Monday, 4 November 2013

Responding to Mild Eavesdropper Protests

I was unusually busy this weekend for Polish Pretend Son came for a visit, there were sung Masses for three days in a row, and it was B.A.'s and my turn to host the weekly Sunday Lunch. This meant a lot of cooking and washing dishes in between bouts of Mass going, and it takes us at least an hour to get to the church where the local FSSP priest says Mass and the Schola (including B.A.) sings. Fortunately, although I am happy to leave daily cooking to B.A., who finds it relaxing, I enjoy the challenge of extravagant cooking, even though it often includes bad words, tears, and throwing everyone out of the kitchen. I am drinking a big cup of barszcz cierwony right now; yum, yum, slurp, slurp.

On the way to Mass yesterday, Polish Pretend Son, who is an Eavesdropper, lit into me because he feels I am leading you all astray with my advice not to settle, and when I bragged of the babies some of you now have (as I felt this would be a joy more tangible to his mind than the heightened satisfaction and tranquility of the current Singles), he went on about the principle of unintended consequences, which was nice because he is rather handsome. I don't really mind if men lecture me on the law of whatever as long as they are nice to look at. Benedict Ambrose himself was going on about some rubbish yesterday and paramount in my thoughts was how his eyes really are the darkest blue. They are so dark, you would think they weren't blue, unless you looked very closely, which you better not, for I am a tad jealous. Where was I?

Oh, yes. Leading you all astray. Last night during Lunch (since Lunch lasted from 4 PM until 2:30 AM), the Master of the Men's Schola, also an Eavesdropper, himself suggested I was leading you astray. Again, I didn't mind that much as he is also rather handsome, but on the other hand, he did not seem to have been Eavesdropping very carefully. He seemed to be under the impression that I tell those Singles that want to get married that you can just sit at home and do nothing and potential husbands will fall on their knees before you.

Well, of course I do not believe that, although of course all things are possible with God, and perhaps he wants you to marry an Amazon delivery guy or the UPS man or even the postman, so always smile at them and say "Good morning" or "Hello, did you bring me a present today?"

But, once again, the point to my blog is not to get you all married off, but to encourage the Singles in their Single lives and point out that life is worth living even if you are not married and have no children "of your own." My goal is to make you happier and more confident (and therefore simultaneously less interested in yourself and more interested in others) and eager to squeeze the juice from the orange of life. The fact that being happier, more confident (and therefore more other-focused) and more eager to squeeze the juice from the orange of life makes you attractive to men is just a welcome side-effect.

By the way, I cannot stress enough that when you are really confident, you don't have to prove consciously to people how confident you are. You can let them talk more, and you can ask them questions about themselves, and you don't take it to heart when they say something boneheaded, like a PhD is just the Bachelors degree of yesteryear. (Bernard Lonergan, the great Canadian Jesuit philosopher, called the PhD "your union card"; I recommend saying, "It'll be my union card!" instead of giving Mr Not Great With Words an angry lecture.)

Meanwhile, I do think there are things you can do to improve your chances of getting married to Mr Right, keeping always in mind that Providence is in charge anyway. (Being proactive and yet trusting completely in Providence is a tough challenge, as I know perfectly well, having dragged myself to scary foreign medical centre with its scary huge needles and PC jargon to find out why I can't get pregnant--ICK!) So here is a handy list:

1. Live in public. I get up to 1,000 hits a day. I don't have to leave the house to live in public. Of course, now my blog is targeted at women, and I keep comparing men to cappuccino, squirrels, fish and other lesser beings, so really, I don't think it would help me get married again. Which brings me to Point 2.

2. Think about your audience.

a)The book that I used to hide from my mother says that men respond well to women who wear bright colours and pastels, but not so much to women who wear black, brown and grey. It says make-up adds interest to your face and that men who say don't like it are wrong.

b)The manosphere insists that women should not cut our hair short.

c) The manosphere is unpleasantly blunt about body type. I think the manosphere is largely populated by wiseacres who get a thrill from writing the meanest things about women they can think of, but I also think we should all strive for whichever weight our own personal doctors tell us is right for us, and then dress to flatter it. Shovel all responsibility for the dread number on the scale onto the doctor. If Doctor Such-and-such says "140/10 st./63.5 kg stone" strive for 140/10 st./63.5 and to heck with everyone else. Meanwhile, exercise and vegetables are great improvers of mood, and sugar is the new antichrist.

d) Men hate being yelled at, berated, lectured (except in a lecture hall), chastised, told how a gentleman ought to behave, mocked, lectured on evils of the patriarchy, and told to get this and to do that. They hate it worse than poison. In fact, they sometimes take refuge in poison. Whenever I lecture him on the evils of the patriarchy, Polish Pretend Son rushes outdoors to suck industrial quantities of nicotine into his bloodstream.

(Okay, I admit poetic license on that one, but I couldn't resist.)

One of the most charming women I know has a fail-safe reaction to men she feels tempted to yell at, berate, lecture, chastise, tell how a gentleman ought to behave, mock, lecture and boss around. She laughs gaily, as if what they had just said or done was a hilarious joke, and silently and secretly despises them.

