Monday, 1 November 2010

Not the Reason Why You're Not Settling

At a gathering of British Catholics, I met "a high-profile Catholic," a phrase employed by England's Catholic Herald. She's so high-profile, I'm afraid British readers will guess, although for the sake of this story I must say that she has a very nice, rather handsome husband and is not Cherie Blair.

Anyway, I was telling this high-profile Catholic about my book, in the half-embarrassed manner of fledgling authors longing to increase sales, and she interrupted me to tell me that in her view, girls should be told to just settle.

"Er, ah," I said, hoping to get a protest in edgewise.

My protest couldn't squeeze in, and so I listened, slightly horrified, as the high-profile Catholic (with, I stress again, a very personable husband) went on about how girls should stop waiting for Mr Perfect and settle for Mr Good Enough.

The one part of her enthusiastic monologue that I agreed with was the idea that girls are foolish to wait around for a chap with movie star looks, a millionaire's salary or both. When I say "Don't Settle," I don't mean that you should look blankly at any man who does not look like a character from "Gossip Girl" or that he approximates Prince William in some extremely obvious ways. I mean you should wait for a man with whom you share the most-important-things-to-you in common, is in love with you and who, within a reasonable period of time, convinces you that he is actually quite sexy, whatever you might have thought at first.

As this is a Catholic's blog, it trumpets day and night that devout Catholics should court or wait for other devout Catholics. (It also warns against suitors who say that they will convert to Catholicism if you marry them, and then don't.) However, not all of you are devout Catholics, of course, and so obviously your priorities differ. If you are, for example, a semi-agnostic kind of Catholic who thinks prayer and worship are boring but is on fire with love for the poor, you might be very happy indeed with a committed Marxist or union organiser or anti-poverty activist of any other creed. If you are a fiery Scots nationalist, you should probably find (or be found by) another Scots nationalist. If your life is breeding Russian wolfhounds, your future spouse Must Love Dogs.

Sometimes I think with guilt of the way the consistently inconsistent character I had in my youth made NCBs suffer. I was very bad about day-dreaming out loud, and so made at least two very NCBs think I would marry them, and it was all very rotten.

One of these turned out very well indeed and is still very well-liked by mutual friends, but I knew then (as I know now) that I would not have been happy married to him. Despite us both being Catholic, we simply did not have the same basic things in common. His principal interest then was rock music, which he thought appropriate in church, and I was uneasily becoming aware that men whose principal interest in life is rock music (or who like to play rock music in church) bore me out of my mind.

In fact, many men bore me out of my mind. I hope the boys don't mind me saying that; I will underscore that many of you are very, very nice to look at, especially before you are thirty, and when I am fifty I may raise that number to forty. And there are lots of men who are interesting to talk to at any age; I know several and if you are a man who reads my blog, you would be among them. But being the woman I am, I have a low boredom threshold, and therefore it is a darned good thing that my husband is so interesting and can make up alternative dialogues for characters on TV.

Uh oh. This is about me again. Well, this is to encourage you to think about you and what your core values really are. My guess is that they have nothing to do with being married to a guy with movie star looks and a spendthrift's lifestyle. If so, though, you may be disappointed because those men are few, and they tend to go for women with movie star looks and great pots of money, too.


healthily sanguine said...

"[Y]ou should wait for a man with whom you share the most-important-things-to-you in common, is in love with you and who, within a reasonable period of time, convinces you that he is actually quite sexy, whatever you might have thought at first."

Is it idealistic to wait for someone who not only "is in love with you" but also LOVES you in the way you want to be loved? I ask this because, very recently leaving a relationship with NCB who fulfilled all the other qualities on your list (and to whom I was actually quite attached myself), I realize the main thing that was lacking was that he didn't love me with an unselfish love. He was "in love with me" in the sense of being attracted to me on many levels and initiating the heightening of seriousness, but I kept feeling like something was missing. Despite the obvious attraction, he wasn't DOING enough for me; he wasn't a friend and a gentleman to me in the way that my other guy friends are. I know I made the right choice to break up. But how does this match up with the theory of not waiting for "Mr. Perfect"?

Boy of the Nice Catholic Variety said...

Seraphic, I am so glad your brought up the issue of people being boring.There have been so many times when I've been on dates (and I know that the girl is interested in me for various reasons which I will not go into) but, wow, the girl just ends up being boring. Really boring. Like-how did you go to university- boring? It also ends up becoming awkward, because she's getting more interested in me and I end up less interested in her.
So, I guess my question is, what do you suggest Seraphic, so that girls could be less boring?
(Perhaps a separate blog post to answer my question...?)

