Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Auntie Seraphic & the Nervous Guy

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

As a male former reader, I stopped reading your blog because it is your clear wish. However, I have a story, which might possibly be of interest to your readers. As a young Christian guy, it's not easy to fight against your fears and sometimes you really mess it up and feel having acted like a psychopath, like me recently.

I fought against myself being too afraid to pursue an amazing girl, though she was very kind to me. In the end, I oversteered in the other direction, and in heavily fighting against my fear, I nearly went crazy.

Since she is a very outgoing person, I sought to impress her with (excessive) [energy]. I didn't touch her, but in another way, I didn't respect boundaries.

I'm a good and sincere guy and I was shocked by my behaviour. So, in the end, I was even happy that she drew a clear line and doesn't want to continue to see me outside of church-related activities.

Looking back, I even betrayed myself because I played the role of being the cool and active guy, which I'm not. While I played the role, I also neglected my own wish to just be able to talk with her for longer than 30 minutes.

Part of the problem was that I wanted to win her friendship first while leaving the way open for more. So I was too afraid, to just ask her to have a coffee with me, since this would mean something like a date. Instead, I made too many idiotic proposals for group activities with 3, 4, or more people. In the end, I have just become egocentric....

For me it is nevertheless a good step forwards. Surely, I have oversteered, but at least I have begun fighting against my fear of approaching a nice girl.

If it is helpful, you can publish it. If not, I wish you much success with your important ministry!

Nice greetings from [German-speaking nation],

Nervous Guy


Dear Nervous Guy,

Listen, you might as well read my blog because the guys at my parish do, no matter what I say!  The combox, of course, is usually just for girls. 

I am not sure what it is that you did, but I can see that you are sorry.  Since you didn't touch her or, I presume, lock her in a room with you, it was probably not criminal or even crazy, just inappropriate and embarrassing. Of course you will respect her boundaries now. 

Your email will be of interest to my women readers, as they often wonder what men are thinking. It could be quite helpful to them. But something else would be very helpful to them and to me. Could you explain to us (it will be anonymous, of course) why it is that you were afraid to ask this nice girl out for a coffee?

You see, I have never been able to understand why young men are afraid of women, even of women who are friendly and kind. You are not the only guy like this; there are many, many Christian guys who seem to be afraid of women, and we don't understand why. Many of my readers wish very much that Christian guys would ask them out for coffee, and wonder why non-believing guys seem so much more likely to ask them out.  If you were to explain how you feel about it, this would be very helpful to us, and maybe we could help you, too.

Grace and peace,

Nervous Guy has not written back, but I contacted the two young male colleagues visible in my Facebook messaging window yesterday. Both are confident, outgoing and popular with girls. I asked them my question, and one wrote "Boys can be more sensitive than girls."

The other wrote that there is a terrible risk of rejection, or being told that the woman is already attached, which he said is even worse than being rejected. Approaching women at all is "one of the scariest things to do as a man, especially if you're sober."

This still puzzled me until a female friend pointed out that women feel rejected all the time, so we're a little more used to it than men. For example, many women just feel rejected because absolutely has nobody has asked them out. Most men don't feel rejected just because no woman has asked them out. To feel rejected, they actually have an incident. And when that incident happens, it really, really hurts.

"Like man flu," I suggested. 


MichelleMarie said...

Well, I don't really want to play the game of which sex has it worse. But it's true, if no one is asking them out, single girls feel rejected. All.The.Time. Especially if we're around men a lot, it's like we live and breathe rejection - because feminism schmeminism, guys are still expected to be the initiators (if a girl initiates, it's more like a novelty/pleasant surprise for a man rather than something expected). So if no man is initiating, we automatically assume that somehow, something is wrong with us. We're defective. At least a guy can choose when he might be rejected. For girls who don't get asked out - it's like we're getting rejected all the time, without our choosing, without any power to change our situation.

So after all this implicit rejection has sunk into your very core, you're expected to be the confident, spunky, happy-go-lucky girl who somehow has to draw these nervous guys out of their fear. And so if we summon all our feminine energies to draw him out, and if he still doesn't come out of his shell after all our attempts - guess who we blame? Ourselves!

So I don't have much sympathy for men in this respect.

Wendy Macagno said...

