Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Most Pelagian Day of the Year II

This is my second post of the day, so for an explanation of the poll, scroll down to the post below.

Poppets, it has come to my attention that some of you are making resolutions to find boyfriends or even husbands in the New Year. >:-(

I was going to write a huge old rant on that, but then I remembered that I wrote a perfectly fine one 365 days ago, so here it is again. Read and learn.

Meanwhile, happy Hogmanay and all the best in 2012!

Grace and peace,

Courtship and Cowardice Online

It has come to my attention that there are Catholic men out there courting Catholic women very attentively by email and instant message and then suddenly disappearing into the ether when the going gets tough (e.g. plans to meet in person have fallen through). I do not know the scope of this problem, so I will set up a poll.

I cannot throw stones because when I was a young woman I used to talk about marriage with my poor downtrodden boyfriends, which led them to think I would marry them, and then I would break up with them because I was bored. This was terrible behaviour, for which I am now very sorry.

Meanwhile, I don't remember anyone telling me this was terrible behaviour--ooh, except one guy one frozen night one New Year's Eve, green eyes aflame with righteous indignation. I seem to remember we were inside the doors of a bank, by the cash machines, and he was actually yelling. Meanwhile, he had never even been my boyfriend, although he wanted to be. Oh dear, what drama.

Bad, bad Seraphic.

Anyway, enough about me. I am reading too many stories about this happening now, to girls, to very nice girls, to very nice Catholic girls, who are contacted by likely lads on Catholic dating sites and chat rooms. The boys write to the girls about their hopes and dreams, while thinking out loud that these might be the nice Catholic girls they'd like to share their lives with. But instead of ever meeting the nice Catholic girls, the Catholic boys eventually simply disappear without a trace, as if they had never said or thought any of this stuff.

First question: has this happened to you?

Second question: have you pulled a similar online disappearing act?

Please answer the poll and confess all below. For once I will allow Anonymous comments.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Pirate and the Old Joke

Scene: Thursday, car park in North Berwick, Scotland. The McAmbrose and Single families are in a rental car. Auntie Seraphic and Pirate are in the back seat, and Uncle Ben and Pirate's Mum are in the front.

Pirate: Guess what?

Uncle: What?

Pirate: Chicken butt.

Auntie (genuinely): Ha ha ha ha ha!

Pirate: Ha ha ha ha ha! Guess who?

Uncle: Who?

Pirate: Chicken butt. Ha ha ha ha ha!

Auntie: Okay, cut that out. I only laughed because I hadn't heard it in twenty years.

Scene: Friday, highway in Perthshire, Scotland. Pirate's Mum is again in the driver's seat, and Uncle Ben is beside her. Auntie S and Pirate are once again in the back.

Pirate: Why did the chicken cross the road?

Auntie: Chicken butt. Ha ha ha ha ha!

Pirate: Ha ha ha ha ha!

Pirate's Mother (to Uncle B.A.) I'm really sorry. Now Seraphic has been influenced by Pirate and you have to live with the results.

Auntie: Chicken butt! Ha ha ha ha ha!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Crossing the Border in Orange County

Tonight after Pirate was in bed, his mother, auntie and uncle watched "Orange County." And Auntie had a somewhat unpleasant shock during a scene in which Colin Hanks, playing an unlucky high school senior named Shaun, consults his hero, a writer/Stanford professor named Marcus Skinner, played by Kevin Kline.

At first I was amused at the way Marcus Skinner is portrayed: shrouded in J.D. Salinger type mystery. First he is just a pair of hands opening Shaun's fan letter. Then he is a well-dressed man with a briefcase seen from behind in the dark night of the Stanford campus. Then he turns around and looks like Kevin Kline. He doesn't speak much, but he remembers the novella Shaun sent him. Shaun throws his arms around him. (The audience giggles.)

The next thing we know, Shaun is in Skinner's office or sitting room or wherever, and Skinner is giving Shaun a very helpful review of his novella. His advice is so good that Shaun leaves absolutely euphoric. His smooth teenage face is a complete contrast to Skinner's grizzled charms, and he positively glows with youth and optimism and dreams and

And I was right back there in the sitting room with Marcus Skinner, thinking about how very young the young look, and I thought, Oh dear. I no longer identify with the young in young people movies. I identify solely with the grizzled adults they consult. I AM the grizzled adult they consult--or would be if they could see the grey in my hair, which they can't really, thank goodness, on account of the volume.


Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Have Cold But Also Presents!

Hello, my little poppets. I have a terrible cold and only emerged from the House to see our old pal Aelianus. Aelianus, whom you may remember from my unofficial first novel, The Tragical Tale of Aelianus of England, was wondering if there is any magic realism in my official first novel (Ignatius, soon to be announced on a Catholic website near you), and I had to think for an hour, sipping Lemsip, before I remembered one eensy bit.// Anyway, being so sick, I cannot think of anything very brainy to say about either the Single or the Married Life today. Instead I will gloat over all my Christmas presents, which include a bottle of Chanel No. 5 from Mum and Dad and a book on British baking from Our Nearest Neighbour Angela. I am very excited to have a British baking book to go with British flour, which is so much different from Canadian.// Feel free to gloat over your presents, too, in the combox. We all know Christmas is not about presents, but now that it is the 27th, I think it is safe to revel in them. I personally love Christmas presents, and always recorded them in my diaries so as to remember who gave me what when.// What is with Blogger? I take special pride in my paragraphs, and their glitches are driving me nuts.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Woman with a Troubled Past

Plans are afoot for Auntie to return victoriously to Poland as the keynote speaker for a women's retreat. This retreat is very much still in the planning stages, and eventually I will have to remind the enthusiastic organizer that I do not, in fact, speak Polish and I get the parish Polish altar servers to read me his letters./ In one of the letters, the organizer sketched out his suggestions for the programme, and my parish Polish altar server du jour stumbled over one of the phrases. Apparently I was being described as a "brave woman with a troubled past", which the loyal altar server did not think a sterling summation of my auntish character./ "Yarg," shouted Auntie. "It's the divorce, isn't it? Yarg! Continental Europeans! Yarg!"/ The altar server listened patiently as I ranted about European Catholic attitude towards annulments and divorced women and why people look at me as if I have a troubled past. And then I remembered the last bit might be because I actually wrote about it in my book. Meanwhile, if you write about being divorced, people are going to think of you as divorced. And if you are somehow magically married again, people are going to want to see your annulment papers and hopefully some contrition./ My principal source of contrition, which I thought about as I woke up today, is that I thought Dorothy L. Sayer's Gaudy Night was any kind of guide to life. Plot spoiler alert. In Dorothy L. Sayer's Lord Peter Wimsey novels, Lord Peter eventually falls in love with a dark-haired, husky-voiced, detective novelist named Harriet. We will not say that she was based on Dorothy L. Sayers herself because I will go mental if anyone thinks my own heroines are based on myself (unless they are actually named Seraphic, of course)./ Now, BIG PLOT SPOILER, after a few novels in which Harriet consents to go out to dinner now and again with the dashing and clever Lord Peter, about whom she has a major inferiority complex, Harriet "gives way" at the end of Gaudy Night and, to quote Lord Peter's mother, they end up "kissing madly in a punt."/ This is all very romantic, and I think Gaudy Night was an absolutely splendid book, but Dorothy L. Sayers sacrificed common sense to a handy literary device by making her heroine fall in love with a man she had consistently rejected for three years or so. Harriet is depicted as having won a major victory over herself, and it was of Harriet I thought when I was 24 and much stupider than I am now./ It may have been the last time I mistook fictional decisions for real life lessons. I certainly hope so. And meanwhile I have discovered that I am not the only woman who has done this, for apparently there are women who honestly take as Gospel lessons learned from Sex and the City and other television shows. Never mind that a freelance writer does not make Carrie's salary. I remember Samantha wondering if sleeping with half of New York is what got her breast cancer, and she being very relieved to discover that the nun in her waiting room also has breast cancer. Yes, nuns get breast cancer. But they don't usually get cervical cancer which, unlike breast cancer, is linked to a very common STD. And as my friend Lily pointed out, there is no way a woman who uses men the way Samantha does could possibly have long-term loyal friendships with three women./ Being in general pro-great world literature, I am sure that there are some lessons you can learn from the classics. However, I would steer clear of making major life decisions based on the decisions made by fictional characters. I don't care that PLOT SPOILER Anne and Gilbert got married in the end and had seven children. Lucy Maud Montgomery and her very best bosom friend both married men mostly just not to be spinsters, it seems, and they were miserable./ The Anne books were and are escapist fiction, no matter how many Japanese and Korean tourists insist Anne is real. Plato wouldn't allow any poets into his perfect state, and that is because they told such shocking lies. I am sure he would feel the same way about novelists. However, to be fair to novelists, our first loyalty is not always to the truth of ordinary life but to our beloved characters. We make up our own universes, and the laws that govern this universe do not always govern ours./ If Blogger does not fix the bug in its new model I will be leaving it sooner rather than later for my very own new webpage, so stay tuned.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

It's About Baby Jesus

Great column from Single mum Crescat over here.

Being between washing a ton of dishes and mixing up the dough for gingerbread men for the tree which we finally bought this morning (£20 as last minute, woo-hoo!), I have almost nothing more to say.

What I have to say is a suggestion to thank God for who you have and what you have this Christmas, and concentrate on the people who really love and like you, and not on the people you wish loved and liked you. Celebrate with the people who really are in your life, like your nephews and nieces (if you have some), and don't brood over phantasms of your imagination, like your future children.  That is the only and best way to keep sane over the holidays.

