Monday, 28 February 2011

Single and Self-Care

Oh poppets. I am growing careless. Yesterday we locked me out of the Historical House. This was not so bad in itself except that before Christmas I lost my mobile phone. When I am stressed--and going to the local (and very ghastly) mall to buy all the provisions for Christmas Dinner was very stressful indeed--I tend to lose things. And, to add to the problem of being locked out of the H.H. and having lost my phone, I can't memorize mobile phone numbers. My brain cannot process numbers; I think I have numerical dyslexia, if there is such a thing. And therefore I could not call my husband, then in a pub watching Scotland play rugby against Ireland, when I discovered I had no key.

"No problem," I thought. "I will bang on the door of the H.H. manager, for she will let me in."

The manager was not home.

"No problem," I thought. "I will cross the fields to the neighbours, for they will give me a cup of tea and shelter and B.A.'s mobile phone number."

The neighbours were not home.

"No problem," I thought, although rather crossly now. "I will walk to the shore and take refuge in the hotel restaurant. Surely the rugby will be over soon."

I left a note for B.A. and went to the hotel. I had a pot of tea and cheese on toast and waited for B.A. to call. He did not, however. Seeing that it was nearly dark, and being afraid of walking through the woods in the dark (where in Toronto stranger rape happens), I rushed back in the twilight to the H.H. to wait for B.A. to come back. I sat in a niche in the aedicule under the balustrade, ready to chuck my missal through a window of the locked door should a rapist approach. (This would set off an alarm so mighty it would immediately summon an army of H.H.-protecting police, firefighters and curators, including B.A.)

It was much colder than I expected. It was also very dark. To while away the time I counted the airplanes and watched the clouds blow away gradually, revealing Orion in all his starry splendour. I listened to the trains pass, to sudden snatches of music, and to men's voices suddenly loud in the woods. Not having a watch, I did not know how late it was. But I did know that it was very cold and that surely the rugby game must be over. Soccer lasts 90 minutes. Surely rugby doesn't take that much longer?

It occured to me that although it is much warmer in southeastern Scotland than in southeastern Canada, it was still February. And it also occured to me that although B.A. said he'd be back after the rugby game, he never said exactly when. If he called the H.H. to say he'd be late, he might assume I was asleep and go on to another pub with our hard-drinking friends, and then another one, and then with them to dinner, and then stroll back at 2 AM, by which time I would be dead of cold or fright.

The Historical House is thickly ringed by woods. I would rather freeze to death than go through the woods at night. This is one thing men never seem to get about what it means to be a woman. Men worry about being raped in jail. The whole world after nightfall is woman's jail.

As really the safest place for me was in the aedicule, my missal at the ready to be chucked through the window, I stayed there, and I pondered the long string of careless actions that had led there. This would not have happened if I were Single because when I was Single I was a lot more careful. I planned in advance. I never left a house without checking for my key. I always had a route mapped out. I would never sit outside a semi-rural house in the dark waiting for hours for someone to come and let me in. I would never have let that happen.

In addition, I had a G.P., a dentist, my own bank account, a lawyer, and an entire network of professionals that I built up over twenty-odd years. Do I have that here? No.

When I was a Single woman, I was lot smarter about my basic survival. Now that I am Married, I've started getting slack about my basic survival. Maybe it's different if you have kids, because the kids' survival depends on your sense of survival. But if you get used to having a man to lean on, look out, because if suddenly he isn't there, you might topple over.

B.A. came home at eight, rather concerned that I hadn't answered the phone when he called at 7:15 or any time after that. The sun had set two hours and eighteen minutes before he arrived. I cried.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

She Disnae Read My Blog

From Allan Morrison, Ah Couldnae Believe Ma Ears: A Hilarious Collection of Overheard Banter (Hachette Scotland, 2009):

Overheard in Castle Street, Glasgow, on a Saturday afternoon:

"You and me is finished. Finished! Dae ye hear me?"

"But ah love you, ma wee pet."

"Don't 'wee pet' me! You say ye love me. Aye, you love half the women in Glesca and love drinking in half the pubs. You're just a big pain in the arse, so ye ur!"

"Okay then. Why don't we get merrit."

"Ur ye serious?"


"Oh, ah cannae wait tae tell ma mammy."

Moreover: Shiraz sent in this sobering Salon article. I think it is yet another argument not to settle for (1) Mr Wrong (2) premarital sex. The fact that women are reluctantly but resignedly acting out scenes from pornography makes me sad. Are they so lonely or that starved for simple affection that they'll do things they find distasteful? My guess is yes. This is clearly not about economic survival or even a masochistic belief in male supremacy--although sometimes I wonder about the latter.

How to protect yourself from sinking to that level? Never become that lonely, that starved for affection or that self-hating. Cultivate your friendships. Ponder your fruitful role in your birth family and your community. Read about the lives of long-term Single women. Ask the intercession of Single women saints, including the nuns. Read F. Carolyn Graglia's Domestic Tranquility: even if you don't agree with her conclusions about housewifery vs. career, you'll find a lot to console you about authentic feminine sexuality.

Go ahead and get that cat or dog. Get two. Have you ever wondered why Single women fear being called "the Cat Lady" whereas Single men are never, ever called "the Cat Man" or "the Dog Man"? Society has so many ways of intimidating and punishing unmarried women, be they chaste or be they sexually active. Don't let it.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Fourteen Minutes on Irish Radio

Whew! That's my second Seraphic Singles radio interview done! Did anyone hear it? What did you think? Thanks to Carole for setting it up! Thanks to Ronan of Spirit Radio for mentioning the title of my book so often, for this is the kind of thing that makes my Canadian publisher happy. His name is Joe, and he took a chance by publishing a book by unknown (and unteaching) little me, so I like it when he is happy.

Thank goodness for coffee, for my jet lag is immense. I'm going to get some more, and then I'm going to put up a new Auntie Seraphic letter. I'm sure I have one or two hanging out in my IN box.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Day Off for Jet Lag

Oh, poppets. Zzzzz. And tomorrow morning I have to sound bright, shiny and human for Irish radio!

I am trying to think of a quick bit of Advice for Singles, but all I can think of is:

A) It is very odd how in many books written before 1970 (e.g. the Ruth Rendell mystery I read on the flight to Canada), it is assumed that unmarried women eventually go funny in the head. I cannot imagine that there was any scientific evidence for this whatsoever, and yet people keep alluding to it in early 20th century novels. Goodness knows how many women gave up being Single just because they worried about "Old Maids" going batty.

B) In my Catholic dating website days, I NEVER clicked that button that said that I would be willing to relocate thousands of miles away for love. However, I did. Which just goes to show that concrete reality beats hypothesis and theory hands down.

See you soon!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Half an Hour on Irish Radio

How exciting! My voice is going to Ireland. I want to go to Ireland, land of my father's father's (and his mother's mother's) ancestors, but it looks like my voice is going first. I've been asked to speak tomorrow morning (Friday, February 25) on Spirit Radio about the Single Life, my blog and my book.

Here are the frequencies for Ireland (and everyone else can listen online if you're up at 10-10:30 AM GMT). The host's name is Ronan Johnston.

Dublin 89.9
Galway 91.7
Limerick 89.8
Cork 90.9
Waterford 90.1

Anyone anywhere in the world can catch it on

Is that not awesome? It is awesome for me.

The photo is by Maggie, who saw my American book at the "Feminine Genius" conference in Appleton, WI when many of you Notre Dame and other South Bend readers (and some intrepid readers from elsewhere!) and I were at Edith Stein. Don't forget that you can buy Seraphic Singles (British Commonwealth and Ireland) or The Closet's All Mine (USA) by clicking on the book covers to the right-->. Thanks to those who have bought it already, and special thanks to the fantastic five who revealed that they have bought more than one!

P.S. Here's a review of my Notre Dame lecture in The Irish Rover. Thanks, Adriana! My surname (since 2009) actually is Cummings McLean, but that is okay. Everybody in Edinburgh calls me McLean.

One of the perks of Single Life is that there is no name confusion. Yeah, you might think it would be fun to play around with your name, having a "professional" name and a "social" name, and being Dr. Smith here, and Mrs. Jones there, and Dr. Smith Jones on your bank account, but actually it is a major headache. But what could I doooo? I wrote as Cummings, and then I married a rather traddy man named McLean, whose name I am proud to bear because he is fabulous and the name is euphonious. So there you go. I have two last names and no hyphen. I hate hyphens.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Is Marriage a Crucifixion?

Dear B.A., don't panic. Although life in the Historical House is not prelapsarian Eden, it's not Golgotha either. It's more like King Solomon's court, actually, only without any concubines and with only one wife, who is me. Sadly, there are no slaves, either, so if Solomon doesn't do it, the wife has to take out the bottles.

I am thinking about this today because of at least two comments in the combox in response to my post-Valentine's Day post on love. I was very sanguine and cheerful about love, possibly even more so than St. Paul. Love, said St. Paul, is kind. Love, says Seraphic, giggles like a baby when you turn him upside down and tickle his tum.

"Hey!" said the Millennials, wisely suspicious of the hippy-like pronouncements of their elders. "What about sacrifice, self-denial and suffering?"

"Holy cow," say I to St. Paul. "Do you think they're getting this from Christopher West?"

"Couldn't say," says St. Paul. "It's so hard to keep up. I think I have Dawn Eden's M.A. thesis around here somewhere..."

"Someone said something about self-gift," I say.

"That's JP2," says St. Paul. "I'm sure of that one."

He thinks.

