Monday, 9 July 2012

Horrible Topic of the Day

When I was in high school, my then-best friend and I would have conversations about the sexual side of life, about which we knew almost nothing. They began with the question, "What is the Horrible Topic of the Day?"

To give you an idea of how innocent and clueless we were, our model of the sort of man you wanted to avoid was Captain James T. Kirk, who romanced sexy green ladies, et alia, presumably during the commercial breaks. A lot was hinted, but very little shown since, after all, Star Trek was filmed between 1966 and 1969. We did not actually know men like Captain James T. Kirk, which is not surprising as we were only 16 and lived existences as sheltered as our frazzled parents could manage. Our school was attached to a convent. The crudest conversation on television was on "Married with Children." You know, as crude as Pam and Al were, at least they were married. With children.

We looked forward to the Horrible Topic of the Day as an exercise in freedom of speech and an opportunity to laugh until tears dripped from our faces. I think my Seraphic Singles oeuvre is my way of continuing the ritual of the Horrible Topic of the Day, although usually without the shock value.

But today I will chuck in some shock value, for that is the mood I am in, to ask how far you would betray the feminist revolution for your own personal romantic fulfillment. To what extent would you mimic Donna Reed to get the guy you have your eye on? I'm not saying you should do this. I'm just asking if you would do this. For example, would you ever strategically answer the door holding a vacuum cleaner while wearing apron, high heels and pearls? Would you, at a party, wait on male guests hand and foot instead of sitting down for a well-deserved chat with the girls? Would you bake a man chocolate chip cookies after hearing him sigh about how much he misses his mother's wonderful chocolate chip cookies? Would you pretend you know absolutely nothing about the electoral process but you would be grateful if he would explain it to you?

In terms of betraying the Revolution for your own personal romantic satisfaction, how far would you go? Anonymous comments allowed IF you write "Woman in [your town]" after your comment. May any man who attempts to comment himself experience a sudden horrible surge of female hormones after typing the words "Woman in".


Anonymous said...

I would bake, dress up and wear heels and make-up, but I wouldn't do the vacuum/pearls or "please explain the electoral process" routines. Nor would I ignore my friends at a party for the sake of waiting on a man.

Of course, I will shamelessly date pro-life men, which is something that the "feminists" tell me is Very, Very Bad.

This is borne out of a desire to catch the type of man that I want to catch. If he's the type who wants to be waited on, to feel smarter than his wife (not as smart as, not smarter about some things, not as others), or wants his wife to be a built-in cleaning lady, well, he can go find someone else.

But I love cooking and baking, wouldn't kill my unborn child, and do enjoy dressing nicely, so (a) I'm okay with a man wanting that in a woman, and (b) it wouldn't feel like a bait-and-switch.


Anonymous said...

What would I do? Heaven only knows. Not housecleaning, that's for sure. But absolutely pearls. Always pearls.

Consciously: I dress more nicely. I turn statements that would usually be conclusions of an argument into questions. (So less "Well, because of W, X, Y, obviously Z!" and more "What about W and Y? What do YOU think, NCB?")

Unconsciously: I realized recently that I walk and talk differently: my hips move more and my voice is higher pitched around men. (Not annoyingly high-pitched, just higher than usual.) Quelle horreur!

But I don't think of any of this as a betrayal of the Revolution. It's just that being around the opposite sex naturally makes one's own sexuality come out. (Pun not intended. Until I saw what I'd typed, that is.)

--Woman in DC.

Sarah said...

On a regular basis, I let a boy I'm interested in go on and on about physics, which holds my interest on a superficial level (some of it is really cool and interesting) but then he gets into complex theoretical formulas, and I just smile and nod like he's the smartest person in the world. And then I blink and realize I have no idea what he's been saying for the past five minutes because I've been thinking about a spot on the wall behind his head.

But I'd totally make a guy cookies (a proud tradition for winning men over in my family, as I said in one of the last comboxes. :P ). I wouldn't do his housework.

Anonymous said...