And, finally, it's not your birthday (unless it is): it's the day we mark the birthday of our Lord, so good Christian readers rejoice and get ye to the best and most beautiful service you can find to celebrate--unless you are a strict Presbyterian, in which case I wish you a happy and tranquil Sunday!

I'll be praying for you all at Midnight Mass.Merry Christmas (and happy Sunday) to all! Wesołych i błogosławionych świąt Bożego Narodzenia!

Friday, 23 December 2011

"What Do Aunties Do?" Redux

Scene: Dinner Table

Pirate's Mum: Pirate, what do aunties do?

Pirate: They fool around.


Perfectly Innocent House Guest (mournfully): Denounced by a seven year old.

Auntie: What do you mean by fooling around, exactly?

Pirate hops down from the cushion on his chair.

Pirate (with relish): They walk around like THIS! (He does a shambling dance in a circle.)

Thursday, 22 December 2011

An Acceptance Letter

I was never this thin, however.
Yesterday I got a contract in the post from Ignatius Press. They wish to publish my novel.

No, not The Bodis Riper. (This is Ignatius Press, people!) I'm talking about my Graham Greenesque thriller, which almost none of you have seen because I never put a word of it online.

This is not a tremendous shock to me, as I was told over a month ago that Ignatius Press was thinking about it, and then I spent a week or two waiting for the final decision. There was a point where I could do nothing but pray that everything worked out the way it should, and then I thought, "Hey! I have a captive audience who could pray, too!"

Darlingses, I can say no more about the drama of it all, but you will all understand soon after you have rushed off to buy my Controversial and Stunning Debut.

The final decision came in early December and a suggested contract by email shortly after that. B.A. and I bought a magnum of champagne and served it to our pals after Mass the next Sunday. But I was determined not to say anything to the outside world until after I got the contract in the post. And lo, I have. It has very nice, thick paper too!

I will tell you what it is called and various other information all in good time. Meanwhile, I just wanted to let you know about this lovely non-rejection letter and what is, I admit, extremely exciting news.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The Realities of Marriage

Occasionally I get an email from a nice Catholic girl who has been dating a nice Catholic boy for some months, and she is trying to decide if she wants to marry him or not. She lays out all the good qualities of the nice Catholic boy and his family and asks me what I think.

What I think is that she should marry him only if she wants to have sex with him, wash his socks and sit beside him on the couch as he watches yet another boring episode of yet another boring TV show. Because this is what the daily, domestic reality of marriage largely is, when you get right down to it. 

I'm not talking about the spiritual stuff, obviously. There are dozens of Catholics happy to tell you all about the spiritual stuff, so go read them if you want to find out about it. I think Christopher West has even developed a kind of Catholic tantra or something, so if you want to mix in some ooh-la-la with your theological reading, off you go to Chris.

Meanwhile, if you are younger than me (it seems) there is also getting pregnant, which involves swollen ankles and having a puffy face and staring down at your huge belly moaning "Come onnnnn, new baby! Hurry uuuuuup!" The new baby will usually look like your husband, so it is important to really like or even love your husband so that you love the fact that his baby looks like him. 

Oh yes. Love. I guess I should also talk about love, although now that I live in Britain it is an even more embarrassing word than sex. The problem with love is that we North Americans throw the word around a lot, and tell everyone that we love them. Even North American boys now indulge, as in "I love you, man!" And what you feel when you get a crush on someone can be called love, I suppose, although I prefer the expression "temporary insanity." The British call it "fancying", as in "Do you fancy him?" which sounds suspiciously akin to that other common expression, "Fancy a fish supper?"

For marriage purposes, however, love is not just a feeling of sexual attraction or affection but, in my experience at least, a feeling that you will absolutely die if you cannot marry this person within six  to eight months which morphs, after marriage, into the knowledge that life will really, really suck if this person escapes or dies. 

Of course,  you could argue, that is just me, Auntie Seraphic, over 35 and brimming with natural affections. What of the indecisive young?  

I would say that the indecisive young should just sit tight until they meet a person--of proven good character and appropriate family background, beliefs and education--who truly rocks their world. And this is because marriage is not something tremendously exciting in itself, on the domestic level (on the social level it is crucial to the health of society), but a man and a woman living in one space, trying to keep the space and themselves clean, earning money and spending it on boring things, having sex, arguing and watching boring TV.  That's what the "marriage lifestyle" looks like, so unless you marry someone who rocks your world, you are going to feel seriously ripped off.   

There is a cynical little term that has arisen from people who marry young and soon feel ripped off. It's called "starter marriage." But this is a little term we want to stamp out because divorce should not be an option, and if you're even thinking of divorce as your handy little escape hatch then most definitely you should not be getting married. 

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

More Pirate

This is the first time a child has waited for Christmas in the Historical House for decades--perhaps a century. Our attic flat used to be nurseries and servants' quarters, so it is easy to imagine children at the table in what is now our dining room, although it is hard to imagine Pirate in the role of some Georgian or Victorian darling in a sailor suit.

Take, for example, a necessarily informal dinner party the other night. Around the table were two young Polish students, Uncle B.A., Auntie Seraphic, Pirate's Mum and, at the foot, Pirate eagerly spooning up his soup. It was Polish chicken soup and thus unfamiliar to Pirate, but to my relief he slurped it down. And such was his contentment with life in general that he began to sing a little ditty that I can only assume he learned in the playground of his Catholic school:

"Ladies on top," he caroled. "Ladies on top, ladies on top."

Spoons halted in the air as five pairs of adult eyes swiveled to the brown-eyed, gap-toothed songster.

"Ladies on top of what?" asked Pirate's mother. "That's just silly. What does that even mean?"

Puzzled, Pirate thought about his song and then his face cleared.

"Ladies on top of the roof!" he sang. "Ladies on top of the roof!"

Then, you may be heartened to hear, he burst into "All the Single Ladies." That one he learned from the Chipmunks.

Update: Memory compels me to admit that one ditty that did the rounds when I was in my own Catholic school playground was "[Angel in the] Centerfold."

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Auntie Seraphic & Older and Wiser

To return for a moment to the vaccination debate:

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

I'm a bit hesitant to write this due to its sensitive nature, but I feel that I must.

I'm not sure what conservative Christians (Catholic and Protestant) have against the HPV vaccination, but I strongly think that they should reconsider their positions. Unlike condoms or birth control pills, there isn't a moral prohibition against vaccinations. On the contrary, the vaccination protects the life of the girl and preserves her potential to give life to children.

I don't buy the argument that getting the girl the vaccine signals to her that it's okay to have sex whenever she wants. Hormones aside, 15 year old girls aren't complete idiots, and they are capable of understanding preventive measures taken in case of a mistake versus parental approval of said mistake. What that does require is a parental conversation with the kid about sex, which I think the real reason they've come up with such a shoddy argument. 

In my experience the sex ed in Christian circles is abysmal. The real reason condoms don't protect against HPV? It's spread by skin on skin contact, not bodily fluids like most of the others. Which means that "technical virgins" can actually get HPV. When's the last time you heard that discussed? I'm sure I've never heard that from any Christian source, and I've been around for awhile. Yeah, I'm sure it would be nice if teenagers didn't have sex before marriage, but many do, and they are the most vulnerable ones due to their age.

Aside from teenage promiscuity, there's all sorts of reasons to vaccinate. There's sexual assault, and having the vaccination is just one less thing to worry about in that case. Also, you mentioned that the guy the girl one day marries may not have been perfect in his past. There's no test to take, and there's usually no symptoms for the guy. The best protection for the girl is to get vaccinated. Vaccinating early is best because it is most effective before sexual activity. Also, I'm not sure how the NHS works, but insurance in the US only pays for the vaccine if you are in the appropriate age range.

Which brings the topic to me. You see, I once thought I didn't need the vaccine when I was younger, for many of the same reasons I hear on conservative news and blogs. Now I wish I had taken the opportunity, because when I reconsidered I was out of the age range and couldn't afford it without insurance. I made a mistake, and now I have HPV, even though I was a really really good girl for many years. Luckily I don't have cancer, but pap smears every 6 months is no picnic. I'm not feeling sorry for myself, I just wish I had been wiser. No one knows the future, and even the best NCG can't guarantee that she'll never slip up once. Speaking from experience, the best method is to protect yourself, and that includes getting vaccinations against a very common disease.

Sorry for the long email, I just have strong views on this topic. Christians often talk about being cautious and protecting ourselves in regards to many other topics, and they should protect their girls against HPV.

-Older and Wiser

Dear Older and Wiser,

Thank you very much for your email.  I didn't know that conservative Christians had anything against HPV vaccinations, unless it is part of a general distrust for Big Government and anything having to do with sex education or the patronizing idea that teenagers "will just do it anyway."

I think that maybe there is a learning curve, not just for the Christian community but for any public health body that needs to get across the idea that an HPV vaccination is not dirty or a statement that a girl can become promiscuous now. When my father said he wished his (now too old) daughters could have got the HPV vaccination, I was very angry with him because I thought he was suggesting something pessimistic about us. However, my father has a friend whose daughter died of cervical cancer, and this affected him very much.  

Thus your arguments are very good. An HPV vaccination is not a mark of dishonour for any 15 year old girl but a recognition that she could catch HPV from any man, including her husband. And I think any public health body should get that idea across instead of dumb posters with a teenage girl with her head tilted to one side with "Am I ready for sex?" in a thought bubble over her head.  

