Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Seraphic Single Dilemma

The dilemma is that being seraphic about being Single is not the same thing as getting yourself married. And this may be why my book is not #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. The fact is that most Single people do not want to be happy about being Single. Most of you want to be married.

Thus, Single people are going to buy books that will tell you how to get married, and this drives me nuts because most of you are not married because we are all on God's time and God hasn't willed that you be married yet.

I will now tell you a story I haven't told you before. It is a good story and could increase sales, but for the wrong reason, which I will explain.

So someone involved with the publication of my book (so she could be Canadian, American or Polish) sat down and read the proofs. She read them all the way through. And when she was done she put the pile away and gave her whole life over to God. She had been struggling with her Singleness for some time, but after reading my book she decided that was it. If God wanted her to be Single she would be Single. If He wanted her to get married, He could arrange that. And that's what she told Him.

That Sunday after Mass she was introduced to the man who is now her husband.

"Maybe that's what He wanted to hear first," I said. "Maybe He wanted you to give him a total gift of trust, and only then did He decree you were ready to meet [your fiance]."

The problem with this story is that I can imagine dozens or hundreds of women shutting my book and giving over their lives over to God in the hopes that they will thereby be rewarded with a man the next Sunday after Mass. But that is not really giving your life over to God, now, is it? It's not good enough to pray to God just because you want to go to heaven and avoid hell. You should pray to God because He is so great and good.

"Seraphic Singles" was never about "how to get married"; it was about "how to be happy about being Single." It was about "How not to go crazy with being Single." And I definitely do not want to become a "How To Get Married Lady" because I don't think there is much women can do to get married beyond:

1. being a nice, friendly person with good manners and good taste
2. living her life in public, especially a public that includes eligible men
3. not having premarital sex (and even then some women manage it, just so long as they are sleeping with the RIGHT GUY, and so often they think they are and they aren't)
4. praying to know the difference between a good prospect and a bad.
5. actively living in reality and not in an imaginary land of her own making

(Most of my dating advice is about how not to get mixed up with the wrong man. It is rarely about finding the right one, except by staying away from the wrong ones.)

Getting married, of course, necessitates both God willing you to get married and a man wanting to marry you. So you cannot do very much on your own. Becoming happy, however, is something that you CAN do, so that is what I encourage. And if you know your path to happiness includes spending the ages of 20 and 40 in graduate school, then off you go to graduate school. Let the marital chips fall where they may.

I once heard a male graduate student pity the female graduate students he knew because they worked very, very hard and never went out, except to teach and go to drunken wind-down parties. Assuming they all wanted to get married and have kids but were too embarrassed or brainwashed to admit it, he said that they were shooting themselves in the foot.

Well, I don't know. As I wrote yesterday, I know lots of women with graduate degrees who got married after or right during their programs. They met men at church or at weddings or just in a neighbourhood cafe while marking papers. They were faithful Catholics who loved to hang out with their girlfriends and go to parties and have parties themselves. They met lots of people, and they networked, and they wailed about being Single until suddenly, one by one, they stopped being quite so Single and then got married.

The thing is, they enjoyed themselves even though they were Single. They studied because they were very interested in the topics and thought they might have a shot at teaching them one day. But they made sure they socialized, too. They leaned on each other for companionship and support and help with party-having.

And, of course, not all the girls in my various sets got married. And as each one of us got engaged, many of the rest of us, no matter how old or young, had "What about me?" moments. But we all kept on with our other dreams and plans and worship and prayers and parties and some of us, still unmarried, still do that.

From years of conversations through my blogs, I think women get more comfortable with being Single the older we get. The thought that terrifies us at 19--what if I never have a boyfriend--ceases to be the big boogie monster over time. It is women who are still forming an identity who think that romance is a shortcut to identity, not women who have forged careers and friendships and holidays "on their own" for decades.

