Saturday, 23 March 2013

Closed for Holy Week

Seraphic Singles will be closed from midnight (GMT) until Easter, and I will not be reading any emails over Holy Week. 

However, Easter is a holiday season, and as we all know, the holiday season can be the toughest time to be Single. So feel free to come back and read up on old posts as much as you like. I'll leave the comments on tonight because there's a reader who could use your support and fellowship right now. (See yesterday's combox.) 

Here is an old Good Friday piece about being Single.  A to jest tutaj po polsku.

Have a good Holy Week, and I'll be seeing you Easter Monday.

Friday, 22 March 2013

There it is again...

My electronic spy keeps an eye on the search words that land people at this blog, and there it is, once again:

"25 and never had a boyfriend am I a freak"

The answer to that is "No."

Life is not Archie Comics. Life is not a MTV video. Life is seven billion people trying to keep alive, trying to be happy, trying to find love among the people with whom they live or, having long since found it, keeping their loved ones alive.

More on this topic here.

Lenten Retreat

On Palm Sunday morning I will quickly check my emails before I go to church, perhaps put up one post on Facebook, and then I will turn off my computer and put it away.  I am going off-line for Holy Week.

As I have blogged every week (and almost every weekday) since November 2006, this makes me feel rather nervous. I feel a responsibility towards the 630+ readers who click to Seraphic Singles every weekday. Somebody should to talk to Singles every day and ponder your lives. However, I am a bit of a slave to the internet, so I think it right and just to give it up for Holy Week.

Christianity is a relationship with Christ, and Christ came to save us from slavery to sin--and to all disordered attachments. This is why at Lent I think about created substances I depend on most to get me through the day, and thus in latter years give up coffee. We say that every Sunday is a little Easter, and never is this more true for me than the first Sunday in Lent when I spring from bed and rush slavering to the coffee machine. By Laetare Sunday, however, I do not feel so desperate. Coffee no longer has such a hold on me. Instead of being a necessary medicine, it has become an optional treat.

The internet is necessary for my work and the easiest way to stay in touch with friends and family, so it is of a different order from coffee or any other chemical substance we enjoy (like sugar). It is fraught with temptations, however, as it encourages intemperance: reading too much enjoyable trivia, engaging in too many pointless arguments, leaving imprudent remarks on Facebook, shopping too much, and flirting with complete strangers over dating sites in place of engaging with new people one can actually see.

At the same time, of course, it is a wonderful library and forum, and it is such a joy to be able to find an answer to every question, not to mention access to any piece of music or examples of any language I wish to hear.

Of course, I am forced to listen to a lot of stuff I don't want to hear or, rather, to read a lot of stuff I don't want to read. That's a problem with Facebook. I am not actually interested in every last media story my friends and acquaintances post about Pope Francis, for example, and I found myself writing a sharp remark to a complete stranger who repeated a lame phrase banged into her head by the media. That was an imprudent and unkindly thing to do, and I was thoroughly ashamed. I thought, "Time to take a break from the internet."

It is possible to take a break from worrying about being Single, too. And this is why I started the first Seraphic Singles blog, which is now, of course, Seraphic Singles/The Closet's All Mine/Anielskie Single.  Like giving up coffee in a coffee-drinking nation, it can be hard to do at first. You determine to stop worrying and to make the most of your Single life, and there people are telling you that you SHOULD worry, and do you WANT to be ALONE, and isn't it time you had a family of YOUR OWN? At such times, it is hard to remember that God has a plan and told you not to worry, that you are not, in fact, alone, and that you already have a family.

Still, the more mental space you have to enjoy being Single while being open to God's plan--whatever it is--the happier and more balanced you become.

You can improve your relationship to men in general: seeing strangers primarily as neither potential rapists nor potential husbands, but as potential friends and colleagues.

You have space to consider what meaning your life as a woman has apart from marriage and reproduction: you might find it in service to others and accepting service from others (which is at heart what marriage is anyway).

You even have space to watch how other women behave towards men and how other women cope with singleness, learning valuable lessons by paying more attention to others.

And instead of seeing men as either women in men's bodies or another species, an irrational and scary one, altogether, you have space to consider that men are just a different kind of human being, each one being unique and yet having common traits that you can learn to recognize and respect.

I write about the freedoms Single women have that Married women no longer have. However, Married women do have a certain mental freedom, a certain ability to see men as who they are and not who we desperately wish they would (or afraid they must) be, and I'd love for Single women to be able to share in that freedom as much as possible.

Meanwhile, I owe it to Ignatius and my book-babies to plug Ceremony of Innocence as much as possible, so you will be seeing a lot of  PRE-ORDER MY NOVEL TODAY! now and after Easter Sunday.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

My Next Book

Happy Spring! With spring comes the news that Ignatius Press has made Ceremony of Innocence available for pre-order. (The 'A' in the title should be off the cover when the covers are made!)

Here is what Ignatius says about it:

Scottish Catholic journalist Catriona McClelland comes home to her Frankfurt apartment to find her German ex-boyfriend Dennis sitting nervously on the couch. Police arrive. A Canadian student, Suzy Davis, has been drowned, and both Cat and Dennis are suspects in her murder. 

Subsequent police interviews trigger Cat's memories of her reluctant friendship with Suzy, an enthusiastic supporter of left-wing organizations. The two women had become acquainted while terrorist bombings, student unrest and neo-Nazi riots brought Germany to a boiling point. Cat had tried to maintain her professional aloofness while writing reports on these events, but the political became personal when Suzy fell for Dennis and forced Cat to confront her hypocrisy in refusing either to marry the much younger man or to let him go. 

Ripped from the headlines, Ceremony of Innocence is a very contemporary novel of Europe on the edge of social breakdown. Train stations are bombed and migrants targeted for violence as journalists and other tastemakers watch from their positions of privilege.

Cummings' realistic narrative does not describe the feats of heroes. Rather, it unnervingly lays bare the way religious faith and moral reasoning can be easily manipulated and compromised.

 Whoo-hoo! Not my usual sort of thing, eh? And I hope the greatest Roman Catholic thriller writer of the 20th century, Graham Greene, would approve. It's very much in memory of him.

