Friday, 7 January 2011

And Seraphic is from Mercury!

Well, off I went to the library to work on my Notre Dame presentation, and guess what I read? I couldn't find anything by Alice von Hildebrand or Christopher West, so instead I settled down with Mulieris Dignitatem and (drumroll) The Essential Mars and Venus by John Grey. And this was mere yards away from one of Edinburgh's most famous historians, so you see how confident I am in my own intellect.

Now, I have never read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, so I was shocked to see how much of this stuff I knew already. I was also surprised to discover that the author's tone was supposed to be funny. So when the "Bridget Jones" books make fun of such ideas as "men are like rubber bands," they are making a joke about a joke. And, really, Dr. Grey is right to be comical, for it is very dangerous to make such claims as "most men are like this" and "most women are like that." You are most likely to get away with it, I suspect, if you make everyone laugh.

Anyway, here are a few notes from The Essential Mars and Venus which leapt out at me:

"Differences make our partners interesting and attractive...The biggest problem, however, is our tendency to expect our partners to think and feel the way we do."

In dealing with men, women's biggest mistake is offering unsolicited advice. This may explain why the percentage of male readers of Seraphic Singles is way, way down!

Women need to learn to stop changing a man. Well, I knew that. That's why you can never settle. You have to marry Mr. Perfect for You, and then smile upon his fashion sense, his posture and his tooth-picking habit when you come down from Cloud 9 and notice them.

To feel better, women discuss and men hide in caves. There were many illustrations of caves. I was intrigued. My father has a sort of cave in the cellar, but my husband doesn't have a physical one. Maybe books can be caves? Come to think of it, I'm the one with the home office. But I definitely discuss to feel better. Definitely. I gripe and gripe and gripe (or type and type and type) until I feel better. The book listed a whole number of things men should not say when women are griping, e.g. "Don't do it, if you're going to complain about it." Oooh, I hate that one.

Men assume that if a woman is not asking for more, he must be giving enough. Alas, you have to tell him what you want for Valentine's Day. He can't guess. If you want support or most other things from a man, you have to ask for it. Clearly. In plain sentences. Incidentally, this book was most definitely for married people.

Men feel better by solving problems, women by talking about problems. Possibly this is why men get annoyed when you complain about mean people. They can't solve the problem of the mean people, so why are you telling them? They get frustrated by the idea that somehow they are expected to solve the problem of the mean people and then, when they do hit on a brilliant solution, women don't appreciate it.

Men are like rubber bands. Okay, this is something that might be helpful for Single women who date. According to John Grey, men have a natural cycle of get close-pull away-get close again-pull away again. This is no doubt why you shouldn't panic when a man doesn't call you immediately after a wonderful date, and why you shouldn't phone him first. Grey is positively evangelical on this rubber band thing:

If a man does not have the opportunity to pull away, he never gets a chance to feel his strong desire to be close. It is essential for women to understand that if they insist on continuous intimacy, or "run after" their partner when he pulls away, then he will almost always be trying to escape or distance himself; he will never get a chance to feel his passionate longing for love.


There was something interesting about women being like waves, which rather blew my mind. I thought it was just me. You know, one minute/hour/day you feel on top of the world, fun, beautiful, lots of love to give, and the next minute/hour/day, you doubt yourself, feel fat and want to hide under a blanket. For more details, go read Grey's stuff on women and decide if you believe it or not.

The secret of empowering a man is never try to change him or improve him. Basically, you have to praise him whenever possible, and I firmly believe this. The trick is to marry Mr Fabulous in the first place, so you do not run out of things to praise. Meanwhile, if you ask me this is not just the secret of empowering a man, but of self-empowering a woman. Once a woman accepts that the man she loves is who he is and not who she wants him to be, she sheds a burden of responsibility. She can go back to improving herself, if that's her bag, free from the idea that anyone is going to judge her for her husband's Megadeath T-shirt.

Now, I am not going to stand at a podium in the pre-eminent Catholic university of the United States of America and quote The Essential Mars and Venus. However, the Domers might not want me to deal with my Ph.D. drop-out's inferiority complex by quoting Bernard Lonergan in Latin at them either. So what is it, my dear Edith Stein Project people, that you would like me to talk about? Sound out in the combox, please!

P.S. In case you're wondering, it's because I occasionally fly too close to the sun.


talitha cumi said...

