you insane? High school is over, and unless you are now engaged to a man, mention only the good parts or not at all. Nobody wants to hear about how unpopular you were. Zzz.

3. If a man is interested in you, HE will befriend YOU on Facebook.

4. If you are single, and you inanely press "Like" to all his comments, he might start wondering if you are into him.

5. Never give a man more than half an hour or so of your time at a social event before he asks you on a date. Introduce him around. Excuse yourself to talk to other people. Be nice, be hospitable, but for heaven's sake don't be so darned available.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Not-Yet-Saint Dorothy Day's Day

Imagine a woman--a journalist, a feminist and a socialist--who has been drawn all her life to Catholicism. She thinks the Traditional Latin Mass is the most beautiful thing she has ever seen. She watches Catholics of all ages praying in their silent candlelit churches and loves them. She would be Catholic, too, if it didn't mean having to give up her zeal for social justice and her anti-marriage live-in lover, the father of her child.

But then she discovers that the Catholic Church is on the side of social justice. In fact, the Catholic Church has a pile of documents on the subject. Although Catholics seem to loathe communism, they love the poor. In fact, quite often they ARE the poor.

The woman has her baby baptised. And then, sadly, because she knows this means she must say good-bye to the man she loves but will never marry her, she leaves him and becomes a Roman Catholic. She becomes, in fact, Dorothy Day.

I love Dorothy Day. I think she was a latter day female St. Francis of Assisi. And there is something in Day for everyone to love. When it came to God, she demanded everything for God. When it came to the poor and to peace, she demanded everything for the poor and for peace.

Conservative or liberal? She simply could not be shoved into boxes. She protested the behaviour of a Cardinal Archbishop of New York towards diocesan workers, but she wouldn't allow her co-workers to insult him as he was, and I quote, "the Vicar of Christ in New York."

She was the editor of The Catholic Worker and with Peter Maurin, to whom I frankly think she always gave too much credit, she founded the Catholic Worker movement. And at the same time, she loved the Eucharist so much that when a trendy priest said Mass at the Catholic Worker using a coffee cup, Day buried the coffee cup in the back yard so that it could never be used for a mundane, profane purpose.

She was a radical, a complete peacenik, a marcher in the streets, and yet she lived a life of complete chastity after her conversion, refusing even to see her daughter's father, as she feared this would be an occasion for sin.

Dorothy Day was a modern woman with a checkered sexual past before she converted to Catholicism and brought her personal life in line with her zeal for social justice. Like many saints, she was appalled by the idea that she might be "made" into a saint, and certainly her not-quite-so-loyal-to-the-magisterium Catholic Worker friends and followers made no move until recently to set a canonisation process in motion. (To be fair, it is expensive and Day herself would have kittens that money that could have gone on the poor is being spent on that.) But I think she is a saint. For decades she dressed only in the horrible cast-offs sent to the Catholic Worker for the poor, and this thought alone always makes me want to cry.

Dorothy Day is a marvellous model for any single woman, I think, but particularly for any single mother, divorced Catholic woman, or even just a woman who is unhappy about her sexual past. Today is the 30th anniversary of her death, which I am relatively sure is her birthday into heaven, and I think the best way to celebrate is to encourage all my dear readers to read about her adventurous and eventually holy life.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

The Goodness of Gut

There was a flurry of fuss over yesterday's post.

Clio was first in the comments box, sure she could smell a Pick Up Artist/Gamer all the way from Canada.

Invocante, however, felt sure I had corrected pegged "Confused"'s suitor as a good-hearted man initially as confused as confusing.

Kate was rightly shocked by the emailing, etc, going on behind the (alleged) girlfriend's back.

Clio expanded more on PUA/Gamer technique, and I began to panic, especially as Easily Swayed pointed out that sometimes guys DO 'make' you love them. I don't know if Easily Swayed knows this, but using dirty tricks to snare a girl is the whole point of Game.

Rosemary gave Mr. Confusion the benefit of the doubt, and then Theobromophile observed that the expensive restaurant was way over-the-top for a first date and voted "Gamer".

What was an Auntie to do?

I'll tell you what I did. I emailed "Confused By This Man" and asked her. And it turns out that Mr. Confusion did tell her what he had been thinking for eight months. The problem is, he did it with so much drama and feeling that "CBTM" was alarmed. Her gut said, in short "No way," and that, poppets, is good enough for me.

Clio has been suckered by Game, and so have I. Alas. The Gamer was so angry that I ran away (with help from my friends the police, the Sexual Harrassment Office and my spiritual director) that months later he left mean comments on a literary website I wrote for, signing them Mystery. Mystery is the name of a Game expert back home; I suspect Mr Psycho had actually taken his PUA courses. Meanwhile, I turned my experiences of what emotional and psychological abuse ("gaslighting") does to the psyche into the year-end paper for my Lonergan's Insight course. I got A+, which just goes to shows you that good can indeed come out of evil.

I have no idea if Mr Confusion is a Gamer. Never met the man. But "CBTM" thinks he might be, and I believe firmly in feminine intuition. Feminine intuition is Experiencing, Understanding, Judgment happening so rapidly, you simply don't have time to ponder it. Sometimes you just know you're in danger, and you get out. If you start to doubt yourself, you could be in for serious trouble.

If Clio is up for it, I'd like her to do a guest post on Game, the psychological dirty tricks men learn and use to break down a woman's reserve and chastity. I don't know very much about it, so I'll just outline two well-known techniques.

The first one is the "neg" or mild put-down. A man walks up to a pretty girl, someone he is relatively sure gets over-the-top compliments all the time, and says something off-kilter about her to get her attention. One neg that has stuck in my mind was by a man addressing two beauties dressed identically in white. He said, "You two look like dirty little snowflakes." It worked like magic. "What do you MEAN?" wailed the girls. Used to praise, the non-praise confused and worried them. They wanted things set right.

The second one is--well, I don't know its official name, but it's when a man showers a woman with attention and compliments and then doesn't call. He doesn't call and he doesn't call and when he meets up with the woman again he showers her with more attention. And then doesn't call. So guess what many a woman does in that situation? Right. She calls him. Suckered! And it is for the same reason as above: she wants things set right.

The saddest question women ask is "What did I do?" "What did I do?" we ask when the man who was so kind doesn't call us. "What did I do?" we ask when the man who was so kind slaps us across the face. "What did I do?" we ask when the man who was so kind kicks us down the stairs. But this is a pointless question, because we didn't do anything. We were suckered by a creep, and quite a lot of the time, if we are honest, we admit that there was something we didn't do, which was to listen to our gut's warnings against him.

I love men. They are our brothers. Life would be dull without them. They are the caffeine in the cappuccino of life. Women who go into cloistered convents are making a real sacrifice. But this does not cancel out the fact that some men will lie, cheat, steal, drug, rape--do anything, in short, to have sex with the woman they want to have sex with. Some? Many. And it has always been this way. The earliest law codes have laws against rape and seduction, and that is because they were needed.

Today only a few brave women attempt to sue men for their lies; "breach of promise" cases are rarely heard of these days. But there is something we still have: our gut. If you feel uncomfortable around a man, don't feel guilty. Just get away from him. ASAP. No man is worth sacrificing your peace of mind for.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Auntie Seraphic & Confused By This Man

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

I was wondering if you could shed some [light] on this particular situation. I met a nice, handsome, physically attractive man at a monthly Catholic discussion group this past year. I continued to "run" into him for the next 3 months and we talked before and after each event for anywhere from 2-4 hours. We agreed on many things and had wonderful conversations; soon we were exchanging frequent emails and IMing with an occasional phone call. He brought up dating me, but told me that could not be possible because of a reason he wasn't free to tell me. Then, he finally told me he was dating someone else, but couldn't possibility end it with her. I was hurt, but we kept talking at the Catholic discussion group, I tried to avoid him, but he would always come and talk to me & sit next to me. He continued to email, etc., and I couldn't help but respond, as he had made me really like him. [Auntly editorial remark: Hee hee!]

One day he asked me out on a date. He suggested we go to Mass together and then brunch; maybe a walk. I accepted. When we parked in the church parking lot before Mass, I was about to open the car door, when he leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. (Now, keep in mind this is before a 10 am Mass on Sunday morning). I was surprised and flustered, mumbling something like "Oh, not so fast" with a laugh and quickly got out of the car. All through Mass the thoughts the raced through my head were that a) I didn't know him that well (for a kiss) b) this was our first date c) it wasn't even midway through or the end of the date. I'd heard of ending dates with kisses, but never beginning one with one. After Mass, he acted funny towards me and ended by a rushed drop off at my car and didn't take me out to brunch as he had planned.

I didn't hear from him for nearly 8 months, for he wasn't at my Catholic discussion group any longer. I moved on & forgot about him, dating a few other guys. This month he reappeared at my Catholic discussion group. He found me again, he initiated a conversation, and we talked. He told me he had broken up with the girl he was dating. A day or so later he called me up and wanted to go on another date. I agreed and he took me to an expensive restaurant and treated me like the Queen of Sheba all evening. We had a superb time and superb conversation.

I am confused by his behavior and am uncertain as to whether to continue the relationship. One part of me wants to think there is some reasonable explanation for kissing a woman one hardly knows before a morning Mass and curtailing a date so abruptly. The other half still won't let him pick me up at my apartment, meets him at a designated location and I wonder why did he kiss me like that at the odd time?

