Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Auntie Seraphic & the Childhood Crush

This letter was edited to protect the writer.

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

I'm writing in search of some dating advice! So there's this guy that I've had a crush on since forever, [grade school] to be exact. I'm now 2-. Being a very shy and insecure teenager, I never caught onto the fact that this guy apparently had a crush on me despite the fact that he asked me to multiple dances. I think he was shy and insecure too, so it was a hopeless combination. We barely even said hi to one another in passing at school.

Anyhow, fast forward [x] years [...] I really grew in my faith during my university years [...] . He, on the other hand, really got into partying, girls, and the whole college boy scene. While home for breaks, since we both hung in the same social circle in high school, I was able to witness some sadly typical behaviour from him. (Most appalling was his drunkeness and some of that awfully disgusting bumping and grinding with his girlfriend - right in front of his younger siblings, parents, and friends).

I've never had a boyfriend, and he's always been one of the only guys who I feel an instant attraction and connection to. This is where my question comes into play.

Recently, he broke up with his most recent "crazy" girlfriend, and he seems to have shown interest in me. I feel like I'm a good judge of character, and he has often showed me a great deal of potential. He goes to mass every weekend and is open to faith, but I don't think he agrees with all the teaching of the Church. Nor does he have a prayer life or show initiative to grow in virtue...

So, do you think it's worth pursuing at least a friendship with him, or am I just setting myself up for failure? I also don't want to pursue a friendship for selfish, emotional, girly reasons while all along knowing that I could never seriously date or marry someone like him. People keep telling me that they think we would be great together, and humanly speaking, I think we would be. I think that's why I've been stuck on him for forever and ever.

I know you can't start dating a guy with the expectation that you're going to change him, but maybe this is a different kind of situation. I've always been very strong in my convictions and boundaries, and peer pressure, etc. etc. I'm not worried that he will corrupt me or anything like that. I'm just wondering if you think it's even worth my time? More than anything, I want to marry a man who loves God and the Church more than me. Yet, I know that sometimes God can work in mysterious ways.

Childhood Crush Girl

Dear Childhood Crush Girl,

From what you tell me, this man is seriously bad news. He is not the same boy you had a crush on when you were [a kid]. He's not the same boy who asked you to those high school dances. He's the boy who ground on his girlfriend without caring or knowing what his parents would think of it or what a bad example it was for his siblings.

As you have never had a boyfriend before, you have not had the arguments and the heartbreaks and whatever it is that teaches a woman how to stand up to bad boy behaviour. (And this is not a bad thing. It is immeasurably better--and very fortunate--to not have any boyfriend until you meet Mr Right, and Mr Right does not indulge in bad boy behaviour and hasn't for some years or ever.) You may think you are incorruptible, but almost nobody is incorruptible. One way to stay on the straight and narrow path is to keep well away from romantic relationships with wild guys known for their drunkenness and lewd behaviour.

So he goes to Mass. Big deal. Going to Mass is the bare minimum of what a Catholic boy should do, and for all you know his family would kill him if he didn't.

Meanwhile, I don't think Single women should pursue Single men in any way. One of the ways to make sure a man does not just use you for an ego-boost or for a good time is to not court him yourself. If you [court him], it will be very hard to tell if he really likes you for YOU or for the thrill you give his ego. And once the kind of man who uses girls knows you like him that much, despite his obvious bad behaviour, your chances of influencing him for good are over.

By the way, does he already know you've had a crush on him for years? If so, not good. Back away. Are people telling you you'd be great together because you keep asking them? Because if so, they might just be telling you what you want to hear.

A [X] year crush sounds extremely unrooted in reality to me. But it also sounds like a part of you that you've really cherished, like books from your childhood. How we hate to throw out things that we have loved for so long! But as we get older we have to put toys and children's books aside to move adult things onto the shelves. And that's what I think you should do now.