Thanks for this post Seraphic! It was very insightful...

Boy of the Nice Catholic Variety said...


Even though I'm Canadian, I wanted to put forward these unsolicited guesses as to who the famous British Catholic is:

Ruth Kelly
Cristina Odone

dark but fair said...

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

Thank you for your post (and nobody REALLY minds if you talk about yourself a little). The topic of "settling" is in hot dispute in some circles. In fact, I have found that a lot of lovely ladies who thought that they were being "realistic" and "not expecting him to be perfect" were staying with a gentleman or non-gentleman that they had no business to be courting or marrying. It is not perfectionism if we want a man that we love who loves us and complements our virtues and can withstand our imperfections. It is not hedonism that we want to be as joyful in this life as we can be as well as in the next.
What do people even mean when they compare "Mr. Good enough" with "Mr. Right"? What man in his right mind wants to be "Mr. I-just-made-the-cut" for the woman he marries? And no woman EVER wants a the man she marries to say to himself with regard to her, "Well, she is not too too bright, but at least she is not stupid. There are so many stupid women, it is not as if I can expect to find a genius!" or
"She's not attractive, per se, but oh well, I will just advert my eyes for most of our married life..." (I know, men never do that.)
"She is not terribly interesting, but she is Catholic and I am (gasp)almost thirty and unmarried!"
"She is not as virtuous or mature as I am, but she will change for the better..." (I am not kidding, I actually did hear a NCB say that about his girlfriend!)

Men want to be esteemed and appreciated every bit as much if not more than we women do. And if you "settle" he will know, after you are married, if at no other time, and he will not be grateful that you condescended to dub him, "Mr. I-will-settle-for-you-because-I-am-already-twenty-eight (gasp)"

Alisha said...

Boy of the Nice Catholic Variety, I would suggest that you change your question to include both sexes; I presume you don't think it is only always the girls that are boring?

some guy on the street said...

Indeed we have Seraphic's own testimony of intensely (subjectively) boring boys!

On my own account, I glean from intimate experience that interesting people are more easily interested. Specifically, I'm rather poor at conversation in-person --- it's an improv exercise I've not the knack for yet --- and so I find it difficult to discover interesting things about other people, just because of lacking this key to others' interest.

Thwarted Throne said...

B of the NCV,

I'm curious, what do these girls say or do that is so dreadfully boring?

Are they too plain, petty, petulant, predictable, conventional, derivative, ignorant, irrational, intemperate...?

Kate P said...

Great points, Seraphic. May I also add that not settling also could mean not brushing aside that nagging voice in the back of your mind when something jarring in the other person comes up?

As for the "boring" dispute--boring also could mean "out of touch," yes? Several years ago I was on a semi-blind date and I knew it was hopeless when the date asked me who the rock band was on a billboard we were passing. It was one of my favorites.

leonine said...

I actually think this is often harder than it seems. Or perhaps I mean that it's harder in real and concrete life than it is in the abstract. "Don't settle" in the abstract is very clear and easy. Fine.

But when you're face to face with a real person who has foibles and beauty and goodness and sinfulness and dislikes and obsessions and preferences and hobbies and virtues and interests and quirks, it becomes much, much harder. I found myself having to weigh all these things and assign values to them, and how is one supposed to do that?

I didn't face down Mr. Right and Mr. Good Enough: I had to look at Mr. Pretty Darned Fabulous and try to figure out which slot fit best. Not a movie star and not independently wealthy: ok. But it wasn't about the caricature, it was about the living, breathing man who made me laugh and loved me very much.

leonine said...

PS. I suppose if you're one of those people who Just Knows, then that makes it easier again. But I don't think I've ever Just Known about anything. I certainly didn't Just Know where I wanted to go to University or which cat to take home from the shelter. (I've been pretty happy with the results of both, though!)

PPS. I said no to Mr. PDF. I still don't know if I'll be happy with that result.

dark but fair said...

To Some Guy on the Street:

Great Answer to NB of CV! Marvellous. Moreover, your alias is exquisitely unassuming. Thanks for your comment!

some guy on the street said...

Dark but Fair: elsewhere I assume alii aliae of stranger assumptions... but that is easy enough to discover. (if only I could do that out-loud! alas!)

On other matters, a friend of mine recently directed me towards this note --- it makes an interesting counter-point with some of your "Musings" over at V, B, & P, as well as amplifying my exasperation at some of the things you report here of hearing! What's up with these people, eh?

