Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Two Rules for Break-ups

Break-ups are atrocious, there is no way around it. My very last break-up was behind the Harvard Law Library. I am not making this up. It was literally behind the Harvard Law Library. It was a glorious spring day, and you can read all about it in My Book.

I was really, really, mad, but it was the most romantic place I've ever been broken up with. It beats the Tim Horton's doughnut shop, which is the classic location for Canadians to break up. However, there is no Tim Horton's in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and it would not have occurred to German Volker to break up with me in Dunkin' Donuts. America runs on Dunkin', okay, but does it break up there?

Let me know, American readers.

My very first break-up was outside Toronto City Hall because even at 18 I was smart enough to know I should break up with anyone I was scared of in public. It is sad to think that I became afraid of some of the people I dated, but life can be very sad.

Anyway, that's the first rule of break-ups: break up in public, and in a neutral place. It's not nice to break up in a place your soon-to-be ex thinks of as special. His favourite restaurant is right out.

It is generally considered cowardly to break up by phone, email or text, but if you are breaking up with the person because you are honestly afraid for your safety--and are not just a drama queen--then phone or email it is. In one incredibly bad situation, I broke up by email because breaking up by phone didn't work and only got me called some very nasty and alliterative names. I sent the emailed response to the campus police. Poor me: I was shaking like a leaf.

So really, the first rule of break-ups is "Be safe."

The second rule of break-ups is that is not okay to hit the person breaking up with you. Really, it is not, even if you are a girl and he is a guy. Hitting someone is never okay, unless in physical self-defence, as a last resort. Emotional self-defence does not count as an excuse to hit anybody.

If you can manage it, accept instantly that you are being broken up with, say "okay" and leave.

Him: "It's over. There's no point in continuing like this. I want to see other people."

You: "Fine. Bye."

Then you leave. Turn on your little heels and go. Get out of sight and out of ear shot and then get out your little mobile phone to call your best friend, your mother, or your shrink. Arrange to meet ASAP.

Then you go home and ignore the apologetic email and/or humiliating "Are you okay?" call.

Your ex, having been given such an easy and short good-bye, may feel absolutely wretched, which is exactly how angry you will want him to feel, and may send a very long and imprudent email. Don't read the email until your best friend gets there. Don't forward it. And don't send any emails yourself. Txts 2 grlfrds r ok. knk yrslf out on txts 2 grlfrnds. smple txt: he brok up w/ me! bstrd!

I don't recommend twitter, hwvr. And don't go near facebook until your pal is there. And for the love of Mike, don't blog. Except for the phone and very short texts calculated only to bring your friends to your immediate emotional aid, leave public communication forums ah-lone or you will regret it. Wait for your friends. Eat something if necessary. Don't drink booze alone.

Thus, the second rule of break-ups is really "Keep it classy."

Safe and classy. Are you with me? If the guy breaking up with you is normally a nice guy, what you want is to keep the break-up so classy that there is still a possibility that you two can be friends later.* Probably not great friends, but pretty good friends. Volker and I still send Christmas greetings, and when I visited him in Germany, he bought front row tickets to a Bundesliga game. How cool was that? I should mention, however, that Volker is the only ex-boyfriend I've kept in touch with. And since any normal human person would be dying to know, I hereby inform you he is okay that I wrote about him in My Book. I can hardly wait to send him a copy of the Polish edition. Ah ha ha ha ha!

The best break-up book I have read is called The Girl's Guide to Surviving a Break-up by Delphine Hirsh. I have skimmed It's Called a Breakup Because It's Broken by Greg of He's Just Not That Into You fame, and I thought it looked good, too.

However, I think I will always love Delphine Hirsh's book best of all break-up books because my housemate Jonathan read me snippets of it at the kitchen table after my last break-up. As my one Boston gal pal, Boston Girl, had to mark a stack of essays before she could get to me, it fell to Jonathan to do his best to fill her shoes. In retrospect, it was one of the funnier hours of my life, and you can read all about it in My Book.

Yes, although break-ups are at best dreary and at worst indescribably horrid, if you are lucky, one or two of them will one day seem funny. Of course, I am talking about dating break-ups here. I am not touching the subject of marriage break-ups with a ten foot pole. Let's leave that one to the professionals. Auntie Seraphic has an M.Div., but she is not by any stretch of the imagination a professional.

*Of course, whether or not you stay friends is up to you both, and if the dumper wants to continue to be friend with the dumpee, this is going to largely depend on the dumpee's point of view.

Monday, 30 May 2011

The New Button

Okay, it turns out Hilary White does not need a new flatmate at the moment. But she has invited me to come and hang whenever. I have received permission from my husband to go and hang with Hilary, just as long as we can afford it. It turns out we can't, since Ryan Air no longer has that handy-dandy £60 round trip flight to Ciampino.

Dear, dear, dear. In the best of all possible worlds, I would go and visit Hilary with B.A. because I like Hilary and I love B.A., and I don't like being away from B.A. for very long. But I don't like the idea of Hilary being bored and cancerous all on her own in Lazio because it turns out she is my evil twin.

This is not exactly how her friend Chris put it. How Chris put it was "You'll like Hilary. She's just like you." And then he texted Hilary and said "You'll like Seraphic. She's just like you." Meanwhile, I hung up my straw hat next to Hilary's straw hat, and straw hat ad strawam hatam loquitur.

Gold and silver have I none, I mused, when I saw that Ryan Air in June and July is not like Ryan Air in May, but what I do have is a blog. So if you have a couple of shekels you don't mind tossing into the "Visit Hilary" hat, I would be grateful. Don't toss too much per person, though, or I will wiggle with embarrassment.

Update: Thanks to those readers who have already put in a little (or not so little) something! Postcards will soon be winging their way to your PayPal addresses.

Renewed thanks also to those readers of yore who made donations or bought copies of Aelianus and the Widow back in 2008 so that I could go to Scotland to visit my British readers. Because of you I met B.A in person, so you made a HUGE difference to my life.

"Let HIM Talk!"

Having written about female altar servers on my other blog, I guess it's my day to say super-controversial things. I don't think I would have the guts to do this if I were still in theology school. At theology school, I was considered a controversialist merely because I brought up the right to life of the unborn. I would not at all remember that episode if a male classmate hadn't come up to me afterwards and said, in hushed tones, how much he had admired my courage.

Although I had dimly heard a few middle-aged female sighs and clucks behind me, I wasn't sure what he was talking about.

"If I can't say that in a Roman Catholic theological college, where can I say it?" I demanded.

Ah ha ha ha. Since then I have discovered that just saying, "Gosh, you know, I just love the Holy Father" is incredible provocation at many Roman Catholic theological colleges, a social solecism capable of making skins flush and eyes bug.

So what the heck. Today I am going to contemplate a little longer modern woman's idea that if she is excluded from some male activity, she will implode and die.

I'm not talking about the professions here--at least, the professions that don't take brute strength, or the ones that make a lot of money. Incidentally, I wonder how much bus drivers make because I had to go to the bus depot last week, and I was staggered by the maleness of it all. Forty white men in burgundy jackets were standing around watching other white men in burgundy jackets playing billiards in this massive hangar. Only the absence of cigarette smoke prevented me from thinking I had fallen into 1949. I felt like a drop of ink in a glass of water, which I think is a fair description of what happens when a girl serves at a TLM. No matter how much she tries to efface herself, everyone who sees her will think, "OMG! It's a GIRL!" Her presence insinuates itself everywhere, distracting everybody.

(So, incidentally, did the presence of a male poet at an otherwise all-female poetry party I helped organize. He was so intimidated that he read his most offensive poems which led to most of the other women being too scared to read their own poems.)

But as I said, I'm not thinking about the professions here because a lot of women have to support ourselves financially, and we should have a chance to do it. If the best jobs around are blue-collar trades, then for heaven's sake, train the women to lay pipe or whatever and set us to it. If women are actually good at our jobs, most men admire us for it. What they hate is having to pretend that women who are lousy at our jobs are actually good at them. They don't pretend this way for other men, so why pretend for women?

After work, however, if men want to do stuff on their own, they should be allowed to do it. And since I draw a line between the sacred and the secular, I am happy (indeed insistent) that in the ritual realm men do traditional men's stuff, and women do traditional women's stuff. I exulted, in a two-student theological seminar, when I got the answer right and the future Father Something, S.J. got the answer wrong, but I would be happy to allow Father Something S.J. to go up the steps of the altar, while I knelt in a pew. In fact, if he learned the Extraordinary Form, I would dance a jig of glee.

I think men should have a space to be men doing men's stuff without women around helping them. There is both a public and a personal dimension to all this. The public dimension includes groups of men doing things that, by their very nature, must be all-male. The most obvious example is the Manchester United men's football team.

Obviously we take the Manchester United men's football team very seriously indeed, for they have not been forced to include women on the squad. Indeed, to my knowledge no other men's football team has been forced to include women on their rosters. Most other professions demanding brute strength and athletic skill--the military, the police, the fire brigade--have caved in and accepted the women who can pass the newly established women's physical. However, nobody takes the military, the police or the fire brigade as seriously as Manchester United takes Manchester United.

Another example is the Anglican men's scholas and boys' choirs. Men's scholas and boys' choirs are ancient English (and Scottish) traditions. Not all boys in Britain can play football, and some of them can sing. So for generations they happily signed onto the ancient brotherhood to sing with other boys and then, when their voices broke (apparently a traumatic event akin to a particularly nasty coming-of-age ritual), they went into the men's scholas.

