Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Mark Shea Gets It

Yesterday Aussie Girl in Australia mentioned in the combox that Mark Shea had apologized to sexual assault survivors and taken down his offending post mentioning Lara Logan. It was quite late when I saw that, but I clicked over to Mark Shea's place and behold. (Ignore the dumber comments by the almost entirely male commentators. In fact, just skip the combox this time.)

That's one thing I like about Mark Shea: he is willing to admit when he is wrong, apologize and make amends by taking posts down. He lets you see his conscience at work, which is very brave, I must say.

Meanwhile, Mark's mea culpa reminded me of my post on his offending post, in which I suggest that any married man blogger think about his wife before posting anything touching on sexual assault:

I kept mulling it over, largely focusing on the logic and arguments and not really thinking beyond that. Then something occurred to me.

Would I have written it had my own wife been a survivor of rape? If the discussion has opened old wounds for her, would I have said it? The answer was a very clear, “No.” Nothing was worth making her cry or hurt. Even landing a good punch on real defenders of real evil. In fact, to do so was to fail to see her humanity, which is what defenders of torture do to their victims.

"Logic," said Spock's mother to Spock in Star Trek IV (or was it V?), "is only the beginning of wisdom."

When it comes to women's pain, the eyes of the heart see more clearly that the cold gaze of logic. I think this good advice for men who are absolutely bewildered by women's grief and anger.

And now I'm going to take my own post down, as it has served its purpose. And I hope what sexual assault survivors understand from my post and will now take from Mark Shea's apology is that we--your fellow Catholics, or just your fellow decent human beings--are listening to you. What you say and feel matters. We respect your feelings and opinions, and we don't want to add to your hurt. We hope for your healing, and we pray for an end to sexual violence.

Monday, 30 January 2012

When You Can't Stand Her Man

Is there anything more annoying than seeing your pal eat her heart out over a complete jerk? It's really awful. You hear all about Scooter (let's call him Scooter) and thus you are naturally interested in meeting this paragon. And then you meet Scooter and you are horrified. It's not who Scooter is--it's not that he's too old or too young or too foreign or too whatever, for you are a fair-minded woman--it's what he says or does to your friend and perhaps says or does to you.

And then, inevitably, your friend calls you up and asks, "What do you think?!" Or maybe she doesn't ask, even though you are dying for her to ask, so that you can try to shake sense into her addled brain, and you feel terribly unhappy.

For many years, I was under the impression that it was pointless and indeed counter-productive to tell a female friend what I thought of her boyfriend or crush object. I noticed, in high school, that a boyfriend could most definitely come between two friends and if a girl said, "I don't like your boyfriend," that could be the end of a beautiful friendship. This struck me as very stupid, as I had also noticed that high school romances didn't last that long whereas women often keep their high school pals for the rest of their lives.

But I didn't want to lose my friends, so I kept a shut-mouth policy well into university and beyond. I more-or-less kept my mouth shut about the fact that I didn't like what this friend's boyfriend said or did until after the boyfriend was history. Then I would let fly.

This policy changed, however, after a very good friend ended up in a long-term abusive relationship that left her a shadow of her former self. And it occurred to me that keeping my mouth shut was cowardly and that if a friendship can't survive me saying "I don't like his attitude towards.../I don't like how he treats you", then the friendship wasn't that strong in the first place.

So now I have become a menace to the male sex. When a woman asks me "What do you think of him?" I tell her what I think of him. If I think he's really cute, I tell her that I think he's really cute. If I think he is deeply unattractive, I communicate that he is deeply unattractive.

However, there are ways of doing this. I have had two bits of feedback in recent months about decisions women made about men based on what I said about them. Of course I am longing to share.

The first was by a very young and beautiful girl with a sunny, trusting view of the world. She believed that the middle-aged grad student who had asked to come along with her to church really had done so because he was interested in Catholicism. Ah ha ha ha. Oldest trick in the non-Catholic book. After an initially friendly chat with the middle-aged grad student, I was 100% sure he was not interested in Catholicism but in my very young and beautiful friend. Which I told her. I did not add that I was all too familiar with that kind of chippy, defensive, domineering, self-loathing kind of middle-aged male graduate student. Instead I just remarked that he was a hundred and two. And, apparently, that number stuck in her head. X, he's a hundred and two. (By the way, I cheerfully confess that I myself am fully a hundred and two.)

The second was by a friend who at the time had been ground down by a terrible relationship and so, of course, was ripe to be ground down by another one. I was really very frightened that she would consent to go out with this overbearing guy--her landlord, in fact. I was very down on the idea of her having dinner with this landlord, who was also, incidentally, a slumlord. And when I met the land/slumlord, I was even more down on the idea. Really, I was frantic.