Okay, so the "men are like rubber bands" thing really struck a chord with me. My Mr. Fabulous (now ex) did this, but I'm wondering if his was an extreme case.
To explain: when he first asked me out, we'd been friends for a couple of years and knew each other quite well. We'd also dated briefly several months earlier, and he already knew I was very interested in him (yes, I know, not the ideal situation). So anyway, when he asked me to date him the second time, he knew he had to be serious about it or not ask at all (besides, I was 29 and he was 39, too old to be flippant about these things) - and he WAS serious about it. That first evening, he told me that when he looked five years down the road, he saw me there with him, and he liked that thought. Anyway, to get to my point - he was all gung-ho for about two weeks, then withdrew... gung-ho, withdraw, rinse and repeat, so it went on. But this wasn't just a case of not calling for a day or two (we're not big phone talkers anyway); this was being so in-the-cave that he'd barely email me a line, wouldn't touch me, totally pushed me away for two weeks or more at a go. Then he'd warm up again and everything would be fine... almost. But it was hard; I felt rejected and would get really anxious, which made him feel like I was pressuring him (I probably was - but is it so wrong for a girl to want to feel wanted?), which in turn made him withdraw more. I tried compromising, telling him that I knew he was stressed and tired from his extremely demanding job, but that since I tended to get worried, it would be nice if he'd just email me something like "Hi, working really hard today and v. tired, hope you're well" just so I knew he was still alive and not avoiding me because he thought I was a modern-day Medusa or something, but apparently that was too much to ask as well. Eventually, it got to be too much and we broke up. Now I'm stuck missing him like crazy, while he thinks I'm overbearing.
In his defense, he was completely overworked at that time, involved in starting up a company inventing and producing an elaborate scientific device, and has since quit his job and taken a few months off to get his life in order and learn to not let work completely consume him any more, which is progress.
Men may be like rubber bands, but women need security, right?
So now I'm left wondering if the breakup was completely my fault, if I should have put up with that treatment, or if it was simply the wrong time for him to be starting a relationship. I'd give just about anything to have him back, but reading your excellent blog I can't help but think that I've broken just about every single rule and should give up and enter a convent even though I have no desire to be a nun but am, instead, excellent with children and rather fond of men!

Brian Edward Miles said...

Dear Auntie,

Please say more about this:

"I gripe and gripe and gripe (or type and type and type) until I feel better."

This may well explain what is for me an almost daily frustration. At work I sit across from a young lady who shares with me the misfortune of working in a customer response center. As such we often have to face a seemingly endless stream of phone calls from the ignorant, annoying, and downright angry.

For me the best response to this persistent aggravation (though I often fail to employ it) is to express some sentiment of gratitude, and thank God for the opportunity to offer kindness in the face of hostility, with the hope that it may ultimately teach me something like humility.

I have to consciously turn the frustration over, and make a decision to express gratitude instead. If I stew I'm sunk, and if I vent (i.e. gripe or complain) it doesn't act like a valve release for my anger, but only sends it rolling downhill like a snowball.

My neighbor, however--charming as she otherwise is--routinely expresses her complaints to me. I mostly smile and nod, but whether I stay silent or jump in with my own tale of woe, it seems to me that this kind of "venting" only makes things worse for both of us.

With that said, I realize that this may not have been what you had in mind by "griping". But on the other hand I would be the first to admit that I often completely misinterpret the emotional states of women around me. Who knows, maybe complaining helps her cope in ways I don't understand because of "my tendency to expect the opposite sex to think and feel the way I do."

Additional insight here would be appreciated: does this kind of "venting" really help?

As to your Edith Stein people, I would hope that ND students would welcome the beauty, goodness, and truth from whatever source it may be found in. Dr. Grey seems to have a lot of good sense about him, and it would be a shame--not to mention a lack of good sense--to dismiss him for not being sufficiently academic. I always remember how much I admired profs who could offer some down to earth wisdom in midst of all the intellectual preening that goes on in higher ed.

All the best with your presentation.

Seraphic said...

Whoa. Two WEEKS? I mean, TWO WEEKS? Do you really mean "barely a line" or was he at least emailing actual emails?

Talitha Cumi, I think you were well within your rights to ask for emails during his cave period, especially since HE brought up "I see you with me five years from now". According to Dr. Grey, women have to ask for what they need, and asking for an email or call just so that you feel like he cares if you're alive seems reasonable. Two weeks seems a very long time. And, yes, a woman in a courtship situation should feel loved and cared for. Otherwise, what is the point? Only married women should have to fight for this stuff. Well, we shouldn't either, but it is a fact of life that husbands get kind of...hmmm... normal. Post-courtshippy.

It strikes me as very odd that a man in a real courtship situation would express his rubber-bandness by completely disappearing for two whole weeks, no matter how much work he had. In my experience and the experience of at least 2 of my girlfriends, once our future husbands had decided that we were The One (not collectively, you know what I mean), they called us constantly, texted, emailed, did things together as much as possible... You name it. But once marriage happens, it's another story. Caves, definitely caves. Although hopefully not two week long disappearance acts!

I'm sorry you are feeling so bad. I'll throw out a question: Wouldn't you feel better in a relationship with a man who had a much shorter rubber band cycle? I'm mean a guy who, for example, sees you on Friday, calls on Saturday, forgets you on Sunday, calls on Monday, and takes you out on Tuesday? I sure would. You deserve love. You deserve to feel cared for. Mr Right is the hot guy who makes you feel loved, cared for and secure, not the guy who makes you feel terrible.

fifi said...


Having been to several of these Edith Stein gigs before, I would say that a certain amount of the Essential Mars and Venus stuff has already been explored there. Dr Phillip Mango spoke several years ago on the differences between men and women neurologically, and it was very interesting. I think that since the conference is on vocation and you are so good at talking about the beauty of the single vocation and inspiring others to appreciate it, you should talk about the beauty of the single life, and how to be a Seraphic single. You might also explore some of the pitfalls or common assumptions in society and even within the family surrounding singlehood. There are always a certain number of lovely religious who come to the conference, and some really fabulous married women, and those are the vocations that get all the good press. Represent your single nieces and nephews!

