It is hard to believe I spent only four nights and four days in Poland because I saw so much and spoke to so many people. At night I collapsed into bed and fell more deeply asleep than I had for ages. I spent most of my waking moments trying to absorb everything I saw while listening to people tell me snippets of Polish history in whatever English they could command. My Polish is still of a very "Hello. Pleased to meet you. Is it here? Thank you very much" simplicity.
I had four interviews, and two of the interviewers were Single. I wish now that I had asked them about their Single lives as Poles; we had very long conversations when the interviews were done, but we spoke mostly about Poland, John Paul II, theology, history and politics. All my interviewers were very bright young women, well-travelled polyglots, but it did not occur to me to ask them about Single life in Poland, although on radio I was careful to qualify my opinions with the handy phrase "We in the West".
(I think I enjoyed saying "We in the West" just a little too much, but I could not get over the romance of being in Warsaw. When I was a child [which was during the Cold War], being interviewed by Catholic radio in Warsaw one day seemed less likely than one day travelling to the moon.)
Eventually I asked two older Single women how they thought Polish Single life might be uniquely different from Single life in the West, but before then I got some clues. First, I learned from the Homo Dei office that the very word "Single" (SING-la) is controversial in Catholic circles in Poland as it is synonymous with "swinging Singles" and is associated with "Sex & the City." And let me tell you, poppets, when it comes to Catholic media anywhere, "Sex & the City" is not something you want to be associated with.*
Second, before my radio interview and through a translator, I was grilled on my divorce-and-annulment. Well, perhaps I was not really grilled, but it felt like being grilled. My interviewer was a young, beautiful married Polish woman still in her twenties, but her face was stern.
Now, my head is 100% sympathetic with making sure the people to whom the Church entrusts a microphone to speak to the Church are orthodox and orthoprax. If anybody has to have her toes held to the fire while making an official declaration that her previous marriage was dissolved and declared null by the Most Holy Catholic and Roman Church, it is I. However, my heart doesn't like it that much. My heart wails, "Why don't you trust meeeeee?" It bleeds a little with bad memories, too. And feels for all the other people with annulments, keeping their heads down and their mouths shut, and for the flatly excommunicated Divorced-and-Remarried people.
In short, it probably sucks even more to be divorced in Catholic Poland than in North American Catholic circles. And, yes, that is not exactly Single, as my radio interviewer would be swift to point out. In fact, her next question was about whether I had written Anielskie Single before or after my annulment. Once again, my darlings, I thanked God I had applied for my annulment as soon as I possibly could, i.e. when I had my certificate of divorce in my trembling hands, thirteen years ago.
But at the same time, I acknowledge the right of Catholic newspapers and radio stations and employment tribunals and whoever else, to ascertain if a speaker has dodgy theology. It is horrible to be an orthodox Catholic being fed heterodoxy by trusted Catholic institutions, as I know all too well. Thus, I am in a different situation than other annulled people out there.
Yes, give me a hard time because I claim to write as a Catholic, but please be kind to the average annulled-marriage Catholic who went through the process in good faith (and probably much suffering) and came out the other side with enough of a whole soul to get married again. We all have a little scar, and it hurts when you poke it.
Third, from my interviewer's questions, I gleaned that there is a gender war between Polish men and Polish women. I am not sure exactly what this looks like, or if it is any different from the usual. It must be, because the Communists sent women out to work, and thus large numbers of Polish women did "men's jobs" long before large numbers of Canadian and American women did.
My very tentative guess is that Polish women were expected by the Communists to do two jobs, their man job and their womanly perfect-house-quiet-children-perfectly-cooked-pierogi job, while men struggled to find some sort of manhood balance in the face of such overwhelming superwomanhood. Before men could blame women's mens's-wage-earning on the Communists (while extolling housework-and-cooking as rebelliously Catholic), but there is no-one to blame for it now and even John Paul II said women earning man-sized money was okay.
I would like to stress, however, that I personally know almost squat about Poland and am just hazarding a guess based on conversations with Poles. Another tentative guess is that Polish men ignored what John Paul II said about not trusting all the values of the West and now read Playboy. I saw Polish Playboy for sale in a Warsaw railway station. I wonder if Hugh Hefner actually sold his soul to the devil in a personal transaction or whether it was all done on an unconscious level.
Fourth, a non-nun woman's theological career is likely to be even more curtailed in Poland than in Canada and the USA because the big teaching jobs go to priests, of whom there is still no lack in Poland. (N.B. Here in the U.K. my priest asked me to prepare something for a parish function this week. I honestly thought he meant a speech or writing of some kind. He meant sandwiches.)
But when I finally asked Single Polish women what made Single life in Poland different than in other countries, they were surprised and a bit stumped. The one thing that occurred to them was that it is more expensive and difficult to go on holiday as Single people. Tours are organized for married couples, so a Single person is out of place and has to pay more. I think by this they meant the "Single supplement", which I know well myself. The women I spoke to solved this problem by going on holiday together.
And that, poppets, is all I can tell you about being Single in Poland, so I invite Polish readers, both Poles-in-Poland and Polonia, to enlighten us in the combox today.
*Exception that proves the rule: America magazine.