I have answered the door in an apron over a nice dress! I didn't have a vacuum in hand, though. Oven mitts are my preferred prop. I've never baked for any man particularly, though I have brought cookies or brownies to share with the office, and hoped that a particular man would be impressed. I listen attentively to what a person says, and try to ask intelligent questions. I would not wait on a man hand and foot at a party, unless it was my party and he had some kind of physical disability. All of this ladylike behavior has netted exactly 0 dates in the last 5 years.

Woman in Ventura

Christine Falk Dalessio said...

Loving your readers' comments. Since I'm long married, I suppose I am out of the comment bracket for this post. But it seems like the offering of one's feminine gifts is truly a pro-woman gesture, recognizing that a man will never take the same tack, because he's a man. And that's a very pro-woman defense.

While the "feminists" may not believe this is ever good, I would say the "new feminists" embrace the whole person. So bake and pearl up - but only as part of your authentic self, yes? Because you always want a man who wants the Real You.

Anonymous said...

Another thought: We all betray the feminist revolution by remaining chaste.


Anonymous said...

I've let men explain things to me that I already understood. I've also peppered my conversation with casual references to cooking. The second one worries me a bit, though, since Betsy Ray told Tib NEVER to mention cooking or cleaning to the boys, and Tib expresses surprise that they wouldn't like to hear about her feminine skills. They both went on to have a lot of success with men.

Also, am I the only one who genuinely needs help opening restaurant doors?

Woman in Green Bay

Woman in De Pere said...

If I knew that for whatever reason my crush was about to walk up to my door... I wouldn't be wearing an apron but I would have the living room cleaned. All the dodgy books would be away -- the things I bought for classes that have titles that could be alarming for conservative/trad types -- not to mention the DVDs of, say, Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Definitely I would have cast a critical eye over the decor: possibly I would have brought my favorite statue of Our Lady out of the bedroom and into the living room. My back issues of First Things brought out from the closet and casually stacked under the coffee table. Oh, whoops, did I leave my knitting out here!

I certainly would ( play up the more domestic/girly side of my personality in hopes of getting a date. But it's more in terms of what I talk about, what I put on Facebook, etc, rather than what I do, eg serving him the biggest slice of cake at a party. Doing something like offering to sew a button back onto his jacket would really feel like crossing a line -- more because it would feel like really putting myself out there, being excessively obvious that I liked him, than because it would seem degrading or anti-feminist or whatever. I assume we're talking about "getting" a guy, like ending up as his girlfriend rather than as his wife! I might put on more of a show being uber-feminine to get a date, but I couldn't sustain anything over the long-term.

DEB said...

No. I would wait on my guests hand and foot regardless of gender because I try to be a good hostess, and I would wear pearls if I felt like it, but I would not do these things for a man. Were I knowledgeable about the electoral process, I would engage in friendly conversation, but why should I dumb myself down? Men have hands and they have ovens and they have money to buy their own chocolate chip cookies, so the answer is no.

MaryJane said...

I realize that I tend to wait on men more than women at parties, because the women will just get it themselves! Whereas a man will sit there, sweating in the sun with the cold beer only a short walk away in the cooler. I think maybe it's b/c they can't multi-task as well - getting up from a conversation to get a beer is just not on the radar for them.

Anonymous said...

I was taught by my blueblooded Bostonian grandmother to NEVER bake or do domestic things for a man you are interested in. This idea is that you shouldn't risk being treated like a servant. I have to say, I agree with this. Also, while I always dressed up if I was going on a date (I have since married and I still try to dress nicely)I think it's a bit, well, sad, to play up the Donna Reed factor. What if you are simply not like Donna Reed? What happens when the NCB finds out that you like Shaun of the Dead and modern art? Pearls, yes. Heels, yes. Acting like you're a cross between the BVM and Grace Kelly, unless you actually ARE, no.
-A Woman in Savannah, GA

Anonymous said...

I would definitely never clean for a man, and I think cooking/baking for just one man is a bit questionable as well. Most (especially young) men are accustomed to having a woman cook and clean for them, and most of them call her "Mom." While often very fond of their mother, men don't want to date/marry them.
I do, however, think it is perfectly fine to take a more elaborate dish to a party or potluck if there will be single men (or at least that special one!) in attendance.
--Woman in Grand Rapids, MI

Seraphic said...

