I hope you have something nice planned for New Year's Eve, for you will not be living any parties vicariously through me. B.A.'s idea was that we should sit on the roof and watch the fireworks exploding over Edinburgh Castle five miles away, but the idea fills me with vertiginous horror. The only other option is switching back between BBC Scotland and BBC Alba to watch the music, oh how exciting.
BBC Alba is the Gaelic channel, and therefore features what is probably more authentically Scottish music, at least in the minds of us boring Lowlanders otherwise stuck with The Proclaimers and Rod Stewart. There is fun to be had from guessing what the BBC Alba presenters are saying, e.g. "Och, Sean, it will be a surprise for Edinburgh when we launch our Highland independence movement, will it not, now?" "Och, aye, Angus, so it will, now." "I was thinking we ought to throw in our lot with Norway, so." "Och, aye, Sean. Better Oslo than those Sassenachs in Edinburgh. And now here's Rhodri MacTomais to sing 'A Cholla Ma Run'." Not much fun, but some.
I shall end the year's blogging by complaining about society's obsession with pair-bonding, especially at New Year's, when it is considered bad luck by some not to be kissed by somebody. At least the superstition is kind in that it doesn't say it has to be a boyfriend, husband or admirer who kisses you. It could be your mother. It could be your best friend. It could be the Jesuit scholastic in the car park outside the Newman Centre, and I will be forever grateful. Yay!
We have all kinds of relationships with all kinds of people, and if I were Queen of the World, I would pay pop singers to come up with songs to celebrate those relationships, too. For example, I think someone famous should compose and sing a song to celebrate that school principal and those teachers who died trying to protect their little students in Connecticut. At the gym I heard a song called something like "Let Me Love You Until You Learn to Love Yourself" which was the stupidest, most manipulative thing I have heard since I joined the gym and therefore started listening to Top 40 again. Why is there no song to celebrate the sacrificial love of teachers for their students?
Once upon a time there were lots of songs about Mother. Does no-one love Mother anymore? The only contemporary songs about Mother I can recall are Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares to You" and Sting's "Mother", and neither is particularly heartwarming. Are there any heartwarming (not sad and regretful) songs about Dad? Besides "Boy Called Sue", I mean.
Amazingly enough, there is one great song that suggests the relationship between Seraphic Singles readers and beautiful me, which is "How Will I Know?" So thank you, Whitney Houston, and thank you for the cameo of your godmother Aretha Franklin, which underscores this argument.
There are so many relationships that just do not get enough attention and credit, and I blame this for the tendency of my readers to write in saying that they "aren't in a relationship." Readers might not be in love with anyone, but you certainly are in relationships. Some of these relationships are intense, and some of them are not, but even the non-intense ones may be crucially important. I have non-intense relationships with the tea ladies at after-Mass tea, and frankly I think they are important to my life. After-Mass tea is a crucial part of Trid social life in Edinburgh, and the tea ladies are crucial to After-Mass tea. After Mass, I must have my tea, and there the tea ladies are, pouring it out.
Just off the top of my head, I have relationships with my mum, my dad, my oldest brother, my youngest brother, my oldest sister, my youngest sister, my oldest nephew, my youngest nephew, my niece, my sister-in-law, my sister-in-law's family, and my youngest nephew and niece's nanny Alisha. Just because all these people are across the ocean from me does not lessen the importance of the relationships.
I have a number of relationships with family members who have died. These are quiet, but still important. I pray for my dead, and presumably they are praying for me. I hope so.
Then I have relationships with my mentors and top editor, also across the ocean, and with a number of publishing people in Poland, across the Channel and a whole lot of fields.
I have relationships with the former professors I keep up with, and who keep up with me.
I have relationships with my girl-friends back in Canada, although all but one of them is terrible at correspondence. TERRIBLE. But that is okay, though, because when I visit, we just pick up where we left off, which is how friendship often works.
I even have relationships with a few men friends back in Canada, which are very non-intense, and mostly involve the occasional text message and maybe running into each other when I am back in town.
And I have relationships with friends in Edinburgh. I have older friends, whom I ask for advice, and I have younger friends, to whom I give advice. I have friends I made myself, and I have friends I inherited from B.A. I have teeny, tiny friends, whom I occasionally babysit. I have fellow parishioners to say hello to, visitors to the parish to welcome, a priest to support, and a cardinal archbishop to pray for. I have readers to pray for, too, and to write for before the majority (Americans) wake up in the morning.
And of course I have fleeting relationships with whoever else comes into my life, which means people on the bus, in the street, in shops and in the Historical House when they come to fix the shower or look for bats.
And then there is B.A., who is my husband, and for the record, if B.A. were the only person I had a relationship with, I would go crazy, and so would he. A husband is not a one-stop-shopping department store of the heart. Falling in love is not the tremendous fix-all that the pop songs make it sound like. If you do not have good relationships with at least some family members, some friends, some colleagues, some neighbours, you are probably not going to have a good relationship with a romantic interest, even (especially?) if you are married to him.
Germaine Greer writes in "the whole woman" (1999) of women's overwhelming need to love, and if I remember correctly (my copy is still overseas), she uses as an example of this the older woman who knits endless jumpers and scarves for younger relations who don't want them. (Knitting is how she gets out the painful burden of love.) Greer also marvels at women who long to follow men around and be around them all the time. She notes that the role of mother has been eclipsed by the role of wife, but I note that women's relationships in which they are neither mother, wife or mistress are almost totally ignored by pop culture. The sexualization of teachers, for example, is no longer a tendency to be discouraged but a theme of chart-topping boy band songs.
And this is really too bad because it is terrible for women, particularly the ones who have affectionate dispositions, to have our longing for connection and affectionate exchange, to have our feelings of benevolence and care, mistaken for emotional (at very least) promiscuity.
It is natural for women to care for older people--it is not evidence of a mother or father complex. It is natural for women to like babies and children, particularly our charges--it is not because we have frustrated maternal instincts. It is natural for women to care for younger adults, particularly our students or proteges--it is not because we are Stiffler's mom or secretly conniving Madame de Meurteuils--at least, very few of us are. It is natural for women to talk to the neighbours. It is natural for women to seek new friends.
What is not natural is to wrap oneself up in one romantic relationship--real or imaginary--and expect that or any romantic relationship to be the answer to all of life's ills. And therefore this New Year's Eve, I invite you all to think about the warm and life-affirming real-life relationships you have RIGHT NOW. Let's not think about the relationships we don't have (for me that would be physical motherhood) but about the relationships we do have. And then let's say a short Te Deum of thanks for them.
Te Deum laudamus:
te Dominum confitemur.
Te aeternum Patrem
omnis terra veneratur.
Tibi omnes Angeli;
tibi caeli et universae Potestates;
Tibi Cherubim et Seraphim
incessabili voce proclamant:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra
maiestatis gloriae tuae.
Happy New Year, my little Singles!