Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Seraphic Takes a Holiday

Well, my dears, I am going on holiday tomorrow. Benedict Ambrose and I are going to Poland, and I will not have any internet access. I'm going to rest my wrists and just enjoy life without pontificating or giving any advice, except perhaps on Saturday, when I appear at the Kraków bookfair and on Sunday, when I meet the Brave Women in Kraków.

So from Thursday to Monday, we will be in Kraków. From Monday to Tuesday night, we will be in Wrocław. Then on Wednesday we will go from Kraków to Częstochowa, where I will pray for you all, and on Thursday--All Saints' Day--B.A. and I will go with a friend to visit the graves of parents of John Paul II.

There is no Hallowe'en in Poland; the Poles find it shockingly unchristian, which I suppose it is. I never really thought about it before, since it always seemed to me so obviously secular and a harmless tribute to the Celtic heritage of so many Americans and Canadians, including me. At any rate, there are many important traditions in Poland around All Saints' and All Souls', and I am glad to have the opportunity to find out about them.

As usual before I get on a plane, I am thinking about my own death and what I would have to say for myself if death arrived mid-flight. Obviously I'm not going to share that with you, but as I ate my morning porridge, I wondered what I would want my last words to you to be. What would be the absolute best advice I could give to Single women, particularly the Single women who don't want to be Single?

And this may make you laugh, but what I thought was "Be clean and don't talk too much."

We live in public, and the number one law of life in public seems to be to present a pleasant appearance. And this does not mean looking like the next Cindy Crawford, but simply not looking or smelling dirty. I'm sorry if this seems so obvious, but it is so excruciating to discover that one has been unknowingly breaking this prime rule of social life, that if you have been, your friends are very unlikely to tell you. So always make sure you are scrubbed and maybe you should not wear that shirt for the third day in a row and maybe mouthwash is not an expensive frill.

Also, quit smoking if you can. Unless you are a non-smoker, you probably do not know how awful it is to be in a small enclosed space with an elderly lifelong smoker--unless it's your grandma. Somehow I never minded Grandma, and when I first smell cigarette smoke I always think of my grandma. Cooped up in a small car with an elderly man who is oozing tar from every pore, I think only of death and how sweet it might be and whether or not I will throw up before we reach our destination.

Younger smokers don't seem to present so much of a problem for me, but you never know about others. If you aren't ready to give up smoking, consider how best to eradicate the smell.

But however scrubbed and sweet-smelling you are, you will lose friends and not influence people if you talk non-stop. It is a sad fact of life that not everyone is as interested as you are in your life, your family and your interests. And, generally speaking, men are not as interested in some subjects that women find infinitely fascinating, like the feminist movement, natural family planning, child psychology and ballet.

I write as a reformed chatterbox myself. If I did not blog, I would probably talk as much as I blog now, and that would be disastrous to my social life. I love a good conversation as much as anyone, but I have discovered that less is more, unless I am deliberately trying to shut someone up. Occasionally I slip and deliver a monologue that is basically a verbal blogpost, but for the most part I try not to do that, because it is a terrible sin to bore people. If you bore someone enough, he will want to kill himself or you, and thus you are tempting him to indulge in sinful thoughts.

If you are worried, now, that you talk to much, go and ask your bluntest, most honest friend (the one who thinks telling white lies a confession-worthy sin, as did St. Augustine) if you do. If she says "Yes", that might be painful, but not as painful as having an older female friend, who desperately wants you to get married, shout "Let HIM talk!" when you tell her you have a coffee date.

There are many reasons why you might talk too much, if you do. There is nervousness, or discomfort with silence, or an unfortunate idea that men prefer child-like women who prattle like children, or that a man who does not interject his own thoughts is admiring your wit rather than planning his escape. Whatever it is, you might want to consider how to get over it. You might even want to (all together now!) talk to a therapist.

This is not a "Woman know your limits" type lecture. In my experience, men talk just as much as women do, if not more, when they are in company. There are studies showing that men in Britain talk more in groups than women do. B.A. certainly talks more than I do, and when he is not talking, he is singing or whistling or coughing or generally making a noise, unless he is reading, in which case a deathly silence must reign. And I have given enough dinner parties to marvel at much how much men can talk compared to supposedly chatty womenfolk. Fortunately, my loquacious guests are not usually boring; no one voice dominates.

And, as we say in Scotland, that's me. Have a lovely week, and if I am spared I'll be back in early November.


Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Seraphic Rewrites a Dumb Personal Ad

I'm not Single anymore, and I hope B.A. has a good long life, but if there is anything that convinces me that it is best not to avoid meeting any but men in the traditionalist end of the Catholic spectrum, it was the news that on a Catholic dating website there is a man over 40 who hopes to have many children and a wife who will home-school them all.

My guess is that this man is not that rooted in reality. He certainly can't be interested in marrying a woman his own age. No, he wants a young woman.

How many young women--women in their early twenties--really want to marry a man twenty years older than themselves? If English literature is anything to go by, young women very rarely want to marry men twenty years older than themselves. And if they do, it is because the man in question has turned out impressively well, by worldly standards: he has gained a reputation, a good salary, a position in the world or at very least a well-tended back 40 (i.e. acres of fields). He might not be as good-looking as the girls' twenty-something peers, but he symbolizes what manhood can be and is therefore pretty darn attractive.

One thinks of Colonel Brandon. Colonel Brandon had travelled around the world, at a time when most people hadn't, and either inherited or amassed a large fortune. (Both, I think.) He had a very good character, he was spoken well of. As middle-aged men went, it is credible that a twenty year old girl might find him attractive.

I have limited time with the internet today, so I don't have time to find the statistic, but apparently there is evidence that most men prefer to marry women of their own age group, not women who are younger or older. And I think it very sensible for men who wish to have many children to know this when they are in their twenties, and to look for a mother to those children THEN, when there are still a lot of women his age available.

It is not very sensible, at the age of 40+, to get on a Catholic dating website, and inform the women of the world that NOW you want a lot of children and a woman to homeschool them all. I do not subscribe to that website, so I cannot tell you what this Single trad Catholic man has to offer this fertile, patient, home-loving woman in return for her youth. Social position? Riches? Come on, man. Come on. When you are mostly interested in a woman as a means to an end, you get what you pay for.

Nature is unfair, but she is not that unfair. Yes, women start to lose our ability to give birth to healthy children around the age of 35, but fertility starts to get a bit problematic for men, too, it appears. There is a link between old fathers and children with mental disorders, for example. And although women, who are said to be less interested in looks than men are (which I don't entirely believe), are more likely to be attracted to older men than men are to older women, there is a limit.

I think it is a very bad idea to use a Catholic dating website as a place to make public a Christmas List of fond wishes that reveal a man to be, not a man who wants to look like good husband material to the lassies, but a man who wants to use a woman as a means to an end.

Here is what I think would make a good dating website Intro:

I am a Catholic man in my mid-forties, never-married, who is an [profession], who earns X and owns my own X. I am currently employed and have no reason to believe I will lose my job despite the economic crisis.

You see that he is beginning his advert with what concrete goods he has to offer. A woman who is more interested in home and children than in earning money will want to know this. And not having a career in a society obsessed with "What do you do?", she might derive some identity from his profession. (How utterly awesome if I get to be Lady McAmbrose some day. Sure, it would rock to be Dame Seraphic, but Lady McAmbrose would definitely do.)

He might not want to say his EXACT salary, but I bet you dollars for donuts that he will judge all the women who write to him primarily on their photographs, so nobody talk to me about shallow.

Although I attend the Traditional Latin Mass to the exclusion of the Novus Ordo, I accept the validity of the Novus Ordo. I just like the TLM better, and would feel unhappy if I did not attend it. I strive to be as orthodox in my thinking and as orthoprax in my behaviour as I can.

Now we know where he stands on religion.

Although I am in my mid-forties, I hope to have children. I can support a wife and X children in comfort, although of course I will accept as many children (or none) as God sends. I am not so poor as to justify the use of NFP, although of course if my wife has emotional or physical needs that justify it, I am open to the use of NFP.

Now we know he likes and is orthodox about children. We also know that he is open to his wife not working. He doesn't say she can't work--which frankly he has no right to do, even in the abstract--he just says she wouldn't HAVE to work.

I believe with the Church that parents are the primary educators of their children. I am open to discussions about homeschooling.

That is the least scary way of introducing the homeschooling subject, if it really means so much to him that he has to mention it in a personal ad. Not that many women are on fire with the idea of homeschooling; it's a good idea to write an ad that attracts as many women as possible, and just mentioning homeschooling will scare off a zillion.

As I am a reasonably attractive man who enjoys life and has many friends, I believe I am not married because X [I am a convert/I have recently retired from the navy/I was in a long-term romantic relationship that did not end in marriage/I did not feel I had enough job security until now/my fiancee died when I was 25 and only now do I feel emotionally available/it took the Holy Father this long to get my name in the pile of laicization requests.]

Listen, if you're a man over 35 who is not married, we want to know why. I'm just kidding about the wording regarding the laicization request. Just say you had to be released from your vows as a religious.

Don't say "laicised priest" at once, if that's what you are, because quite a few Nice Catholic Girls will simply vomit at the abstract idea of marrying a priest, despite all the very nice married Ukrainian and ex-Anglican priests they may have met. Concretely, women will marry ax-murderers if they are in love with them, never mind the poor chap who got bullied into the priesthood by his mother. So the laicizied priest thing is something that comes down under the "Now that I know you better, I should tell you that" heading.

I am a practical man, but I have a romantic streak, so right now I am willing to meet many women and see if I "click" with any of them. Like everyone else, I hope to find love in this life, as well as in the next.

Okay, now I'm practically crying. Who is this paragon? And why do I spend so much time writing for free when I could be running an ad-writing service for Nice Catholic Boys?