Men often need to be included of groups of men to feel that they are men; this is very hard for women to understand because we just know we are women--we don't need other women's say-so. However men are not women, and they need other men to make them men, and apparently they lost something profound when the boys' choirs began to accept girls and the men's scholas took on women. Good-bye, men's traditions. Good-bye.

In the private realm also, men wish space in which to be men. In this they seem to have something in common with other male creatures. Consider the peacock, trying to impress a peahen. The peahen, like many other female birds, dresses quietly, like a lady, in protective 1990s colours of biscuit, brown and cream. The peacock, however, has a massive tail of amazing colours which he unfurls before the peahen, parading about saying, in peacock language, "Look at me! Am I not amazing? Am I not beautiful? Would I not make an excellent husband, father and provider? Come live with me and be my love and we shall all pleasures prove."

The peahen stands well out of the way of his tail and decides whether or not to succumb to his charms. What she does not do is stand right up close to him so that he never has a chance to unfurl his tail. Nor does she rush off and collect a bunch of fallen feathers to make her own tail which which to impress him.

"Let HIM talk," said an older female friend when I told her of an upcoming date.

She sounded almost agonized.

"What?" I said.

"Let HIM talk," she repeated. "You need to give him a chance to shine."

I felt a bit miffed because if there's anything a person who talks too much hates, it's being told he or she talks too much. But actually that was very good advice, not that I ever consciously took it. No. It is possible that I am married to B.A. only because I had very bad jet lag. I don't talk much when I have jet lag. I sit like a lump and listen to other people talk.

I also don't talk much early in the morning, and indeed I don't have much tolerance for people who do. However, I school myself in patience, sit like a lump and listen.

I also don't talk much around virtual strangers, nor do I talk much to readers at first. Readers usually have something to tell me, and they already know all about me, so I sit like a lump and listen.

When I met B.A.--who, like all his friends, loves to talk--I had jet lag, I saw him often in the mornings, he was a virtual stranger who kept introducing me to other strangers, and he was a reader. I didn't exactly sit like a lump, but I certainly listened. As a result, I let him talk, and now sometimes I get a word in edgewise, especially when I arise from the dinner table and take any women guests to the sitting room.

I fear this post, too, has run away with me. Well, angel-pumpkins, what I am trying to say is that you will not implode and die if you permit men to have their space. If they find something good in traditional, respectable all-male activities, that may help them flourish, and it is not a threat to you. If they show any kind of romantic interest in you, it is a good idea to stand back and give them the space they think they need to win you over. Don't disappoint the dear souls.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Auntie Seraphic & Maybe This Time

I get an awful lot of emails, mostly from young women. They ask for my opinion, and I give it. I suspect my replies may come somewhat of a shock, since successful female social life is based on softening opinions or just murmuring pleasantries. I know that some correspondents take my advice, for a few write back to tell me. Most don't, possibly because they are furious.

In my M.Div. program, we were taught not to give advice but to ask searching questions that would bring people to their own answers. This is not so easy on the internet. Thus--blunt opinion. Caveat emptor.

It's not easy to keep a cheerful, even tone at times. If you were in the room listening as I read a new email, you often would hear something like, "Uh huh. Uh huh. Fair enough. Fair en--WHAT?! OHHHH NOOOOOO!" And sometimes you would see me bounce up and down like a monkey on speed, so horrified am I at what is going on.

I try to keep the horror out of my replies, but I was really upset when I wrote this one. And yet I know our dreams, no matter how unlikely or dangerous, are very precious to us. Tell me in the combox if you think I'm too harsh on this one.

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

Having thrown myself at [a man], I've now been courted, taken for granted, and dumped by him [X times].

I've thought from the second time I ever spoke to him, [Y] years ago, that I wanted to marry him, and in spite of all the stuff that's happened over the last [Z] years, I know that I still love him and still want to marry him.

A lot has changed in the last year: he's made some drastic life changes and become a lot happier and calmer; and I have changed my habits and developed rather more self-restraint than I had before.

I do not chase him now. I'm fairly careful not to appear to have any emotional investment in him. I'm not being nasty or cold, just not adoring him like I used to do. My confidence has returned and I'm back to being the person he falls for - happy and fun.

So here's the thing: he's lately started acting interested in me again. I know him quite well; I can tell. My question is, if he starts pursuing me again, which I think he will, how do I test him and try to make sure he's not taking me for granted, without being - well, a bitch?

How do I make him really work for [my attention] without being nasty or shutting him down and killing my chances? I don't want to go through that hell of dating someone who's not really sure if he wants me or not again. At the same time, I don't want to say "Don't ask me out unless you've got a ring ready" because I wouldn't want to accept a proposal without our dating for at least a while first, considering our history and his lack of staying power. Help!

Maybe This Time

Dear Maybe This Time,

I'm confused as to why you want to give yourself body and soul to a guy who has dumped you [X times].

You do realize what marriage means, right? It means washing a man's underwear and scrubbing the toilet because he never gets around to it and fighting over who trod what into the carpet. It means tons of menial work that isn't menial because you truly love each other and he got down on his knees to beg you to take him, his underwear, the dirty toilet and the carpet on. It means [doing wifely things] when you don't really feel like it because it's a nice wifely thing to do.

It means trotting out the history of your relationship when people ask how you met, and so far your story is not heart-warming stuff: "I knew from the second time we met that he was the man for me, and even though he treated me atrociously over [Y] years, dumping me [X times], I've hung in there."

I do not know this guy at all, but he has a history, so since he has already courted and dumped you [X times], I would not be surprised if he decided to court and dump you AGAIN. After all, there's no point in you being happy and confident now, is there?

Sorry to be so blunt, but you're fixated on a guy who sounds like a creep, and your first fear is seeming like "a bitch" and "ruining [your] chances." Chances of what? Wondering for the rest of your life if he'll be out the door because you're not always happy and fun enough?

If I were you I wouldn't give him the time of day, let alone any encouragement. In fact, that is all my conscience will permit me to say. Well, one last thing: the longer you are stuck on Mr. Wrong, the more impossible it will be for you to meet Mr. Right.

I don't want to end on such a negative note, so I'm glad you've managed to get your equilibrium back and at least to look like you're no longer fixated on him. If you don't take my advice and forget him, at least do your best to make him work for [your attention]. This may not bring the results you long for, but at least you will keep your dignity and maybe even earn his respect, if not his love.

Grace and peace,

Bottom line: Girls, stop imagining you've met the man you're going to marry when he hasn't given you any solid evidence that he might want to marry you.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

You're Not a Freak

I heard a horrible story the other day. It reminded me why I write this blog day after day.

In short, a strictly-brought up, very devout Catholic girl decided that, because she had no boyfriend, she was a "freak."

"I'm a freak," she wailed at the kitchen table. "I'm a freak!"

It was useless to persuade her that she was not a freak. She was sure she must be a freak. All of her newest friends had boyfriends, and she didn't. Ergo, freak. And, therefore, the minute a man showed an interest, she welcomed it.

It's not that she was really attracted to him, apparently. She wasn't. It's not that she was in love with him or even found him interesting. She didn't. It's not that she even liked him all that much. She didn't. But in her mind if she accepted his attentions, she wouldn't be a freak any more.

Now they're living together. She has given up the practise of her faith. Will they ever marry? Well, if it's true that she doesn't love or like him, I certainly hope not. And as for attraction, I certainly hope she is attracted to him because I cannot imagine anything more icky than sleeping with an unattractive man. In fact, to force yourself to do so seems to me rather, well, freakish.

If you are 18, and you've never had a boyfriend, you are not a freak. If you are 20, and you've never had a boyfriend, you are not a freak. If you are 25, and you've never had a boyfriend, you are not a freak. If you've never had a boyfriend, and you think you are a freak because of it, you lack any kind of historical and cultural perspective.

Newsflash: Millions of women across the world, long dead or living today, never had boyfriends. Their parents did (or do) their very best to discourage boyfriends. The idea of a young, never-married woman who is not a prostitute openly dating a man for years and years without a peep about marriage is a very new phenomenon, dating from about, perhaps, 1965.

Boyfriends are sometimes, but not necessarily, suitors. A boyfriend is someone who enjoys your company and whatever else you are granting him. A suitor is someone who thinks he wants to marry you. Until recently, parents have been very nervous of boyfriends. Caring ones made darned sure they were not just boyfriends but suitors.

We hear a lot about honour killing and frightened parents trying to maintain control over something (or someone) in a new country where they feel resentful and powerless. However, we hear rather less about those parents who simply want their daughters to be happy--as happy as they are, for example--when they discourage them from dating.

For millennia, dating willy-nilly put any chance of making a good marriage at risk. For millennia, young women with boyfriends were not considered marriageable by marriage-minded men. And therefore, for millennia, young women "from respectable families" tried to discourage all young men but those whose intentions they thought honourable.

When men seem to be attracted to us, it is often a nice sop to the old ego. Despite all the advances in women's suffrage, being found attractive by men is still touted by the world as the primary goal and end of Woman. Super-models, actresses and high-class prostitutes still make more money than most of the rest of us. Pretty girls can still achieve fame and fortune in high-profile marriages. And those of us in the West who long for husband and children know that parental pressures and dowries mean nothing here: it's being found attractive that will count.

