Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Gentlemen's Day

Happy Saint Joseph's Day! Today the Eavesdroppers are invited to read and to comment in the comboxes of the past few days. If your comment doesn't stick, you've commented on a day I haven't included in the amnesty. If your comments disappear, it's because you have been egregiously naughty. That said, I am going to keep a light hand on the "delete" button today. Plain-speaking men, rejoice!

Now, a letter from a gent:

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

>>Eavesdroppers are welcome to submit topics they think I should address, and only men will be able to comment that day. How exciting!

I think I’ll take you up on this generous offer, considering that your blog is one of the few well-written, sane places on the internet where these topics are discussed. 

I quote a comment from a few days ago:

“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.”

The counterpoint to this question would be “Why does it seem so much harder for Catholic/Christian women to accept date invitations than for secular women”? There have been a couple instances when I asked out a Catholic woman and she anxiously mulled it over for days before saying “we don’t know each other well enough to date” or something to that effect. Other Catholic/Christian men have made similar observations, and have noted that secular women accept invitations more readily.

The proper answer to this may be that those aren’t typical women’s reactions and there’s no broad lesson to be learned here. Still, enough men have observed what I’ve observed to possibly make this a topic of broad interest for the blog.

This all might have something to do with the fact that, in [American] Catholic circles, everyone knows you don’t date unless you’re planning to marry and you don’t date anyone you wouldn’t marry… therefore, nobody will date unless they’re sure that they’re ready to marry that person RIGHT NOW… I think both men and women have seen how this logic seems sound but leads to absurd outcomes.

It's Just a Coffee

Dear It's Just a Coffee,

Thank you very much for taking up my offer. That is a brilliant observation, if I may say so. I would not be surprised if this has indeed become a problem in Catholic circles. 

Indeed, so convinced I am that Catholic girls are asked "Coffee?" and hear "Marry me?" that I constantly harangue them that it's just coffee and they should go out and drink some. In your case, I would strongly recommend saying something like "It's not a date. It's a pre-date."

Oh my goodness, I think I have invented a whole new dating category! How to copyright and market it? Hmm....

Grace and peace,

Other gentlemen's letters welcome. As always, I will edit them so that no-one (hopefully) can guess who you, are, even if you comment in the combox.

Update: Notorious eavesdroppers who long for distraction and so keep checking for other guys' comments should leave comments of their own. P.S. The girls asked their questions here.


Michael said...

This adds up to me very much. Both genders are inexperienced in interaction and that an invitation to date carries often the weight of "marry me". Again as a result, often guys are too shy and girls are too harsh.

As a hobby-sociologist, I would like to say that it is no surprise that a rather new subculture like ours (being now a minority) should have problems with finding the right balance in male-female interaction. Since we are partly in opposition and partly in sympathy with the secular dating culture, it's very difficult to find the right track. Also, since how long when do Catholic men have to deal with quite educated and self-conscious women?

I feel we are pioneers in shaping a new dating culture. So it is good that we have blogs like yours, seraphic, to reflect about our issues. I will try use the expression pre-date and have to translate it in German!

Al from the Rust Belt said...

As to the question of "why it seems so much harder for Catholic/Christian men to ask women out than it is for secular men", I offer these observations from my own experience:

The Catholic group I belonged to in college talked a lot about dating and marriage. What we were taught by the campus ministers at the Newman Center included a lot of good advice, but there were certain themes that always troubled me a little:

1. You are not "ready to marry", or even "ready to date", until you have first found total satisfaction in God alone.
2. You should get to know each other as friends and see each other as "brothers and sisters in Christ" before even thinking about dating.
3. Dating/courtship should only be done "within a community".

Although I was uncomfortable with this stuff, I respected the people who were telling it to us, and I tried to follow it. I suspect that's one reason (though certainly not the only reason) why I'm close to 30 and still single.

Regarding #1: If everyone lived by this idea, the human race would quickly go extinct. Very few people can attain total satisfaction in God alone during this life, and those who can are probably called to religious life.

Regarding #2: At a glance, this seems like good Catholic reasoning. (I think it comes straight from Christopher West's interpretation of JP2's Theology of the Body.) In practice, however, it doesn't seem to work. In my experience, this approach leads to men being permanently stuck in the proverbial "friend zone", or even more frustrating, the "brother-in-Christ zone." What woman would want to date her brother?

Regarding #3: The idea, I think, was to keep people from "disappearing" from the community once they started to date. The problem here is that when you're thinking of asking a woman out, not only are you risking her rejection, but you also risk humiliation within your entire circle of friends. It's a powerful deterrent.

For years, no one in this Catholic group was dating, although the topic was discussed a lot. Older adults who were friends of the group would ask us guys why we weren't asking out the ladies, and no one ever had a good answer. Finally, at some point, dating started happening, and now most of them are married and have kids. I missed the boat with that group, but I have a new social circle now, and I'm trying to learn from my mistakes.

