Thursday, 31 October 2013

Woot! Candy Day!

The Historical House has been turned into a professional Haunted House for the day, so just in case I will apply to the parish priest tomorrow for some holy water so we can give the flat a good sprinkle. But meanwhile I have carved my annual I-Loved-Halloween-When-I-Was-a-Kid jack o'lantern and put it in the dining-room window, which is round and therefore extremely cool even without a jack o'lantern.

Okay, I know I wrote last year about how Polish All Saints made me feel ashamed of Canadian Halloween, and I know I wrote this year about how Polish All Saints is all that minus a tiny bag of chips. But still I loved Halloween like crazy when I was a kid, and never thought it was either for religion or against religion or had to do with anything except make-believe, fun scary stuff, and candy.

I remember in some detail my last ever childhood Halloween when I (having just had my hair buzzed off in an extreme attempt to escape it) dressed up as a The Outsiders-style tough guy and went to my friend's house where we watched Carrie. Out of respect for My Nerves, I don't often watch horror movies, so Carrie scared me out of my wits. Ironically, before my shearing, I had hair exactly like Carrie's mother, oh woe. (And I would look entirely like Carrie's Mother now had I not just been to the hairdresser.)

My first ever childhood Halloween occurred when I was four, and I was either "the white fairy" or "the fat green fairy." (Costume themes got recycled from sibling to sibling.) Both costumes involved my mother's discarded baby-doll negligees which, now that I am a married lady, strikes me as amusing. The fat of the fat green fairy was either puppy fat or the heavy sweaters under our costumes. The end of October in eastern Canada is rather cold.

Oh! The thrill of going out into the cold and dark without a coat to get candy from the neighbours! My mother watched us from the sidewalk for the first few years, but eventually I was put in charge. I led my little army up stairs, past glowing pumpkins, to get our swag. For a few years we had UNICEF boxes tied to our baskets to collect pennies, too, but then the Catholic schools stopped managing them, for reasons not explained to us, and no wonder. But really it was so much fun, and I was so mad the first time, now a teenager, I led children to a door opened by a man who looked at us like we were crazy and said, in the local Canadian accent, so immigration was no excuse, that Halloween was not part of his religion.

Well, as I said in the CR this week, Halloween is not part of my religion, but neither is ruining the fun of little children. What I think is fantastic and fine about North American Halloween is that all children of whatever religion or ethnicity or national origin can dress up in costumes and march around town to get candy. They don't even have to speak a word of English. They don't have to say "Trick or treat". Prodded by bowing, grinning New Immigrant parents, they can stand mutely in front of the door, staring with their mouths wide open as Canadian Lady drops candy in their bag or basket.

This ceases between 8 and 9 PM in my parents' neighbourhood because the little children need to go to bed and the Big Kids, e.g. the 14 year olds who have no business being out there, turn up without costumes and demand candy with their newly adult voices. Incidentally, parents and older siblings are necessary to discourage the Big Kids from stealing the Litle Kids' candy. What a world! But it was like that in the 1970s, too, complete with smashed jack o'lanterns. Rogues!

But The Big Kids are a headache from my teenage and adult manning-the-door days. They form no part of my proper childhood Halloween memories, which were uniformly wonderful. A large part of the thrill was that we were not allowed candy at any other time of the year, except at Christmas and at birthday parties. (Christmas involved peppermint and birthdays largely meant jelly beans and gumdrops, all of which I do not eat today.) To come home with a brimming apple basket of candy and pour it on the floor so that my mother could check it for poison and razor blades--'cause you never know--was a delightful overturning of the natural order of things, a children's Carnival.

The candy lasted for weeks because my mother shelved the baskets way up high, doling out treats to go in our lunch bags or as after school snacks or as dinner dessert. We got to pick what we wanted, and I picked what I liked best in descending order, which left me with those waxy orange paper-wrapped molasses toffees at the end. My absolute favourite was the Reese's peanut butter cups. (Ever buying Reese's peanut butter cups for myself was a distant dream.) Anything chocolate was good, and so were the tiny bags of potato chips.

I suppose the moral of the story is that my mother's strict no-candy-without-a-very-good-reason policy made Halloween all the more special, in the way the family Christmas chelsea bun is all the more special for its sole annual appearance. But really I want the moral to be that Halloween is not about Satanic practices or witchcraft or sexually provocative costumes or any of that stuff--at least not as far as children are concerned. Naturally I do not advocate Halloween for Poland--I hate signs of European Americanization--but I think it fine for Canada and the USA. If Catholic parents want to stress the feasts of All Saints and All Souls, then I recommend visiting family graveyards on those days, as the Poles do, and having delicious dinners afterwards in honour of the beloved dead. On All Saints, the family could sit down together and watch films about saints, and on All Souls, the family could watch old family videos.

In short, instead of isolating Catholic Canadian and American children from what is for children an innocent and dearly loved festival, Catholic parents could follow it up with intentional celebration of the two holy days that follow.

Now, readers who grew up with Halloween are invited in the combox to tell me what their favourite candies were.

Culture Shock

Oh, man. B.A. got me to read a presentation he has prepared to give tomorrow to some very important people, and I was horrified. Throughout are tales about how he procrastinated on a project, and how his ideas were rubbish, and how his prose was leaden. All I could imagine were people laughing politely at these "jokes" and then suggesting he be given a performance review--yesterday--and gently eased to a post more suited to his talents, like washing the cups in the tea shop.

"In Canada or the States, you'd be fired," I said. "You're not supposed to give them an excuse to do it. In America, if you tell people you're rubbish, they'll believe you're rubbish."

"It's British self-deprecation, darling," said B.A. "People expect it. They like it. They think well of you for it."

"How does THAT work?" I grumbled. "Surely human nature is the same across all cultures. I'm googling this."

"Yes, google it," said B.A.

So I googled "British self-deprecation" and it came up at once. On Debrett's:

Self-deprecation is a trait that permeates British culture. It is a national characteristic - evident in a sense of history that, possibly uniquely, dwells on 'glorious' failures (the Charge of the Light Brigade, Dunkirk, Scott's race against Amunsden). It is also a valued personality trait, which people find engaging and - according to the latest anthropological research - sexually attractive.

The British have a horror of what they call 'blowing your own trumpet', and are deeply averse to earnestness, pomposity and self-importance. Statements that, in another culture, would simply be attributed as confident expressions of self-esteem, are misinterpreted in Britain as boastful and self-aggrandising.

If you want to avoid being misunderstood, learn to downplay your attributes and resort wherever possible to understatement. People will read between the lines and admire your modesty.

"See?" demanded B.A. "See? And it's so basic to British culture I had no idea you didn't know that."

Well, I'm jiggered. No wonder I don't have a blinking job here. Blimey, the British are even more wily, perfidious and deceitful than I thought. Sexually attractive?!?! Yeah, I want to see a link for that one. How does anyone get anything sold? Really, I will never understand this island.

Brit Man: Well, I'll tell you, old girl, I just looked up from the jolly old whodunit and saw a blinking tiger! Well! You expect that kind of thing in India, but not after four on a drowsy afternoon on the verandah, eh? So anyway, wouldn't you know it, the bally beast was creeping up on a native child quietly amusing itself in the jolly old dirt with a friendly centipede! So I picked up my gun in my ham-fisted sort of way, you know, and shot off a round or two that went absolutely wide, but at least it gave the tiger pause for thought, no pun intended-ha ha ha! And wouldn't you know it, but the striped beggar came bounding towards me! But fortunately, my shots alerted clever Anton here---

European Continental: And I shoot him between eyes. I am best shot in entire, how you say, Eendyan subcontinent. I drill him; he fall flat. Will make beautiful rug for fortunate wooman.

Brit Woman (totally ignoring Continental Anton): Oh, Bertie. You are brave.

Brit Man: Oh, pshaw. All in a day's work, what, what? Let's have a drink, shall we?

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Auntie Seraphic & the Angry Young Mum

Dear Young Mother Sitting Near the Back of the Bus,

The reason why I called down the length of the nearly empty bus to ask if the tiny blond child-- alone, asleep and almost invisible--at the very front of the bus was your son was not to judge you but to ascertain before I got off the bus that he had not been abandoned.

I didn't judge you until I saw you scowling at me through the window. Now I think you're chippy and stupid.

Fortunately for your son and other children, I am kind of woman who always looks for a child's mother when that child is alone or in distress. Your angry look will not change that.

Oh, and by the way, in the UK a child is reported missing every three minutes. You think about that the next time you take the older child with you to the back of the bus, leaving the toddler by the door, and then getting on your mobile phone. It would have been the work of an instant for someone to scoop up your sleeping son, get off the bus and run. The driver didn't even know your son was there; he had no idea what I was talking about, and I am not sure he could see him.

It's a tough world for mothers, but it will be even worse when women like me don't bother to make sure your children aren't in trouble.

Grace and peace,
Middle-aged Yank-sounding Ginger Woman in the Blue Coat

Update: I've received some "We get nagged all the time by strangers" comments from parents to my tale, so I will dial back on the your-kid-could-be-kidnapped thoughts. Only about 52 children in the UK are murdered each year, and only 532 children in the UK were kidnapped in police year 2011/2012. This still adds up to 584 horrible tragedies, but the odds were in the sleeping blond moppet's favour. But, as I said, my first thought was that he had been abandoned or forgotten there, since he was asleep and his mother was not in immediate view. And I didn't say, "Tsk, tsk, tsk." I said "Is this your son...? Is this your son...? Oh, okay. Great."