Reading this over, this email sounds rather harsh. But I have the distinct impression of a lamb frolicking around the edge of the woods, wondering if Mr Wolf will come out and play. For heaven's sake, don't think you can take on and ennoble some womanizer ("crazy" girlfriend, my foot--maybe one thing that makes her crazy is dating guys like him), especially when you have had no dating experience at all. Stay away from him, don't pursue him, and if he pursues you, behave extremely cautiously. Make him work for your good opinion, and if he's not willing to do that, forget him. Seriously.

Incidentally, if it was he who told you that his past girlfriend or girlfriends are "crazy", do not have anything to do with him. You will be in danger of being the next ex-girlfriend he tells people is crazy.

I hope this is helpful. If you want an authentic good Catholic man, you deserve an authentic good Catholic man. Don't be blinded by a fantasy that has been growing since you were [a child].

Grace and peace,

One of the tragedies of modern Catholic dating life is getting involved with a guy who is not over a drinking-and-partying-and-generally-sowing-his-wild-oats stage in life. You may very well feel, "Humph! That's no way for a Catholic Boy to behave. Humph! We should shun him forever after!" But some (most?) of those guys improve and grow up, and that's just the way it is. The best idea is to steer clear of party boys until they wake up with the hangover of adulthood, which involves much muttering of "Why was I so stupid? I can't believe I was so stupid. Oh, oh oh."

Watch out particularly for party boys you have had crushes on since practically forever. Crushes are a great destroyer of grasp on reality.

By the way, there is a debate over on a conservative Polish website about whether it is okay just to remain a chaste and celibate Single or if conservative Poles absolutely have to get married and have children. (Anielskie Single was cited, which is why I noticed.)

I am somewhat disturbed by the low opinion in which some conservative Polish men hold other conservative Polish men who just don't want to get married, but it does suggest that my 1980s plan--that if when I was grown up I weren't married by a certain age, I would just go to Warsaw and casually drop my passport on the pavement in front of a group of cute guys--might not have been all that stupid and might not be that out of date.

Meanwhile, I repeat that I dislike the expression "start a family" because most of us are born to families and continue to have those families whether or not we get married and whether or not we have children. The more solidly we can anchor the Individual, or Childless Married Couple, or Dad-Mum-Child, into the bigger, extended family, the better.


leonine said...

Excellent advice, Auntie S.

Freedom at the Other End said...

Dear Childhood Crush Girl,

Having been in a similar situation as you, I think I understand how conflicted you feel, and how much you think that maybe, maybe this just might work. Fr what you wrote, I really don't think it will. Listen to Auntie S. You were made for so much more. Letting go of him emotionally will probably hurt a lot especially because this attachment has been so much a part of your growing up, but the joy, peace and healing you'll experience in the end will be worth it.

My advice is to take all this to prayer (as you likely have done) and present him and all your feelings and all this history to the Lord and ask the Lord to come into each of those situations and places and feelings and bring healing and closure and peace. Do it more than once. And you might later find yourself feeling angry towards your crush for the emotional dollar coaster you've been on... Then take that to prayer and let God help you forgive him for it (in prayer...not to his face, that's not necessary). If all this doesn't come easily, take a journal and a pen to an Adoration chapel and just sit. Sit for as long as you need to.

Lather, rinse, repeat as needed. Then move on and live in joy and freedom.

In case I wasn't clear in the first bit, don't date him!!!!! God has a much more beautiful plan for you!

Freedom at the Other End said...

From what you wrote*

Jam said...

