Thursday, 8 December 2011

Nagging Young Women's Boyfriends Day

The other day I heard the depressing story of a woman in Britain, no longer young, who is waiting for the Leap Year, so she can ask her boyfriend to marry her. In a way this seems very old-fashioned, as the tradition is that this is the one acceptable day women can ask men to marry them. But it also sounds like one long humiliation. Years gone by, the boyfriend's elderly neighbours may have said something to him like, "Such-and-such is a nice girl. When are you going to do right by her?"

"Mind your own business," the boyfriend might have snarled.

"It is our business," the elderly might have shot back. "Nice girl, Such-and-such. Known her all our lives. Know her people. Knew her people's people."

And then the boyfriend might have slunk off sulkily but newly clued in to the ideas that 1.) public behaviour, like courting or living with a woman for umpteen months or years, is kind of public and 2.) his girlfriend is well-thought of in the community and 3.) the community is somewhat disapproving of him for what they perceive to be a wrong to his girlfriend.

I am of course opposed to married people picking on single people and demanding of them why they are not married. I am especially opposed to married people picking on single women and demanding to know why they are not married or, worse, offering hypotheses for their single state. In the West, it has never been the job of a woman to hunt for a husband; it has been the job of a man to hunt for a wife.

But that's "a wife." I am not terrifically thrilled by men who hunt for a girlfriend solely to have a girlfriend and then to string her along for years and years. That's one reason why I think adult women (out of school) should start to re-evaluate her commitment to any boyfriend who has not mentioned marriage in a whole 12 months of dating.

Personally, I cannot imagine why any seriously religious woman (out of school) would date any man for more than 12 months without a whisper of a hint of marriage, given the sexual temptations, the where-is-this-going anxiety and, eventually, the boredom. However, a thought has just occurred to me, and I suppose it is because she is in love with him, poor thing.

That is why it is up to the community once again to start nagging Mr. Dragging His Feet. Marriage would actually be good for Mr. Dragging His Feet, but men are an eenie-weenie bit scared of marriage, in the same way they are an eenie-weenie bit scared of bears. I can just imagine a man admitting he was scared of bears, however, especially to men who have faced bears and won.

Other Men (chuckling): So, I guess you're scared of bears, son, eh?

I, Seraphic, have a really hard time keeping my mouth shut around Catholic men (out of school) who have been dating the same woman for years and years with no mention of a ring. "Marry or move on" I spit between my teeth, uncomfortably knowing that if they moved on, their girlfriends would be initially devastated. I don't know personally if it is more devastating to be left by Mr Wonderful after 13 months of dating, or by Mr Dragging His Feet after five years of dating, but I am guessing the latter because five years is a way bigger investment than 13 months, and time is something women are a bit sensitive about.

It feels better to dump a guy for not getting to the point than to be dumped by a guy who has found "someone better", that is for darn tootin'. And I think if all adult women (out of school) gave suitors no more than a year and a month to come to scratch, men would stop dragging their lazy man feet about marriage. I can just imagine it: lovely women, all shiny and new, intriguing, exciting and slightly mysterious for twelve months and then---RRRRRAAAAAH! Godzilla. Or at least a raised eyebrow and "Where is this going? Because if it isn't going anywhere, buddy boy, I've got places to go, people to see and there's this new guy in the parish who keeps looking up at me when I'm in the queue for Communion."

Until women get that kind of gumption, however, I leave it to their neighbours, families and friends to start clearing their throats and making short but pointed observations to their long-term boyfriends.


FrB said...

I am reminded of the story told about Patrick & Mary, an Irish bachelor and spinster who had been walking out together for a long time. Time was pushing on, and Patrick being very shy, Mary thought it opportune to take the initiative. As he escorted her home after a dance one evening, she steered the conversation around to matrimonial matters. "What would you think," she said, "about us getting married?"
"Getting married?" replied Patrick, genuinely puzzled. "Sure, who'd want either of us?"

Anna said...

I am of course opposed to married people picking on single people and demanding of them why they are not married. I am especially opposed to married people picking on single women and demanding to know why they are not married or, worse, offering hypotheses for their single state.

A married friend posted a link to this on facebook:

I asked him why he posted that because it's difficult, as a single person, not to take it a bit personally (he assured me he did not post it with any of his single friends in mind).

I hope that I am not single because of any of those reasons but because of my God-given right to be picky and that the Perfect Man for Me simply hasn't come along.