If they deserve to be yelled at, you shouldn't waste your time on them anyway. Don't waste the pretty; off you go. The only men worth yelling at are in your family already. Nothing says "female relation I am never going to be romantic with" like a good yelling or a firm lecture.

e) Men like being flattered in small, unscary doses. Even if they think you might be lying, they like it. But they especially like to be praised for anything they feel they deserve praise for, e.g. "Nice car!"; "Excellent report!"; "OMG, you washed the DISHES?!"). I imagine that this tendency spans the ages, but I bet it is even more entrenched now that girls are told we can do anything and boys are told they need to be more like girls.

f) Increasing numbers of men are flat-out terrified that if they marry, they will be bossed around, cut off from sex, divorced, unable to be proper fathers to their children, and fleeced of all their future earnings. I'm not sure what you can do about that, but it's something to keep in mind. Perhaps when the subject comes up, you can praise married women for how nice they are to their husbands and kids, e.g. "Janet could have been CEO, but she refused promotion because it meant she would never see Robbie and the kids. I admire that."

If you are tempted to add that ROBBIE would have accepted the promotion in a shot, and Janet and the kids would have been expected by society to lump it, remember your audience and stow it.

3. Don't waste your time barking up the wrong tree. Don't get involved emotionally online with men you will probably never meet in person. Don't date guys who have told you they ain't never getting married. Don't fall in love with homosexuals or bisexuals, no matter how nice they are, unless they are among the few ( perhaps the very few) who have gone straight and have "been straight" for years.* Don't fall in love with addicts. Resist all temptations to martyr yourself for some guy, especially if all your friends and relations mysteriously don't understand how great he is. Break up ASAP with the guy who says that he wants to marry someone completely different from you. Don't date seminarians. Don't date seminarians on summer holidays. Don't date recent seminary drop-outs. Don't allow yourself to think of your young and handsome priest friend as the most important man in your life. Don't be more than friendly to tourists. Don't take seriously declarations of love when you are a tourist, especially the night before your flight home. Don't date separated/divorcing/recently divorced men and say strictly "just good friends for now" until and unless he gets his annulment papers in the mail.

And that is all I have to say this morning.

*And even then, consult expert opinion. It's all too complicated for me. Evelyn Waugh did some stuff in university he ought not to have done, and still married (twice) and had seven children. But in his day Englishmen could go to prison for homosexual acts, and today the politics are such that just trying to figure out the truth about the fluidity of sexual orientation (e.g. if it exists) is fraught with difficulties.


MichelleMarie said...

"I don't really mind if men lecture me on the law of whatever as long as they are nice to look at."

You and me both ;)

Seraphic said...

Does this mean we are shallow or merely eager to see the silver lining?

MichelleMarie said...

Haha, I hadn't stopped to think about what it means.

Maybe it's just that we have heightened aesthetic sensibilities? Or maybe it's our way of not getting embroiled in futile debates, keeping a healthy distance from them, while still being able to appreciate the merits of our present situation?

Seraphic said...

Or all of the above!

MichelleMarie said...

I like to think of it as appreciating whatever the Good Lord sends me :)

Nzie said...

Do men talk about settling? Do they really settle? Because I have an impression that they don't really see settling as something they should have to do, and the ball is more in their court anyway. If they don't have to or don't think they have to, why should we?

I do think some people confuse "settling" with "putting up with things that are annoying." There's pretty much no person I love who doesn't annoy me sometimes and I'm sure I annoy them sometimes. I've never thought you were saying women should be unreasonable or have ridiculous expectations of men, but perhaps your eavesdropper understood "settling" in the way people misuse it?

Anamaria said...

Did these guys read that recent post about the Catholic janitor, etc, etc? It seems pretty clear that you encourage women not to hold unrealistic standards for a husband... while also encouraging them not to marry someone they're not wild about.

Maybe you could ask them: would you want a wife who isn't wildly in love with you?

TRS said...

To me, points about settling are the difference between character, and other superficial things.
Never compromise on character. If you want a man who loves God, who will put you and your family ahead of money and nice cars and whatever else, you can't compromise on that.
Things like height, weight, follicle distribution.... You can settle on.
But don't tell someone you're settling for what it is they have!

My ex boyfriend would take me for long walks after dinner, and tell me that his greatest fear was settling. To me. Standing right there! Fortunately, I knew that he would be lucky to have me, not the other way around. For the sheer fact that he could say that to my face. I was, in fact, everything he was looking for, character wise . But he compared me to more athletic women he knew... despite the fact that I was the same size and build as them. (And I'm a small, thin, muscular woman, so he really was nitpicking)
Hmm. Maybe he considered athleticism as a character trait, despite his own beer-gut.

Anyway, I think you know when the person you meet measures up, usually to standards you didn't even know we're important to you.
Those of us who really know what settling is, are not in danger of it.

Settling, and settling down /settling in are two different things.

Seraphic said...