Emotional Freedom

I am thinking today about chains, mostly self-imposed ones. Christians know, of course, that indulging in sin is a kind of slavery, and Christianity is all about freedom in Christ. Christ came to free us from sin, not only through His salvific action on the Cross, but by reminding us to put God in the centre of our lives. And that's why it is such a good exercise to give up, not just sin, but something we very much like, some created thing we act dependent on, like coffee or sweeties or meat or TV, for Lent. For 40 days we redirect our attention back onto God: Be Thou our sustenance, our sweetness, our nourishment, the object of our absorption.

The yoke of God is easier than the yoke of pleasure or of eros, no matter how delicious and harmless those things look.

I wrote the other day of my pleased discovery that young-men-in-general can no longer hurt me with their stupid 1-10 ranking system. If I were standing by the bus stop and a van of yobs drove by, as they shouted "1" or "2" or whatever, I would roll my eyes around at the idea of the stupidity of ranking married 39+ ladies and call up their employer, should his name be emblazoned on the van. This is a form of emotional freedom, a freedom that I have because God and then B.A. are at the center of my life. God says through Scripture that charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting (Proverbs 13:30), and B.A. winks at me at parties. If B.A. were to die, I would probably return to Canada and put our family in the centre of my life again. The last think I would want to do is be put in the position of that 60-something lady on the Internet Dating show last night.

Oh, dear. One of the problems of the UK is that hairdressing here is so good and so inexpensive. This means that no matter how old you are, you can have the hair of a twenty-something. But British skin is fair and fragile, and unless we have really awesome dermatological good luck, as we age past 40 or so we look more and more like men. Absolutely great hair + masculine faces = looking like a female impersonator which, when you are a woman, is really awful. Watching that poor lonely woman, whom I hope to heaven has grandchildren, doll herself up for a blind date was terribly sad. She wore spike heeled boots I would question on anyone, even me at 30.

You are mostly too young to be told this, so this is mostly me telling myself: aging gracefully and with dignity and without desperately trying to attract men into your 50s and 60s is a form of emotional freedom. At a certain stage, it really is better just to be grandma. Hopefully a hale and hearty grandma who enjoys mountain-climbing, Pilates and throwing herself from moving airplanes, but grandma nonetheless. I will strive to stop flirting, but come to think of it, I think my grandmother flirted endlessly with bus drivers, and yet in a completely classy way. It probably helped that she died her hair silver, not blonde.

More pertinent for the vast majority of you is the idea of emotional freedom from men who are not interested in marrying you, or from men in whom you are not interested in marrying. On the one hand, this means strangling crushes as soon it is obvious Mr Wonderful is not responding to your smiles, arm-touches and party invitations. On the other hand, it might mean letting go of wonderful friendships. After all, if you're completely attached to a male friend, how are you going to be free to meet a potential husband? No new guy is going to measure up to your wonderful pal.

I'm open to correction on that one because it could be that I am too cynical on the subject of "Men and women can't be friends" and have confused Georgette Heyer and Agatha Christie with real life. (I note that Hercule Poirot and Adrienne Oliver are great friends, but they are of a Certain Age and very much Seraphic Singles--I wonder what happened to Mr Oliver. Killed in the Great War, I imagine.) Personally, I just cannot see how an under-40 man and an under-40 woman can be bosom buddies when at least one of them is Single without Sexual Desire raising its smirking head. I would not want B.A. to be bosom buddies with a Single female colleague unless she were verging on or over 60. (Men, especially British men, can feel deeply attracted to women 10 years their senior, but 15-20 is usually too much.)

At the same time, I think men-and-women-not-called-to-celibacy are happier married, and that the best way to keep out of the friendship trap is for men to stop acting like girlfriends, and for women to stop letting them. I cannot cope with the idea of male girlfriends, and would rather have Pretend Sons. My Pretend Sons are clever and handsome and marvellous, and I am happy to tell them so, and they would both make two nice girls wonderful husbands, were not one in the seminary and one determined to die of nicotine poisoning by age 40. Still, I suppose it would be a nice 14 years or so for the tobacco fiend's widow to look back on.

I wonder if it is awful to be proud of the attractiveness of Pretend Sons, and if this is the legacy of my grandmother, who flirted with paramedics as they took her to the hospital. Oh dearie me. Still, I don't think men really mind when women value them for their charm as opposed to their--I don't know--womanly sympathy, if they have it. One thing about flirtation--at its best, it simultaneously gives pleasure and creates a respectful distance. It is thus less of a trap than male-and-female-heart-to-heart-non-married-yet-emotionally-intimate friendship.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

An Evangelical Take

Evangelical Protestant Singles have it especially rough as they are cut off from the traditions of celibacy-lived-for-the-Kingdom. Here's an article Alisha sent me by a 23 year old Evangelical Single.

I have no other comment except that it irks me that a 23 year old would feel this way. On the other hand, I recall feeling this way all through high school. I focused more on the fact that some of my friends had boyfriends than on the fact that most of them didn't! And I don't want to talk about my attitudes in university. One thing about being 23, though, is that none of my 23 year old friends were married already. If you belong to a community where lots of 23 year old are married, you are indeed going to wail, "What about me?" And thus someone has to point out that, actually, most 23 year olds in the Western world are NOT married yet.

Advice for the High-achieving

Kate sent me a link from the manosphere that was itself linked to a Sydney Morning Herald article so horrible, I can't link to it either. It would ruin your day. It's from April 22, 2012 by Bettina Ardnt, so if you really want your day ruined, you can do the hard work of finding it. I'm not enabling your mood disorders!

Basically it was about 20-something women being more desirable than 30-something women, and 30-something women finding it hard to find quality boyfriends, and it's ALL THE 30-SOMETHING WOMEN'S FAULT for not settling by the age of 29 and 3/4. Incidentally, the red-hot 28 year old they portray sneering at the 30-somethings drooling over her 36 year old boyfriend has been sleeping with him for six years. What, six years and no ring? Dear, dear. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, my dear. It tolls for thee.

The only non-vomitworthy thing about this article was its claim that things are "especially bad" for high-achieving women who are fishing in the small pool of high-achieving men. That I actually agree with, and I think this is where my Polish Pretend Son would take his Young Fogey pipe from his lips and say, "They want to have their cake and eat it too!"

Look, the thing about high-achieving men is that they do not really care what women do for a living. They may want a woman who can keep up with them intellectually, or they may prefer a woman who can't. After all, if he spends his work life competing with men and women whom he fears may have the edge on him, he isn't going to want to compete at home. Either way, men do not care how much social status their wives have apart from the social status of being their wives. Now, don't get me wrong: a supportive husband takes pride in his wife's accomplishments and perhaps brags about them to his friends and is tempted to hand her thriller to Ian Rankin. (I thought he'd better not!) But, really, he couldn't care that much what she did, as long as it didn't make her cranky and hard to live with. I once knew a pretty, friendly, highly intelligent waitress who was whisked away from the restaurant into matrimony by a millionaire.

If, then, women have, through our own efforts, clawed our way up the ladder in one of the Male Dominated Professions, than it strikes me that we should also do as the men do, and stop worrying so much about the professional status of the people we date. After all, if you're at very "top"--running the Bank of England, or whatever--there isn't going to be a man "above you" to date. And your colleagues will already be married to their nursing graduate or ex-waitress or graduate student or plain old housewife wives. So do as the men do (or did) and be open to meeting, liking and marrying people who make less money than you or who are further down the ladder. Go to a comic book store and see what the guy behind the counter looks like.

Sometimes I am staggered by how classist everyone is--not just in the UK, but everywhere. I was brought up to believe that everyone was equal in the eyes of God and the law, and that a dustman was the social equal of a university professor or a CEO. My shock to discover not everyone else believes this. Given a choice between a Catholic dustman and a non-Catholic professor, I would go out with the dustman and find out if he is also a philosopher who reads the work of Cardinal Ratzinger in his spare time.

I once met a housepainter who read a lot and was very interested in university-educated women. He hung out in what I suppose was a very early hipster bar and had conversations about philosophy and art. (Oh, Bauhaus Café, how I miss you!) I'm not sure that he was marriage material at the time, but I know he was open to meeting the right university-educated woman.

This isn't going to sound great, but my last ex-boyfriend Volker told me that German Page 3 girls often claim to be law students or lawyers or future professors or corporate this-or-that because the blue collar German men are bedazzled by their white collar woman glamour. Let's face it: the most intelligent blue collar guys, as much as they enjoy the camaraderie at work, are going to enjoy talking to a woman who is smart as a whip, especially if she is also cute and kind. Obviously, like all other men, they would hate being spoken down to, but having adult conversations on shared interests is something intelligent men like, no matter what they do for a living.

Mind you, I am talking from a hyper-democratic Canadian perspective, and assuming these intelligent blue collar workers are not chippy class warriors. Naturally if one of your core values is BEING MIDDLE-CLASS and one of his core values is BEING WORKING CLASS, then you won't be compatible--you carping at him about his table manners, and he snarling at you about "pretentiousness". But let's face it, many of us so-called Middle Class Types are only one or two generations from Working Class or Peasant Class. My red-headed grand-daddy was a typesetter, so naturally I have a soft spot for typesetters, or would have one if they hadn't all been replaced by computers.

