Thank you very much to the seven eavesdroppers who chimed in to discuss the so-called "Confirmed Bachelor." I find it intensely significant that none of you said, "Maybe he's gay." I know that straight Single Catholic guys hate the idea of women looking at your perhaps lonely and frustrating lives and thinking, "Maybe he's gay." And no doubt devout Catholic men who do have gay inclinations but are determined to identify themselves primarily with Christ, not their sexuality, hate this idea too.
All I can say about that is, "I'm sorry. Canadian, American and British mainstream culture is currently completely obsessed with both homosexuality and women's sexual attractiveness, and this affects ordinary women in weird ways. The thought 'Maybe he's gay' makes us feel better--and maybe even a tad superior--when we are hurting because a guy we like is completely indifferent to us."
Now that I have gotten that over with, I will observe that there are two issues going on here. The first is "Why are there devout Catholic men who neither marry nor become male religious nor become priests?" That is the primary issue.
The second issue is, "Is unconsecrated Single life, which we are ALL born into and which almost all of us abandon, a vocation?" That is the secondary issue, and we can talk about it TOMORROW. I don't want to talk about the extremely contemporary and non-traditional expansion of the notion of vocation today, so please don't leave comments about it. Write them down on a piece of paper, and post them on tomorrow's post. Today is all about the menfolk.
I. N. W. Thomas left three suggestions: 1. the confirmed bachelor is living according to private vows 2. he hasn't felt a call to either priesthood or marriage to a specific woman, and is concentrating on his work and hobbies 3. he's secretly selfish or has super-private sexual arrangements.
II. Michael suggested that many confirmed bachelors are just inept at courtship. This includes 40-somethings ignoring all women over 35, or chasing the kind of women least likely to be interested in them. He thinks married men might be able to give Single guys advice.
III. Some Guy in the USA left three suggestions: 1. the confirmed bachelor could be asexual 2. he might celibacy a small price to pay for living a quiet, interesting life on his own terms 3. he has given up hope after a lifetime of failing to find a spouse.
IV. Hip2BSquare observes that there are many service professions, like the military and medicine, that make a family life difficult. He points out that the Confirmed Bachelor may be living a life of service and self-sacrifice through his career and on behalf of his extended family.
V. Pomofo brings up the modern nightmare of what-if-she-takes-me-to-the-cleaners-? He also suggests all the good ones are taken and there are no good ones left. He observes that he is an introvert and hates small talk. He calls, in a metaphorical way, women he approaches "the enemy."
VI. Ordinary Joe also sees himself as an introvert and social chit-chat as a hurdle.
VII. Eavesdropper #11 suggests that many so-called Confirmed Bachelors really do want to marry, but they just don't talk about it, at least not when or where women are around. He also points out that women can't tell if a guy has been shot down again and again because many men don't want to talk about this either. He thinks the idea that some men just like to stay Single so they can smoke cigars and quaff whisky in peace is a myth.
First, I'm delighted by the turnout and the candid responses. N.W. Thomas set a great tone, I think. Michael highlights the very real problem contemporary men have in courting women and, indeed, in remaining rooted in reality.
Please, men over 40, please stop ignoring single women your own age. Women your own age are the women most likely to be interested in you. If you are super-interested in having kids, you can foster or adopt. Sorry if you can never have the whole enchilada; neither can I. But if it's a question of a loving spouse or nothing...
Another thought that Michael brought to mind is this excellent men's blog.
Some Guy in the USA reminds me that some women can be really annoying and hard to deal with. There's a wide spectrum between being a doormat and a real rhymes-with-itch; we need to find our place in it. Although I myself am not what you would call sweet or easy-going, I don't ask men about their feelings and I don't nag. I hate nagging. If the trash bag is actually festering, I can darn well take it out myself.
I absolutely love what Hip2BSquare said. So, so true. More on that tomorrow.