However, we are so much more than the sum of our attractions. We are not just sexual objects; we are sexual subjects. Like females of other species, we can accept our suitors or we can turn our back on their attention-seeking and amble away. And we have to get over the idea that it is a miracle, an utter miracle, when men find us attractive. It isn't. It's just normal. And it is perfectly normal to say "No, thanks" to men to whom we are not attracted. It is NOT normal to date some guy just for the sake of dating some guy.

Christianity liberated women from the necessity of marriage. When Christian women elected to stay virgins, living as if the Kingdom of Heaven had already arrived, they were doing something REVOLUTIONARY, something hitherto confined only to the tiny number of elite Roman women chosen to be Vestal Virgins. For the first time, it was okay for unmarried women to AVOID being found attractive by any man. Being found attractive by men was no longer a young woman's primary end and goal.

It is a shame we see so few nuns in habit around any more, for they would serve as a reminder that a woman without a man is certainly not a freak. This is one reason why I am always so delighted to see young nuns. Young nuns can serve as reminders to other young women that there are things much more important in life than, for heaven's sake, "having a boyfriend."

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Theology of the Bawdy Poll Results

Dear me! Colour me surprised, girls and tiny minority of boys, but I was not expecting these results. Evidently those Seraphic Singles readers who like to vote are a clean-speaking, clean-listening bunch!

Now, I forgot to vote, so we had 179 voters. A whopping 165 were women, and 14 were men.

Of the women, 28 thought it was okay to make bawdy jokes (e.g. "One more drink and I'll be under...") in mixed company. Only one woman thought it was okay to tell these jokes to all-male groups (but not women). But 63 women ruled that it was okay to tell bawdy jokes only to groups of women. And then--to my amazement--73 women (40% of all voters, male and female) did not think it okay to tell bawdy jokes in public at all.

Of the men, four thought it okay for women to tell bawdy jokes in mixed groups. None thought it okay for lone women to make these jokes to groups of men. However, four thought it okay for the lassies to say these things to other lassies. But six did not think it okay for women to make such jokes in public ever.

I do not know what to make of these numbers. They would certain startle a pollster: "44% of women nix saucy jokes for women." And they in no way reflect American, British and Canadian entertainment media, that is for sure. They might not even reflect Shakespeare's plays, though I suspect such bawdy jokes as told by women are left up to characters like Juliet's Nurse.

I suppose one conclusion we could make is that it is a very bad idea to channel Dorothy Parker at coffee-after-Mass. Possibly we all know that, though. The danger zone isn't coffee-after-Mass but drinks-after-lunch-after-coffee-after-Mass when a girl thinks she can let down her hair, roll up her sleeves and tell one or two hot ones to keep the party spirit following. This is particularly true when the jokes are flying thick and fast--at least amongst the men--and you want to join in the fun yourself.

Sometimes this works beautifully, but sometimes the equivalent of the "gold standard" dinner party sketch occurs. (Alas, I cannot access youtube, so if you haven't seen the "gold standard" sketch ["Women, Know Your Limits!"], off you go to look at it.) The male recipient of your witty sally does not laugh but instead looks at your with dark, puzzled eyes, like a confused pug dog. The female recipient gets a horrible frozen expression, and swings her shoulder in your direction--like a door in your face--and makes a remark to someone else.

Tonight I am going to an Important Cocktail Party, so I have to go to the hairdresser and have no more time to blog. So please, dear readers, especially the 179 voting readers, feel free to discuss the results in the combox. Are you prim, or are you proper? Do women entertain or disgust when we acknowledge the sexual realm in our jokes? Is it inherently unfeminine to channel Oscar Wilde? Is it simply un-Catholic? Is it a sin? And--a very important issue to many readers--does it make men think we aren't wife material? What role does context play? Please get the ball rolling below.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Auntie Seraphic & Mistrust Men

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

Hello! I love your blog!

Here is my dilemma. I could just say I'm [an older teenager] and have never dated but I realize that's all too common. What I'm really worried about is--and I don't know where this came from, it could be that I worked at a part-time job that I ran into a lot of filthy old men--but I have this default mode that I mistrust men and worry that they might be attracted to me.

With this in the back of my mind, I sometimes will act kind of bitchy towards men without intending to, like not acknowledging them, or breaking off eye contact, etc.

I wonder if you can offer any advice? Perhaps the simplest answer is your "bless his little heart" technique but I'm really bad at constantly keeping that on my mind. [...]

Thanks! Your advice is always wonderful and you're in my prayers. You're a blessing to women :)

Mistrust Men

Dear Mistrust Men,

Thank you for your kind words and prayers!

Dating in your teens is pointless. As Catholics, we know the point to dating is not to divide the world up into boyfriends and girlfriends but to find a spouse. Very few Western women are ready by 20 to get married, and hardly any Western men are. So never mind about dating. Congratulations on spending your teens on more worthwhile activities, like developing friendships.

I'm sorry about the filthy old men, and it is a real shame you had to run into them because no woman should have to put up with sexual comments, teasing or attention while trying to earn money. I wish ALL men would get a clue that they must not talk like that in front of young girls, but you might as well put an ocean in a bucket as try to change how the stupidest, most venal men behave.

But that's just the stupidest, most venal men. Most men are stand-up fellows, if weaker than we are in the chastity department. It's hard to remember that as a teenager, especially when teenage boys stand around sniggering at dirty jokes, and old men ogle you. However, once you are in your 20s, things get better.

Heavens, I was terrified of men when I was a teen. And now they almost never scare me at all. Getting older rocks. The advertisements try really, really hard to make women feel bad about turning 30 and 40 and whatever, but actually, the farther you get from 22, the more confidence you have.

The problem with being an older teenager is that you look like a grown-up woman, but you lack confidence and are therefore vulnerable and therefore the vultures flock. However, they are easy to scare away. Usually all you have to do is stand your ground. Your best friend is the sentence, "I don't allow such comments", closely followed by, "I'm sure you mean well, but I don't find that very funny." "You're making me very uncomfortable" might also knock some sense into a thick head.

I haven't the slightest idea how not acknowledging men or breaking off eye contact is bitchy. Bitchy is hitting a man in the face with a high heeled shoe. I suspect you don't know what bitchy can mean. If a man you have been introduced to says "Hi, [Christian name]!" and you ignore him, okay, that is bitchy behaviour. But if you catch a man staring at you, and you look away, that is not bitchy behaviour. That is modest, often self-protecting behaviour.

If you catch a man staring at you and you smile at him, that is friendly behaviour, but it also sends the message that the man can come up to you and talk now. If you don't want him to do that, don't smile.

It doesn't really matter a damn if strange men like you or not. (Obviously you want teachers, professors and potential employers to like you, but you get their approval just by being polite and professional.) The best thing to be, around complete strangers (like customers at work, or men on the bus) when you are your age, is almost invisible. You dress quietly and modestly, keep your voice down, and project confidence and strength.

Around Catholic boys your own age, it is a good idea to dress in a way that is both modest and flattering, and to project happiness and friendliness. If boys your own age are attracted to you, that is a good, natural situation. All that is required of you is politeness--true politeness, which is neither frostiness nor unhappily putting up with behaviour that makes you feel uncomfortable.

If a man is attracted to you, that's his business, and there's not much you can do about it. It is natural for adult men to be attracted to older teenage girls, however inappropriate is for them to approach you. Remember that a man's feelings of attraction don't affect you in any way unless he tries to get your attention and communicate with you. For adult strangers, I recommend responding with complete reserve: "Yes? Can I help you? Sorry, I don't know./No, thank you. I am not interested. Good-bye." Taking out your mobile phone to call somebody might be the action that makes an inappropriate man think twice about pursuing the issue.

My gut instinct is that as a teen you are right to be a bit suspicious of men, since amongst all the good men there are a few bad men who prey on older teens because they perceive young women as weak and vulnerable. And it is natural to be angry at such men and to wish to avoid them. However, in doing so, don't forget that most men are good, and that most of the boys your age you know are either stand-up fellows or will be when they grow up. As we all know, girls mature faster than boys.

I hope this is helpful. Channel your maternal instincts and say "Bless his little heart" silently whenever you see a man (if you remember), which will both make you feel affection and cut him down to a comfortable size in your mind. A man is neither a big scary beast nor a superior god-like presence. He's just a different kind of human being. He's also an ex-baby. Try to imagine him back when he was 2, banging on a pot with a spoon under his mother's feet while she was cooking, being either charming or a frustrating brat. That baby is still in there somewhere.

Grace and peace,

P.S. Never feel bad for snubbing over-friendly strangers on the street. Once upon a time, it was considered incredibly rude for men to approach women they didn't know. The correct procedure was for a man to ask a mutual acquaintance for an introduction. But at a 21st century social gathering of any kind, be polite, if formal--unless the man in question is behaving very rudely. Then feel free to scowl and tell him off.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Auntie Seraphic & Dating vs Courtship

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

Some time ago you expressed cautious disapproval about 'dating', proposing 'courting' to be the better option. As someone not even understanding the object of 'dating', probably never having done it, I am quite curious how you would define and contrast those both concepts (in terms of aims and practical behaviour; I don't think that, Jonathan-Lindvallesque, 'parental consent' is the main distinguishingly element for you - ?). Thanks for the clarification!

Dispassionately Curious

Dear Dispassionately Curious,

Dating is when men and woman ask each other out in a spirit of experimentation. For example, one or the other might contact a complete stranger they like the look of on a Catholic dating website. After a few emails back and forth, and maybe a phone call, they arrange to meet at a cafe or restaurant. That arrangement is a date.

Blind dates, when a third party sets up a date between her male friend and her female friend, because she thinks they would like each other, are also dates.