I hope I may publish your email, as I would like other girls to read it. Meanwhile, I am sorry you have HPV, and I hope it clears completely out of your system. From my reading, it appears that it usually does. 

Grace and peace,

P.S. to all: Once again, I am not a doctor, and I don't know if I would have my 15 year old daughter vaccinated, if I had one. (Ask your doctor if she would.)

It is not guaranteed that any of us will get HPV, and I am (rightly or wrongly) suspicious of all new "magic bullet" drugs and vaccinations because of what happened to the "DES Daughters" and the poor people exposed to thalidomide. All I can say is that it is your parents' and/or your decision. And, incidentally, I see that boys can be inoculated for it, too. Interesting that the burden of responsibility for sexual health has ONCE AGAIN been placed on women.

By the way, as a twice-married middle-aged lady, I get a cervical smear myself. The National Health Service in Scotland advises that women have this done every two years.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Advent of Pirate, Age 7

If you have read my book, you know all about Pirate. Pirate and his mother have arrived in Scotland for their Christmas holidays. I fixed up the guest room for them; they are now both asleep on the sitting-room couch.

But when they first arrived they were all about cookies and conversation.

Pirate: I want a new cousin.

Auntie S: You can talk to your Auntie [mother-of-2] about that.

Pirate: I want a new SCOTTISH cousin!

Auntie S: Um, er, um, er, um. Sometimes people don't get to decide about that. It is God who decides.

Pirate's Mummy: I know a lady who is 43 and has a really cute 3 month old baby.

Auntie S: That's nice. That's a nice story. I like stories like that.

Pirate's Mummy: In Bulgaria there is no age limit on adopting children.

Auntie S: Goodness!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Sex and Cancer

This is one of those posts in which I have to remind you that I am not a doctor.

When I was a teenager, I read in "Seventeen" magazine that sexually active teenagers and women over 18 were supposed to have regular pap (or cervical) smears, but I never read why that was exactly. The reason why is that vaginal sex can give you a virus called HPV which can go on to give you cervical cancer. If you have a regular pap (or cervical smear) regularly, doctors can see if you have cervical cancer sooner rather than later.

This is probably the tenth time I've written this, but the scientist Natalie Angiers wrote in "Woman: An Intimate Geography" that the very scary thing about HPV and cervical cancer is that condoms don't seem to prevent them. The more men you sleep with, whether or not you use condoms, the more likely you are to get them.

Meanwhile, I know that a teenage girl is especially vulnerable to contracting HPV and other diseases because the walls of her cervix are not very thick yet.

Here is something my friend Hilary recently wrote about sex and cervical cancer.

(Blogger doesn't seem to be working properly right now, so I can't embed it.)

Please read it and then come back for my following remarks. (By the way, I can't get youtube, either, so I have no idea what video Hilary has up.)

The first thing I have to say is that it is disgraceful that nobody warned my mother's or my or your generation that "free love" was potentially lethal and that even the almighty condom can't stop all venereal diseases. The only excuse for the enablers of the sexual dissolution that I can think of is that they simply didn't know: never before had so many women slept with so many men. I suspect they know now, which is why various public health bodies are so keen to inoculate as many 15 year old girls as possible against HPV.

The second thing I have to say is that a hysterectomy should not signal the end of matrimonial hopes. Not all men long to have children. Some never really think about them, and some have had children in first marriages or earlier relationships, and some discover at the age of 50 that although they'd like to get married, they would be relieved to be married to a woman who, barring a miracle, wasn't going to have children herself, e.g. a woman their own age. That's not selfish; that's just the reality of many men over 50.

Meanwhile, as women over childbearing age marry or remarry, I don't see why a woman with a hysterectomy might not marry or remarry, too.

The third thing I have to say, and this is not in criticism of Hilary, who has written a generous post, from a place of illness, disillusionment, fear and pain, and it is that it is in general a bad idea for an unmarried Catholic woman to write on the internet about her past sexual sins, no matter how far in the past they may be.

Long-time readers will remember how I discourage female readers from revealing whether or not they are virgins to anyone other than their doctor or their date-has-been-set-hall-has-been booked fiances. Your virginity or lack thereof is nobody's business but your own, and for various reasons (freaking out the sensitive, gossipy friends, creepy virgin hunters, "how come you would for him but not for me?", etc.) you should keep it to yourself.

But I will also say, as I have said many times before, that you should also keep a lid on the sexual sins of your past life because they freak out religious men, particularly younger or less sexually experienced religious men. Men's imaginations are on a hair-trigger where sex is concerned anyway, and so if they discover the girl they really like has been with some other guy, their imaginations go wild. They torture themselves wondering who and what and where and when, and they feel competitive and jealous and potentially inadequate and generally awful. And they occasionally (often?) move the Publicly Known to Have Slept Around Girl off the Potential Wife list, no matter how humble and contrite she might now be.

And so another lie of the sexual revolution is revealed. Not only can sleeping around end up in cancer, a lot of good young men still feel uncomfortable knowing that women they might bring home to their mothers have slept around. Yes, never-married girls do have to tell their fiances whether they are virgins or not and if they have an incurable sexual disease, but I cannot think of any man not your doctor or your very trusted confessor who needs to hear about your past sexual actions.

And if you and/or your fiance has been sexually active, make sure you both/he gets checked out for HPV* and any other sexually transmitted disease before you get married. After that, it's a regular pap (cervical) smear for you. Life is hard, and in many ways the sexual dissolution made it harder. As Sister Wilfreda said back in Grade 9 religion, "Sin has its own built-in punishment."

Update: Actually, it seems that men cannot be tested for HPV. This is not good news.

Update 2: A handy article from Uncle Sam. Read all the words.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Women and Symbols

I was trying to explain female psychology this morning, so there will be a lot of bold generalization appearing on this post. Explaining female psychology without a degree in the subject is also a dangerous thing to do. When a man begins a sentence, "Any red-blooded man would---", I always assume he is mostly talking about himself. And therefore, if I begin a sentence with the word "Women feel," would it not be reasonable to assume that I am talking mostly about myself?

But I am saved by the cardinal rule of this blog, which is that just because men behave/think/speak a certain way doesn't mean women do, too, and vice versa.

Anyway, my thought this morning is that women think in terms of symbols. My principal example is the frivolous, pretty, high heeled shoe. Why do so many women buy so many shoes? Why did the shoe obsession of Sex and the City (not that any of us ever saw a single episode) ring so true with legions of girls. Why do I and my girly-girl friends unwrap our shoe-purchases for each other's gazes with such shoe-venerating anticipation? Can it really be the shoes, or do the shoes point to some other reality, like Femininity, Attractiveness and Disposable Income?

I think crushes operate the same way. Women get crushes on men we don't know, and whom we even, with another part of our brains, dislike. We fixate like mad, daydream and then, after having an actual conversation with the man, go away feeling angry and disappointed but still fixated. What is with that?

Could it be that the crush has nothing to do with the man but something the man symbolically represents? Could it be a displacement for feelings of attraction to a place or time you are currently in? For example, if you are loving your holiday on the Dalmatian coast, perhaps the Croatian waiter who makes your heart race does so simply because he has become a symbol of your lovely holiday.

I think this works for other emotions, too. For example, I was once in a terrible state when B.A. and I returned from an outwardly pleasant evening out with a very nice former classmate of mine from my not very nice Ph.D. department and a much younger friend. I seemed to have plunged into an ocean of grief and loss. But when I sorted it out, I realized that on one level I had spent an evening with my husband, a friend and a former colleague, but on another level I had spent it with my husband, My Lost Youth and the Implosion of my Academic Theological Career.

I think this is also why women get so upset if we get a very lame present for Valentine's Day or if our husbands forget our birthdays or wedding anniversaries. It has nothing to do with "stuff"; it has to do with what the "stuff" represents.

Symbols can point in good directions, of course. I once turned down a marriage proposal from a Mr Almost (but not quite) Right, who was not a Catholic. One very strong influence on this decision was, quite unbeknownst to either of them, a classmate who was a male religious. Now, I knew that I did not want to run away with a male religious. However, I did know that I would really prefer to marry someone a lot like him--which is to say, a funny, good-humoured, devoutly Catholic guy. At the time, it seemed unlikely that this might happen, as I was already in my thirties and tick tick tick and blah blah blah. However, I decided that this was the kind of man I would hold out for, and I did. The male religious, bless his heart, was a symbol of the Good Catholic Husband, and B.A. is the reality.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Auntie Seraphic & How Will I Know?

As we know, not all marriages are love matches. In some cultures, people--especially women--are pressured to marry by a certain age, and for reasons other than love. In such cultures, parents tend to say that love will follow the wedding, and this may very well be true--in those cultures. I suspect that, most of the time, at least among educated people, the bride and groom whose families have agreed that their arranged marriage is mutually acceptable at least like and sympathize with each other. I can imagine a South Asian woman doctor saying to a handsome South Asian doctor, "Our families! Argh!" and the man doctor saying back, "Argh! I know", and each feeling understood and supported by the other.

However, most English-speaking Catholics arrange our own marriages and expect that feelings of deep attachment will precede the wedding. I certainly do, especially since B.A. and I were all gobsmacked about each other when we met. And this is all a preamble to a letter I am rewriting entirely to protect the writer.