Anonymous said...

"Pre-date" is an awesome phrase! I've used the term "pseudo-date" before. Those pre-dates were quite helpful for me in realizing "It's just coffee!™" I was definitely in the mindset of only dating someone I wanted to marry, and that was definitely not the case at the time. I've changed my tune a bit, now, though. :)

- a non-eavesdropping woman

american (not) in deutschland said...

Our gentleman is RIGHT ON, with a much more succinct version of what I think I tried to say back on that post. There is just too much pressure all around. I get nervous when I think of accepting a (potential) offer for coffee in my circle of friends for all of these reasons.

Seraphic said...

Eavesdroppers who keep checking for new stuff should be advised to check the posts below, as comments are being left there too.

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

Good response...in response to Mary Jane's observation that "Both genders are inexperienced in interaction and that an invitation to date carries often the weight of "marry me".", my question is why are all these people inexperienced in interaction? I'm not trying to sound sarcastic but is there an abnormal amount of shy people in the Catholic community? (By the way, shyness is not a permanent trait: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1991/3/4/psychologist-finds-shyness-inherited-but-not/?print=1) Is it the result of attending single gender schools or something else I'm not aware of that would cause all this fear? It just doesn't make sense to me - if anything, being people of faith should help us to grow deeply comfortable in our identity and in peace with others. Also, I would assume that by the time people have got to university they have presumably been involved in some kind of group sport or artistic activities or their families have friends with kids their age so they are not inexperienced in interaction...but perhaps that interaction has not been positive? This was the case with me in highschool. I was just surrounded by a lot of really mean people, - or at least, the interactions that involved bullying were strong enough for me to perceive that as true and be rather distrustful not to mention have a strong dislike of men for a long time. I also scored as strongly introverted on tests back then but now no one could possibly accuse me of being anti social or introverted: as soon as I found the right environment and people that were kind, things naturally improved...so I guess it just puzzles me that simple conversations seem so fraught with anxiety for people, as though they had barely talked to anyone before.

Honor St. Joseph said...

Dear Seraphic:

It may be true that Catholic men and women are awkward on first dates for the reasons you mention. Perhaps some women--and young men--think that an invitation to coffee is tantamount to a marriage proposal. This explanation is charming, charitable, and it appeals to innocence. However, I feel it is only part of the story.

The toxic overflow from the hookup culture has destroyed trust between the sexes. In my experience, it is true that a large percentage of devout Catholic women--perhaps between one third and one half--react with some degree of fear and anxiety when approached by a man. They get distant, standoffish, and aloof. If they go on a first date they maintain a guarded, defensive stance throughout. Sometimes you can even see them stiffen and and switch on the invisible force field switch on as you walk up. Some women, perhaps because of bad experiences, have the deflector screen on all the time. In my time, I have dated a lot of secular women, and in general, they are much more approachable, more fun to be with (on a first date), and much better at sending the little signals women send that they would welcome a chat with you.

Meanwhile, it is definitely true that devout Catholic men don’t readily ask women out. Our culture is radically opposed to the prevailing mores in society today. You quickly learn that 99 out of 100 times, asking a woman out can only lead to trouble. Among women over 30, about one third to one half will be expecting you to sleep with them after a few dates. Some will get confused and disappointed if you don’t. On the other hand, asking a woman out to a purely social event like a charity ball more than a couple of times when you have no intention of every marrying her gets old pretty quickly. It is not fair and not kind to the woman either. So far my part, I have just quit the purely social thing with secular women altogether.

Catholic men and women alike suffer from a bunker mentality. They are on the defensive all the time. Catholic women reflexively turn on the force fields even at Catholic events. Catholic men are simply not in the habit of asking women out--ever. That’s why Catholic social events are often so miserable.

Michael said...


I don't think our fellows are inexperienced in general interaction, they are just inexperienced in male-female-interaction when dealing with potential mates.

My argument goes this way:
We are all normal people, but or culture is new and thus hasn't found the balance yet. Each counterculture "throws away" too much good things from the mainstream culture, which it opposes. It can't be the other way.

And since dating in Christian circles it is a new counterculture to secular world, it's quite natural that our current "dating culture" is oversteering in the other direction of unnatural interaction.

This was at least true for me in the past - I have very good and health friendships with women, who have a boyfriend. Nevertheless I think, I behaved arkward in the presence of NCGs. And for girls, this might be true also, even if they have healthy other relationships.

Hope this helps

Ordinary Joe said...