Monday, 28 October 2013

I Can Die Now

A reader (or maybe a former reader) just sent me photos of her beautiful baby. In one of the photos the baby is with her handsome father. Now I am not taking a huge amount of credit for the match and the baby, since when I heard the facts it was obvious to me that the handsome man was totally into my reader, or going to be, but I am privately taking a little bit of credit! Go me!

I love babies. Have I mentioned this? I especially love them at the crawling stage---so cute! A part of me is always a little sad when they first walk although, of course, walk they eventually must! I used to love it when my baby brother and then my baby sister crawled into a room, cleverly pushing open doors with their heads. Oh, the adorableness!

Every baby is a sort of post-figuring of Baby Jesus--at least when they're happy. When they're howling, not so much. I had this revelation when I first held my oldest nephew. I told a left-wing nun (sigh) that my nephew looked just like Baby Jesus, and she barked, "Is he tan? Is he Jewish? Is he Palestinian?" Oh dear. She just didn't get it.

Anyway, babies! Yay!

That Went Much Better!

Just finished up my interview with Relevant Radio! This one went much better, in part because I made myself cue cards ahead of time. Also the questions were about the political situation in Germany and Europe, especially about the emergence of neo-Nazi groups, and I can talk forever about that.

The interesting thing about fascism is not that almost all of us find it disgusting, but that millions of Europeans in the 1930s thought it was a great solution to their economic and social problems. And if handfuls of dumb swastika-daubing youths think that again, then we should ask ourselves why. Are they just attracted to power, and dream of having the power of a smartly-clad SS officer? Are they just childish xenophobes who scapegoat weird-looking and weird-acting foreigners? Are they envious of the strong family ties of Muslim immigrants? Or do they feel, as felt half a generation of young German men, completely marginalized and dumped on by the world?

Anyway, it was an interesting conversation. So far I have talked about what Catholic literature should be, and what the political mood in Europe is. Hopefully someone eventually asks me something about men and woman because, as you know, I can talk forever about that, too!

Incidentally, buy my new book! And if you have already done so, consider leaving Amazon or Good Reads a review!

Inordinate Attachment to Eros

Saint Augustine, when considering the Lot of Woman, believed that consecrated virgins (the nuns of his day) had it best because they had only to please God. He thought married women were next in the queue because they had only to please their husbands. But he thought single women who wanted to get married had it worst because they had to please many men, and Saint Augustine recoiled at the idea of young women all dressed up and acting as attractive as possible to get a husband. I wonder if the young women ever talked to him about this. I was going to add "in the confessional", but I don't think there was a confessional in the fourth century. (Good heavens. Imagining getting in the box knowing that Saint Augustine was in the priest's compartment. Eek!)

And I have to say that I agree with Saint Augustine. Although we live in a world absolutely obsessed with appearances, nobody really cares what nuns' faces look like. Some Catholics judge nuns on their habits or lack thereof, and some Catholics judge nuns on whether or not their charism attracts young women, but Catholics don't worry about whether nuns are pretty or not. Nuns, unlike all other women, are completely exempted from our beauty obsession. Thank heavens somebody is.

Nobody except their husbands (to an extent) really worries about the beauty of married women, either. Married women are judged on the happiness of their husbands and kids, to tell the truth, and heaven help us if we flirt outside the bounds of what our community thinks is okay for married women. Once upon a time in working-class communities in the UK, married women who dolled themselves up to go shopping, e.g. chat with the butcher, were considered harlots. Husbands who marry for love and stay in love seem not to notice or care that their wives eventually look like wrinkly old boots, and thank heavens.

But then there are Single women, and unless you really do not want to get married, and really are happy to do your own thing and to heck with what the men think, you are in thrall to humanity's beauty obsession. This is especially true if you are in your early twenties and want to attract a guy your own age. The young look beautiful to the old just because you are young, but when you are the same age as a man... And we cannot really complain because we, too, have our ideas of what a cute man looks like.

Of course, I don't think we would go as far as to rate men from 1 to 10 and supply photographs for each category. Last night I meant to read some classic horror tales, but instead I surfed the manosphere. And the manosphere provided me with the same shocks and enjoyment as classic horror tales, but only because I am happily married. If I were Single I would have been out of my mind with rage, contempt and fear. You know young men in general no longer have the power to hurt you when you can stare at their helpful photographic guides to beauty and ponder in tranquility if you might count as a 6 or, on your best days, a 7.

Blogging pick-up artists portray a Godless universe in which most women are like flies at the picnic of existence, and the point of this short existence is to have sexual congress with as many of the few worthwhile (i.e. kind and pretty) women as possible. You will not find, on such blogs, much interest in spiritual or intellectual pleasures, in botany or zoology or theology or walks in the countryside. The ideal is to travel to Eastern Europe, chat up slim and friendly young Slavic women intrigued by American glamour, and roll around with them in bed until both man and woman (conveniently) get bored and agree to "move on". The PUAs bridle at the accusation that this makes them sex tourists. After all, they are giving these women the most romantic and incredible experiences of their short and otherwise meaningless lives on earth, and as wrinkled old crones on their deathbeds, they will remember the American PUAs with gratitude. Yeah.

For all their posturing, PUAs are not very rooted in reality. And they are slaves to their desire for sex with women. In fact, they are worse than slaves. They are rutting animals who use their human reason primarily to figure out how to rut with as many attractive female animals as possible, only without, of course, having any offspring they will have to care for. Which, ontologically, makes them useless and pathetic.

And worse, of course. While I pondered their degradation from this humanist point of view, B.A. seethed, "Haven't they heard of Don Giovanni?", which directed my mind to Christian truth. Actually, the Eastern European women on their deathbeds may very well be cursing their naive fumblings with American sex tourists and imploring the mercy of God. After all, extramarital (as I don't think we can call going to bed with tourists premarital) sex is a SERIOUS sin with SERIOUS consequences for both the sinners and society.

As I always say, you can ask men what they think, but you will not always like it. Men tend not to think what we want them to think. We have our idea of what they should be like, but instead they are like what they are like, and we have to accept that, if not them. We can pay attention to what they say they find attractive in women (and the slimmer side of healthy-looking weight appears to be a majority demand), or we can simply ignore it. Ignoring it completely does, of course, come with a price tag. Some will happily pay that price; others will simply not understand why it must be paid. (Rather like men without jobs, looks or character who seethe because women don't want them.)

I wanted a man, I have a man, and now I can ignore what all men on earth, save one, think about attractiveness. I am fortunate. But I worry a lot about Single women who lurch from one relationship to the next in the quest to find the man who will free them from the intolerable burden of wanting a man. Looking at break-ups and unrequited crushes from a married point of view, I now realize how awful it is to hear a weeping woman say, "But where will I find another [guy who gets me, clever intellectual, romantic poet, serious Catholic]?" I want to shake them and yell, "STOP LOOKING! JUST LIVE YOUR LIFE!" But that's easy for me to say; marriage has killed that restless longing.

But marriage has only killed that restless longing because I am married to a really good guy, a guy who hears about PUAs and thinks at once of the fate of their immortal souls, and who protests loudly, when I mentioned perhaps being a 7 on really good days, that I am beautiful, almost like a little kid who naturally finds his own mother more beautiful than anyone else's mother. And all I had to do to find this guy was to live my life as a Catholic in a relatively public way, writing my blog and my funny stories, making friends, trying to stay in good health, having decent company manners and--which has more to do with Providence than with me--looking like the kind of woman to whom B.A.--this one, unique man--is usually attracted. In short, although I did a number of things that were most likely to "find me a husband", it ultimately depended on God.

When we get in the habit of constant crushes, or an unhealthy lifestyle in which Eros dominates, only God can free us. God's laws, which sound strict and almost impossible to obey nowadays, actually protect us from seducers and men who are just vacillating and weak and, indeed, our own weak and vacillating longings. God's invitation of permanent virginity to nuns, monks and priests shows us that Eros does not have absolute authority on this earth, not over women, not over men. And God who can do anything can take away our own inordinate attachments, whether to sex or to boyfriends or to the sexual approval of men or just to "looking pretty", and may if we implore Him.

(My old spiritual director said that He always does, but I'm respecting His freedom here.)

Saturday, 26 October 2013

A Merry War

Outrageous! The Men's Schola had a Chaps Only dinner party last night, to celebrate some opprobrious dead white male novelist. Naturally I had to have a Ladies' Supper at the same time in response. (So much more dignified than dressing in drag and crashing the men's event.) We celebrated Jane Austen, which gave us the opportunity to make our existing frocks look a tad more Empirish and to sport weirdly placed Georgian curls.

I pushed the boat out, as obviously I had to outdo the host of the Chap's Only dinner, constrained only by budget, guests' gluten intolerance and the fact that it was Friday. And on the whole I was pleased with the result: mixed nuts (with cava to drink), onion soup with Stilton, deconstructed avocado salad with crevettes, rainbow trout with orange and dill, chanterelle carrots, broccoli and potatoes, chocolate pudding with candied orange peel and chewy macaroons (and cherry brandy to drink), Stilton with apple slices and walnuts. In short, pre-dinner nibbles and five courses, and not a sprinkle of wheat to be seen.

