Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Auntie Seraphic & Confused-Clueless I

I alluded to this post yesterday. There were two emails, so it's a two parter. Girls! It would be helpful if you put all the relevant details in your first email. For example, if you're stuck on a guy, it would be helpful to know why, beyond bonding hormone. 

Meanwhile, my unusual gentleness is because of her age.  I have some extra observations underneath for older readers. By the way, in Canada and the USA, "school" can mean "college" or "university."

Dear Auntie Seraphic, 

hope you can offer some words of advice for me. I will summarize as best and as fast as I can.

Last year I left home and moved to a different city for school. Before heading back home I met a guy and he blew me away. He made me feel so loved, so wanted. He especially blew me away when he started to ask how I would feel if I fell in love with someone [with his career plans]...and then proceeded to discuss how I felt about marriage. 

I was very nervous about getting involved with him because I didn't want to start something and then leave to go back home. He convinced me to "just try this" because we'd never know if we didn't try and we both knew we were running out of time. Now, I am a young Catholic striving to be a saint and he is a young Protestant who struggled with controlling his desires as a young man. 

Eventually we got into a "relationship" and I compromised my values the night before I left to come back home. Thankfully the good Lord saved me, and we did not go as far as having sex, but I still felt like something was taken from me that I can now never get back again. 

He came with me to the airport and we said our teary-eyed goodbyes, thinking that in our hearts, this wouldn't be the last time we'd see each other. We continued to work on our relationship when I arrived home, but we struggled to keep it together. It fell apart one night when I had told him that I had a really deep conversation with my girl friends about what had happened the night before and he got angry and he was hurt. He felt so ashamed and he felt so guilty that my friends now looked at me different and were not happy with my choices. He started to push me away and it all fell apart. 

He ended communication very abruptly but somehow we'd get back into talking, then it would fall apart and come Christmas Day, I sent him a msg and he never responded. From then on, I was disappointed especially because he didn't have the decency to msg me Merry Christmas.

I'm sorry this is a novel, I'm just trying to grab all the important pieces.

After the many times my friends picked me up off the floor and told me he wasn't worth my time..and all the times I tried to hide when I was thinking about him out of fear of being scolded by my friends, I struggled to push him out of my mind. [But then a] month ago,  I received a msg from him. I proceeded to get text after text after text from not only him, but from [the friend who introduced us] saying "u just gotta talk to him, he won't shut up about u, tonight pushed me over the edge, he was crying because he misses u so much". 

I didn't know what to do. I didn't know what to think, or say, so I didn't do anything. I let him continue to pour out his 16 apologies and [I messaged him] 2 days later. I didn't know why he was back, I was angry and confused why God has let him come back into my life and distract me. 

I thought, maybe we are supposed to be together, but I wasn't patient in the beginning, so now I am meant to learn patience,  something I struggle with every day.  Now we've been talking and trying to work on the "getting to know one another" that we had missed completely in the beginning. We have skyped numerous times and had some serious discussions.. And I feel torn now because my feelings for him are not just of that of a friends. They are more than that and its hard for me to push those aside and act as if we never had anything in the past. I am confused by what I am supposed to do because he says he just wants to be friends, and he hasn't come back to "get back together", or "be my boyfriend."

Deep down, from our discussions and our skype conversations, I truly feel he's bluffing. I feel he's scared of the feelings he has for me and isn't ready for commitment which I know he's said before.

For the past couple of days I have been seriously discerning cutting off all communication with him because I can't "just be friends" with him. I talked to my friend, the one who introduced us, and I felt I had made up my mind, and the decision was to cut him off. With that in mind, I went to the nearest chapel, and knelt before the Lord with the hopes of guidance and direction from Him, asking how I can go about cutting him off in a nice way. But instead what I received as my knees hit the floor is "you haven't been patient" and the tears just fell from my eyes. I was so overcome by emotion out of pure confusion. I felt I had made up my mind! And was thinking clearly! Yet the Lord gave me an answer of what I would have normally been ecstatic to hear!

Now, I am asking for your thoughts on the matter. I know that I care about him, truly a lot. I have thought about marriage, and I can see myself with him, but I try to push that out of my head in fear of getting hurt and being vulnerable.

Please help!
Confused and Clueless 

Dear Confused and Clueless, 

If you just left for college last year, you are probably only 19 or 20 now. You probably won't get this now, but from an adult perspective, you are very young and vulnerable and, above all, deserve forgiveness* for your sins a hundred times faster than a thirty-year-old does. It is very hard to be between the ages of 17 and 25. Your powers of reasoning, prudence and patience have not caught up yet with your desires, particularly the desire to feel loved by a man.