I think Al from the Rust Belt is on the right track here. I'm 36 and still single, I was raised Catholic and learned the moral teachings of the Church, and in retrospect it seems I learned a lot of "do nots" but never learned a positive vision of "here's how you should court a NCG." And men such as myself are very literal minded and practical, we need step-by-step directions because we're just not very good at figuring these things out by ourselves.

What I had instead were models from the secular culture, for instance James Bond springs to mind. James Bond does many of the things a classic Catholic gentleman might do: dresses well, approaches women with confidence, takes them out to fancy restaurants, flirts, and so forth. Except of course he's NOT a gentleman, his only goal is to get women into bed.

I knew that was the wrong approach, because that's not how Catholic gentlemen behave, but what to do instead? I think I took the advice "get to know each other as friends and see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ before even thinking about dating" rather too literally.

Truthfully I was less worried that "would you like to go to dinner with me?" would be misinterpreted as "will you marry me?" but rather as "will you sleep with me?" Instead I tried to approach women exactly as I would approach a friend or a sister. Perhaps it was all just a rationalization of my own quite shy and introverted personality. Not that I realized any of this consciously, and it hindsight it does look quite foolish, but young men can be quite foolish indeed in these matters.

My $0.02.

magdalen hobbs said...

Just quickly, men, what are the things that you interpret as possible interest from a NCG? I worry so much about Not Chasing Men that apparently I come off as aloof and uninterested even to men whose company I enjoy.

pomofo said...


That's a good question. I think men in general are too quick to interpret friendliness from a woman as a sign of interest. Maybe because so many women don't pay any attention to us that a woman who laughs, smiles, or banters must "obviously" be attracted to us, assuming of course that we're attracted to her. Compliments on our clothing might occasionally be interpreted the same way. But if we're not attracted to a woman, she can laugh or smile as much as she wants and it won't have any effect on us.

Aside from the above, if a woman invited me to join her and her friends in some sort of activity (going to the movies, going out for drinks, visiting a museum) I would probably interpret that as some sort of interest.

Ordinary Joe said...


I've been painfully shy my whole life, so I don't think a specific negative instance was the cause. I was raised Catholic but I attended co-ed public schools, so single-sex Catholic schools or homeschooling cannot be blamed in my case.

Though my family went to Mass every Sunday w/o fail and I went to Catechism classes, confirmation, etc. I was like many Catholics of my generation quite ignorant and misinformed about the Church, and went through a period in my 20's where I did not attend Mass or practice my faith at all. Like many shy nerds I'm a bookworm, I read voraciously, and it was largely through books from Ignatius Press, Cathlic blogs, and watching EWTN that I cleared up a lot of misconceptions and rediscovered my faith.

So I wonder if perhaps you have the causation reversed: it's not so much that Catholic life makes men shy, but rather that shy nerdy bookworms are more likely to spend time studying and learning their faith and are thus more likely to take it seriously than more outgoing, extroverted men who are too busy to ever pick up a book by Cardinal Ratzinger? Just a thought.

Gracie said...

First off, I think having a male-centric day on this blog is fantastic. I think it should be more than once a year! And I see that other women have been commenting so I think I'll throw a few thoughts into the fray.

I think part of the reason that 'just coffee' can get complicated in Catholic circles is the fact that there IS often a Catholic circle confusing the whole situation. It's often not just two unconnected Catholics meeting up for coffee. If it doesn't work out, well, no big deal.

But when it's two Catholics in Catholic circles in a given city/town/region, then throw some drama into the mix! All of a sudden everyone is immediately jumping to the "maybe-they'll-get-married" line of thinking and then, if things don't work out, it gets awkward because you either see the person regularly or you have to avoid the group... This hasn't been a problem for me but I've seen it happen to friends and others in my circle. Awkward...

I'm not saying it's a legitimate reason for a women to turn down coffee, but it certainly doesn't make it any easier.

I have been guilty of turning down an invitation to lunch, but in my defense I thought the guy was dating someone at the time! (Note: If you're always hanging out with your ex, don't expect us to know that you're actually single...)

In general, although girls are supposed to be more emotionally aware, some of us can be a bit dense when it comes to guys showing an interest in us. Sometimes subtle won't work.

Anonymous said...

"Catholic men and women alike suffer from a bunker mentality. They are on the defensive all the time. Catholic women reflexively turn on the force fields even at Catholic events. Catholic men are simply not in the habit of asking women out--ever. That’s why Catholic social events are often so miserable."
Harsh words, but sadly, very true! This 'force field' as you call it, has the effect of making what should be fun and challenging Catholic social functions a bore. The 'cool' thing to do is stay far away from anything that might suggest putting oneself (man or woman) into a situation that requires them to step outside themselves and THINK of making folks around them even slightly happy. It seems that gentlemen get a load of the blame, but there are not a few ladies who also suffer from this 'bunker' mentality you describe.
Gentlemen, what do you suggest as a means of healing this sort of travesty? As a woman, I hesitate, refuse even, to make men do anything (that's your mother's job), but is there some way a we begin to allow you to act as you should?

