Dear Auntie Seraphic,
We know you got engaged to B.A. something like ten days after you met him in person, which frankly doesn't happen a lot, at least not to sane people in peacetime. And we know you dislike the boyfriend concept. But, listen, is having a boyfriend not usually a necessary stage between "I like you" and "Marry me"? We mean, come on.
But instead of answering that straight, I'm going to reprint a depressing little article I read in Metro yesterday on my way home from Edinburgh's Old Town:
Girls as young as 12 are posing for topless pictures for their boyfriends that end up circulating the internet as child pornography, warned the head of a paedophile protection program yesterday. A net security seminar in Sterling was told girls were inadvertently ending up on the web. Detective Chief Inspector Gordon Dawson, who headed Central Scotland Police's Operation Defender, described the internet as a huge risk for children. He said, "Boys ask their girlfriend to take pictures of herself with no top on, or he'll dump her. She does it to stay with him, but inevitably they split up. Then he's sending it around his friends over Bluetooth and, eventually, it's seen by everyone in the school'...
Say, I think there's something else that is a huge risk for children, and women, too: boyfriends like those. Have you ever noticed that sometimes your friends' boyfriends (or girlfriends--girlfriends are not off the hook here) don't really act like friends?
Having read two of the stories in the New York Times series on "Wow, aren't kids these days screwed up about sex and relationships?", I realize that it is kind of old-fashioned to be talking about boyfriends and girlfriends at all. According the NYT stories, people tend not even to pretend to have a romance going on: it's all hem-hem and deep intellectual posturing. However, I know my readership is mostly not going to get sucked into that, so I will continue to trash boy/girlfrienddom in my fuddy-duddy way.
Or maybe not... the computer ate it. Argh!!!! My Pulitzer Prize potential material is lost! Lost!
The most I have the time to rewrite right now is that from the age of 10, most girls think that it is an infallible measure of female worth to attract a boyfriend. This is stupid, but it is true.
However, you will notice that the Catechism doesn't mention boyfriends. It recognizes only two states in life: Single Life (which it calls Virginity) and Marriage. It mentions engaged people--but the most memorable bit there is that it does so to remind them that they can't have sex yet.
However, this does not stop almost all girls, no matter how young they are, from wanting to have something called "a boyfriend", which is a person quite separate from "a husband." And yet boyfriends go hand-in-hand with sexual temptation or just sexual pressure, or if not, with long periods of wondering if they are ever going to turn into husbands, or of jealousy if they talk to other girls or talk about becoming priests, or of disappointment when marriage doesn't happen.
Sometimes boyfriends aren't even really friends. I know a guy who is marvellous to his female friends, but terrible to his girlfriends. And once one of his female friends becomes his girlfriend...! Jekyll and Hyde, baby.
And now for the concluding points I still remember:
1. An actually marriage-minded suitor is immeasurably more worthwhile than a mere boyfriend.
2. A boyfriend (or girlfriend) who acts like your husband (or wife) without wanting to be your husband (or wife) is not even your friend.
3. No adult man who hasn't asked you to marry him is worth more than a year of your undivided attention.
4. If your adult boyfriend hasn't brought up marriage after a year--a whole year--of being your boyfriend, then it is up to you to ask him when he's going to. It used to be your mother's or father's job to ask a man what his intentions are but now, alas, the embarrassing conversation is up to you.
5. "But I love him/her" is not a good excuse for criminality or putting up with criminality. Men sin by hurting women, and women sin by sucking it up. (Vice versa is also true, but not as common.) It's much harder to get divorced from someone who is whackadoodle than it is just to break up with them before marriage.
Many people, although charismatic and attractive, are too whackadoodle, nasty or immature to get married right now. And don't wail "Oh, Auntie, that's so judgmental" because at times I have been too whackadoodle, nasty and immature myself, and now I am happily married to B.A. It could be that God means Mr/Miss Sexy but Nasty/Insane to marry somebody else---many, many years from now--and for you to marry Mr/Miss Amazing Right Now.