Seraphic said...

Brian, venting really does help adult women. Apparently teenage girls should be distracted from their problems and their venting should be derailed, for if teenage girls are encouraged to think about and discuss their problems a lot they sink into a fog of depression. (Forget where I read this, but it made an impression.)

The natural stress reactions of an adult woman are "fight, flight and complain." Usually (or in the old days), a woman would find a kindly woman and complain to her. The kindly woman would make soothing noises and agree, over and over again, that the mean people are b*tches and b*stards until the stressed woman cheered up. Nowadays, what with men and woman working together, women have mostly forgotten that a man is usually a poor substitute for the kindly woman listener who usually instinctively knows just what to say.

What you could do in this situation, to help your co-worker, whom you like, is to carry on listening and agree. As you are not married to here, you do not owe her bags of time spent doing this. If at any point she gets frustrated because you are not listening long enough or saying the right things (i.e. the kindly woman script), you might tell her that as a man, you don't vent to get rid of stress, you solve problems instead. Your anger is a problem, and you solve it through gratitude.

But don't offer this as a solution unless she asks. Just remember that women don't expect you to solve the problem making them stressed. They just expect you to listen and agree until they calm down.

It might not seem logical to you, but although men and women both equally participate in reason, we have takes on emotional logic.

When I really need to vent, and it is 1 AM, and my husband really is too tired to remember to listen and agree until I calm down, I get up and call a woman friend in a different time zone. It is a million times saner than getting frustrated that my husband does not think like a woman.

nightflyblog said...

Married guy perspective: my wife (bless her) doesn't mind my going into The Cave... she just asks, "You heading off to the Cave?" I say "Yeah," and she understands that my impending mopeyness and distance are NOT a comment on her.

This last is important: guys, you HAVE to somehow let her know that your retreat has NOTHING to do with her and is NOT meant as a rebuke or a criticism of her. Otherwise your own lady fair may easily believe that you're mad with her, and wonder what in the world she did. It leads to spats.

It took us a while to get that level of understanding. In the courtship, when we lived twenty miles away, I had a natural retreat - I just went home. I might not see her at all the next day or so, and only chat briefly. Once married, she wondered (and resented) The Cave, when to my mind I wasn't really doing anything different. We both had to make a big adjustment in our thinking. For my part, a big sticking point was the thought that she was trying to veto my need for a little solitude, and getting all stupidly offended about that; forgetting that she has a need just to have me around, even if we're not interacting. It wasn't an attempt to control my Cave time at all, but an expression of frustration that her needs weren't completely met.

We're still figuring it out, of course. Luckily we intend to be married for as long as that takes.

Becca said...

I agree with fifi in regards to talking about the beauty of the single life. It seems that in devout Catholic circles, the ideal is -unless you're called to a religious vocation- to get married young and immediately start a rapidly growing family. I have no problem with that, but it's so sad when people act like their lives won't begin until they get married. (And I know I'm occasionally guilty of this but then I give myself a mental smack.)

I knew this one guy who was never just single. He was always pursuing one girl or another quite seriously. I just wanted to shake him and tell him it was ok to be single. It's not a race!

We Catholics need it drummed into our skulls that the single life is our vocation of the moment and it's beautiful. Generally we hear about marriage from married people and religious life from religious...

Good luck with your presentation. Wish I could be there.

fiat said...

I just want to say I am absolutely dying to attend the ES conference - My funds are limited (working for the church, in grad school for theology) so I would appreciate prayers for the details to work out! I don't have any suggestions about your talk/paper - just a comment that I really enjoy the balance you have between theology (I can tell you have studied and read a lot) and just practical, down to earth, real life advice that comes from your experiences - so please bring them both into whatever you present! I call it head and heart approach!

Seraphic said...

Thanks, Fiat!

Seraphic said...

Fiat, I love how you put that. I'm going to think of my paper as "The Head and Heart Project."

Filia Dei said...

I affirm all the suggestions about affirming singleness in your ND talk. You are the best person I can think of to illuminate the art of singleness, with humor and practicality.

For what it's worth, I know few people in confirmed married, religious, or single vocations who did not first have to grapple with thier individual character-soul, sins, and mission-before they could even recognized what they were called to be. I guess you have to know yourself to give yourself, don't you?

Seraphic said...

Thank you! And yes. You have to know who you are before you commit yourself to a life with another person or people.

And meanwhile, I know JP 2 was big on self-gift, but as my pal Boston Girl more-or-les said, she didn't want to give herself as much as she wanted to snatch a toothsome hottie and make him hers forever. Er... I'm not sure how that works with my general philosophy. Let's just say that when it comes to marriage, which thrives on the ol' Vitamin C of erotic love, I think there should be give AND take!

Maybe there should be some of this spirit in religious life, too, as in "Thank you, Lord, for all the fantastic goodies involved in religious life that I have totally fallen in love with and want forever!"