Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Why Are They Boring? Is It Us?

When I was a Single woman in my early twenties, I thought most Catholic men in their early twenties were frightfully boring, and now that I am a Married woman aged forty, I think most Catholic men in their early twenties are frightfully interesting. How inconvenient! Still, Catholic men in their early twenties come up to me after Mass now and tell me about their interesting lives, so I have profitted in the long run.

It is a puzzle to me why I found most Catholic men in their twenties dull when I was twenty, when Catholic men in their twenties today are so interesting. Even more puzzling, during my recent travels, I spoke to a girl currently in her twenties, and she finds most Catholic men in their twenties dull.

And to add to the puzzle, the accounts of English debutantes of the 1920s and 1930s reveal that they found most of the young men that they met during the London Season indescribably dull. And yet, once the debs married, they had marvellous social lives and made friends with many men, young and old, not finding them dull at all.

What can all this mean? I have four hypotheses, which I will expound here.

1. The first hypothesis is that when I was twenty, I was too young to appreciate the merits of nice Catholic boys in their early twenties. Fancying myself an intellectual, I was more interested in men in graduate school. (When you are twenty and don't know any better, grad school status suggests that a man is a serious intellectual.) And I suspect that twenty year old girls find Older Men interesting because they seem to possess a glamour and a sophistication as yet lacking in twenty year old boys, to say nothing of the twenty year old girls. You want what you haven't got, in short.

2. The second hypothesis is that Catholic boys and girls in their early twenties are under a lot of internal and external pressure to find each other attractive and to be found attractive by each other. And since most of us are not really ready at 20 to marry, we rebel. "Marriageable" is a quality that means squat next to "fanciable." Boys our mothers are keen on ("He's a nice, stable boy with a good character. What more do you want?") leave us cold, and we all know wonderful girls who get passed over for nasty little passion-pots with bright red lips and talons.

Why? Because we aren't old enough to get married yet, that's why. In Canada, the USA, Britain and Germany (at least), our culture encourages us to stay teenagers (or "students") as long as humanly possible. (In Germany students get so many perks and discounts, losing your student status must be a serious economic tragedy.) I was a teenager until I was 30 or so. This is not a good thing. However, it was not entirely my fault. Society was to blame.

3. The third hypothesis is that Catholic boys and girls act in a very strange and fakely polite way around each other and relax only in front of oldsters like me, who privately think the youngsters are fantastically beautiful but usually have the brains to hide this. A relaxed and funny Catholic boy is a lot more interesting than a careful, hunted-looking Catholic boy. And a forty year old Catholic married woman, if she isn't too matronly, looks like an indulgent aunt--a cool aunt, with a job in publishing or television, who wants to know what the kids are saying these days. She never looks at a guy like he's a serial killer, which NCGs often do, and NCBs hate it.

4. The fourth hypothesis--and I admit this is a bit of a stretch--is that the most interesting twenty-something men are the ones who like to talk to forty year old women like me. Possibly the dull ones skulk off in corners, where I can't see and hear them. Only the cream of Scottish Catholic young man society is toodling up to me with teacups to ask me how I am, and that is awesome.

So to sum up my hypotheses, you might find Catholics your age boring because:

1) you're too young
2) you're too young to get married
3) you all need to relax
4) they don't have the social skills to talk to older ladies after Mass, and the best ones are talking to me.

One solution to this problem would be for forty year old married ladies like me to dress up to the nines and swan around town with twenty-something Catholic men. This would impart our worldly glamour onto the men, and twenty-something Catholic women, rightly resenting our trespass into their age bracket, would now sit up, take notice, and find the formerly boring Catholic men glamorous and even slightly wicked for running around town with married ladies. The only losers would be the husbands, but even then perhaps they would enjoy the fact that they no longer had to squire their wives around town and could stay at home in peace to watch TV and eat cheese on toast.



Sara Rose said...

I love this. Thank you so much, you made my morning :)

Ginger said...