"I think he sort of got that off me."

At any rate, the mention of self-gift reminds me of my pal Boston Girl (see My Book) who went to a Theology of the Body talk in a tight shirt and listened to all the earnestness about self-gift and said that she didn't want a man to think he was giving himself like a birthday present. She wanted a man who would seize her like a cobra and wrest her unto himself. There's gotta be some take with the give, said Boston Girl, and various woman looked at her in horror. In the end (age thirty-something) she married a man who seized her, not like a cobra, but like a stealthy engineer who asked if she would mind sharing her table. Perhaps, cobra-like, he dropped down from the rafters of the cafe. Now there's an image.

Where was I?

The essence of the Christian life is joy, which is why we tell stories of the martyrs in which they don't actually feel their suffering, and even tell jokes, like St. Thomas More when he told the headsman not to cut his beard off, "for it has done no treason." And therefore the essence of Christian marriage is also joy. This joy is specific to the relationship between the couple, as in "Yay! I'm getting married to Charlie!", and not to the state itself, as in "Yay! I'm finally getting married at all!"

This is not to say that Charlie will not sometimes be a pain in the neck. However, the fabulousness of Charlie should outweigh his pain-in-the-neckness by 10:1 the week before you marry, and perhaps 7:1 the year after. If Charlie is the average NCB, he will shower you with attention and costly little gifts and possibly even poems before you are married, and then mostly stop. The lover deserts us, the husband remains, as the Irish poem so wittily observes. And you, who told yourself you would never, ever, ever nag your husband, think of the best and most cheerful and least toxic way of saying "Please take out the bottles; it has been three months."

To my mind, that is where the sacrifice, the self-denial and the suffering come in. The sacrifice is that you say good-bye to Charlie the Lover to wrestle with Charlie the Husband. The self-denial is that you make yourself confront Charlie in the best, healthiest way possible, instead of shrieking or going passive-aggressive, either of which you might generally prefer. The suffering arises from the fact that Charlie, just like you, is a sinful, mortal person who makes mistakes, loses his temper, sulks, gets ill and will die.

It is not healthy to look for ways in which to sacrifice yourself, deny yourself and suffer. It is much better just to sacrifice, self-deny and suffer when the circumstances God sends you demand it. And I know what I'm talking about, poppets, since I went into a form of marriage feeling that--hooray, hooray--I had at last slain my unruly desires and hopes and was making a great sacrifice so that somebody else would be happy. Imagine my chagrin when just marrying the somebody else was not enough for him.

I was only 25, and this is why, poppets, I scream and hit the ceiling when beautiful young things like you ask about sacrifice, self-denial and suffering. Fear not: you'll get them. You don't have to look for them. Don't. Romantic erotic love ends either in heartbreak or death. But it should begin in, and be sustained by, joy.

St. Paul said that wives should obey their husbands, and that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave up His life for her. I don't see any other allusion to crucifixion in that bit of Ephesians, but my take is that if there is any crucifixion going on, it's the husbands opting for crucifixion, not the wives, and not at the hands of the wives, either. Marriage is not supposed to be a crucifixion; I suspect it is a school for patience, which is an entirely different thing. Now giving birth--I suspect giving birth is like the Crucifixion: it hurts horribly, it can kill you, it brings forth life, and the crucified one believes it was all worth it.

There are two principal ways of approaching marriage: there is the Just Get On With It school, popular in South Asia, in which a young woman and young man who like each other okay get married, have children, and conduct their lives according the ancient rhythms of extended family. (The "like each other okay" bit is a more middle- and upper-class thing, I understand, and definitely not universal.) Then there is the Love Marriage school. I understand only the Love Marriage school, and that is why I think everyone Western who feels vaguely called to marriage should hold out for it. Better old ovaries where love is, than healthy young ovaries where hatred abounds (Not exactly Proverbs 15:17).

"Don't forget to tell them I thought being Single was better," says St. Paul.

St. Paul thought remaining Single was better.

"Although of course it's better to marry than to burn," adds St. Paul.

"Oh dear," I say. "Isn't that a bit negative?"

"Hel-lo," says St. Paul. "We're talking to the Millennials here."

It's better to marry than to turn into a skeeze.

Monday, 21 February 2011

The Joy of Auntie

One thing I still have in common with most never-married Catholic women is that I don't have any children of my own yet. However, this is not to say that I don't have children in my life right now. To date I have two nephews, whom I call Pirate and Peanut, and one niece, whom I will call Popcorn.

When my oldest sister gave birth to Pirate, I was 34 or so, and I picked up the little purple creature and thought something like, "This then, at last, is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone," not because I was delusional, but because I love my family and it was so great to know that it had continued into another generation. It also removed the self-imposed pressure on me to have children one day, for it was clear that others in the family could have the children. As for being Auntie, I turned into Auntie the split-second I knew that my oldest sister was pregnant. One moment I was Daughter/Sister/Student/Teacher, and the next moment I was Auntie, too.

Eventually my oldest brother got married, and about a year later my sister-in-law gave birth to Peanut. I took a trip to see him mere days after he was born, and he was a small, purple version of my oldest brother. My Auntiedom seemed assured, and when I married B.A., B.A. discovered that he wasn't just gaining a wife but a big extended Canadian family, complete with two nephews. And then, of course, Popcorn turned up, and since I was in the house when her existence was discovered, I knew about her ridiculously early on, and then she was born, the first girl to be born in the family for over twenty-something years. I rewrote my will.

Living in Scotland as I usually do, I don't see my nephews and niece as often as I'd like. It is a great treat to see them over Skype, and an even greater one to visit them in person. Sometimes I bring presents; my late uncle (who lived abroad) brought or sent me presents. When they are older, I will write them letters. My oldest brother and I treasure our uncle's letters. Uncles and aunts count for a lot.

As I have no doubt said too often, I would like to have a baby, but meanwhile I have three concrete, real, growing, little children in my life. I got to visit two of them this weekend, and although they still wake up in the middle of the night and yell, it was a delight to see them. At 2 and a half Peanut can express himself in English, French and sign language, and at 9 months Popcorn gets about by rolling. I'm serious. Not being able to crawl yet, she rolls towards her object. She is short and round, rather like a ball.

As bilingual or multilingual babies in French Canada usually do, Peanut knows instinctively whom to speak to in English and whom to speak to in French. The funny thing is that he often accompanies his words with sign language, which as far as I know only my brother, who is a sign-language-for-babies fanatic, employs.

"Wahah" said Peanut on Saturday morning.

"I'm sorry, Peanut," I said. "What was that?"

"Crackah" said Peanut, signing "cracker" by tapping on his elbow. "Crackah."

Later he spied a tractor.

"Tractor," he cried, and made the sign for "cracker" again.

Apparently his sign language gets confused by sound-alikes. Well, he's only two.

My father, the grandfather, was very pleased by Peanut's linguistic abilities, linguistics being his field, and was sure Peanut's fluency in English grew between Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon. If true, this is not surprising because Peanut spent hours on end chatting with a grandpa, grandma, auntie and uncle who never dumb down conversation with small children. But, rather amusingly, Peanut's store of English revealed an amusing, rather matriarchal, lack.

"He knows how to say Auntie," revealed his father. "But he doesn't know how to say Uncle yet."

"What does he call [our youngest brother] then?" I asked.

"Um," said Peanuts' father. "'Man Auntie'."

Update: Since I'm writing about Auntiedom again, I'd like to repeat something I read in Natalie Angier's Woman: An Intimate Geography. Some scientists believe that human women live so long after menopause because we are/were essential for the survival for human babies and children, quite apart from our reproductive capacities.

Young women often died in childbed or of birth-related ailments; it thus fell upon the tougher women who had survived, or never undergone, childbirth to care for the babies and children. The evolutionary purpose of Woman then, is not just to reproduce, but to care for infants until they can survive on their own, to be emergency backup in case of maternal death. Therefore, if you miss out on biological motherhood, you are still on track with the plans of evolution every time you tend a baby or child, his/her mother doing something else (e.g. tending another baby).

Of course, as Christians and other people of good will, we know our role and destiny are much wider than our biological/evolutionary "purpose", but it always gives me a lift to ponder that Biology needs Aunties.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

La Tante Est Dans La Maison

Cherubs, I`m in French Canada visiting my youngest nephew and niece, so no post from me today! Have a lovely weekend.

Meanwhile, if you`re wondering what Auntie Seraphic would write like if she were not a nice Catholic lady, check out this article in the Huffington Post. Be warned for language and general hard-talking broadery.

Thanks to Steve who sent it in. Steve sent in some Guy`s Eye View suggestions, which I will post in due time.

Update: Okay, Science Girl read the HuffPo piece more carefully than I did, so--yeah--definitely some serious differences between McMillan`s philosophy and mine. However, still an interesting read, if brutal.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Attention, Beloved Poles

Dear Polish Readers,

I have good news to share from one of your number. She wrote to Homo Dei here to respectfully ask when they were releasing the Polish edition of Seraphic Singles. The priest in charge sent her a very nice message to say that it is coming out in May or June of this year. He was surprised and delighted that someone was enquiring after a book that wasn't even out yet.

Now she suggests that you ask to get on their mailing list so that you can be among the first to order your Polish-language edition of my bee-oo-ti-ful book.

Some of you have been asking about this book, so I am happy to share the news. I am also very happy to have your support, and I am starting to think that it would be nice to go to Poland this summer. It is not difficult to fly from Scotland to Poland; it is one of the most popular routes!

Thanks for your interest and support!