Honor St. Joseph said...

As for coping with the bunker mentality, you have to realize that putting people in a "safe" environment for one hour in a crowd of other folks they do not know is not enough to make the women turn the force fields off and the men stop suppressing natural behaviors they have suppressed for years.
As the male comments may have shown by now, these are incredibly frustrating times to be a reasonably old-fashioned Catholic guy. A lot of us have just quit trying. A one-hour social does not overcome the constant negative onslaught we feel in the secular world. Nor does it overcome the sense of abandonment by the institutional church that I think many men feel.

I think there needs to be a systematic effort at the institutional level to help single catholics. How about praying for single Catholics at mass once in a while? That would be a way of reminding the guys that no matter how much they feel locked out of normal adult society anywhere else, at least the parish community is a place where they can and should be asking women out.

The church talks a good game on marriage, etc, but in reality, Catholic parishes offer no meaningful support to singles who want to get married except for the occasional chips and warm soda thing in the basement. The church also seems to be officially indifferent to whether you marry or not. The thinking seems to be that you shouldn't want to be married unless you are married already. And if you single and want to be married, there must be something wrong with you because clearly if you were meant to be married you wouldn't be single.

The Catholic bunker mentality is not something you can fix with hit and miss socials once in a while. You need a sustained effort. Maybe what's needed is one parish in the diocese that explicitly has a mission to bring singles together. Has no one ever noticed that the typical Catholic parish is about the last place in the planet where you will hear encouraging words from the pulpit for searching singles and in North America, in any case, definitely the last place on the planet where parishioners will make introductions and help singles meet each other? I know that in all the parishes I have ever attended, I have felt frozen out by the married couples and thus I am not in an especially social mood to start with.

Anonymous said...

Good evening and Happy St. Joseph's Day. Thank-you Seraphic for the opportunity to have men participate in today's blog. I concur with a previous writer that men should be given an opportunity to participate more often. I enjoy this forum for Catholic singles to share ideas and discuss issues of the day.

I would like to discuss an issue that Seraphic mentioned in a pervious blog post--that men in the skilled trades should not be over looked by searching single women. I have been teaching for twelve years and throughout my career I have been assigned many student teachers. I have noticed that many women at the university/college level have a negative attitude towards men in the trades. It seems from my perspective that these women see skilled tradesmen as "less intelligent" as men who have a university degree and therefore will not consider dating a tradesman.

From reading this blog I gather that most contributors/readers are women in university or grad school. It is great to aspire to higher education, but you need to understand that a shift has occurred in our society with regard to post-secondary education.

Up to fifteen years ago, a university degree was your ticket to a successful career and the promise of a bright future. That has all changed. Many university grads are finishing their degrees and are finding themselves unemployed; there is no market for their particular skill set. The key to a successful life in the twenty-first century is a skilled trade, don't believe me, an entry level job in Fort McMurray (ie pipe fitter) pays $125 000. Canada's economy is anchored in resource extraction and development. Previous writers have asked "where are all the men?". Many of them are out in the Oil Sands of Western Canada. This is not a temporary blip on the economic radar, this change is permanent and the numbers from Stats Canada prove it. Since 2002, oil and gas companies have invested billions of dollars in the Oil Sands. These companies are here to stay and are willing to pay top dollar for the skilled labor they need.

My goal with this post was to start a discussion about an important issue (from a male perspective anyway): Why do university educated women look down on men in the trades? These men work hard to provide for their families and are well read on topics that interest them.

It would seem the economy will more or less require society to have this conversation since it is the skilled trades that offer the means to a good paying job for the foreseeable future, while university grads struggle to find employment.

Thank-you for your time to read my post.

Andrew said...

I do agree that it seems most parishes lack a decent "let's get young singles matched up and paired off."

Could part of that be due to, in times past, it seems most people married in their local community, so the parish didn't facilitate things as much? Whereas now we seem to be a lot more mobile and less community-centric population?

Yay for gentleman's day. I like eavesdropping here.

lauren said...

Honor St. Joseph, thanks for your comments. I'm not Catholic -- I'm one of the Protestants Of Good Will -- but I think that bunker mentality is mine. I've been trying to work on it, but I think I need to put a little more concerted effort into letting my guard down... The older I get, the more entrenched I become, and that's not great.

Anonymous, I am an academic and I would very happily date/marry a man who was not. In fact, I've dated two men who were not university graduates. One was an artist, and one was in manufacturing. One was fairly insecure about my expertise and confidence, but the other gave me a tremendous gift: he wasn't intimidated, and he didn't try to compete with me. I had never met a man like that before him, and, come to think of it, I haven't met any single men like that since him. I could value his gifts and contributions, and he could value mine. That had nothing to do with our jobs.