Aww, I feel for the writer, and thoroughly agree with Auntie's advice although that might be a little pot/kettle of me. I'm very susceptible to a good storyline myself. I mean, sure, intellectually I know that books and movies are just fiction, that's not how life works, etc; BUT, I still catch myself thinking, "but the way we met was so cute, it has to work out better than this!" etc. The good news is that while an author has to fight out a path to get Lead Girl and Lead Boy together, we in the real world don't have to force ourselves into that ending. There isn't a story of "YOU AND CHILDHOOD SWEETHEART" that has to work out into a satisfying ending. It doesn't have to "work out" into any ending -- there's no "story" and it doesn't exist! Let it go, and stop thinking about it. The Olympics are on right now; if you have to imagine yourself as the heroine of a story, imagine that it's a story about how you followed your passion and became a brilliant chef or conquered your first marathon or overcame all the challenges to serve up a devastatingly brilliant thesis, or what have you. ;) I have also found it helpful to place romantic problems into a much broader spiritual context: I want this guy to like me so bad => I want to control my future => perhaps I have insufficient trust in God and His plan? which then led to my reading and praying a lot about the Divine Will, etc, which can only be good for me. I know I still struggle with imagining romantic stories instead to paying attention to the facts, but at least it's helpful to know that about myself.

I'm slightly tempted to delete this comment because it makes me sound like an absolute moron, but I leave it in solidarity with other ladies who might have this problem :)

Anonymous said...

Having dated many "reformed" bad boys, I take a rather cynical view of things.

Here's the chocolate-lover's rule: wait until these guys have "reformed" their behaviour for at least two years before dating them. Give them time to get used to chastity, treating women well, and denying themselves the sensual pleasures of excess drink and promiscuity.

For many former bad boys, waiting a couple of months for sex may be a Big Deal and a huge step forward for chastity. Yes, he's trying, yes, it's fantastic that he's working on improving himself, but you are not under any obligation to endanger your health, psyche, or immortal soul in the guise of giving everyone a chance.

You don't need to shun him forever, but you shouldn't be his guinea pig, either. Two years.

~theobromophile, writing from the "Been there, done that, don't do it" files

Seraphic said...

I'd like to point out for the sake of reality that they were not childhood sweethearts. They were not high school sweethearts. They were never sweethearts. In school they rarely spoke together. She has it only on hearsay that he ever had a crush on her, too.

So you are right, Jam. There is no story.

JustAnotherCatholicGirl said...

Shame on us to allow a boy to continue "bad boy behavior" and only give it a disapproving frown, but let him think he still has a chance. We need to motivate men to better! Why would they want to improve if we didn't care? NCG's need to stand up and refuse to be subject to such things. Maybe then they'll get a kick in the head realize, " wow, I need to be worthy of this girl."

Keep your standards and stay away. Not only does he have to change to be worthy of someone like you, he needs to change for himself. Unless he makes that choice, keep your distance.

Seraphic said...

Does anyone know when grinding first started its shameful appearance on the dance floor? I don't remember it in the 1990s, and for the past 20 year I've mostly been going to Goth bars anyway, when I go out to clubs, which is no longer that often. It kind of blows my mind that people might do this at family gatherings... Why on earth did it ever become acceptable in the first place?

Jam said...

My sense is that I was aware of it in middle school (so 1998-2000), because I *think* I remember seeing a milder version at school dances and having the teachers warn us beforehand that it was not allowed; and I didn't go to dances in high school, only middle school.

Kate P said...

If I may add to the already excellent advice, something to think about: You said you wanted to "marry a man who loves God and the Church"--your description tells me he's not it. I would be here forever telling you about the relationships and marriages I've seen break up because one spouse "came around" right before the engagement/wedding, but down the road, the minute trouble came up, the truth came out they did it just to please the other person.

Being "stuck on" someone is probably preventing you from seeing another person who might be interested in (and better for) you. Or maybe it's a fear of the unknown: if it's not this guy, then who? Will there EVER be someone? No one but the Lord knows, and you have to trust Him. It's hard to walk away, but take it from me, you are better off.

Anonymous said...

I'm the writer. Thanks for your advice everyone! I must admit that this crush took a backseat through my college years, but it only recently resurfaced due to the fact that many people,(remembering that we used to like one another)have suggested we try dating. Yet, the people who offer such suggestions are living lifestyles similar to his. They see that he goes to mass to Sunday and is nice to those around him, and that's they view living a virtuous Christian lifestyle. I'm not too attached the idea of him, but I definitely wanted to give him a chance since I've always liked him and seen potential in him. Ultimately, I realize that if it were not for my nostalgia of our innocent and childish connection in the past, I probably would have no interest whatsoever in someone like him. Oh yeah, my dad and brothers also do not think very highly of him. I guess this one is a no-brainer :)

Charming Disarray said...

