Thursday, 8 November 2012

Auntie Seraphic & Sense vs Sensibility

Ah! Who can find a cure for the common crush? But if someone did, would this not interfere in a terrible way with artistic endeavour? I suspect much of the Nineteenth Century collection in the National Museum in Kraków was inspired by people's crushes on other people.

It's a terrible conundrum. No pain, no art. Life-long emotional tranquility for everyone, or Widor's "Toccata in F" and Dryden's "Hidden Flame"?

On the other hand, maybe this pain = art thing is a myth of the Romantics. And it could be that art is a natural therapy for depressives, which is why so many depressives dedicate so much time to it. But back to telegrams from campus life:

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

First, I’d like to say that your blog is one of my very favourites. The good, common-sense advice that you provide in your posts is a great comfort, and I'm very grateful that you provide it.

The short version of the situation I am writing to you about is that I have a crush on a NCB, and I need someone to tell me that I should not ask him if he wants to meet up for coffee or something, because the temptation to do so is very great. However, I will elaborate further now, and apologize in advance for any rambling.

I am in my second year at university, as is the NCB in question, and we’re both [active in] our university Catholic society. I met him last year and would see him fairly regularly after Mass and at various Catholic events, and always found him very easy to get along with. I considered him a friend but never more than that, as I never saw him outside of chaplaincy-organised events, and he is a very outgoing, friendly person so whenever I did see him he would generally be talking to several other people as well as myself. Also, for about half of last year I was battling with a completely irrational crush for a boy [...], and after I had overcome said crush I was busy making sure that it didn't sprout up again, so my attentions were otherwise engaged.

This year I returned to campus a couple of weeks before the start of term to settle into my new accommodation, and in the first few days of my being here I received a message in my Facebook inbox from the NCB around whom this narrative is focused. The message said that he hoped I’d had a good summer, and that he was looking forward to seeing me soon, and would I be up for meeting up at some point, perhaps next Wednesday for coffee? This message took me rather by surprise, as I had not heard, nor expected to hear, from him all summer. However, I knew that I got on well with him and the more I thought about it the more I thought that it would be nice to see him again, so I replied saying yes, and we exchanged a few more short messages about when and where we would meet.

Now, I’m not a girl who gets asked out for coffee an awful lot, and I was really completely at a loss when trying to work out if this was merely a friendly gesture or if he had other intentions. The way that he’d asked me out of the blue seemed to suggest that he’d been thinking about me, but I also knew that he is a very friendly person, and it would not surprise me if he met up with friends for coffee all the time. (If you were to tell me at this point that I was overthinking the whole thing, I would agree with you).

We met up for coffee at the time we’d arranged, and went for a walk afterwards, and it was really good to see him and talk with him about various things. He told me about a difficult family situation that had made his summer quite a hard one. He did not make it clear what had motivated him to ask me to go for coffee with him, but I reasoned that he may have wanted to know that he had friends at university that understood what he was going through and who could give him support, as the issue he is having to deal with is a very difficult and on-going one.

This was fine with me. But, of course, to complicate matters I soon became aware during these proceedings a seed of a crush on him had been planted. I thought it would probably fade in a few days, but it sprouted. Fast-forward five weeks or so to the present day, and here I am, with feelings blossoming all over the place, and not a clue of what to do with them. I see him every week at Sunday Mass, and generally also at [X and Y]. He is always very friendly, and will give me a hug whenever he sees me, and talk to me, but has not asked me if I want to meet up with him since that solitary and confusing coffee incident.

Now, dear Auntie, my supposings tell me that he does not have the same feelings for me as I do for him, but this does not help me very much regarding what to do with these feelings of mine. If I did not feel this particular way about him I think I would have had no qualms before now about asking him if he wanted to meet up outside of chaplaincy events by now, as he is a really great person and I would have wanted to be better friends with him anyway. I am sorely tempted to try and put my feelings aside and suggest such a thing just so that I can become better friends with him, but even if I could muster up the courage and composure to do that without betraying the extent of my feelings, would this be breaking the rules of sense of how to behave? Agh.

I have been praying pretty much daily about the whole situation ever since I realized how much it was distracting my poor heart, and asking God to look after it all, which I trust He will one way or another. But if you could shed some light on anything that I have said, and give me some advice on what I should to, it would be greatly appreciated!

Many thanks,

Sense vs Sensibility

Dear Sense vs Sensibility,

I am sorry that your friend is having a difficult time with his family and had a hard summer. It must have been a great relief for him to go back to school and be once again among his Catholic chaplaincy friends. And it seems to me not that unusual for a contemporary young man, needing to talk but not knowing who to talk to, to ask a female friend to have a coffee with him so he could unburden himself.

