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.