"You said he had a head shaped like a potato," said my friend, years later. And that is what had stuck in her head. For he did have a head shaped like a potato, and she seeing his head as I saw his head broke the spell he was weaving.

I am not sure what sort of universal lesson I can make out of two anecdotes. After all, I have a counter-anecdote, in which I offered female solidarity to a Catholic woman whose boyfriend--whom all her friends despised--was pressuring her for sex and although she had told all the girls this, she told me in friendship-ending terms to mind my own business.

My counter-example leads me to the conclusion that you might be want to be super-diplomatic about lousy boyfriends when it comes to women who aren't your best friends. And you might want to wait until a woman asks for your opinion--explicitly or implicitly--before you say anything. (If she is sporting a black eye or is otherwise obviously miserable, I'd take the plunge though, personally.) And when you are choosing words, if you do choose to choose words, pick a startling image--something short, pithy and arguably "non-judgmental" that just seems to sum up the man, or what he looks like--that will be sure to linger in your friend's mind. You might have a lot more influence over your friend's opinions than you think.

Update: Before anyone asks, I have to say I think it even riskier to say what you think of a guy's girlfriend. Heavens! Unless he's your brother, of course, and he's already feeling unhappy. Don't tick off your boyfriends' sisters, girls.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

It's My Birthday Too, Yeah!

Well, hello there, poppets! It is my birthday today, so I am in a mood to discuss birthdays which, at least in the Anglo-Saxon world, appear to be more important to girls than to guys. I will not state categorically that birthdays are more important to girls than to guys because I try to save my gross generalizations for more important stuff.

Anyway, when you are Single, but sometimes also when you are married, because of the guys-not-always-getting-the-importance-of birthdays factor, making the most of your birthday is up to you. Not telling anybody it is your birthday and then getting more and more depressed all day about an uncaring world before crying yourself asleep at night is just plain wrong.

Forget that. If you are the sort of woman--like me--who cares about birthdays and thinks of her birthday--as I think of my birthday--as a temporal extension of her very SELF, then you have to do a lot of prep.

First of all, you have to let everybody know that your birthday is coming up. Facebook has made this easier than ever, for Facebook can tell all your Facebook friends for you. But you can also let your friends know by inviting them to a par-tay. Unless you are up to 90% certain your best pals are throwing you a surprise party, you have to do this yourself. Frankly, I don't think it matters who organizes it, just as long as it is organized.

Second of all, you must buy yourself a little present. Or several little presents. Or a big present. I, for example, bought myself a manicure. For one shining hour this morning, I sat across from a very nice manicurist, an excellent conversationalist, and watched the transformation of my fingernails. And yesterday I popped into a charity shop and, seeing the perfect little green dress for £6.50, bought it to wear today.

Third of all, you must do a birthday thing on your actual birthday. My birthday dinner has been moved to Friday night because of the difficulties of having a party on Thursday night when 90% of our parties end at 2 AM. But, you know, Friday is not my birthday. If you are a birthday purist, as am I, it is okay to have delayed birthday celebration, but only if you do something nice on your birthday. So I had lunch out with B.A. and coffee out with a friend who can't make it tomorrow.

And now another friend has dropped by as a surprise and I must go...!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Just a Number

To repeat, my three cardinal rules of dealing with men are as follow:

1. Men are who they are, and not who you want them to be.
2. Men are attracted to whom they are attracted and not to whom you think they should be attracted.
3. You can find out what men think, but you won't always like it.

This is not to say there is not a certain amount of pain wrapped up in this. An older woman I know--once a great beauty, if this adds to the story--bought a computer from her son's pal. She found p*rn on it, and she was devastated. She could hardly believe that that nice young man thought of women that way, and when next she saw him, she gave him a look. He blushed to the ears.

In this case a woman had merely stumbled on a guilty secret. The young man had no idea that his pal's mother had taken it personally--something the defenders of p*rn don't really get. They think the women who admit they don't like it are joyless prudes, but in fact we don't like it because we don't like what it says about women, which is to say, ourselves. Every dirty photograph is a judgement, a measure, standard: this is what a man thinks a woman is supposed to look like. And this is why breast implants and Brazilian waxes are now mainstream, and why some women now submit to genital cosmetic surgery. Such women want to be "normal", and this is what "men" (and women long for men) have said is normal and desirable.