Oh well...

nicecatholicboy said...

Dark but fair:
It's nice of you to be doing fellow Catholic gentlemen a favor by not settling for them.

Reiterating boy of NCV's statement, what would make women more interesting?

PS. Sagacious post...

Jesse McKeown said...

Nic, I'm sure you can be certain of being a boy, and your Catholicity is a matter between you, Rome, and the Holy Spirit; but that sort of unchivalrous sarcasm directed against a lady who has written with sincerity and sensitivity gives one pause at your proclamation of being nice. I'm only sorry that anything I've written elsewhere under pseudonym has given you sufficient cover to be anonymously nasty.

For other matters, it is clear that you are already "interested" in women *generically*; our gracious Hostess has elsewhere articulated the priority of forming friendships, as well as the necessary specificity of persons; if you are incapable in that regard, don't lament to us the lack of specific interest you find in people you can only identify as "women".

Anonymous said...

Boy of the NCV --

I too am curious about why only NCG are boring.

A NCB went to the trouble of tracking me down and convincing me to go out with him, OK - that's enough to make him sort of interesting - or at least a man of good taste.

Then, he spent an ENTIRE dinner at an expensive restaurant telling me how he made as much money as he had apparently made and how quickly he made it & blah, blah.

I am reasonably good at dragging conversations in a different direction, fairly forcefully if necessary, but not that night.

My (at the time) platonic male RM heard me running up the stairs and came out to see if I was being chased by a rapist. I just wanted to avoid the inevitable good night kiss from the NCB, who was already smiling at me and watching me from the corner of his eye.

I opened the door before the car was even completely stopped and sprinted - high heels & all - calling out "good night" over my shoulder.

Ble$$ his little heart and all that lovely money just waiting for the right girl. And if he thinks of me at all, it's probably not as boring. A nutcase maybe, but not boring. Besides, how many NCG can hop our of a moving car in 4 inch heels and run up a flight of stairs?

Apologies for rambling (oh no, I'm boring), but that memory made me LOL LOL LOL.

Isabella of the North

Seraphic said...

Whew! I'm awake again, and I see that there is some discord amongs my little Singles. For four years, I have mostly managed not to have the angry blog debates that break out on other blogs, though judicious pruning and rejecting of comments. And as most of us know, the Vatican is a bit worried about the tone of some Catholic blogs, so let's all keep the strife to a minimum.

Now, since I opined that I find many men boring, it is only fair that BNCV mention that he finds many women boring. Of course he does. Many women probably are boring, or come across as boring, being tongue-tied or in autowitter, especially on first dates, or bang on our favourite subjects, which would hold some men in thrall, only not the one they are talking to. For example, most people in Scotland would find discussion of the relationship between the Holy See and the SSPX dead boring, but I could probably talk about it for an hour.

NCB, you can't call yourself NCB on this blog, since presumably most of the men who read it are NCBs. Meawhile, sarcasm does not fly here. If you are hoping to find a spouse, sneering publically at a Catholic woman on a popular Catholic Singles blog is poor policy. Meanwhile, Dark but Fair is indeed doing men a favour by not settling for them. Who wants a bored, restless, regretful wife?

I suppose I must put comment moderation on again. Alas. Everyone now write "The Badness of Bitterness" in the search bar. Oh, and "anger goggles."

Jennifer said...

My one and only thought on this is that folks who imagine themselves to be wonderfully interesting are usually overestimating their charms. Ahem.

Seraphic said...

To be fair, nobody above claimed to be wonderfully interesting.

Meanwhile, Thwarted Throne wants to know what men think, and I maintain that that is not always very pretty--and behold! Three Catholic men wrote in what they thought, and some of you got cheesed off at two of them.

For all we know, they could be beautiful inside and out but were having a bad day or whatever. I just cannot see the point of putting down eligible Catholic bachelors and bachelorettes over the internet.

Boy of the Nice Catholic Variety said...

I should say that since this is somewhat addressed in the subsequent post, that my comment was meant to be both honest and a tad piquant. I also want to say that I thought my comment tacitly assumed the point that Seraphic puts forward in her post and also the fact that I used the generic "people" at the beginning of my post. However, I would like to say that I think we are both wrong and that people are not boring and it is perhaps wrong to defame them in this way. Why? Because we are part of God's creation, made in the image and likeness of God, and are absolutely unique, this, alone is enough to make one exciting. The mystery of the human person, in plain sight. Then what about our felt and lived experience of other people, perhaps it would be better to say that people can seem boring. Calling someone boring, I think, borders on character assassination. True, all of the examples listed here involve "anonymous" people, but to know that devout Catholics think that way is clearly disconcerting as is demonstrated by the reaction present here. I think it's probably important to realize that boring-ness is related to the sin of sloth, which we are all capable of falling into, and we should have a good awareness of our own capacity for sin.