So, I am wondering if you have any bits of inspiration/ insight or such about this situation?

Confused By This Man

Dear Confused By This Man,

I see why you're confused. I was confused, too. My hair was standing on end as I first read your email.

When I read your first paragraph, I thought, "Game playing jerk. Tired of his girlfriend. Wants the thrill of being bad."

When I read your second paragraph, I thought, "Extremely fresh! Who kisses a girl like that right out of the blue BEFORE MASS?" When he ran away afterwards, completely breaking the date, I thought, "What a jerk!"

When I read your third paragraph, I softened up and reflected, "Well, eight months later is a long time. And he is certainly doing everything right now."

Then I read your fourth paragraph and perceived your ambivalence. Therefore, my question was "What do you want to do?" Do you really like this guy? Is this someone you respect? Or do you feel in your gut that he is addicted to drama? I am a big believer in women's gut instincts. I applauded your caution.

Now, more than a week later, I reread the whole thing and think the guy might not be that jerky or messed up after all. It sounds more like he got a massive crush on beautiful you, was unsure what this meant about his feelings for his girlfriend, ran away to try and resolve the situation with his girlfriend, and then when that was done, came back to woo you.

Because he is the one pursuing (and how) and you're not sure how you feel about him, you are risking nothing by actually asking what was going on in the church parking lot that morning. The next time you are out, and having a great conversation (when he's relaxed), you can say "About that time in the church parking lot. What was that about?"

It could be that he really liked you, risked kissing you in case you might kiss him back, felt awful all through Mass because of that other girl, and then ran off in guilty embarrassment. Having thought about this for more than a week now, I am inclined to think that this is the most likely explanation. He's probably THAT into you. But, more importantly, are you that into him?

My auntly instinct still says to ask questions about his weird behaviour and continue to be cautious until you know him much better.

By the way, I shake my finger at you for claiming he made you like him and text him back when you knew he had a girlfriend. Although I understand how seductive a young man can be, he could not actually steal your free will. You texted him back because you wanted to, poppet, and this suggests to me that you are (or were) that into him. And that bit is okay. Admiring an attractive man is in itself a beautiful thing in a woman. Although we should be prudent about it (e.g. not telling all and sundry), it's nothing to be ashamed of. It's what you do with those feelings that can be problematic.

Grace and peace,

P.S. To all readers: don't forget to tune into my interview on Salt + Light TV (being streamed "live" over their webpage) at 9 PM Eastern (e.g. Toronto) Time on Friday, November 26, 2010 (i.e. the day I wrote this post). At very least, you will hear what a very typical Toronto/Ontario accent sounds like. I think I sound disturbingly like Margaret Atwood and wish I sounded more like a Scotswoman, frankly!

Me on TV

Oh, goodie! I shall be on Salt + Light TV today. The interview was filmed in April, and now here is where you can watch it live tonight. (No need for a TV; your computer can show it!) I can't remember the time zone thing, but I think it is on at 9 PM for those of you in (and under) Ontario and Quebec.

Salt + Light TV is the Canadian Catholic TV station. How I would love to give an interview on EWTN. Hint hint.

I see that the book is available for sale through the Paulines. The Canadian publisher of Seraphic Singles is, of course, Novalis. And the American publisher of The Closet's All Mine is Liguori. The Canadian version has Canadian spelling and soft creamy paper. The American version has American spelling and crisp, white paper. I prefer Canadian spelling, but the American paper.

The Salt + Light interview was great fun. There was a lot of fussing with my microphone, I seem to recall, and also with my hair, but overall it was a great experience, much less scary than talking about Easter on the Michael Coren Show. Nine PM in Toronto is 2 AM tomorrow in the UK, so I might not being seeing this episode myself. If you see it, let me know in the combox how it went.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner Challenge

Contestants must be Single, American, between the ages of 12 to 112, and attending a big Thankgiving Dinner tonight.

The rules are simple: every time someone asks you today or tonight, in the context of a Thanksgiving gathering, if you have a boyfriend (or girlfriend) yet, OR asks when you are getting married, you get a point. You get a point for every family member who chips in, too.

For example:

Uncle Art: So when are you getting hitched, Mary Claire? (1 Point)

Aunt Kate: Art. Mary Claire has plenty of time, don't you, dear? After all, you're only 28. (1 Point)

Helpful Brother Bobby: She's 32.

Aunt Kate: Really? (Looks appalled.) Oh dear. (1 point)

Grandma (slighly deaf): And have you found anyone special, dear? (1 point).

Another Example

Aunt Mary: And where's that young man I've been hearing about, Grace? (1 Point)

Grace: He's with his family in Wasilla.

Uncle Mike (chanting): I once knew a girl in Wasilla/who thought a new man would fulfilla. (2 Points--horrible limericks inspired by your love life are worth 2 Points)

Aunt Sue (wife of above): Mike.

Uncle Mike: Is his last name Palin? (1 Point)

Cousin Jerry: Are there Palin sons?

Aunt Mary: You wouldn't marry a Republican, would you, Grace? (1 Point)

Grace's Mother: He's very apolitical, apparently. (1 Point)

Grace: Do you mind not discussing him when he's not here?

Grace's Entire Family: Oooo-ooooh! (1 point)

After collecting your points, you must redeem them here in the combox, offering as proof of each point more-or-less what your relation said. Cite your dinner host's state of residence (e.g. Illinois).

No fair egging your relations to humilate you. The winning contestant must be an innocent victim.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Single at Thanksgiving Dinner

Tomorrow my American readers celebrate Thankgiving, and it won't be fun for all of them.

Thankgiving is a traditional family day when feelings of disappointment and resentment that one's own family is not perfect bubble up like boiling turkey gravy. To encourage these feelings, there is American football for the men to watch on television while the women cook and clean. And on top of that is the dreaded, "Any boyfriend yet, dear?" question aunts and grandmothers can't stop themselves from asking.

How to cope?

Back in 2006, my advice was not to go and, when your mother said "AAAAAAAUGH" at the news of your non-advent, to say that you are sick of people giving you a hard time for not being married.

I'm not sure how practical that is. However, I must say that I believe firmly in being rooted in reality, so if you have regretted every time you have gone home for Thanksgiving for the past five years, you should probably not be in an airport today. There is no law that says you have to go home for Thanksgiving. There's no law that says your mother has to cook Thanksgiving Dinner. In fact, if you are calling your mother to say you aren't coming, why not suggest she escape the whole thing herself by flying out to you? You and Mom, fugitives together, the men wandering around, reading cookbooks instead of watching football, poking at the turkey to see if it has thawed yet... I'm loving it.

But if you think you can go home for Thanksgiving without accruing an unacceptable amount of psychic damage, then there are still some things you can do. For example, assign yourself a point for every time someone mentions your Single state. The goal is to get as many points as possible without mentioning your Singleness yourself. Post results here in my commbox.

The answer to "Why is such a lovely girl (handsome boy) still Single?" is, of course, "Because I was born that way." If relations push, however, tell them it is because you have always been in love with (married) Cousin [Whomever] and have despaired of ever finding a man/woman who can compare. Do this in the most dramatic fashion possible, wiping away invisible tears with your dinner napkin. If you have no cousins, pick some other relation with a sense of humour. There's nothing like a fine incest joke to change the topic pronto. (Obviously, think of something else if there is an incest survivor at the table. Say you were holding out for Prince William/Kate Middleton and it's a very difficult time for you right now.)

In short, you have to be funny. Just because your relations are making you feel terrible doesn't mean that you need to lose your dignity by wailing, sulking, snapping back or doing anything else that will give your aunts gossip fodder for months. You can bitch about it all later with friends, but for now grace under pressure.

Incidentally, nobody's family is perfect. And almost everyone gets the gears for being unmarried some time.

Between twelve and three years ago, none of my mother's children were married, and this annoyed her very much. My father did not have cousins his age because in his father's family almost nobody got married. His grandfather had a dozen children, and something like only one of them got married, and he so late that my dad had only one brother, who died unmarried... Marrying never or late, my mother long ago decided, was something that came from her husband's side of the family.

One holiday, as she was cooking the dinner or baking the cookies, my mother stared fiercely at all her flock of children and announced, with frustration, "You're all a bunch of bachelor Cummingses!" But then her green eye fell upon me, meek, divorced and constantly dating Mr Wrong. "Well," she amended. "Except for you."

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Staying Rooted in Reality

Sorry I'm late today. First I wrote for money, then I rushed off for coffee with Calvinist Cath, and then I came home and surfed like mad for the latest news on the Pope's statement. You know which statement.

I got a fascinating letter this morning, but I haven't finished thinking about it, so I won't put it up yet. My answer was, as it so often is, to stay rooted in reality.

One of the best books about staying rooted in reality is Bernard Lonergan's Insight, which is over 800 pages long, so you might want to save that for a rainy day. Another great book about staying rooted in reality is He's Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo. I'm talking about the self-help book, not the movie, poppets.

HJNTIY is way thinner than Lonergan's Insight and much funnier, too. By now you should be able to find it in used book stores for $1 (or £1), and I recommend it with the usual reservations, i.e. it does not apply as well to religious men. Ol' Greg holds that if a man is Just That Into You, he is sleeping with you, and obviously that is not true of religious men, at least, any religious man you should be involved with. Of course, if he is Just That Into You, he would like to sleep with you, but doesn't 'cause you're not married yet. Et cetera.

