Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Questions from Seraphapalooza

On Saturday evening I met four readers in a cafe near a corner of Yonge and Bloor Streets in Toronto and we had a good chat. (Then I rushed off to a dance club on Queen Street West!) I asked the girls what they thought I should write about in future posts, and here are the questions they proposed:

1. How do you avoid the bad guys?
2. If you can't avoid the bad guys, how do you avoid being sucked in by them?
3. How can you help your friends deal with the bad guys they've been sucked in by?
4. How can you help fellow Single friends overcome their negativity?
5. How can you prevent "pity parties" or derail them?
6. Boundary issues: how many details of a romantic relationships should a woman be sharing with her friends?
7. How can Catholic girls understand that just being Catholic doesn't mean we don't need to avoid occasions for sin?
8. The carelessness of girls around a guy they say is "like a brother."
9. The horrors of the self-proclaimed "Nice Guy."
10. How to deal with guys who keep contacting you, but never ask you out?
11. How to deal with guys from other cultures, whose behaviour is very confusing.
12. Should Catholics date non-Catholics?

These are all interesting questions, and I will post about 2-12 in the future. For the moment I will address the question of avoiding "Bad Guys."

1. How do you avoid the bad guys?

First of all, there is more bad behaviour than there are bad guys. Of course, there are some egregiously bad guys out there, but there are also a lot of good guys who are merely immature, moderately selfish, clumsy, thoughtless, loud, over-opinionated, aggressive and chippy. Sometimes it can be difficult to determine if a guy is a bad guy or merely a good guy who would be improved if someone dumped a bucket of water on his head.

I recommend that, instead of being worried about meeting men who are "bad guys", you make a promise to yourself never to be silent in the face of bad behaviour. Instead of worrying about rejecting people, promise to yourself that you will reject bad behaviour. If your boyfriend embarrasses  you in front of your friends, tell him that hurt you and you expect an apology. Don't contact him again until he apologizes. If a man stands you up or cancels a date without a good reason, tell him you are hurt by his lack of respect for you, and don't contact him again until he apologizes.

Good men apologize for hurting people. Bad men don't. Bad men hurt you and then tell you it was your fault because you made him hurt you. If some guy tells you he hurt you because you made him hurt you, walk out of the room. Never contact him again.

Second, don't chase after exciting, charismatic men. If you chase an exciting, charismatic man, you will just be one of the crowd of women who chase after him. Meanwhile, the only real way to tell if a guy is "that into you" is to wait until he contacts you, if he does. You can chat to him, and smile at him, and touch his arm, and invite him to your parties, but that's it. Any chasing behaviour and he may figure you're his to accept, reject, supply him with baked goods, write his essays, etc.

It hurts me to say this, but if you chase a bad guy, you're at least partly responsible for the misery that ensues. If you don't chase any guys, then you are not going to chase a bad guy. Chat. Smile. Touch arm. Invite to parties. End of.

Third, be very careful about the people with whom you associate. If you are a prison lay chaplain then, yes, you are going to associate with felons. But otherwise there is absolutely no reason for you to associate with criminals. If you hang out with girls who hang out with abusive or criminal men, then you are going to come into contact with those men and possibly their friends, too.

Fourth, always carry cab fare at night. If you go to a party and realize you are uncomfortable with what the men are saying or what people are doing, get out. Call a cab. Go home. Phone or email a friend when you get there. Vent your dismay.

Fifth, some girls stick with a bad guy because of their sexual sins, however small those sexual sins may look to a married lady of 39+. There are girls who promise themselves they will only ever kiss one man in all their lives, and that man will be their husband. Therefore, having kissed a bad guy, they  think they must stay with him forever or lose their cherished image of themselves as Pure.

Cherubs. Cherubs. Cherubs. Cherubs. The wonderful thing about a personal life is that it is personal. You don't have to tell anyone about it, ever, if you don't want to. You don't owe anyone but yourself and God a thorough investigation of all the things you have done in your life. And everyone makes mistakes. Everyone over sixteen has done, said or thought things they would not want reported in the papers. (St. Maria Goretti was twelve.)

If you are ashamed of whatever it is that you have done with Mr Not-So-Great, then ditch him explain to him why the relationship must change or end and go to confession. You are not damaged goods; you are a person. So never, ever, ever put up with a guy's bad behaviour and abuse just because you did whatever it was. No, you shouldn't have. Now stop. Your penance should be three Hail Marys, not endless months of mental anguish.

Sixth, it is normal to feel happy and safe in a romantic relationship. If you are in a romantic relationship and you do not feel happy and safe most of the time, something is seriously wrong. You may have read in storybooks that it is exciting and romantic for a man to have tirades and break things because he is jealous, but actually it is simultaneously frightening and boring.  There are authentic ways for men to show that they care about you, and overwhelming jealousy is not one of them.