This was a great post, thank you.

healthily sanguine said...

This is why NCB should have a spiritual director. I know this is highly hypocritical, as *I* should have a spiritual director and currently do not. Still, I think it's even more essential for guys to have the spiritual director, though for everyone it's essential . . . that's not making sense. But do you know what I mean? Because a good priest is worth his weight in platinum as a personal advisor, and depending on circumstance may be the only sane advice a guy can get in this crazy, wacked out culture!

berenike said...

I thought it was a post about a day for men who have nagging girlfriends (no rly).

Anna said...

Or at least a raised eyebrow and "Where is this going? Because if it isn't going anywhere, buddy boy, I've got places to go, people to see and there's this new guy in the parish who keeps looking up at me when I'm in the queue for Communion."

I get the impression that most women over 25 do not have "someone waiting in the wings", usually because we are no longer in environments with many eligible single men. It's the fear of not being in a relationship, of not meeting a new special someone, that paralyzes many women and keeps them in relationships with men do not feel passionately about them.

I am not sure how to fix this problem. Gumption, perhaps, as you said, and self-worth, and a commitment to not settling.

Nzie (theRosyGardener) said...

I kind of nagged a friend once, an NCB, because he's been seeing this girl for five years and really cares for her (I basically said I understood not getting married while he finished school, but why not engaged?). Then he explained she's Hindu and he loves her but she needs to be Catholic first (and they're from a country with a huge Muslim majority, so it's all tricky). After that I decided not to nag anyone. But maybe if I were a bit older I'd start back up again. Even at 25 I find myself having "Kids these days" moments about the just-out-of-undergrads around me.

Also, I think some of this benefits from more traditional community mentalities as well... back in the day, someone might say to a fellow, "You know, Miss So-and-So seems like a lovely girl," or "You've been out walking with Miss This-and-That pretty often," and go from there.

Seraphic said...

Nzie, asking him why he didn't marry his girlfriend strikes me as a good and ,oving thing to have done, and he certainly had a good and plausible and maybe even respectful reason why not.

But, Anna--TWENTY-FIVE? TWENTY-FIVE? Listen, 25 is not a cut-off from anything. If I were 25 and--ahem--not married, I would be cutting a SWATH! Okay, if I were 25 but knew what I know now, I would be cutting a swath.

Seraphic said...

Fr B, I howled. Then I read it to B.A., and he howled too. :-D

Tina aka Snupnjake said...

Anna, there's not settling but then there is passing up Mr. Perfectly Acceptable waiting for an imaginary Prince Charming. I know some women who are just too picky.

Anna said...

@Seraphic: I had being in a university environment in mind when I typed 25. And let's face it, the older you get, the fewer available singles there are.

@Tina: It is just as well women pass up Mr Perfectly Acceptable because they probably would not make him very happy.

Charming Disarray said...

What about guys who talk about getting married constantly, and make vague plans about getting engaged at Christmas and married the next year, and then subtlety keep postponing it for stupid reasons which they blow way out of proportion. (This is a rhetorical question, since obviously the answer is to break up with them, but sometimes several years have gone by before it's clear what's going on.)

Mustard Seed said...

What about Mr. Realistically Awesome? Someone who is a normal, flawed, yet wonderful guy who makes you feel safe, happy, maybe even inspired, and thankful to God that you met him (though hopefully you were already pretty happy on your own)? That is my hope. I think I have realistic expectations, hopes, and dealbreakers. Seraphic do you have any pointers on how we can self-check against being overly picky or unrealistic?

It seems like being single, self-reliant, and open to dating puts a person in a heckuva lot closer position to marriage than dating the wrong/noncommittal/non-causing-right-feelings-in-your-gut guy. And it feels a million times better too, even when it gets lonely.

Gumption is crucial - one has to look out for herself. I remember on ER (I used to love that show), there was a nurse-doctor couple (Chunie and Dr. Greene, if anyone else used to watch it) who were dating for awhile, and she told him "My brothers are starting to wonder what your intentions are towards me." Not having any brothers, I can't use this line, but it was one of many ways to point out that some clarification of plans was in order if he wanted to keep her.

KimP said...

Ideally, I think we need to look for a man who brings up the subject of marriage by himself, well before the 12 months are up. If he is thrilled to have met you, is in love with you, and is over the age of 30, I don't see why a man wouldn't propose within a year, if not six months.