A woman with a huge crush on a man and finally working up the courage to ask him over for dinner is just making a date, as far as he is concerned.

In dating, the goal is the date and maybe a pleasant open-ended boyfriend and girlfriend arrangement or--for the promiscuous--a chance to have sex soon. There is quite a lot of unhappiness around competing expectations.

Dating is more common in America than in Europe, and amongst working folk than among students. Volker told me that there is no dating in Germany. He said men and women friends just hang out in groups and then one day one of the men and one of the women find themselves alone, kiss, and move in together. This may have more in common with courtship.

Courtship is when a man realizes that he is smitten--either by a pretty girl he sees across the room or by a female friend or acquaintance, and then moves heaven and earth (if necessary) to spend time with her.

He calls her up, he takes her out, he pays for her dinner, he gives her little gifts for her birthday, Valentine's Day, etc., and (after a great deal of angst and wondering when the exact right moment is) kisses her, desperately hoping she will kiss him back and not slap him. If he remains smitten, he hopes that she is smitten too and eventually risks his entire ego by asking her if she ever thought she might like to marry him.

The impetus for dating is a vague sense that one wants to find a romantic (or sexual) partner, and that this person looks pretty good (or easy). The impetus for courtship is a specific man becoming entranced by a specific woman and then scheming to make her entranced with him, with the ultimate goal of making sure she doesn't sleep with any man but him (ever or from now on).

Readers will be quick to say that women also court men. Yes, we do, and I am not sure that is a wonderful idea. It may be important for men to have the grand, exhilarating, humble-making, heart-risking adventure of finding, courting and winning Miss Right. It is probably bad for them to have women flinging ourselves at them from all directions. In fact, I am sure of it.

Meanwhile girls occasionally write to me of their longings to "give themselves" to someone, and this, I think, is the principal and most dangerous desire of thousands of young women. Giving too much or too soon is a terrible (and peculiarly) female sin. Ponder the films of silly Baby Boomer teens shrieking and wailing before the Beatles, and clips of silly Baby Boomer oldies throwing their underwear and hotel keys at crooners in Las Vegas. This is what happens when you remove the ropes of female inhibition. It ain't pretty. And only two women ever married John Lennon, and only two married Paul McCartney. Okay, it will soon be three, but you see what I'm saying here.

All this said, a woman often realizes that she is in love with a man before he realizes that he is in love with her and tells her. Jane Austen was very funny about this uncomfortable reality, and I lived it for a whole four days. All I can say to this is pray, look your best, keep your mouth shut and don't grab the hottie. (I think in the end I patted B.A. on the head to show I liked him. Thank goodness you can do that in Scotland. In Thailand it's a terrible insult.)

The impetus for dating is a vague sense that one wants to find a romantic partner, and that this person looks pretty good. The impetus for courtship is a specific man becoming entranced by a specific woman and then scheming to make her entranced with him, with the ultimate goal of making sure she doesn't sleep with any man but him from now on.

I hope this is helpful. Just thinking about dating freaks me out now. If I am ever a widow, I am so never dating again. Uh uh. No way. If anybody wants to marry (hopefully) elderly me, they'll just have to dance like a blue-footed booby bird or bring me valuable stones like a penguin because I am never dating ever, ever again.

Grace and peace,

P.S. Bird courtships are AWESOME. Women birds just do their thing, dressed in protective colouring, and the men birds go nuts with bright colours, dancing about, offering bribes, you name it. It seems so relaxing from the female perspective. Female birds don't have to DO anything. They just have to BE. The downside is that female penguins (at very least) are amoral and will cheat on their mates for presents.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Wife Club?

The first rule of Wife Club is that your husband is more important than your girlfriends.

I thought this today when I was replying to a "Dear Auntie Seraphic" letter. My reader was (not surprisingly) worried that once her best friend marries their friendship will change. It will. But my reader was also worried that her best friend will ditch her entirely. She won't.

It may look like I've ditched all my best friends by running away to Scotland, but in fact I haven't. If they want to come to Scotland, they can certainly stay with me, and if they send me an IM, I am usually there, and if they poke me on Facebook, I usually poke them.

I send them Christmas cards, Christmas presents and--to a lucky single few--Valentines Day chocolates. I write--or reply to--emails. I go back to Canada once a year and do a two-city tour. Meanwhile, I remember that three of my American friends of Toronto days left their friends and families behind when they married Canadians. My gain was some American women's loss.

But yes, of course, here I am in Scotland, and there my best friends are in Toronto. I may never tell a risque joke again. I made one (or two) teeny-tiny off-colour comments to good friends here after one Sunday's unusually solid drinking and I lived to regret it, as you will discover in another post.

And I am here in Scotland not because Scotland is more beautiful than south-central Ontario (which it certainly is) or because the standard of living is better (which it certainly is not) but because my husband is a Scot and he clings to Scotland like a barnacle to a boat.

In short, my husband is more important to me than all my other friends. And anyone who belongs to Wife Club understands that.

To tell you the truth, there is no such thing as "Wife Club" or "the married world." Despite how it feels some days, there is no conspiracy amongst all married people everywhere to keep single people out of anything. There is nothing to be kept out of, except individual marriages, into which no-one should peek and pry uninvited.

I have single woman friends, and I have married woman friends, and the only difference is the rule I ascribed to my imaginary Wife Club. Married women friends--unless they are unhappily married--know that husbands are more important than women friends, and single women friends don't always get that.

Single women, while making female friends, often lead with their need. Imagine emotional need as invisible tentacles. Imagine yourself (if you are a Single woman) as a cute amoeba-type creature. Okay, now imagine yoursef floating about in a sea of other amoebas, waving your tentacles about. When you see amoebas just as cute as yourself, and they see you, you wave your tentacles, and they wave their tentacles, you grasp each other's tentacles, and then you all go out for cocktails.

Most of married women's tentacles tend to be tied up already. A goodly percentage of our emotional needs are being taken care of, and a goodly percentage of our time is already taken up by attending to the emotional and physical needs of our husbands and children (if applic.). And, therefore, we have retired from the economy of single women friendships, which is at least partly based on women tending to other women's emotional needs in exchange for having one's own emotional needs taken care of. As most women know, there is a delicate balance here, and the worst thing a woman can say of another woman to another woman is "She's so needy."

Single women who want to be friends with married women, therefore, have got to be careful not to look needy, and married women who want to be friends with single women friends, therefore, have got to learn to be patient with what now looks to us like neediness. In the business of married life, it is easy to forget what it is like to be single.

The first rule of being friends with a married woman is remembering that her husband comes first, her kids come second, and you are lucky if you make third. It is probably easier for single women to be friends with housewives then with married women with paid careers because married women with paid careers simply don't have time. They're tired, and if they have children, they are exhausted.

Incidentally, as a married woman, I've discovered what most determines my day-to-day friendly interactions is geography. I see most often those people who live or work within two miles of my house. Fact. And so it makes perfect sense that my favourite cashier at the supermarket showed me photos of her son's wedding. I see the woman up to three times a week. This is more often than I see any other individual woman. (Crikey!)

One thing I must stress again and again is that Single people have more freedom any anyone else. Married women are not free. Married men are not free. Cloistered nuns and monks are not free. Priests are more free than married men, but they are super-busy. Therefore, if you are Single and want to be friends with these people, you must understand that you are going to have to do more of the work. You will have to do more of the work because they are already working as hard as they can for the people they have promised to care for.

Sometimes this will seem very sad. Yes. But this is how life is, and this is how life needs to be.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Bitter Won't Help You

So many nice new readers! My stats are through the roof. Yay! Now everybody who hasn't done so already go read The Badness of Bitterness. Read it!

"I don't like women my age," whined a guy I know when we were both 27. "They're so jaded. I like younger girls, girls without baggage."

He was not exactly a catch himself, but I think he gave me some useful information. This information was confirmed by another guy I know who watched a parade of models on TV and declared (in a repetitive, almost-stoned way) that he liked Heidi Klum. The reason why he liked Heidi so much better than the other models was that she smiled.

The models skulked down the runway in undies and wings, glowering. Heidi strode down the runway in undies and wings, smiling a thousand watt smile.

"There's Heidi Klum," said the other guy I know, for the third time. "I like Heidi Klum. She's smiling."

It is not hard to get bitter and jaded. Some days skulking is easier than striding. We pop into the outside world full of ideals and enthusiasm, primed with the messages we learned in the nursery aka the TV: "Because you're worth it", "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful", "Diamonds are forever", "Dreams come true", "Reach out and touch someone", "Sinfully delicious." We toddle into kindergarten, expecting to be loved and adored by little boys, and instead they hit us with toy trucks. What the --?

You: Let's play house!

Him: No thanks. I have finally escaped my mother and I am now trying to differentiate myself from her by embracing my masculine identity. Therefore I don't want to play with girls or have anything to do with girls at all.

You: You talk funny.

Him: You have threatened my masculine identity, so now I will pinch you.

You: OW! Teacher, he pinched me! Waaaaaah!

Frankly, it's amazing that I wasn't smoking Gitanes and reading Fleurs de Mal by Grade One.

Speaking of Janeane Garofalo, one of the differences I discern between men and women is that many women are drawn to sneering, caustic men who smoke outside cafes between bouts of writing sneering, caustic poetry or prose, and not many men are drawn to female versions of ditto. Men love confident and happy women, but zillions of women will just go for confident.