Seventh, not all non-virgin guys are bad guys. Some are, of course. But most are not. Sexual experience does not = bad.  Lack of respect for you and other women = bad. The fact that a guy had sex with a past girlfriend does not mean that he is an evil, wicked, depraved despoiler of womankind. It means that he is a typical man of the 21st century, perhaps spoiled and weak, but perhaps not.

I agree that it is better and safer to hang out with men who have not been sexually active before marriage or, if they have been, don't like to talk about it and have a lot of respect for people who firmly believe that sex is just for marriage. Perhaps they feel the same way themselves now, or always did, but messed up.

Personally, I feel that a granola-eating, serial-monogamous lefty who thinks there was nothing wrong with sleeping with his girlfriends because it was consensual and they were fond of each other is safer than a man who uses prostitutes or p*rn or one-night-stands. The granola-eater at least associates sex with respect, affection and relationships; the guy who uses prostitutes or p*rn or one-night-stands associates sex with whatever is going on inside his head, which is mightily messed up.

Of course, you are probably more likely to have "The Talk" with Mr Granola than with Mr Humanae Vitae. The only appropriate response from either is "I respect your decision". Mr Granola is less likely to call you after this declaration of respect, not because he is a Bad Guy, but because he is Mr Granola and in his universe "sex is a healthy and essential part of dating."  The important thing is that he did not pressure you or make you feel terrible. If he did, he is indeed a Bad Guy and must be told off royally. The same goes for Mr Humanae Vitae if he does such things, the lousy hypocrite. And he is more culpable than Mr Granola if he doesn't call after "The Talk" because he knows better.


Athanasius lover said...

"Good men apologize for hurting people. Bad men don't. Bad men hurt you and then tell you it was your fault because you made him hurt you. If some guy tells you he hurt you because you made him hurt you, walk out of the room. Never contact him again."

What do you do when you can't avoid contact with the "bad men" because the men in your own family do this to you? I don't want to call the men in my family "bad men," but this is a frequent pattern for them. My dad never apologizes. My brother will when he cools down, but he is very hurtful and then blames the victim for quite some time before he is willing to take responsibility for his actions.

Luckily I live on my own now, without having to live with men who hurt me, but not all of us have the luxury of being able to end all communication with "bad men," and I'm not sure how we're supposed to deal with that.

Alisha said...

Solid, solid post. Looking forward to #8 :)

Total Blindness said...

Reaaaally helpful, for those of us who have exhibited horrible horrible taste in men in the past!
I'm looking forward to several of those topics in the coming days.
Pseudonym today!

Anonymous said...

Loved the 2nd half of this post. I dated a "Mr. Granola" who respected my decision and even though we broke up, I still love him for respecting me.

RE the first commenter, I totally get where she is coming from. The male side of my family can be emotionally abusive. It's taken me a lot of years to have the courage to say it that bluntly instead of finding excuses. I don't know how to not have contact (family), but I have put my foot down a couple of times in the last year. It ended up causing a huge fuss (ie. more abuse), but, after the storm, it's given me some space and it's understood that I won't stand for certain things. God willing, I can keep it up.

Finally, with a lot of time away from the situation, it's easier to understand what I will accept and not accept from other men. I think that it's hard when you don't come from a background with healthy male role models to stay away from Mr. Bad. But, it must be possible.

One other thing that's hard, is often you can see how much the abuser has suffered or is suffering. Abuse usually stems from unbelievable pain and that person is drawn into a terrible self-destructing cycle.
How do you have compassion for someone while not accepting his/her behaviour? I don't think there is an easy answer.

(Sorry, I didn't mean to go all morbid on your discussion forum)


Christine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Athanasius lover said...

Anonymous, thank you for your comment. Much of it, like the balance of compassion for the person vs. condemning the behavior, references the same things I've wondered myself. The pain that lies behind my father's and brother's behavior is one reason I hesitate to call them "bad men" in spite of everything.

Yes, it's definitely hard to stay away from bad men when you don't have healthy male role models in your family. I have been blessed to experience friendships with some good men in my life, from whom I hope to learn about what I do want in a relationship.

Seraphic said...

This is a very serious problem, and it would be worth your while to find a book about verbal and/or emotional abuse.

It is quite true that many women, and children, too, are trapped in situations in which they are emotionally hurt again and again. Usually children develop ways of dealing with it, to survive mentally, and which are no longer useful (quite the opposite) when they grow up and are out of the house.

anon for this post said...

Perhaps a good therapist could help? I'm not sure if that is feasible,but I know from past experience that it can be helpful dealing with difficult people in the family. You can't change them,but it can certainly help you deal with the situation in a healthy way.

I also second Seraphic's suggestion of getting a book on the subject.

Antigone in NYC said...

This post is incredibly valuable to me. Thank you.

For whatever it's worth, I also dated a lefty granola guy for eight months, who never understood or agreed with the chastity issue, but was super into me (at least initially) and never pressured me during the time that we were dating.

Domestic Diva said...

Seraphic, I'm catching up on my blog reading after a busy week, and I saw this post on Facebook. I thought you might like to comment/post on it.