Tuesday, 10 May 2011

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.


Ginger said...

"Bob's your auntie's live-in lover"

Ha! Love it. I'm going to start using that one. :P

Good list, too. I like lists because I get to tick off things as "Not a problem" and "I should probably work on that." Also, to see the ones that used to be habitual problems for me, but have been at least mostly eradicated and feel like I'm making progress.

RMVB said...

Awesome. I love concrete ways of improving!!! Yay, constructive criticism. Thanks:)

Anonymous said...

But How do you know if a guy is not going to marry you? I'm pretty clueless about such things...

Seraphic said...

Hmm...where to start? He usually isn't.

Don't chase men. If you chase men, you don't know if you'll meet one who is crazy about you, or just one who is too lazy to work for the woman he really wants or to get married but will certainly be happy to get whatever he can for free.

Ginger said...

Oh, also, a question: As far as men wanting to marry their equals: It seems like in there are a lot of men who do like to play "teacher" whether sexually or intellectually with the women they are with. I consider this because I recently found out the man a girl I know is engaged to is ten years her senior and she isn't even 18. That situation bothers me a lot. A lot, a lot. But what can you do? Anyhow, I want nothing more than to be friends and equals with my husband, and don't want to be spoken down to by someone "above" me, and I wouldn't want to marry anyone who would want to do such a thing. So are these guys who do want to marry women "beneath" them an anomaly? Do they just have some kind of weird inferiority complex that would make a woman who is simply their equal seem intimidating?

Anonymous said...

Auntie- #5 worries me. I'm 6'2" and I know guys are extremely intimidated by my height. I don't have a problem with my height, I've dated men of all sizes, but I really think it makes me less approachable. I don't dress, curse, drink, laugh, or spit like men. (I am feminine but I do enjoy playing sports!) I just don't know how to be an approachable giant. I smile, I'm friendly and a good conversationalist. I am very cautious about being seen as agressive so I don't come across as an Amazon Warrior. But I still seem to intimidate men... I'm like Godzilla and they are the fleeing Japanese villagers!

Seraphic Spouse said...

Well, my tall Anonymous, it is a very good thing that you are not dressing, cursing, drinking, laughing and spitting like a man because only an extremely tiny fireball of a girly-girl could get away with it.

I have a 6 foot tall girlfriend, and she looks smashing in heels--much better than in tie-up oxfords, bleck. It is my opinion that very tall women should dress in a very womanly, goddessy way (skirts) and stand up straight with their shoulders back and with a brilliant smile on their faces. They might also like to take holidays in Denmark. It might be rather fun to vacation in a land of fellow tall people.

Short women like me can get away with a lot, but if you are tall, you must pay attention to your posture.

This is all I can think of for the moment, so I hope tall girls will chime in.

Ginger, if you reread what my pal said, she said GOOD men are interested in marrying their equals. There are lots and lots of weak and otherwise non-stellar men out there, so yes to your suggestions, with the caveat that some 25 year old women are very much the equal of some 35 year old men.

Where are this 17 year old girls' parents, that's what I'd like to know.

Pilareti said...

What's the difference between chasing after men and showing interest/being flirtatious? For example, if a man approaches you, should you wait for him to start asking questions about you after the initial small talk? Or is it okay to be one the to keep the conversation rolling?

Seraphic Spouse said...

If he comes up to you and there's a good chat going on, I see no problem with keeping the ball rolling--for no more than half an hour, if it's a cocktail party. (Less if it's after-mass coffee.) Don't monopolize the man. You can say "Hey, I don't want to monopolize you. But I hope we chat again."

Make sure it is real chatting, and not just you keeping up a monologue. Really listen to the questions and answers of the nice man.

Anonymous said...

What if you are dating a guy...how do you figure out if he's going to marry you or not? How long should you devote to him.

And I have no idea how to chase a guy. I'm kinds still in shock I'm in a relationship now. It just kinda happened.

-still clueless

Seraphic Spouse said...

Still Clueless, I always say never date the same guy exclusively for more than a year if he hasn't mentioned marriage within that time.

Meanwhile, you have had all kinds of relationships since before you were born. Your first ones were with God and your mother. Being liked by some guy outside your family is very nice and may feel like a big deal but it is not like winning a gold medal in the Olympics. King Arthur has not asked you to join his Round Table.

I think you have a story. If you wish to discuss this story, send me an email. Meanwhile, be calm and don't go along with anything you know is wrong.

Anonymous said...

Posture is huge! I have a very tall friend who always sits, stands and walks very gracefully, and men flock to her.

Jennifer said...

Good post! I too liked the list. Especially pertinent to me is the one part about marrying up. I am correctly dating a guy that is a profession similar to the aforementioned plumber. I always thought that of course I would marry someone with a Bachelors of some sort at least. However, since I have started seeing this NCB, that notion has been thrown out. He is a good man, smart, kind, and funny. Oh and also cute :) I don't know where this is going as we have only been dating a few months, but I am glad I was open to him and realized before we started dating that the education qualification does not define whether or not someone is a good man.

Seraphic said...

Good call, Jennifer! And now, peeps, a little less anonymity, please. Think up nice noms-du-blogs and use them.

Kate P said...

For the tall ladies: my dentist is a sweet, tall woman (obviously also smart to have become a dentist) who just got married last year.

I thought it might be rude of me to ask how tall her husband is, though.