At any rate, there is no point wasting energy getting really mad at men in their 40s who partied (or whatever) for twenty years, thinking now they can just have six kids and a homeschooling wife by snapping their fingers. Maybe they can. Maybe they can't. At any rate, you don't have to marry such a guy. But you might enjoy a chuckle at him and his complete inability to write an attractive dating website profile.

By the way, you will notice that my model profile is for a middle-aged man. It is not the profile I would write for a young man, unless he had an independent income. A middle-aged man needs to stress his accomplishments; a young man will have the freedom to stress his potential and not to explain why he isn't married yet. The line "I hope one day to be in a position that my wife won't have to work if she doesn't want to" is a polite yet practical way of saying he'd prefer to be married to a woman who stays at home. And if gives him the freedom to admit he simply can't carry the financial load on his own.

Update: I haven't been able to monitor the tone of the combox because I currently don't have internet access at home. Ladies, please remember that this is supposed to be a comfortable place for Catholic Singles and other Singles of Good Will, and many of those Singles are traditionalists. I am deeply touched that both sedevacantists and folk-Mass preferring Catholic liberals, both Thomists and Calvinists, read this site; this is, given the nature of the internet, an absolute miracle. I'd like to keep it.

For what it's worth, my TLM-loving husband has two portraits of Belloc over the fireplace: Belloc young and Belloc old. And yet B.A. is a kindly, sophisticated man who is deeply sympathetic to women. Please do not tar all men who love the traditions of the Catholic Church with the same brush. My ex-husband was an Anglican who loathed Catholicism, and yet you will not find a breath of disdain for Anglicanism on this blog.

Meanwhile, you know I have deep reservations about internet dating sites. If a dating site is not helping you, if it is actually making you more contemptuous of men and despairing of marriage, PLEASE QUIT and write to the site managers to tell them why. There is no substitute for meeting people and making friends in person.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Auntie Seraphic & Wants a Matchmaker

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

I am no mathematician, but when I look out into the crowd of Catholic events like Theology on Tap and the like, the women far outnumber the men.

Now, I understand that women are usually more religious than men. But for those young ladies that want a good Catholic man, this becomes a problem. Statistically speaking, she has a 25% chance (estimation) that she will forever be single, because there are not enough good Catholic men to marry good Catholic women, which explains this phenomena of frustrated single Catholic women that is increasing by the day. It is every woman's fear that she will never marry, and looking at the math, this is a real possibility! And in addition to all of this, we as women cannot pursue a man, and so our hands are tied.

Pondering all of this, I was thinking of a possible solution, and it made me think of Orthodox Jews, who have matchmakers in their community. My proposal is that we have Catholic matchmakers who are responsible for setting up Catholic couples. I know, it's kind of a crazy idea that touches on the 'arranged marriage' idea, but if you think about it, E-Harmony is very similar, except it's a computer that does the work, not a person. What do you think of this, Auntie? I would like to hear your thoughts!

In Christ,

Wants a Matchmaker

Dear Wants a Matchmaker,

I am not a mathematician either. Tax season leaves me a total wreck, and I can just manage how to cut a pie to feed an entire dinner party. So I don't guess about how many Single women there are compared to Single men: I just look up the official statistics online.

As most people marry, the cold hard data may have a soothing effect on the nerves of the catastrophizing Single woman. In the official 2002 American data, only 8.2% of American women aged 40-44 had never married. However, 14% of American men aged 40-44 had never married.

Of course, you should factor in those men and women who simply had no wish to marry in 2002: those ideologically opposed to marriage, nuns, monks, Latin Rite priests, those with developmental disabilities, those with homosexual orientations, and those (perhaps) who have obvious problems that always made them unlikely to marry, e.g. severe mental illness.

Now, 46% of women in the USA in 2002 aged between 15 and 44 were married, and 9% were co-habiting (i.e. living in a sexual & domestic relationship with someone). Among men of that age group, 42% were married and 9% were co-habiting. Thus, more women than men between age 15-44 were married. However, as very few Americans marry before age 15, and some Americans marry after the age of 44, this data does not reflect the actual fact that 90% of adult American women do marry.

Here are the official statistics on marriage in the USA as of spring, 2012.

This does not directly address the question of how many "good Catholic men" there are to go around, although I am delighted that you brought up "Theology on Tap" because when I wrote about my hometown's "Theology on Tap" as if it were a Catholic marriage-market, many people got mad at me. They thought it wrong that I should consider "Theology on Tap" a Catholic marriage-market, and my attitude was "What's wrong with a marriage-market?" Marriage! Marriage! Babies! Babies!

Not that marriage and babies are the only calling in life. No. Certainly not, and we should be careful to stress the importance of perpetually Single people to society.

However, the 1980s are over, and I think it's time women stopped being embarrassed about wanting to get married, not to mention writing about it. And I'm glad you mentioned the Jewish community because they are not at all embarrassed by marriage. They think marriage is very important--more important than Catholics do, because we believe life as a consecrated religious is superior to the married state. However, if you are not called to consecrated religious life, then--yes--you are going to envy Orthodox Jews their matchmakers and attitude that Jewish men have to marry Jewish women if they want properly Jewish babies.

That is definitely an ace that Jewish women have that Catholic women don't. Catholicism is not transmitted by blood tie but by baptism, so a Catholic guy can marry anyone he likes and still have Catholic babies, if he still cares enough about that to insist. However, it occurs to me that one thing orthoprax Catholic girls have that sets us apart from other girls is that we won't insist on birth control. If a devout Catholic guy wants a wife who is willing to forgo artificial birth control, well, he just might have to find a Nice Catholic Girl.

But I'm just throwing the birth control issue out there. I do not have any data that there are more Single Nice Catholic Girls than there are Single Nice Catholic Boys. Also, it is difficult to define what a Nice Catholic Girl or Boy is. My entire life I've been clutching my chest when a friend announces she has a new boyfriend and demanding, "Is he CATH-olic?" and when she says "Yeeeees, but he doesn't go to Mass",
I always shrug and think, "Well, you'll probably whip him into shape." Which she generally does. It takes a strong faith and some backbone, so if you have both, don't turn up your nose at the Mass-skipper, if he's otherwise a decent chap and cute.

The power of women to make not-so-observant men of their own religion suddenly become a lot more devout is amazing to behold. And this leads me to suggest that the Nice Catholic Girl cast her nets a little farther than Theology on Tap. Instead of focusing solely on the devout, she might want to contemplate the cousins of the devout. Where are they? Well, who are they? Are they Hispanic? Are they Italian? Are they Polish? Are they Vietnamese? Are you? One advantage Catholic girls have over Jewish girls is that there are a LOT more single Catholic (even if in name only) men than there are single Jewish men.

And this may be why we do not have a matchmaking tradition. Before the 1960s, forward-thinking priests in Canada and the USA organized parish dances so that young Catholics immigrants could meet each other, but I think that's as far as it went. (It would be interesting to find out if Polish migrants to the UK are marrying other Polish migrants to the UK they meet at Polish Mass.) There are communities (like the Hungarians of Toronto) who have Debutant Balls, but the debs are usually way under the contemporary average age of first-time brides.

Now Catholics are so integrated into mainstream society, very few would come to parish dances. I once organized parish dances, so I know whereof I speak--at least for the 1980s. I am open to correction on this point: perhaps we are ripe once again for parish dances. If I win a lottery, I will organize a ball for all the devout Catholic Singles-under-45 in Britain. It will begin with Mass, simultaneous TLM (in a chapel) and NO (in a church), and whoever doesn't go to the Masses can't come to the ball. There will be dance cards and the pipe-smoking trad Catholic men won't be allowed to smoke unless they can prove they have at least asked a girl to dance. Cards will be checked at the door to Smokers' Alley.

And that is as far as my imagination goes. We can't make up traditions we don't have. Well, we can try, but that's how we got "Sing a New Song"--no longer so new--and I won't have any part of it.

Which brings me to dating websites. We don't need a Catholic Eharmony. We already have a number of contenders for Catholic Eharmony. You will notice that despite my popularity and charm, I have not been signed to provide content for these people. It may be because I have Grave Misgivings about Catholic dating websites and think they are mostly a waste of time and money. Not always. But mostly. If subscribers were sensible and confined yourselves to chatting and meeting with people IN YOUR OWN CITIES, then I would be less critical.

So to answer your question, I think the way forward would be for married Catholics with money to fund dances for that segments of Catholic society that really do want to meet marriage-minded Catholics. It should be held at the most expensive, high-status venue around, for the awe factor, and make the Knights of Malta weep with envy. (Potentially lottery-winning Auntie is pondering the Balmoral Hotel. Or should we grace the Caledonian? Hmm.) And people who want to go should have to apply to get in, and at least half the tickets must go to men.

To return to the statistics, I am not very worried about Single women who wish to marry never getting married. I am more worried about Single women who wish to marry so badly that they end up getting divorced. That in itself is enough reason to stop denigrating the Single Life, to say nothing of denigrating long-term Single women.

Finally, I will repeat that feelings are not facts. It may feel like there are more Single Catholic women than Single Catholic men, but feelings don't make that so. And if I read the statistics correctly, the older an American woman is, the more likely she is to be (or have been) married.

Grace and peace,

Friday, 19 October 2012

Are You Unusually Good-Looking?

Well, I suppose this is somewhat outrageous, but I am a bit outrageous, as you know. And I am interested to know what it is that unusually good-looking people might have to complain about.

It is a myth that unusually good-looking people get asked out on dates all the time; sometimes they feel that their beauty isolates them. And of course they might have to deal with the resentment of others and think that if they don't act friendly and happy simply all of the time, others will snarl at them.

Speaking from a philosophical and religious point of view, all human beings are beautiful because each and every human being is made in the image and likeness of God. The Facebook friend of a Facebook friend has a campaign to get strangers to say that her sister with Down Syndrome--who doesn't think she is beautiful--is beautiful. And philosophically and religiously speaking, she is very beautiful indeed. Aesthetically speaking, which I suspect was the actual concern of the young lady with Down Syndrome, she has lovely eyes.