So imagine my chagrin this morning when I discovered from Seminarian Pretend Son, who returned with B.A. to the Historical House at 3 AM, that the Chap's Only supper featured nine courses with printed photocopied menu-souvenirs.

"It's not a competition," said B.A. when I moaned.

"Yes, it is!"

Still, I am pleased with my supper, and the crevettes still had their eyes and antennae and everything, so they looked quite dramatic on their Georgian-style plates.

As is usual at these segregated occasions, the only married people at both events were B.A. and I, which is why I mention on my Singles blog. Well, that and conceding to certain Eavesdroppers that the other supper was more elaborate. Curses!

Update: Through wifely cunning I have got my hands on one of these menus, and I have to say I don't think "coffee, port, chocolates, cigars & brandy" should count as a course.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Auntie Seraphic and Trying to be Sensible

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

Your blog has become part of my daily fare--it sure helps a lot with the singles blues! Also, I've ordered your "Ceremony of Innocence" and eagerly await it's arrival!

I've written to you before, and received words of wisdom--which encourages me to ask again, in hopes of the same.

Last summer I met a Awfully Nice Catholic Man [online]. Now, I have very strong reservations against such sites...but my circumstances are such that I very rarely have the opportunity to meet young men.

After about a month of experiencing the craziness of the online "scene", this young man wrote to me. I corresponded with him in a desultory fashion, and then, suddenly, I realized that I liked him! He was intelligent, and funny, and manly, and sweet, and it seemed to me that we spoke the same language--I got his jokes, and he got mine, and it was nice. Also, he was very clear. He said that he liked my profile, that he wanted to keep corresponding, that he'd like to ask me out, if only he didn't live [MANY] miles away.

When this correspondence started, he was on vacation, preparatory to beginning [a new job]. All in all, we had (sort of) known each other for about six weeks, and had been writing pretty regularly, and it was sort of getting to the point where we would have needed to talk about arranging to meet in person, if we were going to keep being so interested in each other. Then one day, after a short lag in correspondence, he wrote a rather dejected-sounding note to the effect that he was very sorry and sad, but that he wanted to ask to put our correspondence on hold. He had started [work] some weeks previously, and he said that work-load was steadily increasing to the point that he simply couldn't give the time and attention to growing our friendship that he would like to until X; that it wouldn't be respectful or fair to me; and that he hoped I could understand and forgive him.

Well, I believed (and do believe) him, of course. I understand from women who have tried to date [men in his profession] that it is simply horrific, the way they have to work....they basically turn into zombies. So, though I felt terrible, I wrote at once, telling him that I quite understood, that there was nothing for me to forgive, and that I very much appreciated him being decisive and honest. I also said that if he wrote in X time I'd of course be happy to hear from him, and to pick up our correspondence, unless I should happen to be dating someone else, of course. I said that so he'd be sure to understand that I wasn't going to be spending [all that time] waiting and mooning over him when he wasn't there.

Then I felt AWFUL. I felt like I'd just told him I didn't care how he felt, and that I'd be perfectly happy to go off and date somebody else, while there was nothing he could do about it. So I wrote again and asked if he would call me, which he did. Well, all I really had to tell him was that I wanted him to know that I was sad, too, and that just because I understood didn't mean it was easy. He was very kind, and said sure, he understood, and all that. And then he sounded kind of worried, and said there were to be no promises. "Of course not!" I said, because really, it would be very silly for either of us to make any kind of commitment based on a six-week correspondence; it was perfectly clear to me that he had no right to ask me to wait for him, and I have no right to expect him to write back in a year and want to date me.

So that was that. We talked for five minutes, and said good-bye, very calmly and sensibly.

And oh, how sensible I determined to be! I wasn't going to think about him! I wasn't going to wait for him, at all! I was going to be very determinedly happy, and make the absolute most of the single life! Anyhow, I [kept busy, with new interests.} I also re-committed to frequent Adoration.....

But, O Seraphic, it is SO HARD to persevere in these good intentions!! I find myself dreaming even during Adoration about how soon he might write back, and what he might say, and then what I might say.... Also, this little clock is ticking in my head saying "X days down, Y hundred and sixty-five to go....etc." Even though I decided to stay on the dating website in order to help me consider myself free and single (which I am, obviously, even though I like this guy!) I find that I'm not interested in the men who write to me, and keep unfairly comparing them to him.....

The rational part of me is saying, "People forget. X is a long time. There are NO PROMISES!!! I need to be okay with it if I never hear from him again! I also need to be okay with it if we end up being friends someday, but not dating! He is under NO OBLIGATION to me, nor I to him. In X time, no matter what happens to my heart, there's no reason why I shouldn't have [achieved some great goals.]

My mother says, very briskly, "Forget him! He's not interested!"--but I am pretty sure that she is just saying that because she doesn't want me to get hurt. The thing is, I don't believe that it's TRUE; and I find I cannot believe untrue things simply as a maneuver to not get hurt.... I don't have crushes very often, and I'm always doubtful about whether a man likes me--but not this time. Deep down, I feel absolutely sure that this guy is good, and honest, and truly interested. I couldn't doubt this if I tried, and actually, I did try. But the thing is, he seems like a kind and honorable man, and I am certain that if he just weren't interested, he would have said so, gently and kindly. I cannot believe that he would create an impression that would encourage a woman to hope when he was really trying to let her down easy. I think some men might, but I don't think he would.

Meanwhile, my brother, whose advice in these matters I greatly respect, tells me that it would be fine for me to send this guy an occasional postcard or fun little note, to encourage him during what must be a very difficult time for him. "If it really was mutual, and you really want it to go somewhere, it's okay to show a little ankle!" says my brother. "Don't be scared about seeming needy and being rejected. It's not needy if you only write every couple of months; it's encouraging. He'll be really happy that you thought of him--I would, if I were him." (Up to this point I have not contacted him in any way whatsoever since our last talk). Am I being rigid by holding off? Am I going too in my adherence to the "No call, no response" rule? I mean, after all, he was very clear about liking me!

I see my brother's point, but I also feel like it's important to take this man at his word. He said he liked me. He knows how to contact me. Shouldn't I be able to leave it at that? As much as I truly do want to write him little notes and things, I think I want even more to be validated in that gut-feeling of mine that he really cared, that he cared enough to remember me, and to contact me again when he felt free to do so--without needing hints and reminders from me. Unless and until he asks me to date him, I feel that it is not my business to cheer him up. Also, maybe I'm a little more reluctant because he felt like he needed to SAY "no promises". It makes me worry, just a little bit, that he might have thought it was needy of me to want to talk on the phone (even though I don't really regret it, because it really helped me to get over the initial disappointment.)

Any advice, Seraphic, for getting through this time without going crazy--and for not going crazy if, after all of that he doesn't ever contact me again? And DO you think it's okay to send the occasional postcard, and maybe a Christmas card?

Many thanks!
Trying to Be Sensible

Dear Trying to Be Sensible,

First, I have to say that this situation sucks, and I think you may be in the psychological position of a woman who actually dated a great guy...for six weeks before he dumped her, saying "I'm too busy for a relationship." They say you get to grieve a month for every year of a relationship, so you get six whole days from the day you accept that it is over.

My opinion is with your mother on this one, and I don't know where your brother is getting this "show a little ankle" stuff. That option got torpedoed when you called up [Mr Wonderful] and told him how sad you were to lose him. I think it is over--and it WAS a thing: even if you never met in person, it WAS a thing--because of three things he did: 1. he asked you to stop writing to him, 2. he asked that he hoped you could understand and forgive him & 3. he made that panicky "no promises" remark.

You are in an agonized purgatorial state at the moment, full of day-dreaming about what could be, but fear might never be, and although it will hurt horribly to accept that it is over, you will at least be able to move on. I speak as someone who has gone through several break-ups and crushes that went on for years before I got the message. I know it will hurt, and I know the hurt will end.

I suspect you're hanging on to that "his [current duty at work] is so awful--he'll want me back in his life when it's over" thought. But the thing is, unless my memory is mistaken, [someone now in my family] was [in similar circumstances] for most of the first year she was dating [someone else in my family]. She lived five hours away from him, seven by bus. And they made it work. So although I know that [such work] is tough, I don't buy that it is in itself a relationship killer.

Personally I think he is a dummy for not wanting to keep in touch with a great Catholic girl--a weekly email wouldn't kill him. On the other hand, maybe he is already dating a fellow [worker]. You have no way of knowing. The thing is, you deserve the kind of guy who MAKES time for you, in whatever way he can, because he would go crazy if he didn't. Guys who are sent to the THEATRE OF WAR write to their sweethearts that only reading their messages and writing back to them keeps them sane. You also deserve the kind of guy who wants to meet you in person and spend some time with you and MAKES IT ALL HAPPEN. You DON'T deserve a guy who tells you that corresponding with you is an intolerable burden.

We all have vague ideas in our mind of who Prince Charming is. Maybe he's a fantastic writer of emails, or has a great sense of humour, or is astonishingly bright, hardworking and ambitious. Maybe he looks like a Croatian male supermodel. But there is no guy like the guy a girl thinks is fun, bright, hardworking AND wants her in his life. There's no substitute for the feeling that a guy would quit a job or pass up Christmas with his family or do basically anything to be with you.