Let's see. What can I say? Well, first of all it's not autobiographical. I did meet someone who reminds me greatly of Catriona 20 years ago, but I haven't seen her in 19. And there is someone in Germany who looks surprisingly like Dennis, but he is not really like him. But I know where their flat is, and as I don't know the current occupants, I haven't been in it for some years.

Second, you will really like this book if you are German or know Germany at all.

Third, this is not a good set-text with which to home-school children. It is a grown-up book, with grown-up themes, but I sent the manuscript to my parish priest without a moment's qualm. (He loved it.)

I recommend pre-ordering straight from Ignatius.  I feel strongly that Catholics have the responsibility to support Catholic bookshops and Catholic publishers, so that both can actually thrive and be open to taking a chance on relatively unknown Catholic writers like myself. This is especially true for fiction. In the pyramid of "who makes the money" in publishing, the lion's share goes not to the author, nor to the publisher, but to the bookseller. Therefore, it really does matter to the Catholic bookshops, Catholic publishers and Catholic writers where you buy a book.

Ignatius link here.

Meanwhile, I'm very grateful to Ignatius for having taken a chance on me--and on Catriona, Dennis, Suzy and all the people who walked into my head a few years ago. I love them like children, so I'm glad you're going to meet them, too.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Praise Them

Well! Gentlemen's Day went very well!  Thank you, St. Joseph, and thanks to all the gentlemen who turned up to answer our questions. A few of you girls were a bit naughty, jumping in to say what you thought right away instead of waiting for today. Fortunately, your comments were usually of the "This is great!" variety. Saying "This is great!" encourages men to speak whereas sometimes the slightest hint of "What do you MEEEEEEEEEN?" causes them either to clam up or to get all aggressive.

There are few things men enjoy more than praise from women. The kind of woman who is constantly badgering men to be better men and never compliments them on anything is a woman who is constantly discouraging men, too--in more ways than one. If you have a number of single men in your social circle, you may want to consider praising them from time to time. This is not from some ulterior motive; it is merely to make them happy and confident. How they will have the confidence to ask girls out and get married when the women of their own social circle never hand out any compliments is beyond me. 

Praising men doesn't have to be over the top or fake or anything like that. It should merely follow upon a random thought that flits through your mind. Most times you admire something about someone, it is a good idea to tell them. I still remember my flush of pride in Toronto's Pearson Airport a year ago when a young woman, a complete stranger, praised my floral ankle boots and asked where I got them. Well, I think men, who live in a near-constant state of competition, appreciate praise even more keenly. 

I myself am very lucky to have a goodly number of handsome, intelligent and skillful Single men in my circle. It is a great joy to me, especially as I am so far from my brothers and sisters and nephews and niece. Some dress beautifully, and they inspire the other men to dress more beautifully. (One of the more amusing, and sometimes scary, aspects of men is the extent to which they influence each other.) At least two are excellent cooks. One paints. One composes music. One has an incredible eye for antiques. One is a very hardworking academic. So actually I find it very easy to praise them: they keep doing praiseworthy things. Of course, they often talk a lot of rubbish, but with men it's not talk that matters (unless it is abusive, in which case you must escape them) but deeds. They do many good deeds. 

And the Eavesdroppers have done us a good deed by answering our questions and minding their language and generally being good chaps. There was only one comment I couldn't pass, and that was because it mentioned a female body part men really should not mention to women they are not married to, unless they are their doctors. Most women get offended by that, never mind my beloved readers, The Most Easily Shocked Women on the Internet and Proud of It. 

"But Seraphic," I hear you squeak, "what about all that stuff the Eavesdroppers said about being cold and freezing a guy out so he won't think we're interested in them?"

I think this technique is better used on strangers than on friends, personally. I also think we all have to stop being so cowardly about men's feelings. Men are not women. They do not like it when you say "No" to them, but they will not curl up in  bed listening to Taylor Swift eating chocolate and weeping, as so many of us do when they say "No" to us. I think it a much better idea to get a good reputation for being the kind of girl who really appreciates her male friends and then just handle unwanted courtship attempts with graceful firmness. 

Anyway, let's face it: we're all mixed up about whether we want courtship attempts or not. Which is worse: guys never showing any interest, or the wrong guy occasionally showing interest?  Lucy Maud Montgomery hands Anne of Green Gables marriage proposals like badges of freaking honour. 

Well, that's enough from me. You girls talk in the combox about what you heard from the boys. Agree, disagree, exclaim, wonder--go for it. 

Because our eavesdroppers turn out to be such a decent bunch, I will consider having more Gentlemen's Days in future. For the time being, though, this returns to a girls-only zone. If you're dying for heart-to-hearts with men you cannot see and will probably never meet, there are dozens of Catholic message boards on the net and, of course, the dating sites. 

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Gentlemen's Day

Happy Saint Joseph's Day! Today the Eavesdroppers are invited to read and to comment in the comboxes of the past few days. If your comment doesn't stick, you've commented on a day I haven't included in the amnesty. If your comments disappear, it's because you have been egregiously naughty. That said, I am going to keep a light hand on the "delete" button today. Plain-speaking men, rejoice!

Now, a letter from a gent:

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

>>Eavesdroppers are welcome to submit topics they think I should address, and only men will be able to comment that day. How exciting!

I think I’ll take you up on this generous offer, considering that your blog is one of the few well-written, sane places on the internet where these topics are discussed. 

I quote a comment from a few days ago:

“I'm a lot more interested in why it seems so much harder for Catholic/Christian men to ask women out than it is for secular men. I for one tend to date more non-believers than believers and while the Catholic men/women I know are surprised at that, it honestly boils down to the fact that the ratio of Catholic men making the first innocent move (such as an invitation to coffee) is dismal as compared to the secular men, at least in my experience.”

The counterpoint to this question would be “Why does it seem so much harder for Catholic/Christian women to accept date invitations than for secular women”? There have been a couple instances when I asked out a Catholic woman and she anxiously mulled it over for days before saying “we don’t know each other well enough to date” or something to that effect. Other Catholic/Christian men have made similar observations, and have noted that secular women accept invitations more readily.