I sympathize with the make reader, in fact with all shy and nervous types! This week I met one just like this, who had the courage to suggest 'we should do this again sometime'. I knew he was too shy to ask for my number in front of others (it was at his sisters baby shower), so when I returned home, I told my friend (his sister) that I really enjoyed talking to him and would like to give him my number. He called me and are going out Friday. His sister told me he is painfully shy, so I am glad I made the move I did! Some men need that encouragement.

Jam said...

Wow, I feel like someone switched a light on. It's so true that the state of being single feels like a constant, abiding, ongoing rejection. AND it's true that probably makes me feel a little (or a lot) callous about men being afraid a girl will tell him she doesn't want to go to dinner (I mean!). But then years and years of feeling rejected is probably not... healthy? So I should probably work on overcoming that, huh.

Seraphic said...

I should state, though, that the perpetual situation of not being asked out only FEELS like rejection. It is not ACTUALLY rejection. If you are on a bus with a lot of men at any given time, some will be much younger than you, some will be much older, some will be married, some will be gay, etc, etc. etc.

Emma said...

Given that it seems that NCBs have difficulty getting up the courage to ask out NCGs, what are we to do about it?

I know that when it comes to encouraging men, you generally advocate arm-touching, but what about those of us who take a long time to feel physically comfortable around non-family members, even women? I find the "hugging" culture that I seem to be a part of confusing- people my age seem to be constantly touching each other, but I don't feel particularly comfortable with it and am unsure of how to interpret hugs from guys.

Alisha said...

I agree...not because I think women have it worse but because seriously, it is unreasonable to be that afraid over something that small. I dislike rejection as much as the next person and am especially sensitive to teasing or bullying, but asking a person to spend time with me is not going to alter my personality out of fear of rejection. If I did, I would seek therapy. This is not. a. big. deal. There are people who face the possibility of famine, war, torture, poverty, violence, every single day...and these guys are afraid of asking a woman out to coffee? Lord help us if there ever is some kind of persecution of the faith... it's not as if you are going to the person and saying, "Please give me a thorough assessment of what you think of my looks, personality, and heart & soul." You are asking them to go and drink some coffee. There will be no guns (ok, maybe in Texas) or ultimatums or tests of manhood in those circumstances. Having said all that, the fear is undoubtedly there, whether it's unreasonable or not. My suggestion would be to practise other things that have to do with human interaction so you get used to being socially courageous. Also, a bit of advice I learned from acting: take the focus off of yourself. If you are experiencing that much fear, the focus is on yourself and not the other person. The other person is the more important.

MichelleMarie said...

Haha, Alisha, "there will be no guns". No I completely agree. I think this fear on the part of guys is actually unnatural, as well - caused by certain factors in the cultural environment. In times long past, the fear of rejection was there - but men did get over it because the hunger for intimacy with a woman was stronger than the fear.

Nowadays there are other things, i.e. porn and other multimedia toys, that fill that hunger somewhat, but not perfectly. Men still want to relate to real women, but porn kills the courage and know-how required to talk to real women, resulting in weird attempts at socialization and frustration (for both parties!).

I don't mean to say that the letter-writer struggles with porn, and I don't mean to pick on him! It sounds like he certainly has taken steps to overcome his fears, and good for him. That's already a lot more than a lot of men have done.

I think I need to stress this for all the men that struggle with fear: you have my sympathies, but honestly, the only way to get over it is to man up. Overcoming your fears is an inherent part of being a Man, and women will love you for it. I personally will never truly respect the man that I have to painstakingly draw out of his fragile little shell.

Sorry for the rant! I'm just having one of those days!

Magdalena said...

"Take the focus off of yourself. If you are experiencing that much fear, the focus is on yourself and not the other person. The other person is the more important."

That's really good. For men, but also for everyone with fears of talking to other people. I will keep that in mind!

I must say I am not so astonished at Nervous Guy's fears. The horror of walking up to someone and exposing oneself to him! Are men really that much more courageous in that specific field than women? (I'm just being curious.)

Seraphic said...

One of the men I spoke to says men love it when women are bold and forward and make the first move, but I think this is a way to get, not the guy who is that into you, or really will become that into you, but a guy who is lazy and enjoys flattery and being taken care of before he finds and goes after the Woman of his Dreams.