And this is not likely to happen with a guy you know only through the internet. [I have friends] who met through the internet, and agreed that they should meet as soon as possible. They lived in the same town, so they met up and discovered that they really liked each other in person. In contrast, my friend E met a guy she flirted with happily over email and discovered she was NOT attracted to him in person. And in my case, I never took my husband's internet flirtation--which was very sporadic--seriously. I thought he was clever and funny and not the male model I deserved. It wasn't until we actually met in person that I allowed myself to think seriously that we could get involved.

I didn't daydream. And the problem with the internet is that it encourages daydreams, and those daydreams become a trap, a drug and ultimately a prison. But I encourage you to indulge in one last, final daydream: the break-up daydream. Go through a ritual in which you say "Good-bye" to your daydream version of him; maybe even write a never-to-be-sent pen-and-ink letter and then burn it and let the wind carry the ashes away. And then tell your mother and whoever else that you have mentally broken up with him. And then call up a girlfriend or two or (best) three, and ask them to drag you out for a "post break-up girls night."

So, in the cold light of reflection, don't send that Christmas card. You never really met, after all, and you owe him exactly nothing. Don't give him any more of your imagination or time. And for what it's worth, he was a coward to blame his decision to end it on his work.

Please feel free to share this email with your mother and/or your friends, if you like. Tough talk is better shared.

Grace and peace,

To everyone wondering how I can just stuff my reader's hopes about Mr Wonderful in the trash can, it's because Mr Wonderful, despite his ham-fisted attempt to "let her down easy" by blaming work and saying "on hold" instead of "no more", said "Please forgive me" and ESPECIALLY (in a panic so palpable my honest reader heard it and mentioned it to me) "No promises".

Your fellow reader, being a generous soul, told him that "there was nothing to forgive." But I think Mr Wonderful knew better. In my experience, men hate apologizing and only do so when they are darned sure they have something to apologize for. In this case it was pulling a plug on a fun and flirty online friendship he initiated. Like so many guys on the internet, he enjoyed the sexy intellectual thrills of corresponding with a witty lady when he was in no position to meet her in person. And this, dear poppets, is yet another reason why I can't stand dating sites.

Incidentally, Eavesdroppers should know that I don't doubt this guy really did feel regretful and misses the kick he got out of getting emails from a pretty girl--unless he's already involved with another pretty girl. Oh, Eavesdroppers, Eavesdroppers! What a tangled web you weave. Well, maybe not you. I am sure you are very open and up front and clear about your intentions and prudent in your correspondence, etc.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Relevant Interview

I received an email from an Eavesdropper saying that if I were a man writing for men, my shameless promotion of my book would have driven my readers away. This surely cannot be true, as the best way to sell books is for the author to turn up places and talk about it. Incidentally, I wonder how thin I could get if I consumed nothing but porridge, oranges, borscht, fish and coffee?

Since I live in an attic in an old house on the east coast of Scotland, I cannot easily turn up in the midst of large crowds of Catholics wearing a skirt suit and a winsome smile to talk about my novel and deny that it is autobiographical. I keep telling Hilary White that everyone will think Catriona is her, an idea that may please Hilary less when she reads the book. (N.B. I met Hilary years after the book was done.)

I wish I could go on TV more often. I do rather well on TV, not because I am pretty but because I am very animated and have supernaturally thick hair, so that people sitting in front of the TV yell to their loved ones, "Come and see how much hair this lady has!" Meanwhile, when I saw myself on the Michael Coren show, I noticed that my legs, ending in stiletto heels bought for the show, were in shot quite a lot of the time, and this was the Christian TV station. Maybe it was a coincidence.

Anyway, enough about me and TV. This post is about me and radio. I have another radio interview coming up. This one will be on MONDAY, 8:15 AM Central Time (9:15 Eastern Timee), on Relevant Radio. This time the interview will be 20 to 30 minutes long. I want to be more articulate this time, so I will write some interview questions for B.A. and make him interview me for twenty minutes. No more hemming and hawing if I am asked "Why would a person like you write a book like this?" At the time, I thought the Catholic interviewer was mad at me. Only after he mentioned he hadn't read the book did I realize he was just trying to get some basic information.

Perhaps it would have been easier if he had first asked, "Who are you?", although I was so nervous, I may have channeled Pope Francis and just blurted out "A sinner." I suppose a "person like me" is a cradle Catholic who grew up feeling rather uneasy with the world, for although my perception of my city was that it was "half Catholic"--roughly divided between Catholic school supporters and post-Protestant school supporters--I knew that the elites, from the Queen on down, were not Catholic.

I think my parents were wary of making me ghettoized, for they sent me to Brownies at the local Anglican church instead of to the Catholic Brownies at our parish church. But this meant my father had his Evelyn Waugh moment of putting his foot down against me participating in Brownie Church Parade. This led to some tension with Brown Owl or Tawny Owl (probably Tawny Owl) over this, which increased my sense that something was wrong with--not me and my family--but almost everyone else.

I couldn't understand, for example, why I saw so few of my soi-disant Catholic classmates in church. And I couldn't understand why Catholic priests treated Catholic teachings so seriously, and Catholic teachers didn't. And when I found out about the existence of ab*rti*n--whew! That was basically it for me ever winning the Order of Canada because Canada was floating on a river of baby blood, a mari usque ad mare, and as the eldest of five children, I could never, ever make peace with that. The whole scandal rather flies in the face of our insistence that we are are polite and peaceful people. And people call Victorian attitudes towards sexuality "hypocritical"! (!!!)

Islam, which has so many and varied schools of theology that it is actually silly to talk about Islam as if it were one, easily definable religion like Catholicism, does not always outlaw ab*rti*n, at least not in the early stages of pregnancy. And I honestly think this makes observant Muslims more at home in Canadian society than observant Roman Catholics.

Ab*rtion rights are the feminist sacrament, and they mean more to Canadian and American establishment feminists than anything else, including honour killing and forced marriages. As long as Muslims stay out of the pro-life movement, their religiosity is a-okay with (even admired by) the taste makers and the powers-that-be. It helps Muslims aren't usually white, for post-Christian and post-observant Jewish white feminists are petrified of seeming racist or colonialist. Saudi Arabia, I would point out, has no problem with colonization, for it has been sending and funding Wahhabist missionaries throughout the world, in many cases supplanting indigenous, more easy-going forms of Islam. And, incidentally, I learned this interesting fact at Boston College.

I was at BC after 9/11, and I flew in and out of Boston's Logan International Airport rather often. This meant I thought about 9/11 rather a lot, and I was so interested in religion-inspired violence that I alarmed at least one of my classmates. The Mohammed Cartoon Crisis broke out while I was there--that was good for a paper on freedom of speech (what is it for?) and one on whether violence was an appropriate response to blasphemy (works for Muslims!). And then, of course, I went to Germany, where I was when Canadian police stopped what would have been Toronto's 7/7 or 9/11, and where I missed being blown up by the Cologne bombers by two days and faulty mechanisms.

Well, that covers the Catholic and terrorist bits of my book. Probably, though, for the sake of the radio, I should just mention that I am a Catholic former theology student who found modern Germany fascinating and was most exceedingly cross when some Islamist foreign students set a bomb on a train leaving Cologne two days after I left Cologne. I wanted to write a novel set in Germany that addressed the moral weaknesses of the West and the threat of extremist, colonialist, religious terrorism. Just writing it was a slap both to people who don't want people to talk about such things and to a western literary establishment that preaches "freedom of speech" and then caves at once when scary people threaten it.

P.S. Poles often complain about Poland, but 76% of Poles between 15 and 24, i.e. the ones who don't remember Communism, are solidly pro-life. Our Lady of Częstochowa, by your intercession save Poland from the worst horrors of the West's sexual revolution. Módl się za nami!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Way to Make Things Worse, Guys

Caveat for the sensitive: this post contains mention of sexual assault.

Shiraz, now in London, sent me this very scary article about the Men's R*ghts M*vement. I've starred the expression because I do not want to end up on a M*M hate list. Many outspoken women bloggers get called a lot of nasty names; this says a lot more about the man or woman who uses them than about the bloggers, but it still isn't fun to experience. So far the worst things I've been called on the blogosphere are a "feminist" (yawn) and a (get this) "female supremacist."

To be frank, I had a giggle at the "female supremacist" tag. If I were really a female supremacist, I would not be calling B.A. from the bus every single time I come home after dark so that he can walk me home through the woods. If I were a female supremacist, I would insist that B.A. call ME every time HE comes home after dark, so that I could walk HIM through the woods. I would also be extremely resentful of the fact that he makes almost all the money and assume it was because there was some masculinist plot against me. (That reminds me, buy my new book! B.A., not being a male supremacist, has no problem with me making more money than him. In fact, it is his master plan.) I am sure I would be super chippy when reality did not conform to my expectations, just like male supremacists.

Meanwhile, I would not have this blog about finding happiness and meaning in the (usually temporary, if prolonged) Single Life. As a female supremacist, I would think the majority of you were insane for wanting to get married, as I would think men were beneath us all and really we should create an Amazonian society in which we expel men from our homes and use them only for sex and child support. Ooh. Actually, I think some women actually do think this. But, hello, anyone who actually read my blog with any attention would know that I am not among them.

I thought many things when I read the article about the Men's R*ghts M*vement, and the first one was, "I am a human being."