It is hard to have a serious conversation about the aesthetic beauty of human beings even though it is an absolute obsession in every culture. There has even been an attempt to quantify it, with such measurements as the "millihelen" and discussions about symmetry. The inability to have a frank and serious talk about it may be because we notice from the cradle that children more beautiful than we are get more attention, and we don't like it. It is particularly galling when beauty seems to be more important than any other consideration, including being good. I suspect there have been attempts by Christians--like the nineteeth century Canadian Presbyterian ladies Lucy Maud Montgomery grew up around--to dethrone beauty as a virtue, but they have been drowned by the pagan love-of-beauty juggernaut.

As a Christian, I feel that I should not notice when people are aesthetically pleasing and should value them only for their goodness. But as a sinner and an artist (which is not the same thing), I always notice when people are aesthetically pleasing and like to be around unusually good-looking people--to a point. If a beautiful person really shocks the stuffing out of me, I do not want to hang around. And, of course, many men look best when they are 19 or 20, and it would not be appropriate for 39+ Auntie S. to hang out with 20 year olds. At least, not now that I have just said that.

As for one's own beauty, it is very hard to be a judge. I was told almost every school day for about seven years by other children that I was irredeemably ugly. On the bright side, I was told almost every school day for about seven years by adults that I was incredibly smart. Thus I tend to labour under twin delusions that I am both uglier and smarter than I actually am. But a quick look at the one school photo I have on my computer reveals that I was a pretty little girl, albeit with a pink and undistinguished nose, and a study of my bank account reveals a decidedly impractical nature.

Fortunately for my self esteem, a number of eccentric men--usually ones who fixate on strawberry-blondes--have assured me that I am incredibly beautiful, all that and a bag of chips, etc. My husband thinks the blue-eyed strawberry-blonde Maxine on "Jewish Mum of the Year" is very beautiful, and we all know about his lifelong crush on Dame Emma.

It is thanks to these strawberry-blonde loving eccentrics--bless their hearts--that I can discuss the aesthetic beauty of humans without falling into a deep depression and can admire beautiful women without resentment. Oh, and thanks to B.A. I can admire other handsome men without wanting to possess them and grinding my teeth to stumps because I can't.

Well, enough about me. It would be kindly if the unusually good-looking were to tell the rest of us their reflections on what it has meant to them to be unusually good-looking. Anonymous comments are allowed, and even the reflections of unusually handsome men are welcome, but I now have 24/7 internet access so I will be weeding the combox with a merciless hand. Nobody is allowed to mock anyone in my combox.

If you are genuinely confused as to whether you are unusually good-looking or not, ask yourself how frequently you have heard the sentence "You should be a model." By the way, if you used to be unusually good-looking (e.g. in your twenties) and you no longer are, I'd be interested in hearing about what that is like, too. Is it a relief or a loss or both?

Update: My electronic spy says someone in the USA recently typed "What to do when your boyfriend is discerning the priesthood?" into a search engine. The short answer is dump him now. Either he is being called by God to be a priest, in which case you don't want to get in the way, or he is just not that into you, in which case you don't want to be his cozy little security blanket.

Tell him you can still be friends, and you will pray for him and hope he will be very happy. When you have finished crying and throwing things in private, have a girls' night in which your friends make you the center of attention. "I Will Survive" is a song that will be conducive to your healing. Don't take him back without an abject and tearful apology.

Update 2: A very sensible objection from a reader who was in the boyfriend-discerning boat: As a woman married to a man who tried the discernment card when he got cold feet, I couldn't disagree with your advice on what to do with a discerning boyfriend more. At least in my situation, the correct answer was, "What did your spiritual director say? Oh, you don't have one? Then get one and if he tells you we need to stop dating, I'll understand." Father Spiritual Director concelebrated our Nuptial Mass a year later and baptized our first child a little over a year after that. Well, nothing succeeds like success! I'll point out merely that my reader took charge of the situation by suggesting a spiritual director and by pointing out this discernment might mean no more her (because a spiritual authority would say so). I admit that her real-life approach is a lot more sensitive than mine. But both approaches are better than being strung along for five years and then dumped a week before Boyfriend the Pinhead is ordained to the diaconate. And I know such things happen because a once heard such a story from an overly smug priest right from his pulpit. I think we were supposed to go, "Awwwww!"

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Auntie Seraphic & the Chap Who Was Teased

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

Your post about gentle raillery made me think about a girl in my social group who teases me mercilessly. She always smiles as she does it but I can never quite tell whether she's into me in a middle-school sort of way or she finds me faintly ridiculous. For my part, I enjoy the banter. Do you have any ideas about how to determine the difference?

Chap Who Was Teased

Dear Chap,

The best way to determine the difference is to ask her if she's doing anything this weekend and then ask if she'd like to go out for a coffee. If she says yes, she's into you in a middle-school sort of way, and if she says no, she might find you faintly ridiculous.

I'm putting my money on "yes", however, as women tend not to want to talk to men we find ridiculous. We avoid them, look at them blankly, sigh, roll our eyes, move to the other side of the room and hiss complaints just out of earshot.

On the hand, a "No" might not mean she doesn't like you either. She just might be a "one of the boys" type girl who thinks joking around a good way to stay firmly in the friend zone.

Anyway, ask her out and see.

Grace and peace,

Advice for men is sooooo easy. Seventy-five percent of the time (so far) it comes to "Ask her out and see." Twenty percent of the time it comes down to "Don't ask her out again unless she is being very encouraging." Three percent of the time it comes down to "This girl is stalking you, and from what you have told me, I suspect she may be mentally ill. You both need help. Consult your priest/Dean/campus sexual harrassment officer/police."

On the other hand, there are the "I am very lonely, but I am afraid of women/sexuality" emails. And then there are the emails from guys who may have Aspergers or another form of autism that is preventing them from getting along with women.

These emails are heart-wringing because I don't know what to write, other than gentle suggestions that these men talk to their favourite priests. And I don't feel it would be appropriate to tell a complete stranger that he might have Aspergers. For one thing, I am not a doctor or a psychatrist, but just a humble little laywoman M.Div.

I once got an email from a very lonely man in southern Europe, English none too good, who was absolutely afraid of women. He is the only person to whom I can remember suggesting a Catholic dating website. He was just so shy, I thought the only way he could start communicating with women his age at all was through the safety of a website. Of course this would be a very poor second to meeting and talking to women face to face, but at least he would have practise putting words together.

And I suggested he speak to a priest.


Occasionally I do get a letter from a young man whose heart has been broken. And then I say that I am sorry that happened. Strangely, it is easier to address one man's broken heart than another man's fears. I suppose because I know what it like to have a broken heart, but I haven't the slightest idea what it means to be afraid of women.

Men who don't like women--and that includes men who don't like women but have no trouble attracting women--scare me, but men who are afraid of women merely confuse me. Does anyone know of a book or link on the subject?

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Spiritual Mother of the Year?

Britain is not like Canada and the USA when it comes to multiculturalism. It is not embarrassed to have egregious stereotypes of Italians, complete with accents, in television ads, for example. A quick rule of thumb is that if "they" are white, you can say almost anything about "other people" on telly. This is why people who are distressed that the population of the UK (meaning London, Glasgow, Yorkshire and television) doesn't look as homogenous as it did in 1946 openly blame "Eastern Europeans." "Eastern Europe" is their PC code for Pakistan.

Britain is also not like Canada in that it is obsessed with American culture. For Canadians, American culture is just there, something to be used and abused and resisted insofar as it might completely wipe out Canadian culture. But British people, at least British people in television, cannot get enough American stuff. Some even celebrate American Thanksgiving, and I am not making that up.

Uniquely British attitudes towards multiculturalism and American culture are why, I think, there exists a television show called "Jewish Mother of the Year."

Jewish people make up a very tiny percentage of the British population, they or their ancestors emigrated before 1950, and they are not noticeably prominent in the British entertainment world. There does not exist in the UK the same obsession with "Who is Jewish?" as there is in Canada and the USA. I think the celebrity chef Nigella Lawson might be Jewish, but without looking it up, I can tell you at once she is much better known for her Italian ancestry.

Thus, something as potentially offensive as a show called "Jewish Mother of the Year" seems rather American to me, even as its naiveté seems very British.

Anyway, from what I have seen of this show so far, it appears to be a contest between at least six Englishwomen who are also Jews. Their challenge last night was to set up a pretty English Jewish girl with English Jewish bachelors she didn't already know. This was a very tricky challenge, we were told, because most English Jews know each other already. One bachelor joked that to set him up with a Jewish girl he didn't already know, the show would have to fly in a girl from a shtetl in Russia.

The Jewish mothers, working in teams of two, found three Jewish bachelors and convinced them to go on a date with the pretty Jewish girl. One was pale and handsome, one was dark and handsome, and one was bearded, ginger and--in my humble opinion--weedy. There is such a person as a handsome red-headed man, and speaking as a red-headed woman, this guy wasn't him.

One of his adopted Jewish mothers absolutely adored him, however, and later on the show, her teammate said she was surprised that she, as a religious woman, flirted with him so much. But I am ahead of myself.

The date scheme worked like this: The Jewish mothers got to prepare their Jewish bachelor for the date and spy on him and the pretty Jewish girl while they had dinner. They also could talk to him on a wire while he was on the date and tell him what to do.

What amazed me was that the dark and handsome one completely went along with all this. His adopted Jewish mothers had him down on a beautician's couch, plucking his eyebrows and dying his eyelashes. They snipped his chest hair. Their idea was to make him, already handsome, look just like a Handsome Prince. They told him to lie still, and he did.

On his date, he obediently put in his earpiece and listened as his spying adopted mothers told him what to say and to mirror the gestures the girl made, so as to make her feel closer to him. All that Tony Robbins stuff.

