Poppets, my hair stood on end. And I have a lot of hair, so you can just imagine what that looked like. Read this well-written article by "Lucy Simmonds" on altcatholic.net. Then read what Jeff in Sacramento wrote just beneath it. Do not tear your eyes away from the response by Jeff in Sacramento because I was profoundly moved by the testimony of Jeff in Sacramento and am going to write about it.
Go read. Then come back and read my thoughts below.
There are many reasons why men do not marry, and the comment stream is full of men saying what they are. The biggie is the absolute heartbreak of divorce, which is usually initiated by women, and the resultant loss of property, income and even children. That's what they say, so I'm not going to argue with them on that. I don't really enjoy arguing with men. There is no fun in arguing with a man you're not going to sleep with afterwards. Oh dear. Did I type that out loud?
But my principal thought, while reading Lucy's "I blame men" essay, is that the men she describes simply haven't fallen deeply in love with anyone yet. Nobody expects Western women to marry men we don't love. Well, I don't expect Western men to marry women they don't love. One might think out of sheer sexual frustration Catholic men might just pick the nicest girls they know and make the best of it, but it seems that they're not usually that sexually frustrated after all. Men, too, love love. Well, Keats was a man, so we shouldn't be surprised.
In Lucy's essay, Catholic American Manhood stands in the dock. All eyes are upon him. Lucy, the District Attorney (for the trial takes place in the USA), has accused him. We are the jury. Kerry Cronin (whom I know personally, a very sweet woman) has given her evidence. And now Jeff in Sacramento, counsel for the defense, steps before the bench and says "Is it not true that American women lack charm?"
Sensation in court.
One of the things about being happily married is that I can listen to Jeff in Sacramento without having ten thousand fits. Jeff in Sacramento could go on all day long about what he doesn't like about American Catholic women today and I wouldn't turn a hair. Even if he wound up by saying "And that goes for Canadian women, too, since I can't see much of a difference", I would merely nod and say, "Thank you, Jeff, for putting that so plainly." It's not my ego on the line. It's Lucy's. It's yours. So I will proceed cautiously.
I am on Lucy's side. And I am on Jeff's side. I am on the side of all authentic Catholic Singles and other Singles of Good Will. Fundamentally, Lucy and Jeff are on the same side, too. The war between the sexes is evidence of the Fall, not part of the Gospel message. In Christ there is no man or woman: this isn't some cockamanie argument for wimminpriests--it asserts the UNITY of Man and Woman in Christ.
"I blame men," says Lucy, and I cannot imagine a phrase more likely to lose her the sympathy of male readers. I used to blame men for stuff, too, and in fact my publisher at Novalis was a bit taken aback at some of the things I had to say about some men. But I figured out long ago that if you are Single and love men and want to marry one eventually, it is a very bad idea to sound like a Lesbian separatist. In fact, men are so battered and beaten up nowadays, the smartest thing a man-loving woman can do is tell men how marvellous they are. It is like rain falling on a wilted plant.
(Of course not all men are marvellous, but I am lucky in that all the men in my family are marvellous and that my husband is marvellous and we socialize only with marvellous men. If you're male and you're invited to my house for supper twice, you're marvellous. It's official. I should publish my guest list so that women can study it keenly.)
Another thing women should do is stop thinking men are anything like their schoolteachers. Our schoolteachers told us that if we studied hard and seized opportunities, we could be anything we wanted and could be the First Woman Blah-Blah-Blah and they would be proud of us. In fact they were already proud of us. Heavens, I can hear the words echoing from the past: "I'm so proud of you, girls!" But in general men do not give a tinker's damn about what women's grade are or what we do for a living. They usually don't care. Pretty face beats Harvard degree. Radiant smile trumps making partner. This is not to say that men think Harvard degree and making partner useless in a woman. These are just the cherries on the cake. B.A. did not marry me because I write well. But if I sell an article, he just happens to mention it to everybody.
And Lucy's schoolteachers would have loved her essay. It's well-written. It's thoughtful. It's honest, funny, and true. It sparked 47 comments. But it did not get her what she most deeply wants, and I heartily congratulate her on using a pseudonym.
However, all is not lost, because there is Jeff in Sacramento to tell her How to Get Traditional Catholic Men. Apparently the way to Get Traditional Catholic Men is to be charming.
I know a lot of Traditional Catholic Men*, and therefore I take Jeff's testimony quite seriously. But I also suspect that the Filipina and Polish women who marry ordinary white, non-Polish American guys do so in part because they are sick of the hyper-machismo of both the Philippines and Poland.
Women in hyper-macho cultures have it underscored to them every day and in every way that they are women, and they learn that they cannot take on men the way men take on men. And therefore they develop the feminine wiles men say they hate when they realize they are feminine wiles. If they don't know they are feminine wiles, men call them charm. And I bet you the Filipina and Polish women Jeff in Sacramento talks about turn them on instinctively the minute their American husbands get out of line.
Charm looks very nice, and indeed it is great fun to be charming. But underneath lies a not-so-pretty realism, the understanding that men are different and you cannot be 100% honest with them because they are men. Do you remember that scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when Toula's mother and aunt snow her father into thinking he had come up with a solution to a problem?
In some ways that was absolutely horrifying. But that's charm. And that's life. If you think it is absolutely terrible ever to be disingenuous with men, then you wipe off that lipstick, missy, because your lips ain't that colour neither.
Thanks to Ashley for bringing the article to my attention!
*Update: In this context I mean The-man-is-the-head-of-the-household-my-wife-shouldn't-have-to-work guys, not guys who prefer the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. These include neo-con guys. In fact, they are usually neo-con guys. Sorry for any confusion.
P.S. Here's a photo of Auntie being charming. The smile is real. The cigarette is fake. The lipstick is Russian Red by MAC.