Auntie Seraphic & Weathering a Break-up

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

I have recently come across your blog and it has brought much wisdom and hope, and, you will be glad to know, has prompted me to order your book. :-) I have been reading a lot of back posts which have helped a lot, but am wondering if you have written on handling break-ups and/or broken hearts. If so, could you refer me to them; if not, would you care to?

My story is not all that unique. I was in love with an NCB who I was sure was "the One." My friends approved and I truly thought God did as well, but NCB disagreed and has moved on to a new, younger NCG. (I am not sure whether to be flattered or appalled that according to my friends "she is just like/another version of" me.)

While I could fault him for a few minor things, e.g. communication, he's basically a good guy. There was a reason why I loved him in the first place. The fact that he loves someone else is painful but not a character flaw, so I am having difficulty mustering enough anger to overcome what is simple but profound grief at my loss both of the person who I hoped to marry and someone who was close to a best friend. I feel an acute sense of loss both of the reality that we had and the dream (unreality) that I thought we had and had hoped for.

It does not help things that I am 3-, and less seraphic than I would like to be re: the prospect of prolonged or even permanent single life.* I have tried to be for many years, but the deep desire for marriage and babies has never been something I have been able to overcome (other than at brief moments of spiritual high in church, when I also thought I could be martyred :-)). You and your readers are well acquainted with this particular cross so I needn't spell out more details. Statistics re: marriage "over 35" (particularly in a city in which NCGs are said to outnumber NCBs 4:1) and babies "at advanced maternal age" don't help in the hope department--the "oh well you'll find someone new/better" is not a given and has even been replaced by some well-meaning(?) friends with "are you sure you aren't called to religious/single life?"

(*My heart ache is definitely over this specific NCB, who I was convinced was the Perfect One for Me, but is compounded by the loss of a One in general. I had thought, like the couple in When Harry Met Sally, that I would never have to go through [the dating life] again--and yet here I am. Sigh.)

Your blog addresses finding acceptance and happiness in the single life in general, but I am hoping you can offer some advice for some practical ways to pull myself out of this pain in the meantime. I know the right things to tell myself, and on good days I believe them: that God's plan is perfect; that God desires my happiness and has a different/ better plan for it; that if I wasn't right for him, he was not right for me, and I am undoubtedly better off in the long run. Etc., etc., etc.

I have brought my grief to daily Mass (not a new practice, but a helpful one) and tried to unite it with the Cross. I know also, when I think about it for even a moment, that others suffer more severe pain than mine (abandoned and divorced after years of marriage, widowed, etc). I can even acknowledge, intellectually and theologically, that I have grown and that though I can't see it, this is probably a "good thing for me." I have tried to fill my time with other good things and good people.

But I still feel a huge concrete block in my chest where my heart was and would love some good advice and/or encouragement to help me heal and move forward, and/or be joyful in the meantime. Thanks!

Weathering a Break-up

P.S. I do find hope in your story, especially since you were my age when you met BA, and also the story by KimP. I believe I am not alone among your readers in wishing for more such stories from those whose hope was fulfilled albeit after long waiting. I know in reality God might not have a similar gift for me, but hope is helpful at times... :-)

Dear Weathering a Break-up,

I just got your email, and the first thing to say is that I am sorry that happened to you. Breaking up is hard to do, and although the pain might not be as over-the-top and acute when it happens to us in our thirties (as it does in our teens or early twenties when it makes it seem life is over), the ache is certainly compounded by the sense that the years are slipping away.

I go through a break-up in my book (at age 36), so there is a lot on breaking up there. In fact, the whole section "Loneliness Happens" addresses it. However, I have some things to say in the meantime.

The first is that pain is a part of life. It is absolutely natural and normal for you to feel the concrete on your chest---or the cross on your back. "Take up your cross and follow Me," said the Lord. He didn't say that our crosses were illusions or that we just had to get over it. He acknowledged that we carry pain--and He invited us to bring that pain with us as we follow Him. He doesn't expect us to be joyful 24/7.

One meditation I have found helpful is to imagine myself at the foot of the Cross, and I lay down my cross before it and say, "Lord, I can't carry this by myself today. Could You help me?" Because, sometimes, only He can help me.

Don't try to escape the pain. Sit with it. Pray with it. Cry with it. Especially cry with it, if you can. The occasionally fit of weeping is very healthy. Don't encourage it artificially with sad music or whatever. But acknowledge your pain, feel it and make peace with it. After one particularly horrible break-up, I used to go to the same cafe night after night and pour my feelings out into a notebook as rock music blasted around me. And I used to think "By March I will feel better...By April I will feel much better..." I acknowledged that right then I felt terrible, but also that this would not always be so.

Pain takes as long as it takes to go away. Your pain over the break-up will indeed go away. But I don't know when.

The second is that God has a plan for you and all of us. We only get to see it as it unfolds although sometimes we do get hints. We have to trust that He knows best and that if we start setting plans in motion without any reference to Him, we will mess things up for ourselves. He is asking of us a profound trust: "Though He slay me, so will I trust in him"--I think that's in the Psalms, and I have certainly said it through gritted teeth!

The third is if God has planned from Eternity for you to get married, you will get married.

You know, I say this all the time, and I never realized how annoying it could be until readers started telling me that if God wants me to have a baby, I will have a baby. Both statements are true, though. I think the problem with these statements is that taken alone they don't acknowledge the pain and disappointment we feel if God does not give us what we want so badly. However, (A) pain is a part of life and (B) we must trust that God knows best.

You will never be too old to get married. Amongst my older-than-me readers who were recently married or engaged, one is about 50. Not any man is going to marry you, but I don't think you want just any man. You want the right man. The right man will marry you, no matter what age you are. Is he out there? Only God knows.

I am very glad to read that you are going to daily Mass and uniting your sorrows to the Cross. I honestly cannot think of anything better than that. The only thing I really have to add is that you must allow yourself to feel the pain and not to be ashamed of your sorrow and sense of loss. Look at Our Lady of Sorrows. She is our model of respect for pain and sadness. When an otherwise wonderful priest suggested we paint smiles on every statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, I was horrified. To whom would we go when we were sad, I wondered. It is so important to us that Our Lady knows what it is to lose someone we dearly love, and so very, very important that Our Crucified Lord knows what it is to be lonely.

I hope your pain processes itself out sooner rather than later. And of course there is always blessed hope that God has something prepared for us beyond our fondest imaginings.

Grace and peace,

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Natal Oikos Reminder

What a busy two days! A million years ago, in my "Women in the Ancient World" course, my professor differentiated between a woman's natal oikos--the family she was born into, and her husband's oikos--the family she marries into. It's a Greek word.

Anyway, I like to remind people who want to start a family that they already HAVE a family, most of the time. And we Scottish-Canadians have a somewhat threatening little poem about family that goes, "Your son's your son until he takes a wife/Your daughter's your daughter for the rest of her life."

What this means in MY natal oikos is that I've spent two days researching and writing to give a lecture to my mum's Catholic Women's League meeting tonight. Happily, I got it done on time. But I hope they don't fall asleep. Not everyone gets as excited about Sacramentus Redemptionis as I do.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Something About Love

Some of you may be wondering why Seraphic is talking about love on her Singles blog today. Possibly some of you had a painful Valentine's Day, although I hope you didn't--having prepared in advance by making plans with friends, and sending other Single girls chocolate, or just by being busy and having a treat waiting when you got home. (If you still felt pain, that's perfectly natural, life includes pain, but I hope you didn't wallow. Wallowing is death.) One year in my long Singleness I sent myself a valentine; the jury's out on whether that was better than nothing. On V-Day, it's a better idea to look away from yourself to other people.

Love, after all, is about other people. Hopefully you love yourselves, but strangely this healthy self-love seems to be achieved by looking away from the self. Do we get our self-love from looking into the eyes of those who love us or who are entertained by us or who are honestly grateful to us? I keep thinking back to Saturday night, and how good I felt after a day of meeting and chatting to readers.

Environment is so important. I don't think we give it enough credit. If you're constantly around people who are mean to you, of course you're going to develop "low self esteem." If you're around people who make you feel appreciated, of course you're going to be happy.

The problem with Valentine's Day, often, is that advertisers stress romantic love--or even, horribly, a kind of sexual bartering. Love has nothing to do with sexual bartering (although marriage itself sometimes needs moments of sexual generosity) and love is so much more than romantic love. Love is what you feel for your nearest and dearest, for your parents and family (if you and they haven't killed that love), for your best friends, perhaps for some of your mentors, for your favourite saints, for God.

Love does not have to last forever: you may have sincerely loved the best friend you had at 12 or 16, and now you don't love her--possibly because neither you nor she is the same person you were at 12 or 16. But that doesn't render the love you had at 12 or 16 shallow. And yet some love lasts forever. My uncle died when I was 9, and I still miss him and pray for him.

Love is not supposed to hurt. When your family or friends hurt you, hopefully you are confident enough in your relationships to say "Hey! That really hurt me!" and to hash things out and to heal the wound. Romantic love is not supposed to hurt either. The person to whom you give your heart should treat you at least as well as your friends and parents do (or should).

I have found that love for a husband has facets that remind me of love for a good, admirable father and love for God. Somewhere Gloria Steinem is having a heart attack, but it is true. True of me, I mean.

People who have not fallen in love are curious to know what it is like. Personally, I took notes. Sadly, those notes are in Scotland at the moment. However, I can tell you that I felt giddy and happy and I laughed a lot. B.A. grinned so much his face hurt.