I suspect that because women know so many women are attracted to sulking snarlers with messy hair, they make the mistake of thinking just as many men are attracted to sulking snarlers with messy hair. Uh-uh. They almost always prefer happy. Not necessarily perky. Happy.

When men really get you down, you start to develop a belief system which can be summed up as "Men Are Pigs." However, if you go through life thinking Men Are Pigs, you are magically going to scare away all the men but the piggy ones and maybe one or two really annoying puppy ones. I don't know why this is, but it is.

One solution is to write a list of all your beliefs about men's badness and then write the opposite on the other side, like this:

Most men are jerks./ Most men are great.
Most men hate women./ Most men love women.
Most men would rape if they could./ Most men are appalled by rape.
Most men want supermodels./ Most men marry women who aren't supermodels.

Eventually you find yourself convinced by List 2 and able to let go of List 1. And this should cheer you up enormously.

Another thing to do, as I have written before, and it's not my own idea--I got it from a book I used to hide from my mother--is to silently bless random men on the street. When you are in a really terrible mood about men, go for a walk and every time you see a man, silently say "Bless his little heart!" or if that seems too patronizing, just silently pray "Lord, bless this man." It really works, but make sure you don't get run over when you cross the street. Pay attention to traffic in between blessings.

Bitter simply won't help you. Let bitterness go. Let it go.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Reality versus Fantasy

When you wish upon a star, your dreams don't necessarily come true.

I just thought I'd clear that up. Also, one day your prince may come, but maybe he won't. And, really, he's unlikely to be a prince. He's more likely to be someone with your own commoner background. And strangely he will not act like the man in that romance novel you read yesterday, but like himself.

Occasionally readers complain that I simplify "What Men Are Like", and it is quite true that I do not always embrace the totality of the male psyche. There may be as many types of men as there are men; however, each one is not, as are angels, his own species. There are common male patterns of thought and behaviour, and many great artists have tried very hard to capture and express Man through their male characters.

This is in direct contrast to the many lousy artists have just expressed what they think female consumers will buy. And, let's be honest, many good women artists have captured not Man but their fantasies about Man, just as many good men artists have captured not Woman but their fantasies about Woman. I love him, and I want him to be real, but I am not so sure Lord Peter Wimsey is entirely believable.

Guido of Frederico Fellini's 8 1/2, however, is all too believable, and if I were going to organize an "Understanding Men" course, I would most definitely include 8 1/2. I don't think Guido is typical of all men--probably the man he most resembles is the late Frederico Fellini--but I think he is a lot closer to the reality of Man than, say, Laurie in Little Women.

Another film that would make the list is Fight Club. I once asked Max (buy my book and you'll learn all about Max, or what I thought about Max, anyway), if he liked Fight Club, and he lit up like a Christmas tree. He enthused about Fight Club in German, so I don't know in detail what he said, but I got that Fight Club was enormously important to him and that he thought it important to all young men of 2006.

If I had been thinking, I would have asked Max if he thought, therefore, that men were somewhat schizoid--torn between an internal compassionate Narrator and an internal seething Tyler Durden--but on the other hand, my German was too basic for such deep philosophical speculations, and so was his English. The next time you watch Fight Club with your brother or boyfriend, ask him. Oh, scrap that--I forgot about the sexual content. You probably don't want to watch Fight Club with your brother or boyfriend. Well, ask your brother or boyfriend the next time the subject of Fight Club comes up.

Incidentally, I recently saw a very funny bio-pic about Toby Young, a British journalist hired by an American magazine. When given the choice of being seduced by a gorgeous starlet and taking the car keys away from his drunken female colleague, Toby takes the keys way from his colleague and gloomily drives her home. This, I take it, is still the Paramount/MGM idea of a decent man, and I'm grateful for that.

Of course, even better than learning about men from artefacts composed by men about men for men is sitting quietly in (or near) groups of men observing how they behave. You can really learn a lot by sitting quietly and observing. It is one of my favourite past times these days, after a lifetime of talking almost non-stop.

This may sound obvious, but a number of my readers were homeschooled and I myself went to an all-girls high school, so I know what it is like to have no real idea what men are like, and to fill up the knowledge gap with a lot of nonsense. My crazy math teacher said that boys didn't give a damn about girls (preferring mathematics), and I actually believed her. How sad. If I had older brothers, they might have refuted this, but instead I had only younger brothers, who went to all-boys schools and knew very few girls.

The important thing, when trying to learn about a person--or anything else, really, is not to turn off your brain when you see or hear something you don't like or didn't expect. You don't have to react if you don't want to, but you do have to collect the unpleasant or unexpected information for your internal database. It might be a good idea to ask questions, both to confirm the information and to remember it better.

You: What do you mean "Gentlemen prefer blondes?"

Him: Oh, well, I guess I mean I prefer blondes.

You: You prefer blondes to women with other colours of hair?

Him: Um, ah, well. I don't mean to offend anybody, but yeah.

You: Why?

Him: I don't know. Moving right along...

(And you memorize the facts that he prefers blondes, and that he told you, a blonde/a non-blonde, this information. As a man, he has certainly noticed that you are blonde/non-blonde.)

One good way to get information about a man is to ask him what men think. Unless he is of a philosophical turn of mind, he will not tell you that men think different things and that all men are different. He will tell you what he thinks men think, which is what he thinks. The man who says "Any red-blooded male will tell you that..." is most definitely expressing who he is.

The great caveat is that men often do not think what you think they SHOULD think. If you express distress or anger, your source of information will shut right down. File the information, go away and ponder it. Meanwhile because men are so frightened of making women angry, don't be surprised if they don't tell you, or say "Why are you asking me?"

The answer to that is, "Because I think you'll give me a straight answer, one that will help me understand what men think." Meanwhile, asking men what men think can be construed as a very personal question, so keep it for men you know well.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Theology of the Bawdy Poll

Most Recent Update: Be careful to note that one of the choices is that women should NOT tell bawdy jokes in public at ALL. At the moment this is the most popular choice for both male and female readers, so I just want to make sure you all know what you're voting.

The choices are

*you're ok with women telling bawdy jokes in mixed company
*you're ok with women telling bawdy jokes just to men
*you're ok with women telling bawdy jokes just to women
*your're NOT ok with women telling bawdy jokes in public

I won't tell you what I prefer until the voting is done.

Not everyone can immediately see the poll in the right margin, so this is just to alert margin-challenged readers that there is a poll about women and bawdy humour. So far most of the respondents are women--not surprising, for most Seraphic Singles readers are women!

One lesson learned on the playground is that the great arbiters of female behaviour are not men but other women. This is a painful lesson, as in the playground many girls are power-crazed barbarians. Say once that you'd rather read your book in a corner than join in their skipping games at your peril.

That said, women have a comfort level, and since women have a friendship of economy based on emotional demands and favours, we develop a sense of what kind of women we want for friends or even just around. (This is particularly true in married women, who are beset with emotional demands from husband and any children.) In adult life, therefore, there are tentative invitations and careful pondering. Happily, there are also joyful surprises when you realize that someone you didn't know very well is actually not just friend-worthy, but a friend, a friend like your best girlfriends "back home."

Now, some women are horrified by any trace of female hive-mindedness, and say they could not give a damn what other women think. It is easier just to hang out with men. This may be, but in order to hang out with men, you have to give a damn about what men think, and it is not very easy to find that out. Men are often reluctant to tell women what they think, often because they have learned it is so foreign to the female point of view that upon hearing it women make a fuss, and most men hate it when women make a fuss.

Woman: What a terrible day at the office. I hate working with women.

Man: Wow, you're hot.

Woman: What?

Man: The guy next to me in the lab, all he can talk about is picking up women on Cuban beaches on his vacations. He talks about it from 9 to freakin' 5. And even though I know I should despise him, I envy him. I want to pick up women on Cuban beaches. Being able to pick up women on Cuban beaches would make me look more of a man to myself and other men. However, I couldn't do that. It's easier to sit here with you, and when other men look at you, I can feel good.

Woman: But... But we're just friends.

Man: They don't know that. Meanwhile, as you are clearly an attractive woman, I consider you a friend with benefits, so to speak. Besides, I can tell you how I feel about art and stuff without being afraid you'll think I'm gay and reject me.

Woman: What? What the heck's gotten into you?

Man: We tested truth serum today.

This post has completely run away with me. Of course, not all men are like that, for if you stuck truth serum into another kind of man, he would say something like:

Man: It's all a matriarchal conspiracy to keep men down. I've seen this so many times. You give a woman an inch and she takes a mile. All my pals at work... One by one a woman got her hooks into him. But that never happened to me, thank God. And it will never happen to--. Who's that bastard talking to Mary Angelica? She's only 20 and as innocent as a lamb in May. That's disgusting--he must be 45. Who does he think he is? I think I'll go over there and sort him out.

Anyway, the whole point of the poll is to see whether readers think it is okay for women to tell bawdy jokes to mixed company, just to men, just to women, or at all.

Update (Not Safe for Sensitive!): Examples of bawdy humour include:
"Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?" (Mae West)
"One more drink and I'll be under the host." (Dorothy Parker)
"You can lead a whore to culture, but you can't make her think." (Dorothy Parker)
"Men should be like Kleenex--soft, strong and disposable." (Cher)
"I was into animal husbandry--until they caught me at it." (Tom Lehrer)

B.A. just came up with a really funny one, and then told me I couldn't post it. I can think of several worse--including well-timed deadpan declarations of "That's what she said" and "That's not what I hear"--but they might get me into trouble.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The Saddest Emails

I get a lot of emails, kids. There's a lot of drama out there beyond my 17th century Scottish attic.