These are the men we should be considering. Signs that we are being overly picky: he doesn't have the exact job we want him to have; he isn't as tall as we would like; he's too nice.

Little Mary said...

I love the Mr. Realistically Awesome title!!

Just another Catholic Girl said...

First off, thank you for the better mobile phone viewing! I'm a girl on the go and this is much more convenient! :-)

@ charming disarray : I just recently got out of that same very situation. I strangely felt good about walking away from Mr. Dragging His Feet. Even though the heart ache is still here, it was the right thing to do for me. I don't want someone who doesn't love me enough to scream to the world that they want to marry me.

What is wrong these days that so many guys are afraid of commitment? Even the NCB are afraid sometimes, I got it firsthand.

Seraphic Spouse said...

Charming Disarray, how awful. The only thing for a woman in that situation to do is not go happily along with the stupid excuse, but to remain rooted in reality, look that stupid excuse right in the eye and say, "That's a stupid excuse you're blowing out of proportion, and either you set the wedding date now, or I walk."

Mustard Seed, if you think he's fantastic, he makes you go weak in the knees and he and your favourite older female relation get on like a house on fire, marry him. If not, don't. I don't think women are too picky about choosing husbands, although I think they are too picky about accepting dates. My feeling is that every decent (and I do mean decent), polite Christian boy deserves three dates before you judge him worthy or not worthy of more of your leisure time.

Mustard Seed, I think you can use that line even if you don't have any brothers. That makes it as funny as it is pointed.

I am at one with Kim P on the "too nice" business. If you don't like a guy because he's "too nice", you need to talk to a therapist. We all deserve guys who are as nice as they can possibly be. My husband is one of the nicest men I know. Everybody likes him because he is so friendly and good-natured and constantly cracks jokes.

Just Another Catholic Girl, I didn't have anything to do with the signal or format or whatever. So thank Blogger! Meanwhile, men are afraid of commitment these days because most men are now afraid of commitment because there has been a huge shift in men's attitudes towards commitment since the early 1950s. There are a huge number of factors, including the divorce rate, child custody battles and the much, much easier (and cheaper) access to premarital sex.

Premarital sex can be likened to the pacifist option German boys use to get out of their otherwise mandatory military service. The option is there for men who really are pacifists and would never hurt another person, even in self-defense. However, most middle-class German boys, whether they are or are not pacifists, sit down and write an essay on how tremendously pacifist they are so they don't have to squish around in the mud with rifles but take Meals on Wheels to grannies instead.

I think this is stupid because my brother did basic training and he absolutely loved it, and I am sure I would enjoy squishing around in the mud with rifles if I were a 19 year old German boy, and that many of the soi-disant "pacifists" would too.

On the other hand, it's not a perfect analogy because the German social services would collapse without its wave upon wave of 19 year old "pacifists". However, speaking from my safe and lofty heights as someone who is part German, I will say that Germans are tremendously conformist and tend to go with what the majority thinks. And therefore they are a lot like men because no matter how many men claim they are different from t the rest of the herd, they get their cues from how to be men from each other. I've noticed that when write about porn on the internet, they say "Like every other normal man, I watch porn." Nice try, dirt bags.

Anna said...

If men take their cues from other men, does it follow that women take their cues from other women?

Seraphic Spouse said...

No, it doesn't! Good heavens! What is the cardinal rule of this blog? Men aren't women and vice versa!

That's not to say women don't take cues from other women, but that is a whole different conversation. But we must clear up the whole wrong idea that because men act a certain way means women act a certain way, and vice versa. Much of the misery between the sexes (and medical ignorance around women's own health issues) comes from a confusion about whow and why men and women are the same in some ways and different in others.

Anna said...

Would like to see more about that topic. What kinds of things would men look to other men for cues on, but women wouldn't look to other women?

Seraphic said...

Well, how to treat women, for a start! And how to be a man.

The Crescat said...

Blah. Just reading this after ending a relationship that looked promising to a Mr. Realistically Awesome with a bad case of split personality Mr. Charming Tell Ya What Ya Want to Hear. Expect a pathetic email arriving in your shortly, Auntie.

Emma said...

Have to agree with Anna on this one Seraphic. Unfortunately, it can be hard to meet new singles after college. As you pointed out, how many of us have ever been to a parish dance?

I remember a young man saying that the diocese where I live was worried that young adult groups in the diocese were being used by young adults as places to go look for a spouse. I tried not to groan too loudly.