Greg's thesis is that when men are That Into You, there is no guesswork. Not exactly the subtle sex, when men are That Into You they call you up and ask you out and pay for your dinner and give you flowers and even little presents and generally try to impress you. They don't allow weeks to elapse between phone calls. They don't ponder their supposed call to the priesthood. (Okay, I say that, not Greg. Obviously Greg's life is not as complicated as ours.)

Now, when discussing this supposed jumping-to-action of men with Cath, I realized that to accept Greg's thesis is to accept his anthropology of men. What if men have changed? What if men are the new women? What if men loiter at home, carefully blow-drying their hair, waiting for the phone to ring and strong women to whisk them away in snazzy cars to French restaurants? But then I decided that that is moot because who really wants that kind of man anyway? It's much better to wait for one of the old-style models to come along.

Meanwhile, when I ponder the stories of happily married friends, the narrative always seems to be that he liked her and plotted to get her and she was, like, huh? wha--?, and the wedding rocked. I am cudgelling my brain for a story of a pal who chased down her man, lassoed him and brought him, happily protesting, to the altar, but I can't think of one. And I know some very mild-mannered men. One of them started his pursuit by organizing a party at his home for all his workmates in the hope that his pretty workmate would attend. She did. They've been married for yonks.

Anyway, although it can be disspiriting, I must say that I prefer Greg's somewhat brutal approach to months and years of daydreaming about some friendly-but-generally-uninterested-in-you bloke. Of course, some imaginations just need a tenant. Heaven knows I always had a crush on the go from the age of 4.

If that sounds like you, I suggest inventing The Perfect Hero in your imagination, not based on any one living man, and writing a Christian romance novel about him. And when that one is done, and all your girl friends have read it, send it to a publisher. Then invent a new perfect hero, and write a Christian romance novel about him. Who is Theodore (Laurie) Lawrence but the wish-fulfillment of Louisa May Alcott, after all? And he made her rich!

Ooooh! Just imagine. All the earning potential of a real man, but none of the laundry or snores. And finally--all that daydreaming harnessed and used for something useful. ;-D

Monday, 22 November 2010

Auntie Seraphic & Humble Newcomer

Humble Newcomer said I could make up her pseudonym, so that's what I came up with.

Dear Seraphic,

I have been so blessed to find your blog and read your advice. My own question is more religious than romantic in nature, but I think you will have good advice for me. I have recently moved to a fantastic city, where, for the first time in my life, I am practically surrounded by NCBs. Before I moved here, I lived in an area of the country where there were very few other Catholics. I found that I was worshiping in a bubble of sorts, with no real knowledge of what was going on in other parishes.

Now I am here, and these fantastic guys (and gals) are WAY more traditional than I am. Honestly, I had no idea that there was so much variation in the Catholic Church. I was raised in what I'm learning were not-so-traditional parishes. At first, I was worried that these NCBs might not be interested in me because I'm "not Catholic enough," but honestly, I've never known anything different.

First of all, can you recommend any resources for me to consult before I have to put my foot in my mouth again? (I've been embarrassed at not knowing the variation of the Rosary that is prayed here.)

Second, one of these nice young men has shown an interest in me, and the interest is very much mutual. What is the best way to approach such differences in our understanding of the faith? I'm completely willing to learn, and in fact, I'm finding that I really enjoy a more traditional approach, but in the meantime, I find the differences between how I learned the faith, and how my friends practice it very intimidating.

Thanks in advance for any advice you may be able to provide.

Humble Newcomer

Dear Humble Newcomer,

First, all my readers should have your problem. Nice Catholic Boys everywhere? Huh! The last time I was surrounded by Nice Catholic Boys, they were mostly seminarians, male religious and very young priests. And since I was an abject failure at running away with any of them, it's a miracle I ever got married at all.

Second, if you were baptised and confirmed, go to Mass on Sunday, and try to live according to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, you are Catholic enough for anybody. Don't let some cranky woman in a black mantilla or some hippy priest in a T-shirt tell you differently.

Third, a traditional approach to Catholicism is indeed a great joy. Before I came to Scotland, I had been to only one Traditional Latin Mass and I had found it boring. But now I go to a TLM every Sunday and write a column on traditional devotions. The short-term cause for these activities is my super-trad-loving convert husband. The long-term cause was the yawning gulf between what I studied in theology courses and ordinary parish masses. Before I moved to TLMland, I had become so annoyed by the dumbed-down approach of too many English-speaking priests that I was going to Mass in German.

Having spent your life in parishes where people clap for the choir is no block to full participation in a more traditional take on Catholic life. If you don't know or understand something, just ask. Young men love to lecture. They LOVE it. They will chase you around the room to explain why maniples are so important or why they think a Rosary said without the prayer to St. Michael at the end is no Rosary at all. So don't worry about putting your foot in it: just ask. If people voice surprise at anything you say, just blame the 1970s, as in "I guess my religion textbook was published in the 1970s!" This should get guffaws of laughter from anyone fun born after 1970.

As for a quick course in where the kids are at these days, I recommend daily reading of "What Does the Prayer Really Say" by Father Z and biweekly reading of "Mad Trad Corner" by little me. In printed material, there is Catholic Matters by Richard John Neuhaus, Good-bye Good Men by Michael Rose, Why Catholics Can't Sing by Thomas Day and The Spirit of the Liturgy by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. There are also, of course, the New Testament and the Catechisms: the big green one of today and the tiny Baltimore Catechism of yore. In any doubt, off you go to Sacred Scripture and the big green book.

Although young people today are rightly suspicious of the soi-disant "Spirit" of Vatican II, there is nothing wrong with the documents of Vatican II. Of course, they must be read not as a break with Catholic tradition but in continuity with it. This is not hard to do with, for example, Sancrosanctum Consilium. In liturgical matters, I recommend also Redemptionis Sacramentum , which hoped to stem the tide of horrors brought by those claming to be faithful to the "Spirit" of Vatican II. And, of course, although almost an entire generation rejected Humanae Vitae, your generation and mine are willing to rise to the challenge. If you have bags of time, read anything by Benedict XVI on the liturgy and anything by John Paul II on women.

I hope this is helpful, and may I say that I find your humility and willingness to learn most edifying and endearing. Just don't let anyone boss you around or make you feel bad.

Grace and peace,

Update: A new-to-me review of my book. Yay! Thank you!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Saturday Night Open Forum

Well, poppets, all I can think of to write tonight about is that I didn't have to worry about getting the Christmas cake started in time when I was Single because my mother did all the Christmas baking.

I must confess that the last year I was Single, I just stayed in my room writing and convalescing from illness, and my mum did everything. Clean laundry appeared like magic. I was totally spoiled. Boo hoo hoo. And now I have to do everything--except make most dinners because B.A. likes to cook. Wah, sniff.

Okay, so tell Auntie what you are doing on this last Saturday night of the liturgical year, and what you would like for Christmas.

Friday, 19 November 2010

The Importance of Being Friends

Now this is a hard post to write because when I married I left most of my friends behind me in Canada and the USA. And this is the traditional lot of the married. To get married is usually to leave behind the freedoms of celibacy and settle down. You begin to orbit around home, spouse, children (if they arrive) and job (if you have one). If you have moved away, you get bulletins on what you are missing: at So-and-So's PhD ceremony, she was told five minutes before that she had won the Governor's Medal. (And it kills me that I was not there to see her face.)

Another thing about moving away is that it becomes harder to make friends. At home, you are the gracious, welcoming one. You know the ropes, the local customs, the best cheap restaurants. In your new town, you greatly depend on the kindness of strangers. And for some reason, I keep thinking of a dear friend who went to Cairo and initially went to cafes to meet and chat with musicians and other artists; she quickly discovered that these friendly types assumed all women who did that were prostitutes. In educated circles in Toronto, making friends with men (and other married women) is no big deal; elsewhere it is a torturous business, rife with misunderstanding.

But this is not a blog for married women like me, but for Catholic Singles and other Singles of good will. I don't have the answer to how to make friends when you are married. But I would like to encourage my Single readers to make as many friends and acquaintances as you can while you can. There is no point sitting alone at home thinking that only marriage will cure your loneliness. It will not. Without friends, you will be lonely even when/if you are married.

I often get emails from Single women detailing their disappointment with social events, how they haven't yet been approached for a date. My advice is to stop thinking of social events as husband-hunting expeditions but as opportunities to make friends. There are few comforts in life as important as a good woman friend and men friends can be quite fun, too. I wouldn't class them as emotionally necessary as women friends, but they are handy for walking you up dark streets at night or removing the mouse-infested rice bag for your cupboard. (Caveat: British men, American friends and I have found, are much less chivalrous than Canadian and American men.) They also provide handy guys-eye-views.

The one thing I warn against is making a man your 'bestest buddy', or allowing yourself to become a man's 'bestest buddy.' Becoming so emotionally dependent on a man who is not sexually attracted to you is very bad for a woman's morale. It puts you in the ridiculous social position of seeming like a man's girlfriend (which tends to dissuade other men from approaching you) when nothing is further from his mind.

Meanwhile, don't try overly hard to make men your friends. Some men simply cannot get over Woman-as-Other and take any overture of friendship from a woman as sexual suggestion or (worse) aggression. This is sad, but many men are like that. In such cases, give up. You can't force friendship any more than you can force love.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Auntie Seraphic & Worried Advisor

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

I'm in a worrisome situation, and was wondering if you can advise me.

