I will be offline for a week, intent on family obligations and opportunities. One of them involves a leap across the border, and crossing borders always reminds me of DEATH. (It is salutary to think about death at least once in awhile. Catholics mention our own deaths every time we pray the Ave Maria.) Obviously one should not be morbid about death, but strictly business-like. And how happy I am to think that I will have an Old Rite funeral and not be left at my most vulnerable (i.e. dead) at the feet of Father Land Speed Record, who celebrated my childhood friend's funeral in 39 minutes flat and actually shooed out the undertakers afterwards.
That said, I informed my funerator that I wanted Mozart's Dies Irae, and my funerator said, no, you must have the traditional one. But if I get the chance I will save up some money so my funerator can hire the Pixie choir down the road to file in and sing the Mozart, as obviously the Men's Schola (max 5) can't do it themselves.
Anyway, I was thinking of what I should tell you all if I were to die and therefore never blog again. And I have a little time this morning, so I will do so.
1. If you want a cat, get a cat. There has been no better time in history for women to be Single, and yet the moan goes up at the news of yet another friend's engagement that those still unengaged will just become crazy cat ladies. I have met many Single women, and one or two were actually severely mentally ill, but none was ever a crazy cat lady.
I am not sure there are that many crazy cat ladies. And, anyway, why do we never talk about crazy cat gentlemen? I have never in my life heard a Single man moan, "Oh, gosh. I guess I'm just going to be one of those crazy cat gentlemen you read about." Crazy cat lady is a deeply misogynist stereotype. And although I have never met a crazy cat lady, I have met a compulsive hoarder--a man.
One or even two cats are not a sign that you are on your way to becoming the neighbourhood crazy. If you want them, get them.
2. Wear sunscreen. Or generally protect yourself from the sun. As I have very fair skin, I took this to heart from a very early age, and it has paid off. When I am feeling decrepit, I just have a look in the mirror, recall the wrinkles of sun-loving former high school classmates, and cheer right up.
3. Don't chase men. The world is a fascinating place with fascinating people, and more amazing books than you'll ever have time to read, and more recipes than you'll ever be able to try, and more languages than you'll ever have the ability to learn. It's a wonderful, exciting place, and you do not need to artificially add excitement to your life by chasing men. You should, of course, be friendly to them because many of them are nice to know, and many men and many women can indeed be friends. But friendly does not mean asking them out on dates. If you ask a man on a date and he says yes, you will not know if he really likes YOU or if he just likes being asked by girls on dates.
4. It's just coffee. An invitation to coffee is not a marriage proposal. If a young man you know asks if you'd like to have a coffee, and he is an amiable man you like okay, then go and have that coffee. Even if we are absolutely sure we would never in a million years want to marry this amiable, likeable young man, we want to encourage amiable young men to continue asking women out for coffee. So say "Yes" and go.
5. Men lie like rugs. I never cease to be amazed by the male pride in deceit. When women lie, we pretend we never do because if we admitted that we do, we would feel bad. But men will lie and then brag about it as if they have done something clever.
Okay, not all men will do this. But there are men who will swear on the Bible that they love you and you only and will never forsake you and blah blah blah and then snicker afterwards because of how clever they were in fooling you. This is one reason why premarital sex is always a bad idea.
I do not know why women always think our generation of men is so much more enlightened than past generations of men, and the men of our generation cannot possibly be sexists, seducers, alcoholics, cocaine addicts, etc., etc, when quite obviously some of them are. Oh, and now there is internet porn. Whoo-hoo.
6. Marriage is hard. Actually, I had the very good luck of meeting a very good-natured and laid-back Single man when I was 37 and marrying him eight months later. Thanks to his very good character and my sense that I have been incredibly blessed, I don't usually feel that marriage is THAT hard. But it is still hard. You can't do everything you want to do because of him. He can't do everything he wants to do because of you. You get grumpy. He gets grumpy. Your bad habits drive him nuts. His bad habits drive you nuts. You get whiplash when a smartly dressed soldier passes in the street, and then he snarls. He gets whiplash when a slim young thing passes in the street, and then you scream. Ah, marriage.
7. Crazy-in-love lasts three years, tops. After that, it's all about affection, good character and not spending more than you have.
8. Don't marry anyone you don't want to have sex with. I'm serious. Also you have to be in love with the idea of doing his laundry and be willing to watch a lot of brainless TV. Marriage is about sex, laundry and boring TV. Sex, laundry and boring TV, people. Of course, it is primarily about the creation and education of children. Ahem. And helping each other to heaven. And probably some other stuff I'll find out when I get around to reading Love and Responsibility.
9. Most Singles already have a family. When you become an adult, you may have to renegotiate your place in your family, but you still have a family. You don't have to get married and have kids to have a family. Apparently I can't have kids. But you can bet I have a family. If I didn't have a family, I would not have plucked a disembodied Barbie head from the bathtub this week.
10. Everyone is in relationships almost all the time. Don't tell yourself you've never had "a relationship" when what you haven't had is a sexually- and emotionally-charged sort-of-friendship with a member of the opposite sex characterized mainly by his wanting to have sex with you. Such relationships are among the cheapest and the most pointless relationships possible. The daily lift you get from flirting from the man at the subway station candy shop is very likely more meaningful that last summer's agonized month-long tango with the increasingly surly guy you met at that club.
Of course there is nothing like being in love. Well, there is also loving your parents, your siblings, your nephews and nieces, your best friends and maybe one or two of your former students or mentors. The intense-if-quiet love you have for your favourite family members is surprisingly like what you feel for your husband after the fireworks have calmed down a bit. Marital love is like the king of your family loves. Romeo and Juliet is a terrible model for love relationships because it attacks the family. Love should always help a family to flourish, not tear it apart.
11. All your mortal heroes are deeply flawed. Listen, when anyone under 18 writes to me, I tell them they should discuss what I tell them with their mother or favourite aunt. If I had a teenager consulting a complete stranger over the internet about her private life, I would sure want to know what this complete stranger said. The only persons you can trust never to make a mistake are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I suppose the saints don't make mistakes anymore, either. (Presumably Our Lady, though sinless, burnt the bread occasionally.) However, those are the real saints. There is no such thing as a "living saint" although occasionally you may meet a deeply peaceful or even holy person. If they're also good-looking, they're probably not really holy but just very charismatic, so watch out.
The strength of the Traddie funeral is that no matter how good or bad you were believed to be, the funeral gives you the benefit of the doubt in your sainthood. It hints strongly that you were a miserable stranger who will badly need prayers on the Day of Wrath, so would everyone please pray. When one very popular and attractive English priest had a memorial service, there was public outrage that, his pedophiliac sins having been disclosed decades later, there had been a "celebration of his life." A Traddie funeral is not a celebration of anyone's life. It is a deeply personal and humble plea.
There is no point hating your heroes for tumbling off the pedestals you ought not to have put them on in the first place. For example, I love the Narnia books, and I have great respect for C.S. Lewis as a novelist. I'm not such a fan of his theology, except as expressed through his fiction. I still respect him as a novelist despite this story, which is possibly the most misogynist story I have ever read. His personal life was possibly a tad dodgy, too, which, frankly, is none of my business nor yours. And that reminds me:
12. Don't tell anyone but a priest in the confessional and (if necessary) your doctor about your past sexual sins. Meanwhile, the only person in the universe who might need to know if you are a virgin is your fiancé, once he is actually your fiancé. It's nobody's business but yours. Purity rings are, to be blunt, stupid, and blunt talks about chastity to strangers can be just as immodest as talks about sex, especially if you are a young and attractive young woman speaking to men your age or older.