But then there are men who make no secret of the fact that they have certain, quantifiable standards. Older men tend not to reveal them in front of women; either they have become kinder or they have learned some sense. But there are still, as there were when I was a teenager, young men who will shout numbers out car windows as women walk by.

Such a trivial incident, and such an ugly suburban parking lot, outside such a 1980s excuse for a suburban dance club--and yet I can still remember the three of us girls looking up, startled, as a car pulsating with music cruised past and young male voices shouted "6! 7! 7.5!"

In case the ranking is different where you are, these numbers were out of "10." "10" was the name of a film starring Bo Derek; when it appeared in cinemas,I was too young to see it, but I understood that "10" was what Bo Derek was, and her braided hair inspired a craze for braids among white girls, including little white girls like me.

I know the numbers change from country to country because a man casually bragged to me of the magical golden proportions expected of women in his country, and I went blind for a second. Actually blind. I've met one of his country's most elite scientists, a young Single woman, intense, incredibly intelligent, devout, attractive--and possibly not fitting into the magical golden proportions although how would I know? It would never have occurred to me in a million years to see her that way. Although I suppose if she walked down the street back home, that's all certain men would see: Oops, no golden proportions. Not for me.

My momentary blindness was caused by rage, and please don't ask me what the golden proportions are because I don't want to ruin your day. It's bad enough to have to tell you that some men--and not just sociopaths on the internet--still think like that. And I was not just mad for this scientist, and all of you, but for myself, because of course I do not fit those magical golden proportions either. And although it was completely illogical to feel hurt by that, I did. In A Handmaid's Tale (Opowiesc podrecznej), the Unwomen are all sent out to clean up radioactive areas; I think Atwood was channeling women's deep, deep fear of being considered Unwomen by men, any men.

But I should stress that some men still think like that. Not all men think like that. Very sensibly, I did what all happily married women should do when they are grappling with male psychology and consulted my husband.

"Is there some sort of magical proportion standard for women's bodies in Britain?" I asked.

Poor B.A. Now that I think about it, this is a heck of a question to ask a fellow when he first wakes up in the morning.

"No," said B.A. "Well, there was a lot of interest in Pippa Middleton's bottom, of course."

"I don't think anyone talked in terms of numbers, though, did they?" I said, greatly cheered.

"Maybe British men are bad at maths," said B.A.

Good. Or rather, good that they haven't agreed on a way to reduce women to numbers. Being reduced to mere bodies is bad enough, being reduced to numbers is truly dehumanizing.

Monday, 23 January 2012


Sometimes I actually do censor myself. Wait a week or so for today's post. It was satisfactorily ranty, but prudence, prudence...

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Beauty and the Market

Coco Chanel famously said that any woman who, after the age of 25, looks into the mirror to be pleased is a fool. But never mind mirrors. This is the age of the image--even more, I imagine, than in Coco Chanel's day. Worse, it is the age of the doctored image, so that most of the images of women we see don't look exactly like the models themselves. In related news, Cindy Crawford's daughter has begun her modelling career at the age of ten.

I don't need to tell you how this makes the rest of us feel, although of course feeling inadequate in the looks department is nothing new. When asked if she had any regrets in life, American former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, a woman of enormous accomplishment and popularity, said she wished she had been prettier.

To channel a very early blog post, I once complained to my mother about my lack of early success in attracting boys. I felt majorly ripped off that I did not look like Brooke Shields, for example. If I looked like Brooke Shields, I was certain, all the boys would like me.

"If you looked like Brooke Shields," said my mother, "you would just have her problems."

That made a deep impression on me at the time because I knew Brooke had played a child prostitute in Pretty Baby, and she was also famous for having also been in The Blue Lagoon and Endless Love, all of which films no one my age (or, indeed, Brooke's age when she made them) was allowed to see. Grown men did seem to have a prurient interest in very young, very beautiful girls, and they hadn't changed by 1996 when Liv Tyler starred in Stealing Beauty.

All the same, though. All the same. All the same, it does feel to many of us girls that we have just missed out on seizing the apples on the tip-top of the beauty tree. Of course, it doesn't occur to us that this is because not-so-stellar-in-the-looks-department men and women are nevertheless attracted to each other and thus produce millions of not-so-stellar-in-the-looks-department babies, including most of us. Just so long as we are clean and good-tempered, what we look like shouldn't matter a damn. Unless we are selling stuff. Ah, there's the rub.

I am brooding on all this because I have been out having my photograph taken by B.A. This is for an official "author photograph" and frankly I would have gone to a professional, were we not so intensely broke in that way people so often are after Christmas. (Did you know that if you make carrot-coriander soup from scratch, 8 servings cost only about 90p whereas two servings from a can of Baxter's cost £1.09? Fact.)