I've been reading your blogs for some time now, and I remember your writing that you had doubts about marrying B.A. (who was the right man for you), and also that you had doubts about marrying your first husband (who was the wrong man for you). So you know what both legitimate and illegitimate doubts about marrying a guy feel like.

Although I'm not about to get married, some of my friends are engaged, and I've been asked how one knows if one's doubts about marrying the guy should result in calling off the wedding. This worries me a lot. I really don't want to see any of my friends in unhappy or even mediocre marriages, but I'm realizing that real decisions to marry don't usually involve 100% certainty.

Perhaps I should also tell you that all of the engaged couples I know share a solid Catholic faith, and are from approximately the same background, so I guess it's really a matter of individual compatibility, not clashing values.

In light of your experience, how on earth should I advise them? How does one know the difference between good and bad doubts? Do you know of any good books that would be helpful further reading?

Worried Advisor

Dear Worried Advisor,

Ironically, one of the most important things I was taught at ministry school was "Don't Give Advice." What we were taught to do was to ask questions for clarification. These questions were pitched so that those being ministered to would arrive at their own answers. Although this doesn't fit very well in written correspondence or blogs, I firmly believe that this is best in conversations.

Therefore, if engaged friends ask you if they should call off their weddings, the safest thing you can do is to ask them questions.

Such questions might include, "What's happened to make you feel this way?" and "What would breaking off the engagement feel like?" and "Have you spoken to your fiance about this?"

Meanwhile, you are labouring under a misapprehension. As a matter of fact, I was 100%sure I wanted to marry B.A. from four days before he asked me to think about doing so. Later, the thought that our wedding might be delayed in any way made me cry. A week before the wedding I was in morbid fear lest he die before his plane landed. We had only one serious tiff before we got married (about an interfering neighbour), and I got cold feet only on the day before the wedding, when bridal nerves had sent me almost over the edge.

In fact, I was so sure so soon that I wanted to marry B.A. that afterwards when friends with boyfriends pondered aloud "Is Pookie the right man for me?", I just assumed Pookie wasn't.

Perhaps this was a bit harsh, though. Some women need to go through their discernment out loud. Also, I was 38 when I met B.A. and had gone through a lot in life (not to mention five years of therapy) and therefore knew who I was and what I wanted when I saw it; I was no longer the confused, self-deluded and easily-bullied 25 year old I once was. Finally, and very importantly, having established an identity as a Happy Single Woman, I had no wish to marry for the sake of being married. In fact, getting married to B.A. put a spoke in several career paths, alas.

From my experience then, I can derive other questions like "Why are you marrying X in the first place?" and "Would you be just as happy marrying someone else?" and "Are you still in a process of discernment?" and "Would postponing the wedding make you feel frantic or relieved?"

It could be that your engaged friends just feel like talking--discerning out loud--and are not actually hanging onto your opinion. If they have serious doubts, why they are talking to a peer instead of to an older married couple, a priest or their intended is a mystery to me. Of course, it could be that they are terrified of what X might do if the wedding were called off, so you might want to ask "Are you afraid to discuss this with X? If so, why?"

And now, questions for you: Why do you feel at all responsible for the marriage decisions of your friends? What do you enjoy about it? What don't you enjoy about it? How would it feel to say, "Goodness, I couldn't possibly advise you on something so important! Have you thought about talking to [your mother, your fiance, your priest] about this?"

That said, I once talked a very good friend out of getting married "just to get it over with" and an even better friend out of marrying the twice- (now thrice-) divorced headcase she had had a baby with. I did this by asking them questions that helped them come to their own answers, and I have never regretted this.

In the very rare (I hope) situation in which you feel absolutely certain an intimate friend or family member is making a terrible mistake, you can write to the priest officiating the wedding to say so, giving your reasons. He will put the letter in a file, and if the marriage goes ahead but turns out to be no marriage at all, your letter could help to free your friend or relation from a sad situation.

Grace and peace,

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Father, Forgive Them

I realize that by writing about this, I am writing about chastity again. Oh, cringe. To talk about chastity is to talk about sex, and I hate doing that. It is the obsession of our age, and not only is it bad for Single people to think about all the time, it gets boring. The subject may be incredibly interesting to the Single and celibate, but to the happily married---zzzz.

However, I promised to write about girls being icked out by non-virgin men, so here I am, writing about them.

The first thing I would like to say is that I loathe the double standard of most cultures regarding sexual abstinence. Almost every culture (certainly every culture older than 100 years) believes that the fewer men a woman sleeps with, the more valuable she is. This is not held for men. Whereas it is on several books that men are not supposed to sleep with anyone but their wives, almost every culture throws up its hands and sighs "What are you going to do?"

Of course, there is no culture older than 100 years that has thought it okay for men to be outrageously promiscuous, and the ancient Romans, who thought the less sex you had, the more manly you were, would be horrified at the lack of sexual temperance on display today. All those stories about randy Roman emperors and princesses were propaganda to hammer home how rotten they were.

The sexual revolution was a disaster, and what we learned from it was that "repression" is not always a bad thing. "Repression" fosters fidelity to one person, protects from disease and regulates pregnancy like nothing else. If all the babies conceived in Dundee, Scotland (for example) were allowed to be born, Dundee would have a thriving, booming birthrate. Sadly, the abortion figures for Dundee are horrific, and the population of Scotland is 5 million and dropping.

Before the sexual revolution, male chastity (in or out of marriage) was officially the norm, and society's hypocrisy on the topic was at least the tribute vice paid to virtue. Now we are all supposed to be very anti-hypocrisy and yet pretend that all sex is fine as long as it is consensual. We are supposed to forget the fact that its primary purpose is to make babies and that it has very real psychological effects on men as well as on women. Not only can women not "have sex like men" without emotional and spiritual damage, men cannot "have sex like men" without emotional and spiritual damage.

However, this is not what is taught in school, on TV, in music lyrics and, most of the time, from the pulpit or even in the confessional. I once dated a man who lost his Catholic faith because--get this--he lost his virginity to a married woman and when he confessed it in fear and trembling, his confessor gave him a penance of three Haily Marys. He was (then) under the impression that a pilgrimage to Jerusalem should have been suggested. Presumably the priest didn't give him a rousing lecture on chastity. Another friend of mine was electrified (and edified) when he was praying near a confessional and heard a clerical voice boom out, "Good God, man! Think of the woman!" If young men now think being continent is itself a perversion, whose fault is that?

Men need to be challenged to be chaste because nowadays it hardly occurs to most of them that chastity is at all a virtue. It takes a disease, a broken heart or--perhaps--a startled look of disgust from a woman to get the message across.

And meanwhile--here is where I get to what I really want to say--some men are forever damaged by their sexual shenanigans. Taught to be sexually selfish, they will be sexually selfish forever. Others, disgusted at their past behaviour, pray to be chaste or, if not religious, determine to "get serious" and find one woman to settle down with.

Some men become complete rats. Among these are unchaste priests who inwardly whine, "I've given up so much; I deserve 'love', I deserve this one little thing," and seduce whomever. How much better than these men is the agnostic who regrets drunken flings and, even after a period of cohabitation, mans up and married his beloved girlfriend!

I have met some really horrible misogynist men who were probably virgins when they married, and I have met some very kindly men who probably weren't. Then again, I know many marvellous, holy men who probably are virgins, and I have met some ghastly characters almost eaten up with sexual vice. And that's just my fellow Catholics.

About two years ago I got an email from an observant Jewish girl who was morbidly afraid of falling in love with a man who wasn't "a virgin". Her non-observant mother had told her that this was crazy, and that she was limiting herself.

I forget what I said at the time. It was probably something about not crossing bridges until you came to them, and seeing men first as the concrete individuals they are. It was not "what if he's never had sex with a woman but he masturbates 15 times a day?" although that is the snarky thought that comes to my mind right now.

The truth is, you can't make generalisations about men or women based on their sexual experiences. What counts is their kindness. The sweetie who slept with his fiancee before she ditched him is not on the same level as the jerk who slept with his girlfriend and then tossed her aside as used goods. Meanwhile, you can only get to know each person that you meet, using your reason to determine what they are like and to make decisions about whether or not you want to be friends, let alone romantically involved, with them.

Meanwhile, I once read a chastity manual from the 1970s by a very non-1970s priest. Possibly it was Father Lovasik or Father Robert Fox. Anyway, he was solid to the point of scary. I didn't agree with his pastoral approach, but one thing he said I thought was absolutely wise: confess your sexual sins to a priest and to no-one else.

Never ask for numbers. Don't ask, don't tell. The only time I can think of when anyone's sexual past should be discussed at all, it is during an engagement, and then only to determine if tests should be done and how much care will be needed when marriage begins. For example, I know a very nice married woman who got herpes from an ex-fiance (who had not bothered to mention that he had it). Obviously she had to tell her husband-to-be before they married. And virgins, who 99% of the time (believe me on this) will not know what the heck they are doing on their wedding night, need to inform their fiances or fiancees. That way they can muddle through together without trauma.

Now I shall wipe away the beads of sweat on my poor auntly forehead and have some breakfast. But to sum up: Ladies, forgive them their pasts unless they are swine. What matters is who they are today and who they are on their way to becoming tomorrow. Send them for HIV tests. The end.