LOVE this.

It was just months ago that I sat with my priest, talking about dating and him suggesting some of the boys in my parish and I said, "Father, I know this sounds terrible... But I think Catholic boys are often so boring. He laughed gleefully and rubbed his hands together as if he knew things I didn't.

I've come around a bit since then, too. ;) I think the first hypothesis is the most common. And a lot to do with the second, too. Also, I think more girls have a "bad boy" complex than will admit it. I'm not attracted to bashfulness, and I think too many 20-something NCBs (that I know, anyway) have been sheltered to a point where they have no idea how to talk to girls, as opposed to non-Catholic boys in their 20s have dated, many of whom are not virgins and generally just have more girl experience.

Obviously having "girl experience" is not a good thing when it means you've had pre-marital sex. But it does make them more likely to have the confidence to actually ask you out and not stutter and blush and be totally afraid to do anything even slightly affectionate, like holding hands or hugging.

leonine said...

This is interesting. I don't know that I've ever found a man boring. I'm far more likely to find them irritating or obnoxious, but even that doesn't happen very often. The closest thing I've found to boring was Totally Self-Absorbed.

some guy on the street said...

Oh, I'm definitely boring; there's not much social romance in Algebraic Topology, unless you're already infected, like me; and as they say, write/speak what you know...

Seraphic said...

For you, a motorcycle. Not enough people go to the EF on a motorcycle.

Tess said...

I love this post and can definitely relate to it! Maybe I'm hanging with the wrong NCB crowd, but I do find many of the ones I know to be very quiet and shy. When they actually do talk, though, I quite enjoy their stories.

One problem for me is that I'm very loud and talkative and many guys can't keep up with my speed and energy level (some of them even tell me so). This raises the question, should I hold out for someone who can keep up, or should I change myself to become more quiet/gentle? And if the latter, how?

Maggie said...

Tess, that's a question I have too! I feel the same way! And it lends itself to a related question- how much does temperament fit into the "spark" question? Obviously it's hard when thinking of hypothetical cases, but many of my couple friends are not cases of opposites attract; either both spouses are chatty extroverts, or both are subdued introverts. I know of course of cases where the opposite is true, but how much does that play into questions of chemistry? (does that makes sense?)

Anonymous said...

Tess and Maggie, I can totally relate! But you know what, I feel over time I've changed somewhat. When I was in my teens and early twenties I was extremely boisterous. In fact, when I hung out with a gentler/quieter girl I often felt clumsy and unfeminine.

Now I'm in my mid twenties and can still be very bubbly but surprisingly not everyone would describe me that way.
Very often I'm thought of as the quiet, gentle girl. Also I find when I wear something more girly like a dress or a skirt, I feel more feminine and act more like it :)

Silent Jen

Anna said...

I'm pretty sure "Scottish Catholic young man society" is one of the most sexiest phrases in the English language.

joeTHEguy said...

I would rephrase your list thusly:
(although I think your list is essentially saying the same thing)

1) you're not mature
2) you're not mature enough to get married
3) you all need to relax
4) they don't have the social skills to talk to older ladies after Mass, and the best ones are talking to me.

Cordi said...

Although I have no recollection of ever being bored by men in their twenties, I think that if any man was boring, a motorcycle would definitely make up for it. :)

Louise said...

Auntie, how does one know if we have fallen into the 'being a teenager despite being in our 20s' thing? What are the symptoms? Also, how did you stop?

Seraphic said...

The problem with saying "you're not mature" is that it sounds like a value judgement, not a description. If at 22 you're not ready to get married, it's not a character defect, it's just a fact, like not attaining your full growth in height until you're 21 instead of at 18.

Heaven knows that most 22 year old men these days are not in a position to marry and support a wife and child/children, so why all women should be expected to be psychologically ready for marriage at age 18-23 is a mystery to me.

I am chary of artificially dragging twenty-somethings out of their prolonged adolescence, especially by shaming them into marrying young to Mr/Ms Adored By My Mother.