The session filled me with gloom until B.A. began to shout "Cracking!" in the way photographers do in movies, which I now realize is to make the models smile more naturally. And he also took 88 photos, which was equally cheering because the essence of having a good photo taken is good luck. The more photos taken, the greater the likelihood that one of them will look good. If you aren't beautiful, there is always the hope that you might look striking, like Jane Morris or Tilda Swinton or the lady monster from Where the Wild Things Are.

In some lights I look like the lady monster from Where the Wild Things Are, but in others I look as though I might have descended from Jane Morris. And this false family resemblance--although I am perfectly well aware that what we do is so infinitely superior to what we merely look like--has long been a source of comfort to me.

Friday, 20 January 2012

The Merciful Penance of Silence

I am sure I have blogged two or three times on this before, but I had a question the other day that has inspired me to blog on it again.

The topic is "Assuaging Feelings of Guilt by Blabbing."

Now, I will be the first to admit that talking makes me feel good. If I feel badly about something, I want to talk and talk and talk until I feel better. This is often at one in the morning, so it is fortunate that most of my female friends live in a different time zone.

However, over the years, I have learned what to tell my friends, and which friends to tell, and when I absolutely must keep my mouth shut and just suffer in silence. And when it is something that is clearly my fault and I feel guilty about it, even though I have made amends to whomever (if applicable/wise) and gone to confession, then I know that suffering in silence is part of my penance. And it is a merciful penance.

It is a merciful penance because although God forgives, the world does not. And if you don't forgive yourself enough to keep your own counsel, what makes you think the world will forgive you when you don't? And I'm not just talking about the world's delight in humiliating its enemies--look at all the mud it slings at Sarah Palin. I'm also talking about the actual harm public confessions can do to innocent people in the world.

For example, recently in Canada, the lawyer of a bishop caught with child porn on his computer explained to the court that the bishop was not a pedophile, really, but a homosexual who had had a series of homosexual one night stands and been in a secret homosexual relationship for ten years.

Maybe the court was, like, "Aw. Poor guy. Time served. Send him home." But Canadian Catholics were, like, "Say WHAT?! Our bishop also WHAT?!"

There are some sins that just grab the imagination of even very easygoing, very live-and-let-live, very kindly people and don't let go. Sexual sins are big on the list, thanks to the power sex has over the human imagination. Sacrilege is a biggy because of our passionate feelings for the sacred. (And combine sex with sacrilege--like having an affair with a priest--and blam! No Catholic who knows will ever forget.) Killing people or even family pets: yikes. Beating up people who were smaller than you at the time: ouch.

If you have committed these kinds of sins, no matter how sorry you are and no matter how much you have changed your life, they can colour other people's perceptions of you in ways you probably will not like and in ways that are not good for them.

St. Augustine, one of the most important Catholic Christian thinkers ever and writer of almost countless homilies and treatises, is unfortunately most famous for saying "Make me chaste, but not yet."

Thomas Merton, who wrote many beautiful books, was famous at my Canadian theology schools for having had an affair with a nurse. One elderly student proclaimed aloud that this should be evidence towards his canonization.

A much more likely candidate for canonization, a woman, was a modern-day St. Francis in her love for the poor, but it turns out she had an abortion before she became a Christian. She regretted this terribly and, as I suspect she knew perfectly well, if this had been widely known in her lifetime, she would not have gotten an iota of support for her sometimes controversial work. It is still not widely known, which is why I have not mentioned her name. I once read that someone justified her abortion by saying that this woman had had one; and all I can say is that the probable-saint would have been in agony had she heard that.

Before this talk-show, reveal-all age, people crept off timidly to confess their sins to priests, confident in the seal of the confessional, and to doctors, confident in doctors' codes of confidentiality. The seal and the codes are there for a reason, which is that there is a danger that people will be terribly hurt if their sins become common knowledge. Other people will be hurt, too. You think the other boys at school never told Princes William and Harry what the tabloids were saying about their parents' sins?

We are all sinners, and it is good to remember that, but it is not good to air to the whole world the exact particulars. So if you are feeling particularly badly about stuff you have done, even after going to confession, I recommend talking about it again to a priest in the confessional or to a therapist bound by a professional code of confidentiality. I absolutely beg you not to write about it on the internet, where it would remain forever. Such silence is not cowardice; it is prudence. And prudence is the "cause, measure and form of all virtues."

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Oh, Women! Oh, Men!

"Oh!" exclaimed a man at a party in abject frustration. "Oh, women!"

"Wave your hands around when you say that," I suggested.