Women love men who don't love them back, and men pursue women who are alarmed by their attentions. Men and women have great hopes, based on not very much, about other men and women who eventually dash those hopes. Men and women struggle to be chaste in a world that laughs at chastity but merely says "Sucks to be you" to those who suffer the age-old hurts that accompany vice.

The saddest email I ever got, which appeared in my in-box as a no-reply comment, was from an anonymous young woman who said she had "slipped" only once and now had HIV.

I am reminded of this today by an email from a Catholic woman whose lukewarm love interest has just told her he has herpes. She doesn't yet know if she does.

"Go to the doctor" I wrote.

Before the spectre of venereal disease, that's all I can say. Break it off with the jerk. Go to the doctor. Get tested. Find out. I'm really sorry you are suffering.

It shouldn't take an incurable disease to make a woman see that the man who won't commit to her but still hangs around is clear and present danger to her happiness. Sometimes, however, it does.

The sickness of our age is that we privilege the will over the intellect. We prefer to think the world is what we want it to be, not what it is. Perhaps the most extreme and visible example of this is the man who has his genitals surgically removed, swallows umpteen hormones, dons huge high-heel shoes and tells everyone around that he is now a woman. Thanks to the sickness of the age, some governments and societies choose to humour him. It is unlikely that they will be woken up by some child shouting "The Empress has no vagina!" Children don't usually know exactly what is wrong with the man dressed as a woman, though they may certainly shrink away in fear and confusion. They have not yet learned how to lie politely.

We also prefer to believe that pre- or extramarital sex won't hurt us. Although individual Catholics profess to be--and often are--well-versed in the Gospel of Life, part of us is troubled and convinced by the siren song of the chattering classes that says there is nothing wrong with pre- or even extramarital sex. After all, we all know very nice people who got or get "away with it." The thing is, though, very, very, very few people will admit to ever having contracted a venereal disease or anal cancer, or of having had a problematic secret pregnancy that just ... miraculously went away.

Sometimes I think our age is floating on an oil slick of dreams over the ocean of reality.

Thanks to the extended adolescence of people in the West and the stultifying effects of political correctness, it is harder and harder to do this, but we must all be rooted in reality. Christians are mocked by a herd of horoscope-readers for believing the Gospel, but the Gospel is based in the historical realities of a community in relationship with Reality Himself. In order to live in correct relationship to Truth, we must be rooted in the truth. We must constantly demand of ourselves the truth. And one of the truths, the very hard truths, is that we are sinners and we screw up.

It is not a good idea to tell others far and wide that your sexuality is troubled by sinful desires and actions. To do so shows a lack of laudable decorum and dignity. But you must, must, MUST tell yourself. Even if your sexual sins are minor, you must keep an eye on them and yourself.

Being beset with sexual temptations and even giving in to the least of them does not make you a bad, worthless person. It makes you a person in search of God's mercy like everybody else. To give into sexual temptations--for whatever reason--while pretending to yourself that you are not is simply irrational. If you sin, for God's sake know that you are sinning. Admit it to yourself if to nobody else. Give up your idea of yourself as a special, pure, sexless being, superior to so many other people you know, and try to do better. Don't just give it up as a bad job and do worse, or rationalize what you are doing as just fine and "at least I'm not a slut like So-and-so."

Satan is the Father of Lies. We are lied to all the time. But, worse, we lie to ourselves. We don't want to believe that sex makes us vulnerable to disease, or that condoms don't always work--especially in frantic, hurried, under-the-bushes situations--but it does, and they don't.

There's an HIV awareness poster in my local medical centre that shows a hot gay guy with his head on the chest of another hot, presumably gay, guy. The one visible face glowers at the camera in a smirky, sexy way. It strikes me as crazy to fight HIV among gay men by showing them erotic images, but there you go.

This particular poster says "Relationships don't protect you from AIDS. Condoms protect you from AIDS."

This is the stupidest thing I have read in a medical office in my life. Surely what protects multitudes of people from AIDS--and a host of other STDs--is the dread, not only of getting it, but of giving it to the people one loves, or of having to tell loved ones that one has it and why. Next to the sexual abstinence of chaste Single people, the best protection against I know against AIDS is a marriage between a man and a woman who love each other devotedly. Love is not the same thing as sexual attraction. Love is love, not sexual desire, and any adult you want to be around knows the difference.

The greatest relationship on earth is the relationship between you and Truth. If you remain firmly rooted in reality, you will be a hundred times safer than if you live in dreams.

The truth will set you free of lies, and it can also keep you safe.

Monday, 16 May 2011

On Chasing Lazy-Ass Men

In the 1990s, a book came out that captivated and divided the American population in whole new ways. It was called The Rules, and it laid out the kind of dating advice your grandmother learned at her grandmother’s knee. There was a lot of hysteria, and even an Ivy League college application essay on how The Rules could be likened to a mind-numbing religious cult. Me, I liked The Rules, as did my closest Catholic female pals up in Canada. Sure, we took some of it with a grain of salt, but a lot of it rang true to our experience.

Much of The Rules could be boiled down to Stop Chasing Men, and the authors gave a dire warning that if you actually caught a man you chased long enough to marry him, you might find yourself having to chase him for the rest of your life. A man you thought was “shy” before marriage might be “shy” after marriage, too.

The Rules, I always felt, could not necessarily find a woman a husband, but they could eliminate many men that the woman fancied but were seriously wrong for her. And in go-getting America, the lazy-ass man is definitely wrong for her.

The lazy-ass man is the kind of man who cannot rouse himself to find a wife. Indeed not. The lazy-ass man would prefer women to come to him, and complains when they don’t. However, very often women do, in this liberated times, show up and even throw themselves at lazy-ass men, which startles and confuses them. (Incidentally, I’m talking about men out of school, here. Undergrad men are presumably too busy and poor to be looking for wives. I do not consider undergrads to be lazy-ass when it comes to women, just harried, confused and too young to get married anyway.)

The image I have in my mind is of an old Irish setter who dreams of the perfect T-bone steak and then discovers a rib-eye steak throwing itself at him. This freaks out the Irish setter, whose universe hitherto did not include such behaviour in steaks. At first he runs. The rib-eye steak runs after him. The Irish setter hides, but the rib-eye steak finds him, usually over Facebook. And eventually the Irish setter ponders the idea that he might have the rib-eye steak NOW and get his perfect T-bone steak LATER. After all, a rib-eye steak is a rib-eye steak, and an Irish setter is programmed to like steaks of all descriptions.

Now you might be freaking out that I am comparing women to steaks, but frankly comparing men to Irish setters is not much better. And really, I cannot think of a better analogy here. It’s too early in the morning and Blogger is acting up. Meanwhile, the great tragedy of the rib-eye is that there is a greyhound somewhere that is dreaming of the perfect rib-eye steak and really has no interest in T-bones. If the rib-eye, instead of chasing after a lazy-ass Irish setter, had merely stayed still long enough, the greyhound would probably have come along eventually and made a commitment.

The Rules say, and I have experienced nothing that contradicts this, that men will work for what they really want. Thus, a woman knows when a man likes her because he comes up to her and says “Hi”, befriends her on Facebook before she befriends him, goes up to her at gatherings, gets her a coffee and eventually asks her out. If a woman interrupts this process by doing these things instead, she will never know if he really likes her or, having discerned that she really likes him, a lazy Irish Setter has decided that, while waiting for a T-bone to come along, the rib-eye will do.

One of my more humiliating breakups was with a man who would not hold my hand on the beach. This was back in my liberated days when I thought asking out men was what modern women did. So I had snaffled this chap within weeks of his girlfriend breaking up with him, and was all very sad when it occurred to me he never held my hand in public. Realising that this was a sure signal he was not really that into me, I broke up with him. Then I changed my mind. I suggested we get back together, but then he said, “No, you were right the first time.” So we went back to being friends, and I listened to him for hours as he plotted to win an unhappily married young lady from her supposedly undeserving husband. He succeeded, and also joined a top firm. I’m telling you: if they want something bad enough, they will work for it.

Now to be fair, this ex-boyfriend was in no way a lazy-ass man. His ego had taken a kicking, thanks to his previous girlfriend breaking up with him, so some other woman thinking he was great was indubitably a soothing ego balm. And he did have the honesty to admit that ours was not a relationship to which he could commit, because I was clearly not the One as far as he was concerned. So really, I can’t blame him. I can blame only me, for racing in to be Rebound Girl.

This is not a happy memory, so I will cheer myself by contemplating that I am married to the Most Laid-Back Man in Scotland. B.A. works his guts out at work, but socially he is very laid-back. It takes a lot to make him anxious. It takes a lot to make him do something he doesn’t want to do. It takes a lot to convince him to leave Edinburgh for a day. However, when it came to marrying me, B.A. made tremendous, energetic efforts all over the place, including flying back and forth the Atlantic twice, once to visit and once to marry me and carry me back to Bonnie Scotland. Since then he has subsided into his cheerful, laid-back status quo, never again crossing the ocean, but coming across with nice anniversary presents, etc.

I must say that this is awesome, and it first dawned on me that this kind of thing might actually be possible when, before I had even met B.A. in person, I discovered that his great idol was Dame Emma Kirkby, who has frizzy reddish-blonde hair, and looks like she could have been my aunt. All I had to do, it seems, was to show up in Edinburgh and look like Dame Emma Kirkby. Simples. It took 37 years, of course, but simples.