Meanwhile, it all worked. The girl thought he was really very attractive, except for being 24 when she is 29. Frankly, I could look beyond that for the sake of a guy who looks like that and does whatever he's told. If I were Single, I mean.

The bearded guy refused to wear his earpiece and thought he could just carry the day with his arrogant personality. He was wrong.

This is a very incomplete report because actually I was flipping between "Jewish Mother of the Year" (which, as a non-Jewish twenty-year resident of Bathurst-and-Finch, I found embarrassing) and the Scotland v Belgium World Cup qualifier (which, as a football fan and resident of Scotland, I also found embarrassing). But it is enough to inspire my own daydream of competing for Catholic Mother of Year, for which I would be currently disqualified for not being, you know, a mother.

The whole idea of being a Mother of the Year is rife with potential stereotyping. Unless you're St Gemma Giana Molla, what on earth would make one Catholic Mother better than another? You could measure on quantity--in which case any woman with fewer than five children--shouldn't bother trying to qualify, but how on earth would you measure quality? Urgh. Don't send me suggestions!

Still, the idea of spying on my son, either real or adopted, for a reality show, when he is on a date is simply comic gold.

Seraphique: And now, my son, you must wear this earpiece.

Fils de Seraphique: Mother, as much as I love and respect you, I will not.

Seraphique: My son, I will speak plainly. Due to some miraculous convergence of DNA, you are far more beautiful than either your father or myself. You have one aunt's beautiful nose. You have another aunt's beautiful eyes. You have your grandfather's stature. You have your father's waist--well, the one he had when he was your age--and yet you have your uncle's shoulders. All this will take you far. But, my son, you do not know how to speak to women.

Fils de Seraphique: Of course I know how to speak to women. I'm speaking to you right now.

Seraphique: That remark, my son, reveals how little you know. Tell me, my child, whom do you consult about that frightening automobile you insist upon driving despite my fragile nerves?

Fils de Seraphique: Hans down at the garage.

Seraphique: Yes, and whom do you consult about the state of your immortal soul?

Fils de Seraphique: Father MacDonald at St Columba's.

Seraphique: Yes, and whom do you consult about the state of the lungs I woefully suspect you pollute with the occasional cigar?

Fils de Seraphique: Doctor Whatist at the NHS, but I fail to see...

Seraphique (interrupting): And why? Because you respect their authority, their years of study and experience. And I am, my son, an expert on the feminine psyche of the Single Catholic Woman Today. I have spoken to her, read her thoughts, written to her, prayed for her, laughed with her, wept with her, occasionally fought with her. Indeed, I have have been her again and again as I have put myself in her place or reflected upon that long stretch of time in which I occupied that place myself. Although I have neither the technical skill of a Hans, nor the spiritual authority of a Father MacDonald, nor the long years of training of a Doctor Whatsit---

Fils de Seraphique (interrupting): All right! All right! I'll wear the stupid earpiece.

Seraphique: Oh, hurrah!

Fils de Seraphique: But I draw the line at dying my eyelashes.

Seraphique (deeply disappointed): Hmm....

By the way, I thought there would be a terrible rumpus when one of the Jewish mothers was accused of flirting too much with her adopted Jewish bachelor "son." If you want to make a respectable married religious woman hit the roof, get other respectable married religious women to start tsk-tsking at her about some mostly imaginary, very mild sexual misdeed. I cannot imagine why there were not shrieks, gasps and tears, unless its because the other Jewish mothers didn't seem that traddie and/or religious.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

My New Flat

This is totally off-topic, but since a large number of you seemed to be interested in historical romances and houses, I thought I would tell you that for the next few weeks I will be dividing my time between a flat in an early seventeenth century house in the city and my usual flat in a late seventeenth century house (with eighteenth century improvements) in what is left of the most local countryside.

The city flat is very small and modern-looking, although it is at the very top of a very steep and narrow turning seventeenth century staircase and has views of other ancient buildings in Edinburgh's Old Town. Spires and towers and ball finials abound.

The flat has a tiny front hall, really an antechamber between door to stairwell and door to flat, a sitting-room, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a bedroom with two narrow single beds, somewhat like those of Bert and Ernie or married couples in old films.

The sitting-room has windows on both sides of the room, dressed with Jacobean rose-print drapes, a wine-coloured sofa and armchair, a modern tartan rug on the sisal carpet and a cunning electric fire in the nineteenth century tiled grate. It has a television with better reception than to that which we are accustomed, and there seems to be unlimited hot water, "Just like in Canada, darling."

Sadly, there is no coffee machine. And even more sadly, there is no internet access, so I will not be able to blog or read your comments. However, there is internet access at a nearby library, so I will not be out of touch.

Here is an article I came across about Other Singles of Good Will that I found very moving. It is in The New York Times, so read the combox at your peril. I quit when I got to the "imagine what a wonderful world it would be without religion" comment. Mmm, yes. Because 20th century experiments with that concept turned out SO WELL (sarcasm). So never mind the combox. There is enough in the article itself hinting at controversies within religious communities, shared by observant women of many religions.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Lady Catherine's Schemes

Workmen have carried everything out of my sitting-room, and I am shortly to quit this seventeen century house for another. Renovations are being done, and poor Mrs McAmbrose must be housed somewhere before (and after) she takes her doting husband to Kraków.

Last night I read up on the First Vatican Council, but as bedtime reading I finished Pride and Prejudice. This time, while noting Caroline's last desperate outbreak of snarling wickedness, I turned my attention to the desperate schemes of Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

Caroline Bingley schemes for herself alone. Lady Catherine schemes on behalf of her daughter. In this she is not unlike Mrs Bennet, who has many more daughters to marry off, and greater cause to worry. Lady Catherine and her daughter are immensely rich and important; for sure someone will marry the Miss De Bourgh, if Mr Darcy doesn't, and in the event that no-one did, she will still be rich.

By the way, Miss De Bourgh is certainly wasting her opportunities. Had I her money, I would get over being ill and rush down to London to make havoc among the fortune-hunters. I would have so much fun, I am sure it would improve my appearance. And, since marriage would mean handing over all the cash to my lucky, pre-Married Woman's Property Act, husband, I would put it off as long as possible. Unless I met the Perfect Man for Me, I would reign over the London Season for decades.

But then this strange seclusion might be Miss D's mother's fault. If Lady C is keeping her daughter for Mr Darcy, then it would explain why she keeps her at home and coddles her supposed illness.

Hmm. Maybe it is Lady Catherine who is wasting her opportunities. She definitely needs another interest in life. Could she not toy with the hearts of fortune-seeking widowers instead?

As a married woman I recognize the temptation to meddle in the love affairs of others. Having wound up the plot of our own love lives in a flourish of white silk and champagne, we married ladies perk up at sound of someone else's plot. Whether or not we are more of a help than of a hindrance to our unmarried friends is an open question.

Lady Catherine's huge mistake is in thinking she can boss absolutely everyone into doing what she wants them to do. As she has known Mr Darcy his entire life, it surprises me that she thinks she can boss him into doing what she wants him to do.

My personal philosophy is that whereas you can stop men from doing stuff (e.g. by locking them out of the house), it is much more difficult to get them to do stuff they don't want to do. They have to be convinced with plausible arguments or bribed/rewarded, e.g. with cake. The nicest men are easy-going and don't object often to doing anything, although even the nicest man is going to draw the line at marrying his cousin when he'd rather marry someone else.

Lady Catherine is a Grande Dame, and I aspire to become a Grande Dame, although a much nicer Grande Dame than Lady Catherine. I would rather be a Grande Dame like the Duchess of Avon (Léonie) in Devil's Cub, for example, tremendously sympathetic to a son's habit of duelling as I should love to duel too.

Seraphique: Oh my son, it is true you are wicked. But it is only because I am so wicked myself.

Fils de Seraphique: Oh mother. You must not say such things.

Seraphique: It is the red hair; it is our curse.

Fils de Seraphique: But perhaps also a blessing. Consider my excellent aim.

Seraphique: Ah, my son. You get that from your uncle. I myself can barely hit the side of a barn.

Actually, if I had a son, I don't think I would make any suggestions about his love life, and just let B.A. make all the embarrassing speeches, which I hope would amount to more than "Anything for a quiet life, son" which is what his grandfather said to him.

Or would I? Hmm. Well, it is moot as if I ever have a son, I will be in my sixties when he is in his twenties, and sixty is really too old for schemes.

What is the responsibility of a married lady towards the single young? I am not sure. I think it is nice to introduce them to each other and have large parties at which the young can take refuge with each other away from the old, but that's about it. Any scheming, and one might end up like Lady Catherine, snubbed in the shrubbery.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Something Novel

I spent several exciting hours this week going over proofs of my novel. Ignatius Press will send me the typeset proofs in early November. Apparently Ceremony of Innocence will come out in early 2013. You read it here first, troops!

How can I describe this novel? Well, it is a thriller. It has strife, politics, philosophy, romance, riots, rivalry, liturgical dance, a Polish priest and the Deutscher Fussball-Bund.

It is not autobiographical. I'm telling you now so you can tell your friends.

By the way, you aren't going to lend your copies to your friends this time, because instead you are going to clutch your many-times-read copies to your bosoms and shout, "No! Buy your own!"

And then you will say, "It's not autobiographical. She said. I read it on her blog."

I cannot stress the importance of this because, ahem, I wrote the first draft before I got married, and the surname of the protagonist is uncomfortably close to my married name. I realized this only while going through the proofs, and had a silent conversation with the protagonist.

Me: Can we change your name?

Protagonist: No.

Me: But now everyone will think you are me.

Protagonist: How stupid. I'm a lot younger than you.

Me: All the same, there will be snickers.

Protagonist: Let them snicker. What do I care?

Me: I'm not thinking of you, for once, but of me.

Protagonist: I thought you were worried people would think I was Hilary.