The second was, "I love my husband, my father, my brothers and my nephews. I am intensely fond of my male friends, male mentors, and several of my male former professors. Most women love the men in their lives. What is this?"

The third was, "If unmarried fathers are being treated unjustly, and male victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse are being ignored, then this certainly must stop. But the injustice should not be used as an excuse for men to belittle, abuse and rape women and encourage other men to do so."

Because that is what a lot of that M*M stuff seems to boil down to: men getting a thrill from sexual fantasies of overpowering and hurting women in the most intimate, invasive way they can imagine. That is really, really twisted. And also why Catholic men and women (for some women do go along as cheerleaders, since--duh--women want men to love us) have no business going near M*M websites.

If all the world assented to the Gospel--the dream of all Christian missionaries until 1962--nobody would be attracted to the M*M. One of the beauties of Catholicism is that it has a developing anthropology that asserts the God-given dignity of women AND men. Anything good in feminism, and in the men's r*ghts demands, is already in Catholicism. St. Edith Stein and Blessed John Paul make very convincing cases of what men and women should strive for in terms of their own sexuality and in respect for the other. Blessed John Paul's Mulieris Dignitatem and Letter to Women should be required reading for us all.

It occurs to me that the M*M, like many streams of feminism, is a response to consumerism, hyper-individualism and the breakdown of the family. Consumerism and hyper-individualism lead to the breakdown, which leads to child support payments and frustrated fatherhood. If men and women stopped treating sex as a consumer good, and as something that properly occurs within the family-bond of marriage, then men would have the dignity of being husbands and fathers instead of, as they fear most, the duties of a bank machine. Men in the M*M who trumpet about "sex is what I do" are not part of the solution but most definitely part of the problem.

Another emphasis of the M*M seems to be that women confess to our bad behaviour, whatever bad behaviour that might be. Men demanding this confession verge on the, forgive me, hysterical. But again, the best response to this male hysteria and female refusal to apologize for whatever it is we may actually have done (if we actually did do it) is the Catholic practice of examination of conscience, contrition, confession, penance and forgiveness. Forgiveness is key. Nobody would confess to anything if the response was, "Aha! So you admit that you deserve a good rape!"

Women's greatest fear is that men are going to batter, rape and kill us or our kids. I think it may be wired into our DNA because the first time I walked into a badly ventilated weight room, the stench of male stranger sweat made me want to flee--and that was after two years of boxing. (Presumably my subconscious was okay with the sweat of Rich, Dave and the other guys at the boxing club.) Women of every generation have been battered, raped and killed by men, particularly during wars, so it is a little precious of men to get mad that women talk about it and try to stop it. And it's incredibly contradictory to respond with sexually violent language.

My own novel deals with some of the questions around what male-female relationships are like today. My IP interviewer thinks it is a big deal that my protagonist is much older than her lover. (Of course, it is a bigger deal that the protagonist in a IP novel has a lover!) I think that makes the novel really interesting, quite apart from the corpse, the neo-Nazis, the footballer, the shopping scene and stuff blowing up. Really, my novel has something for everyone, plus a lot of fodder for debates about "the Catholic novel" and "postmodernism, borrowings and irony." Kup teraz!

That reminds me: thank you, Anamaria for the Amazon review. Thanks also to Jenna and Julie for their Goodreads reviews, and to Megan and Magdalen for their Goodreads ratings. Simcha is telling her people to give her 5s, but I was really pleased you gave me 4s. Four strikes me as really good; it's not like I'm Dostoyevsky.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Perfect Husband Would Be....

Okay, girls, let's play a game. In the spirit of bloggers counselling men to have impossibly high standards when searching for the Perfect Wife, let's construct The Perfect Husband.

Everyone gets to add a comparison. The format must be "and as __________ as ______________...."

I'll begin.

The Perfect Husband would be as hardworking as Boxer the Horse in Animal Farm...

More Thoughts on Long Distance Relationships

This morning I had to rush out to catch the 9:18 AM bus to get me to my 9:35 AM emergency dental appontment. Boli mi ząb, as they say in Poland. My stupid semi-erupted wisdom tooth is infected again. I tell it to stop running around outside without a jacket, but does it listen to me? No. So it's back to the penicillin and no alcohol.

Scottish doctors, dentists and pharmacists are very funny about alcohol. When they don't want you to drink it, they look you in the eye like parents going away for the weekend and speak very slowly and firmly: NO ALCOHOL. It's as if Scotland were a nation of heavy drinkers. Oh, come to think of it...

Scots die of being too fat and/or too drunk. Or so I assume from the fact that although so intensely politically correct they offer "tairminations" to happily pregnant mums and tie themselves into pretzels while suggesting that foreigners might let themselves permit the thought of not smoking cross their mysterious minds, medicos have no problem telling Scots and the Scottish-looking that we are too fat and/or drink too much.

At any rate, I have a week's holiday from lying on the couch with my compulsory glass of wine while watching the Food Network, which is one of my married lady jobs. Husbands are terrible drunkifiers of wives, as Mrs Brendan Behan found out, poor lamb. To celebrate I went around the "charity shops", which are the cozy, cheerful thrift shops in which I buy almost all my clothes, not only because I am a writer, but because once you pay £15 for a brand new, never worn, black brocade Laura Ashley frock coat, you never go back. And after purchasing some t-shirts and a brand new, never worn, peacock blue winter coat (£8.50), I went to the beauty shop and had my eyelashes tinted and my eyebrows done. It was quite a spree, actually. And it was great fun because it is unseasonably warm yet rainy, which made for a great conversation starter with the wifies in the charity shops and the lassies in the beauty shop.

They say we always turn into our mothers, but I suspect I am turning into my grandmother. Or my great-great-grandmother now lying in an Edinburgh cemetery. I'm going to visit her grave on November 1, and as she has been dead for some decades, she won't turn in it and mutter "But we aren't Polish." By the way, I wrote an article in the Catholic Register (the Canadian one) this week on how culturally superior the Poles are to Canadians in regards to Halloween. Because I do not utterly condemn Halloween while nevertheless pointing out that the Poles do better, it will annoy everyone except, naturally, the Poles.

This amusing local morning, plus proximity to Polish culture, comes courtesy of having had a long distance relationship. Or rather my reluctance and B.A.'s reluctance to have a long distance relationship. We agreed that we couldn't do long distance--so we got married as soon as the Church let us, after spending must of our money rushing back and forth across the ocean and running up terrible phone bills. That's what "long distance" looks like to me--two people frantically trying to make a long distance short. Of course, we were headstrong and foolish and over 35.

We had not had much of a relationship at all--just a bit of internet flirtation--until I mentioned I'd love to visit Scotland and B.A. said I could stay with him. And I thought that was very nice of funny bearded guy, whose friend Aelianus was already my friend, and gave him good references. I did not show up with romance in mind, although I did want to make a good impression. It did not occur to me that I would want to move across the sea from my family and friends and job prospects. But then I fell in love, and B.A. fell in love, so I did.

And I am thinking about this because I am thinking about Catholic dating websites and of American Catholics meeting other American Catholics two thousand or more miles away and becoming attached to them without much hope of actually meeting them in person. it strikes me as so emotionally risky, and so sad, really. If I were ever to try Catholic online dating again (God forbid and grant B.A. good health and long life), I would communicate only those men whom I could easily meet. I would just so hate to hear some guy say "I don't do long distance" when I know darned well men will "do long distance" for the right girl and darned well cross that distance as often as they can.

Update: I fixed my poll so that you can record your purchase of my beautiful novel Ceremony of Innocence up until Christmas Eve. And you can change your vote to "More than one copy" if you buy another copy for someone as a present. Hint hint. And if you think I'm a shameless promoter of my own work, you should see Simcha. She's offering steak knives and stuff! Steak knives! Well, I ask you!

Pop Quiz!

You may be wondering why I am up so late. It is because I have discovered the "Quiz" feature at Goodreads! If you have already read Ceremony of Innocence, you may enjoy taking the quiz. No cheating by looking up stuff in the book!

Well, maybe if you are desperate.

Update: Hooray for the readers who took it! Was it hard?

Update 2: Okay, something is fishy, because B.A. and I both took the quiz and we both got zero. How can I get zero? I wrote the book. I wrote the quiz!

Monday, 21 October 2013

Blah! So Inarticulate!

Oh, girls. I hope none of you got up early for my radio interview. I do television so much better. Arrrgh! But those of you who already have a copy of Ceremony of Innocence should turn at once to page 112, last paragraph, first sentence. Then have a jolly laugh. Everyone else, what better way to cheer me up than to buy lovely copy? Hint hint.

Update: Thank you, 43, whoever you are!

Update 2: It turns out that Simcha Fisher and I have the same book designer! Now, if only we could share the same spot in terms of Amazon sales....

Call Response

St. Edith Stein's vision of womanhood involves the notion that women are helpers, but offer our help only when asked for, and then modestly return to the background to do our own thing. St. Edith Stein was operating under a classical assumption that women were made for men, an idea that was gently developed by Bl. John Paul II, who held that women, like men, "were made for themselves" but called to service.

My friend Lily and I, while backing up each other's sense that women should not ask men out on dates, used to say, "Call-Response" to each other. Call-Response. Call-Response. It was our shorthand for the idea that men call women and women respond. No call, no response.