The proper answer to this may be that those aren’t typical women’s reactions and there’s no broad lesson to be learned here. Still, enough men have observed what I’ve observed to possibly make this a topic of broad interest for the blog.

This all might have something to do with the fact that, in [American] Catholic circles, everyone knows you don’t date unless you’re planning to marry and you don’t date anyone you wouldn’t marry… therefore, nobody will date unless they’re sure that they’re ready to marry that person RIGHT NOW… I think both men and women have seen how this logic seems sound but leads to absurd outcomes.

It's Just a Coffee

Dear It's Just a Coffee,

Thank you very much for taking up my offer. That is a brilliant observation, if I may say so. I would not be surprised if this has indeed become a problem in Catholic circles. 

Indeed, so convinced I am that Catholic girls are asked "Coffee?" and hear "Marry me?" that I constantly harangue them that it's just coffee and they should go out and drink some. In your case, I would strongly recommend saying something like "It's not a date. It's a pre-date."

Oh my goodness, I think I have invented a whole new dating category! How to copyright and market it? Hmm....

Grace and peace,

Other gentlemen's letters welcome. As always, I will edit them so that no-one (hopefully) can guess who you, are, even if you comment in the combox.

Update: Notorious eavesdroppers who long for distraction and so keep checking for other guys' comments should leave comments of their own. P.S. The girls asked their questions here.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Eve of Saint Joseph

I am rather excited about tomorrow although now I am wondering if opening the blog to a day (a whole day!) of masculine commentary is a good idea. I was at a party recently with some shamelessly open eavesdroppers, and they complained because I had dropped the Cardinal O posts. They said such an erasure was Orwellian. I said it was not, and explained why. They said my argument was a mess an example of feminine logic. I said that was ridiculous.

"Bless your little heart," said one, and great was the hearty masculine laughter at my expense.

"I'm glad you read my work in such detail," said I. 

Of course, I do wonder now if eavesdroppers, if they are in a terrible thought-bog worrying about the mystery and wickedness of women, cheer up by saying inwardly "Bless her little heart" towards every woman they see on the streets---as I tell you to do regarding men when you are in a thought bog about men.    

At any rate it reminded me of how boisterous men are and how tempted women are so often to feed Ritalin to them all. We often want to hear what men think, and then we are so shocked when we hear it. It's like saying, "Oh, I love seals" and then actually finding yourself swimming among a whole herd of seals and uneasily wondering what they might do.  I mean, you know: men and words.

However, as my blog is read by ladies, presumably it is read by gentlemen, so all will be well. Still, it is the internet, so I think the best way to proceed is to accept only men's comments tomorrow, and allow no immediate female responses. Regular readers (i.e. women) will have a whole day to craft your beautifully thoughtful and kind responses before posting them up on Wednesday. Does that seem fair? 

I think it seems fair because occasionally I have a look to see what those pesky Catholic dating websites are up to, and I know perfectly well men and women  jostle and joust and pout and flirt in the message-boards, and it's all so cutesy and pointless and cowardly and a waste of your $15/month (or whatever) that it makes me ill. 

Tomorrow's exercise is not about making connections but purely about the pure, unrestricted desire to know. Eavesdroppers answer your questions, and eavesdroppers ask their questions. What will they come up with? Or will they refuse to speak at all? Oh well. I suppose their very unpredictability is part of what makes them the caffeine in the cappuccino of life.

Crushingly Busy Day

I will post late or not at all. Emails will be answered in due course. Eavesdroppers' comments will be posted tomorrow.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Open Questions for Girls

I have to write a paper today, so I will just leave the combox open. In anticipation of St. Joseph's Day (Tuesday, March 19), do you have any questions for the few Single Catholic guys who lurk around my blog, reading away even though this is a GIRL BLOG?

Maybe they will deign to answer them for you. They can send me their answers or they can respond in the combox on St. Joseph's Day.

I am trying to think what I would ask the Single Catholic men of the world, and the first thing that comes to mind is "If you are frightened of women, why?"   The second one is "If you are in a drunken fistfight with your pal, does the fistfight solve the dispute or make it worse?"  (This is because I have a quirky interest in boxing, having been a boxer in my younger days, ah me. Triceps to here.)

Anyway, you can be candid, but you must be respectful, and hopefully on Tuesday any boys who chime in will themselves be respectful and think carefully before using any bad words because we are the Most Easily Shocked Women in the Blogosphere and Proud of It.

It always startles me when men suddenly speak up in the combox; I can "hear" writing (hard to explain), and compared to your comments their comments sometimes sound--aesthetically, not intellectually--like cans falling off a shelf. However, on Tuesday we will be prepared for such masculine forthrightness and clamour.

Friday, 15 March 2013

God Bless Francis

Update below.

A reader asked why I haven't mentioned Pope Francis, and since some traddy bloggers are gnashing their teeth and tearing their clothes, I thought I had better acknowledge our new Holy Father before y'all feel scandalized. After all, I did mention the Abdication and the woes of Cardinal O'Brien, although I did take down the Cardinal O'Brien posts. In the case of the Cardinal, I wrote too soon.

Cardinal O'Brien made a public confession of sexual behaviour falling under the standards we expect for priests, bishops and cardinals. The damage this has done to the morale of Scotland's Catholic minority is palpable. And my righteous fury against his clerical accusers now looks stupid.

(I still think it was disgusting of them to go to the papers. Had they stuck to proper channels, they would not have caused incredible misery to the Catholic minority of the UK, especially in Scotland, and dealt what may be a death blow to our traditional marriage movement. Enjoy your chat with St. Peter, boys.)

Writing too soon is a major hazard for bloggers, as Rorate Caeli may find out. And it is always a bad idea to write about something you know absolutely nothing about, e.g. how Pope Francis feels about the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, what Cardinal O'Brien did in his spare time.

"Why on earth," I hear the Catholic readers (i.e. the vast majority) cry,  "are you talking about Cardinal O'Brien when we are celebrating the election of a new pope? Habemus papam, Seraphic!" 