Me: Yes, but I decided that was far-fetched. It is much more likely people will think you are me.

Protagonist: Well, that could be good. I am cleverer and much more glamorous than you are.

Me: You are much more troubled than I am.

Protagonist: Well, nobody thinks Steven King is The Shining. Incidentally who will play me in the film? If there is a film.

Me: Oh goodie! My favourite game. Hee hee hee! Someone very thin and British. Who is thin and British?

Protagonist: Kate Middleton.

Me: She smiles too much, and she's not an actor anyway.

Protagonist: Tilda Swinton.

Me: Too old.

Protagonist: Helena Bonham Carter.

Me: Oooh! Oooh! She's my favourite but... Hmm... Maybe a weeny bit too... She's older than me, so she's much older than you.

Protagonist: This is all very shallow, Mother.

Me: How old is Keira Knightley?

Protagonist: I haven't the slightest.

Me: I wonder if Keira would do it... Maybe she is too beautiful to be you.

Protagonist: Oh, ta very much.

Eventually someone will discover that the line between creativity and insanity is non-existent, and that when writers have (and lose) arguments with their own creations it is not because we are sensitive, artistic people but because we are insane. If we were sane, we would creatively work on math problems instead and make huge salaries at MIT, etc.

Friday, 12 October 2012

As You Wish

Two posts today. This one is about this fine article by Father Raymond de Souza. Hat tip N Panchancha in yesterday's combox.

Father de Souza, not being a woman, or perhaps because he is a priest, did not mention that when Westley said "As you wish", he looked like this when he said it:

He was not scurrying around, bleating "As you wish, as you wish, madame." Ohhhh nooooo. He was saying it with blush-making MEANING.

But that's a minor quibble with a fine article. Trust me to interject female sexuality into everything. Maybe I should have some breakfast cereal.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Obvious Procrastination

I have so much work to do today I am almost in a panic. So I will leave you with one question for discussion. It is shocking in its time-wasting frivolity.

Would you rather be a plain (or actually ugly) woman surrounded by handsome men, or a very beautiful woman surrounded by ugly men?


Wednesday, 10 October 2012

"Gentle Raillery" is Just Nagging in Period Costume

I am thinking once again about Pride and Prejudice and the thousands of knock-offs it has inspired. I am thinking also about the different demands of real life and of novel-writing.

Romance in real life usually involves people hitting it off right away, either as friends or as strangers or mere acquaintances mutually attracted to each other. Any massive personality conflict usually comes later, ending or transforming the romance. In the beginning, all is smooth sailing and goofy smiles.

But this does not meet the demands of romantic fiction, which needs conflict right from page 1 to keep the reader interested and the plot going. After a lifetime of being forbidden from reading any but Georgette Heyer's romance novels, I read a whole glut of non-Georgette for Irony class in grad school. And it struck me that they were all the same. They all involved Woman meets Man, Man behaves Rudely, Woman chastizes Man, Man feels amused and intrigued, Woman goes off in huff, Eventually Woman realizes she had Man all wrong, Sex Stuff (or Just Kissing), The End.

Man often had steely grey eyes. All over the world there may be grey-eyed men who wonder why women berate them and then hang around expectantly.

This may be very hard to believe if your primary interaction with men and romance is through romantic novels, films and television programs, but men do not like being mocked, chastized or harangued. Not once in my life, and I dated for over 20 years, weep weep, have I ever heard a real-life man say "Dang, but I like a gal with spirit!" This cannot be because I lack spirit. I have spirit in buckets. I think that this is just a line men use (if they ever do) when they have decided in ADVANCE that they are going to court this particular woman, no matter what she thinks about it.

Beautiful Woman at Buffet Table: Would you mind not breathing down my neck?

Smitten Man: Great buffet, isn't it?

Beautiful Woman: I'd enjoy it more if you didn't breathe down my neck.

Smitten Man: Dang, I like a gal with spirit!

Do you see the distinction? You cannot make a man fall in love with you by teasing or berating him, although you might not necessarily discourage a man who is already interested in you by teasing or berating him. If a man is constantly hanging out around your desk at work and blushing, and you say with a smile, "Gracious sakes, Fred. Why don't you just ask me out for coffee and be done with it?", Fred will probably do just that. But if Fred only acknowledges your existence with an absentminded nod in the photocopy room, such "gentle raillery" will not encourage Fred as much as it will annoy him.

Elizabeth Bennet thought that Mr Darcy was a rude and pompous ass who would leave her community as suddenly as he entered it and, as she was worried that her sister was in danger of losing her heart to his best friend, the sooner they both went, the better. This is why Elizabeth stuck metaphorical pins into Mr Darcy. This is not why Mr Darcy fell in love with Elizabeth.

Darcy fell in love with Elizabeth because she had beautiful, intelligent eyes, a nice figure and amusing conversation (Chapter 6). And of course she was clever and very caring to those she loved. She was also a mystery to the people-watching Mr Darcy because she was so unlike her relations. And she must have been a refreshing change from Caroline Bingley, who did her very best to captivate him, including with "gentle raillery."

Someone quoted me from P & P the other day, thinking Elizabeth quite delightful and her speech hilarious. However, it was clear that my interlocutor had heard or remembered the speech out of context. Context is often what gets dropped from film or TV versions.

Here is the speech within the context, with my bolds to flag what must be flagged:

Chapter 10

...Mrs Hurst sang with [Caroline Bingley], and while they were thus employed Elizabeth could not help observing as she turned over some music books that lay on the instrument, how frequently Mr Darcy's eyes were fixed on her. She hardly knew how to suppose that she could be an object of admiration to so great a man; and yet that he should look at her because he disliked her, was still more strange. She could only imagine at last that she drew his notice because there was something about her more wrong and reprehensible, according to his ideas of right, than in any other person present. This supposition did not pain her. She liked him too little to care for his approbation.

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

I love your blog. Mr Darcy is staring at me. Why?


Dear Elizabeth,

Because he thinks you are the most beautiful woman in the room, you moron. And he's been staring at you since Chapter 6.

Grace and peace,

After playing some Italian songs, Miss Bingley varied the charm by a lively Scotch air; and soon after Mr Darcy, drawing near to Elizabeth, said to her--

'Do you not feel a great inclination, Miss Bennet, to seize such an opportunity for dancing a reel?'

She smiled, but made no answer. He repeated the question, with some surprise at her silence.

'Oh!' said she,'I heard you before; but I could not immediately determine what to say in reply. You wanted me, I know, to say "Yes," that you may have the pleasure of despising my taste; but I always delight in overthrowing those kind of schemes, and cheating a person of their premeditated contempt. I have therefore made up my mind to tell you, that I do not want to dance a reel at all--and now despise me if you dare.'

'Indeed I do not dare.'

Dear Elizabeth,

He was asking you to dance, toots.

Grace and peace,

Elizabeth, having rather expected to affront him, was amazed at his gallantry; but there was a mixture of sweetness and archness [Uh oh! Jane, that word 'archness' is going to blight countless female lives...] in her manner which made it difficult for her to affront anybody; and Darcy had never been bewitched by any woman as he was by her. He really believed, that were it not for the inferiority of her connections, he should be in some danger.

Miss Bingley saw, or suspected enough to be jealous; and...[s]he often tried to provoke Darcy into disliking her guest by talking of their supposed marriage, and planning his happiness in such an alliance.

So Elizabeth, who dislikes Mr Darcy, uses raillery to anger him and fails, and Miss Bingley, who has a crush on Mr Darcy, uses raillery to make him dislike Elizabeth and also fails. Truly, raillery is a dangerous thing. If you want a man to like you, don't use it.

And if you are determined, despite my repeated pleas not to do so, to keep Pride and Prejudice as your personal Guide to Life, please remember that Elizabeth didn't have a crush on Mr Darcy, he had a crush on her. For the love of Jane Austen and all she held holy, don't talk to your crush object the way Elizabeth talked to Mr Darcy.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The Cold Stench of Desperation

Today some of you will doubtlessly cry, "Go jump in a lake, Married Lady!" However, I can't help that. My task is to counsel Single girls, whether you like it or not, and enough of you like it to cancel out the you who don't. Dear me, how aggressive I am this morning.

Anyway, some of you may have been in a situation where you have been hit on by a guy who is sooooo desperate for a girlfriend (or something rather more animal and crude) that his anxiety is palpable and you shiver with repulsion and long to flee. And you would flee if you hadn't agreed to rejoin your friends at exactly this spot, and this has been the longest 30 seconds of your life: where are they????

Of course, sometimes it is not horrible, but comical, like the time my friend Trish and I (then in our twenties) were walking through a very snazzy shopping district and an old man in sunglasses drove slowly past us in a red convertible and drawled, "Hi, girls! Say hello to Johnny Hollywood!" How we giggled. Dear me. But I suppose his was too entirely lacking in self-consciousness to be true desperation.

There is a female version of this desperation and, fortunately, nice boys do not pick up on it very easily, although, unfortunately, opportunistic boys do. So do women, so if you are lucky, such horrible moments of weakness are immediately checked by your girlfriends, who hustle you away. If you are unlucky, only female strangers or your female enemies (if you have any) will be around. Ooooh, the horror!

Suddenly I am reminded of my very drunk Contiki tour roommate. I was not supposed to have roommates, having paid the unjust Single Supplement of Doom. But every two days or so, my harried tour guide bribed me with tickets to extra events I hadn't paid for to accept roommates. These were, of course, female roommates, so I didn't mind so much. This particular roommate, who shared my room in Sorrento, was absolutely determined to commit a mortal sin with any random young Italian stranger, but wasn't sure how to go about it. She decided that getting supremely drunk at the tourist bar we were led to was the way forward.

The venue was right, because lo and behold, the place was full of Italian men, including the plainclothes policemen my trip-friend Angela and I were chatting with in our Italian diaspora accents. However, my new roommate's approach was wrong because Italians-in-Italy think public drunkenness absolutely disgusting, especially in women. But she blamed her failure on her inability to speak Italian, even as she batted her eyelashes at the off-duty cops while shouting, "What do you have to do to get [...] in this country?