Because I am afraid that is what I think this coffee date was about: free therapy. I wouldn't blame him for that--friends naturally turn to friends for emotional support--although I wish young men were a little more aware that when they speak intimately to young women about their problems, the emotional closeness can make the young women experience strong feelings of attachment.

So that, my dear S vs S, is what I think has happened. He reached out for emotional relief, you naturally thought it was a date, he told you all, and you felt emotional closeness and therefore attachment. Boom. Big crush now.

So what to do? Well, I think you should do what you want, but always remembering that any guy who does not think you are so marvellous he simply must be around you all the time and buy you coffee is slightly defective and definitely not boyfriend material.

It is good to have friends, and it is not good to avoid Catholic chaplaincy stuff when you get so much enjoyment and support from it, so I think you should keep on being friendly with him as before. I wouldn't say, "Hey, let's have coffee again!" because he might construe this as an invitation to talk about his lousy family situation again, and begin to associate you with the lousy family situation.

The important thing is to tell yourself the absolute truth and remind yourself of it as often as you need to, like a mantra: This boy is a nice guy and a friend, but he's just not that into me, so he's kind of defective.

I'm sure my male readers will feel indignant that I am encouraging women to think they are defective just because They're Just Not Into Us, but that's too bad: it's a useful mental habit to get into. Love the man who loves you, that's my motto. This can also work as a way of thinking well of the men we're just not that into who are into us: Scooter may have all the sex appeal of a squashed banana, but he does have good taste in women.

Anyway, hang in there, remember that Mr Family Problem is kind of defective, and if it helps, when you are around him, focus on what about him (besides ridiculously not being that into you) you don't like: his monobrow (if he has one), his horrible sneakers, his terrible clothing combinations. If all goes well, he will return to the Friend Zone part of your mind.

By the way, you might want to keep in mind that he does have this terrible family situation going on and therefore might not be emotionally available for a romantic relationship right now.

Grace and peace,

Hmph. These modern young men and their hugs. Why do they never hug me? I am pondering a banner: Hugs for Married Women! Just kidding, B.A.


Sarah said...

Ugh. Young men and their hugs indeed.

My crush, with whom I am very good friends, and I had a mutual friend visiting us for the week. The night before she left, he gave her a hug goodbye. (This girl's like a sister to me, so this isn't a story of jealousy, by the way)

I stood by until they finished, and he said, "Sarah, you want a hug, too?" with arms outstretched.

First of all, neither me nor this guy are big on hugging. I actually don't think I've ever had reason to hug him. So, commence the most awkward stare down EVER. He standing there with his arms out stretched about three feet away from me, who's looking askance and wondering if he was serious, or if he was kidding, and how long he was going to stand like that and whether the best way to end this would be to scoff and walk away or let him hug me. This went on for what was an eternity in Awkward Moment Years.

Finally, I started to take a step toward him just at the same moment he decided to let his arms drop. Then I did, in fact, scoff and turn to walk away when I realized he had started to follow close behind me and I guess settled on squeezing my shoulder with his hand, which I, annoyed, pushed away.

Seriously, modern guys and their hugs.

american (not) in deutschland said...

I like your "defective" mantra a lot because (a) it is kind of funny, and if you are saying it to yourself enough, you get the added boost of humor-perspective, and (b) although probably not true of EVERYone, it seems to be a very common pattern for a female person to follow this mental progression instead: Nice guy, good friend, not that into me, *I* must be defective. I think it's great to turn that thought process right around and give us some mental buffer space.

Jam said...

any guy who does not think you are so marvellous he simply must be around you all the time and buy you coffee is slightly defective and definitely not boyfriend material.

This is my "standard" but MAN. Some days I just think, does that EVER HAPPEN? It is just so far beyond my experience, that this ever happens to anyone, that a guy would pursue you and want to spend lots of time with you. Every time I've thought, "hey, I think he likes me!" it's been swiftly squelched by two months of radio silence or some other unequivocal demonstration of You Wish. Can't they see what they're missing out on over here?!

I guess I'm just having a Pathetic Spinster Thursday. Boo this vale of tears. Carry on, all.

Seraphic said...

Sarah, I keeel you! I keeeel you! This was your crush object, you say? If you crush object tries to hug you, you hug him. ARRRRGGGGGGH!And was this a German by any chance, a super-trad type Catholic German? Because if so, double argh. When my crush object kissed me on the cheek at the Christmas Dance in 1986, did I flinch? Nooooo! Go hug your crush object right now! NOOOOWWWWW!

Seraphic said...