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

I am in my early twenties, and I've always been popular with boys.
[Auntie note: This is my wording, so don't get huffy.] I've dated boys long enough to call them boyfriends, but I broke up with every one. I wonder if this is because I am very indecisive, and I wonder how I can stop the dating-boyfriend-break-up cycle.

But my biggest question is how will I know when I meet the man I'm supposed to marry. I've consulted movies, books and my parent on this subject. But my parents and other married people always say "You just know," and that drives me crazy.

How Will I Know

Dear How Will I Know,

I wouldn't put much faith in books and movies! Books and movies have to have simple, exciting plots with lots of drama and steadily growing character development, and life isn't really like that. We develop in fits and starts, and life unfolds according to its own schedule, with a lot of boring bits.

It would probably drive you crazy if I said "You just know" like your parents, so I will try to elaborate on this. Essentially, you make friends with a man who intrigues you very much, and the better you get to know him, the more excited you are to be around him and the more you hope he feels that way about you, too. And when you do find out he does feel this way, you are so happy you feel that your life has become a fairy tale. You might be torn between the excitement of getting married and the dread that something horrible might happen to prevent it. You are a little bit insane. Meanwhile, you have a serious hunch that he will get along absolutely great with your family and friends.

This sounds very exciting, and the western world is packed with women wondering if and when this will happen to them. However, there is no way of knowing if and when, although American marriage statistics, at any rate, do suggest it's more "when" than "if."

It's okay that you are indecisive. That sounds extremely normal for [an early 20-something]. But you know when you are looking for the right book or the right dress and suddenly THE PERFECT THING pops out at you? It's like that. One moment you're just casually looking around a store, and nothing seems right and then (once in a blue moon)--WHAM! Right dress! Hooray!

So don't blame yourself for being indecisive. Just keep on meeting people and going out on dates with nice Catholic boys to see if a friendship or something more might develop. Keep things on a friendly level as much as possible. I know this is difficult because our culture has developed this thing about dating as a highway to "relationships" instead of dating as a way to spend time with friendly men who might (or might not) become something more.

Also, don't watch the clock. Fortunately you are only [early 20-something] and therefore presumably not freaking about growing older, but you have no way of knowing when it is that the Future Mister You will swim into view. It could be next week. It could be next year. It could be when you are 37. Eeek! But whenever it happens--and I speak as one who experienced it at 37--it will be totally worth it and you will be so terribly thankful you didn't settle for someone else.

I hope this is helpful!

Grace and peace,

Update: In light of the first comment, I should add explicitly what I meant implicitly above, and it is that both of you have become absolutely certain you should marry, and the sooner the better. And I am talking about adults, not teenagers, or people who started their "fairy tale" relationship as teenagers.

That said, I know two couples of my parents (Baby Boom) generation who did meet as children. One literally met in the sandbox (she whacked him with a plastic shovel), and the other dated in high school, broke up, and got back together.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

"You're Not a Teenager, Are You?"

Darlingses. Sometimes I get an email that makes my head explode. It's not the writer who makes it explode--usually the writer is wonderfully sweet with a vulnerability that goes straight to my auntish heart. No--it is always the man she is writing about.

If you are a teenager, and you find yourself in a car with or across the table from an OLD MAN (and if you are a teenager every man over 21 is an old man) who is talking about his love life, and he says, with a bit of a smirk, "You're not a teenager, are you?", I want you to take a big breath, sit up straight and say "YES. Yes, I AM a teenager. And I have to call my mom now."

I cannot express how serious I am about this. There is nothing wrong or shameful about being a teenager. But there is something wrong and shameful about an OLD MAN saying "You're not a teenager, are you?" to an obviously much younger woman. He should feel ashamed, not you. And if I could, I would come right over there and kick his butt.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Other People's Children

I had quite a nice day with other people's children! First I went to visit a pal with a one year old and a one week old! The one year old stroked his baby sister's head very gently; he was adorable. And the little baby was as sweet as only a one week old can be!

And then I had an email from a university-age friend, whose parents are farther away from her than I am, and I answered with zeal.

Finally my university-age Polish teacher arrived, and I heard about his housing woes and the genitive case.

It was all very satisfactory. I don't think children, teenagers and university students understand what a lift they give older people (including 40 year olds) just by being there, but they certainly do.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Nagging Young Women's Boyfriends Day

The other day I heard the depressing story of a woman in Britain, no longer young, who is waiting for the Leap Year, so she can ask her boyfriend to marry her. In a way this seems very old-fashioned, as the tradition is that this is the one acceptable day women can ask men to marry them. But it also sounds like one long humiliation. Years gone by, the boyfriend's elderly neighbours may have said something to him like, "Such-and-such is a nice girl. When are you going to do right by her?"

"Mind your own business," the boyfriend might have snarled.

"It is our business," the elderly might have shot back. "Nice girl, Such-and-such. Known her all our lives. Know her people. Knew her people's people."

And then the boyfriend might have slunk off sulkily but newly clued in to the ideas that 1.) public behaviour, like courting or living with a woman for umpteen months or years, is kind of public and 2.) his girlfriend is well-thought of in the community and 3.) the community is somewhat disapproving of him for what they perceive to be a wrong to his girlfriend.

I am of course opposed to married people picking on single people and demanding of them why they are not married. I am especially opposed to married people picking on single women and demanding to know why they are not married or, worse, offering hypotheses for their single state. In the West, it has never been the job of a woman to hunt for a husband; it has been the job of a man to hunt for a wife.

But that's "a wife." I am not terrifically thrilled by men who hunt for a girlfriend solely to have a girlfriend and then to string her along for years and years. That's one reason why I think adult women (out of school) should start to re-evaluate her commitment to any boyfriend who has not mentioned marriage in a whole 12 months of dating.

Personally, I cannot imagine why any seriously religious woman (out of school) would date any man for more than 12 months without a whisper of a hint of marriage, given the sexual temptations, the where-is-this-going anxiety and, eventually, the boredom. However, a thought has just occurred to me, and I suppose it is because she is in love with him, poor thing.

That is why it is up to the community once again to start nagging Mr. Dragging His Feet. Marriage would actually be good for Mr. Dragging His Feet, but men are an eenie-weenie bit scared of marriage, in the same way they are an eenie-weenie bit scared of bears. I can just imagine a man admitting he was scared of bears, however, especially to men who have faced bears and won.

Other Men (chuckling): So, I guess you're scared of bears, son, eh?

I, Seraphic, have a really hard time keeping my mouth shut around Catholic men (out of school) who have been dating the same woman for years and years with no mention of a ring. "Marry or move on" I spit between my teeth, uncomfortably knowing that if they moved on, their girlfriends would be initially devastated. I don't know personally if it is more devastating to be left by Mr Wonderful after 13 months of dating, or by Mr Dragging His Feet after five years of dating, but I am guessing the latter because five years is a way bigger investment than 13 months, and time is something women are a bit sensitive about.

It feels better to dump a guy for not getting to the point than to be dumped by a guy who has found "someone better", that is for darn tootin'. And I think if all adult women (out of school) gave suitors no more than a year and a month to come to scratch, men would stop dragging their lazy man feet about marriage. I can just imagine it: lovely women, all shiny and new, intriguing, exciting and slightly mysterious for twelve months and then---RRRRRAAAAAH! Godzilla. Or at least a raised eyebrow and "Where is this going? Because if it isn't going anywhere, buddy boy, I've got places to go, people to see and there's this new guy in the parish who keeps looking up at me when I'm in the queue for Communion."

Until women get that kind of gumption, however, I leave it to their neighbours, families and friends to start clearing their throats and making short but pointed observations to their long-term boyfriends.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Very Bad Boyfriend of the Week

Poppets, I am busy studying for my "Life in the UK" exam. The details don't seem to have much to do with my life in the UK, but perhaps that proves I'm just not that integrated. (Shhhh!)

Anyway, that's the price I pay for marrying an exotic foreign person and living in his exotic foreign country as an exotic foreigner.

Meanwhile, here is a simply ghastly story about exotic foreigners to which I cannot resist linking, even though it probably is adding fuel to the strangely xenophobic why-are-there-so-many-Poles-in-the-UK meme. (Incidentally, the biggest migrant groups to the UK in the 1980s were Americans, Australians, South Africans and New Zealanders; see textbook.) Bonnie Prince Charlie was half-Polish, you know, and the Poles helped to win the Battle of Britain. Also, Poles in Poland are ordering my book in large quantities, so I am reflexively pro-Pole.

I do not know what to say about this story other than that this Marcin person seems like a very bad guy, much much worse than the general run of guys who live with their girlfriends for six years with no ring in sight. Although it is true that 25% of children in the UK live in a single-parent household (see textbook), it is not generally because their fathers have allegedly buried their mothers alive in the woods.

I hope you all appreciate that I linked to the Telegraph and not to the Daily Mail. The Daily Mail is considered a tabloid like the Sun, and the Telegraph is supposed to be a respectable paper.

Perhaps the part that makes my hair stand on end is that the boyfriend's excuse was that he was "bored" with his girlfriend. It makes my hair stand on end because it was probably true. Talk about your disposable (sexual) culture! Brr-rr-rr-rr!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Busy Day

Hello dear readers! B.A. and I have been out with Single friends, and so I haven't had time to blog today. Meanwhile, I pontificated over a bottle of wine and then over tremendous stacks of books, so I am all pontificated out. No more advice from me today.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Auntie Seraphic & Don't Crush On Me

Dear Auntie Seraphic:

A friend of mine is newly single, and seems to be paying me extra attention. I’m not sure whether he just wants more emotional support, or if he is crushing on me, but knows enough not to jump into a rebound relationship. Either way, I want to discourage him. He’s a wonderful person, and we have some nice things in common, but he is a bit too young for me, and just not someone I am attracted to in that way. I really cannot ever see this going beyond friendship.