The younger cops smiled uncomprehendingly. The oldest cop suggested that Angela and I take her back to the hotel. This I did not want to do as one of the younger cops was a dead ringer for Marcus on Babylon 5, only even handsomer, and I was enjoying our conversation. Was I my new roommate's keeper? Secondo me, no.

I forget if I did take her back in the end. I vaguely remember a show of resistance and her trying her luck with the (frightened) boys in our group. More vivid in my mind were her good-hearted wails of "Oh Roomie, I am so proud of you, talking to those guys."

Extraordinary. Anyway, obviously my readers are never going to behave as badly as that. You may, however, be assailed by sudden attacks of crazy and decide to go for broke by doing a number of things you will tell yourself other women do all the time, and it worked out for them.

These include the following:

Deciding that tonight is the night you just get drunk and che sera, sera.

Deciding that old-fashioned traditional girls can and do wear skirts that are five inches shorter than everyone else's, especially with stilettos.

Deciding that it IS okay to wear a Sexy French Maid costume this Hallowe'en because it is Hallowe'en.

Deciding that being drunk makes it okay to tell a male friend everything you think about everything, either because (A) you love him like a brother or (B) he should know the Whole Truth about you if you're ever going to be in a Relationship.

Deciding that the way forward is a make-or-break romantic dinner, including heart-shaped cookies with pink frosting.

I could include a lot more things, but I am now too appalled to go on. The examples of female follies I have encountered are so many, varied and embarrassing, I would have to find a therapist if I listed them all. If you ever suspect, in your heart of hearts, that a bad idea is a bad idea, stop whatever it is you doing, call up your best, bravest and cleverest female friend, and check with her.

Full Disclosure: I was a Jordan Wannabe one recent Hallowe'en, doing my research by staring with great interest at local girls at bus-stops to figure out women of my body type might express their Wannabe-ness. I only got away with it because I never left the house, our guests were all over 40, the fake tan didn't go orange, and, not to sound crushing, I am married. As long as everybody knows we are happily married and we keep off drugs and no-one posts the photos of us dressed as Jordan Wannabes on the internet, married women can get away with stuff like that. Life is seriously unfair.

Monday, 8 October 2012

No Discernable Moral

This morning I am not feeling so intensely inspired to write about Single Life because last night I went to a dinner party that was rather a Battle of Lepanto Anniversary Party, so there was a lot of drink plus "Don John of Austria is riding off to war."

Actually, it was an unusual weekend, so I am still mentally processing it all. B.A. and I went to a Church of Scotland baby baptism on Sunday morning (a first for me, at least), and so we went to Vigil Mass early Saturday evening. So the weekend was

Saturday evening: Vigil Mass at St M's Catholic Church.

Sunday: 11-12 Church of Scotland service. 12:30-4ish Baptismal lunch with baby, two grandmothers, three other married couples, four children, one young aunt and Markyate Priory (of this combox). 5ish-11 Lepanto dinner with six Singles.

It is perhaps astonishing that B.A. and I spend so little time with other married couples, but I think this is because married couples with children don't have much of a chance to socialize, and when they do, they do primarily with family or old pals with children. My brother and sister-in-law usually socialize--when they have time--with family and old pals with children.

At any rate, I greatly enjoyed the novelty seeing other married couples and their children. The children sat in the middle of the living-room floor surrounded by adults who sprang into action when a wine glass smashed. It was such a good party that we were unsure if we should go to the next party, or if that would be overly greedy. But the second party was on the way home from the first party, so we stood outside the dining -room window making faces and jumping up and down and, when no-one noticed, called the diners up on the mobiles they were naturally too polite to answer at the table.

But it turned out our Single friends wanted us to come, particularly because the host wanted B.A. to help read Chesterton's poem about Lepanto and sing many merry songs in celebration of the Holy Rosary and life in general. So we were very glad we rang them up. Apparently we missed the Homily of the Year, which was our bad luck, but at least our friends had the fun of telling us about it.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

From Dislike to Like

Since we were a bit doomy and gloomy earlier this week, I think it is time we dug around in our memories for conversion stories. Not, you know, the BIG conversion story, but stories about not liking stuff or a person and then changing our minds and liking stuff or a person very much indeed.

I love these stories because they show the narrator's humility and joy in having his or her mind changed, and the rewards he or she is granted. It's just so much more fun to love than to hate.

When I was growing up, I couldn't stand some girls who acted as though anyone who wasn't of Italian extraction had lost the lottery of life. Oh dear, how they carried on. So did many of the boys of Italian extraction. The way they carried on when Italy won the World Cup, it was amazing they didn't just set their Canadian birth certificates and passports on fire in the playground. And it drove me out of my mind when people would speak Italian in class so that other people (like ME) couldn't understand them. Really, it drove me wild. Also, I was envious of their sandwiches. Their sandwiches were much more exciting than mine. Darn them. Darn them to heck.

All this gave me a jaundiced view of Italy in general and Italian-Canadian culture in particular. However, for some strange reason--probably to put off having to take Art class--some time after I escaped to high school, I signed up for First Year Italian. I took three years of high school Italian, and you can imagine how much my attitude changed in three years. I think from the moment I mastered "Due panini e un caffé, per favore", I wanted to go to Italy and speak to Italians. Italy was the magical country of cool.

I never became a groupie--there is a phenomenon of non-italophone fans of Italian just trying to BECOME Italian--so I never joined Italian heritage clubs or anything like that. But I learned Italian enough to be useful to Italians in my community when I worked for the government, and they needed help in Italian. Some of the elderly had tried and miserably failed to learn English, poor things. They were quite funny about it.

In case you are wondering, it's all very rusty now. But every time I go to Italy, I thank God above for my wonderful Italian teacher and my three years of high school Italian.

Okay, your turn. From mad or sad to glad.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Advice, Article, Chocolate

It's been an interesting week pondering our experiences in traditionalist circles. Sadly, there's been more discussion of the nutty and annoying than of the sane and amiable, but I suppose getting it off our chests is a coping strategy.

Summorum Pontificum, incidentally, was supposed to make the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, which the Holy Father loves, more accessible to Catholics-in-general and available in many parishes, not just one or two in a diocese. As we know, this has not happened overnight, but hopefully it will happen, not only so that many Catholics can reconnect with the Mass the saints [the Latin ones, not the Byzantines, obvsly] knew, but so the EF no longer seems like a "safe place" to hector women about our clothes or air views that dehumanize other human beings. Those eccentrics who love the TLM will have their pick of parishes, and not all congregate at the same place.

I hasten to once more assure you that I have never heard any unpleasant conversation about women, people who identify as homosexual, foreigners or people of other religions in the church where I attend the EF, or in the carpark, or in the parish hall. Although I have listened to men I first met at church very occasionally (i.e. rarely) air views that beg opposition, this was far from the church and church hall, long after Mass was over, and squarely under the protection of free speech. If I am habitually annoyed by a man's views, I do my best to avoid him, and if I think it will do any good, I will raise a pointed eyebrow or lodge a protest. This is Britain, where less reaction considered infinitely superior to more and the ability to quell with a glance should be celebrated in the Olympics.

One thing I have noticed about my own EF community is that we are much more likely to talk about what we love, not what we deplore. Perhaps it is upbringing, or European notions of what is suitable conversation for parties, or perhaps it is wisdom. Whatever it is, people do not seem to enjoy complaining as much as they enjoy conversations about "what is right with the world." What is right includes saints, art, music, liturgy, wine, funny adventures, funny conversations, European travel, European history, European royalty, ancestors, antiques, cooking projects, parish friends, friends among Anglo-Catholics, friends among the SSPX, vestments and socks. We have a number of dandies among us, and rivalries in the matters of dress occasionally lead to comical outbursts of envy and resentment.

Englishman wearing argyle socks: You Continental peacock!

Continental wearing muted plaid socks: (smiles smugly, twists end of left moustache.)

I wrote earlier about how to use traditionalist men's own traditionalism against them to defend yourself from impertinent and invasive remarks. I recommend doing the same when when it comes to very unpleasant strains of thought that seem to be creeping into trad communities in the USA, at very least. If you wish to confront racist ideology on the spot--without taking your concern to the priest (which you should do, by the way, if people are handing out racist literature on church property)--you might want to cite, not John Paul II, whom some Catholics dismiss as a liberal or, in the case of sedevacantists, no pope at all, but Pope Pius XI and "Mit brennender Sorge," tailored, of course, to the current context. It is hard to keep your interlocutor sympathetic to you if you suggest he or she is a Nazi.

In short, use your head. If you know perfectly well this person is paranoid about "feminists" and "liberals", couch your arguments in such a way that it will be more difficult for him or her to accuse you of being one or the other or both. And you may also want to consider asking a person WHY he or she holds their particular view. This might get you to the heart of their own particular, personal story, the source of their starting opinions. Then you can say, "I'm so sorry that happened," which, for all you know, they have been waiting 60 years for someone to say.

Sometimes, though, your interlocutor is just a boring old man who talks and talks because, to quote Cicero, old age is loquacious. If you can stop this kind of old man in mid-flow and even change his mind, I take my mantilla off to you.

Enough advice. Here's my latest article.

And here is an amazing chocolate pudding. It feeds at least six. I got it from a cookbook by Nigel Slater, and he got it from Nigella Lawson. Both Nigel and Nigella are famous British celebrity cooks.

To make it you do need a kitchen scales. Kitchen scales are what the British have instead of cup measures. Oh, and the flour is British flour, so Americans, Canadians et alia will have to crosscheck with other recipes (or find a North American version of Real Food) to figure out how much flour to use. Offhand, I think self-raising cake-and-pastry flour (if there is such a thing) is what you want. British flour is very soft. British suppliers think Canadian all-purpose flour is super-hard and just for bread and pasta.