To tell you the truth, I know almost nothing about Pope Francis, so I have nothing to say about him, other than that I hope God blesses him and confounds his enemies and that vocations to the priesthood and the religious life continue to rise and that my own little Latin Mass community heals from the shock of the abdication and the very real hurt we feel over the O'Brien scandal. 

It goes without saying that I pray the Reform of the Reform continues. 

I think traditionalists are still hurting from the abdication: we just love Benedict sooooo much. We love him more than George Weigel loved John Paul 2, and that is saying something. And meanwhile it is not actually traditional for every Catholic in the world to scream "Habemus papam!" at every election. For one thing, nobody outside of Rome or the corridors of power thought that much about the pope until the 19th century. For another, worldwide interest in his daily activities does not predate John Paul 2.

You kids are too young to remember this, but the reaction in St. Peter's Square to John Paul 2 was "Chi?" And the reaction in St. Peter's Square this week was "Chi?" The over-the-top jubilation in St. Peter's Square in 2005 was not because habebamus papam, but because Joseph Ratzinger had been elected, and everyone had known him for years. He represented stability and a continuation, maybe even an acceleration, of the good work of John Paul 2 and a correction of his mistakes. Romans knew not just who Benedict was was but what he was likely to do. He was an old friend. To Rome, Francis is almost a stranger.

The media all said John Paul 2 would be a hard act to follow. Well! Now Francis has to follow Benedict XVI. God bless him.

P.S. Oh, and we in Britain are a teensy-weensy little worried about having to go to war against Argentina again. Keep that in mind if the traddy freaking you out with his/her online moaning is British.

Update: And I don't appreciate one blogger's attempt to impugn my loyalty to the Holy See and sling mud at fellow Catholics by willfully misunderstanding what I said here. This is a blog for Single Catholic women and other Single Woman of Good Will, and the other Single Women of  Good Will are not all that interested in popes. It is not a blog about Church personalities or my faith life. The fact that I prefer the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is beside the point.

Pope Francis himself has pointed out to the media of the world (that includes me) that it is Christ, not the Pope, who should be the focus of our attention.

I wrote about my own (now ex-) archbishop out of feelings of loyalty and anguish, to do something to save his reputation, which was being dragged through the mud before the world, and I wrote about the Abdication because I thought some readers might be shocked and hurting and need words of comfort (which is what my blog is about: words of comfort). A papal election, however, is usually a happy time (if fraught with misinformation and highly subjective first impressions), so I didn't think anyone needed to hear from me until I got an e-mail from a worried reader.

My blog is very much about being rooted in reality and using your head.  I believe it was Thomas Aquinas who said you cannot love someone whom you do not know. I did not love Benedict XVI until I learned more about him, and only conceived genuine feelings of deep affection for him when I saw him in person in Glasgow. And I imagine I may grow to love Francis when I learn more about him, too, and perhaps see him in person. For the time being, I feel only loyalty to Francis because he is the bishop of Rome, and I am a Roman Catholic. I still don't know much about him; I have been extremely busy this week.

Meanwhile I am still really very badly hurt by the O'Brien scandal. We parvuli thought we knew our cardinal, and we really loved him. Really, for the past few weeks, the last people I wanted to think about were cardinals.

And now I have wasted a lot of time I could have spent on paid writing or helping people. 

What is a Gentleman?

So far I have two submissions from Eavesdroppers for our St. Joseph's Day Eavesdropper special.  I hope lots of Eavesdroppers drop in for that, for I am sure we would all enjoy reading their comments in the combox. They will be invited to comment on anything, and indeed, they will be invited to ask readers questions, which I hope you girls will answer respectfully and in a spirit of Christian charity.

Today's topic is about gentlemen, which presumably nice young Catholic Single men and other Single men of good will wish to be. Of course, this is presuming a lot, as maybe they would rather slay the men and steal the horses and have the women flee before them, as was reputedly Genghis Khan's life goal. I don't see how this is compatible with Christian civilization, however.

I know a number of men who act as though they would love to be Genghis Khan but have been robbed of the privilege by feminism. However, I think it is the fifty year old blame of feminism that has inspired their inner Genghisism. One extreme--trying to demasculinize men--has set up another extreme--Inner Genghis.  The female broach of all men-only spaces has led to the creation of spaces on the internet that no woman who cares for her sanity would care to go. 

And this is too bad. There were some serious twentieth century bars to female flourishing that needed to come down, but this was not really supposed to happen at the expense of male flourishing. Better education for girls was not supposed to mean reading problems for boys, or boys being expected to act like girls. However, this has happened, and I think it is unfair. I feel particularly sad for men who were raised almost entirely by women and never had organized all-boy time or places, e.g. boys' schools, boys' clubs, boys' choirs, boys' sports. No wonder there's a manosphere.  

Happily, instead of writing misogynist screeds, many men are fighting back against the feminization of men by adopting an interest in the traditional pursuits, dress and habits of the men who flourished before 1963. And one of the better websites about reclaiming manliness is, of course, The Art of Manliness, which should be as much fun for women to read as Seraphic Singles is for men. All kinds of mysteries are explained and new ones crop up, e.g. why do men get so excited about the weirdest things? 

This is wonderful, but what would not be wonderful would be a return to the masculine pleasures of the past without taking on the masculine responsibilities towards women and children. I think there is a particular danger of this in the United Kingdom where there was a tradition of whole classes of men, e.g. intellectuals and the clergy, not really liking women all that much in the first place, or pretending that they didn't to foster masculine bonhomie. How sad if that gets resurrected instead of the traditional sense that men are called to protect women and children. 

A man who makes women and children feel respected and cherished is to my mind a true gentleman. It's not clothing, though of course a man's clothing can show respect both for himself and for those who have to look at him. It's certainly not tobacco although tobacco, which many women find very unpleasant, provides men with the opportunity to say, "Do you mind if I smoke?"--a signal that he thinks of others.

I had a conversation the other day in which I made the mistake of using the phrase "male social privilege." Saying "male social privilege" can be like waving one's lacy handkerchief at a bull, and at once I was challenged to give an example.