Pomofo's comment reminds me of a guy I broke up with in part because he would look at me with big "What-if-she-takes-me-to-the-cleaners?" eyes. I know there are women like that, and I know the alimony system rewards women like that, but I have never been a woman like that, and I felt insulted that he could think I might be. As a trad women whose career blew up anyway, I like to feel taken care of. But I have never been a gold-digger and I seriously resented that any guy who knew me would think I could be.
The fact is that asking a woman for a coffee is not the same thing as handing her the keys to your financial future. Any man has a year--a whole year--to determine if any woman he is dating is the kind of women who would take even the ice cube trays; the kind of woman who, having dignity, would take only her stuff, or half the stuff they accumulated together; or the kind of woman who would never leave him no matter what stupid thing he or she did.
After a year, he owes it to the woman to pop the question or break up, so as not to waste her youth. (Youth is to a woman what money is to a man, incidentally, and we're scared men will use ours all up and then kick us to the curb. No-fault divorce cuts both ways.) Acrimonious divorce is not an accident. It is not like a meteorite hitting your house. You can prevent it, and not just by avoiding all contact with women.
Meanwhile, although I personally dislike them, there are Catholic dating websites. There are lots of great Single Catholic women; maybe just not in Pomofo's parish. (Or they're in his parish, but he hasn't noticed them yet.) There are at least two pretty, good and personable Single Catholic women under 40 in my parish; no Single Catholic man between 35 and 50 in my parish better complain "there are no women" in front of me.
I must go, so I'll comment on the other guys' responses later today. But ladies are now invited to respond in the combox.
Update: I'm back, and I'll begin with Pomofo's "enemy" metaphor because, to be quite frank, women are so scared of being seen as "the enemy" or "a citadel to be conquered" that the realization that a man thinks of us this way will send us screaming to the hills.
It would be way more effective to approach women as a fisherman approaches fish, or a wildlife photographer approaches wildlife: with a lot of thought about what fish/wildlife are like, and what attracts and repels them, and an enjoyment of just being in the great outdoors. Whereas a soldier presumably hates the enemy or is willing to do anything to get inside the citadel, the fisherman and the photographer does not hate the fish or the wildlife. He respects the fish or the wildlife and understands that they are not at war with him.
He and Ordinary Joe are both introverted, hate small talk and are shy. That's unfortunate [Update: i.e. in terms of approaching women], and probably puts them in the same boat as the girl who is really plain. Men love women who are great to look at, and women love men who are great to talk to. The plain girl does what she can to make herself less plain; she corrects her posture, she dresses as well as she can, she wears make-up, she plays up her most striking features, she goes out of her way to become Miss Personality. What can introverted guys do? That's a good question, and I'll have to think about it. They could start by sitting next to chatterboxes. Chatterboxes don't care if you speak or not. They just want to chatter.
Eavesdropper #11 has expanded this theme of many-men-aren't-great-talkers. And this leads me to take tentative steps towards what to me is usually an unthinkable (and a pointless) idea, and it is that women may need to be more encouraging to church-going Christian men they like who are still single at the age of 35 or over.
I said 35 or over. And I also said Christian; don't chase secular men or any other kind who expect to, can and will have casual flings. As we have seen above, there can be all kinds of selfish or deeply private reasons why a Christian man is still single at 35+. However, the testimony of our seven eavesdroppers suggests that sometimes it is simply because they lack the necessary social skills and/or have just given up. A guy like that may be relieved and grateful--not gun-shy or conceited--when a woman goes out of her way to invite him into her life. (Start with party invites, however.)
The only kind of socially awkward 35+ I would be interested in, were I still single, would be the kind who would think, "Wow! Even though I always thought of myself as a dry old stick, this beam of sunshine has bounced into my life", not the kind who would think, "But I want a woman who looks like Jessica Rabbit and will give me two babies."
But don't be dumb about this. Chances are a 35+ guy who looks like a male model and could charm the birds from the trees has had ample opportunity to court women and knows perfectly well women are into him.