Arm-touching is actually more effective in NON-touchy cultures among non-touchy people because then it means more. IF you are in a place where everyone is constantly touching everyone, a brief touch of a guy's arm might not mean much to him. However, in a non-touchy culture like Canada or hte UK? It will. But it is still as subtle as it gets, second in subtility (is that a word?) only to the smile. practice on your friends, that's what I advise.

Jessica said...

I do not understand at all how/why guys think that finding out that a woman is already taken is worse than being rejected. Whenever I have a little crush (that I need to get over), I'm usually relieved to find out that he has a girlfriend/wife, has SSA or is committed to celibacy in his vocation, or is otherwise unavailable to me.

Overall...maybe this is a sign that guys need the "it's just coffee" explanation as much as girls? Among my friends and I, we've noticed that "good guys" have a tendency to put their whole heart into relationships, often before its really wise. I think sometimes all this rhetoric about guys having to pursue girls, needing to initiate/"perform", "win the girl," etc., sometimes makes the guy think he doesn't need to practice emotional chastity at all. I think it's OK for guys to hold back a little at the start! Then maybe asking girls out won't be quite so scary.

c'est la vie said...

I sympathize with Nervous Guy. When you have a serious crush on somebody, you are going to be terrified of rejection. Asking somebody that you don't have a crush on for coffee is not nearly as terrifying, so it doesn't mean he's socially inept in general, just that he has really built up a lot of hopes around this one girl.

Of course it would be better to ask upfront for a date and clarify whether you have been friendzoned or not before letting the crush get too far. Easy to theorize, hard to do!

Alisha said...

Oh, and one can also learn to social dance :) It's true that more often than not the women are more numerous and ask the guys to dance, but you will have the opportunity to ask women to dance, talk, interact with them and you can limit this oh so scary (by that I mean the most fun thing in the world) experience to a total of 4 minutes, 3.5 of which you don't have to say a word.) Really, every man should learn to dance. The more I think about it, there was a reason it used to be considered part of good breeding.
And yes, arm touching is totally useless in my world. I work with actors and dancers and gay men where affection and pet names and charismatic personalities abound. It's a perfect world to either be in a romantically entangled mess or to stay single.
Thanks, Magdelena :) I have to laugh somewhat, though, at the thought of asking someone for coffee being the exposure of it really so tough to tell someone you think they are cool enough to spend one on one time with? There are no diamonds attached to saying, "Hey, you are a lot of fun. We should get together sometime!"

healthily sanguine said...

It just comes down to the fact that, no matter the guy and no matter the girl, the guy has to have a strong enough motivation (i.e., like/be attracted to the girl enough) to overcome his fear to pursue her in a healthy way. If he can't seem to do so, I'm tempted to think, maybe it's just not the right girl. And that's how I think about the girl side of the equation too--not that I don't sometimes FEEL rejected when no one asks me out--but it's better not to be asked out than to go on a pointless date with a guy who doesn't really like you that much (or whom you don't really like that much).

MargoB said...

@Michelle Marie: you said "...I personally will never truly respect the man that I have to painstakingly draw out of his fragile little shell." YUP!

@ Jessica: wise words. Thanks for posting them!

Magdalena said...

Okay, of course there are no diamonds attached to going out for coffee. Maybe "horror" was too strong. It's getting late. But a date is a date, not just a chat with friends, so I think the guy who asks the girl out might very well feel a little exposed. Which is nothing bad, and if it keeps a man from asking, it's probably just not the right girl (as h. sanguine said).

I don't really know much about dates, as dating is not really very common where I live. Maybe I was still thinking about myself trying to make new friends at a new city, which includes a lot of walking up to comparatively strange people you find interesting and would like to know better, trying to talk to them, and not always feeling very welcome. As my energy for that is slowly dwindling after a few months, I can understand others who seem to be facing similar problems. :-)

Urszula said...

I'm a lot more interested in why it seems so much harder for Catholic/Christian men to ask women out than it is for secular men. I for one tend to date more non-believers than believers and while the Catholic men/women I know are surprised at that, it honestly boils down to the fact that the ratio of Catholic men making the first innocent move (such as an invitation to coffee) is dismal as compared to the secular men, at least in my experience.