"Men are stronger than women," I said flatly.

"That's not social," said my critic, but subsided.  

But it is social. Because men are stronger than women, men can stroll home from a party after dark, semi-alert for ruffians, but secure in the knowledge that ruffians attack but rarely. But because women are weaker than men, women cannot stroll home from a party after dark secure in the knowledge that ruffians attack but rarely, because if a ruffian did attack, she would be toast. When it comes to matters of life and death, physical strength and personal safety, women are still at a disadvantage.

This is why a true gentleman is the man who sees that a female friend gets home safely. By his mere presence, he provides safety and also rights an glaring injustice: that women must be afraid where men are not.*  

Additional thoughts: God makes men bigger than women so that men will feel protective of women, and God makes children grow taller than their mothers so the mothers can relax and let go. It's not strength and size that make men manly, but how they use that strength and size in service to others. The same goes for women. It's not our softness and size that make us womanly, but how we use our softness and size in service to others.

I wish I could run these thoughts past Saint Edith Stein. (Sigh!)

*Exonerating circumstance: Obviously a man on crutches or a man who is otherwise impaired is exempt from any seeing-female-friends-home duty.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Should Catholics Date Non-Catholics?

This was the last Seraphapalooza question, and a controversial one to be sure. I keep writing and erasing everything I write.

First of all, it's just coffee. Just go for coffee. Have a nice chat and drink the coffee. If you discover halfway through the coffee that he absolutely detests Catholicism, insist on paying your half of the bill and smile when you say good-bye. There are a lot of Catholics out there. You do not have to date people who hate what and whom you love.

Second, you don't have to marry someone just because you had coffee with him once and dinner with him twice. In fact, you don't have to marry someone just because you had dinner with him every Friday night for two years. (It would have been kinder, however, to call it quits rather sooner than that.) Indeed, you don't have to marry someone just because you have been his mistress for the past ten years and have had three of his children although you should consider it if he's actually available.

I do not see any problem with befriending non-Catholics. In fact, we probably should befriend a lot of non-Catholics so as to not get all isolated and triumphalist. This does not mean, however, that we should put up with anti-Catholic sneers. Anyone who sneers at what you love in front of you is not a good friend.

Third, if you don't want to date non-Catholics, don't feel guilty about it. One of the biggest mistakes of my life was allowing myself to be bullied into dating a non-Catholic after I had explained that I had been taught not to date anyone I wouldn't want to marry, and I wouldn't want to marry a non-Catholic. From his reaction, you would have thought he was Dante catching Beatrice in the act of killing a kitten.

Fourth, some Catholics can marry non-Catholics and be delightfully happy, and some cannot. It is up to you to figure out what kind of Catholic you are. I myself have spent enough time with Muslim, Jewish, Anglican, Baptist, Wiccan, agnostic and atheist men to know that I would be miserable if I married a non-Catholic. In fact, I did marry a non-Catholic once, and I was miserable. My house was a mini-Belfast. His clergy were horrified when they heard how we sniped at each other in the back of their car one day. They said they hoped we didn't talk like that at home. Ah ha ha ha.

However, my old pal Boston Girl (of my book) married an American mainline Protestant, and she is very happy. She is still a devout Catholic, and her baby was baptized Catholic, and all is well.

At this point you may be terrified and wondering which kind of Catholic you are, and all I can tell you is that you have to know yourself.  You have to understand which are your core values.

Fifth, when it comes to marriage, core values matter more than religion.

I am reading a very amusing memoir about the tens of thousands of Polish soldiers who made their way to Scotland during the Second World War.  The Scots hastily adopted them and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland laid on tremendous suppers for them, astonished and delighted that Catholics were actually eating their food. Of course there were efforts to convert them to Presbyterianism, but the Poles couldn't speak English and didn't mind the Scots chattering on about whatever while they ate.

When the two or three Scottish Catholics around during World War 2 told the Polish soldiers that they shouldn't be taking food from Scots Protestants, they said they'd rather take food from Scots Protestants than from German Catholics, and considering what the Germans were doing to Poland, you can see their point.

The core values of Polish soldiers in Scotland in 1940 were 1) defeating the Germans 2) eating 3) chasing girls. Although Catholicism ran through their blood (and to some extent was their blood), they had exactly zero interest in the terrific resentment of the Scottish Catholic minority for 400 years of marginalization.

Although you may be a devout Catholic, it may be that your core values do not include agreement with a spouse on religious matters (which Catholic couples do not necessarily have either). It may be more important for you to marry someone of your own ethnic group, or someone of your own political party, or a vegetarian, or a fellow Marine. Social or economic class may matter more to your psyche than sectarian solidarity, and that's just who you are. It's okay.

Sixth, we don't choose our core values. They choose us.  As it happens, one of my own core values is indeed agreement with my spouse on religious matters. This is because I am the eldest child of a very traditional, patriarchal family where the default position was always "Obey Dad." (Fortunately, Dad is a great guy, so the family flourishes.) Therefore it was absolute torture to be married to someone who wanted me to stop being Catholic and be something he thought more classy (i.e. Anglican) instead. I was like those robot women on "Star Trek" whom Captain Kirk tricked into attempting to solve a paradox: my head exploded. Ka-blooey. It took about seven years to put it back together. :-O

Today the Biblical verse "Wives obey your husbands" doesn't trouble me because my mother always obeyed hers, and I find it easiest just to obey my proper Catholic one although I wish he would let me have a guinea pig. So it is a good thing he is a Catholic, and I would not have married him if he weren't. "Catholic" trumps wifely obedience in my psyche ten out of ten times, and when the conversation around my table gets rather nostalgically Anglicanish I roll my eyes and make remarks.

I know that many strong-minded women (I am not strong-minded, just enthusiastic about stuff, which is not the same thing) would be horrified by my docile disposition. However, what can I do? I was basically programmed this way, and I congratulate the strong-minded on their firmness of purpose. I am sure the toughest of them could marry a ranting, raving non-Catholic (or even non-Christian) fundamentalist and just continue being themselves and doing what they want to do and saying "La la la" to his protests and generally being happy.