Well, actually, the first Eavesdropper was probably retaliating for my accusation that he was supporting the patriarchy, and the second just likes to argue with me on principle. Actually, I think the first Eavesdropper just likes to argue with me on principle, too. I seem to associate with argumentative men.

Trying to be sensible said...

I've never really understood people who think that being unwilling to settle is because you're overly concerned about a guy's looks or amount of hair or something. I don't think short, bald men are generally handsome. I don't have crushes on them, or get breathless when they look at me. But, if I knew one who had the soul of a lion, and he was madly in love with me--and he managed to persuade me to be madly in love with him, too--well, I wouldn't consider it "settling" to marry him. I'd probably start thinking shortness and baldness were cute!

But I absolutely think it's "settling" to talk yourself into liking that NCB who does all the right things and looks like Jack Ryan in "The Hunt for Red October" if he bores you....

Urszula said...

Oh and your barszcz recipe looks lovely. I've never thought to roast the beets. For some reason, in my family, we always boil them!

Seraphic said...

I don't roast them, though. I buy them pre-cooked from the supermarket and just grate them.

Julia said...

Nzie, I echo your sentiments.

I have a family friend aged in her early fifties. She's married and lives with her husband, two teenage sons and elderly mother.

Providing for the family is entirely up to her because not only is her husband unemployed, but he's also a gambler who doesn't lift a finger around the house and expects to be waited on hand and foot. Her mother is frail and in need of a lot of help, which is not a bad thing or an intolerable burden, except for the fact that her mother is emotionally manipulative and extremely demanding. My friend is left to carry all the burdens and responsibilities entirely alone, despite the fact that she is in poor health herself. She's in near-constant physical pain and was offered no support during recovery from recent surgery.

Did she settle in marrying her husband? Pretty much. She was 32 and an only child, and her mother was freaking out because she was unmarried. I imagine there would have been a lot of wailing along the lines of "When will you give me grandchildren?" So my friend, at 32, married a 25-year-old. She seems to blame the age gap for her present woes, and counsels me to never marry a man younger than I am. I don't think it's entirely fair to blame the age gap for their issues, but I have no doubt that if she could go back in time, she'd not marry the guy.

She and her husband have been on the brink of divorce before. They don't share a bed. He doesn't respect her - if he did, he wouldn't allow every burden to be hers alone. She doesn't respect him either. She advises my sister and me to enjoy being single and to look out for ourselves. I doubt she means that we should be "swinging singles", but rather that we should avoid being pressured into marriage.

Cordi said...

Oh, wow, Julia. I know there are men who are afraid of their wives taking the kids and the money and leaving, but the one you just told is the sort of story that scares the living daylights out of me.

Julia said...

Cordi, tell me about it. Trust me, I've heard some horror stories about her life, not all of which I have revealed here. Thing is, she was herself a successful and well-educated businesswoman in Europe prior to her marriage, and now the money situation is pretty bad because her mother demands the best and her husband gambled their money away.

Seraphic said...

Yep. I think that is definitely the female equivalent of the male "no sex-divorce-lose kids-lose money" nightmare. No woman wants to be married to a guy who just sits around the house and gambles away her money while she works like a dog and tries to please everyone--rather in the manner of Sisyphus rolling that stone. Yikes!

Moral of story: don't get married because your mother (or anyone else) acts like you will be a big old failure if you don't.

Pearlmusic said...

Seraphic, you give us GOOD advice! And, I’d say you've always cared to remind us to be kind for nice men, right?

However, I think that the problem lies somewhere else, as Nzie pointed out. Every now and then I hear men are being advised not to invest too much in relationships with women. They are often suggested to give up on them a little too soon. I know a few couples (good and steady ones) in which a woman was initially a little reserved, but the man was steadfast enough in his pursuit to win her heart. I mean, we’re sometimes incapable of an immediate response. Sometimes we are taken aback by their invitations to coffee etc. Probably we shouldn’t be. But it depends largely of the mood and life circumstances. Say, a man calls a girl to ask her out she says something: oh, I don’t know, really, let me think of it (this doesn’t mean NO, literally, although it is obviously not an outburst of joy, although she may still feel flattered on the inside). Why can’t he say: OK, take your time, I’ll call you again soon (in a week, etc.)? But many men are proud and want to date only the girls who have been waiting day and night to hear from them, and the girl I mentioned will probably be never called again. Never mind if she was feeling seek, was fired, had had a funeral, is still mourning a breakup or whatever other reason she showed little interest at first when he called.

In Poland we say: listonosz puka dwa razy (the postman knocks twice on the door). So my point would be: a man is welcome to try for a second time if he really likes the girl. Of course, if he should hear a firm “NO” for the second time, then he’d probably better move on. But, the truth is, the chances in the game of love are uneven for men and women. A man who calls up a girl more that once before she agrees to go out with him will be called firm and manly. A woman who suggests going out together more than once is mostly just making a laugh of herself.

So, dear Eavesdroppers – a little more generosity, please! Just a little. Just a second time, a second chance for a girl you like. You won’t win a heart of a woman if you first let her know you think she’s not worth the fight.

Pearlmusic said...

* sick, excuse me.