My big worry, when I realized that I was in love with B.A. (but didn't know how he felt about me), was that maybe he was this nice to everybody. After all, he was very popular, and his church friends kept inviting him and me, his Canadian guest, to dinner parties or coming to his dinner parties, and he was merry and kindly to all. However, our evening poetry-reading sessions (which, I add with amused glee, have never been repeated) were rather a tip-off that something was going on with B.A. as well as with me.

When we were apart we talked about each other constantly. The people I saw right after I fell in love with B.A. were Der Gute and Volker (whom you might know from MY BOOK), whom I went to Germany to see, and poor Volker got so sick of hearing about B.A. that he begged me to call a girl friend. And apparently someone in his Men's Schola was so bored he told B.A. that he never wanted to hear my name again.

The only thing that hurt was that we were separated, first by continental Europe, and then by the Atlantic Ocean. Although both of us were rather poor, we both managed to cross that ocean: first B.A. six weeks later, then me six weeks after he left, and then B.A. again to get married to me. We had two minor squabbles, both about troublesome people, and then a biggish squabble, the day before the wedding when my stress levels were through the roof. But other than that we sort of shone at the universe and laughed a lot.

B.A. got on (and gets on) like a house on fire with my family, particularly my mother, which was a very good sign, as in many ways I am like my mother. And I got on well (and get on well) with his friends, who are much more in evidence than his family.

I present all this heavily experiential stuff not as the be-all and end-all of what it is to fall in love but as a model (not THE model, but A model--don't forget that we were 36 and 37 at the time). One of the sadnesses of having divorced parents (and, by the way, only 12% of people aged between 40-44 are divorced) is that you do not have a model of a happy marriage before you. If we could be a model, that would be awesome.

And what I am trying to say is that, although falling in love is incredibly exciting and powerful, making very laid-back men (like B.A.) exert themselves radically (like fly across the ocean to see you) and very friends-and-family oriented women (like me) leave friends-and-family behind, it is not that far removed from the love you have for your family and your friends and that they have for you.

I very much hope that in reading this that you don't feel a stab of loneliness and longing for a man (or woman) you might not have even met yet. Instead, think of where love is in your life right now, and what God is asking you to do in your life right now. Think about how your most beloved family members and friends treat you and how you treat them and compare this in your mind with the last person you had a crush on or who had a crush on you. A true friend (and a husband is a friend) never makes you do anything you really don't want to do, and a true friend doesn't make you cry.

Well, B.A. did make me cry, but that is because he wired me flowers for Valentine's Day, and I didn't think he would. And they were carnations. I was weeping over carnations. My twenty-two year old self--a rose snob--would have been amazed.

Update: The statue is of the Rev. William Corby, C.S.C. He was a great friend of my great-grandmother, who named my grandfather after him. (I think Fr Corby may have been his godfather, too, since he gave the baby a silver cup with his own name engraved on it.) My grandfather's eldest son, my uncle, was also named after him. In the photo, I am asking Fr Corby to pray for all the family, both living and dead. Holly sneakily took the picture.

Update 2: My article on the Edith Stein Project 2011 in the Toronto Catholic Register here.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Auntie Seraphic & Infertile at 20-Something

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

I am writing to you because I am 2- years old and infertile.

I don't really know what to do with this information when it comes to dating. Obviously I'm not going to bring it up on the first date, but when is an appropriate time to say something?

I just feel like I'm pulling an unintentional "bait and switch" on any man I date. If asked, I just say I want a large family because I don't want to get into anything more complicated right off the bat. Yet even though I do indeed want a large family, I am not able to bear children. I would want to consider adoption, but my husband would need to be open to that as well. This is not exactly an immediate issue since I am not currently dating anyone, but I would be lying if I said that it didn't weigh on my mind.

This is especially frustrating because all of my friends are 20-something undergrads with no immediate plans for children in their future. Admittedly, I am too, but they have the option of pregnancy someday and will never have to sit down with a potential husband to have the 'Children' talk. Many of my friends don't understand why my inability to bear a child causes me any concern at all. One girl remarked that I should consider myself lucky because I'd "never have to remember to take a pill every day". Augh.

Any advice or thoughts you might have on this matter would be greatly appreciated!

Infertile at 20-Something

Dear Infertile at 20-Something,

First, most men don't go around consciously looking at young women as potential mothers. If they are good men, they see them as people, attractive people, they might like to meet and be friends with. If a man falls in love with you, he falls in love with you, not with a dream of healthy, eggy ovaries.

In general, in the USA (at very least) women are more interested in children then men are. Many men are unsure if they even want children, and for many Catholic men the idea of having close to a dozen children, because they are faithful to Church teaching, is a very scary one. So I don't want you going around thinking that no Catholic man will ever want to marry you just because you can't conceive and give birth.

How soon you tell a man that you can't conceive and give birth is up to you. This is very private, personal information that so far you have shared with girl friends, and their "helpful" comments haven't helped you very much! And my policy is that women should never be as informal and chatty with guys as they are with girls. Men are not the same as women, and they chat more to exchange information than to create emotional bonds or work out feelings about difficult issues. If you tell them stuff you only need to tell a potential husband, they may feel a bit panicked that you are discussing marriage stuff so soon in your relationship.

I believe that women shouldn't discuss our BIG ISSUES, our illnesses or tragedies or sins that still haunt us, with men until they have become our really good friends, men who we think might be in love with us, and might want to marry us, and whom we want to marry. At that point, we tell them the things that will affect them as well. It is not a bait and switch. It is saving very personal information that belongs to us (and no-one else) until the appropriate time, the time in which we feel comfortable explaining something very personal to us that it is now obvious that the man should know. I did not tell my husband my BIG ISSUES until he began talking marriage.

One terrible example (not from me--this is not one of my Big Issues) is herpes, which apparently many, many people have these days. I know a beautiful woman who got herpes from an abusive boyfriend, and after she dumped him, she married someone else. Obviously her herpes was information her fiance had to know, and that had implications for him, and was not something she would tell just anybody at any time! And yet he married her. He married her because he loved her.

So I think the important thing is to say that you are not tricking a man by keeping your personal health private. The only man who deserves to know about your infertility is the man who loves you and has made it clear he wants to marry you. Only then do you have to make it clear that the children you have together, if you do, will be (barring a miracle--I don't know your circumstances, but sometimes women who were always told they were infertile turn out not to be) adopted.

In short, a man who falls in love with you will fall in love with you, and he will not feel ripped off if you explain to him about the baby situation at the right time. If anything, he will feel concerned for you, and feel compassion for your own suffering in the situation. That's how true love works.

On a personal note, I would love to have babies with my husband--not babies in general, just HIS babies. But we married when I was 38, and I'm 40 now, so we only have a slim chance--if HE is fertile--sometimes men aren't either, and you don't know unless he gets tested. I care about this more than my husband does; he just loves me for me.

I hope this is helpful.

Grace and peace,

Monday, 14 February 2011

Seraphic Goes to Notre Dame

Going to Notre Dame was awesome. It was awesomely awesome. This morning I wrote an article saying how awesome it was. Then I wrote to my Canadian publisher and PR girl saying how awesome it was. Then I wrote to my American PR girl saying how awesome it was. And now I am telling you.

The only non-awesome part was that I had to get up at 4:10 on Friday morning to get my flight to Chicago. Personally, I thought getting up at 6 would have been good enough to get through check-in and security for my 8:00 AM flight, but my dad said 4:00, and when I was nowhere around at 4:00, he came to wake me up.

Off we went to the airport, and I was through everything by 6:15 AM, so I sat by my gate for over an hour, reading Amy Lavender Harris's Imagining Toronto, so it wasn't so bad. And I had breakfast in Chicago's O'Hare airport, so that wasn't so bad. And when I got to South Bend airport, Holly appeared and drove me straight to Notre Dame and the coffee urn, so that was awesome.

Holly reads my blog, and it turns out that a whole lot of women and some men at Notre Dame also read my blog. And I know this because beautiful young person after beautiful young person (including Tess--hello, Tess!) appeared before me saying, "Hi! Um, I just want to say that I love your blog." And this was even more awesome than the coffee. I mean, usually my readers are invisible. I kind of know you are out there, but I can't see you. And now I know you are beautiful. (All young, enthusiastic people are beautiful to people over 35. That's why way-too-old-for-you men hit on you, when you are thinking "Bleck! He's so OLD!")

Okay, so discovering that I am a leetle bit famous at Our Lady's University was extremely cool, and Wendy Shalit's presentation was also extremely cool. Wendy Shalit wrote A Return to Modesty just after she graduated from Williamson; it started as her senior thesis. She started her talk with a clip of Oprah and Suze Orman bullying poor Octomom, but I didn't recognize her, so at first it just looked like Oprah and Suze--whom Wendy called two of the most powerful women in the world--bullying some poor young lady with a lot of kids, no money, and great eyelashes. And even when I realized who she was, I couldn't understand why this woman was being told she was the most hated woman in America by two of the most beloved. It was a very effective beginning for Wendy's talk on femininity and modesty.

Afterwards, I approached Wendy to buy a copy of her book and, to my amazement, she told me that she has read a post on my blog. And I was, like, "EEE! Wendy Shalit read my blog!" Look, in Edinburgh, I am so totally Mrs. B.A. I love being Mrs. B.A., but it was a really nice culture shock to be reminded that I am also Seraphic, Self-Appointed Auntie to the Singles of the World.