I think we'd agree that natural feminine qualities are good, and fakery is bad.

Meanwhile, I myself am against a single woman doing any kind of unpaid housework for a man she is not related to by blood, unless he is her very old former professor, or someone like that. I am all for being an attentive hostess to ALL guests (have I told the Slovak nun story yet?), but I am still not sure about baking cookies. I am willing to bend on the baking cookies thing, especially if the boy has shown at least an iota of interest in you.

Anonymous said...

I will and have let men explain all kinds of terribly fascinating-to-them ideas that are not incredibly interesting to me but I can keep up the requisite commentary and interested remarks. This is mainly out of politeness, and I have definitely been taught that this is polite, but I think with a female friend I would be more inclined to change the subject if I was disinterested.
What else would I do? Er... thinking.
I just recently volunteered to teach an NCB how to drive, but as I consider him to be like a younger brother to me and females instructing males in the terrifying art of driving is a little unusual, I don't think this counts as betraying the feminist revolution.
Anonymous Woman in Georgia

Mustard Seed said...

Wait, really? About the cookies? I feel like I had set my jaw and cookie sheets firmly in stone that I. Would. Not. be putting myself so firmly out there as to present things like cookies to a guy who wasn't officially my boyfriend. I have been so stubborn for these last few months and it hasn't worked out very well.

n.panchancha said...

Good heavens. Reading everyone's comments is making me feel like a hot-blooded feminist in comparison. Most of the above would never occur to me, to be honest. I definitely love asking smart (but not arrogant) men to explain things that they know about (e.g. date a physicist; get him to tell me about physics). It's fun, it makes him feel good, and it's not "fake." (Seriously, I was not 100% sure I knew why planets spin.)

I love cooking but I wouldn't bake cookies for someone I wasn't dating - though perhaps if he lived with a bunch of people I could make the excuse of baking for the whole house. Still - I feel like men will always be grateful for cookies but won't necessarily make the "I should consider courting this woman" mental leap, which means a lot of wasted flour and chocolate chips. (My friends and I could have eaten those cookies, and by gum, we would have gotten more fun out of them.)

I would probably work harder to look pretty around a gent I liked - makeup and nice clothes and whatnot. I would smile a lot (that's not hard) and give him my full attention when he's talking (again... not so hard). But I doubt that that's "unfeminist" of me in anything but the most separatist, wymyn-y sense of the word.

Then again, here I am on a singles blog, so this strategy is clearly not the best in terms of landing a husband at as young an age as possible! (Still, it's kept me happy so far.) :o)

Seraphic said...

Whoa! This is a Singles blog, but it is not a landing a husband blog. Of course, it is very likely that most of my readers want to get married, but this is a "how to be happy while you're Single" blog.

n.panchancha said...

Baha! I think that was my point... Most of these seem like husband- (or boyfriend-) getting strategies, and would presumably be judged in terms of their success in that regard. But they would probably make me depressed. Hide my books, indeed! If they're actually causing me to sin, then I should get rid of them; but if they're not, Mr. Scrupulous can chill the heck out.

Seraphic said...

Hey, no-one's suggesting you hide your books though, come to think of it, maybe I should have hidden my now-long lost Andrea Dworkin collection back in the day....

There's a reason I said the girls could be anonymous f0r this one!!!:-D

Anonymous in Tulsa said...

Haha! I think there's a big distinction between cooking for someone you're in a relationship with, and doing things for a guy you really really like. In other words, doing occasional things for a boyfriend is okay, but it's not a good idea to do that stuff for a guy when not in a relationship. I knew two girls in college who would try to impress this guy they were not dating by doing his laundry, etc. He was happy, they were exhausted, and no he never dated either!

I bake cookies and cook occasional meals for my boyfriend. I also ask him to explain things to me in areas of his expertise, and don't feel like I'm betraying my sex at all.I don't clean for a boyfriend. If I'm not maid, mother or mate, clean up yourself! ;-)

american in deutschland said...