If you have gone to confession, what you did the night before you went home doesn't really matter. (If you haven't gone to confession, go to a good priest for it, and let that be an end to it.) All it was, from a practical point of view, was evidence that you are a human adult female who felt very sexually attracted to that human adult male. Sexual desire is one of the most powerful forces on earth, which is why human beings have created a lot of taboos and disciplines to fence it in, to help us obey God's request/command/invitation to us not to have sex outside of the one safe, just place for it: marriage.    

During this relationship, you have learned many important lessons that will stay with you for life. One is that when you have an intense experience, you want to tell all your friends about it. Another is that when you do, the other person involved may feel betrayed. (And so either you tell your friends, and don't tell the man you told your friends, or you don't tell your friends. Many married women disappoint our Single friends by suddenly clamming up when we get married. It's because our loyalty to our husbands now outweighs our need to connect with our female friends.)

The question for me is if this man is your friend. You are worried about being hurt and vulnerable, but you are hurting and vulnerable already, so leave that aside for now. A man-friend is not someone you look at and say, "Will this guy hurt me and how bad?" A man-friend is someone you look at and feel happiness because he is there. You think, "I like this man! He's a straight-up guy! I'd feel proud if I walked into a room arm in arm with him, and people thought he was my boyfriend." A boyfriend, or a husband, should also be your friend. 

What I am not getting from your email is what you LIKE about this guy. I get that you are overwhelmingly sexually attracted to him, and I get that--like most women---you want a great man to love you,  but what I don't get is whether or not you LIKE this man, so that even if you were married to someone else, you would still look forward to talking to him at parties. 

If the Lord tells you you need to be more patient, I won't contradict! And I think you need to be more patient, especially with yourself, because you are so young. He is very young, too, and he probably has many of the same worries and fears you do. He's a guy, so he's different, but that doesn't make him from an entirely different species. He's confused, clueless and vulnerable, too.

I also think you should stop talking about your business with your same-age friends. At your age, your friends will find it all an absorbing soap opera, with you as heroine and him as villain, but if you want to have a kindly, mature, Christian friendship/relationship with this man, you must develop a comparable loyalty to him. If he is not abusive in any way, you owe him the dignity of discretion and privacy. Yes, you may need advice and guidance, but I strongly suggest discussing anything that needs to be discussed about your boyfriend with him, first of all, and then perhaps with an adult mentor, like your mother or favourite aunt or priest.  

I hope this is helpful. 

Grace and peace,

Observations for Older Readers

1. Beware the man who pressures you into "a relationship" (and what does that mean, anyway?) or anything else because you are "running out of time." Time is the one thing you are not running out of. You have all eternity before you, and the little bit you have on this earth determines how the rest of it plays out. 

2. If you don't want the time, don't do the crime. Of course you want to do sexy stuff with sexy people. But you don't because you would feel simply terrible afterwards. You know Jiminy Cricket will sit on your shoulder yelling, "Bad Pinocchio! Bad!" If Catholic, you will have to go to a confessional and tell it all to a man behind a mesh screen who will say such kind and gentle things you may feel even worse and cry. This is better, however, than telling yourself you HAVE BEEN ROBBED. See #3.

3. You can get everything except virginity back. If you lose Grace, you can at least humbly ask for it back, and if you are really sorry and God is merciful, you will get it back. If you lose face, you can get that back, too. If you lose your dignity, you can get that back in time. Virginity, however, is a historical state, and you can't rewrite history. If you make a free act of will to have sex and you have it, hey presto, you're not a virgin anymore. (St. Augustine ruled that rape of a virgin does not entail loss of her virginity, as it does not include her free act of will. Of course it is still an atrocious thing to happen and to recover from, and rapists used to be executed.) 

Make sure you understand the difference between Grace, face, dignity and virginity. And stop using the word "virginity" for every new experience. I once broke a date with a young man because he said we were losing our rock concert virginity together. And twenty years later I was bereft of speech when another young man told me he had lost his "black pudding virginity." Stop this at once, young people!   

Incidentally, if you do something of your own free will, you were not robbed. Nothing was taken from you. You did it yourself. Let us take responsibility for the stuff we do, and call a spade a spade, and a sin a sin, and physical acts deliberately leading to sexual excitement of both parties physical acts deliberately leading to sexual excitement of both parties. Outside of marriage, these are sins.

4. Keep it classy. You did it. You feel bad. Now you don't love yourself, so you reach out to others to see if they will still love you if they too know What You Did. So you tell all your friends, and they are, like, OMG! They are all embarrassed and, like, "u gotta dump this bf, grfrd!" and when they meet up they discuss What You Did in exasperated undertones. 

