Friday, 14 June 2013

Distinguishing Loving from Fancying

People learning North American English must be so confused by our poverty of words concerning matters of the heart. When I was a school child, we expressed other-focused longings with the word "like", as in "So do you like him?" or "You like Aaron! You like Aaron!" or, cynically, "So who do YOU like?" as if every ten year old girl must by definition have a crush on someone.

This could be confusing, for of course we like many things, which means to say, we associate many things with goodness or pleasure. I like Georgian architecture, for example. I like the Scottish Poetry Library. I like the poetry of Zbigniew Herbert. I like cats. I like our nearest neighbours.

Fortunately, the British, who invented English, have a more specific word for other-focused longings and it is "fancy," as in "So do you fancy him?" 

This is a terribly useful word for it always has the connotation of want. You can also say "I fancy a cup of tea" and it means the same thing. You want something. You fancy the cup of tea because it will relax or warm you, and you fancy the new cashier in the supermarket because he is just so tasty-looking. 

Back my good theology school, which I discovered after the fact is considered rather "liberal", my ethics prof used to talk very solemnly and positively about "eros" and tell us concupiscence doesn't mean what we think it means. He was a very good man, and I can imagine him discoursing for half an hour on the holiness of our erotic feelings for the new cashier in the supermarket. However, I think the holiness of our erotic feelings for the new cashier in the supermarket has the shelf-life of a cheesecake. To be honest, if we spend too long concentrating on the thrill we get from the new cashier, we are lusting after the new cashier. 

Lust is the least of the Seven Deadly Sins, but it is still a deadly sin because, even at its mildest, it can utterly cloud your reason. It can lead you to do all kinds of stupid things, including stick with a man who is really rotten to you, or who bores you senseless, because you love kissing him so much. Physical expression of affection, even if sincere affection is largely absent, can chemically/ psychologically glue a woman to someone. Sexual desire is like a freight train, and the only person who can stop it is the driver, through a massive and heroic act of will, plus Grace.

For the sake of happiness, fancying should not be confused with loving, and love of some sort should come before fancying. Definitely there should at least be liking, as in "I like him. He is kind to people and makes me laugh." I know many people who are kind to people and make me laugh, so I like many people. I want to be around them because being around them simply makes me feel comfortable and happy, and I hope God will reward them for their kindness in this world and the next.

Hoping God will reward someone in this world and the next can be defined as "desiring the good of the other" which is the Thomist definition of love. And I think it a measure of love when your desire for the greater good of the other is greater than your desire for any of your goods less than your eternal salvation. For example, many a spouse would lay down his life for his spouse, and many a parent her life for her children. (N.B.: The good of the other is never something forbidden by God.)

Family and friends make all kinds of sacrifices on behalf of those they love. A loving parent says "No" to her  12 year old daughter going to an unsupervised boy-girl party even if the daughter will shout "I hate you! I hate you!" and mean it. A loving 24 year old teacher says "No" to his 18 year old pupil who has a crush on him, not because he could get in trouble if he didn't, but because he does not want his 18 year old pupil to suffer psychological harm.* 

This is true even if the 24 year old teacher secretly fancies his 18 year old pupil and feels pretty wretched. Because, obviously, you can fancy someone and love them at the same time. When I met B.A., I already liked him because he was funny, and then I liked him because he was so kind to everyone, and then I fancied him, but didn't do anything about it, first, because he was A REGULAR READER, and second, because life has taught me it is infinitely better to be the recipient of the First Real Move myself than to make the First Real Move and third, I had just met him and relied upon prudence to safeguard my own good and his. 

The fancying part was not as important as the liking part and the loving part, and I love my regular readers just for being regular readers. Fancying B.A. only became important when I knew B.A. fancied me, and super-important when I knew B.A. loved me in a marry-me way because, really, you shouldn't marry anyone you don't fancy. 

However, our poor hypothetical 24 year old teacher is not in a position to marry his 18 year old pupil because, first of all, she is his pupil, second, she's only 18, and third, he's married already. 

Maybe I should have said that first. At any rate, our hypothetical 24 year old teacher is a good man, and loves both his pupil and his wife, and therefore desires their good. (And if he is a Christian, he desires the good of his salvation above all else.) The good of the pupil is not to get mixed up with him, and the good of his wife is to have a loyal husband. For the teacher to act on his feelings of fancy would be contrary to love. But as he loves, he doesn't. 

To recap some distinctions to help us all sort out how we feel and what is real:

LIKING: Admiration and wanting to be around something/someone just because it/he/she makes you smile and feel happy.

FANCYING: Wanting someone, or their image, for the erotic thrill even just thinking about them gives you.

LOVING: Desiring the other's good so sincerely that you would forgo many goods, including their company, in order to protect it.  