Andrew, I think you're on to something there. I moved an average of once a year in my twenties. That's a lot of mobility.

Canadian Doc said...

I would love to meet a handy man who is skilled in the trades and could fix things around the house! I do not look down upon trade workers. In fact, because I work with my hands, I find that I notice others' hands more, and especially appreciate men's hands that are strong, larger than mine, and a bit weathered.

The issue is more intellectual and emotional compatibility, not career choice. I unfortunately don't meet a lot of plumbers, electricians, pipe fitters, framers, and mechanics at the hospital. One date I recently went on was with a guy who did a lot of physical labour for a living. Nice enough guy, but we really didn't have a lot in common and he certainly wouldn't have been a challenge for me intellectually because we just didn't have a lot of things to talk about and he really didn't seem to have any hobbies whatsoever.

I would welcome dating someone who isn't a doctor because I don't want to talk shop all of the time at home. I am looking for someone who shares common values and beliefs with me and who has some common hobbies with me as well.

So Single Catholic Men, apply to do your trade in a Canadian Operating Room near you!

Withmycupoftea said...

Anonymous, I graduated from the liberal arts but I would prefer to meet a tradesman as long as he could think logically and critically.

Honor St. Joseph said...

Andrew, it is true that once upon a time, lay society took care of helping singles get married, and the church did not not to focus on it particularly. Nearly everyone did get married at the end of the day, and the idea of persistent, permanent, involuntary singleness affecting not just a few but perhaps half of all Catholics of childbearing age was unknown.

In today's society, singleness is normative, and marriage is the alternative, soon to become the minority, and already the minority among people of prime childbearing ages. It is totally not true that the vast majority of people do get married eventually; just look up the statistics. There are a lot of single Catholics who are trying as hard as they can to get married, but just can't. And they won't, until the the opportunity to start families has long passed them by. This is objective reality today.

Both the church and secular society today treat singleness as normative and marriage as the exception. Rather than standing up to secular society, the church goes along with it. But this is not the church's historical position. Marriage and virginity dedicated to the church were highly prized, with a preference for pledged virginity. Being single without a purpose never had the the same status. The Catholic social networks that used to help singles get married are long gone. Today's Catholic church leaves searching singles high and dry. Lonely. For a long time.

If the church were truly counter-cultural, it would do more to help singles get married instead of telling them that singleness is dandy and probably better for them anyhow. The church needs to recognize that lay society has changed and that it is incredibly hard for faithful single Catholics who actually believe Church teachings on marriage and the family to get married. Marriage doesn't just take care of itself anymore. Look at statistics again. The majority of Catholics who do get nice church marriages are living together right up to the ceremony. Everyone congratulates them, and by now they probably make up the majority of couples in the typical Catholic parish, explaining the radical lack of solidarity between most Catholic couples and singles who eschew premarital sex.

Meanwhile, it comes as a shock to single Catholics, that once you are past your 20s, it gets harder and harder to form the relationships you could form more easily when you were younger, and overall society is more and more stacked against you, since the older you get, the more sexually active your generational cohort is, assuming it is not near-universally so by the end of the university or the early 20s. It is hard not to live with a bunker mentality in these circumstances.

It's Just A Coffee said...

Just quickly, men, what are the things that you interpret as possible interest from a NCG? I worry so much about Not Chasing Men that apparently I come off as aloof and uninterested even to men whose company I enjoy.

Don't worry about it. "Don't chase men" means avoid pursuing men; there's no reason why you worry about "acting interested".

On the other hand, it's a bad idea for women to actively pursue men, because, for whatever reason, it seems hard for men to say "no" to women they aren't interested in (or they convince themselves that they really should be interested even though they aren't), and they end up wasting the time of the women in a relationship that's already destined to fail out of lack of interest.

It's Just A Coffee said...

The church talks a good game on marriage, etc, but in reality, Catholic parishes offer no meaningful support to singles who want to get married except for the occasional chips and warm soda thing in the basement....Maybe what's needed is one parish in the diocese that explicitly has a mission to bring singles together.

I do agree that it seems most parishes lack a decent "let's get young singles matched up and paired off."

What exactly could or should a parish do, though? The last thing I want is for other people in the parish to be pressuring me to pursue a women who I know isn't right for me.

All the parish could really do is provide a venue for people to meet each other, and that's something everyone needs more of, not just singles. It's no fun to be without a community.

Antigone in NYC said...

I love this entry and the discussions!!