Nigella Lawson’s Sticky Chocolate Pudding

Serves 6

150g self-raising flour
25g good quality cocoa powder
200g caster sugar
50g ground hazelnuts
75g dark chocolate (buttons or chopped)
180ml full cream milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
40 g butter melted
1 free range egg

Sauce: 180g dark muscovado sugar, 120g good-quality cocoa powder, sifted, 500 mL very hot water.

Put all dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Whisk together milk, vanilla extract, melted butter and egg. Pour into the bowl containing the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Pour the mixture into a large, buttered soufflé dish [a very deep cake pan will do, too] about 20 cm in diameter. Mix the muscovado sugar and cocoa together and sprinkle on top of the pudding. Pour the hot water on top—there is no need to stir—and put in an oven preheated to 180C. After 35-40 minutes the pudding should be firm and springy. Serve at once, with cold pouring cream.

This recipe may sound absolutely mad, and I feared total sog, but when I took the pan out of the oven, there was this amazing island of chocolate cake surrounded by a bubbling sea of chocolate lava. You have to serve it at once before the chocolate lava hardens to igneous chocolate. It is the most chocolatey thing ever.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Female Space, Male Space, Our Space

The concept of "Female-Only" space was considered radical and exciting when I was at university in the 1990s, so it astonishes me now that my hometown's school board is encouraging children, teens and teachers to use whatever washroom (W.C.) they want, based on what gender they "identify" themselves with.

This leaves women with the unwelcome prospect of men (rather eccentric ones, too) in the one public place we can be relatively sure we can be away from men. (And men might feel the same way about women.) I can think of all kinds of embarrassing reasons I might suddenly need to flee to the loo, and I don't want to find even the world's nicest trannie there.

When I was a child, the boys' washroom was so taboo for girls and the girls' washroom so taboo for boys, that one of the worst humiliations possible was to be shoved by bullies into the wrong one. Now I wonder at the power of these taboos, and I think perhaps it was because we were all busily forging gender identities. We had some assistance in this. For years there were queues for girls and queues for boys. (In my mother's day there were separate entrances for boys and girls.) But that was more or less it for segregation at school. Additional female only space--like girls' gym class--would have been nice, and the day I went to my my all-girls high school was the happiest of my young life.

But as a matter of fact, I was in a few female-only spaces as a child. There was Brownies, Girl Guides and Pathfinders. There was ballet class and girls' hockey. In the summers, I had a week or two of Girl Guide camp.

My brothers had a lot of male-only space. They went to boys' school from the age of 8. They were on boys' hockey teams in the days before the boys' hockey teams were forced to accept girls and therefore ceased to be boy's hockey teams. They were in a renowned boys' choir. One was in Cub Scouts; the other was taken out of Beavers when my father witnessed the Beavers making offerings to the statue of a beaver. One joined the military, the other the military cadets--but these were not, in fact, male-only spaces, of course. And that is just as well because I think my brothers may have been a bit fed up with so much male-only space.

They had a father at home, too, a kindly one, which I think may become THE hallmark of privilege, the ultimate status symbol, if he isn't already. I suspect one of the biggest psychological or developmental problems for men of my generation, and even more for the men of yours, was not having a kindly father at home. As Tyler Durden says in Fight Club, "We're a generation of men raised by women." And because boys are usually more of a handful than girls, and there are no longer so many men around to just pick them up and hurl them around or shout at them with real, God-given authority, showing who's boss in a way boys respect, frustrated, exhausted women try to get boys to act more like girls.

I think. I'm not a mother myself, so I'm guessing here.

Anyway, I think it is odd how North American society is growing increasingly unisex, which means that either men and women just act like men are women or women are men, cursing like troopers around each other, banging each other on the back, getting sloshed down at the pub, or (if male) confiding their romantic secrets, etc., and then wondering why the entire opposite sex seems to think they are "a friend type."

How much of that "we're all boys together", for men anyway, is an act? I received an email from a girl complaining that a male friend, clearly interested in her, hugs her "from the side" instead from the front. "I have breasts, so what?" she scoffed. So a lot, actually.

Meanwhile, it seems that there is a tiny but powerful collection of ideologues doing their best to eradicate the certainties of human society, like marriage, male/female and even mother/father. In Britain, despite the overwhelming majority of those polled rejecting the idea, both David Cameron's and Alex Salmond's governments want to redefine marriage as something other than the legal, social and financial union of a man and a woman. The Toronto School Board is trying to enforce a notion that your gender is not what it is but what you want it to be. The U.S. State Department announced plans to replace "Mother" and "Father" on passport application forms with "Parent 1" and "Parent 2", apparently to please those few people of the 2% of American citizens who identify as homosexual who have children "together." This is all absolutely mad.

But that strikes me as slightly off-topic. What I wish to suggest is that men and women are enriched by having some time off from each other, women (not just women who identify as gay) having places where they can go and be with women only, men (not just men who identify as gay) having places where they can go and be with men only, and then come back together, refreshed, to carry on ordinary life together.

My own particular contribution to "woman-only" and "man-only" space is to make some in the middle of my dinner parties, according to the traditions that would have held sway in the Historical House when its family still lived in it.

When dinner is over, I bring in the port and disappear with the other women to the sitting room. (It's not grand enough to be called a drawing room, although withdrawing is exactly what we're doing.) I don't know if the men actually tell "port stories" when we're gone, but as men around here talk a lot, it certainly gives us women more freedom and space to speak. And of course it is always nice to see the men again. They rejoin us, not vice versa, which at least feels flattering, even if I have to steal their port bottle to encourage them.

Update: Oh, and this is a "woman-only" space, of course! Well, a "only women allowed to leave comments" space anyway.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Restoring the Priesthood

Part 3 of Trids, Trads and Neo-Cons

My dears, I am shaking in my blue flannel nightie (early morning writing uniform) because I once got FIRED for writing something similar to what I am going to write today. Of course, I always expected to get fired because I was writing about traditionalist Catholicism in a Spirit of Vatican 2 newspaper, and I could hear the shrieks of dismay from all the way across the ocean. I wrote my columns in an alphabetic way, starting with Asperges and Benediction and was delighted that I got as far as the Novus Ordo before the editor pulled the plug.

The Novus Ordo I was writing about was at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, and was the first one I'd been to in some time. And Mass was done beautifully--don't get me wrong. There was a great homily on Saint Edith Stein, the church interiors had been restored, the female cantor had a beautiful voice, there was an impressively huge crowd of students. What I found so startling--and what my editor found so outrageous that I found startling--were the readings read in a female voice. I forget if there were any Extraordinary Ministers of Communion or any altar girls, but I would have found them startling too, just because I have ceased to be used to them.

Now if you are a committed female EMC, cantor, reader or altar server, you may want to skip this next part because you might take it personally and get mad, and I am not interested in making anybody mad. I am interested only in delving into the mindset of Male Trids and Trads, for the solace of Female Trids and Trads who might like to marry a Male Trid or Trad if they weren't such mutants.

Okay, most of them aren't mutants. My husband isn't a mutant. Our friends aren't mutants. The mutants seem to be roaming the USA, telling ladies not to wear pants in church. (In the UK this could get them arrested for indecency.) Obviously you don't want to marry those guys. But you might be wondering why it is that Trid men are somewhat aggressive on the subject of Woman, so I'll tell you what I think.

I think one of the biggest changes to the Mass since 1962 is the erosion of the priesthood. The innovators decided that it was terrible that the priest was "up there" and should be "down here" among the people. The innovators also decided that many sacred tasks did not have to be done by priests, but by almost anybody. Not just priests, but anything sacred should not be "up there" but "down here" among the people.

The innovators were not taking into consideration human psychology, which values most those things that are "up", not "down"; sees the sacred best from a slight distance; respects that which takes effort, training and skill; finds the exclusive thrilling; and takes comfort in sameness. Any Fifth Avenue adman could have told them that.

The innovators seemed to be actively chipping away at the priesthood and the very notion of priesthood, which in Christianity is inextricably linked to maleness because to be human is to have a gender and Christ's, the High Priest's, human gender was and is male.

Therefore, there is no more visual and obvious a breach between the ancient Christian traditions of priesthood and the new than women in the sanctuary doing things that only clerics used to do--like (in the case of Catholics) read the lessons, open the Tabernacle, touch the Eucharist with our bare hands and exchange a sign of peace with the celebrant.

Altar girls--poor things, they have no idea--also symbolize the erosion of the priesthood because altar service, which was once done by clerics, has been for some centuries an early apprenticeship for the priesthood. This is why it was a male preserve and--loving male preserves--boys and young men were happy to serve. Once altar service ceased to be a male preserve--and therefore no longer an early apprenticeship for the priesthood--boys and young men became more reluctant to do it. If the girls wanted to do it, and were allowed to do it, then let them do it. So much for altar service as apprenticeship to the priesthood.

Except, of course, in communities like mine where only young men are altar servers. Two of our altar servers are now in the seminary and at least one other is thinking about it. Altar service is very "in" with the twenty-something boys of our community. They discuss server-craft over drinks, reviewing their errors with rue and discussing the minutiae of movement. Altar service is an art, being not just service, but part of the religious ritual that, like art, lifts our minds to another plane.

I am keenly interested in the importance of ritual in lifting our minds to another plane which is why I like mantillas. But if I go there, I will go off topic, so let me just say that it is a woman thing and I like to express myself as a woman at prayer. Because only women wear mantillas, and usually only during prayer, the mantilla says "I am a woman at prayer!" And, among other things, this expresses a belief that men and women are different, at very least when they are at church. And I think this has a soothing effect on men (and women) who have come to associate women-at-church with the erosion of the priesthood.

I do not know who it is who is attracted to traditional Catholic worship in the USA or Canada, but in Britain I have come across many tradition-loving Catholic men who were once Anglicans or Scottish Episcopalians. One was once an Episcopalian priest.