That can be an alarming idea. A very alarming idea indeed. After all, what if a man doesn't call? Or what if the right man doesn't call? And this, unfortunately, is the thought that gnaws upon the minds of women who want to be married and aren't. It's made all the worse by the Sexual Revolution, which hates marriage and loves divorce and treats men and women like lease-to-own automobiles.

One of my few male detractors, in a comment I didn't publish (naturally), linked to a website dedicated to warning men not to marry. I'm always amazed when Catholic and Christian men sign on for anti-marriage campaigns, but there it is. To such men I would say, "Okay, buddy. If you don't want to get married, you don't have to get married. But don't have any kids either. And don't waste the lives of women who don't want to be sterile concubines. And, incidentally, premarital sex is still a mortal sin."

The next step would be for such men to tattoo "Marriage Sucks" on their ring fingers, where Single women naturally glance when they think a man looks interesting. I think even the most reality-denying women would pause before pursuing a guy who was so hard-core anti-marriage that he actually tattooed it on himself. For balance he could tattoo a big V for vasectomy on the ring finger of his other hand, and thus attract only those women who want a guy who will offer neither permanence nor children. Birds of a feather.

And what does a girl do if she is surrounded by such men? Well, I'll tell you. She gets the best education she can afford, she gets a job, she lives within her means and saves for a rainy day, she goes out into the world to have fun conversations and make friends, and she goes to Church to ask the Lord where He wants her to serve.

If men don't want to get married, there's no point crying. It's not like men who are hardcore anti-marriage are all that and a bag of chips. Sure, they need help, but they aren't asking for it, so it's no woman's job to offer it. Call-Response. If they don't call, you don't respond. You don't have to put aside your own interests, or make any sacrifices, or shelve your dreams to chase after potential husbands, particularly the ones who are anti-marriage, and indeed you should not. If women are financially secure and not overwhelmingly troubled by sexual temptation, then men need women more than women need men.* That said, it's not nice to rub men's noses in this. It's not friendly. Women are, at very least, called to be the friends of men.

It seems to me that the anti-marriage brigade is not as afraid of marriage as it is of divorce. But that is a subject for another post. What I am thinking of today is of a certain female detachment. I have the image of a slim young librarian in my head (why a librarian, I do not know, and the library I am thinking of no longer exists) shelving books in tranquility. She enjoys her job, she loves her friends, she's open to meeting new people--being a friendly sort--but she blenches at the idea of actively searching for men. I don't know if a man she discovers she loves will ever ask my imaginary librarian to assuage his longing by marrying him, but I know she's got self-possession. She has dignity, and I mean that in a good way.

*Naturally this is offset by the not-very-rooted-in-reality, culturally determined, unscientific idea that unmarried women are failures in some way. When I was at B.C. on full scholarship (oh, alas), a young Vietnamese manicurist who told me that what she liked best about the USA was seeing all the cars go back and forth (?), upon hearing that I was 36 and unmarried, gave me such a look of astonished pity, that I am sure I will never forget it. I suspect that the taboo about unmarried women is society's way of making sure enough women knuckle under and just get married, so that men settle down--or at least be less tempted to riot in the streets--and babies get born.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Seraphic on the Radio this Monday

Well, my cherubs, I will be interviewed on the "Son Rise Morning Show with Brian Patrick" on EWTN's Spirit Radio this Monday, October 21, at an eye-opening 7:20 AM Eastern Time. It will be 12:20 PM for me, as the UK is five hours ahead of Eastern Time. And thank heavens because I don't think I would make much sense at 7:20 AM if it were 7:20 AM for me.

The interview will be just ten minutes long. We're going to talk about my novel Ceremony of Innocence. Eek!

Here's a link to EWTN's American webpage. If you click on "Radio" at the top of the page, you can find out how to listen to the show yourselves.

Update: There are UK and Irish EWTN webpages, but my computer doesn't like them for some reason.

Class War Yarg

I am late to the blog this morning because I have been defending the so-called middle class in a combox on England's The Catholic Herald. I think it was Peter Hitchens who said that the poor old so-called "lower middle class" was the most despised group in England.

"So-called" is my favourite word today because class is by its very nature a social construct and I think it is ridiculous. However, complaining that the English are obsessed with class is like saying that the Americans are obsessed with race, i.e. not something an outsider, e.g. a Canadian, should say.

I first came across the whole concept of class from British books. I found it interesting, as I loved categories, so I asked my mother what class we belonged to. My mother, who was probably in her early 30s at the time, very cleverly told me my family was exempt from the class system because my father was an intellectual. Being a froward child, I took this to mean that we were super-special, beyond aristocrats and royalty, because my father was an intellectual. So I became a bit of an intellectual snob. I even once referred to myself (on TV, how horrible) as an intellectual, and my father laughed quite a lot. So I shall never do that again.

When I got to Britain, I noticed that the class system, from which my ancestors fled, was still in effect, so I brightly asked B.A. what class we belonged to, and he shrieked like a tea kettle because that's not something one is ever supposed to think about. He also told me that being a foreigner I am exempt from such stuff, and how lucky I am.

This turns out not to be true, exactly, because although the English and, to a certain extent, the Scots still identify and classify everyone by their accents (and the wary Scots have learned that very often American-sounding people are actually Canadians), people here also judge you by your clothes, your address and your chosen form of transportation. And, rather horribly for me, there exists a form of class-conscious chippiness that wants to take down anyone who seems to be "putting on airs." Putting on airs can mean wearing snazzy vintage clothes, including (and especially) ladies' hats.

I suppose I could "get away with it" if I had the right car for the hat, but I don't know how to drive. I take the bus and because between the New Town and the Historical House lies a great swath of slum, B.A. sometimes makes me take my hat off, or leave behind Casimir (my fox fur stole), or exchange my glorious mohair cape for my green tweed coat with the hem that keeps falling down. The English are said to love eccentrics; the Scots, I suspect, not so much.

What I dislike most about class-consciousness is being hassled by drunk people about my clothes. When I was a child in Toronto, the other children made fun of my clothes because they didn't think they were fashionable enough. Now I get hassled for my clothes because they look funny or fall in the distressing category "too posh and yet not posh enough."

But that aside--and it can be really frightening--what I dislike next is moaning about the wicked "middle-class" with "their" terribly unchristian values, like jockeying to find a good salary and repeating ideas they learned from books and the Guardian/Telegraph and forcing their children to speak clearly.

The bit of British letters I have ever seen with the same venom shown towards the so-called working classes (as opposed to the so-called "socially excluded" (generational welfare recipients) as I recently read about the so-called middle classes, was a story by Muriel Spark, who was working class herself but went to a very good school before training as a secretary. In this story, the working class secretary comes from a home that is absolutely obsessed with germs, and would rather have new easy-to-clean furniture than antique furniture any day of the week. She is a nice girl and befriends some middle-classy bohemian people who shock her with their untidy ways, and she is terribly disappointed by a posh suitor because he is simply grubby. Oh woe!

Spark is having fun at the expense of the working-class, which may have been rather daring. Spark was not exempt from the reverse-snobbery of critics who, quite to find snobbery in others, have protested that Spark was not from "posh" Morningside (a neighbourhood in Edinburgh) as she is claimed to have claimed, but from humbler Bruntsfield (the Edinburgh neighbourhood right beside Morningside.)

As a matter of fact, Spark was born in a flat in Bruntsfield, and you could still see "Spark" on the doorbell until two years ago or so when her son (presumably) took it off. But she certainly went to the Mary Erskine James Gillespie's School, which is not that long of a walk away and is indeed in Morningside. I think such fretting over Spark's supposed class pretensions an affront to human dignity. It says more about the fretters than it does about Spark.

My own attitude is that, unlike gender, class is entirely a social contract and will disappear once people stop needing to snarl at those they think are looking down on them, and giggle at those they think are indeed below them, and sucking up to those they think will help them get into the coolest parties, wherever they may be. There is so much social mobility in the United Kingdom now that class distinctions don't really make any sense. Every British adult citizen (and the Irish resident in the UK, and Canadians, too) have exactly one vote--except the Queen. The Queen can't vote. So therefore the Queen is in a class of her own. And when I examine my beliefs about the Queen, I really do believe she is in a special relationship with God on behalf of the British Commonwealth. So, yes, I would certainly curtsey to the Queen--and to any other Christian Queen. Of course, the Queen of Poland outranks all the others.

Obviously there will always be poor people (the goalposts keep shifting on what "poor" is) and there will always be richer people, but I don't think one group is thereby better than another. I think cheery, friendly people who go out of their way to make others happy are the natural aristocracy, if aristocracy there must be.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Prayers, Please, For a 39+ Bride

For some reason, I am permanently angry at some Eavesdropping blogger who said that Auntie Seraphic's poppets never seem to get married. Well, that was a big fat lie on his part.

If God called you all to be Single and you all thought that was a fantastic way to live your entire earthly life, I would not give a whoop what he said. However, I know a lot of you want to get married, so Mr Sneery saying that you never do rankled in my cranky soul.

So guess what? Your fellow reader Katy, who is 39+ and has been reading for a couple of years, is getting married tomorrow!

Normally I do not announce readers' weddings because I do not want the vast majority of you to bang your head on your computer keyboards wailing "When will it be my turn?" But I LOVE to mention the weddings of those OVER 35, especially those OVER 39+, to prove that sometimes it's just a case of TIME. And it would be super-fantastic if some of you teens and 20-somethings asked yourself, "Say, if I KNEW that I wasn't getting married until I was 39+, what interesting things could I do with my life right now?"