But just a note on the "pre-date date" -- gentlemen should probably consider the maturity, experience (life experience--nothing off color implied!), and attitude of the lady to which they suggest one. When I was in my early 20s, I also froze up and might have warmed more easily to the idea of a "pre-date date." But as a more mature and experienced woman in her late 30s, if a gentleman my age (or older) suggested a "pre-date date" instead of an old fashioned "date" my charitable opinion of him would likely drop several degrees. (But then again, by the time I hit my early 30s---and realized that most dates, even the good ones---don't necessarily lead to relationships, I'd peacefully accepted and internalized the wisdom of "It's just coffee!")

Alisha said...

Oh boy. A few things. First:
"It's not so much that Catholic life makes men shy, but rather that shy nerdy bookworms are more likely to spend time studying and learning their faith and are thus more likely to take it seriously than more outgoing, extroverted men who are too busy to ever pick up a book by Cardinal Ratzinger?"
Perhaps. But the presumption there is that the only people who take their faith seriously are bookworms or that all bookworms are shy. I love books but I'm not shy and contrarily, I have friends and family members who are devout and not really bookish..
"Maybe what's needed is one parish in the diocese that explicitly has a mission to bring singles together."

A friend of mine from Lebanon once remarked that we had this weird North American habit of creating missions and groups to try to solve problems. I think it's very silly to expect the Church to create some kind of group to solve a societal problem. Yes, it should address it: addressing it doesn't always mean forming a club.
I agree there is a bunker mentality and it's a problem so the answer is: get out of the bunker. We were never meant to be in it: you can't make disciples of all the nations hiding in a church basement afraid to say hi someone. Can't we just be adults and introduce ourselves to others and see them first as a fellow Christian and human being rather than freaking out? No wonder the world thinks we are neurotic: it sounds like we kind of are.
I disagree that the church's focus on singles should be a way of getting them paired off - that increases the pressure! You can't go to a social event of that group without the assumption that people are eyeing you up and down and sizing you up. I think the parish should provide opportunities for people to meet in general - all people, to encourage community and Christian friendships among everyone.
I really like how the association of CL is loose and based on friendship. They support each other and come together for various celebrations of anniversaries, baptisms - singles, married, priests etc. There is no division according to marital status, and while the "school of community" meetings are divided by age, it is very clearly Christ that is the central event of their lives.
I truly think if we were more focused on meeting Christ in the other, this wouldn't be a problem, and I mean this whether or not you are looking to get married. If my focus is on that, I can't be focused on myself or worried about what to do or how I'm coming across because my attention is elsewhere...shouldn't we be striving for that, to look to serve others?

Ordinary Joe said...


To clarify, I hadn't meant to suggest one must be a bookworm to be devout! I do think one must learn the essentials of the faith, and that in recent years the Church (at least in the USA) has done a poor job teaching the essentials of the faith to its youth. As a result a startling number lose their faith in college, and there are few 20-something Catholics to be found at Mass these days.

And I agree with you the Church shouldn't focus on getting singles "paired off." The Church should focus on its core mission: evangelization. If the Church (and Catholic families) did a better job instilling a strong and lasting faith in children, and reaching out to lapsed members, there would be a much larger pool of young single adults at Mass and active in parish life and that would accomplish more than any program of social events.

Urszula said...

As the author of the original question I find these perspectives by men fascinating :) I do have a comment, though. I think the fact that many people (men and women included) fear losing their whole social circle because they didn't have anything to talk to the other person about over coffee is somewhat strange.I can understand how that works, but I don't think it's healthy from either side. I grew up with the 'don't date until you can marry' but woke up in my marriagible age to discover few people in the Catholic community still think you can enjoy coffee and conversation without picking out wedding hymns. Part of how I loosened up about the whole concept was just dating non-Catholic men who had an open attitude about where things were going, but I realize that's not the optimal solution.

As Alisha mentioned, we might just be overthinking things and attaching too much importance to our own ego - for men, how they feel if they are rejected, and for women, how they the project after just a pre-date. If we are grown up, we should be able to manage something as simple and innocuous as asking out - and accepting - invitations to coffee without basing our whole adherence to the Church on the outcome.

Jam said...

Catholics may well be more shy in this aspect of social interaction than the general population. We put more weight on romantic relationships (dating leads toward marriage); and as many have noted, having a community aspect ramps up the level of scrutiny. (Or perceived scrutiny)

When we say that mainstream romantic culture is deeply messed up, we tell ourselves that we can't trust our instincts. Maybe instincts is the wrong word; I mean, we can't trust ourselves to have picked up the right way to go about it; what we've seen from friends and classmates has to be critically evaluated. I'm not disputing any of this, just pointing out that being a "traditional" dater nowadays seems rooted in a position of insecurity and lack of confidence. To go a little further, "old-fashioned" dating is a ritualized behavior; there are do's and don't's that must be learned. So everything you know is wrong and now you must track down these other rules. That would be my explanation for why Catholic singles might seem more "shy".