This is someone I see nearly every day, as part of a small circle of friends who share class and social time. We are all in our mid to late twenties. I want to continue my relationship with the group as a whole, which is very supportive and important to me. Yet, when he is there, I feel more constrained and not quite able to be myself because of my suspicions.

I know that in the end, I can’t stop him from crushing if he’s bound and determined to do so. But I know how much it can hurt when someone leads you on…or even when they are oblivious, but kind of dumb about their boundaries. Is there any way I can be clear that I’m not interested in him without confronting him directly? Do your male readers have any tips?


Don't Crush on Me

Dear Don't Crush on Me,

Just as you cannot make a man fall in love with you, you cannot make a man not fall in love with you. This is the annoying thing about men: they do not come with a remote control.

One good thing about men, however, is that in many countries they are not allowed to touch you, take you out to dinner or marry you without your consent. They can think and wish whatever they want, but they can do nothing involving you without your permission.

It is not a tragedy that your young friend is paying you extra attention. At best, it is a compliment and at worst, it is slightly boring. But you can discourage him as soon as he gives you the first opportunity, e.g. when he actually asks you out on a date, if he ever does, or actually tries to hold your hand. The only "middle ground" I can think of--where it is not clear that what he might be feeling actually affects you in any real way--is if he is staring at you. If he is staring at you, go ahead and say "What?" in an aggrieved tone.

Continue to be just yourself, and for heaven's sake don't blame him for having a crush on you. A crush is as ordinary, and can be as brief, as a cold. Meanwhile, the best way to keep the group together and happy is NOT to create a drama out of this situation by talking about it to the group. For his sake, your sake and the sake of the group, don't gossip about your suspicions. And, of course, don't go out of your way to text, email or call him, for an extraordinary gesture is what is most likely to make him think you like him back.

Never forget that the magical words "No, thank you" keep you from going on dates or having to hold Mr Wrong's clammy hands. All you have to do is wait for the opportunity to use them.

I hope this is helpful!

Grace and peace,

One of the joys of people-watching is realizing who in your set has a crush on whom. There is, of course, an ethical dimension in trying to read the minds and hearts of those around you, so whatever you think you find out by observation, you should keep locked in your head behind the barrier of your teeth. The lesson to be gained from the exercise is that almost everybody--not just you--comes down with crushes, and also that people recover from their crushes, often very rapidly. It is very embarrassing when you discourage a guy with a crush on you, only to change your mind two months later and then discover that he has completely recovered.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Type Versus Reality

I had a hilarious conversation with a married friend the other day. For some reason we were talking about boys. You would think that married ladies over thirty would get tired of talking about boys, but we haven't. At least, I haven't, and maybe the other married ladies over thirty are just humouring me.

But anyway we were having this hilarious conversation in which the subject of Our Type came up. If you have lived more than twenty years, you know what I am talking about. Perhaps you have even said (for example) to a friend, "You know, My Type is six-feet-tall-or-over, dark-haired, blue-eyed, athletic but also intellectual." And your friend may have said, "Oh, well, I don't really care about height, but My Type is dark-eyed and muscular."

These do not, by the way, approximate Our specific Types. I can't tell you what Our Types are because of the next part of the conversation, which was when we fell about laughing because in the end we married men who didn't look at all like Our Types.

I wonder if this is a sweeping phenomenon, this being attracted to One Type and then happily falling in love with another. And I wonder if it is related! (A sudden look of existential horror has passed over Auntie Seraphic's face.) What if the very fact that we are attracted to Type A gives us the exact right amount of indifference towards Type B that makes Type B go to vast lengths to impress us?

And since the more attractive examples of Type B doing the human version of the blue-footed booby dance are demonstrably more lovable than dumb ol' hot-but-haven't-noticed-we're-alive Type As, could it be that our psyche gives up on Type A and just falls in love with this highly attractive example of Type B? Or is it that our psyche knows that Type A is fun for dreaming about, but that this particular Type B guy is the real eligible deal?

I don't know. I haven't done any social-scientific research on this. I almost never do any social-scientific research on anything I write here, poppets, which I hope you remember. I work from instinct, curiosity and memory, like Miss Marple.

By the way, when I talk about forgetting about Type A long enough to fall in love with Type B, I am not talking about settling. I am never talking about settling; I hate the whole concept of settling. This is the 21st century, and you shouldn't have to settle. In Western cultures, you either marry in an exuberant spirit of friendship-on-fire or you don't marry.

I once spoke to a deserted husband who said "I've known for some time that I wasn't the kind of man she wanted" and I felt so awful for him. No woman should marry a man with whom she is not madly in love. It is not fair on him, no matter what he says beforehand. He can't love enough for two, and I wonder who came up with that particular bit of nonsense.

No, all I am saying is that we women may have certain Types that we recognize when we see them, but that they have little to do with the flourishing female life as it is actually lived. And thank goodness that's true, or English-speaking men under 5'10" would never get married. I have never in my life heard a Canadian, American, Australian or British woman describe her Type as "of small or medium height." Yet men of small or medium height can make great husbands, as I happen to know first-hand.

And don't write in saying "But what about men?" because men aren't women. I believe, and this is based not on science but on hearsay, circumstantial evidence and personal experience, that men are much less likely to fall in love "out of Type." Nope. When Type B starts doing his blue-footed booby dance, it is because his psyche has perceived his Type A before him.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Thanks to the Poppets!

Thanks, kids. You did it. Intention answered. All smiles.

I'll tell you more when I can.

Grace and peace,

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Happy Saint Andrew's Day!

Today is Saint Andrew's Day, and as Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, there was a lot of running around for me today. Plus one of my pals leaves Scotland tomorrow and another is about to have a baby. So the Scotland-leaving pal and I went to see our baby-having pal between bouts of going to Mass. First we went to the Ordinary Form at the Cathedral (celebrated by our Cardinal Archbishop and involving relics of Saint Andrew), and then we went to the Extraordinary Form in a chapel (celebrated by our chaplain).

Thus I don't have much to say about the Single Life today. But thank you for praying for my career-related intention--and you can keep on going, if you like! I don't know what is going to happen, but I'm feeling a lot more calm about possible outcomes.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Auntie Seraphic's Intention

Listen, poppets. Your Auntie Seraphic has a very big prayer intention.

It is not about babies. I had a conversation with the Lord on Sunday about babies.

"How come you never send me a baby?" I asked.

Eventually He got around to answering.

"I want you to take care of other people's babies right now," He said. "Okay, some of them are six feet tall, but they need your help and I want you to give it to them."

"Oh," I said. "But can't I have a baby AND take care of other people's babies?"

But He had said all He wanted to say for the time being, so that was it.

No, this prayer intention has to do with my career. And I think the very best thing I can do, since I feel more-or-less powerless in this situation, is to ask you to pray for my intention. I ask particularly those who have written me letters because, whereas although obviously the Lord doesn't forget stuff, prayers that begin "Lord, could you help Auntie Seraphic because she helped me" sound kind of convincing---to my ear, at least.

Monday, 28 November 2011

A Nice Bunch of Flowers

Oh poppets, I have been looking at a lovely bouquet of flowers all weekend. They did not come from B.A. but from a friend whose thesis I had a look at before he handed it in. How very nice that in all the fuss around his degree ceremony he thought of little me.

And this reminds me of how important it is to have all kinds of relationships and how terribly we overlook and undervalue them. In A Whole Woman, Germaine Greer suggests that we have grossly undervalued even motherhood and that the be-all and end-all identity of woman is now Wife.

But there is something else going on in English-speaking societies, and it is the devaluation of the different degrees of friendship. I suppose the biggest example of what I mean is "Facebook" where a list of all the individuals who have full access to your page are called "Friends." However, I very much doubt all those people are your friends. Most of them are probably Acquaintances, and there is nothing wrong with that. It's good to have a wide range of acquaintances. You just shouldn't act like they are your friends.

Aristotle was very strict on the concept of friends. He thought that only men of excellent character could be true friends, and then only to their social equals. He didn't think men and women could be friends because they were not social equals. Ancient Roman aristocrats, however, did not agree with Aristotle on this one, and as a matter of fact very often the only person a Roman aristocrat trusted was his wife. In an intensely competitive and violent society, his best interests were her best interests, and they both knew it.

But let's get away from marriage, although not before I say that what holds marriage together is not romance, which is its agreeable starting point, but friendship with various benefits. Marriage is something very odd, for something so ancient and universal, and I am not going to write about it. Instead I will hint about the different kinds of friendship and acquaintance there are.

First of all, as hipped as we are on the idea of loyalty and fidelity, various people have waxing and waning importance in our lives. Christmas card and wedding invitation lists are very sweet for they honour not only those who are most important NOW but those who were most important THEN. Meanwhile, I think fondly of various women in various offices I have worked in, but I don't think of them as friends, past or present. They were good colleagues and made boring jobs more enjoyable. But we have passed completely from each other's lives.