The one thing I think can hurt a woman in graduate school, both in terms of being happy in her Singleness and in terms of marriage prospects, is getting a reputation for blowing off steam at drunken parties and having stupid, usually short, love affairs. Grad school can be quite a little fishbowl, and so it might be a good idea to plan your social activities with the same good sense you use to plan your papers.


Christine said...

I loved this post; it was a good reminder that my goal, as a single young lady, is to honor God, seek His will, build friendships, and enjoy life and career.

I'm a grad student (in Library science), and we never have blow-off-steam parties or bar outings. This is probably because it's largely a second-career-degree (not for me, though) and the people it attracts are (suprise) quiet types. Also, it's a professional-, not a research-driven field, so people don't spend endless hours at the lab or in internships (although some hours are associated with both).

Good unrelated news - I just moved, and asked my new public library to purchase your book - and they did! :-) I should buy a second copy, too, as my friends have taken mine hostage ;-)

Seraphic said...

Hey! Thanks! That's very nice of you. Really, as far as I can figure out, it is my readers who are my very best salespeople!

sciencegirl said...

Great post!

I will just add that it's a bad idea to take on loads of student debt in general, BUT that you can get a great education -- even a grad level education -- with zero debt.

A lot of PhD programs, particularly in the sciences, take people with just a Bachelor's. Don't bother with a Master's unless you have a fellowship, because they are just cash cows for the schools. Being a PhD student was how I earned my living the past few years.

I know it's different in Theology and in other programs that require Master's degrees, though I also know you can have teaching assistantships that pay for your education.

The real debt problems people get into are right when they are naive 18 year-olds setting off in the world and every adult they meet is telling them "Pick the college that fits Your Dream!" Sometimes not even their parents are sitting them down and explaining what The Dream will feel like when they are paying for it later. The numbers sound big and scary, of course, but as an 18 year-old, one doesn't really understand how long it would take to pay that back. One imagines "I can get a rich job after college, so it won't matter!" And for some it doesn't.

Jam said...

Very simple and difficult, as is the case with all spiritual truths (I find, in my limited experience). It always comes down to "follow me"... Funny how that works ;)

As Yet Another PhD student-reader, I would supplement what's been said probably a thousand times: when considering graduate study, ask as many honest professors and grad students *in your specific field* what it is reasonable to expect monetarily and whether it is worth taking loans. Be straightforward and persistent and realistic. It is NOT rude. I had a professor who told me I'd be stupid to take out loans and spelled out exactly what was reasonable and that is the best thing anyone's ever done for me. In fact I showed him my offers. In my field at least they give out money to the people they like best so taking out loans because they didn't offer you at least an assistantship is like, I dunno, persistently asking a guy out on dates who's not really into you: bound for heartbreak.

Jennie said...

I was just introduced to your blog today by a roommate and I must say, Amen sister! You are proselytizing the same notion of being content with oneself that I've been telling my friends for years who cry over men. Anyhow, just wanted to say 'brava,' and wish you the best on your journey of God's will in God's time. Keep up the posts :)

mary said...

This advice is solid gold - thanks for the encouragement, Seraphic! :)

theobromophile said...

<3 this post.

The flip side of, "If you do X, you can get married" is that it becomes YOUR FAULT when you're not married. We all know people who think that they are married because they deserve it, and think that if we're not married, it's because we are undeserving, mean, or spending all of our time meeting men in bars. (The usual - if I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, "Stop dating the men you meet in bars," to which I reply, "Really? I've always dated friends of friends and men from my classes and work," I could solve the national debt ceiling crisis we have here in America.)

One of the things I've noticed is that evangelical Protestants often take this view - love God and be a nice girl and you'll be rewarded with a husband and great marital relations - and it just seems really icky.

berenike said...

I thank my lucky stars that I am a citizen of a country where I don't have to pay for doctoral studies. In fact, they practically pay me to do them, if one calculates the money saved by having half price public transport :)

Not that I'm gloating or anything, mind.