Jennifer said...

Can you please clarify? Do you mean that to be boring is to be guilty of the sin of sloth, or that it is slothful to perceive someone as being boring?

Seraphic said...

Just to keep things orthodox here, sloth (acedia) does not actually mean laziness but sinful sadness about a spiritual good.

Jennifer, I'm pretty sure BNVC meant it was lazy of us to perceive another person as boring. I don't agree, although of course God doesn't find anyone boring and indeed it would be nice if we tried harder to see people as God sees them.

dark but fair said...

Wow! I have missed a lot since the last time I glanced at this blog and posted a comment. First of all, thank you to everybody who rose to defend me. Secondly, my profuse apologies to everyone and anyone that I unwittingly and completely unintentionally offended. Thirdly, Thank you to "some guy on the street" for the link.

sciencegirl said...

I think there's a difference between "I am bored by this person" and saying "This person is boring." I find many people boring. The people I find boring are, I hope, also bored by me. How sad it would be if they found me fascinating while I sat there, miserably and awkwardly attempting to find common ground, praying to be delivered from the conversation.

I am uninterested in many topics other people rightly find entrancing. I am boring to many people because I don't have much knowledge of indie rock or historical reenactments and will probably never be interested in them. Despite 28 years in a sport-loving country and sport-loving colleges, I am still learning most of the rules for football, baseball, and basketball. I can talk about some religious matters for hours, and I know only some people, and only some Catholics can stand that. I am bored by discussions of altar serving, even though I know it is an important and useful thing. I do not scorn those who enjoy video games, but I get quite bored watching other people play them, and sad when I play even Mario Kart with friends and lose by a margin of 50000 points. I have never played tennis. I am lucky to break 80 at bowling. I know that a competitive, athletic man hoping for a doubles partner would be disappointed in life as in sport. I can lose, cheerfully and repeatedly, but those who take sports and games seriously would find me irritating.

I am okay with that. The art of conversation is important. Everyone should be able to talk for an hour or so with anyone on topics of general interest. But after 3 or 4 dates, the truth will out. Your date will find you increasingly enchanting or increasingly dull. Your siblings will have been listed, your Top 10 Anecdotes will have been told, and if the Common Interest Fishies haven't bit yet, don't keep wasting your bait. Or, if they are biting, hooray! Keep on pulling them out of the water to let them flop around as they expire, then gut and fry them in the delicious Sacramental Skillet of Matrimony before their eyes milk over.

Analogy WIN/FAIL??? I can't even tell anymore.

One more thought. I have had 3.5 hours of sleep. Despite my espresso, I thought the "Nice of you to be doing NCB's a favor ..." remark was truly sincere. Someone should do a study on the effect of sleeplessness on the internal sarcasmometer.

Hmm, maybe this isn't a molecular lab work day.

The Scholar said...

I know it is a tad bit late, but my internet was down for a while, and work prohibits (or at least frowns upon) using company resources to blog/comment on them.

I have to agree with most of what has been said, though honestly I would like to make a comment on not settling (I know, the conversation moved to whether or not people are boring / whether we should admit that we find them boring / if there is a difference between the perception of being boring and actually being boring.... I will touch on this topic momentarily) for second best.

I feel the need to point out that for true NCBs & NCGs, you really only get to marry once. Yes, there is the annulment process, but there you are saying that you were not married at all for whatever given reason... and the Church doesn't hand those out the way the courts hand out divorces. You get one shot at picking the person you want to share the rest of your life with... why settle for anything less than the best? I would, personally, rather spend most of my life looking for that right person than "settling" for someone that I wouldn't be able to really stand in 10, 15, 20, or more years.

On the topic of boringness, I think I lean toward the idea that people aren't boring in their own right, but we sometimes find them so because we are just not compatible with them on a level deeper than associate or whatnot (as opposed to friend, good friend, spouse, etc.).

Oh, and one last note. The ladies (and guys) were quite right to jump down "nice"'s throat. Nice, sarcasm isn't a bad thing in its own right, but it becomes unchivalrous when it isn't at least followed/preceded by non-sarcastic treatment of the person's comments.