This suggests that you, too, will have waxing and waning importance in the lives of others. I was a tremendous social asset in my Canadian theological school; I threw myself into the life of the school and achieved a kind of local fame. Various people told me how much I would be missed. My most heartfelt ambition was to return as a professor and continue on where I left off, but this was not to be. Now as far as 99% of the school is concerned I am just a photo on the wall. But this is okay, for I have new roles now, including Safe Grown-Up To Whom To Appeal in Emergency.

Second, it is okay not to be everyone's best friend. Heavens. The idea. But it is pleasant to have people with whom you meet up for the occasional coffee, and people with whom you meet up for the occasional drink, and people whom you invite for dinner, and people with whom you go on holiday. Social life seems to me to be a series of rings, and people move into the inner rings or out into the outer rings, depending on what happens in your life.

Third, we don't have to be so serious all the time. When I am sixty, I will probably be telling good-humoured young men that it is a terrible shame that we were born forty years apart. They will agree, and we will all know that we are lying, but we will also know that it is amusing to say things like that.

What everyone who met her apparently loved about the Queen Mother is that she gave everyone the impression that she really was interested in him/her and what he/she had to say, quite as if she had come there on purpose to see him/her and him/her alone. This was not fakery but charm. I think the only way to master such a wonderful skill is to practice.

I am very sorry to say this, for I married so late, but I did not become such a marvellous flirt until I was safely married. Now I can say outrageous things from the ramparts of my fortress of marriage, and am thus popular with the sort of men of whom I used to be afraid. If B.A. should shuffle off this mortal coil, however, I fear there would be a general stampede out of town, but oh well. I might not want to see them anyway. B.A. is unlikely to shuffle off until I am old, and perhaps by then I will not at all be interested in men but only in television and sweets.

Fourth, it is good to exchange greetings and remarks with simply everyone in your life, including bus drivers and assistants in the butcher shop, so as to fight against the forces of loneliness: not just your loneliness, but the loneliness of the bus driver and of the assistant in the butcher shop. When I worked as a teenager in a cafe, working before and after school, I very much enjoyed greeting all the regulars, for they livened up a lonely time in my life, and some very much enjoyed being greeted by Seraphic, age 17.

When news that I was leaving reached the regulars, one wrote me a letter. Apparently he had been suffering the end of his marriage, and the one thing that got him to work in the morning was the fact that someone was happy to see him, said "Good morning" like she meant it and remembered his usual order. So you never know how much good you can do just by smiling and saying good morning. "Favourite Cafe Waitress" was for one person the most important role I played in life, and by saying thank you, he now stands out in my mind as "Favourite Cafe Patron."

Friday, 25 November 2011

Auntie Seraphic & The Catherinettes

Thanksgiving Dinner Report post below.

Hi there, Seraphic!

I teach French to little kids, and today this involved celebrating St. Catherine's Day by making taffy. Not being francophone myself, I had to look up the French Canadian tradition, and I noted that St. Catherine's Day (November 25) seems to have a lot connected to it with regards to single women.

Apparently her intercession has been invoked for the past 8 centuries by single women wanting husbands, with varying degrees of desperation. It also seems that unmarried women over the age of 25 were dubbed "Catherinettes" on St. Catherine's Day. Catherinettes would take the opportunity to send cards and treats to their fellow Catherinettes.

This made me think of your Operation Valentinus, and thought it would be fun to bring it up on your blog. Mind you, I suppose celebrating St. Catherine's Day in this way might be an unnecessary reminder of one's singlehood, and being dubbed a Catherinette might be somewhat scarring...I think it's a fun name, but then again I am still one year away from being a Catherinette myself...

Here is a link to the ever-so-reliable the sections on Canada and France:'s_Day

Anyway, I thought it might be something fun/questionably relevant to bring up on your blog tomorrow (or rather, today, since for you it must already be Nov. 25th!) I will not be offended if you don't bring it up though!

God bless,

A Reader

I did not know any of this, so I am grateful to my reader for sending this email. I strongly support the notion of Single women sending each other cards and treats to affectionately mark their shared Singleness. Sisterhood is powerful--when it really is sisterhood and not some men-are-scum-rah-rah political pose.

I am struck that a Catherinette is (or was) a Single woman who has had her 25th birthday. Some sort of black magic seems to be attributed to one's 25th birthday, which is absolutely bonkers from the point of view of a 40 year old. When I was 25, I was not very smart, but at least I had tremendously beautiful skin, no grey hairs at all and probably hundreds of healthy little eggies hidden away. You would think that, given the improvements in women's health, looks and life expectancy, we'd now go into a panic before our 35th birthday instead of our 25th, but no. Thirty-five is not-such-a-big-deal and twenty-five is woe-is-me.

Why this is, is less of a mystery the more you discover about the history of turning 25. But I think it may also be that adolescents are rather anxious and adult women rather less. You have the impression that your youth will be over when you turn 25, but then you reach 25 and 26 and 27 and realize it isn't.

If you don't have children, your youth can go on and on and on, which can be either good or bad. In my case it is good because I can hang out with twenty-somethings without them treating me like their mothers, but it is bad because in some ways I remain a feckless human being. I am sure I would be a better person if, like my mother, I did laundry every Monday and ironed it all until it was done.

Below this post is the Thanksgiving Report Post, so if you collected points yesterday, report them in the combox for that post. Meanwhile, happy Feast of Saint Catherine of Alexandria!

Thanksgiving Game Anecdotes

Okay, there are two posts today. The one above is about an amusing St. Catherine's Day custom, and this one is merely to give the Americans among you a space to report on their Thanksgiving.

Strangely enough, I went to a Thanksgiving Dinner myself, here in sunny Scotland, at a nice seventeenth century house across the fields. There was a toast to the American Founding Fathers and, I think, the Declaration of Independence, on which the Scottish Nationalist Party may be rather keen. B.A. had been invited, of course, but he was too sick to go, so I went unescorted, and various fellow guests asked where he was.

This reminded me of my Single readers being asked where your non-existent husband are, and although of course my case is completely different, it just goes to show that any woman who shows up sans man at parties may excite curiosity.

Okay, if you played one of the games, enter your points below.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Puppy Love in the Cold War

Once upon a time, my little chickadees, two great powers divided much of the world. These powers were called NATO and the USSR, which is to say the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Both powers were rather worried that one would attack the other, and they both pointed nuclear warheads in each other's direction.

My mother spent her childhood under the shadow of the Bomb, and so did I. My mother's primary school welcomed refugee Germans, and my primary school welcomed refugee Yugoslavs, Romanians, Poles, Hungarians, Vietnamese and others who had managed to escape the confines of life under Communism. A Polish priest, two steps ahead of the SB, appeared in my parish. A Hungarian priest, recently released from captivity, recovered in the Hungarian parish around the corner, down the street.

We thought in terms of "Evil Empire" and "Iron Curtain". My brother bought a single called "Russians," in which Sting hopes "the Russians love their children, too." There were hit songs about nuclear war: "99 Red Balloons" and "Forever Young" were just two of many. It was widely known that the Iron Curtain was difficult to get through, and photos of poor Eastern Germans who had been shot trying to get over the Berlin Wall appeared in Time magazine.

Occasionally, though, people could get temporary visas to visit either side of the Iron Curtain. When I was about six, a Polish couple and one or two of their children came to Canada to visit their brother, my father's friend. They all came to visit my family at the cottage we had rented or borrowed beside Georgian Bay, a famous beauty spot in Ontario. The eldest son of this Polish family was about five years old, spoke absolutely no English and was struck by a passion for little me. Being without guile, he threw his arms around me at once, and seemed glued to my side for the duration of his visit.

I was rather astonished by this, and there exists a photo of my six year old self caught in something between a hug and a headlock smiling weakly at the camera. Small Canadian boys of my acquaintance did not act like that, especially not towards me. However, even at six I knew that inspiring this kind of regard in a boy was what a great many people thought life was all about. So when my admirer went home, I inquired of my mother where that was, and that is how I realized that real people lived behind the Iron Curtain. I had some shy notion of sending him one of my toys, but my mother said people behind the Iron Curtain did not need toys but basic things like soap and medicine. She impressed upon me that they were all tremendously poor and hard to see, and I was unlikely ever to see my admirer again.

All this seemed very unfair, and in those days I was easily discouraged. It did not even occur to me to suggest we send over a nice box of soap and medicine, then. Instead I treasured the fact, so important in the decadent West, that I had once had an admirer, and it was some comfort in the horrible years ahead when that became the primary measure of one's worth in the schoolyard. It was even, I blush to admit, balm to a recent graze to my ego when a Polish parishioner mentioned (yet again) the superior beauty of Polish girls in general. I informed him that I, at any rate, had been up to Polish standards when I was six.

This set a train of thought in motion, and it slowly chugged its way across the maps laid out after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Nobody had expected the Wall to fall--on reruns of Star Trek Pavel Chekhov still nattered on about cossacks and Leningrad--but it did, shattering the Iron Curtain between thriving us and impoverished them. And what is more, and possibly even more staggering, is that it is now possible to find almost anybody alive through the internet. So I found my first admirer on Facebook.

Dear me. I fear that like Tosca I live for art and love, and not necessarily in that order. At any rate, it was the work of moments to find my father's friend, to click on the page of the son of his old age, to swiftly scroll down the list of his friends to his presumed cousin and click on his name. And there he was. I recognized him at once, and my heart flipped over. He now lives in Canada.

My mother skyped later with his name, written decades ago in her old phone book, but I had remembered his Christian name and the shape of his surname, so this was only confirmation of what I had discovered already. And I was already feeling embarrassed by my sudden curiosity, since it is perhaps not fitting for married ladies to look up complete strangers, also married, they met briefly when they were six.