Then I went to John Cavadini's talk, and I was impressed because I went to theology school, and he is a big name in solid, orthodox Catholic theology. And then there was Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes in the basilica (ND has its own basilica), celebrated by Bishop D'Arcy, the bishop who wrote that most sensible and humble letter about the Obama-at-Notre-Dame crisis. From his homily, I could see why Notre Dame students I talked to love him so much. It was the first Ordinary Form Mass I've been to in months, but I didn't pass out or freak out or become inwardly cranky. Mass was celebrated very beautifully, and receiving the Eucharist on the tongue was no problem, although I did't have the guts to kneel.

After Mass was pizza and Bishop D'Arcy's talk about how the priesthood of the laity fosters the priesthood of the clergy and vice versa. It was very, very moving. And then the fact that I got up at 4:10 AM tapped its foot and said ahem, so I found Holly and asked her to drive me to the convent where I was staying. There we were met by a lovely nun in Franciscan habit and shown to my room. And next to my room was Dawn Eden, standing in her doorway chatting enthusiastically with a Nashville Dominican. This was more awesomeness because I started reading Dawn's stuff years ago and we've sent emails back and forth, but we never met. And there she was. I told her what Wendy Shalit said at her talk, and then I went to my room and passed out in the nice, clean single bed.

In the morning, Kelly (not Holly) came to get me and drove me back to Notre Dame where I immediately drank two cups of coffee. There followed a day of really great lectures. I went to Tess's sister Lilian's talk on Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Pauline's talk on "The Geography of Vocation". Then I went to Dawn Eden's high-energy talk, although I was sad that Fr. Neil Roy's talk "Vocation and Sacramental Life" was on at the same time. Next I went to Professor O'Connor's lecture on how men see women, which included some thoughtful criticism of some trends in the theology of the body. His accent and generally weatherbeaten quality reminded me of the star of a old western movie, a John Wayne with a Ph.D. He is all for young marriage, which worried me a bit, so I made a note to address that in my speech.

I took a break from lectures when I realized I was nervous about my upcoming talk, but I got it together during Dr. Pakaluk's talk about Edith Stein, what women really want, and about putting your marriage and family ahead of your career. And then it was my turn and eeee!

The Conference Centre has a huge podium with a big impressive Notre Dame crest on the front. It is as far away from the audience as it can possibly be, and looks like it was built for the Tallest, Fattest and Most Important Man Ever to Be President of Our Lady's Own University. I knew nobody would be able to see me behind it, so I asked for a much smaller podium (or a music stand) to be placed as close to the audience as possible. And such is the power and the glory of the University of Notre Dame that I got it. After some fussing with the microphone, I was underway. When I was nervous, I looked at a row of long-term blog readers, and then I didn't feel nervous anymore. Tess, for example, has a smile that could light up the mines of Moria.

My speech was divided into
1. Why Speaking at Notre Dame is a Big, Family, Deal for me.
2. How I became Seraphic Single.
3. The History of Single Life in Christianity
4. Bernard Lonergan and Vocation as a Falling in Love.

(There was no way I was going to come to Notre Dame and not talk about Jesuit theologian Bernard Lonergan!)

5. How not to Drive Yourself Crazy as a Single Person.
6. How to Make Yourself More Comfortable as a Single Person.

Afterwards, your fellow blogreaders started the questions, and I was so happy my speech went well, my adrenaline hit levels not seen since my boxing days, and I almost forgot that I was supposed to sell and sign my books. So I rushed out of the auditorium, bleating and shouting instructions, and sat at the table to sell and sign books. I sold and signed books until I was dragged away for dinner, and I felt like a Popular Girl, most unlike when I was in elementary school.

At dinner, I sat with Margo B and Jennifer B and two other women whose names I have forgotten (being so excited at the time) and some Nashville Dominicans, including Sr. Elinor who studied philosophy at B.C. It was great fun, and then Lauren came and whisked me away for the cocktail she long ago promised to buy me if I ever came to South Bend. Sadly, I drank coffee at dinner, so when Lauren brought me back to the convent, I couldn't sleep. And--this is the tragic part--I had had the most awesomely awesome day and I couldn't tell B.A. about it. No phone. No computer. No B.A. Wah! Let me tell you, it was a good thing that was a single bed, because if there had been any room in it for B.A., I would have been miserable with missing-B.A.ness. But as it was I was able to lump it and just be grateful for the awesomeness of Notre Dame students in general and my readers in particular.

The next day Holly came for me and took me to Trid Mass, for, lo, there is Trid Mass at Notre Dame on Sundays, in a chapel under Alumni Hall, and there was no White Sheet, so after reading the readings in Latin, the priest read them in English. And the Men's Schola was just one man named John, who sang very well and looked very fetching in choir dress, and now I think my own Men's Schola should wear choir dress, too. Then after Mass Rocco told me that one of my audience members (perhaps not a reader) told him she wasn't going to take advice from a Scot, which hopefully her great-great-grandfather didn't say to Andrew Carnegie. At any rate, it is the first time in my life I have been referred to as a Scot, so I am grateful to her although I am puzzled over her disdain for Scottish advice. Scots are very canny, and some of them are said to be psychic, so really, Scottish advice should be right up there in the hierarchy of advice.

Then we trooped off for brunch in the South Dining Hall, where my fellow Trids elected to sit at the High Table. I wrote down witty things the students said for my CR column, and the South Dining Hall flowed with food and drink. Then Holly drove me and another speaker to the airport and bid us good-bye.

But that was not the end. Behold the brilliance of Holly: my Dad, who loves to read plane and weather forecasts, discovered that my flight from Chicago to Toronto was cancelled. He called Holly, but I was already in the passenger lounge. So Holly gave him the phone number of the other speaker, who naturally had been sitting beside me chatting merrily, and lo, my dad called her cellphone and left a message, which she found and played for me. I am not sure I would have been as quick-witted as Holly, and if I am ever rich and famous, or at least well-paid enough by somebody to have a permanent Personal Assistant, I want one like her.

So that was my Notre Dame adventure, and here I am in Toronto, where I feel much less famous but very happy that I met so many readers and had such a good time. If you can get to next year's Edith Stein Project, I really recommend that you do. It was such a good mix of talks, both formal and fun, and there were tons of good food and crowds of nice people.

Heartfelt thanks to Rebecca and Holly and her sister Jennifer and Tess and everyone else at Notre Dame--or who drove to Notre Dame--who made me feel so welcome.

UPDATE: More thanks to Holly for the photo!

Happy Valentine's Day to All My Little Singles

Poppets, I am back from Notre Dame, and I have to write an article for one of my papers like, right NOW. But Happy Valentine's Day from me to you, and I will return soon to tell you all about my amazing adventures in Indiana. Notre Dame rocks; it really does.

And although you are all the poppets, I have to send a special Valentine's Day greeting to Holly, who was assigned by the Edith Stein committee to take care of me. Having a P.A. (I quickly decided Holly was my P.A.) is very awesome, especially if she is as thoughtful as Holly. I spent the weekend either exhausted from sleep deprivation or completely wired on coffee, and the fact that I nevertheless had a great time, delivered my speech well and got back to Toronto a-live has a lot to do with Holly. Listen, she even figured out how to get in touch with me when I was in South Bend airport without a phone and my dad had called her to tell her my flight from Chicago was cancelled. Brilliant!

Okay, more soon. You do something nice for yourselves and for another Single girl today, if you are a girl or her brother or dad.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Friday, South Bend

Off to bed, as I must rise at 4 AM to get my 8 AM flight. I'm looking forward to meeting some of you in person tomorrow! Everyone else, please God, we'll talk on Monday.

Have a great week-end!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

No Red Mantillas

Alert: Contains Sentimental Married Lady Stuff

Early tomorrow morning I will fly to South Bend for the University of Notre Dame's Edith Stein Project conference. I am very excited! For one thing, I know I have readers driving there, and I am delighted and flattered. For another, I know Wendy Shalit and Dawn Eden are also speaking, and I've always wanted to meet both of them in person.

The conference, then spans February 11 and 12th. On the 13th, a Sunday, I will go to Mass and then fly back to Toronto. On February 14th, I will still be in Toronto, and not home with my husband, which means no Valentine's Day for me.

For years I have been poking fun at Valentine's Day, but somehow when Father Z, who obviously is a man, did so yesterday, I felt rather taken aback. It's one thing for women to laugh about Valentine's Day, but it feels rather different when men do--although they are perfectly right to critique the crass sexual messages. The truth is that many, many, many women take Valentine's Day very seriously indeed. And when wondering why I felt so cold to Father Z's joke that men should give their girlfriends or wives mantillas (someone else, I think, suggested they be red*), I put my finger on it.

Women want to feel loved. Men want to feel loved, too, but they don't seem to have the same attachment to calendar dates as women do. On Valentine's Day, many Single women feel very poignantly their need to feel loved, and Married women feel a need to be loved the way they were loved when their husbands were first courting them. Traditionally, women love to be wooed by the men they love, and these days if we aren't wooed, we'll woo in the hope we'll be wooed back. This has rather mixed results.

We can make fun of Valentine's Day excess, sure, but we can't make fun of women's need to feel love, of Single women's loneliness, of Married women's worry that our husbands just don't find us particularly exciting anymore.

Sentimental Lady Stuff begins here:

On my first Valentine's Day with B.A.--we met in person one September, remember--I had travelled back to the UK to see him, and we went to a small French bistro. He gave me a small antique pin featuring a baroque heart set with a pearl. It was made in the 1920s and B.A. joked to the storekeeper, "This belonged to Nancy Mitford, right?"