I'm with n.panchancha -- some of these ideas seem extremely overboard to me. Especially the playing-dumb (I have sat in too many classrooms with girls who wouldn't talk...) and hiding or rearranging books. No matter how many appearances we can legitimately fiddle with, or just more feminine things I might be willing to learn and take on, there is no way I would be attracted (off the bat) to a guy who was offended or disgusted (as opposed to curious) about any books I might have. Actually, I would think of my books as a way of fending off the kind of conservative/traditional boy who would get prickly about what I read!

I would totally ask about something I didn't know about. There are oodles of things I don't know about, so that should be easy. I usually have the social sense to tone down my own "lectures" on my favorite subjects when meeting any new person, or any person who I wasn't sure would be interested. But at this point, I would rather have fun and interesting conversations when I can find them (whether that means letting a guy hold forth on a topic or feeling comfortable doing so myself). It also makes me wonder -- if having a woman listen and mmm and ahhh as he explains some Masculine Topic is such an attractor for men, is this one of the things that changes after marriage? What happens after you marry the guy and he discovers one day that you're an expert on the electoral college, with three articles published in reputable journals? I exaggerate, but still. I freely reveal my ignorance on topics, hopefully not in dismissive ways, but it's also important to me to be a person who knows things, and I want to find someone who likes people who know things.

I'm young though and not too traditionally-feminine to begin with, I guess, in that I don't really cook or run my own place (don't HAVE my own place!) etc. I would do the "look extra pretty" thing, to the best of my ability!

Woman in De Pere again said...

Ha! I am amused to return and see what indignant reactions to my book-hiding comment there are. In an earlier draft of that comment I noted that this, ahem, tidying behavior is basically the same as I do when my parents are coming over.

If people don't know what I mean by awkward books acquired for a class, I have to think we are in different corners of academe, although maybe I'm wrong. I'm not talking about academic books, period, or advanced textbooks or whathaveyou. Anyone who makes it to my house would expect "smart" books.

I think the trouble here is that you-all think I'm running around putting the "smart" books under the bed. What I'm talking about is basically casting an eye over the shelf to make sure that on entering the room one's eye doesn't immediately land on two whole shelves of "sex and the oppression of women!!!" Anything can be weird if it's too concentrated. I consider my particular devotional practices to be very important for any future partner to accept, but if I took all my religious articles and books and piled them on the coffee table ---!! In my own life, clogged up with strange monographs as it is, I consider it part of putting that Especially Best Foot forward to just make sure the bookshelves are looking representative of me. I don't care if, from day to day, the postmodern gender theory gets pride of place on the shelves, just as I might wear a loud pink lipstick just for the fun of it. But when the impression really counts, I go for that my-lips-but-better shade, and mix up the books to represent the variety of my interests and expertise.

Finally, if you knew that you and potential lover boy had a common interest, and you knew he was coming over, you wouldn't make sure that, say, the coffee table book about Chinese jade carving was out? Or, to move away from the contentious topic of books, you wouldn't drape your Pittsburgh Steelers afghan over the sofa -- even if Chinese Jade and the Steelers usually live in the bedroom or in a drawer or on an unobtrusive lower shelf?

Maybe I'm just exceptionally deceptive, but all of this qualifies as emphasizing rather than denying or hiding in my mind.

american in deutschland said...

@Woman in De Pere,
your explanation is welcome! I mean, I have a smallish but concentrated collection of books from a serial killers course that I keep in the "closet bookshelf," and I'm anal about book display, so the mere rearranging for effect, I totally get. I totally want my books and things (as shown in my house, no matter who is looking) to feel like they represent my various interests, so as long as my arrangement feels honest and homey, I am happy. I suppose for me personally it was the idea of hiding things that would specifically disturb conservative/traditional boys -- perhaps I'm unduly afraid of their sometimes control-freakiness or just feel like unsettling them a little bit, you know, for fun. And really, reading other people's little strategies shouldn't rub my fur the wrong way, since I have my own, but I guess that's part of this whole deal. We can try so hard to be appealing or palatable to whichever men are coming through our lives, that we are so easily spooked by what others might do. Since you take courses in gender theory I probably don't need to elaborate!