It's refreshing for a girl to go out with a guy who doesn't get all hung up over something as small as an hour at Starbucks. While this may sound horrid, may I suggest practice makes perfect? Ask a few girls out and see if they really reject you. Odds are, they won't, and you yourself will see it's not such a big deal.

I'm with the girls commenting above - if a man isn't capable of overcoming himself to the point of being friendly and expressing some interest in me, I'm hardly going to expect he'll be able to comfort me, provide for me, and make me feel safe somewhere down the road.

Alisha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alisha said...

I agree with you. It's another reason why I am hesitant to come to a firm conclusion that guys should always do the asking out and that if they don't, you are not right for each other. Perhaps it is ideal if they do most of the time because it shows that the interest is real. But, if Nervous Guy's testimony was true, he was also sincerely interested and somehow messed up. Even though I think the level of fear is beyond normal, we are all broken human beings and obviously subject to irrational fears, so I would not be forever worried that if I asked a guy out first and we turned out to be compatible that our entire relationship was a sham. People don't always act according to ideals, God writes straight with crooked lines etc. I don't think one should begin with that in mind and purposefully seek out terrible circumstances, hoping for a miracle afterwards, but honestly, how often in the Gospel do we see Jesus having interactions with others that should have been disastrous and weren't (Samaritan woman, thief on the Cross etc)...we need to regain that kind of freedom. Whether a guy or girl asks the other out to Starbucks, does it seriously matter? (PS. Don't go to Starbucks; they support Planned Parenthood!) Now, if you invite the guy out and in subsequent circumstances, he is laissez faire, drop him. It might even be worthwhile saying, "Hey, for the record, I was interested, but you really failed to show some initiative and because of that, I'm letting this go because I don't want to waste my time on someone who is not willing to put in a decent effort." It would be a good wake up call for them. As to the second point, that if a guy doesn't approach the girl, it wasn't meant to be, I think that is nonsense. We fail all the time in life to do the right thing, we miss opportunities, graces, etc. If a person's willingness to approach another means they are worthy of consideration, what is one to conclude if one is only ever approached by good secular humanists, bad boys, nominal Catholics etc? If you really want to marry a Catholic, you could be waiting forever and expecting an ideal that will never come because we are dealing with broken reality and people. The problem is that there is somehow a culture of fear that has embedded itself in Christian circles and it needs to be dealt with on an individual and community level. Part of that is, as always, women doing and saying things that may be best done by men, or at least having them wake men up to this. If this is a perpetual problem in a Christian circle you're in and you've never said anything about it, you're part of the problem. Auntie Seraphic plays a special role here because she has a voice that is now listened to by many, and hopefully the quiet men who read this will "man up", get therapy, learn to dance or whatever it is they have to do to sit and talk with a girl without feeling it's an ordeal worse than water torture. Moreover, I think there is just an overall absence of the culture of friendship which makes these interactions so foreign. In some of the newer Catholic movements like CL and Focolare where that is emphasized, you see the opposite of this fear.

Nervous Girl said...

Perhaps I can help explain Nervous Guy, or at least nervous people. I'm in complete sympathy with the poor fellow.

I married late, and remain painfully nervous around young men. All young men. My younger brother-in-law, my older nephews. I'm so nervous around a shy young co-volunteer that I have begun to strongly suspect I'm making him nervous--in full view of my husband and several other friends. I had a form of panic attack over it this week. I'm not in love with any of these young men; I love my husband. I just physically can't rein in the nervous laughter, the jerking away from eye contact, the talking too loud, etc.

For me, causation is traceable: natural shyness, stress hormone imbalances, and the fact that in the hyper-conservative community in which I was raised, I was taught that eye contact and smiling are flirtatious, and flirtation is sinful. My mind has long since learned better (I did get married, after all), but my shaky hands and twitching eyes can't seem to forget.

Painful nervousness does not a bad person make. From my own experience, shyness or nervousness alone is very unlikely to kill my respect for someone. It can actually be endearing, when coupled with sincerity.

For the nervous among us, as a veteran I recommend loads of prayer (St. Dymphna is apparently the saint of nervous and mental disorders; that sounds close enough, so maybe I should try her), throwing yourself into honest mental distraction when possible (the arts are helpful for me), and working hard to be in calm moods rather than wired ones when going into public. The occasional glass of wine sometimes helps, too. ;)

Beth said...