Anyway, best wishes to Katy and congratulations to her groom, and here's hoping it does not hail on their wedding day.

(It hailed on MY wedding day.)

New Book Dance Party

Thank you very much to those readers who have already bought my new book and even written reviews or comments. It's been an exciting week; my interview provided a provocative headline for Catholic World Report.

It's not every day anyone asks me about my writing or my influences, and I wrote and rewrote my answer about "most influential authors" a dozen times. But so far nobody has asked me--and if you should ever interview anyone about a novel, you might consider asking them--what I was listening to at the time.

Normally I write in dead silence, but while either writing or reviewing or thinking about (most likely) the chapters of Ceremony of Innocence, I was listening to club music. I wanted a real "rave" vibe for my book and was trying to conjure up memories of feelings and impressions from my time in Germany. After all, my younger characters go to clubs a lot, especially this one. And trance music is called "trance" for a reason.

Here are some of the tracks I listened to repeatedly while writing Ceremony of Innocence:

Scarf: "Odyssey"
Cascada: "Every Time We Touch"
Basshunter: "DotA"
Alice DeeJay: "Will I Ever"
Blumchen: "Heut' ist Mein Tag"
Tune Up: "Raver's Fantasy"
Darude: "Sandstorm"
The Killers: "Mr. Brightside"
The Killers: "Somebody Told Me"
Alice Deejay: "Back in My Life"
Mo-Do: "Einz Dwei Polizei"
and my favourite Canadian song of all time:
Tragically Hip: "Nautical Disaster"

I think I listened to Alice Deejay sing "Back in My Life" a hundred times. You can find all these songs on YouTube, which is where I found them. (The official videos for "Will I Ever", "Sandstorm" and "Einz Dwei Politzei" are Not Safe For Little Brothers.) However, I think I may have to buy them for B.A.'s MP3 player, which I take along to the gym.

Update: Yikes! Did not realize how appropriate "Nautical Disaster" was until now.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Beauty vs Attraction

In the 1980s, the "Glamazon" look was in style. This was the era of big, blown-out hairstyle, big breasts, long legs and a ton of make-up. In the 1990, the "heroin-chic" look was in style. This was the era of rail-thin, somewhat boyish-looking, very young women like Kate Moss. What the 2000s it-look was, I haven't a clue because I stopped paying attention the day I saw rail-thin little women dancing around outside a department store advertising MAC products. I did a double-take. They weren't women. They were female impersonators. And I realized that it was now easier for relatively fat-free, long-legged, zero-hipper young men to epitomize the "perfect woman" than actual women. The apotheosis of woman to underage-looking teenage boy was complete.

Fortunately most men are not attracted to underage-looking teenage boys, but to real women with breasts and bottoms and thighs. Of course, like other human beings, they are drawn to facial symmetry, which is why we women stare into our make-up mirrors and busily try to make nature more symmetrical. Our parents often pay vast sums so our teeth will be more symmetrical, too, although this is less common in Britain where the natives say they are unnerved by American "chiclet" teeth and Georgia Jagger pouts at the camera with her mouth open, gap-teeth on display, looking unnervingly like a spaced-out, tarted-up twelve year old.

Fortunately, most men are not as obsessed with female beauty as women are. They don't think about it; one just finds this girl pretty and that one not, whereas another man may think the opposite. And they are not so obsessed with aging. This is, in fact, one of the themes of my novel. My heroine is in her 30s. Her boyfriend is in his early 20s. Her boyfriend is clearly attached to her, but Catriona waits constantly for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. She is older; he is younger. No matter what he says, the relationship must be doomed.

But I have been ditched twice for women considerably older than me, a life lesson I am unlikely to forget. One of my rivals was over 40, and told me she could not do better than the rat who had bounced to me and then back to her. She said I would understand it all when I was over 40 myself. I'm very grateful to her because I spent the next 10 years making sure I never did. Instead, I have learned some very good news, and it is that men are not just attracted to youth and beauty. They are also attracted to energy, confidence, happiness, kindness, brains (tempered with modesty), social position and fame.

This is particularly true in Europe, where 50+ film stars like Kristen Scott Thomas still play romantic leads. In the UK, Tilda Swinton and Helen Mirren are still considered attractive, and Tilda Swinton has always been odd-looking. Definitely attractive, with those huge, expressive eyes, but odd-looking. And I think a large part of this has to do with the fact that they are famous film stars and the media raves on about how marvelous they are. Thus, society has accorded them status.

It's amazing what gives you status. In Germany, young university students do not shun older university students just because they are older. In my experience, German undergraduates think friendly graduate students are cool. This may be because Germany is still a terrifically hierarchical society, the hierarchy being based on expertise. When I studied in Germany, I was so overwhelmed by the attention of German undergraduates that I sought out another foreign student, a priest, to moan about my culture shock. But in the words of a very sweet undergrad from Hamburg, "We are only undergraduates; you are doing a DOKTORAT!" They actually felt honoured that I wanted to hang out with them. And one or two of them tried their luck...thus exacerbating my feelings of culture shock.

Sadly, this was not at all my experience back in the USA where a nervous undergraduate goggled at me because I tried to sign up on the orthodox students' club retreat (" you faculty?") and the chaplain emphasized that I was not one of them ("They're great kids, aren't they?") Therefore, I am not sure how helpful my words of wisdom are for American readers. The generation gap in the USA seems very huge to me, and Mrs Robinson is a major figure of fun. Still, it may cheer you up to know that this is not true for the whole world.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Attention British and Irish Readers Under 25

Would you like to kick-start a writing career? In that case, I think you should have a look at this competition.

The most famous Catholic female writer is still the recently deceased Muriel Spark. Her career got started when she won a short-story contest.

By the way, I hinted in my Ignatius interview that it would be nice if Catholics started paying attention to the successes of other Catholics again. So congratulations to Frances for getting into the finals of "The Great British Bake-off."

Talking to Boys 2

When I was in my early 20s, boys made me nervous. This would have surprised them because I didn't look or sound nervous. But they made me nervous all the same. Walking up to a stranger my own age to ask for directions was almost impossible. I was really that self-conscious inside, no matter how composed I looked on the outside. I survived pro-life activism because I didn't usually have to speak to strangers; I just held my sign.

So I know perfectly well how hard this Talking to Boys thing can be. And I would never have learned to do it if I had not adjusted my thinking about myself and about boys. I don't know what your elementary school days were like, but socially speaking, mine were atrocious. They ended with four years of slut-shaming (as it is now called) for some of the girls and ugly-shaming for others, including me. Some girls were targeted for groping--and the boys would gang together and fall on the chosen girl like rugby players on a ball--and when I finally complained to the male principal, he told me "Boys will be boys."

I know I have told you all this before, but it's a natural response to trauma: the traumatized relate the experience again and again. Fourteen years after I left that school, my therapist tried to convince me that "sexual experimentation" was normal and healthy for children, but I could not sign on. First, Christian children are called to purity like everyone else. Second, the "sexual experimentation" of my schoolyard was public, violent and hateful. One little girl was called "whore" almost every day, and I was called "ugly" almost every day. For the record, it was better to be "ugly" than a "whore" because, as far as I know, the ugly went untouched.

It was a very long time before I could convince myself that most boys were not like that, or even if they were (although my little brothers weren't), the vast majority of them stopped being like that when they grew up. But I did convince myself. I gained the confidence I should have developed in school through boxing and my first real grown-up job. And when I went to theology school I was surrounded by very good, very bright men. Now, instead of telling me that men are potential rapists, the voice at the back of my head says they are potential Jesuits--which is to say, good men who may or may not be orthodox, and who may or may not go off the rails, but at least they are clever and decent human beings. This view changes only when the strangers reveal that they are not at all like the good and clever men I met at theology school. But, to tell you the truth, so far most of the men I have met in the past five years are rather like them.

If your default position is that men are clever and decent human beings, you will have an easier time talking to them than if your default position is that they are A) potential rapists or B)likely to tell you that you're ugly. This default position is not the final word on any man you meet, of course, but it is a helpful basic orientation towards the world.

We all have basic orientations towards the world. Yours might be that the world is divided into sexually attractive men and sexually unattractive men, and that somehow you always end up talking to the unattractive ones. This is not a helpful stance. In fact, it echoes my schoolyard, where girls were divided into pretties, whores, uglies and, in a unusual cases, friends. If it is your basic orientation that prevents you from conversing easily with men, then you may want to consider changing it. And one way to change it is to temporarily adopt a helpful, imaginary persona, which could be your nation's Ambassador to France.

As your nation's Ambassador to France, you are accomplished, confident, and occupying a position so important that you can afford to be gracious and nice to everyone. If someone is rude to you, then the joke is on them because obviously they do not know that you are the Ambassador to France and therefore their rejection is not worth bothering about.

And that's enough from me today. I'm all tuckered out from the mental journey from elementary school to theology school. Hatred--even the hatred of an ex-child for children who no longer exist*--is so tiring. Thank God for the S.J.

*Any philosophers out there want to address the idea that a child loses existence when he becomes an adult? I'm not sure this is true. It just seems illogical for me to hate people who are now 39+ for what they did when they were 10-14.