He complied.

"Oh, women!"

I do not foresee that men will stop crying "Oh, women!" in confused frustration or that women will cease to shout "Arrrgh! Men!" anytime soon. At least, I hope not. If we cease to be staggered at the mystery of each other, we will certainly become bored.

Of course, when I say this, I immediately think of a young man named... Let me see. What will I call him? I think I will call him Jason. Something like a quarter of the Canadian men of my generation were named Jason.

Jason was a teenage pro-lifer when I was a teenage pro-lifer, only I believe he was 17 when I was 19. And I thought he was really, really cute. A lot of the other girls though he was really, really cute. He was a small-town boy, possibly even sort of a farming boy, and Protestant and also only 17, so he was not an ideal boyfriend for yours truly, the uber-urban, Catholic 19 year old Seraphic. But all the same I sighed a bit, as did all the other girls.


But we sighed in vain for he never showed any of us more than friendly attention, just as if he were a fellow girl, and then one day we had the most awful shock for out of the blue he announced that he was engaged to a 22 year old waitress.

Chagrin is one word that could sum up how we girls all felt about that. I in particular felt chagrin on account of having felt a bit of a cougar at 19 for having sighed over a 17 year old, and here he was actually engaged to a 22 year old waitress.

But one must wear the mask, and the next time I spoke to him, I congratulated him on his engagement. And he said--I have never forgotten this as it completely blew my mind--"I can't believe I've actually found a girl who likes me!"

MEN! Oh, MEN!!!!!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012


Occasionally I get an email that has nothing to do with being Single and everything to do with being unpublished novelists. One common question is "Do I really have to follow the submission guidelines?", and I always say "Yes. Yes, you have to write the plot summary. Yes, you have to write all the apparatus. Yes, you have to change the cool font into Times New Roman."

Right now I am writing my own back-of-cover blurb while stressing over which established people might give me blurbs. And this is so time-consuming, no Singles advice do I have for you today.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Bad at Relationships?

I had a letter the other day from a reader who claimed she was bad at relationships. The rest of her email suggested she had many healthy relationships. But of course what she meant was "man & woman & sexual spark" relationships.

A lot of my readers do that--you talk about being bad "at relationships" when in fact you have many healthy relationships: with parents, siblings, work colleagues, students, professors, priests, the waitress who serves you coffee every day, female friends and even male friends. I think, therefore, that you are psyching yourselves out when you claim that you are bad at "relationships."

One of the enduring problems of our age is that we privilege "man & woman & sexual spark" relationships above absolutely every other relationship. But I think they should just take their place humbly among our well-established relationships with family members and our old friends.

A husband, interestingly enough, is a family member; it is another problem of our age that we do not recognize this and that "man & woman & sexual spark" is no longer (in English-speaking communities) put in the appropriate context of expanding a family. When I met my husband, I soon realized how much my family would like him and enjoy having him as a family member. And I was quite right.

"Okay then," I hear various voices pipe up, "we're good at most relationships. We're just bad at dating relationships."

But again I don't buy it. What does it mean to be good at a dating relationship? Ideally a dating relationship is a man and a woman who like each other, and get a bit wobbly and excited by just seeing the other, getting together to share interests, like a film or the museum or a marathon or a hockey game, and also meals and conversations. And out of these experiences, they singly and then together decide if they should make some kind of formal commitment or cease to go about so much together.

Very often they decide that they shouldn't commit and they shouldn't go about so much together. One or the other just isn't feeling it. And that is not being bad at dating relationships. No-one is to blame if you or the guy just doesn't feel a lasting attachment. Yes, it's disappointing, but it's also disappointing when your ticket doesn't win the lottery. You can't hurry love, as the song says. You just have to wait.

Meanwhile, another problem is not you but the current culture of dating relationships. To make a grand generalization, many men are rather messed up right now, and therefore are not so much on the hunt for wives, per se, but for girlfriends/bedmates. The courtship process for getting a girlfriend is not the same thing as the process for getting a wife, and so it is very difficult for the Catholic woman who does not want to have sex before marriage to navigate male attention. Fortunately, around the age of thirty men (particularly men from traditional cultures or who have returned to the practice of their faith) are often tired of messing around and just want to find a nice girl with whom to settle down.

And the only way I can think of to put up with this state of affairs is to keep the bonds strong with the real relationships in your life--with God, family, friends, colleagues, the waitress in the coffee shop, et alia--so that you have a lot of emotional support while you carry on with your life, all the while with a beautiful little hope (and it is beautiful, if kept small and in proportion) for the right man to come along one day.