Seraphic, I think your friend made a great point about female feelings of rejection versus male feelings of rejection! It's so true that women feel rejection more keenly than men - literally less than five minutes before I read your entry, I was wallowing in self-pity about my lack of dates in recent years (not exactly a productive or positive use of my time, which is why I hopped on the computer instead). I can sympathize with Nervous Guy's plight, but in most ways I think being the asker is preferable to the ask-ee.

american (not) in deutschland said...

Perpetual sense of rejection, check.

It's interesting that people always talk about non-Christian men asking for more dates than Christian men. I have no idea why this happened to Catholic young people, but I grew up conservative evangelical, and for us it was because:

Good Christians Don't Date. That's right. Good Christian Teenagers Don't Date. They don't even flirt (as cited above). Good Christian College Students might "court" one another, but only in a manner wherein the couple must alert "accountability partners" about their desire to hold hands.

Actual true anecdote, people. My youth leader told me this about when she and her future husband were non-dating as college students.

There is such a heightened scrutiny about everything to do with sex and attraction and avoiding premarital sex that an entire generation was raised to be afraid that buying certain shirts might make them "just like the world" and that, shocker, being flirtatious was something to be terribly ashamed of. Now, as a 24 year old Catholic convert, I would like to say that things are different.... but...**

(**has anybody ever read Michael C. O'Brien? he seems to think that things are different among Catholics. They aren't. Or maybe he means non-practicing Catholics. Ouch!)

I have friends who all took this in different ways -- my best friend was a huuuuge flirt in high school! and is married now -- but we all internalized it and still deal with it. I actually have feelings of guilt if I feel I am presenting as "feminine", let alone "sexy," which is definitely a personality thing in addition to my upbringing, but I'm surprised to hear how much I have in common this way with girls who I would never think had the same problems I do.

I know how all this affected me as a girl -- reading Christian teen magazines that gave "advice" to girls like "don't giggle TOO much around boys -- boys like to see girls having fun, but they won't like giggle fits like your girl friends do" (pro: probably true -- con: WHY ARE YOU TEACHING TEENAGE GIRLS TO MODERATE THEIR INNOCENT BEHAVIOR TO PLEASE TEENAGE BOYS?) -- and maybe it affected boys, too, who are afraid to treat girls as anything less than a "sister in Christ" until they have reached some mythical stage of God-pleasing commitment. Reaching the commitment stage before the romantic gesture stage is the hard part, I guess.

But all the advice we read in Brio--!!

magdalen hobbs said...

Oh man, Brio... I was raised in a weird Anglican/Evangelical hybrid community.... we had a liturgy but all the Sunday school materials came from Willow Creek and Focus on the Family.

I'm pretty sure that my family was the only one that really absorbed all the evangelical stuff, because my youth group friends are now living with their boyfriends/fiances and I was convinced into paralyzing fear of "leading men on."
Not by my parents, mind you, but because I actually read all of the evangelical dating books we were assigned in women's group.

Given the articles I've read about how widespread Oral sex is on US Christian college campuses, I think the culture just encouraged legalism with regards to "purity."

Jessica said...

American (not) in Deutschland - totally agree. Good Catholic girls, at least my generation (teens in late 90s/early 2000s) also read Brio, had lots of talks on modesty, "kissed dating goodbye" etc.

Now I see the "chastity materials" that my little sisters have and I'm not sure how I feel about it. I know that teens need support to be counter-cultural, but I'm just not sure that sex needs to be talked about that much.

Seraphic said...

Good heavens, WHAT is this "Brio" thing?

Meanwhile, I was a Catholic teenager once, and we crowded into chastity talks and even then I realized it was at least partly for the thrill of hearing grown-ups talk about sex. Almost everything "chastity" is about sex, so not-sexually-active teenagers just devour the stuff.

As an adult, the best way to live chastely is to make thinking and reading about sex as small a part of your life as possible. And that included chastity talks, manuals, magazines, you name it. And this is why I try to not write about chastity all that much. Don't know if I'm succeeding...!

MaryJane said...