There are, of course, true stories of women who chase their men for ten years and then the men realize that they cannot live without these women, reverse direction, run to them, marry them and live faithfully ever after. However, my guess is that these stories are the exception rather than the rule. I can still hear a ghastly exchange in a remote corner in England, as someone knocked on a co-habiting couple’s door.

“You’ll have to talk to my husband,” said [Polly] brightly at the person at the door.

Came loudly the voice from in front of the telly: “I’m not your husband, [Polly].”


By the way, I am no longer giving any kind of pass whatsoever to men who say they “don’t do long distance.” One chap convinced a reader and—through the reader’s account—me, that he really didn’t do long distance, and that when she came back to their hometown, there might be something doing. Imagine our surprise when he chased some woman he barely knew across the sea to Europe.

Adult men work for what they really want: the right job, the right motorcycle, the right woman. So if an adult man isn’t busting a gut to get to know you better, forget him.

Saturday, 14 May 2011


Somehow my own computer wouldn't let me access Seraphic Singles. How annoyed was I? Fortunately, my computer techie brother is here, so maybe he can figure out what is wrong.

I will return on Monday with more Auntie goodness. Apparently I am becoming notorious amongst fellow theology school grads. Oh dear. They never call... They never write... But they do read my blog!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Auntie Seraphic & Bikini Atoll

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

Thank you very much for your blog! As an average single trying to make sense of life, I really enjoy the light-hearted humour of your reflections.

I was wondering if you could write sometime about the modesty of swimwear. As summer approaches, I find myself again asking myself whether or not bikinis are modest.

I want to wear one because (1) it might give me motivation to lose those few extra pounds and (2) I want to be as attractive as the other women at the beach or the lakeside Catholic BBQ.

Usually I find myself wearing a tank-top-and-shorts combo, which I suppose one could say is super modest but I still feel (perhaps erroneously) it is trendier than the one-piece bathing suit.

But what if I wore a bikini? Would men think, "Wow, she's gorgeous!", or would I be making it difficult for them to maintain purity of heart? Modesty is in part determined by social conventions, so perhaps men are just used to seeing women in bikinis and it's not immodest to wear them. I don't know how men think. I know I feel like I'm still a kid wearing my ultra-modest swimwear.


Bikini Atoll

Dear Bikini Atoll,

Congratulations on being (almost) slim enough for a bikini. I was, too, betweeen 1997 and 2005. (Sigh.) I remember trying on a bikini for the first time at Bikini Village, looking in the mirror, and saying, "Nope. Can't do it. Can't show that much flesh to complete strangers."

Listen up, chickadee! There is nothing as attractive to devout Catholic men, the kind that you want to attract, as feminine modesty.

We wouldn't wander out in public in just our bra and panties, which is basically what a bikini is. A bikini is a lycra bra and lycra panties. It leaves very little to the imagination. And it usually demands shaving or waxing in uncomfortable places---and for what? Were he not possessed of the Beatific Vision, St. Augustine would be turning in his grave at the very thought.

Your tank-top-and-shorts combo, however, sounds very nice. I have one myself, in leopard print (probably because I have leopard-coloured hair). And I am most definitely not a kid.

I'll tell you what, though. If you feel that your tank-top-and-shorts combo is boring, why not look for a one-piece in a vintage 1940s or 1950s style? You'd probably find something you think feminine and fun and will stand out from the crowd. It is better to make people smile with interest in your fun bathing suit than to make their eyes fall out at the sight of your hot bod.

Men have such a hard time nowadays with custody of the eyes. Taking special care to be modest is a woman's gift to Nice Catholic Boys (and other Nice Boys of Good Will) everywhere.

Me, I never swim any more, and if I did, I would be sorely tempted to get a burkini, despite their ridiculousness, because I am so scared of the sun.

Incidentally, if you are seriously thinking bikini, you probably don't need to lose those extra pounds.

Grace and peace,

Update: Sunblock, people! Sunblock, hat, sunglasses, cute beach cover-up!!!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Oh, hey! CNA!

Another 15 minutes of Catholic fame I didn't know I had: here. The photo was taken by the Crescat. The microphone didn't really pick up anybody's voice from that distance, so that must have looked a bit dorkish.

On the left is Gregory Di Pippo of the New Liturgical Movement. He has an encyclopedic memory for liturgy and vestments. He says things like, "Yeah, but on April 15, 1648 they reversed the orientation of the Benzino ritual to the Calabrizzi altar" and "Not a single member of the College of Cardinals had his zucchetto on right."

On the right is Carole Glatz. She is a reporter for CNS.

Anyway, my real post for today is below, but I thought you might enjoy reading about me in at the blog meeting in an Irish pub in Rome.

Shot in Foot Disease

St. Augustine, who called it as he saw it, is a man after my own heart. As he wrote homilies every Sunday, and tons of other stuff, he strikes me as a proto-blogger, too.

He was full of sage advice for Single women, and could be really quite entertaining. For example, when he was preaching to proto-nuns, he said, to paraphrase De Virginitate, "Yeah, being a permanent virgin is better than being a married lady, but don't give yourself airs, sweeties, because martyrdom trumps virginity, and when the barbarians come, the married ladies might stand up for the Faith and get whacked, whereas you gals might chicken out. Pray for humility, my little chickadees."

St. Augustine also laid out where he thought women were in the pecking order of feminine modesty. At the top of the heap was the permanent virgin, who thought only of Christ and not of ordinary men at all. Then was the married lady, who wanted to be attractive to just one ordinary man, her husband. And then there was the unmarried lady who wanted to be married and therefore had to be attractive to many men, hoping one would step up to the plate.

I think St. A felt a bit sorry for these marriage-wanting unmarried girls, and no doubt they felt sorry for themselves, too. In my mind's eye, I can see them gabbing together by their looms, wailing "Ubi sunt?! Ubi est Unus?!"

Anyway, back then your parents did most of the hard work of husband-finding, and sometimes you thanked them for it, and sometimes you were appalled. Look at St. Augustine's poor old mum St. Monica. She didn't even get a Christian. However, it all ended well for her, and her ossuary is in S. Agostino in Rome, so you can go and visit her if you like.

In the years I've been writing this blog, I have come to some conclusions. The first one is that if you are already a Seraphic Single, happily and seriously Single and planning to be Single for all time, you don't need this blog. Your principal problem is dealing with people who think that because you are Single, you can do everything they want you to do. The way to deal with such grasping types is to smile and say, "Sorry, I really am busy. And I need some time for prayer."

The second conclusion is that most of the Single women who read my blog don't want to be Single for the rest of their lives. The widows might be okay with it, and the divorced mums of many might be okay with it, but the never-married tend not to be okay with it, unless they feel called to be nuns.

This in mind, when women come and tell me about their Single lives and how they wish to give them up for Married lives, I focus all my attention upon them while an conceptual machine in my brain chews up the data and starts throwing out hypotheses for their Singleness. The more they talk, the more I like it, for the more data I get.

I work under a both/and philosophy. The Single in front of me, talking about how she relates to men, is Single because that's God's will for her right now. But she might also be Single because she throws out several signals that she is not currently marriage material. It is fascinating how many of us think we want something and then unconsciously do everything in our power not to get it. I did that all through my 20s, which I can see only now that I am so far way from them.

All you can do, if you think you have a reasonable hypothesis of why a Single isn't married, is to keep your mouth shut until you are asked. Very few people like to be informed of the elephant dancing on their chest because they will think it a judgment of them which, admittedly, it is. Many Searching Singles already feel a vague sense of rejection anyway, so if you say something that personal, they will feel awful, bite your head off, and go away to brood. Sometimes they will admit that you were right, but sometimes they will ignore you. Either way, it is generally better to stay silent until they ask.

I asked a very insightful buddy of mine back in 2008 why I was Single. Like many fun, popular, healthy, reasonably attractive women, I had been asked that question many times. I had no clue, so I asked my pal. My pal said she would think about it, and she did think about it. Knowing her, I am sure there was a lot of prayer and staring sightlessly out the window involved. Finally, after some prodding by me, she took me out to a Thai lunch place, and after some hemming and hawing and begging me not to get mad, she told me the answer.

Apparently it was because I kept looking for a guy smarter than myself. I was looking for someone "better" than me. The problem, said my pal, was that I was already very smart myself, and there were not many available men who were smarter. Meanwhile, good men were not interested in marrying women "lesser" than themselves, but women who would be their friends and equals.

"Wow," I said. "That's it?"

"Yes," she said, staring at me anxiously with her enormous eyes.

"Okay," I said. "Cool."

"Oh," she said, cheerful and relieved. "You're not mad. Cool!"

Six months later or so I met a fellow PhD dropout, and Bob's your auntie's live-in lover, as B.A. would say. I'm dragged around Tridentine Catholicism and Anglo-Catholic nostalgia by the force of his masculine personality, but sure enough we are friends and (insofar as husband and wife can be) equals and even have screaming fights about Scottish politics that neither of us takes personally. It's not like I am sitting at the feet of a Master and typing up his thoughts for his less privileged disciples, which is probably what I thought I wanted back when my buddy gave me The Bad News.

This brings me to the actual theme of this post which is that some women are Single because (apart from and beside Providence) they shoot themselves in the foot. They behave in ridiculously self-defeating ways that make them unattractive to men. However, sometimes they do this because they are absolutely terrified of being rejected by one man they come to care for, and so they behave in ways that just about guarantee that can never happen. Others, like baggage-free teens, are just clueless.