"I never said that," said the storekeeper, like a shot, until he realized BA was joking.

But I love that story--which illustrates the fact that B.A. knows who my favourite authors are--and I think of my pin as the "Nancy Mitford pin."

On my second Valentine's Day with B.A., we were married and money was tight. I think this is a frequent song of newly married people. There's more money for romantic presents before you're married than after. So I really wasn't expecting anything and trying not to feel bad that I wasn't expecting anything.

But I did get something. B.A. made me a valentine out of red construction paper and went out to the woods and picked the first snowdrops of spring. (Spring comes early on the east coast of Scotland.) He put the snowdrops in a little vase by the bed, and stood the valentine by the vase, and it made the biggest difference in the world.

This will be my third Valentine's Day with B.A., only I will be over here, and he will be over there, and my birthday extravaganza rather emptied the ol' bank account, so...

I don't know what he's going to do. I know I feel feel sad if he does nothing, but what can he do, poor man? I will just have to lump it, and be in solidarity with the women of the world who are also lumping it.

End of Sentimental Lady Stuff.
Single women who suspect V-Day could be a tough day can prepare ahead by sending their own Single women friends cards and chocolate (and maybe my book!), by meeting up with pals for a mini-Valentine's (or anti-Valentine's) party, by arranging a special treat for themselves that night or by volunteering for the evening shift. Single men, if they are feeling lonely, could contemplate how much money they are saving by not taking women to eat at the vastly inflated Valentine's Day prices which, incidentally, are not women's fault.

Married women and, above all, Single girls with boyfriends, should temper their expectations. But boyfriends and husbands, if they do love their girlfriends and wives, should step up to the plate. Women who are uncertain if they are loved read a LOT into little things. A Valentine's Day gift to a girlfriend or a wife does NOT have to be expensive, but it does have to be romantic. A special lunch if dinner is too expensive. One rose instead of twelve carnations. A lacy scarf. A valentine cut out of a sheet of red construction paper with paper lace glued to the back. It really is the thought---the CAREFUL thought--that counts.

A mantilla (especially a red one) is not romantic. I know Father Z was joking, but I cannot imagine a worse gift. Some Catholic girls are happily and voluntarily choosing to pin on a mantilla when they go to Mass, especially the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. But others are weirded out by it, and think uneasily of burqas. Ofred in Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale had to keep her head covered, and her dress--the dress of all the sex/baby-slave handmaids--was red. And the last thing a Catholic woman needs, as she works out how to be a Catholic woman, balancing tradition and modern life, is some man shoving a veil at her, telling her, in effect, to cover up.

It's almost Valentine's Day. Tensions are mounting. Let's all be extra gentle and understanding of each other and ourselves.

*Now I can't find any reference on to a red mantilla! Did I dream it? I pondered the red mantilla question all evening!

P.S. The comment stream is a hoot. I feel badly for the woman who is knocking herself out to make a special Valentine's Day dinner for her boyfriend. My one consolation is that the comment is so over the top that it must be a spoof.

By the way, Father Z has asked bloggers to get their readers to vote on his mantilla poll here. I voted Woman/Yes/But voluntary. Where I got to Mass, some women wear mantillas, others wear scarves, others warm hats, and others nothing on their heads at all. I usually wear a mantilla, but if it is really cold, I leave my wool beret on.

Some women honestly just don't like dressing "like women", and I don't see why they should have to.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Julie's Speed Dating Adventure

Today a GUEST POST from your fellow reader Julie who bravely decided to act on her mother's suggestion that she go to a speed dating event, not by throwing a fit, but by actually going to it. Poppets, she did this bold deed on our behalf, so we could know what speed dating is like without having to go ourselves. Kudos to Julie, and now let us see how she fared.--Seraphic

One bright January day I woke up and found that my mother had sent me an email suggesting a speed dating event. I spent the morning feeling wounded, by noon I was reading up and thinking it might not be such a bad thing, by 2pm I had emailed all my girlfriends asking if they'd ever tried it. By 4pm they had all responded saying "No, but you totally should and then tell us about it." (Of course, and of course they were all terribly busy that night.) So just before leaving work I bought a ticket for the speed dating event in the name of Science, Good Stories, and Drinks Included.

Before the event, in order to register and RSVP, I had to set up an online profile. Wouldn't you know it, the speed dating company also has an online-dating component, and here's a shock, signing up for the event also gets you access to that service. I was less than thrilled about this because figuring out a screen name and finding a half-decent photo of me that also reflects my current hair and glasses is not easy. But I filled out the basic questions and came up with a photo that I think I could be recognized by.

And so it happened that I got all dressed up and went out to a nightclub on a Tuesday night. I cunningly scheduled my usual haircut for the afternoon before the event (or "party" in the company's lingo, which rather evokes Silvio Berlusconi in my mind, but so be it). I had a "Is THAT how much weight I've gained?" moment while putting on my dress, and then I attempted to put on makeup. It looked awful. I persevered; it looked worse. I applied the lipstick; I looked consumptive. I set about liberating my skin with a makeup remover wipe (solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant). I ended up with a little red lipstick, some eyeliner and the mascara. As it turned out I was appropriately dressed; if anything, I was a little on the overdressed side.

When I got to the bar, there were two check-in tables: one for men, and the other for women. The bar was closed except for this event, although this was supposed to be a particularly large one due to the upcoming pink-themed holiday; I would guess that a smaller event might take place in a private room. They gave me a free drink coupon, a name tag (first name, last initial), and two numbers: my table number, and an ID number. A staff member took me to my station and gave me a pen and a "score card". Pretty soon I was settled in with my first drink and my first guy, waiting for the real business to begin. The crowd was pretty hip; the official age range was 21-35. Although there were a handful who fit the sort of "loser internet daters" mold, the atmosphere was generally fun and exciting. Dating Company, you were right to call it a "party".

Here's how it worked. The girls stay stationary and the guys move. You get three minutes with each person. When you introduce yourselves, each of you write down the other's ID number and name on the score sheet. Then you make no doubt fascinating conversation. When the buzzer goes, the guy moves to the next girl and -- crucially -- each of you marks "yes" or "no" on the sheet. Rinse, repeat.

The biggest problem I encountered was the scoring. The switching-off isn't clockwork; if the girl to my left was still chatting with the guy, my guy couldn't move on, whereas if the girl to my right was still chatting, my new guy was delayed. More often than not there was a sort of shuffle/traffic jam happening. Even if the switch went quickly, the guy you just talked to was less than three feet away. So circling "no" next to his name felt awkward. I started putting off the scoring, and it didn't take long before I was losing track of people. This is bad. Don't do this. Decide early on that you're just going to hold your card face down or something and don't put off doing the scoring.

The guys generally bore the burden of starting the conversation -- at least with me. They're the ones moving around, and several of them said things to me to the effect that the women had the power in the situation. That's pretty silly when you think about it -- the only difference being that the women weren't walking two steps every three minutes. There's a little sociological observation for you: women have power simply by *being seated in one place*.

[Seraphic jumps in: Mais oui, this is why you have more power when you refuse to chase men. Meanwhile, I missed my midnight bus last night and spent quite some time worrying about rapists until I concluded that minus-20 weather was too cold for any rapist. Do men ever worry about rapists on their way home at night? Yeah, power. Don't talk to me about power, boyfriend.]

The backs of our place cards had ice breaker questions on them, but they were mostly either really lame or too complicated to really do much (one was, "Give three words that describe yourself that don't contain the letter E"). Most men jumped right in with asking what I do for a living; a couple made comments to the effect that talking about anything else would be a waste of time. The best variation on this was, "So, what did you do at work this morning?" Some used or tried to use the place card questions. One tried guessing my last name based on the initial. I only had two who went with smarmy compliments. There was a whole stretch where the conversation just centered on how loud the room was, and how strange the experience was. Of the men I asked, none admitted to having done speed dating before. Some of the men seemed genuinely rather frustrated with the three minute time frame, and having to move on regardless of whether it was a good match or not.

As for my performance, I was happy to answer questions but was generally pretty stumped if the guy didn't take the lead. In other words, basically the way I am in all conversational settings. I had a hard time hearing above the noise. I blanked when one guy asked what I do for fun -- not impressive. The good news is, whether you're doing well or badly, it's over very quickly, and after a while it starts to run together so you stop really thinking about it and also stop feeling weird about repeating yourself.

I was struck by how many men asked me something about my long-term plans. Probably 70% of my "dates" consisted of (1) what I do and (2) whether I see myself living here long term. Sometimes I feel like my entire life is a long-distance relationship, with friends and family scattered all over, so I guess I'd never really considered that as an issue, much less something to ask up front. If nothing else the experience gives you a concentrated sample of reactions to the things you do and like. It's also true, I'd say, that you can eliminate people based on what they choose to bring up when they only have three minutes. The best conversations were ones where we somehow ended up talking about coincidences between our lives and experiences (for example, having attended the same university, or in one case, both of our moms had the same first name -- I don't remember how that came up).

When my 25 "dates" were done (and this being a rather large event, I probably met about half the men in attendance), the staff members handed out a wristband for a one-hour open bar sponsored by a vodka company. Some people left right away, but most seemed happy to fight their way toward the bar. This was where the advantage of coming with friends became clear!