Ha Ha! Fellow Brio readers! Seraphic, Brio is a Christian teen magazine for girls put out by Focus on the Family. Honestly I don't remember there being tons of "boy" advice when I received it... more like healthy smoothie recipes and interviews with Christian pop stars. Then again, I don't remember it very well.

I agree with the idea of practice, as in, nervous guys should practice asking girls out for coffee - but with the caveat that the girls are in the "it's just coffee" mindset. Otherwise it is going to be a giant fiasco when all the girls get together and end up offended that he asked all of them for coffee.

Personally I'm not sure I'd rather be the ask-er instead of the ask-ee. I think of the few times I've gotten my hopes up about a guy, only to have nothing come of it...I think it would have been worse to get my hopes up and then experience outright rejection. That's just to say, I have a lot of sympathy for the nervous guys out there, despite my frustration with the lack of coffee dates in the Catholic world.

(That being said, are these nervous guys going based on previous rejection experiences?
Because it sounds like there are a lot of girls who would LOVE to be asked out for coffee, and a lot of (?some?) guys who are afraid of being rejected for coffee - it doesn't really add up...)

Anonymous said...

Howdy, y'all. I'm a lurker college kid from Texas, but decided to emerge from the darkness on account of the very interesting topics being brought up the past couple of days...

To american (not) in deutschland- I heartily agree with the bit about treating girls as "sisters in Christ" until the, as you put it, "mythical stage of God-pleasing commitment." That is just all too confusing! This mindset makes men reluctant to ask women out, and leads to women finally just wanting to confess their feelings. SO BAD! And then everyone is perpetually stuck in the friend zone or other areas of awkwardness. Especially when, (now crossing fingers for an impending post on this topic as mentioned in Auntie's previous post) men and women take the brothers-and-sisters-in-Christ thing WAY TOO FAR by showing excessive physical affection and creating an emotional intimacy that should be reserved for, well, ACTUAL brother-sister relationships.

Of course, there is also that particular kind of man who thrives off of this situation, thinking that all he has to do is kick back and wait for God to drop a perfect woman in his lap by his own preordained deadline- meanwhile leading on all his "sisters in Christ" and asking none of them on dates. Ugh!

Men and women are so desperately hungry for affection and attention, yet terrified of making a step toward securing their own happiness for fear of rejection. It's sad.

Thank you kindly for sharing your wisdom with us, Auntie. Your perspective helped me to muster the courage to say no to harmful mentalities and "friendships", and for this I will be forever grateful. :)

lurker from tx said...

Oh dear, Auntie Seraphic! This is lurker from tx. I forgot to leave a name. Hopefully you do not discard my comment:( I don't know how Blogger works, but if you can add a name, you can call me lurker from tx! Thanks & God bless!! :)

american (not) in deutschland said...

>> "I was convinced into paralyzing fear of "leading men on." "

You and me both! It's strange to try and explain, because being promiscuous or immodest is not at all connected with the sheer state of "liking a boy and hoping he will like you and acting in ways that will make this clear." But for me (for us) those became connected. To "lead someone on" is to act toward them romantically when you aren't 100% sure you are headed for marriage. "Dating" is a danger and probably sinful because it is frivolous and the "secular world's" way of doing sexuality. Obviously not everybody took this to heart. But we obedient people, we sort of took the brunt, because it would have taken a kind of act of rebellion to so much as agree to go on a "date."

I just saw Nervous Guy's reply, and when he said: "I had no real clue about how Christian women typically expect the interaction to develop" -- and I think this is exactly it. In trying to break free of the "three dates to sex" world, we had to create our own, but in many cases it just sort of consisted of shutting things down.

I always chuckle, Auntie s., when you talk about Catholic dances. Even if they've sort of died out among current Catholic teens (have they?), at least it was an accepted part of the culture! Dancing, in my church and family background, was probably-sinful. We didn't even dance at weddings. Real Christians get to know each other at youth group events and start to hang around each other constantly, annoying all their friends, surreptitiously holding hands, having "DTR" talks (Define The Relationship) ad nauseam because there is no such thing as casual dating, there is only "single" and "serious relationship."

>> I think the culture just encouraged legalism with regards to "purity."