P.S. Not quite the end: don't marry beloved homosexuals hoping it will all turn out okay in the end. With a few, miraculous exceptions, adult ex-gays have a tendency to become re-gays. But, once again, only the concrete is good: just make sure you are seeing your beloved with your reason, not your wishful thinking.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Royal Wedding

Okay, so I was ten when Lady Diana Spenser married the Prince of Wales, so I don't know what it is like to be Single during Royal Wedding hysteria. I was grown-up and Single when the Earl of Wessex (Prince Edward) married Sophie, but I felt fine. There wasn't much hysteria, since it was just, you know, Prince Edward. Not the most high profile of chaps.

I do remember, back in 1981, that the papers were full of Lady Di and Prince Charles and it seemed that every British woman over 19 got her hair cut just like Lady Di. You can always tell a British film or TV episode was shot in 1980-1982 by the Lady Di hairstyle on the women.

Therefore, I predict similar hysteria over Kate Middleton, whose engagement to Prince William was announced today, so hold onto your, er, hats. Thank goodness Kate has lovely, long hair. She's brunette, too, just like Diana started out.

Some things to remember:

Kate is 28.

Dating a future king is just about the only time I would consider an 8 year dating relationship at all reasonable.

Sleeping with and even living with a man before marriage in the desperate hope that you will get married to him "one day" is still not on.

IMH(?)O, Kate Middleton was an ordinary girl who fell into an extraordinary situation, and has dealt with it pretty well, all things considered. She is a good role model in that she has perfect manners in public and good dress sense. These are the only two ways in which you should compare yourself to her.

Auntie Seraphic & Potentially Clueless

Today a letter from a man.

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

Many thanks for your wonderful blog! Such a wealth of wisdom! To this end, I could use some advice.

In the not too distant future, I will be revealing my interest to a young lady, and I’m certain I could use some pointers on my approach. Over the last 2.5 months, we’ve had an infrequent but friendly correspondence via e-mail; I have been complimentary of her online work (a personal blog), and she has been assisting me with a writing project.

We have never met, however, given that we live some considerable distance apart. Nevertheless, she is very forthcoming on her blog, and I have become quite taken with her--like head over heels. This is something I very much wish to express.

I do not believe in being circumspect, and whatever I say will be clear and forthright. Yet with that said I do not want to be overbearing. This is something that is difficult for me. On the one hand, I am a very passionate person, and so I feel it would be disingenuous to exercise too much restraint; but on the other hand, I want to show due consideration to her sensibilities. What to do?

Would you do me the kindness of reading what I intend to send to her? Having a woman’s perspective on this would make me much less apprehensive as to whether I’m shooting myself in the foot. She is also a very romantic person. I am 3- and she is 2-. Let me know if you would like to help, and I'll send the letter along.

Kind Regards,

Potentially Clueless

Dear Potentially Clueless,

Before you commit yourself on paper/electronica, you must meet this young lady. I note that she is 2- years old, and that you are 3-. A ten year age gap, especially when the man is the elder, is negligible for those of us over 30, but not so much for a girl of 2-. I wish she were 25 and you were 35.

Frankly, the most romantic and sensible thing you can do is write to the young lady saying that you are going to be in her town and you would like to take her out to dinner. And I definitely caution you to use some restraint in your tone: do not forget that you do not actually know each other yet. An infrequent correspondence does not add up to intimacy, and if the young lady is a good writer, she is not putting her whole self on her blog, but just her blog "persona." This is not to say she is disingenuous; it is just that a writer has to choose one voice from the several that make up her character.

Your situation is very familiar to me as my now-husband was a great fan of my blog and invited me to stay with him when I announced my intention to visit Scotland. We read each other's blogs and left comments, and had an infrequent email correspondence. But both of us deliberately suppressed any hopes of romance until we had actually met. Each had seen unflattering photos of the other, and so we were pleasantly surprised, not disappointed, when we saw the reality.

I am, of course, deeply curious as to what you want to write, but honesty compels me to tell you that there is no point in writing a mash note to a woman (a very young woman) you don't really know. I can only counsel you to invite her out for dinner like an honest suitor. I don't know what a "considerable distance" means to you, but I am eternally grateful that I travelled over 3,500 miles to meet my now-husband.

Grace and peace,


P.S. to Readers: Potentially Clueless wrote back to thank me for saving him from rashness. His projected letter had included a poem. Had I known about the poem, my tone would have been even more firm. I think it was Jane Austen who observed that there were few budding romances so hardy that they could survive a poem.

P.S.2: Don't forget that email is only slightly more private than a billboard in Times Square. Before you send any email, imagine someone reading it at your funeral.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Young Men Have a Lot to Give


I shall return this afternoon.

Afternoon: I'm back. This morning I was writing for money, which I dearly love to do, so think about buying my book, if you haven't bought two copies already. I weep to think how much Ann Landers and Dear Abbey must have been paid. Weep weep weep.

To add to the discussion, which I began in response to a reader's brother, who said that he didn't have anything to give to a woman [right then], I certainly think young men do have a lot to give. In fact, I like young men very much, and they improve my life in many ways that have, of course, nothing to do with my love life since, you know, I am married and stuff.

When young men join my traditional Latin Mass community, it makes me happy because it suggests both the Latin Mass community and Catholic life in Scotland are going to continue on into the next generation. Their participation underscores that church observance isn't "just for girls" and, besides, they are nice to look at. I beam at their jacketed backs from my perch beside the Men's Schola. When they volunteer to be altar servers, everyone is happy, and when they go into the seminary,our hearts swell and we brag to other Catholics about these Glorious Young Men of Our Parish, ignoring the observations of the envious that they had lived outside the parish boundaries.

I also enjoy talking to young men. Occasionally I chat with a young man of the sort who seems to regard me not as part of the scenery but as an actual woman, possibly even a potential Mrs Robinson, and I find that flattering. Obviously I don't want to be That Wicked Mrs McAmbrose, but it is nice to think I could be That Bad Mrs McAmbrose were I not a pattern card of all the earthly virtues.

Then there are the young men who write letters to the papers for which I write to say that they like my column. These chivalrous men are sometimes seminarians or priests, and I love them. I support them in any secret desire to learn the TLM and their clandestine saying of the Rosary. To them I say, "Hello, Good Men!"

There are also the young men who open doors when my hands are full and give me their seat on the bus when I am tired and help me pick up the shopping when I have dropped it. Wonderful young men! Incidentally, I have a very helpful Young Man younger brother who fits nicely into the category.

Finally, there are the young men who buy my book and the very few young men who dare to leave comments here, comments for which I am grateful, knowing how much my largely female readership appreciates a Guy's Eye View.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Auntie Seraphic & Chastity Shame

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

First of all, let me just mention what a HUGE relief it was to stumble upon your blog about a year ago when I was adjusting to life outside of my Catholic university bubble. I had gone straight from a place where everyone was a practicing Catholic to a [graduate] school where no one else was. Your blog and book was a huge comfort for me that I was not all alone.

Now, please enlighten me in your Auntly way.

I am a single Catholic in a secular place full of intelligent guys who share my dream about becoming a [professional] and helping others, who share my hectic lifestyle, and are like me in many ways. I also have very few Catholic friends here (but I have found a few through sheer effort). Naturally, I get crushes on these [grad] school guys. They usually are attracted to me as well.

However, the CHASTITY talk looms over it all since even if these guys go to church on Sunday, none of them are waiting for marriage. Last time, I told the guy really early on and while he claimed to "respect" my choices, it all fell apart very quickly. Currently a different guy likes me (and, of course, I am attracted to him as well) but while I made sure that he knows I am a believing Catholic, I am certain he doesn't know what that means. So a) when is the best time to tell a guy and b) what is the best way to tell him? I feel weird bringing up sex even before we have our first kiss, but I also don't want to get hurt again.

Also, Seraphic, I am guilty of feeling ashamed about being chaste. I love theology of the body and I am grateful that I have managed to save myself for marriage. But, in this setting with all of its secular values, I often feel like I will be very judged about this. I don't want to be "that virgin girl". And I always think , "well this or that guy is nice but still he'll turn and run when he knows he won't get any sex for at least a year if he's with me". This all partially stems from my last experience in dating where that pretty much happened. Even though I know that it is a clear cut sign that such a guy wasn't good for me, it just re-enforced my faulty thinking. How can I put all this in a better light in my own head?

One last thing: ideally I'd like to marry a Nice Catholic Boy and I am doing everything I can think of to make that more likely. I go to mass, I go to young adult groups, I tell all my Catholic friends to introduce me to any NCBs. I'm even on a Catholic dating website (I know how you feel about this and I'm not crazy about it either, but who knows what God's plans are!).

The fact is, though, that 90% of my time is in school because that will be my life for the next two and a half years. I know I will continue to be attracted to non-Catholic fellow students and I don't want to be single that whole time, either! Please help me figure out how to handle this situation.

Thanks for all you do for us NCGs!

Chastity Shame

Dear Chastity Shame,

Ah, those church-going Single guys who put out. I have a lot to say but this morning, but I am distracted by the thought of all those Christian guys getting action, half-encouraged by the silence of their preachers on the issue. And I am thinking too about guys from Mediterranean cultures whose parents don't really care what their sons get up to, but heaven help their daughter if she behaves like a putana, blah blah blah.