Meanwhile, the one thing I can see many women being bad at is being rooted in reality when it comes to "man + woman + spark" relationships. We meet a handsome guy who seems nice and our minds race to months or even years ahead. We think "handsome=good" and "friendly=into me". And then when we are confronted with reality, we too often sweep it under the carpet because facing it would be too painful. ("No, no, no. Anyone that handsome must be a good guy.") We mentally write out a little history of how the future will go and we write a character description for a man we barely know, and then we defend our little mental compositions from the reality of NOW and the reality of HIM, the real guy, a man invented by God, not Jane Austen, and conditioned by his masculinity and his experiences in life, experiences you know almost nothing about yet. And this is simply crazy behaviour. It's like deliberately setting out on a journey with the wrong map.

It would, then, behoove everyone to approach "man + woman + spark" relationships in the same spirit adult women make new adult women friends: with friendliness, with caution, with much thought, with slowly growing emotional intimacy, and in appropriate proportion to relationships with family and old friends.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Hilary Cancer Free

Thanks from a friend of Hilary's to everyone who said a prayer or donated a dollar towards Hilary White's fight against cancer. See Hilary's news here.

Cancer is really a lousy thing to have, as I never really thought about until Hilary got it. I personally have been taking steps to prevent those cancers which can be prevented. For me that means more exercise, more veg, more fruit, more fibre, zero crisps, zero pie shops and much less booze. Also, as all sexually active (or formerly sexually active) women should do, I get regular tests for cervical cancer.

Long-time readers already know how I feel about sunbathing and tanning. Bad, bad, bad. At 40, I have better skin than some friends in their early 30s. And why? Well, it's partly genetic. But it's partly because I shun the sun. In Italy, Hilary and I wore huge floppy hats and long linen skirts as I pushed her wheelchair up and down cheeky little hills to the doctor's office. I only went into the sea once before dusk, and that's when I was there on holiday with that madman B.A. (After 20 minutes I fled for shelter, thus avoiding the nasty sunburn he got.)

Anyway, yay for the good news, boo to cancer, and into the cart with the fruit and veg. I think I will have an eeny glass of wine tonight to celebrate Hilary's cancer-freedom.

Thursday, 12 January 2012


Now THIS is a really good post. Check it out!

Dear Most Devoted Fans...

I have a question pertaining to my book Seraphic Singles/The Closet's All Mine/Anielskie Single, so you can answer only if you've read it.

In May I will be in Krakow at a retreat built around Anielskie Single. The theme of the conference is "Brave Women," and I will be giving lectures on "Staying Sane While Single" (like at Notre Dame last year), Mulieris Dignitatem and femininity according to Saint Edith Stein. Maybe I will also talk about men although that would certainly take a lot of NERVE!

But I also want to read from Anielskie Single, and that will take a lot of practise. I read the first paragraph of "Laundry for One"/"Pralnia dla Samotnych" to my substitute tutor today, and it was challenging. (What a world of meaning lies hidden behind that modest word challenging.) Take, for example, the word przedstawiające. Lovely when the tutor says it; not so lovely from me.

Fortunately, I have four months to get it right, but I thought I'd ask you which pieces in the book you liked best and think I should read at the retreat.

It might seem foolhardy to actually attempt to read Polish on my own instead of relying entirely on the translator, but I do remember that on several occasions a certain Jan Paweł came to Canada and spoke to us all in English and French. So I think it would be just if I returned the compliment.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Majówka dla kobiet

Dzień dobry! If you live near Krakow, or would like to go to Krakow for a women's retreat, you might like to know that I will be giving three lectures (in English) at the Redemptorists' "Majówka dla kobiet" ("May holiday for women").

I will lecture on femininity according to Saint Edith Stein, how to stay sane while Single, and on John Paul II and Mulieris Dignitatem.

Please follow the link to the conference details HERE.

Excuse me while I have a small heart attack wondering how much more Polish I can learn before May 1st. Let all publishers note the lengths to which I am willing to go to support those who publish my stuff.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Suddenly Over Online Romances

My poll was even less scientific as usual, for I forgot to leave room for control groups. Alas. Well, anyway, 40 people (not a big slice of my daily readership) responded to the "Online Romance Suddenly Over Without Explanation" poll, 36 of them women and 4 of them men. Of the women, 28 have suddenly discovered internet silence where a man used to be, and 8 have done disappearing acts themselves. Of the 4 men, 3 have been abandoned, and one did the abandoning.

For readers' take on internet dating, see most of the comments here.