If you are a strong-minded Catholic woman and are completely bewildered by the whole concept of husbands being the heads of families, let alone of their wives, then certainly go ahead and date non-Catholics. When the time comes (as it almost certainly will), give them The Talk with gusto and drama.

Update: My conscience just told me to add that before the Second Vatican Council, the Church very much discouraged mixed marriages. It was believed that mixed marriages could lead to the deterioration of the Catholic spouse's faith and to the eventual apostasy of the children born to the marriage.

After the Second Vatican Council, the Church more-or-less encouraged mixed marriages as a beautiful symbol of Christian Unity or what have you. The result has sometimes been the deterioration of the Catholic spouse's faith and the eventual apostasy of the children born to the marriage. However, I know families in which the strong faith of one spouse has inspired the children to be true to their faith and the combined influence of spouse and children wafted the non-Catholic spouse into the fold. Of course, there is no faster way to make children despise religion than parents who scream at each other because of religious differences.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Those Confusing Foreign Guys

We are nearing the end of the Seraphapalooza questions, and have come to the question about dealing  with confusing foreign guys. What a treat! So exciting and so much to say! Where do I even begin?

I shall begin by saying that although everyone is unique, everyone belongs to a culture and all men are men. Therefore, although everyone is unique, everyone, consciously or unconsciously, acts according to what is normal for their culture and all men are going to be extremely influenced by their masculinity. Migrants can become bi-cultural, and how successful we are at this has something to do with our age. As a mid-life migrant to Scotland, I will always sound Canadian, but I no longer worry I am now surrounded by alcoholics.  

Social life is all about encountering people who are different from you and trying to get along with them anyway. This is particularly challenging, however, when they are so different because A) they are men and B) they are foreigners--real foreigners, born in a country different from your country.  Perhaps they are visiting your country. Perhaps you are visiting their country. Perhaps they are recent  immigrants. Perhaps you are the recent immigrant. At any rate, you and they may have different social expectations. You may have have radically different senses of humour and radically different senses of what is appropriate. My very first boyfriend of the "would you consider marrying me" variety was from the Middle East. He once shocked the stuffing out of me by glaring at an oblivious stranger on the Toronto subway and hissing, "Jewishhhhh....!


Poor old Aziz worked in a hotel and got hit on a lot by women guests, apparently, and so had a very one-sided view of what Canadian women were like. He was greatly surprised that eighteen year old Canadian Seraphic was a lot more like young women in his country than like the women he had met in my country. In retrospect that must have been nice for him although personally I got tired of having to give him The Talk over and over again. Also in retrospect, he might have found The Talk reminiscent of home, too. It probably led to the marriage proposal, to which I replied "We'll see," but even at eighteen I was not so confident Muslim-Catholic marriages are a recipe for happiness. 

But I digress, and the point of that anecdote is to illustrate that foreign guys have ideas about the women of your country that may have been caused by actual sexual encounters with women of your country (or po*n produced there). And this is why I heartily recommend dressing like women in whatever country you may be visiting, so as not to stand out too much from local women. (I don't mean national costumes: I mean the actual reality of what women of your age and education wear.) In your own country or in conversations abroad,  I recommend firmly arguing against whichever misconceptions foreign men may have about you based on what they have heard about or experienced in your country. Just because foreigners have heard Swedish schools have sex education programs that would make our heads explode does not mean Swedish girls are easy.  

[Update: Other men will just proceed according to how women are like in their country. I remember being chatted up after Mass by a Latin American, who took me out on a very job-interview like date at a doughnut shop. I never saw him again until we accidentally met on one of his subsequent trips to the doughnut shop. This time he was with a young woman who looked rather like me. Of course, I have no evidence, but I think he was simply doing what we wish all Catholic boys would do, and simply picking girls out from girls who go to Mass and taking them to doughnut shops for a coffee to see if we were marriageable. Ah ha ha ha! Okay, it is also funny, but good for him. ]

This reminds me that most of us know very little about foreign cultures and mindsets, and I have discovered that one of the best ways of figuring them out--because we don't usually know enough to know which questions to ask the foreign guy before us--is to read travel guides, particularly the travel guides for business people. I hasten to add that these guides are about REAL foreigners, and not the fifth generation Japanese-American you have a crush on. A fifth generation Japanese-American is not Japanese but American.  Same goes for the second generation Polish-Canadian--not 2013 Polish, just Canadian with perhaps some 1980s conceptions of Polishness. The guides may be helpful in the case of young men who have just migrated, and I believe they most definitely are when it comes to foreign students and tourists. 

Another source of information, and quite hilarious information, too, can be found on our dear friend the internet, as adventurous English-speaking girls cut a swath through the men of the world and publish their findings online. If you are lucky, you will find a long comment stream of the reflections of outraged English-speaking foreign men underneath. Here is a very funny Der Spiegel article I read years ago on the subject of German men. It is not exhaustive, believe me. 

(Seraphic's Number One Tip about German men, gleaned from experience and conversations with Foreign Girlfriends of Germans after German class: never say anything bad about Germany. No matter how much a German man complains about Germany--and they do--never agree. Tell him all the things you love about Germany and don't budge. Germany=perfection. Then you'll get along with German men.)

People often behave very oddly on holiday, which they often see as a suspension from reality. And this is why you must be careful about men on holiday you meet in your own cities, and about men you meet when you are on holiday. My best friend in high school was seized by an elevator boy  when she was on the school trip to Turkey. She was only 16 or so, and since the elevator boy was cute and she didn't know what else to do, she made out with him in the elevator. She also got at least one marriage proposal from a waiter. Men who work in service jobs in Egypt, Turkey and other such places are often absolutely desperate to get out and they see female tourists as tickets to earthly paradise, so watch it. 

Meanwhile, some vacation hotspots in the Mediterranean, like the Greek islands, have contests regarding which man has managed to bed the most foreign women that season. Now, if hordes of middle-aged German and British women throw themselves at local men when they are on holiday, imagine young Frenchmen, young Germans, young Irishmen, et alia, when they come to your town. So don't get snookered by a cute accent.  