I have a theory about guys like that. So far I can't prove it, so just take it as a theory--and a not very original one, at that. My theory is that guys from Latin Catholic or other Christian backgrounds who put out have two lists they carry around in their heads. Most of the time, when they see a girl they'd like to sleep with, they put her on the "potential girlfriend" list. Then, when the subject of sex comes up, and the girl gives him The Chastity Speech, if he really likes her, he puts her on the "potential wife" list. If he doesn't, he vamooses, and good riddance.

This is why, in fact, The Chastity Speech is our good friend. Though embarrassing, it gets rid of the real jerks and it puts us on the correct list of the Good Hearted But Culturally Conditioned Towards Double-Standards. Incidentally, I occasionally get emails and search words from girls who are utterly horrified to discover that their boyfriend/suitor is not a virgin. But this is a whole other topic I will write about later.

So enough about them. What about you? Well, first, it is not a good idea to tell people you are a virgin, or to bring up virginity or sex or any of that. For one thing, it is so not anyone's business. For another, there are some disgusting men who love to date virgins because they think virgins are challenges to be conquered. Men aren't challenged much any more, so many find a virgin-challenge either a major affront to their rights or a problem to be solved or both.

Virginity is a very, very good thing. However, it is also a very private thing. And therefore, even when we are proud of being virgins, we don't tell people. The only people who need to know are (A) your doctor, (B) your confessor (maybe) and (C) your fiance, whoever he is, once you're engaged.

Remember that chastity is RIGHT and sexually active unmarried people are WRONG, and that legions of women of all religions and none refuse to just go along with lustful men's plans for them. You are not robbing men of their rights; they have no right to sex. If they want to have sex, they should get married. End of story. (For millennia before 1960, men who really couldn't wait went to prostitutes and paid money for the privilege. Now respectable women, women who would make great wives, are expected to act like prostitutes who don't even get paid; to hell with that.)

You don't owe anyone The Chastity Speech up front. When it comes to those who have sexual relations outside of marriage, they are the weirdos, not you. Meanwhile, there are thousands of non-Catholic girls (even atheist girls) from all over the world who tell men every day "No thanks. I'm not interested in that." So don't bother with The Chastity Speech UNTIL the guy brings up sex. Be very careful about third dates. Make sure they are in public, and don't go back to his place or invite him back to your place. Meanwhile, you are NOT wasting anyone's time by dating them chastely. Chaste friendships are the norm, premarital sex is not.

Meanwhile, I have become super-strict in my old age, and I don't think a girl should even make out with a guy unless they are engaged or almost engaged. This is because even just making out releases a "bonding hormone" called oxytocin in your brain that makes you fall in love with a man before you really know who he is. In short, this hormone can overcome your reason and lead to your putting up with bad behavior and generally behaving irrationally. If a guy really cares about you (the only guy you should give a minute of your time), if you say "I'm not ready for that yet", he will respect you. If he ditches you, the sooner he does, the better for you.

But don't think that all guys will run. We kind of get this idea that most guys--especially if they don't belong to "our group" (e.g. Protestants)--are absolutely allergic to chaste girls. But this simply isn't true. There are decent men of all religions and none who are delighted to find girls who think sex is just for marriage.

One way to make sure you are courted only by those men who think you are marriage material is not to chase after men yourself. Sadly, men who are chased after will encourage a girl even if they're not serious about her at all, and would never have gone after her, because they think she might be "easy." Yes, this sucks.

Finally, it is better to be completely single for 2.5 years than to go through the dating-break-up treadmill, believe me! (Cultivate friendships, especially with fellow girls.) Incidentally, being attracted to lots of lovely clever men and doing nothing about it is good training for being a married lady, if that's what God calls you to be. Married women are not magically blinded to the attractions of men-not-their-husbands. If you cultivate chastity in Single Life, it will be easier to stay chaste in Married Life.

I hope this is helpful.

Grace and peace,

Update: Once again, I would like to remind Catholic virgin girls that you are not the only chaste girls on campus. There are dozens and dozens of women of all religions and none who simply do not go to bed with men. No matter what people tell you, you are not THAT unusual, courageous, blah blah blah. You are simply as most societies in most of history expected respectable girls to be. And that is a very good thing. Try not to obsess on it.

Meanwhile "My body, my choice" is a slogan that makes no sense when it comes to the lives of the unborn, but it makes complete sense when it comes to sex. No-one has the right to lay a hand on you without your permission. You don't have to give them permission, and most of the time (if you're unmarried) you shouldn't.

Update 2: Yes, I know it's hard. It's probably harder now than ever before. But we all must deal.

Update 3: How did I end up talking about chastity again? Aaa!

Friday, 12 November 2010

You Don't Have To Marry Him

This is the anniversary of the day I ran away. I won't tell you how many years ago that was, but I can tell you it was a November 12th.

It's a terribly sad story, and it's not just my story, so I can't really go into details. Let's just say that I used to wander around my then-town wishing I could afford to put up a big billboard with the motto "You Don't HAVE To Marry Him."

My feeling, a million years ago, was that I HAD to marry the man who wanted so much to marry me or else Something Very Bad would happen. It was a long time before I realized that nothing very bad would have happened if I hadn't. Indeed, some very bad things would not have happened. And although he was very upset when I left, he did not simply roll up into a ball and die. He did not kill himself. And, in fact, I understand that today he is a successful professional with an enjoyable career. Well done, him.

I cannot stress how important it is not to marry the wrong person (or to marry before you become a right person). In a restaurant in Germany, I was horrified to find myself pointed to as "a successful divorcee": the third woman in the conversation was unsure if she wanted to marry her German fiance after all. My admirer's idea was that if it didn't work out, she could "just" divorce him.

Although any practising Catholic would find this idea distasteful, I found it awful, not just as a Catholic, but as a divorcee. Some scars take a long time to heal. Indeed, some scars might never heal in this earthly life. After all, here I am umpteen years later, happily remarried, with my blog-billboard saying "You Don't Have To Marry Him," just in case some agonized woman out there randomly types "Do I Have To Marry Him?" into a search bar. There is no such thing as "just divorcing." Marriage, no matter how short, illicit or unsacramental, is so psychologically powerful its end leaves a stain.

Being a divorced-annulled-remarried Catholic presents me with an internal paradox: I am deeply grateful for liberal divorce laws and I deplore the high divorce rate. I am deeply aware that divorced people (especially, I suspect, women) are marginalized by other Catholics, but at the same time I understand the marginalizers' concerns. Being judged forever by my own was a risk I was willing to take--and, in fact, I placed myself in the hands of professional Catholic judges: an annullment tribunal. Was going through that painful? You'd better believe it. Never, never again. But it was necessary---just as chemotherapy is necessary to a cancer patient. It's horrible, but it heals.

When I left, I knew I might not be given an annullment (though I had very strong grounds to think I would) and that I might never marry again. So be it, I thought. Anything, just so long as I could be free. I'm sorry to say I have an inkling of what it is like to be the fox that chewed its own leg off to escape the trap. And that, my dears, is why I say to you again and again "Don't settle."

Update: Cherubs, it was a long time ago, so don't feel bad for me now. Come to think of it, though, prayers go outside of history into eternity, so if you like, pray for me on that day. (Does that make sense? Maybe you helped then by praying now.) Meanwhile, I went shopping for girly things this afternoon, which I enjoyed very much.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Only the Concrete is Good

There's a funny article in Britain's Daily Mail, a right-of-centre rag that delights in outraging the masses.

In this survey, bachelors want women to be super-slim, yet eat heartily, and find high-earning, well-educated women attractive, though half of them would prefer their wife to stay at home with their children.

Fortunately, this is all make-believe. Airy pie-in-the-sky fantasies have a way of evaporating when Miss Right, in all her plump or lettuce-picking glory, comes wandering onstage.

However, it is worth a brief nod to the usual young male interest in women who look young and therefore fertile (slim), sexually charged (enjoying food), intelligent and high status (degrees and money) and yet need men for something (by staying at home with children).

I cannot resist telling a hilarious story about a very young man who told me what his top 2 requirements for a wife were. He said I'd get mad, but I said I would keep an open mind. First, he said, she had to be really, really, well-educated. And second, he said, blushing a fiery red, she had to be submissive.

Ha ha ha ha ha!

Essentially he dreamed of a wife who was a witty and interesting conversationalist and yet wouldn't boss him around or make him feel stupid. But of course he didn't know how to put it like that. Men are hilarious. I love them.

In case my title isn't self-evident, I should explain that airy-fairy fantasies mean squat. Only concrete reality has any value. When we are called to marry, we are called to marry not some ideal, but the unique, living, breathing, imperfect, darling creature beside us at the altar.

Meanwhile, I feel compelled to remark again, this being a blog that praises the chaste Single life, that men and women are more than potential spouses. They have a dignity in themselves. To a certain extent, they can make good opposite-sex friends. They can make great mentors, disciples or colleagues. But it is best to encounter every person wondering who he/she is in him/herself and then only secondarily consider who he/she is (or could be) in relation to you.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Saint Joseph Problem

Dear Auntie Seraphic

Have you ever seen this:


A recently married male friend posted this on his facebook page and so I copied it, knowing I was risking the wrath of my male friends. Well, the men didn't say anything, but the women sure did! They loved it.

I wanted to share it with you to see what you thought.