However, I think the moral of all this story is that history is astonishing. When I was a child, people were so physically and politically divided that, not only was it unlikely to stay friends with Polish children after their short Western holiday, we were not sure if any of us would make it to the next century. When I was 17, we were watching horror films about the coming nuclear apocalypse, and when I was 19, we were suddenly watching Germans streaming over the shattered Wall to embrace long-lost members of their families. The Cold War was over.

My American father once said that the fact that despite our best efforts World War III never happened is solid evidence that there really is a God who loves us. And as I search my brain for a reason I should have written this post, it occurs to me that it is, after all, American Thanksgiving. So I would like to give thanks for the fall of the Wall and also for the technological miracle that helps people find people in seconds.

By the way, American readers should sign up in the combox below if they want to play "Points" with other American readers. In short, you count up how many times Thanksgiving guests (or hosts) mention your Single status. In the morning, report in tomorrow's combox. Sisters can all get a point each if the mention is collective, e.g. "Why aren't ANY of you girls married off yet? What is with boys today?"

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Games in Preparation for Thanksgiving

Okay, tomorrow is American Thanksgiving, so it is time to batter down the hatches and talk frankly about emotional survival plans on behalf of the American readership. (Strangely, some British people have adopted American Thanksgiving themselves which, as a Canadian, I find very strange, yet another example of the bizarre British fascination with the USA. You should see BBC4 this week--absolutely mental.)

The essence of being rooted in reality is looking unpleasant facts in the eye and standing up to them instead of cowering behind a wall of dreamy-dreaminess. Therefore, if Great-Aunt Tilly has asked you every Thanksgiving for the past ten years if you are a Lesbian, don't think she won't ask you again this year. Turn it into a game. Make a bet with your friends when she will ask. In fact, run a pool. Your friends all give you a quarter, and whoever guesses right gets the pot. If she DOESN'T ask, the pot goes to the poor box in thanksgiving. I guarantee that, this way, when Great-Aunt Tilly asks the dreaded question, you will not want to die but to cheer and write down the time she asked.

Great-Aunt Tilly: Tell me, dear, are you a Lesbian?

You: Yay! OMG! What time is it?

The game can apply to any prediction based on past family Thanksgivings. Another game would be to agree beforehand with Single friends to write down the hour and minute you are first asked about your Single status. ("Any boyfriend yet, dear? Well, never mind.") Then when you can meet up, you all produce your pieces of paper.

And then there's simply collecting points for every time your Single state gets mentioned. I suggested this last year, and much hilarity ensued.

Obviously you need a quirky sense of humour for these games, although come to think of it, if you read this blog, you probably do have a quirky sense of humour. And the games also assume your families are functional enough that Thanksgiving Dinner does not mean a slide into dysfunction and depression. If Thanksgiving Dinner has for the past ten years meant a slide into dysfunction and depression, I heartily urge you not to go. And if you do go anyway, I urge you to have some lovely treat waiting for you as soon as you can escape. Do not exchange this lovely treat for the questionable joys of feeling like a martyr.

I also urge you not to compare yourself to your little sister, who has brought her boyfriend this year, or to your cousin, who married a millionaire, or to anybody else. I usually found it salutary, when envying a pal her girlfriend status or diamond ring, to ask myself if I would want her man. The answer has always been NO, although I did have to admit that one pal (one pal in 35 years of having pals) did have a very fetching fiance. Now he is her very fetching husband, and I really should stop mentioning how fetching he is. Fortunately, my own husband is pretty fetching in his own right, B.A.

Sorry to mention B.A. at a time like this, but if married women write about the beauties of other men, we sort of have to mention our own beautiful husbands in the next breath. And I suppose that this is a good opportunity to remind the majority of my Single readers who will actually marry (according to American statistics) that I didn't meet B.A. until I was 37. This may not cheer you if you are 27 or 47, but the point is that just because you haven't found Mr Right by this Thanksgiving doesn't mean you won't ever find him. Maybe you won't, but maybe you will. The ways of God--and of Mr Right, if he exists--are very mysterious.

By the way, if any of my readers thinks the way to cope with the holiday is to curl up with a bottle of vodka, I am here to scold you and tell you that it isn't. If it even crosses your mind, I will be very mad, and if I ever find out, I will block you. So don't. Choose friends and fun instead. If you can't be with your own friends or make your own fun, then pop down to the nearest shelter and spend Thanksgiving serving the homeless.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Supporting Soldiers

A while back I got a letter from a young woman who was seeing a naval officer. Never mind which navy. Come to think of it, readers from at least three countries seem to be seeing naval officers. Some of these naval officers seem to spend more time in helicopters than on actual boats, but that's naval life for you.

Anyway, this particular naval officer was about to disappear into a submarine for several months. And it is submarining tradition in that navy that submariners open up a care package from their wife or girlfriend back home halfway through their sojourn in the submarine. Guys who did not have a care package were mocked and pitied by the other men.

Now, my reader wanted to know if she could send along a care package with her submariner even though they had been dating for only a short time. She noticed that I am very down on women giving men stuff too soon. Germaine Greer and I agree that women-in-general have a teeny giving problem, particularly when we give to get love. So she (my reader, not Germaine Greer) wondered if she should send along the care package, and I said yes.

There are men, and then there are servicemen. There is peacetime, and there is war. I don't know if you've noticed this, but all the major English-speaking nations have been at war for a decade. Canadian, British, American and other soldiers are still in Afghanistan, for example. I personally do not know how Canadian or British soldiers in Afghanistan improve the national security of Canada or Britain, but for now that is beside the point. The point I am making is that there are a lot of young men and women who have given themselves to their countries to risk their lives for the lives and freedoms of others.

That strikes me as rather more important than worrying about looking too eager or about where this relationship is going to go.

Now, I don't want to get all romantic about the morals of soldiers and sailors, especially since older women have warned younger women against soldiers and sailors since time immemorial. But from what I hear, there are many decent young church-going guys in the military, such as make good boyfriends and husbands. So it is no surprise to me that numbers of you fall for them and hope they will fall for you too. I sympathize.

However, I think the worst time to worry about future romantic commitments is when a man has a previous commitment to H.M. the Queen or Uncle Sam. If you are friends with a soldier who is not an established boyfriend, then treat him like a good friend and worry about the romance when and if he gets back. Don't cut off a correspondence because you can't see a romance going anywhere; I understand guys live for letters from home. Don't refrain from sending a care package because it might look "too forward." Civilians aren't called to make much of a war effort these days; giving a boost in morale to a soldier of your country strikes me as the least a patriotic girl can do. And I'm just talking just correspondence and care packages here, got it?

My thinking here comes straight from 1918. In 1918 my American grandmother (my German-American grandmother, incidentally) kept up a correspondence with a young American soldier who was a complete stranger to her. All the girls she knew did. My grandmother didn't mention that she was only 14, and I believe tried to give the impression she was older. Anyway, the soldier was delighted by these letters, and looked forward to meeting my grandmother when he got back home, and said they would have themselves a time, etc. This may have led to interesting complications, but as a matter of fact it never came to that. I believe the soldier was killed.

Now, if in 1918 my 14 year old Catholic school-educated grandmother and her chums were all encouraged to write to servicemen who were complete strangers, it seems to me that young women who are actually seeing servicemen they know should be encouraged to stop worrying about who-gives-what-present-when and just support them.

However, what I know about the modern-day military of my own countries you could stuff in the left nostril of a bug and have room left over, so if there are any servicewomen--or even servicemen--out there who have insights to share on this topic, please write them in the combox.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Nice Review & Femininity

The Crescat has written a generous review of The Closet's All Mine, as the American release of Seraphic Singles is known. I bet it sells more copies than the expensive ad in America I was told about.

It seems an eensy bit churlish to make a correction, but it involves my name, so you know. The correction is merely that the author of TCAM is Miss C or Ms. C, but not Mrs. C as I am now Mrs. M socially and Ms. C-M in print. Mrs. C is my mother. (My sister-in-law was married in the province of Quebec, and thus remains Dr. S.)

Kat also linked to this page as an example of a feminine blog, and I was heartily flattered by that. I was reminded my surprise when my (now ex-)shrink told me I was a very feminine woman. After all, my favourite hobbies at the time were boxing and reading tough-minded short fiction at Spoken Word events. Shrink pointed out that I was wearing a floor-length black velvet skirt and a tight blue velvet shirt with 18th-century sleeves and I was, like, oh yeah.

Same with this blog. I guess it is kind of feminine to talk constantly about single life and courtship and men. I thought I'd get tired of these topics when I got married, but no. I don't feel at all bad about this, as some Top Novelist or other recently said (I paraphrase) that the essence of writing fiction was actually caring that John loves Jane.

Femininity is an increasingly contentious topic. For example, there are men who wish to be women, and go about this in an intensely masculine way: fighting and striving and having this surgically cut off and that surgically put on and being pumped full of drugs. I think real women are more like apples: we develop to a delicious well-roundedness and grow even sweeter as we shrivel, fall off the tree and die. Of course, I'm physically lazy these days. I acknowledge that the natural female body trained to the muscularity of an Athena is feminine, too. (Oh, how I miss my boxing body... Size 2... Could wear jeans without fear... Whimper, whimper...)