"Shame on us to allow a boy to continue "bad boy behavior" and only give it a disapproving frown, but let him think he still has a chance. We need to motivate men to better!"

I agree this should be a focus of good Catholic girls in general, whether or not it would work in an individual guy's case. We need to make it clear by our actions that a man's reputation counts and his good character counts. If he's acting immorally and everyone knows about it, he doesn't get to date NCGs. End of story. Not to say that it isn't tempting to give those fun-loving guys a chance...sigh. But I agree with the others that it almost never turns out well and that we really need to expect more and better from the men we might someday marry.

I've tried to get in the habit of thinking whether or not I would want my own (hypothetical) sons imitating the behavior of the guy in question. It puts things in perspective pretty quickly--probably more so than "could I see myself married to this guy?" Because let's be honest--any time there's a hint of a crush it's pretty darn easy to see yourself married to him.

Urszula said...

I think that was excellent advice, Auntie, and I'm glad everybody here chimed in to voice their support. I wonder if being attracted to 'bad boys' and trying to reform them is a characteristic of being young? I know I always tended towards the exciting and slightly (or not-so-slightly) naughty guys but as I'm older I see through these things much quicker (although usually not quickly enough). Maybe it's having been burned by some experiences that helps, but I do think it has to do with age. and with no longer reading Jane Austen, Anne of Green Gables, and the like ;) I'm starting to appreciate men who are actually men and not selfish, often conceited pleasure-seekers.

Jam, I thought your post was far from silly. Your advice was excellent, and very rooted in reality. I think all girls have a tendency to let their mind run away from them, and your bringing the spiritual perspective - how I can ask God to turn this situation into something good, something that I can learn from - is really insightful.

Childhood Crush Girl - you sound very sensible, with strong values and a good heart. I encourage you to wait for someone who appreciates that.

Urszula said...

Also, in reference to the Fronda post - it applies to political conservatives, not necessarily Catholics. Although in Poland there is a lot of overlap between the two.

My problem with conservative Polish men was that they are eager to get married but often don't have the means/guts to do it. There is a specifically Polish phenomenon of "eternal students" (thanks to a large number of free public universities) who flit about from degree to degree, and from youth group to youth group, but without actually taking steps to establish a career so they could, you know, have money to feed a family and such. (come to think of it, this may not be specifically Polish - a lot of American Catholics I know major with degrees in lovely things like medieval studies or philosophy at Catholic colleges and then find themselves in painful transition to the 'real world'. I'm not being a 'pot' here because I graduated with a degree in languages and was for some time in the same painful predicament as the 'kettles' I'm referring to. It took me 2 years of internships/entry-level jobs to get to where I am and I'd like to spare as many people possible similar struggles).

High School Teacher said...

Seraphic, I began teaching high school in the late 90's and grinding was an issue, but it's gotten progressively worse over the years. When I first started teaching we referred to it as "dirty dancing," which makes me think of the Patrick Swayze movie in which there was some grinding. My students always say, "If you don't want us to dance like that, don't play That Music," by which they meant hip-hop. If the adult in charge actually censors the playlist and has the DJ play 60s, 70s, or even 80s music, the average American millenial has a blast. As soon as they play hip-hop, we're constantly breaking up couples/trios/groups. Girls will cry in the bathroom, "All he wants is sex!" which I have to reply, "Honey, if you dance like that with him, he's gonna want sex." That's probably more info than you wanted to know...feel free to edit or delete my comment...but you asked!

Athanasius lover said...

I found this article online today that I think is relevant to the discussion:

(For the record, I myself do not hate Mr. Darcy.)