But I suppose one way to grow up is to graduate from school and go to work instead of to grad school (at least for awhile or at least after the M.A.) and by refusing to date just for the sake of dating. Once you discover that Mr/Miss Cute is an atheist or otherwise incompatable with the future Mr/Miss Perfect For You, stop dating them at once.

Another might be to concentrate on the children of your family, babysitting for your married sister on occasional Saturday nights and New Year's Eves instead of partying as you did (or dreamed of) as a teen.

These are just guesses, for as I said I was inwardly adolescent until about 30. But I think serious, hard work, practical decision-making and thinking of others (especially those younger and weaker than you) are key.

Alisha said...

Part 1
So crazy! I was just thinking about something related to this (the so-called "bad boy appeal" - have you written other things on bad boys, seraphic?) so I googled your blog and my topic and lo and behold :)
Oh, the many thoughts in my head.

To begin, I agree with the hypotheses in general, esp number 3. I also think there is a overly sheltered issue as Ginger mentioned and it's ridiculous. If your boys are like this, they are abnormally shy, must have been through some horrible trauma or you have parented them badly. I know that sounds harsh but I find it ridiculous for young men in their early 20s to be lacking the social skills some others seem to have by their mid teens. When my youngest brother was nine I could have easily left any number of older girls in his company and I'm confident he would not have been awkward. I cannot say the same for myself, but that is because all the boys I knew were mean, and that does not really encourage socializing.

Alisha said...

Part 2
I have another hypothesis, however:

Many NCBs (and some girls) fail to display passion in any visible way. About anything. This is extremely unattractive. There are exceptions of course...but some of those exceptions are crazy types trying to eradicate the world from heresy and seemingly with it, all trace of Christian charity. It may be that because I am used to being surrounded by very very passionate people I don't notice the passion that is present by comparison, but nonetheless.
It's strange, considering that our last pope whom most of our youth grew up with, was such a passionate man. Yet, I think I know in part why things are the way they are. Good modern day Catholics are often taught implicitly or explicitly to be suspicious of feelings so as not to be deceived or improperly carried away by unholy passions etc (this position is one inherited by our philosophical history according to von Hildebrand) but in boxing themselves in, the vitality of the faith - that which makes it attractive, and by extension, those who live it - is drained away.
I wish my spiritual directors, to whom I would emphasize "now, I know these are just feelings" - I might have substituted that last word with rodents or something else to denote pesky but ultimately unimportant - had made the distinctions I am now reading at the beginning of Dietrich von Hildebrand's "The Heart". I think this kind of distinction is crucial if we are going to grow passionate saints by whom others will be moved:

"One of the great sources of error in philosophy is undoubtedly oversimplification or the failure to distinguish things which must be distinguished in spite of their having some apparent or real affinity or analogy. And this error is especially disastrous when the failure to distinguish results in identifying something higher with something much lower. One of the principal reasons for underrating the affective sphere - for denying the existence of spiritual affective acts, for refusing to gran to the heart a status analogous to that of the intellect and the will - is that one identifies affectivity with the lowest types of affective experience. The entire affective area, and even the heart, has been seen in the light of bodily feelings, emotional states, or passions in the strict sense of the term. And what is rightly denied to these types of "feelings", in unjustly and erroneously denied to affective experiences such as a value-responding joy, a deep love, a noble enthusiasm...Perhaps the most striking reason for the discredit in which the entire affective sphere is kept...results from detaching an affective response from the object which is its motive, that to which it meaningfully responds...this detachment from the object destroys their (the affective responses') inner substantiality, dignity, and seriousness.

Sitting Pretty said...

Alisha- The only guy I've dated who I thought was boring fit right into your second hypothesis. His response to everything seemed to be, "It was okay... I guess." Drove me up the wall.

Enthusiasm is contagious! If you love something, show it. Talk about it with gusto. You may win some converts... even to the esoteric beauty of Algebraic Topology!