In my experience, in US cities at least, younger people do tend to congregate in particular parishes. St Clement in Chicago, for instance, was once pointed out to me as a "meat market" bringing in a lot of nominal Catholics looking for dates etc. That was enough to keep me from going to St Clement, perversely enough; I don't like the idea of picking my parish based on boyzz rather than worship, although now a young adult population can be a tipping point for me choosing one mass over another. I really don't know what the Church can do that wouldn't make the situation worse, except, as has been noted, evangelization.

Nzie (theRosyGardener) said...

Wow, thanks, fellows! :-) Lovely to see you here.

I'd like to echo Lauren's answer to Anonymous at 2:23 and also add a couple thoughts. I'm in law school, and I just don't meet many people (of either gender) outside of it because it keeps me so busy. Sometimes I barely see my friends who are also students at the same law school. I would LOVE to see more people outside of it, and someone being a tradesman isn't a negative at all. My core values and what I think are key "compatibility elements" can all be satisfied by tradesmen. So, Anon, if you're a tradesman, I hope you haven't gotten burned by someone going for advanced degrees, and know that girls with advanced degrees don't all require similar education level.

Nzie (theRosyGardener) said...

Oh, and one last thought on the tradesman thing - I think university degrees are an easy proxy for intelligence -- easy BUT not necessarily accurate. So I can see some girls doing that, and probably have done it myself to some extent, just to gauge whether someone's similarly intelligent. That's not really fair, and I shall try to be aware and make sure I don't do it in the future. :-) I think that comes in more on online dating, as opposed to just meeting people.

katy said...

Love this thread! Thanks Seraphic, for making it happen.

A few comments from yesterday:
1) I have been dating my bf for a year now, so I consider myself unavailable. A married friend and I have recently started organizing small dinners out with single friends and game nights at our houses for single friends. We invite a couple single guys and 3-4 of our delightful single girlfriends. The girls definitely know what's happening and sometimes we fill the guys in, sometimes not. It definitely has worked to at least lead to a few dates. I have often bemoaned in a self-congratulatory way why no one ever did that for me!! I strongly, strongly, strongly urge marrieds and paired-up dating couples to do this. I like having dinner with friends anyway, this just requires a little more intentionality about the invite list. This is the sort of thing I think should be encouraged in parishes - my answer to questions from earlier posts about wanting parishes to do more but not knowing how/what.

2) I am overeducated and my bf is more of a tradesman (his college degree came when he was older and was a combo of community college/online). I have to say - it works for us because he is very interested in talking about new topics - but the topics are NEW for him. He's not used to the usual types of conversations I'm used to having with all my friends about intellectual things, politics, theology, etc. That is sometimes difficult for me because I sometimes feel I have to sort of teach the basics of a topic to him and then we can start to talk about it. That said, it leads to VERY few arguments about those topics because the starting point of the convo is my framing the issue for him the way I view the issue! :) I have always said to myself that I would love to be with someone who wasn't a college type, because I think of it as more manly. But it can be really difficult to connect spiritually since it's difficult to connect on what intellectually interests us. However, we have overcome this challenge because my bf is incredibly talkative and loves to talk and learn about these things, and also, because he is so virtuous and good and kind that I am ashamed to think for one second that he is any way lesser than I. The key that I guess I'm stumbling into here is that - you have to be able to respect him, and not having anything in common in terms of your own intellectual journey might be a challenge to that, but maybe not if there is so much else to respect him for. We met online, by the way - we would never have met otherwise.

MaryJane said...

Somehow I missed the discussion of men in trades yesterday. As someone with and pursuing graduate degrees, the last thing I want is to marry someone in my field. Like Canadian Doc said, I don't want to 'talk shop' all the time at home. That said, I would not be happy with someone who couldn't engage in conversation about the things I find interesting, both inside and outside my field.

It seems more a question of compatibility than a question of holding university degrees.

RMVB said...

I dont know if anyone will read this seeing as its a day late, but I agree with whoever it was up there who said that the Church needs to focus not on "coupling off" of the single congregation, but on evangelizing us! For the most part I see our older single generation as a new thing in the life of the Church (at least for quite some time) due to the economy, social pressure, our aversion to participating in the immoral hullabaloo of college, and instead focus on "career/stability first" plus many other reasons other could name, that has created this group of people not really present before: single young adults. In our grandparents and even our parents' generation most people get married right out of high school or after college where they met there spouse (because they could...because there were more people there for education and not partying...) and so the Church as a whole just didnt' know we existed!

But now her job is to listen to the sincere loneliness of our group, because lets be honest, loneliness often leads us to sin and poor choices, and of course that's a new kind of "mission territory." I think we just have to A)give the Church some slack and some time (she's pretty slow!) and B)take intiative where we can to encourage or create communities for our age group.

