Recently the shipment of my library arrived at the Historical House, and after B.A. put together four bookcases, I began to take the books out of their boxes. Oh, my little beauties!
One of the books is super-trashy, the sort of book you would hide from your mother if you had it, even if it did not constitute an occasion for sin for you, and I found it on a sale table for something like $2. But the thing is, this book contains splendid advice on getting along with men. (What a hoot!) And so it has strongly influenced how I get along with men, even though there are parts of this book I cannot read in good conscience and I am now hiding it from B.A. As we graduates of Jesuit schools like to say about the weirdest stuff, "God in all things!"
The first message of this amusing-and-useful-but-shameful book is that in order to get along with men, you must repeat a mantra in your head, the first part being "Men are wonderful" and the second being "I am wonderful." The book's premise is that if you convince yourself of these beliefs, men will flock to you. If you truly believe not only that men are fabulous, but that you are fabulous and fun, attractive and clever, says this book, then men will also think that you are fabulous and fun, attractive and clever. And speaking as a woman who is fabulous and fun, attractive and clever, I think Amusing-If-Shameful Book Lady has a point.
Complaining about men is an enjoyable female hobby, mostly because coming to a consensus makes groups of women feel cozy and knitted together, supported, loved and understood. Also, not only can you get high on remembered disappointment and rage, everyone listening to your story can get high on it too. Anyone who was ever actually jilted at the altar could dine out on it. Then her hostesses to say to other women, "You know, I once met a woman who actually WAS jilted at the altar." ("No! Really?" "Yes, she was actually, right there, in the church, in her wedding dress, and the organist played Pachebel's "Canon in D", like, six times before he called it quits.")
However, complaining about men (says Useful-if-Trashy-Book-Lady) is bad for your inner man magnet. She doesn't provide advice about how to not get sucked into complaining about men at a women's complaint-about-men fest, but I recommend saying, "I'm not going to say anything bad about men because I don't want to mess up my inner man magnet." This will turn the conversation to what an inner man magnet may be.
The easiest way to stop complaining about men is to find some very nice men to hang out with. For example, when I went to theology school, I met some really great men. They were mostly male religious, aged 28 to 90, but that didn't matter. What mattered was that they were really great. They were clever, devout, interesting, friendly and on a mission from God.
And, although, yes, life still threw a rat or two in my path, after my stint in theology school, I met other great men, men who reminded me at least slightly, or on a subconscious level, of the great guys in theology school. My ex-boyfriend Volker, for example, whom I dated when I was in Boston, was definitely of the Great Guys at Theology School calibre. And I ended dating on a high note because of course some time after we broke up, I met B.A.
I am now tempted to ponder whether I should have been taken out of my elementary school, to get me away from all the baby rats before they gave me a negative attitude towards men, but that would be complaining about men, and potentially mess up my inner man magnet, which I need to keep B.A. happy, so I will focus on good men.
As far as I know, all the men I have met in Scotland are great. Scotland itself has quite the violent crime rate, so this is not because Scotland is an earthly paradise (except in terms of scenery and historical houses). I think it is because my inner compass has been set to "Good Guys like Jesuit Pals and B.A.," so firmly that I can't even see the bad guys. And, actually, if B.A. or any of our friends says something egregiously naughty, I almost never hear it. I know someone has said something, but that's it. Along with selective good-guy vision, I have selective good-guy hearing.
Cynical eavesdroppers will suggest that this is because I work from home and the only men I meet are at church. But this is not true, for I have also met some of my husband's non-church friends, and they are also great guys. And I have also met friends of church friends at parties and events, and they also seem to be great guys. The very workmen who come into the Historical House to look for bats or examine the pipes or test the appliances seem to be great guys or, since I never really have proper conversations with them, nice men. The only bona fide, proven lousy guys I have had to deal with in Scotland were (A) a big group of probably drunk foreigners who snatched at my friend and grabbed my head (Mendy!) and B) two probably drunk locals who objected to my coat (fur) and my hat (posh and Tory-looking).
But I refuse to end this post with lousy guys, so I will recall the carpark after Mass this week, positively thronging with good men, aged 24 to 65, festooned with tweed and pin-striped suits, colourful ties, audacious pocket squares and interesting socks. Positively scrumptious, my dears. Now go and write about how marvellous men are in the combox.