I remember one teenage girl shrieking "Frederico! Frederico!" while rushing at him across a supermarket. It was clear to any grownup around (though possibly not the teenaged Frederico), that this girl was potty about him. However, her voice was so loud and high, every dog in the neighbourhood must have sat up. If Frederico had turned around and simply run, I would not have been surprised. The teenage girl was perfectly lovely, but that was simply not attractive behaviour.

Now I shall write a list of Don'ts, because I like lists and nobody can bite my head off when I am safely locked in my 17th century Scottish attic.

If you really want to get married, my little chickadees, don't....

1. ... Act or dress in cartoonishly sexually aggressive ways. It's not charming or cute.

2. ... Talk nonstop to men about all your issues or, frankly, anything else. I like it, but I'm a woman, and I'm mentally taking notes.

3. ... Rip people to shreds like a verbal pirhana fish. You can recruit slavish disciples and respectful admirers that way, but not husbands.

4. ... Hide behind books, under tables, in the ladies' room, your hair. It doesn't matter if you don't say much. Just show up, look nice, smile, look approachable. Scan the room for someone who looks lonelier or smaller than you, go up to them and say, "Hi, I'm X. How are you?" When the event's over, go home and forget about about it. Repeat.

5. ... Dress like men, curse like men, drink like men, laugh like men, spit like men, especially if you look kind of mannish already (e.g. over 40, very overweight, very tall, hugely muscular). Sure, lots of men will want to be your buddy. If you're wedded to being every man's buddy, go ahead, babe.

6. ... Waste yourself on a man who doesn't want to marry you. Few men come along and rescue women from the men the women are wasting themselves on. If you spend all your life hankering for the committed love of Mr Wrong, Mr Right will never turn up. Never.

7. ... Obsess on marrying "up". I don't care if you're a tenured professor of anthropology. If your grand-dad was a plumber, and your dad was a plumber, and your brother's a plumber, possibly you should hang out with some plumbers. The most truly attractive men are the men who know exactly who they are and aren't ashamed of where they come from and don't need some trophy wife to shore up a fragile ego---unlike some of your male colleagues.

8. ... Act like life is one big competition in which you have to win and then drive your chariot wheels over your fallen enemies in the dust. Yes, for heaven's sake defend yourself and work for career success, but take a break when you leave the office. If you beat a guy at tennis, let him buy you a drink and be gracious.

Never undervalue the quality of grace.

Monday, 9 May 2011

What They No Longer Tell You about Marriage

Last week I met with a reader, and she told me her tale. As I mentioned, I asked many questions and listened to the answers. I tried not to give my opinion or give advice because that is not what I was trained to do in real-life one-on-one situations. But at last I made a statement, and what my reader took from this statement is between her and me and God. I'll tell you what I said, though.

I said, "I am a woman under authority."

If you are a fiercely independent Christian woman, who hates the idea of obedience and giving way and making any kind of compromise, be it social, familial or professional, then don't get married. You might not make a very happy nun, either. But I think you could be a very happy unvowed Single woman if autonomy is really what you're all about. The Single life is a life of freedom. Married life isn't.

This is my second wedding anniversary. I am very happy. I am wearing a little green enamel leaf hanging from a slender silver chain; it is from the 1930s, and B.A. gave it to me as an anniversary present. B.A. is thoughtful, generous man which is great because--like it or not--he's my boss.

I can hear the shrieks in my mind's ear as legions of theology students assure me that this isn't true, or even if it is true, I'm his boss, too, and men and women are equal and have complementarity, blah blah blah.

Cherubs, I've been married twice, unsacramentally and sacramentally, and I know what I know.

"Gosh," I said to my mother about fifteen years ago, "marriage sure is patriarchal."

"You think?" said my mother, who has now been happily married for 41 years.

Let me tell you about husbands. They take us over. They might not mean to, but they do. And despite ourselves, despite everything we've been told, when the husbands are good husbands, we let them. Yes, sometimes it's freaking annoying, but sometimes we're just relieved.

If you travel through big cities in Western Europe, through Frankfurt or near the University of Edinburgh, you will occasionally see a white, Western European woman in hijab. In Frankfurt I saw a tall white blonde-eyebrowed German woman covered from head to toe, with only her face showing (by German law), three steps behind her much shorter, browner Muslim husband. It could be that through independent study, without any reference to men or marriage, this modern young German had decided that strict Islamism was the path for her, but I doubt it.

I'd love to see a study comparing the number of single white unmarried female converts to Islam to the number of single white married female converts to Islam. But my guess is that most women convert to Islam to marry attractive Muslim men or because they have married Muslim men. Muslim men, who can divorce easily and practise polygamy, are rather more eager to marry than Christian or post-Christian men, and most women want to marry. Unfortunately, women don't usually know what marriage really means until we're in it.

My Protestant first husband, who was admittedly a control freak, gave up any pretense at converting to Catholicism or permitting any children of the marriage to be raised Catholic as soon as we were safely married. His grand ideas were that I should go on the Pill and become Anglican like him. Catholicism, in his view, was the religion of "immigrants and peasants."

In marriage, there are not supposed to be barriers in your hearts. But I had to construct a barrier around the part called "Roman Catholic", and it was a very big part. If we had gotten along in other ways, and loved each other, and treated each other decently, which we certainly did not do, there would still have been a barrier around the part of my heart called "Roman Catholic". I would have had to keep it there to guard against my natural wish to please my husband, and he would have been most pleased if I had skipped Catholic Masses in favour of Anglican services and ignored Catholic doctrine about the transmission of life.

My Roman Catholic second husband, who is not a control freak and was tremendously feminist as a student (his unfinished doctoral thesis is on Iris Murdoch), goes to the Traditional Latin Mass. Before I met him, I had been to only one TLM, and I had found it incredibly dry and boring. Now I go to Traditional Latin Mass every week. I wear a mantilla, I try to go to confession almost as often as he does, I put up with all the Anglo-Catholic nostalgia stuff because he is a Roman Catholic now, and that is what matters.

There are no barriers in my marriage. I can trust my husband with all of me, including the Catholic part of my heart. I don't have to worry that it's going to be wiped out or besmirched in my natural desire to please my husband and fall in as I can with his ideas.

After the Easter Vigil, when I discovered my 1940s missal was rendered useless by the 1950s changes, I threatened to go to the Cathedral next year. I was serious, and B.A. was annoyed, and I'm not going to Easter Vigil at the Cathedral next year. I'll be in the back with the Schola again, but with a printout of the 1961 version. Why? Because B.A. would prefer that, and it in no way interferes with my Catholic faith. There's no either/or situation. It's both/and.

The Church used to be upfront about the fact that interfaith marriage often destroys the faith of the Catholic party. Catholics aren't really supposed to submit to it. You still need a dispensation to marry a non-Catholic, and two dispensations to marry a non-Christian, and you are still warned that marriage with a non-Christian is not sacramental. It is naturally good, but it is not supernaturally good. But many priests act like this is just mindless bureaucracy to get around, "Catholic shit" as a parish priest told the giggling Protestant I didn't, in the end, marry, realizing that I still wanted--as I had always wanted--a CATHOLIC husband.

Other religions are tough on mixed marriages. In Islamic law, Muslim men can take Christian wives, but Muslim women are not permitted to marry Christian husbands. I do not know why this is, but I certainly can guess, not only given the status of women in Islam but the psychology of human marriage.

"Wives, obey your husbands" is not only a Pauline commandment, but a description of how marriages often thrive. Islam is not so hot on Muslims being subservient to Christians, just as mediaeval Christians were not so hot on being subservient to Muslims and Jews.

In unguarded moments, perhaps, female readers write to me saying how much they long to give themselves. Male readers don't write to me very much, and when Single men write to secular advice columnists, they don't talk about giving themselves. They talk about getting. They want to get a wife (or a girlfriend or sexual release). They want to have a family. Men don't read romance novels in which the protagonists "give themselves" or "are taken" by powerful, commanding, possessive figures. But women read such romance novels by the cartload. And psychologists and feminists in the 1970s and 1980s wrung their hands over the zillions of women who indulged in "rape fantasies." I forget who they blamed for women's "rape" (really, "rough seduction which we can enjoy but for which we can't be blamed") fantasies; probably the patriarchy. Heaven forfend that some (or most) women actually have an innate desire to be ruled by attractive men after all.

Anyway, now that there's coffee dripping down your screen, I'll leave it at that. I didn't swear to obey on my wedding day, but I sort of do anyway, and I don't always like obeying, but mostly because countless people have indicated that wifely obedience is somehow shameful. Pleasing my husband and falling in with his ideas just seems like the most natural thing to do, and so I'm really glad he's a devout Roman Catholic. I never have to choose between Our Lord Jesus Christ and my earthly husband, and for that I am truly thankful.

I would never recommend interfaith marriage to a woman like me.

P.S. If someone chimes in "But what about men?" I will scream. Men. And. Women. Are. Different.

Update: Whoever at "catholicanada" who is copying and linking to my work without my permission, please stop. I don't know who you are, and your site looks like you're claiming an episcopal authority you certainly don't have.

Update: B.A. is now afraid you'll all think he is a horrible tyrant. He isn't. I'm not talking about men saying outright, "Do this and do that", and women saying, "Okay, honey". I'm talking about a certain orientation within marriage or within women towards the men with whom they are in a serious (or what they think is a serious) sexual relationship.