Of course you will occasionally fall in love on holiday. Come to think of it, that is why I am married now. However, most of the time holiday romances are very short and trying to spin them out past one's departure date just an exercise in frustration. It's much better just to honour the happy memory of a holiday romance and possibly to write a book about it. That reminds me, I just got a postcard from Volker. 

Finally, foreign students. Ah, foreign students.  I once was a foreign student, and most of the time I hated it, although that was because I was a Canadian in the USA, which is completely unlike any other kind of foreignness, unless it is like being Austrian or Swiss in Germany. (I loved being a foreign student in Germany.)  To understand men who are foreign students, it is wise to consult, not only businessmen's guide to social etiquette abroad, but the university literature for foreign students telling them how they may be feeling. Foreign students go through a long and painful psychological thing. 

It is a bad idea to ask foreign students who have been in your country for only six months if they are planning to settle in your country. At six months, the foreign student may be in the grip of homesickness and culture shock and get angrier than he might later at the  very idea that he would give up his own beloved nation for your slum of hamburger-munchers. There really is no reason to ask such a question until you are actually dating and, frankly, I have a lot more hope for European Union relationships working out than transatlantic ones. Europe is a small place and European travel relatively inexpensive. The same goes for Canadian-American relationships, since Canadians and Americans have border-hopping in the blood and most Canadians live within 200 km of the American border. 

I could go on forever, but I don't think the nerves of all my foreign guy eavesdroppers can take much more, so I shall stop now. The one thing I will add, since I married a Foreign Guy, is that B.A, who is Scottish, and I, who have a third-generation Scottish-Canadian mother, have distinct cultural ISSUES that we are still working out. It turns out that anglophone Canadians really do still have a distinct culture after all.  Now, to the combox! 

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The Guy Who Gets Stuck at Texting

One of the questions at Seraphapalooza concerned the the guy who keeps contacting a girl--with texts, emails, maybe even phone calls--but never asks her out.

And here is where the techno-generation gap opens before my feet because I have never encountered this problem myself. Men and women of my generation pick up telephone receivers, push buttons or dial a wheel, and talk. When we were teenagers, that was what we had, and so that is what we know how to do.

Sure, in the 80s and 90s, men could write letters, but they rarely did. Postal delivery in my town was such that it would be very eccentric and risky to ask a girl out by letter, and only a complete weirdo would write "What's up?" on a postcard and pay 40 cents for the privilege of posting it to a girl.

But times have changed and no longer do men have to actually pick up a phone, push buttons and talk to a real live girl through the receiver.  They can send endless little notes that many a girl feels she is expected to answer almost at once. Back in the days of verbal phoning, a man might find himself talking to an answering machine instead, and as he would assume the woman was out, she could reply at her leisure. Calling three times or more in rapid succession was socially unacceptable and made a guy look like a lunatic.

Those were the days! And sometimes I remember that I am a member of that generation and just throw aside computer and mobile phone, grab the house phone and just call somebody up. I do this especially when I have a question and I need the answer now.

I happen to know how difficult it is to call the apple of one's eye and ask it out on a date because I have occasionally done that, back in the days before I realized how pointless it is to ask men out on first or second dates. And therefore I do not have loads of sympathy for men who are too timid to call women up and ask them out although I understand that they have been coddled and protected from the scary, scary challenge by texting.

One of the difficulties about the guy who keeps contacting but never asks out is that a girl gets neither the chance to reject or to accept his advances. Possibly that's the whole point. Maybe some guys who just like to hang around getting a buzz from proximity to a girl without having either to go away or  to commit to an actual evening out together. And if you suspect a guy is like this, you might want to consider telling him to buzz off.

Here is a magical phrase: "Well, and what can I do for you today/this evening?" In the days of rotary phones, it was assumed that when a man called a woman, he called not to chat like one of her woman friends but for some purpose, for some business-like task. The phrase "Well, and what can I do for you today?" was a polite way of asking, "Why did you call?"

I recommend, then, that if a guy sends you short texts saying things like "Whtsup" that you reply with "?" In short, derail pointless texting and thus force male interlocutors into actually having a reason to contact you. If you don't actually like the guy who keeps sending you texts, text back "Very busy 2day."

Do remember that your social time is your own and you do not have to lavish it on anyone upon whom you do not want to lavish it. There are time-tested and true ways of telling men to get to the point or to buzz off, should you want them to buzz off.  "And what can I do for you today?" said with a smile or a :-) leaves the door open to a guy asking you out. "Pardon me, Scooter, I'm really busy right now" tells Scooter to buzz right off. Indeed, he will recognize this expression from the primary female in his life, his mother.

I would be particularly grateful today for the suggestions of readers with well-honed text management skills.

By the way, I thought this article was spot on, so great thanks to Cordi for sending it in. In my auntish opinion, it should be required reading for men. In a sane world, health teachers would be allowed to hand it out in high schools without both the Junior and Senior branches of the Feminist Brigade going into hysterics because reality is so embarrassing and politically incorrect.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Over to You on the Subject of "Nice Guys"

I am in active auntie mode today, rushing about doing active work of a motherly nature for 20-somethings in slight difficulties, so I have not been able to blog. Therefore, I will pass on today's question to you: How to deal with so-called "Nice Guys" who are not so nice?

One example of a Nice Guy who is not so nice is the guy who says, "I'm a Nice Guy, but I don't think I should be anymore because women  like only men who are rotten to them."

I am reasonable sure I have written about this twice before, but it was one of the Seraphapalooza questions, so I throw it out there today.

By the way, in honour of the two gentlemen who donated to my Emergency Canadian fund, I will have an Eavesdropper Edition on this blog on March 19, for it is St. Joseph's Day. Eavesdroppers are welcome to submit topics they think I should address, and only men will be able to comment that day. How exciting!

Of course, how foolish I will look if no Eavesdropper takes up this extremely generous offer.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Happy Mothering Sunday... all the spiritual mothers in the UK and Ireland.