It was at this point that I realized my phone was not in my purse, so I made my way to the coat check (the phone was in my coat pocket, for which I was so grateful I didn't notice that I had genuinely lost my earmuffs... dangit). Without knowing anyone in the crowd, filled with relief at finding my phone, and thinking about the things I needed to do the next day, I decided to take off and forfeit the free vodka. Ah well. I got into a cab and home safely despite some slight alarm when the cabbie's chatter about how hard it is to find a good man started to include comments like "I have fancy car" and "Women, two drinks and they are ok for the sex."

Now that I'm home, I am supposed to enter my scores for the night online. However, the online form seems to have two-digit IDs, and the ones tonight were all three digits, plus I'm tired, so I think I'll send a help request and tackle this in the morning. Anyway, once I enter the scores, the matches get made. So note that with this system at least I guess I could just walk away afterward. Also there's a box you can check that blocks people you marked as "no". Otherwise I guess they could search and find your profile.

Do I feel like I "met anyone"? Not especially. Certainly there were several who were especially easy to talk to. More were attractive than not. I had a couple of favorites. God only knows, of course, what any of their values are (well, ok, there were a couple of them who were obviously a little unsavoury), or whether they liked me enough to follow through when they see the crummy picture on my online profile. "Yes" and "no" don't really capture the range of reactions. We'll see. I'll admit to being fairly ambivalent, if only because I know how unreliable my scorecard ended up being (oops, oops, oops).

I would say overall it was worth it, but I'll go ahead and editorialize and say: don't take it seriously. I would guess that the guys who seemed stressed out and frustrated probably felt that way because -- yeah! it's really difficult to have a meaningful conversation in 3 minutes!

I think you have to treat it as a kind of ice breaker with insurance: if you don't run into this person at the bar immediately afterward, there's a chance you'll still connect after the event via the scorecard matching. Another way to look at it would be as a kind of hybrid internet dating: here are all these random people but you get to screen them in person first. If I were going to do this again I would:

(a) prefer an event with some bar time afterward (at least a drinks special)
(b) bring at least one friend
(d) not leave my dang phone in my coat pocket!

Your humble correspondent in the field,

Great thanks to Julie for today's post and for braving the weird world of speed dating and inappropriate cabbies!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Recognizing the Single Experience

There is an idea out there that being married is the norm and being Single is a weird and unfortunate accident of fate. However, women tend to live longer than men, so a woman who marries at 30, is widowed at 60 and dies at 90, lives only a third of her life as a married woman.

We are born Single and most women die Single. That's how life is. The youngest women are Single, and the oldest women are usually Single. The 25s to 65s tend to be married. The middle bit is the married bit. Most of us get married. Whether we stay married, or marry wisely, is another question altogether. Heaven only knows how many unfortunate women and men are married only because they did not have the guts to stay chaste Singles.

The world needs happy Single men and women who are not afraid to stay chaste Singles until they are given a much, much better offer. The more men and women we have like this, the fewer men and women we will have marrying and divorcing Miss or Mr Not Quite What I Was Hoping For. Single people will take heart from other Single people. I might be talking about a revolution here.

The revolution I'm talking about has little to do with the Sexual Revolution. The Sexual Revolution was about men and women feeling safer having sex outside marriage, and we all know how that turned out. (My brother told me that 1 in 5 men and 1 in 4 women have herpes. I hope this statistic is not true. I'll see if I can find it online.) The revolution I'm talking about is men and women feeling happy as Single people and given respect as Single people.

The Feminist Revolution tried to do this with the honorific Ms. I use Ms myself, as my passport is in my maiden name and my professional name is my married name added to my maiden name. (The only time I am Mrs is socially in Scotland--and the whole thing is a nightmare when dealing with the bank.) The honorific Ms was not supposed to denigrate marriage; it was supposed to eliminate the shame Single women felt for being Single. It didn't work.

It didn't work because the Western world is obsessed with sexual partnerships. Now women are made to feel bad not only because they aren't married but because they don't have a "partner" or a boyfriend. And men--good night--men who have neither a wife, a "female partner" or a girlfriend are often assumed to have SSA, which is not something men without SSA particularly appreciate.

I think it is the duty of everyone in the Catholic Church to support Single people, including and especially elderly widows and widowers, in their Single lives. Too often this takes the form of "helping" them get married. Now, I have come to the conclusion that most Catholic Singles want to get married, but even these need something that affirms the good moral life they are living RIGHT NOW unmarried.

There are so many ways a parish church could do that. First of all, homilists, who in the Latin Rite are mostly unmarried men, should talk about the goodness of celibate life, not just the priesthood. Priests sometimes complain that married people tell them they pity them because they're "not allowed to get married." Well, if priests would stress how great a chaste Single life lived in service to others can be, married people might be able to think outside their own particular box.

Priests also have a duty to admit how much the Single life can suck. Single people need to hear other Single people--Single people they respect, Single people who are leaders in the community--acknowledge what they themselves go through as Single people.

The vocations directors who visit parishes to give the sales pitch for the priesthood and--oh yeah--religious life for women should stress that a call is from God, and God is on His own time. If you don't find the right seminary, community or person by the age of 25, that does not necessarily mean there is something wrong with you. It means God's plan for you is unfolding at a different speed than His plans for others. But it is not very nice to feel that you are the last one being picked for the Vocations Team, and it would be nice to hear a vocations director admit that.

I'm a liturgical purist these days, but even when I wasn't, I hated it when priests asked mothers to stand after Mass on Mother's Day, so all the men, children, and women who never had children could applaud them. It is not as if mothers do not get attention on Mother's Day from their own families. I know what it is like to stay sitting, and I always looked at the faces of the other adult women who had to stay sitting. The sadness would break your heart.

One much more pastorally sensitive priest I knew quoted John Paul II's ideas about how all women are mothers and made sure each and every woman in the congregation got a flower for Mother's Day. There was no division of the women into applauded standers and ignored sitters. A little thing, but it's the little things that really make the difference.

Then there are parish groups. Catholic Pen wrote in yesterday about married women's groups, about which I had never heard. Mothers and Tots groups, yes. Married women's groups, no. And I guess I sort of see the point to married women's groups, since I know very well married women need to talk about being married women to other married women without worrying about hurting Single women's feelings. I don't see why married women's groups should take precedence over all-women's groups, however.

I don't know why married women would want to exclude Single women, except to talk specifically about their joys and sorrows as married women. It's hard to feel comfortable talking about something so personal when there's an ever-present danger of someone, someone who isn't really listening, saying "Well, at least you're married."

And I know what I'm talking about. When I got engaged, I got angry comments from one male reader, break-up emails from two or three male readers, and accusations of treason from new female readers. An editor for a British paper turned down one journalist who wanted to write about Seraphic Singles on the grounds that I had gotten married, and people often ask me what right I have to talk about Single Life when I am married now. If married people are sometimes aggressive about singles, single people are sometimes aggressive about marrieds. This is sad and foolish.

There should be no rivalry between married women and single women. We should seek to include each other in our social circles as much as possible, not because of our states in life, but because we like each other. In the schoolyard, girls get a thrill out of excluding other girls, and the excluded girls illogically long to be accepted by the nasty, popular set. Sadly, this tendency sometimes lingers in adult life, and we need to get rid of it. Women should erase our love to exclude AND we should temper our longing to belong.

Contemporary theology likes to talk a lot about inclusion and marginalization. While understanding that marriage and parenthood are not exactly a basket of roses, Single people should gently point out to their pastors and friends that they feel excluded and marginalized. And I recommend that you do something about this yourselves. If the only women's group in your parish is for married women alone, see if you can begin a women's group open to all women in the parish.

Monday, 7 February 2011

A Seraphic Valentine's Day Prez

I see a number of you have pledged to bring chocolate and valentiny joy into the lives of your Single friends next Monday, which is the dreaded Feb 1-4. Marvellous! Tomorrow I will pop down to the post office myself. Meanwhile, I have been musing over Seraphic Singles/The Closet's All Mine as a Valentine's Day gift.

What do you think? Is SS/TCAM a good Valentine's Day gift? For Singles, I mean. Maybe not so much as a romantic present from a guy to his wife or girlfriend. Eeek.

Personally, I think it is a good gift, especially if it comes from another Single girl who has read it and loves it. I wrote it when I was Single, and it is all about Single life from a Catholic perspective. It's not about how to get married because--really--I did not have a clue and, besides, my attitude is the best thing to do re: marriage is be a happy, friendly, confident person who meets a lot of people of both sexes and all ages and leave it up to God. As yet I have not worked out how to turn that into a 200 page book. How many pages do you think this blog comes out to, though, eh?

Anyway, the thing about Valentine's Day is that it is so depressing to be Single on Valentine's Day--even Single with a boyfriend if his idea of a romantic dinner/gift/card does not jive with your own--that finding joy in the Single Life, finding joy in the here and now, becomes more important than ever. So consider giving a Single pal Seraphic Singles or The Closet's All Mine or, if you lack disposible income, lending her your copy.

Meanwhile, it occurs to me that The Closet's All Mine would make a great book club book. My Canadian publisher--I saw him today and he fed me lunch and statistics--tells me that everyone of every age and marital status to whom he gives the book loves it. I'm definitely thinking book club.

Once again, you can get the Canadian version either straight from the publisher here or from, and the American version from the publisher here or from, or the nice people who run your local Catholic bookstore. Today I bought a copy of Seraphic Singles from Crux Books and was delighted to find it in the "Literature" section. It was next to Dante's Inferno. <:-D

The girl in the photo is reader Jen, who found The Closet's All Mine for sale at a young adult retreat in Florida! If you find my book in a store or at a retreat, feel free to send a photo of yourself with the book to me!