I am not sure what to say other than that unless you are actually frightened of a person, it is very disrespectful behaviour to abandon a friendly relationship--even an online friendly relationship--without an explanation. "I'm just not feeling a spark" counts as an explanation. "I'm not comfortable with your anger" does, too, if that's the problem.

If a very embarrassing situation has cropped up, like you have discovered that Mr Perfect was your little sister's hapless prom date, well, this is the sort of thing that separates the women from the flibbertigibbets. You should explain the situation, being straight to the point. Men tell me that they'd rather be told the truth then left hanging. So tell them the truth.

But don't tell them everything about yourself online. A lot of women have the bad habit of telling strangers our business, and online it strikes me as the equivalent of telling a man the end of a thriller just while he is absorbed in Chapter 2. If he really wants to get to know you, and if you really want to get to know him, you can darn well meet down at the doughnut shop. If you live in South Bend, and he lives in Boston, well, you're going to have to compromise on which doughnut shop.

There was a comment that worried about leading a man on by accepting three dates with him. I don't think that is leading a man on. Making a man think you might go out with him when you know you won't is leading a man on. Making him think you might sleep with him when you know you won't is leading him on. Making him think you might marry him when you know you won't is leading him on. Everything else is just you saying "Yes" to stuff you actually want to do. As long as whatever it is (e.g. going to a film) is morally licit, there's no problem.

One of the odder things about women, I have noticed, is that we tend to feel guilty about stuff we shouldn't feel guilty about and then not guilty about stuff for which we should feel guilty. If a man flies to your city to meet you, and then you don't fall in love with him, you shouldn't feel guilty about that. If a man flies to your city to meet you, takes you to dinner, you are smitten, he regretfully confesses he isn't smitten back, and in your hurt you tell everyone he led you on, you should feel guilty for that.

Monday, 9 January 2012

The Saddest War

The saddest war is the war between the sexes. And quite obviously there is no truce that blankets over Christendom.

When I was a teenager, there were Catholic boys of a conservative, traditional disposition who expressed their disappointment and frustration with women with such remarks as, "Women wear jewellery to give themselves worth."

This was devastating to the girls who took these boys seriously. And I must say it is rather demoralizing to try to live up to Catholic--instead of worldly--standards, flinching against the mockery of less devout, and sometimes blatantly contemptuous, people, when some Catholic boys themselves are telling you how worthless women are.

I am not sure what is at the heart of such attacks, which of course still take place today. It might be a backlash against a tendency in society to blame men for everything bad in society. Or it might be an illogical reaction to the men's own, not inconsiderable, sexual temptations. Or it could be disappointment that not all women are like beloved mothers and sisters but rather more complicated than them.

Or it could be horror that large numbers of women are willing to hire doctors to kill their unborn children. There does seem to be rather a contradiction in the fact that boys are told to never, ever, hit girls when the only people in our society who can kill with impunity are girls.

But being as old as I am, and being rather more aware (I hope) than the average young Catholic of the shocking horrors of which some men are capable of inflicting on women and children, I find it ludicrous that some Catholic men can still, echoing the testier, more misognynist views of classical and mediaeval theologians, hold that women are morally weaker than men.

I can only assume that at the heart of such a denunciation lies some serious pain. Discuss in the combox with every ounce of respect and charity you can scrounge.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Pirate Goes to London

In one last burst of activity, Pirate, Pirate's mother and Pirate's aunt rushed out of the house with all the luggage. Pirate's uncle was already in town, seeing about a last-minute present.

On the bus, I asked Pirate what his favourite part of Scotland was, and it is no longer Deep Sea World but Edinburgh Castle. Amusingly we saw his uncle on the street from the bus window, and there was much waving and gesturing of success and approval.

In the train station, I led Pirate and his mother the wrong way and then the right way, and there was Uncle, to whom Pirate ran with arms outstretched. Then we all got on the train and chatted until a train conductor began to speak over the intercom and B.A. and I disembarked.

B.A. was adamant that we go to the end of the platform, into the sun, to wave good-bye. Apparently this has something to do with The Railway Children. And no sooner had we got there but the train came roaring past, and there was a gap-toothed smiling face at a window, and Pirate was waving with all his might and main.

And that was them. Off they went to their weekend in London before Monday's Toronto flight. B.A. and I walked back down the platform and nipped into M&S to buy a few groceries and then took a smaller, slower train ourselves. We alighted early and took a path through some fields and some woods and returned to the Historical House. I put on some soup for lunch, and B.A. began to vacuum.

The house was unsually quiet. We had our soup and toast in the dining room.

"It was good that we got back into the habit of eating in the dining room," said B.A.