I don't know what you see-and maybe you had a post about this somewhere along the way and I missed it, but do you see what he is saying? That many young adults are not dating? I find that at most of the young adult gatherings I go to, there is very little sexual tension. And I think that is a huge problem. And I think this guy's answers are right on.

It has almost made me consider that even as friends, I have made myself too available to the men. I'm a NCG, so naturally I'm not doing anything wrong, but I wonder if even the presence of easy friendship with women men don't have to do much work. That really gets my blood running! Why are all these 30-something men still single? I have little sympathy for them, I really do.

I'm at [traditional Catholic college] so maybe it's that there are so many great girls that the men feel they have several options. THEN ASK THEM OUT! But they don't!! I don't think it is just here, because I hear the same happens in [Washington] DC, [Minneapolis-]St Paul and Denver--all hubs for great Catholics.

What is going on? Why aren't the men pursuing? Why are they not searching out a woman to spend the rest of their lives with them? I don't mean this as a sob at all. I mean, yes. I'm rather bothered that someone hasn't snatched up someone as lovely and wonderful as me! :) (I'm not normally this harsh, in real life). I'm just bothered that there are so many wonderful, gorgeous, holy, normal, balanced, exceptional Catholic women who men just walk right by. Good grief. Some of my friends I can't figure why men aren't following them around and drooling. Really.

So, wondered what you thought of his conclusions. I liked them. And I liked that he was getting on the guy's case!


Dear Snatchable,

I enjoyed the link and its shouts of "Man up!" I like to shout "Man up!" myself at times, although there are few people more unattractive to a 20-something Nice Catholic Boy than a 39+ year old married woman who is not even his mother shouting "Man up!"

Although I do wish, wish with all my auntly heart, that more young men would decide, at the age of 21 or so, that it was time to go out and slay some dragons and win some princesses to help them rule their eventual kingdoms of house, car, garden, children, dogs, barbeque and Little League/Book Club, I can see why they don't.

Adolescence was once considered a regrettable stage, covered in awkwardness and pimples, to be got through as quickly as possible. We experienced the powerlessness of childhood, we hastened through a brief adolescence and we seized the reins of adulthood.

For men adulthood meant making a living. For women it meant making a living until a "good marriage" provided us with a house, garden (or farm) and family to work at instead. If our husbands didn't make enough to provide for them all, or if we got permission to make a little pin-money, married women worked at various part-time jobs, like scrubbing floors for richer women or taking in laundry. Life for most married women up to the 1970s did not look, in fact, like a Ralph Lauren ad.

Meanwhile, adolescence is now considered THE most desirable stage of life, and the Baby Boom generation was the first generation in the history of mankind to decide en masse to stay there. Adult freedoms and adult money with as little adult responsibility as possible has gone from being counter-cultural to completely cultural in the English-speaking world. New immigrants, especially hard-working Asians, must think we are insane. And sometimes we agree, which is why we say "To hell with this. I'm going traddie."

And now we come to what I call the Saint Joseph Problem. I mean no disrespect to Saint Joseph,to whom I give partial credit for getting me remarried at last and who is, after all, a great model of masculinity. The problem is that he is, for young trad Catholics today, too much our model of masculinity.

Young traddie women with housewifely ambitions rightly want a younger, sexier St. Joseph to take care of them, have a real job, bring home the money, protect them from the hooded claw, keep the vampire from their door. When the chips are down, he'll be around with his undying, death-defying love for them. Et cetera. But this is quite a lot to ask of a boy at [conservative Catholic college] who is, on average, 20 years old.

St. Joseph may have been descended from King David, but he was essentially a blue-collar worker. I don't know what he was doing at 20, but it wasn't tequila shots or an all-nighter on his Poli Sci essay. My guess is that he was already a professional carpenter and, anyway, we think he was pretty old when he became betrothed to Our Lady. I'm guessing his business was well-established and flourishing. How many 20 year olds do you know who can support a wife?

In short, the Nice Catholic Boy is caught between the rock of a society that tells him to stay 19 forever and the hard place of being expected to provide for a Nice Catholic Girl and their children in an economic environment turned upside
down. When married women took on (or stayed in) middle-class jobs, the cost of living skyrocketed. One salary plus one salary no longer equalled two. And when banks began handing out mortgages like cheap cigars, the price of housing skyrocketed, too.

On top of this, the Nice Catholic Boy is constantly insulted, day in and day out, by appeals to his sex drive. He is intensely visual, and images of naked or nearly naked women (and, in some neighbourhoods, men) are shoved at him 24/7. Imagine if advertisers sent out gorgeous men with growly voices to give women back massages and compliments. The advertisers are doing the equivalent to the Nice Catholic Boy. Meanwhile, it used to be very hard for him to find porn, which is very addictive; now he can hardly avoid it. So being confronted with real women, real live women in cute outfits, in a sexually-charged situation like a date, is now incredibly problematic for our Nice Catholic Boy, who very often can't afford to marry.

I had a 20-something devoutly Catholic male friend, very cute, who was terrified of getting involved with a woman lest he go too far and she let him do it. His ideal woman was a woman who would slap him if he went too far. Unfortunately he couldn't think of a safe way to figure out which women would do that. Now he's a male religious. Sigh.

All this, and I haven't even got to feminism yet. Let's just say that young men, nice young men, nice young Catholic men, have many reasons to be deeply afraid of women. They open a door; they get screamed at. They don't open a door; they get screamed at. Eventually young women will stop screaming long enough to realize that the great majority of their colleagues are not The Oppressor and are, in fact, the most ripped-off generation of men in history. Meanwhile, they're scaring them.

Therefore, I encourage you and other NCGs to stop blaming Nice Catholic Boys under 25 for not pursuing you. I encourage you to be friendly to them without making them your Bestest Buddies and wait for them to mature as best they can in a world that tells them not to.

Making a man your Bestest Buddy strikes me as being a form of castration. There was an appalling trend in the USA of 20-something mixed sex pyjama parties where college-age boys and girls snuggled chastely under comforters, watching movies, eating popcorn, all being girls together. Have we gone insane?

A final tip: men do not seem to have a problem courting women a decade younger than themselves. And the older men get, the more likely they are to be advanced in their careers. So if it is very important to you to marry a university man and not, say, a successful tradesman (like St. Joseph), and yet stay at home with babies, you might want to ponder men in their 30s and 40s.

I hope this is helpful.


Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The Closet's All Yours

In yesterday's manifesto, it completely slipped my mind that the original reason for this particular blog was to encourage the Singles of the world to buy my book. If you have already bought it for yourself, and loved it, it is time to buy a copy for a friend for Christmas.

So far it comes in two languages, Canadian and American, and you get get it in stores both secular and religious. Reader Shiraz tells me that you can find it in a bookstore run by the Paulines in Manhattan on a little street with a shop of sequinned dresses and a psychic's lair. You can also get it from Indigo, Borders and over the internet. My favourite bookshop is Crux Books at the University of Toronto; they have been tremendously supportive. I gave my best reading so far there (see photo).

Seraphic Singles (Canada/UK/Ireland) or The Closet's All Mine (USA) was written in Boston and Toronto long before I had any idea whatsoever that I'd end up here, in 324 year old house just outside Edinburgh with a cute husband and a mostly dead pot of basil. After almost ten years of being Single (dating but still Single), I had decided that I might be Single forever, and perhaps that might not be so bad.

So I wrote blogposts almost every day about being Single, and about my and my friends' attempts to win boyfriends, and our slavish recourse to advice books like The Rules, and our struggles as religious women in a world where people honestly think you can't get a boyfriend unless you put out. (So not true.)

Eventually I began dating a very nice German post-doctoral student at the Catholic parish that serves Harvard University, and so I wrote about that, too. And finally I copied and pasted a whole year's worth of blogs, fixed the spelling, and sent it off to publishers. And, behold, one of them said "Okay, if you cut it down" and a different publisher said "We'll buy the American rights" and another one said something similarly encouraging in Polish.

My Canadian publisher said I should take the book out of chronological order and organize it by theme, so that's what I did, although I preserved chronological order as much as possible, to keep its narrative shape. The themes include how to enjoy living alone, the great challenge of staying chaste, what men are like, dating, the loneliness of being Single, the role of children in a Single lady's life, and why we want to get married anyway.

Everyone should buy it to spread the message of Seraphic Singledom to the four corners of the earth. Also, the more copies that sell, the more attractive I look to my publisher, and then he might offer me another contract and I could write you all another book. The more I ponder the publishing world, the more I am convinced that the most important people in it are the readers.

Picture an author as an eenie-weenie monster, hamster-sized with big googley eyes on stalks. Its limbs are practically vestigal; it can only wave them about weakly, like a baby. Then picture a reader coming along and feeding the author-monster a cookie. The cookie represents a book sale. Now with every cookie the author-monster perks up a teenie tiny bit. At first it is unnoticeable, but after the 200th cookie, there is a perceptible change. The monster begins to grow and grow and look better and better and more and more attractive until, hey presto, it looks exactly like a 300 foot J.K. Rowling and stands on a mountain top while all about it publishers fall on their faces in homage. Readers marvel and sigh at the monster's might, but actually it derived entirely from them, which is to say, you. Thank you to all who have fed me the magic cookie.