So yeah, I would never go to an event that was devised to set up the singles for fear of being objectified in a different way (as wife material, versus sexual material) but I WOULD go to events designed to keep me close to Him and within a loving community.

Sarah said...

Oh Katy, if your girlfriends want you setting up matchmaking dinners, then that's great, and very nice of you, but I would absolutely hate that situation. It would be so uncomfortable on so many different levels. It would create so much pressure for what would normally be an enjoyable, comfortable evening. And I even imagine the possibility of it creating a kind of "competitive" atmosphere.

I also don't mind my parish staying out of my dating life. It's not the Church's job to play matchmaker, and it's certainly not the job of the little old ladies who would likely be organizing the whole thing.

I think I've told this story before, but after high school, I was very active in my episcopate parish. There were several people my age who had gone to school together (many of us having known each other since early childhood), and were good friends. My bishop, bless his heart (and I mean that) once called each of us individually into his office to try to convince us to date each other. "You know, we religious realize that most of you will be called to the married state, and of course, we'd like to see you all married to Catholics. So, Sarah, you know, Scooter's a really nice young man. Your age. Has a job. You two seem to be really good friends. Why haven't you two started dating, hm?"

My bishop and I have a great relationship and he's like a father figure, so I appreciated his concern... but it was unnecessary. And there are so many women in the parish already who nudge you "knowingly" as some handsome new parishioner walks down to the church basement for after-Mass coffee that I am burnt out of parish matchmaking and wish they all would just mind their own business and leave me to spinsterhood as I will. ;)

Alisha said...

Joe, and all others who believe the Church's focus should be evangelization and not matchmaking:


Matchmaking can be fine, if it's been requested...but honestly, I am fairly certain most people who might know me only from parish life wouldn't have the faintest clue about who I might find attractive...and if I did find him attractive, chances are that I wouldn't need their involvement to meet him: I am capable of saying hello and shaking hands, or here in QC, faire la bise, on my own :)

Alisha said...

Makes sense and I feel slightly more sympathetic now - behaviour is learned and we aren't usually surrounded by examples we feel we can trust today since the morals of society are different. Nonetheless, we still have Christ, and that really should be our starting point for everything. I think if we are concerned about with trying to live the Gospel and we are clear about what we are looking for, that is truly all we can do - the rest will come, if it is meant to, although, if following Seraphic's manifesto, it means the women will be relying on the men to do the asking out and so are limited if the men aren't doing that.

I happen to disagree on that point with Seraphic to a certain degree (though I also see the positive about it) because I think that anything that necessarily puts women in a state of dependence on men to move forward with what they are looking for is not something I can get on board with. If I was dating, I would not necessarily be overactively running after men (there are too many things to get done in life), but nor would I be sitting around lamenting the fact that no one was asking me out for coffee; if I want to go for coffee with someone, I'll ask them. If, in the end, that somehow made me less appealing of a marriage partner, I'd live with it - and at least have presumably got to spend some time with some cool people, as opposed to moping. Besides, I don't really want to marry someone who couldn't deal with me taking initiative. Overall, I think women have to try to use good judgment as to when it might be good for a particular man to be the one to make the first move. If I know a man is incredibly gregarious, friendly, etc, I am not going to be concerned about his level of initiative, or courage and so I don't think it matters if I ask him out because if he asked me out, it wouldn't necessarily be a sign of anything serious. I'm going to look for other things to determine whether or not his interest is serious. However, if the man is reluctant to take a risk, or shy, I am going to judge the entire situation differently - I may cut him some more slack but if I do allow him to make the first move, I'm going to value it more because I'll know it was difficult for him.

Mary E said...

I have to agree with Seraphic's advice--try not to fall into the trap of wondering if he's "the one" so early in the beginning. It's true that that purpose of dating is marriage, but it takes time to cultivate the friendship necessary for marriage, so definitely enjoy it while you can! I think it really boils down to an issue of emotional chastity. I've heard it put pretty nicely: "Men use love to get sex and women use sex to get love." As a woman, it's so easy to start planning your life in your heard with a nice Catholic dude you just met and you had a vaguely nice conversation with. We can be emotionally needy. I'm guilty of it. It's spiritual battle and it takes work, but it's so necessary.

Katie said...

Emotional chastity is a fairly new issue being addressed in Catholic/Christian circles. But it's so relevant for females especially, as we tend to invest emotionally very easily. I wish that all girls would get an emotional chastity talk along with physical chastity teaching, so many girls would have a lot more self esteem if they didn't base their self worth in relationships!

My favorite speaker on emotional chastity is Sarah Swafford. She speaks around the US on this, and get a great reaction from her audiences. Some of her talks are also on her website - www.emotionalvirtue.com. I recommend it!