Obviously, when fancying is divorced from love, what we have--very quickly--is lust. And many people fancy those they don't even like, which is dangerous to reason. We do that all the time when we have a crush on someone we don't even know, like a film star, and just create a fantasy around him. 

It is actually quite terrible to be fancied by someone who doesn't know you or doesn't really want to know you as you really are, and wouldn't like you as you really are, but just creates a fantasy based on your image. Knowing that, I suppose we should all strive not to do that to others ourselves. 

The worst case scenario is marrying someone who thinks you are the fantasy image of you he has in his head because, believe me, a few months of marriage will defeat his every attempt to keep that fantasy alive. And then he will blame you, you fantasy-girl murderess!  

It's lovely to be married to someone who likes you. And it is horrible to be married to someone who doesn't like you. So let there be liking before fancying! And let us put love--love as Thomas defined it--before everything else.


Anon just for today said...

I'm really glad you shared about having crushes on people otherwise unavailable (in your case, Jesuits) - it's nice to know that a crush is just a crush and can be eventually used towards a further good, like being oriented towards the right kind of men. You are the only person I've read who has treated crushes as they ought to be: like the common cold. We all get them, no matter the state in life, and they all pass away. Thanks!

Seraphic said...

Thank you! I should mention that a crush is not usually just fancying plain and simple. There is often liking and even love going on there,too. It is quite obvious that there is real proper Thomist love involved when the person with the crush never breathes a word about the crush to person who inspired it because either party is unavailable or it would be simply inappropriate. This is the case with our poor hypothetical teacher. He will report the girl's advances to the head teacher/principal, and he will patiently wait for the end of the term and the girl's graduation, and his own feelings for her will diminish as he throws himself into summer and family life.

Pearlmusic said...

Another great post, thanks! And how would you, dear Seraphic, comment on another hypothetical situation: a single 30-year-old female academic teacher, witty, young-looking devout Catholic acknowledges she' s being a crush object of her student, a NCB or other decent guy, aged, say 22-25. How would you go about it?

Seraphic said...

Unless he is unpleasant and making her uncomfortable, I would tell her to do nothing, say nothing and write nothing to acknowledge it until class is over and the grades are in.

And she should continue to do nothing, say nothing and write nothing about it until he has graduated from his program unless other female teachers at her institution have had romantic relationships with former-students-who-are-still-students-at-the-university without destroying their careers.

At any rate, if she is merely flattered and not at all bothered, she should not acknowledge it. If she is bothered, really really bothered, then she should consult the sexual harrassment guidelines.

A 25 year old guy is not going to suffer from reciprocated affection from a 30 year old woman, but her professionalism will usually be called into question, and people will come up with insulting theories about how the student got his good grades.

Pearlmusic said...

Thanks! Well, were it about me, if sexual harassment were out of question, I would also be careful with the guy as well, except on condition that he:
1) has graduated and/or it has been ascertained they will never be on teacher-pupil terms again
2) acts like a grown-up, takes the initiative and is serious about it
3) is willing to keep it private until a serious commitment is made.

Some people would tell me I’m way too strict about such things, but I think I’m not. I know a few couples like that in my own academic circle (i.e. married or engaged couples) and it didn’t ruin these women’s career; however, the guys were really mature and willing to get married.
Meanwhile, flattering a nice single teacher before the classes are finished might sometimes be an attempt to wheedle better grades and it really happens. And should anyone suffer from such situation, it is mostly us, women. So guarding our hearts first.

Seraphic said...

What a book that would make: "Flirt Your Way to An A" ! Out of curiosity and fact-finding, are these hypothetical (or non-hypothetical) seductive prof-flattering or sincere prof-courting men Poles?

Pearlmusic said...

Ha, ha, ha! Well said! Yes, they are Poles, or more generally, Middle Europeans. Of course, they are rather exception to the rule (because they MOSTLY behave in a very appropriate way), so I wouldn’t say this is a national feature, but still. I can remember male students bringing a bunch flowers to a (even married!) female teacher with the intention of getting away with or making up for things they did or didn’t do in order to get a grade. Long talks after lectures showing that he is SO INTERESTED in the subject (haha!), deeply looking into her eyes, complimenting her beauty or generously offering help with any technical stuff are even more common. And it’s delightful if it’s just a gentleman behaviour and the guy does what he should do during the classes. NB if a nice student has a real crush on his teacher, he will most likely go out of his way not to miss any lesson and to make even more effort in order to get a better grade (“Allright, I’ll do that horrible exercise only because she’s asking me to do this”). And that’s for their good, of course! :)

Pearlmusic said...

PS. Please note that I'm talking mostly about artistic/human sciences academic circles and it is perhaps more about that than nationality.