Here are some lovely reviews:

Book Shop Customers (scroll down a bit after landing)
Amazon.com (Seraphic) and Amazon.com (Closet)

Catholic Register
Our Sunday Visitor
Prairie Messenger

Letters from Christine
Pro-Woman, Pro-Life

Monday, 8 November 2010

Brass Tacks

Poppets, soooo many letters this weekend! I will get to posting them eventually. Meanwhile, I have confirmed that I will be going to the Edith Stein Project at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, USA (Feb 11-12), so if you live in the midwest and it's worth the drive, sunny South Bend is where you will find little me.

Now, some interesting combox conversations with two noted Catholic bloggers, who are single women, has led me to reflect on what my blog is about and what its theological and anthropological underpinnings are. I think it would be helpful to write them out. Does that sound like too much for first thing Monday morning? But as my readership snowballs, I feel it is important to tell you where I stand. I have an M.Div., you know, and it was banged into my fuzzy red head that with influence comes a lot of responsibility. So here goes.

Theological Assumptions of Blog

1.1. God is, and God is a loving God Who has a plan not just for history but for each and every one of us. God knows better than we do what is good for us and loves us better than we love ourselves. Therefore, the best thing we can do for ourselves is to pray that we are given the strength and wisdom to help His plan and not hinder it through sin and stupidity.

1.2. God wishes us to live in certain ways, and not in others. God's teachings can be found in Scripture, tradition and the human heart.

1.3. The blogger being a practising Catholic, this blog assumes that the guardian of Scripture, tradition and (in so far as She is able) the human heart is the Catholic Church. And Catholics, believes the blogger, are not supposed to stay in their comfy ghettos 24/7 but to go out into the world and hang out with people of other religions or none, finding common ground and offering the wisdom of Catholicism for acceptance or rejection in a not-annoying way.

1.4. Marriage is the natural end of the human person,BUT the tradition of the Christian Church has held that the state of virginity/celibacy, since the Incarnation, is superior to marriage because it is a sign of the Kingdom, in which there will be no marriage.

Before the Incarnation, getting married was almost always what you were supposed to do. After the Incarnation, thousands and thousands of Christians have answered a call to remain Single.

The Single Life has traditionally been a life of great honour. Amongst the Jews of first century Palestine, sexual abstinence was associated with prophecy. Single Life has taken many forms during the history of the Church.

1.5. Through original sin, creation was broken. Although the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ began the healing work and gave us reconciliation with God, the effects of the Fall persist. There is perhaps no sadder proof for the Fall than the continuing war between the sexes, which I think is unnatural and simply appalling.

Anthropological Assumptions of Blog

2.1 Almost all men and women are good and wish to do good, not evil. Nevertheless, men and women sin. Good people can worsen through sinful habits; the evil among us can be transformed by accepting the promptings of grace to repent and live according to God's will.

2.2. Men and women are different in important ways, and their biological and psychological differences are complementary, not contradictory. This means that the differences are good, not bad, and they should be respected and even cherished.

2.3 Both men and women participate equally in reason and love, however. Men and women are both in the image and likeness of God, which means that they can (A) love, even to the point of complete self-sacrifice and (B) reason.

2.4 Men and women need each other for flourishing. Even a hermit or monk, a man who has made a tremendous sacrifice in eschewing the company of women, needs to have a relationship with Our Lady, to ask the prayers of female saints and to read their works.

Meanwhile, men and women living in the world, be they Single, married, consecrated, lay or clergy, have a duty to get over any resentment regarding the opposite sex and learn to love them as brothers or sisters.

2.5 Men and women were made for themselves and for each other. The position of St. Edith Stein was that Man was made for himself and Woman for Man. The position of John Paul II was that both Man and Woman were made for themselves. My own position is that of John Paul II with his caveat that both are called to serve others. Even a hermit is bound to at least pray for others.

Sexual Assumptions of this Blog

3.1 Sexuality (eros) is a powerful force deeply rooted in the human person. It is experienced differently by men and women. Itself inherently good, it can be used for great evil.

The purposes of sexual intercourse are (1) to create a bond of mutual love and commitment between husband and wife that will help them get to heaven and (2) to continue the human race. It should be quite fun once you get used to it. It is not worth losing your soul over. It is the Vitamin C of marriage.

3.2 Premarital/extramarital sex is a serious sin that destroys friendship, not only with God, but with other human beings. Sex is a powerful force that our age has set up as a rival to God. (Quite literally, in fact. Freud seemed to think that sex, not God, was at the bottom of everything.) Recognizing the life-giving but also incredibly destructive force of sexuality, all human societies--sometimes with a ear to God's will--have always surrounded it with boundaries, both helpful and unhelpful. Reducing women to chattel or sub-humans and demonizing our sexuality is not helpful. Hatred for men and women who experience same-sex sexual attractions is likewise not helpful.

The assumption of this blog is that sexual relations are spiritually, psychologically and even socially dangerous unless between a man and a woman pledged in matrimony. It assumes the the teachings of the Catholic Church on the subject of sexuality are true.

It warns that passionate kissing, which has been celebrated lovingly in stage, song, and Archie comics as a harmless past-time, should be avoided between those who are not engaged to be married. Any kind of physical sexual activity can lead to premature and illusory feelings of committed love. In short, it makes us harder to be reasonable, and this being also a Thomist blog, that gives this blog kittens.

3.3 Permanent virginity is superior to marriage, for it is a sign of the Kingdom. Temporary virginity is a very good thing for it is a sign of obedience to God's will concerning sexuality. It is also a defense against sexual sin. Virginity can only be lost through an act of the will, ruled St. Augustine. Destruction of the hymen, through violence, sports, dancing or whatever, does not make a woman a non-virgin. Homosexual rape does not make a man a non-virgin. (This last bit is not St. Augustine, but I'm sure he would agree although he did think that homosexual rape was the absolute worst thing that could happen to a man, short of damnation.)

3.4 It is the opinion of this blog that any man who commits self-abuse has no business judging women they believe, for any reason, to be sexual sinners. Everyone is a sinner, and just about everybody is a sexual sinner in some way. Most of us have times when we really have to work at being chaste, and when we fall, we have to get up again, say sorry, and strive to do better.

3.5. It is the opinion of this blog that staying chaste is a greater challenge for men than it is for women, although western society has been doing its damnedest to make it extremely hard for women, too.

Epistomological Assumptions of this Blog

4.1 Human beings come to knowledge through experiencing, understanding (the answer to "What is it?") and judging (the answer to "Is that really so?").

4.2 Human beings are often in a flight from understanding, usually because we are frightened of reality. We ought to get ALL the necessary data before we make judgements about anything.

4.3. It is better to be rooted in reality than to live in a dream world or to cower in a isolated corner.

4.4. In the blogger's experience, women have a much more difficult time remaining rooted in reality when it comes to romance, the opposite sex, etc., than men do. Women marry men they don't really love (and sometimes don't like) all the time, denying their feelings and hoping desperately that it will all turn out okay. Men, however, tend to put their ears right back and don't get married unless they really, really want to or are hiding a homosexual orientation or are gold-diggers. On the other hand, many Single men seem to get irrationally angry about their state. Hmm.

Authority of the Blogger

5.1 The blogger has no teaching authority whatsover. I am no substitute for your mother, your confessor, your doctor or anybody at all, except perhaps secular advice columnists. Theologians (among whom I was in training to be) should assist not rival the teaching office (magisterium) of the Church.

5.2. The blogger is 39 years old, a recently remarried woman, who married stupidly at 25, divorced at 27, received a church annulment at 28, accepted at 35 that she might be Single for the rest of her life, and had a church wedding at 38.

Before I turned 35, my so-called "dating life" consisted of dozens of lessons of what not to do and how not to be. This is where I get the great bulk of my opinions about dating and courtship, keeping in mind that my goal is not to marry everyone off but to give comfort and a sense of dignity to Single people who need it. I also hope to strangle divorce in its cradle by discouraging doomed marriages.

5.3. I am a Roman Catholic who goes to Mass every Sunday, usually in Latin. I think Benedict XVI is the bee's knees, and when certain (always older) people call him "Ratzinger", I gently say, "I think you mean 'the Holy Father'."

5.4. I have no problems with Vatican II, although I understand why some people do. I believe the new Mass is valid, although I wish it more often looked like the Mass Vatican II actually asked for.

5.5. I have an M.Div./S.T.B. and graduated Cum Magna Laude, thank you very much. I have worked in a number of lay ministerial roles, some of which I am hiding from my tradition-loving friends.

5.6. I write for two Catholic newspapers, one rather centrist and one rather "progressive". I am probably the most (if not only) "traditionalist" writer in the "progressive" paper. I would love to be a bridge between "traditionalists" and "progressivists" but it is a very hard thing to do and stay sane, let me tell you.

5.7 I began my "Seraphic Singles" blogs to help myself and other Single women feel better about being Single in a chaste Single-despising world. When I realized Single men were reading, I decided to write about their concerns, too.

5.8 Now that I'm married, I feel less like a wise-talking, gunslinging companion-in-arms, and more like a mother hen who longs to gather her chicks under her wings. When John Paul II said that every woman was a mother, I think he was including this kind of thing. Meanwhile, I try not to flutter annoyingly.

What a long post! If you're still there, go reward yourself with a cookie.

Update: Many thanks to Andrea Mrozek for her thoughtful review of Seraphic Singles/The Closet's All Mine. I think it is worth mentioning that Andrea, one of Canada's loudest, brightest, pro-life voices, adheres to the Reformed tradition.