"Yes," I said.

"This afternoon I'l just read quietly in the sitting room," said B.A. "What a luxury!"

"Indeed," I said.

The sun is shining today. It shone through the round window in the dining room. We sipped our soup in the companionable quiet. I looked out the window and thought about our nephew, and how much we love him even though he drives everyone crazy quite a lot of the time.

"Guess what?" said B.A.

"Chicken butt," I said.


Thursday, 5 January 2012

Family Time

Oh, poppets, I so busy with family stuff. Busy, busy, busy. And I have to get my United Kingdom Indefinite Leave to Remain application together by tomorrow morning or I might guest star on UK Border Police as This Week's Deportee.

However, I did think of Single stuff today because I worked a bit on the May Anielskie Single retreat in Krakow and also on my Polish. And thus I first bored a very nice Polish Single by making him read me the Polish side of my vocabulary flashcards and then amused him by reading aloud Dialogue 1, Chapter 5 of Colloquial Polish.

It occurs to me that if you ever want to cheer up a homesick or generally depressed Polish student, anglophone you could always read to him or her in Polish. This never fails to make the Poles I know smile widely. Possibly this is because no matter how thick their accents in English, they will never be so bad as mine in Polish. But it could be because they love Polish so much they like to hear foreigners speak it. Or it could be the novelty of foreigners speaking it. At any rate, I recommend it.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Thoughts on "Hitch"

Last night after Pirate was in bed, the grown-ups watched "Hitch". Pirate's mother had seen it already, but B.A. and I had not. We were charmed. It was a charming movie.

The premise of this film was that a man who trained other men to woo women successfully fell in love himself and acted like a dork. The object of his affections was a gossip columnist, a woman who hunted down the romances of stars and wrote about them in her newspaper. The film dodged any accusation that the hero was just a game-playing scum-pig by casting Will Smith, one of the most likable stars in America. Also, Will Smith can do smooth and dorky at the same time--quite a feat.

The film also underscored the good intentions of its hero by showing the nice (but dorky) men he helped and the nasty man whom he refuses to help. Most of the men who consult "the date doctor" have crushes on specific women and dream of marrying them but are too frightened even to approach them. The nasty man just wants to "pump and dump," and the "date doctor" realizes that the nasty man doesn't even like women.

Sadly, the nasty man is a lot closer to the reality of game and the Pick Up Artist movement. Men who study or teach "game" aren't usually interested in love and marriage but in getting sex. And given that the more partners a woman has, the more likely she is to contract HPV (which condoms don't necessarily prevent and for which men can't be tested) and cervical cancer, this sort of predatory behaviour can be lethal. (Sorry to mention cervical cancer again, but my friend Hilary has it and has just had a hysterectomy, and yesterday I had a nightmare in which I found her hairless and unconscious in an Italian airport. At this rate I might even end up giving chastity talks.)

The movie is sweet, and it would be nice if men thought more about how they appear to women--without thinking about how they can psychologically manipulate us onto our backs--so as to make good impressions and tweak our interest. Heaven knows we WANT men to impress us. It was heartwarming to see these men so humbled by love that they would seek help from another man. And it was heartwarming to see how much "the date doctor" cared about his clients.

The dark part of the film is that the heroine is a gossip columnist and is, during the inevitable crisis, shown to be in the wrong. Ironically, a large part of game is making women feel that we are in the wrong, that there is something wrong with us, and that we need to work harder or do something we might rather not do to win (or win back) a man's regard.

But I liked "Hitch" and he certainly seemed to have made a lot of money doing what I do for free, which is to give advice to my own sex to coping with feelings about the opposite sex. Hitch has the advantage, of course, in that men are naturally and traditionally, in most cultures, the suitors of women, not women the suitors of men. Hitch can tell men what to do, whereas I write an awful lot about what not to do. Hitch tell men, "Call her now", whereas my advice usually boils down to "Don't call him! Wait for him to call you! And if, despite your friendliness, he doesn't approach you at all, forget him!"

Update: I just visited the site of a man I think of as "the worst man on the internet". I'm not going to tell you who he is or link to his PUA blog. But I will tell you that once again I am convinced that PUAs hate women, even though they might think they love them. They hate women the way an alcoholic hates the bottle that has lost him everything he holds dear. They bed women the way nasty little boys kill frogs. And I'm not kidding about them spreading HPV. HPV doesn't hurt them after all, so why should they care? They can't even be tested for it; if they have it, nobody can know.

And now a light moment...

Seraphic (kidding): You got game, baby!

Benedict Ambrose: I do? In the fridge? Venison or rabbit?