The Demands of Friendship

I always stress how important it is for Singles to have friends and friendly acquaintances, to get out there (or at very least into the blogosphere here) and be a presence in the community or communities. If you live in a small village or tiny Catholic community, then it is a good idea to travel a bit or surf the web to make more acquaintances and potential friends. As Singles, you have more freedom to do that than married people, especially married people with children.

Recently I got an email from a long-term Single reader puzzling out her friend situation. She mentioned a good female friend, a soul mate, who is married with two children. When the second baby was born, the friend said she didn't have any time to get together, or even email. She had time only for Facebook.

Now, my brother has two babies under three, and one of my best friends has one baby under two, and a friend in Scotland has a baby under one. Thus, I understand where your fellow reader's married friend is coming from. She literally has only enough social time for Facebook, possibly between 2 AM and 3 AM, the only time she can be relatively sure both her children are asleep.

Your fellow reader, unsurprisingly, is disappointed that her friend--torn between the demands of husband and two separate children--has no time to meet or even email her. But what surprises me, is that instead of meeting her friend on Facebook, the only place she can, she dissed Facebook relationships as shallow. Speaking as someone who lives across the ocean from most of the people she knows, I love Facebook. It never occured to me that it was shallow. For me it is a magic window that helps me keep tabs on 150 people. I hope your fellow reader changes her mind. Facebook isn't everything, of course, but it is better than nothing.

One problem in Single life is expecting everything or nothing. A Single might go to a Catholic singles event expecting to see a host of good-looking, smiling Catholic bachelors from whom she might pick a future boyfriend or even husband, and be horribly disappointed to see only a few ordinary-looking Catholic men talking to their friends or lingering at the buffet table. The next time she won't go at all because, she says, there is no point. In so doing, she has missed out on a chance to make some acquaintances, to hand out her business card, maybe to meet someone who might make a good friend, and at very least to hear an interesting lecture and drink a fine glass of beer in company.

When it comes to ordinary social life--I'm not talking about courtship here--you take what people can offer. If your married girlfriend says she can't come out dancing, but she can host a tea party, you go to the tea party. If your married guy friend says he can't get out for a guys' night until May, you arrange a guys' night for May. If he cancels because his kid is sick, you reschedule. If you want to be or remain friends with people, you have to meet them where they are. It is very important for childless Singles--and I include male and female religious in this--to remember that married people are not as free as you are.

The last thing a young mother needs--a young mother with one or two almost-perpetually screaming babies, and a huge hamper of dirty laundry, and a husband who wistfully wonders where the loving has gone, and a boss or mother-in-law who tells her that she looks tired in a slightly accusatory way--is yet another person making her feel bad for not living up to their demands.

Be kind and merciful to your young married friends. Invite them to events, and be happy and welcoming when they accept and show up, but don't bank on them accepting and showing up, especially if they have children.

Now that I am married, not Single, I have figured out why married people have dinners without Singles or conversations that make Single people feel left out. Married women, for example, don't often have time to meet up even with each other. I was horrified the other night to discover that a set of my friends get together now only four times a year, tops. Some are married now, and some are very busy Singles. And here was me, over in Scotland, fondly thinking they were getting together for cocktails every Friday, going to gether for pedicures, etc., etc. Apparently not.

And one thing about having a few recently married women in a car being driven by a Single woman, as happened on Saturday night: the marrieds, including me, all talked about how we argue with our husbands. I don't mean what we argue about, but why and how we argue. For example, when each of us gets upset about something, our husbands tell us we shouldn't be so upset, and then we get even more upset because we think our husbands are attacking our right to be upset.

When we marrieds, who really can't talk about this with anyone else, discovered we shared the same pattern, we all laughed merrily. It was such a relief to say it to our closest friends, and to realize that this sort of argument was completely normal to our collective married experience. But the conversation did, of course, leave out the driver. I am hoping she was too busy dealing with traffic during a blizzard to notice.

It is important to have friends in your state of life. So if sometimes you are not invited to a married lady party, understand that sometimes married ladies need to chat about married lady stuff without worrying about hurting Single girls' feelings. Don't let this keep you, however, from inviting married friends to stuff you yourself arrange or at very least to be your Facebook friends. One thing I keep hearing from busy young marrieds and mothers is how much they really miss their friends.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

The Dragon in the Woods

There has been a number of comments recently worrying about failed marriages and divorce. I get a sense that many of you in your twenties see divorce as something ubiquitous but random, striking at all but the very lucky. It is like this uncontrollable, unstoppable force out there in the woods waiting to eat you up. One minute a spouse is bliss and somehow in two or ten years he or she becomes a horrible, nasty, snapping monster. However, it's neither that dreadful nor that simple.

Nobody really understands what is going on in another person's relationship. Many of you, very sadly, had the shock of your lives when your parents broke up. Others were horrified when married friends broke up. I was next to devastated when a very old friend left her husband--which I found out about just as my brother moved into his first house, days after his wife had her first baby. I was frightened rigid.

"Don't even mention divorce in this house," said my brother.

For years my friend and her husband had been symbolic for me of the happy couple, of the marriage that worked out, of the possibility of happy married life with kids. Maybe I (then divorced-and-annulled) hadn't had it, but at least they did. But apparently they didn't. I hadn't been told the whole story; either we were not as good friends as I thought, or my pal's ability to hide unhappy feelings (she was relentlessly positive to the point of lying) had taken me in.

Divorce looks random because you don't have the backstage pass into divorcing people's marriages. Even when they're your parents, you aren't told what is going on. And you usually weren't there to see the warning signs when they first got married. And possibly nobody else saw them, and they were doing their darnedest not to see them either.

Part of the reason I write so much about Single life is because I married badly at 25 and I don't want other girls (or boys) to marry badly. I want you to live your lives intelligently and authentically without worrying about becoming "old maids." It shocks me that in 2011 girls still worry about becoming old maids, but I myself worried about it in the 1990s, and that was also long into the feminist revolution which purports to have stopped all that. It didn't.

We live in an age of anxiety, as I like to tell my Baby Boomer neighbours. And I meet many twenty year olds who worry a lot about the future. "What if I don't--"?" "What if I--?" Twenty year olds don't seem to know or trust themselves yet. And this is not a value judgement; this is an observation. I didn't completely know or trust myself until I was in my thirties. I was unusually young for my age, which is an unlucky thing. However, one of the great gifts of adulthood is that you know and trust yourself. And if you know and trust yourself, you're less frightened about the possibility of failed marriage.

Divorce is not a random accident. The seeds of divorce lurk within people before they even meet the person they divorce, and they start to spring up when the unfortunate pair get together. My seeds included gullibility, a fear of confrontation, a fear of being an old maid, a genetic tendency towards depression and--this is not all bad--the ability to chew my leg off to get out of a trap. My ex-husband had many divorce seeds, too. The only one I'll mention is his belief that he could make people do anything he wanted, which is very useful in a career but a double-edged sword when dealing with a woman who can, when the hunt seems over, chew her leg off to get out of the trap.

Bad marriages happen because too many women and men are not rooted in reality. We are led by our wishes and our fears, not by our intelligence. I do not know why this is so, other than that we live in an age of anxiety, where the media tells us "America Has Lost Her Innocence" every time there is a political assassination or a terrorist attack, and we are fed a steady drip of news about cancer, the population "bomb", global warming, climate change, "Middle East Descends into Chaos"--and a number of other things we usually can do absolutely nothing about. (Sure, you can stop polluting the air; now you stop India and China from doing it. Hmm.)

What we can change are ourselves. We can grow up. We can ask ourselves what we really like and what we really don't like. We can admit to ourselves that although X is really sweet and nice, he or she bores us now. Or that although Y is really exciting and fun, he or she treats us badly. Or that, even though Z treats us nicely, Z is really horrible to every other woman in his life: his mother, his sisters, waitresses, ex-girlfriends... We can use our brains. Scary? Yes. But do it anyway.

We can even admit that we are sinners, but we don't deserve a life punishment for our sins. For example, you don't have to marry some guy or girl just because you slept with him or her. You shouldn't have done that, and you know that, but once you apologize for having done so and have gone to confession, that could be the end of the matter. I hope it is--unless you really do love each other, and you both realize it is time to marry each other rather than to carry on like that. Truth is what is, wrote Thomas Aquinas. Truth is NOT what you merely want it to be.

If you are so unsure of yourself that you are terrified of making a bad marriage, it is a sign that you are not ready yet to get married. Again, this is not a value judgment. Just as some of us reach our adult growth at 14 and others at 21 or 22, some of us get adult brains at 16 and others at 30. That's just the way it is. Truth is what is.

One last note about marriage and divorce. After three years in an MDiv program surrounded by very good men who were mostly male religious, I learned to recognize a good man when I saw him. When I moved down to the USA, I met other good men, like my housemates and dear old Volker, and I thought a lot about what good men my father and brothers were. And when I went to Scotland and met BA, I recognized that he too was a fundamentally good man. To marry a good man, I suggest hanging out only with good men and not being guilted into giving the time of day to bad men. Judgmental? Judgment is the final step in knowledge. If you're afraid of being called judgmental, do your judgment silently in your head and find diplomatic ways to defend your decision.

Meanwhile, BA and I will never get divorced, not just because we love each other and are kind to each other, but because we fear God. We both know our marriage is sacramental. There were no possible impediments. We'd have to be really weaselly to put together any kind of annulment defence because there are simply no grounds. We're married, and we're stuck, and--so far--that's great. I don't worry about future problems. We'll cross any bridges when we come to them.