And he touched your shoulder in an awkward kind of way. This sounds like a reciprocal crush here. How long have you been reading this blog???

Gracie said...

On the hugs note (and this is totally separate from the hugging of crushes. I'm with Auntie Seraphic on that one), I wish there was some sort of proper etiquette about hugging that was made clear to young men.

I have no problems hugging a guy friend who I don't see very frequently when we see each other and go to say goodbye. This can include friends I see on occasion or old pals from school or that mission project, family friends, or even the friends of my siblings (who practically have pseudo-brother status).

What irritates me, though, is guys I have JUST met who think hugging me is the appropriate way to say goodbye. Dude. We. Just. Met. A handshake is just fine. Really.

Sometimes, I realize, it's awkward for a poor gent if I'm with other girls that he knows. He just hugged them goodbye so maybe he feels morally obligated to hug me. I can deal with that if we've really hit it off but I have had times where the gent in question hasn't said more than two WORDS to me all evening and then still thinks I want a hug for a goodbye...

I realize they're usually trying to be nice (except when they're creepy...) but...sigh... Would it be rude or a relief to guys if I stuck out my hand instead of accepting a hug? Or should we just hug them regardless?

Sarah said...

I know, I KNOOOOW.

I have been kicking myself for days over this. I don't know why it was so hard for me.

You know how when you see a stray cat and you start to approach it, it kind of hunches down while it looks like it tries to figure out how threatening you are, and then bolts once you get within two yards of it? That was how I think I must have looked to him.

Traditional, yes. (though, I wouldn't say super trad... he hates the skirt police as much as any girl I've met) German, yes.


Anonymous said...

Any other tips for making the squashed banana Scooters more attractive?

I have two buzzing around me, and they do nothing for me physically or emotionally. But the Scooters are "nice guys", and Catholic, and likely willing to marry me without sleeping with me first. And they are very interested in me.

But I just can't bring myself to envision sleeping with them ever. Or rather, I try to--and end up in tears (self-pity moment here).

But another very hopeful romantic-bubble appears to be popping, I'm in my late 30s, and I wonder if there is anything I can do to open my heart to the men who DO want to be with me? (To give you a fuller picture, I did go on several dates with the Scooters in question, even let them--on separate occasions, natch--kiss me a couple times. It was baaaaad.)

I suspect you would never counsel any one to marry someone whose company they didn't particularly enjoy, but is there ANY way to make the un-attractive more attractive? A version of "fake it till you make it?" I am dead serious.

Thank you, thank you---

Crushed Catholic Girl in NYC

Seraphic said...

Sarah, the good news is that super-trad (and sedevacantist is beyond trad, even if he is okay with trousers) Germanc folk tend not to touch people unless they really like them. It sounds like he doesn't want to keep you at arm's length, so consider patting his arm.

Crushed, no. No, no no. Do not marry a man with the sex appeal of a squashed banana. I feel so strongly about this, I will now address it in a post.

MaryJane said...

Gracie, I feel the same way sometimes, so I have learned over the years to just offer a handshake before it comes to the hug-of-awkwardness. Beat him to the punch. Stick out your hand and smile and say it was nice to meet him, blah blah. There is usually a split second before the hug commences, and you have a chance to offer your hand in a confident and friendly way. (It's not foolproof, but it works 90% of the time... unless you are dealing with Southern Europeans in which case it is really, really awkward no matter what.)

Gracie said...

Thanks MaryJane. Yeah, I know there's not much to be done, in terms of hugs, with some of the southern cultures. Lol. But I have some Italian friends and I once spent a summer in Quebec so I can deal with the air kiss/hug thing more or less gracefully. I like your term "hug-of-awkwardness". I shall just have to counter it, in the future, with the "handshake-of-confidence." :)

Magdalen said...

I spent four years of my life having a crush on a NCB after a similar incident. Nothing came of it other than a terrible tendency to be cynical about men.

Also, yes about the hugs. Grrr, so confusing!

By the way, Seraphic, I just bought a copy of your book this afternoon, as I saw they were selling it at the Bay-Bloor Indigo. Would you have imagined it as a SMC undergrad?

Seraphic said...

Oh, that's nice! I didn't know it was still there. Of course I went to visit it when last I was in Toronto, as I always visit my books.

When I was an undergrad, my ambition knew no imaginary boundary, so yes. I was a bit lacking in work ethic, unfortunately. I'm almost 15 years off-schedule and the thought makes me extremely cranky.

MaryJane said...

Good for you Gracie! I have yet to master the air kiss/ hug thing. I always go to the wrong side first and inevitably end up bumping heads... lately I have just been trying to impose my American handshake-of-confidence on their culture :)