Anglican and Episcopalian priests have famously been crossing the Tiber in droves, some with very serious financial sacrifice, in part because of the inclusion of women as Anglican deacons, Anglican priests and even, in some places, Anglican bishops. The fact that the Anglican Church would do such a thing convinced these men that they must not be Anglican any more. The Anglican Church no longer believed what they believed about priesthood--including Christ's priesthood--and therefore the Tiber (or the Bosphorus) they must swim.

This is not about "hating women" as their smug critics suggest. It is about priesthood---and all the rituals and tasks around priesthood (including, for some, the ancient boys' and men's choirs)--which is linked to maleness, a maleness shared by the High Priest. Of course, not all men are saints, so some of them harbour resentment for the women for whom their devotional lives were so disrupted. Or if they do not resent those women, they resent the idea of women doing stuff women are not supposed to do, albeit in a much much milder way than the average Manchester United fan would, should FIFA order the inclusion of women in the starting eleven.

Men not wanting women to do men's stuff is a hallmark of traditionalism. Not all traditional men are the same, of course. There are traditionalist men who think a woman should be in any profession she likes (except men's football), remembering that the priesthood is not a profession. And then there are traditionalist men who think that a married woman should not work outside of the home if her husband can support her financially. There are traditionalist men who are charmed if women ask them to dance, and there are traditionalist men who think this a sign of the coming apocalypse.

And they are perfectly free to think this because men have freedom of speech and freedom of thought, just as we do. The only time to give Trad or Trid man a piece of your mind--or an icy glance that shrivels him down to walnut size--is when he is inexcusably rude to you or to your weaker/younger female friend. I could not care less if a Young Fogey drones on about how he thinks women ought not to work as long as he doesn't tell me I ought not to work. Then he is in trouble.

The way to fight carnaptious Fogeys is with Fogeyism. And this, my cherubs, is a technique I learned as a Neo-con when young Neo-con men tried to set little traps for people's orthodoxy. For example, they would ask how many children you wanted, and if you said anything except "As many as God sends" they would say "Heretic! Ha ha!" So you just said "As many as God sends" to put a stop to that little game.

It is so easy to fight a Fogey as a woman because all you have to do is shove another man between yourself and him. This man could be your father, your husband or, if you have neither of these, your brothers or, in a pinch, your confessor. In a quelling voice you can say, "My husband/father/eldest brother/confessor is quite happy for me to [blah, blah, blah]." This suggests that you are, in fact, a better traditionalist than the Fogey is. In fact, by speaking so personally to a woman without being her husband, father, brother or priest, this soi-disant traditionalist is really just another modernist. Tell him.

Only a madman would think he trumps the opinion of your husband/father/eldest brother, although he might think he trumps your confessor if he suspects your confessor of being a modernist. But then you can inform him, in quelling tones, that you obviously have a higher opinion of the clergy than he does. ("You modernist!")

This post is way too long. If you're still with me, have a go in the combox. Please mention what country you are writing from if you fulminate against Triddism because, believe me, it is probably different in Europe. Ladies only, please.

Update: Another good rejoinder is, "Our Lord never spoke to women like that." He didn't. Our Lord was kind to every woman he met. The Gospels detail his many kindnesses to women, including rescuing one of us from being stoned to death by men.

It's amazing how uncomfortable traditionalists and conservatives are with frank lay conversations about Our Lord. And there seems to be a rule that you can't mention the Holy Name. In the UK, you can make people, atheist and Christian alike, flinch just by saying "Jesus said..."

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

When "Our" Men Turn Mean

Part 2 of Trids, Trads and Neo-Cons

There's nothing like a little persecution to bond people together. In first year high school Latin, Sister W scared us girls so much that we became good friends. We bonded in the cafeteria as we complained together about the nightmare that was Sister W's class.

Religious, ethical and political movements can work the same way. For example, it is so much harder in the decades after the Sexual Revolution just to be a nice Catholic girl who wants to "keep respectable", get married and have four children that it feels that Canadian society is now actively persecuting nice Catholic girls.

That was more of a feeling than a fact in the Eighties, at least. What was an obvious fact was that thousands of unborn babies were being snuffed out by doctors. Canadian society was supposedly mostly okay with this. But devout Catholics and a number of other people, including atheists who think human life starts when it starts, thought this was so appalling that we would be morally in the wrong if we didn't say how appalling it was. So we said it was appalling, and there was a hue and cry about how nasty we were.

The principal huers and criers were, I am sorry to say, feminists. Shortly before the Sexual Revolution, mainstream feminists ceased to rail against ab*rti*nists* and began to support them. And somehow they managed to turn cultures that were utterly repulsed by surgical ab*rti*n into cultures that thought it absolutely fine as long as no-one was forced to think about it much. The sin of pr*-l*fers, as far as society was concerned, was to make people think about it much. As far as feminists were concerned, our sin was to hate ab*rti*n itself. Shriek, shriek, scream, scream.

So if you were a Canadian Catholic girl in the 1980s, who just wanted to stay respectable and get married in the Church and have four children and also not be complicit by her silence in the wholesale destruction of unborn human life, you very much wanted like-minded friends. And you were very likely to find them in the local pr*-l*fe movement.

At this point in the narrative I should interrupt myself and tell you that although I had a very strong sense of Right and Wrong and knew that human life begins at c*nception, I was otherwise not very rooted in reality. To sum up, I thought fiction, no matter when it was written, was a guidebook to real life. The fact that the boys in my elementary school were absolutely nothing like the boys in British children's literature written before 1970 was a bitter disappointment to me, and I assumed that the boys C.S. Lewis and Enid Blyton wrote about were simply elsewhere, perhaps in England or in private schools.

They were not in the pr*-l*fe movement either, of course. The young men I knew in the pr*-l*fe movement were ordinary Canadian Catholic boys who were unusual only in that the wholesale destruction of human life made them angry enough to want to do something about it. That was their primary concern, and although most of them (I believe) strove to be chaste so as to continue in friendship with God, they valued chastity primarily as a solution to the problem.

These boys resented very much the implication that they were anti-woman, and I think they were frightened when adult women screamed at them on the street. They certainly resented women behaving that way, and they were glad that their female pr*-life friends did not.

The word "feminist", however, was a curse word and a lightning rod. And I attracted unnecessary attention to myself by asserting that I was a feminist. I had not yet learned that (A) the horror some men feel for that word precludes any reasonable discussion of its positive implications, (B) I should not scandalize the "weaker brethren" in this way, and (C) public feminism is controlled and policed by people for whom ab*rti*n rights are as necessary as air and water.

I wasted a lot of time, breath, emotion and even money trying to prove that as a feminist I was just as good a pr*-lifer as anyone else. And, of course, I saw these boys at their most unpleasant, which was when their resentment of much older female strangers who screamed at them on the street, and of those complicit in ab*rti*n (to us infanticide), spilled over into resentment or bullying of female pr*-lifers their age.

At the time I would have considered it absolute treason to complain about this publicly because we were all desperate to convince society that pr*-life is not anti-w*man but pro. But it was a shock and a disappointment to discover that boys who were brave enough to stand up to society's passive-aggressive apathy, "OUR" boys, could be jerks.

Now everyone has their jerky moments and even their jerky days. If a non-jerk behaves like a jerk, he or she usually knows it, calls you up or texts and apologizes. But in every religious, political, ideological and whatever movement, there are going to be bullies and dyed-in-the-wool jerks.

There are two ways to deal with bullies and dyed-in-the-wool jerks in voluntary associations. The first is to confront them directly, most safely with back-up, perhaps during a meeting. The second is to quit the voluntary association and go elsewhere, or do whatever else to avoid contact with the bully.

It can be hard to accept that a jerk is a jerk when he is a leader in your marginalized group. You might think that his other gifts outweigh the discomfort you feel in his presence. They don't. And you can bet that there are other people in the group, especially people who think that THEY should be the leader, who think so, too. Keep an eye out for them, and don't mutter quiet "I'll be okay"s when they offer you support.

Darlingses, I wish I could tell you that I shrugged off the jerkiness of the boys who weren't really jerks and incited palace revolts against the real ones. I did not. Not understanding male psychology, I just kept on trying to prove that a feminist was as good a pro-life girl as any other. I helped with schoolwork. I paid for Dear Leader's dinners. I voted for the jerk. I put up with insults. In fact, the only time I showed anything like a spine in dealing with the bad behaviour of certain Neo-con boys (for Neo-cons we were), was to phone their dad to complain. AWESOME. I'm so glad I did that because it balances out my embarrassment for having been such a wimp.

I will say one thing about age. Some jerks are only jerks because they are young, angry and confused, or because they are are the easily-led sidekicks of jerks. Many improve greatly with age. Not all do, of course, and you might not want to take that chance and continue to associate with them for the sake of "good old days" that might not have been all that good.

One of my most painful teenage memories is of three of the boys of my movement stealing my student travel card and shrieking with mean laughter at the photo.

The first (Dear Leader) I cut out of my life by university; I wanted nothing more to do with him, and to this day reject his social network overtures.

The second I foolishly kept in my life out of a misplaced sense of affectionate loyalty until his second of two serious betrayals.

The third, always more of a jerks' sidekick than a jerk, became a priest. He is, by all reports, a good, kind man, a fine priest, and the loving uncle of many nieces and nephews.

What I hope you take away from this post is that every movement has its jerks. Every movement has its misogynists. And every movement has its good guys, too. I'm not saying you'd be compatible with a guy whose religious or political beliefs contradict your own, but don't be surprised if many such men are much better company than the few jerks and bullies of your own community. Don't let the jerks and bullies dominate your life out of your own misplaced sense of loyalty. You don't deserve to be jerked around.

Tomorrow: Men resisting Womynpriests.

*Sorry about the all the *'s. It's to avoid Googling trolls.