The man-as-active, woman-as-passive paradigm drives many people absolutely nuts. It drives me nuts, too, when it interferes with something I want especially to do. So I'm not even going there, except to trash cosmetic surgery. Women who get "boob jobs" have turned themselves into female impersonators, which is a very dumb thing for a real woman to do. There is a huge difference between making the most of, and protecting, your feminine appearance and turning yourself into a walking cartoon.

When I was an undergraduate, I read books by Naomi Wolf (The Beauty Myth), Susan Brownmiller (Femininity), Andrea Dworkin (Intercourse) and Camille Paglia (Vamps and Tramps) to get my mind around contemporary ideas about femininity. (By the way, Dworkin can mess you up; I am in no way endorsing any of these books although Paglia was great fun.) Later I read Simone de Beauvoir, Gloria Steinem, The Boston Women's Health Collective, Natalie Angier (Woman: An Intimate Geography, which I DO recommend) and Germaine Greer. Much, much later I read Edith Stein and John Paul II. (I know I should read Alice von Hildebrand, too.)

What I got out of all this mostly-feminist reading, in the end, was a healthy distaste for elective surgical modification of any kind, an enduring respect for female athleticism, an enjoyment of dressing-as-art, dread of both anorexia and obesity, recognition that all healthy bodies are beautiful, a taste for higher-end cosmetics (maquillage, not skin-cream rip offs) and permission not to be more like a man. I loved how Goth subculture has an aesthetic that suits both slim and apple-shaped girls; so do historical re-enactment societies, by the way. Although 20th century fashion freed us from corsets and dangerous paints, it has otherwise been at war with the female figure. Boo, Coco Chanel.

I wasn't even thinking about femininity as a complement to masculinity. "Who cares what men-in-general think?" was my usual scornful mindset from the age of 19 to 32 or so. Now I think about femininity and masculinity a lot because the hugest battles of our time, including the one with radical Islamism, surround them.

I keep thinking about the symbolic significance of masculine and feminine, as opposed to unisex, clothing.

My parish church is packed with fogies, old and young, and they tend to wear beautifully tailored wool or tweed jackets. As they never take their jackets off in public, I haven't a clue what their shoulders actually look like. They never wear shorts, either; they could be wearing sock braces for all I know, and I doubt I will ever know for sure. Wide or slim, the fogies share Male Shape, the inverted triangle of wide shoulders narrowing to shiny well-shod feet. They all look sharp and masculine, not macho.

The church has fewer female fogies, but we tend to wear skirts, to keep our hair long and to wear at least a modicum of make-up. Your pale Auntie S favours dark red lipstick, but she is 40 so she can get away with it. She also set a minor parish trend for killer heels, if one other woman can count as even a minor trend.

Killer heels look good, but they are bad for you in the long run and best worn sitting down. The whole point to them is that they make your calves look nicer and that men don't wear them. Few pieces of clothing say Women are mysterious than totally impractical killer heels. Various women writers have ascribed darker symbolic meanings to killer heels, but I am more optimistic than they.

I blame unisex clothing for the current craze in cosmetic fakery and over-emphasis on bodily shape. Fat or thin, women in my town wear jeans and skin-tight leggings. They hoick up their breasts with padded bras or, horror of horrors, they have them filled with silicon balloons. They wear obviously fake eyelashes and sometimes hair extensions. They paint their skin brown or, worse, tan themselves in tanning salons. They are the reason I love Marry, Snog, Avoid, a show in which a sarcastic machine named Pod mysteriously scrubs the fakery off such girls and puts them in pretty dresses. Sadly, there is not much Pod can do about the breast implants, the tats and the scary piercings, except cleverly "de-emphasize" the bust and assign sleeves.

One well-dressed young fogey tells me that in Germany men and women wear much the same clothes and length of hair, although men draw attention to their chests by wearing super-tight T-shirts. I have not noticed young men doing that here, but the principle strikes me as the same. If we dispense with gentle symbolic ways of indicating masculinity or femininity, we are left with hyper-focus on real, literal, secondary sexual characteristics: big chests, big breasts, round bottoms.

And how deeply boring is that? It's the socio-sexual equivalent of never being able to read novels or look at paintings; only words of one syllable and cartoons allowed.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Live Every Day

Today I greeted B.A., who went to work. Then I walked to the nearest grocery store, which is through a lightly wooded area and network of paths, and bought coffee and little doughnuts. I tidied the sitting-room and set out the coffee and doughnuts. My Polish teacher arrived at 11. We had a nice long Polish lesson. The fact that in Polish, as in Latin, the neuter nominative is the same as the neuter accusative delighted us. Yay, Indo-European!

I started this post, and then my brother called me on Skype. I saw him and his two children, and we had a brief chat. Then I called my father on Skype, and we too had a video chat.

This morning I also read my friend Hilary's update about her health. The news is not good. Hilary's cancer is not gone, and she may be ill for the rest of her life. Her life may very well be shorter than it would have been, had she not got cancer. She has agreed to have a hysterectomy, anticipates early, violent menopause, and predicts that she will never get married.

She is now thinking about what she should do for the rest of her, possibly shortened, life.

Myself, I do not know when I am going to die. And I don't know when B.A. is going to die either, so I don't know how much longer I am going to be married. I know a woman who married in her late twenties to a man in his mid-twenties, who suddenly died of a heart-attack less than a year later. Nobody knew until the autopsy that he had had a series of minor heart attacks; he seemed a perfectly healthy young man.

Essentially, we are all going to die, and the question that confronts us all is "How do we live, knowing that we are going to die?" We do not know what we are going to be doing, so what do you hope you will be doing? Will you go when you are creeping here and there bitterly, having resented not getting what others have got, or will you be striding joyfully through the life you have when you are called suddenly into the next room?

Friday, 18 November 2011

The Unbearable Alarmingness of Youth

Somewhere in a box across an ocean lies a list of qualities I wanted to have at forty. I cannot remember what was on it in detail, although I think "Fluent in French, Italian, German and Latin" is on it. (I always want to be fluent in something other than English, but I never am, despite endless assaults on the walls of foreign.) I seem to recall the overarching theme was that I was supposed to be a slim, well-dressed lady of unshakable confidence and sophistication. My youth at an end and my children all born (ha!), I was supposed to be serenely ruling my world.

I bet I was supposed to have a housekeeper, too. My sister-in-law has a housekeeper, although that is probably because instead of writing detailed lists about her future self, she studied anatomy and became a medical doctor.

To make a long intro shorter, I do not measure up to the heights of my optimistic list although I occasionally have my moments of supreme confidence. And one of the gifts of middle-life is that I am not afraid of twenty-something boys anymore.

I went on at great length to a pal about this yesterday. In short, when I was in my early twenties, men in their early twenties were alarming because I viewed most of them as either (A) sexual threats or (B) the holy grail. It was very, very difficult to see them just as people, and if I could go back and talk to my early-twenties self, I would beg myself to try to see them as people.

This reminds me of Gordon. Gordon was in a play I directed, and all the girls knew Gordon. I think he must have lived in one of the men's residences, for he was famous among the girls in women's residences. He was tall and broad-shouldered, pleasant-looking instead of handsome, and had buckets of laid-back charm. But winged-footed rumour had whispered in my ear that Gordon slept around--or if not around, where he ought not. So I was utterly terrified of Gordon. My psyche unsheathed invisible spikes all around me.

But, amazingly, Gordon was not just an object of sexual threat. He was also a person with a soul and a brain and rather awesome powers of observation. It was not lost on Gordon that I was reserved around him.

"It's like you've surrounded yourself with an electric cow fence," he complained.

And this was quite true. And it was a useful electric cow fence because it intimidated people who needed intimidating, even if it also intimidated people whom it would be nice to know. It took me a very long time to learn how to turn it on and off as I liked.

I think I lost my fear of twenty-something boys (in general, more on that) for good when I went to theology school. I was very much at home at theology school, and got very good grades, and seemed very clever, so I had tons of confidence. The school was very big on hospitality, so I flung myself into hospitality, and went up to new people to introduce myself and after a chat introduced them to other people. As most new people were women or male religious, I had no ulterior motives. And then at parties, when rambunctious twenty-something boys lit up joints, trashed John Paul II, were rumoured to sleep in the wrong place, and said "Lookin' fine, toots," I found them merely amusing.

Eventually I went to Germany, and some of my adventures there are in My Book. Go reread the bit about Max, because I am now thinking about Max. Anyway, in Germany, I discovered that twenty-somethings there are not as allergic to thirty-somethings as they are in other cultures. I had many conversations with twenty-something German boys, and went to their parties, and generally got along with them. And although I was frankly amazed, I understood that this had something to do with me being (A)foreign, and therefore glamorous and (B)a doctoral student, which in hierarchical Germany meant a lot.

The one exception was Max. I was terrified of Max, not because there was anything wrong with him, but because he was so intensely good-looking. As much as I liked looking at him, I was in a welter of fear lest I (A) make a complete ass of myself and (B) make some life-altering mistake. I used to march down to a telephone centre and call a pal in Canada to go on and on about Max.

"Listen," she said. "You must stop this. Just make out with him and come home!"

Hi-LAR-ious. I never did, though, and thank goodness, for the news would have been all over the entire campus in milliseconds.

Anyway, this seems to be All About Me again, so I will sum up with a generalization that twenty-something men may seem terrifying when you are twenty-something, but when you are no longer twenty-something yourself, twenty-something boys just seem like people, unless they are supernaturally good-looking, in which case you might very well shake in your shoes again. Discuss.