I think it's worse than merely legalism... lots of kids raised like we were have just given up on it. I didn't go to an evangelical college, but my best friend did, and among her friends, there was only one other girl who also still believed that sex had to wait for marriage. Most of her other believing evangelical girlfriends felt that they could pray and discern that "God was okay" with their having sex with their boyfriends. For many in the current generation, the sexual rules they were taught as kids are passe.


american (not) in deutschland said...

Word to all my Brio girls, heee! I don't think Brio talked about boys all THAT often, but they came up all the time in the letters and advice columns. When I was about 12, I inherited several years' worth from my older sister, and read through them all at once. I mainly skimmed for information about boys. so I remember a lot of weird, isolated stuff. Some was good! (I remember a girl being advised not to sleep on a couch overnight with her boyfriend when her parents weren't home -- this was a situation that needed advice??) And some was lame. Overall I wish that teenage girls would be encouraged in some way NOT to fall prey to the male scrutiny of their bodies and dress and behavior, even when it's well-meaning older women. There are ways to do it that don't stigmatize their motivations (I think you, Auntie S, do that very well).

And actually -- what I REALLY wish is that adults hadn't taken our girlishness and "budding sexualities" so seriously. I think they want girls to take it seriously because they are terrified that girls are going to be taken advantage of, and of course, they ARE. But sometimes this fear-training and awareness-building leads girls into the mindset where they ARE taken advantage of more easily. Or it just leads moralistic, obedient girls into internalizing this stigmatization of their bodies and their sexual lives. I'm not saying I want Christian adults to glamorize sexual activity the way that the media does, or encourage actual sexual activity, of course. But if girls could be taught to laugh at their boy-craziness, instead of being ashamed of it, it might help. Girls are supposed to socialize with each other and do the laughing together, but when the entire adult world is putting serious moral weight on this behavior, even THAT can seem subversive. Even "girl talk" about boys was stigmatized in my community, either as "gossip" or as "encouraging bad behavior," and so on.

AND THEN, having come up through this culture, girls totally DO take it seriously if someone asks them on a date, especially a Christian guy in their circle, and it WOULD be offensive if some guy went around asking every girl he might like to coffee. This is the other side to that "finding a wife" business. It might be the "man's job," but I'm not so sure I want to be seen as the back end of a Google search, if you get what I mean. I don't want a guy to try and date me because he's "looking for a wife." I want him to try because he likes me, particularly. So I have sympathy for guys who are trying to hold back until they know that they like someone particularly. But I think if they do, they should go for it and not wait for positive signals. Do look for negative signals, though. Girls will find ways to tell you not to ask them out before you do, if they can sense you are building up to it.

MaryJane said...

American (not) in deutschland: "But if girls could be taught to laugh at their boy-craziness, instead of being ashamed of it, it might help." Amen to that!

It seems like we've somehow to got find a middle ground between helping girls deal with the minefield of popular cultural sexuality and teaching them that of course their sexuality is sacred, etc. In trying to oppose the cultural norm of "anything goes" nice little Christian girls end up thinking that *nothing* goes, ever... not even coffee! :)

Seraphic said...

"And now, heaven knows, nnn-nothing goes!"

Dear me, dear me. Life today, especially in America: such EXTREMES!

Alisha said...

Another former Brio reader right here! I remember enjoying the magazine...but feeling something was missing. (That something was, I discovered, Catholicism :)) In fact, I think it was good to read the very evangelical/Christian background materials I did coming from a Catholic helped balance it all out and is one of the reasons I started reading apologetics.
Amen to not wanting to feel like the back end of a google search and to the brother sister friend zone stuff.

Anonymous said...

I'm about two months behind on this post, but having recently discovered this interesting blog, I will put forth my two cents anyways.

As a young man myself who is looking to marry some day, I find that some unmarried Catholic ladies get nervous or scared when asked out for a coffee. The most peculiar are the Catholic-liberal-arts-college types who need to spend months, or perhaps years, in social settings with a young man before considering a relationship with him. Non-liberal-arts-college unmarried Catholic ladies are more approachable and far less dramatic.
Perhaps the nervousness or fear is a sign of immaturity, or maybe it is prudence? Women are IMPOSSIBLE to read.

We men, by and large, prefer to move faster- sometimes to our and your detriment.

Young Catholic men find rejection difficult. It is blow to the ego and could hurt one's self-esteem, especially the sensitive types who find it difficult to muster up the courage to ask a young lady out.