Your plan to repair your self-esteem with the esteem of your posse has backfired. You are angry and hurt, and misery loves company, so who better to share in your anger and hurt than your Partner in Crime? And how better to make him angry and hurt than to tell him you told all your friends What You and He Did and how they let you down.

Sadly, this passive-aggression will backfire, too, because if there is anything men hate, it is losing face and being told to feel guilty. If you want to hang onto the delicious morsel guy whose charms you savoured succumbed to yesterday, don't yell at him about it today. Just go to confession and don't put yourself in a position where you do it again. Tell the truth, which is that it felt great at the time, but you're not doing that again because you don't want to go to hell. ("God doesn't send people to hell for stuff like that." "Yes, He does. It's in the Bible. Anyway, it's not Him sending, it's us choosing, and I need you to respect my sexual choices if this is going to work out.")  

If this is possible, do NOT tell your friends What You Did. I realize how hard this is, so if you really can't help it because you feel that bad, then pick the smartest, quietest one. If you tell two, pick two who don't know each other, so they can't discuss it. 

5. Do not tell his friend your secret plans regarding him because his friend will tell him.  Guaranteed. And then he will be angry and hurt and withdraw and say he just wants to be friends and complain about women to his friends and say we are good for only one thing, etc., etc. Bless his little heart.

6. If he says he just wants to be friends, it's over.  Keep it classy. Say "Okay, if that's what you want" and then don't text him first ever again. If you find his facebook updates seriously irritating, wait a month and then subtly defriend him. Don't discuss him. Don't skype him. Don't write to him. Don't for a minute think he was the ONE and you have lost all chance of earthly happiness and are doomed to sexual frustration and eventual insanity and death surrounded by mangy cats. Rewrite the script by saying, "Ah! He was one of the really hot ones," when your friends say his name. Wink and smile.

*I just heard Calvinist Cath have a heart attack, so I concede that it is theologically risqué to suggest anyone deserves God's forgiveness for his/her sins. What I mean is that the young are less culpable for their sexual sins than the old because they are untried soldiers in the war against sin, not battle-hardened veterans comme moi.


Anonymous said...

Wow Auntie, I've never commented before but I could have been that writer. I'm 20 too and to hear your gentleness was really a balm. This last semester I had a really similar experience and learned these lessons the hard way and man it's been rough. I did keep it to myself for a very long time but then when I told a friend she became angry at me for seemingly not trusting her enough to tell her sooner. Anyway thank you for your kind words and the knowledge that my brain will work this stuff out in a couple years :)

Domestic Diva said...

Seraphic, I wish I'd read this when I was 20-something!! I had no idea how to navigate the endless complications between girlfriends when a boyfriend enters the picture, and I sure had no clue about male psychology. Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom.

Seraphic said...

Dear Katie, your friend (also 20?) sounds like she has confused your wish to keep your private life to yourself with "a lack of trust." But your private life is none of her business! Your secrets are yours to keep to yourself or to share with another, as you choose.

As a matter of fact, the older we all get, the less we feel a need to confide about our love life to female friends. We certainly no longer expect to have to prove our loyalty to, or trust in, our friends by feeding them interesting tidbits about our private lives!

However, I remember from high school that girls feel threatened when their friends begin to develop this kind of dignified adult reticence. Really, the only time you HAVE to speak out is if you are caught in an abusive situation and need serious help. And even then it is better to speak to an adult authority, like your mother, father aunt, grandmother, or (especially) campus chaplain than to speak to someone just as inexperienced and young as yourself, and who might be greatly tempted to see it all as an interesting DRAMA and give you a lot of "good advice" she got directly from "90210". (A friend with "an old soul" is the blessed exception!)

Meanwhile, I am sorry you were in this situation yourself, and I'm sorry it was rough. It does get easier the older you get, I PROMISE. The important thing is not to live in "wishful thinking" or in "catastrophic thinking" but to be firmly rooted in reality.

Seraphic said...

Oh, Domestic Diva, wasn't being 20-something AWFUL? Life was so confusing and scary, and boys were confusing and scary, and I was so often in a bad mood, and felt so hemmed in and---AAAAAAAAH!

I had really, really great skin though. Everyone under 30 rush to a mirror and admire your under-30 skin.

Anonymous said...

* (I knew what you meant!)

Seraphic said...

:-D Yes, but the thought of you reading keeps me from getting theologically sloppy!

Antigone in NYC said...

Brava on this post!

Urszula said...

Your advice is spot-on! In response to #1, we say in Polish "Co nagle to po diable" = what is done in haste is the devil's work (more or less). "we will never have another chance" sounds highly manipulative - especially since if you really cared, you would make sure there would be another chance.

Seraphic said...

Aha! Thank you for the Polish proverb! I have begun collecting them.