It is difficult to be Auntie to all the Singles in the World because the world is so different from place to place. Occasionally readers grumble that I generalize, but what can I do? This is a blog. For specifics, you must read scientific journals.
Meanwhile, there are a lot of truths in generalizations: "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach," for example. And "A Single woman should never do housework for a Single man for free," which is not as well known, for I invented it, but for which I would go to the stake. Never, never, never do housework for a Single man for free unless you are not looking for a husband but a son because housework for free = either slave or Mother. (And, come to think of it, who says "What am I, your slave?" more often than a mother?)
My friend Lily and I have been fighting on-and-off for seven years about whether or not "The Rules" are cross-cultural. Lily maintains that they are because they address bedrock human male psychology. I am not so sure. I think "The Rules" work best with men who are traditionally masculine and easily bored and like challenges for the sake of challenge. If you prefer soft, tender, shy men who are dreamers more than doers, "The Rules" will probably not work for you.
Occasionally I have the humility to admit that I cannot pronounce on every problem, and this is most likely to happen in Poland, as happened at the Cracow Book Fair, as I told you about. One of you Polish girls (I have forgotten your name again, like a confessor, but I know you are reading) asked me how to meet men in Poland, and my brain went absolutely blank. Only later did it occur to me that both of us had been completely surrounded by men in Poland, and that all she had to do was strike up a conversation with one, quite naturally, in a queue.
However, my reader revealed that in Poland young men look at you like you are crazy if you smile at them and make a pleasant remark. And when I told Marta, my hostess in Gdańsk, she said something like "Well, of course."
Marta's advice to Polish women in Poland regarding Polish men is not to smile and say nice things, as this is foreign and weird. What they must do is complain. Complaining is Polish and normal. Therefore, if my reader and I went back in time to the Targi Książki w Krakowie, I would send her away to stand in a queue behind a handsome man and complain about the crowds, or the building, or the weather (it was raining and snowing).
This would never have occurred to me, as in English-speaking countries men look very nervously upon women who complain and sometimes you can see their shoulders start to hunch up around their ears as if they were thinking how horrible it would be to be married to a complaining woman. However, in Poland complaining is practically flirtation, as in the following conversation, heavily edited, in the outdoor amber market of Gdańsk's Mariacki Street:
Polish Lady: Does Sir have any rosaries for sale?
Polish Vendor: Ah, Madam, I had many rosaries, but they are all sold. A big crowd of [one of Poland's many historical enemies] came and bought them all.
Polish Lady: What! Sir will sell rosaries to [the historical enemies] but NOT TO ME!?
Bystander: Ah, Madam, the [historical enemies] need to pray more than we do.
Polish Lady: Ah! Yes, they SHOULD pray! Sir is quite right! I take back everything I have said.
If you think this conversation is hilarious, you should probably go to Poland and fish for Polish men, for if you marry one you will be diverted for the rest of your argumentative, PC-free life. And actually you non-Poles will have the edge over many Polish girls because of your romantic foreignness, especially your romantic Westernness, should you be Western. Being Western still has some caché in Poland, or so says Marta. Meanwhile, Polish men go to church in droves of their own free will and, Marta says, in general are faithful to their wives. I'm not saying they are better than other men; I'm just pointing out they tend to be Catholics, real Catholics (even ones who behave wickedly and are therefore best avoided), and attractive just for that.
This reminds me that being Single in Poland has special challenges. For one thing, there is not much precedent for Singleness. Until very recently, almost all Polish women were married or in convents or widows by age 30, and almost all Polish men were married or priests or monks. And when I say "until very recently" I mean before the Year 2000. Yeah. This is why Anielskie Single is doing so well in Poland: it is the first book about Catholic Single Life ever to be published in Polish. Before 2010, the need for such a book never really occurred to anyone.
In family-friendly Poland, Singleness is seen as a bad thing, and to be honest, if you terribly want to be married and have children and your parents terribly want you to be married and have children, it definitely feels like a bad thing. Heck, it feels like a bad thing in the West, and the West hates the family. It likes the individual. Individuals are alone and therefore easier to control.
And this is what I always say to Poles if the subject of the West comes up. The West has a lot of cool stuff, and I am sure the West is very exotic if you were born east of the Oder, but Westerners are spiritually poor, just like Mother Teresa and Bł. Jan Pawel II said. When I see how crowded the churches are in Poland and see men, young men even, men in T-shirts and jeans, working men, ordinary tough guys, praying in front of icons or coming into the chapel for confession, I want to cry with happiness.
When I saw Jesteś Bogiem, I laughed at the director because he tried to underscore how poor and pinched these circa 1990 Polish rappers were, how crumbling their neighbourhoods, and how if their Walkmen broke, they couldn't get new ones: their fathers had to fix them. But unlike the great majority of American rappers, THEY HAD FATHERS. Fathers who protected their kids from bullies or who eventually got around to fixing Walkmen. Their fathers were married to their mothers, even after 20 years. And when the hippest rapper of them all got his girlfriend pregnant, they got married, as all their parents wanted them to do. There was no "Don't be tied down young, live your lives to 'the fullest', have you considered abortion" crap. As rappers go, these were the spiritually richest rappers on earth--not that they knew that, of course.
Now, as I have to remind North Americans, too, everyone is born into a family, and that family remains your family for the rest of your life. Although many North Americans like to shuck off their birth families like snakes shuck off their skins, that is not the Catholic way. When you are an adult Single in your family, you sometimes have to fight for your dignity as an adult, but you are still a valuable member of that family. You are a daughter and a sister and a niece and maybe an aunt and definitely a granddaughter. Which brings me to Babcia.
I can imagine how annoying it gets when Babcia feels a need to mention YET AGAIN that you are Single, but Babcia's worry does not have to be your worry. Possibly Babcia enjoys worrying about you; it may be a nice break from worrying about her hip or her heart or the sins of her children. And worrying is what grandmothers do. My own grandmother used to lie awake until two in the morning.
Seraphic: What were you doing? Reading trashy romances?
Grandma: No, I was worrying.
Seraphic: What were you worrying about?
So don't take Babcia's worries too much to heart, but feel free to complain in the combox.