I shall spend it feeding a dozen or so people, so now I must go and make a lot of food.  In the UK and Ireland, Mothering Sunday always coincides with Laetare Sunday, so some of this food will be liturgical pink.

Happy Laetare Sunday to all (except Cath who holds that every Sunday is Easter and the liturgical year a papist pomp, not that she would use those words.)


Friday, 8 March 2013

Like a Brother

One of the questions asked at Seraphapalooza concerned girls who act imprudently towards a man because "he's like my brother!"

This was one of the more disapproving questions, i.e. one obviously about Other Girls and not about the questioners, so I will proceed carefully. For one thing, many girls and guys do indeed have "brother-sister" relationships which they both acknowledge. Sometimes when a girl says "he's like my brother", the para-brother is all smiles and quick to assure any other pretty girl around that "she's like my sister."

He's only like your brother if he thinks you are like his sister.  And unless he has actually told you (or other women) that you are like a sister, you aren't. You are a potential mate. (Oh, how exciting to write the words "potential mate" at 9:36 in the morning. That should wake everyone up.)

And, therefore, if you do not have a scrap of romantic interest in some guy, it is not kind to shriek "Snuggles!" and throw yourself in his arms unless he thinks you are "like his sister" or his heart is covered in rawhide. It is also not kind to wander about him in a state of partial undress or, if he has no wife or girlfriend, to pour your heart out to him about your man troubles. 

Because I can hear Alisha's shrieks of protest from afar, I will acknowledge that the entertainment community is incredibly huggy and kissy and snuggly and, for all I know, whole casts of musicals cuddle down under a duvet together to watch "A Star is Born" on TV. But I don't think this is such a great idea for anyone else. I realize that I am ruining the fun for various Catholic guys who think actually it would be great to cuddle with a whole lot of girls under a duvet watching TV, as long as another guy didn't touch them by accident, but too bad. I live in the UK, where no guy but my husband ever hugs me, so I have no time for your polygamous duvet yearnings. 

In short, just because a girl thinks a guy is (or should be) as sexless as a muppet doesn't mean he actually is, so take care and have some respect. This does not mean creeping about in fear because some innocent soul will be damned to hell if he sees your knees. It mostly means not rubbing up against a guy like a cat and then dashing his erotic hopes by saying, "Oh, but you're like my brother!"

For the record, I have a super-formal Anglo-Saxon family, and the adults hug about twice a year. If I laid my head on one of my brothers' shoulders, he would think there was something seriously wrong with me. Meanwhile, if in close quarters and scantily clad, we wrap ourselves in long Afghan blankets crocheted by my mother which trail behind us like the more dramatic togas. I never got why brother = super-casual affectionate behaviour, but I realize families are different.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Single Women in China

Second post of the day, thanks to a male fellow blogger, whom I will not name, lest he be embarrassed to be discovered reading a girl blog.

As you can imagine, the one-child-only policy of China has led to a shortage in women, something very sad for Chinese men who have discovered that there aren't that many women available to marry. And therefore there is a new kind of pressure on Chinese women to marry.

It is pretty disgusting for a supposed women's magazine to tell women that they are "old" by the time they are studying for an MA or PhD, old like "yellowed pearls." Outrageous.  Dear Chinese dictators, thanks to your stupid policies, Chinese women are in relatively scarce supply. Your little mind games will not change this situation, and who would want to marry a completely spoiled "Little Emperor" anyway?

My fellow blogger found the chart "scary" because it shows how many Single British women there are, although I am not sure why this is scary, unless one envisions those British women as desperately alone and sad eating peaches in tins over the sink after a luckless night down at the bars. However, that's not how I envision most British Single women, at least not the ones I know.

Golden Age of Dating

I think it must be dating week here on Seraphic Singles, which strikes me as a bit of an anachronism, although who can say? What seems ludicrously out-of-date in New York City may be just ordinary life in Rolling Prairie, Indiana and Kielce, Małopolska Swietokrzyskie. And I never went on a date with B.A., not really. I just arrived in the Edinburgh bus station via Toronto and London, and when he asked if I wanted to eat in the city or back at the Historical House, I said "I want a meat pie and a pint of ale." Frankly, I don't remember who paid.

My mother's parents most definitely went on dates in the 1930s. I cannot remember where they went for these dates. I only remember that my grandmother's family home was a long walk from the bus stop, and it was a long (and in winter extremely cold) wait for the bus, and my grandfather's marriage proposal was, "Well, I'm tired of walking back to the bus stop. We should get married."

My guess is that the 1930s was the golden age of dating, and here is a lovely Polish song to celebrate it. I will provide a translation underneath. A cynical Polish man of my acquaintance commented on how much Eugeniusz (the singer's name is Eugeniusz) is shelling out for some girl who might break up with him. However, I  myself am not so cynical that I do not find the song very sweet.

(The singer is listening to the radio.)

Translation of first verse and refrain:

8:04, some record.
8:10, someone is reading something.
It's not important. Today she is most important.
First--seven o'clock, three o'clock, five o'clock...
Someone confused everything for me today,
but one thing, one thing I know.

I have arranged to meet her at nine.
I miss her so much already.
Soon I will ask for an advance from the boss.
I will buy her a [corsage] of roses.
Then the cinema, the patisserie and the walk
in the moonlit bright night
and we will be happy, cheerful
until midnight separates us
and I will make an appointment to see her at nine,
at nine just like today.

Why nine, I simply do not know. Frankly, I think it must be because "dziewiąta" (9:00) scans better than "siódma" (7:00) or "ósma" (8:00).

Ah, the 1930s. Comic books about Archie Andrews first came out in 1941, and the characters were based on people their creator met while travelling around the American Mid-West, presumably before that. Given the continued popularity of Archie comics among children, especially girl children, my guess is that our first impressions of teenage life and dating come from dear Archie, Betty and Veronica, who were teenagers before the Second World War. How sad to discover that life is not as it is in Archie Comics. Alas, alas.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Seraphic Singles Dating Manifesto

Dating culture is before us in pieces, and it up to men and women of good will to put it back together again. And therefore I propose my dating manifesto, in the hopes that it will miraculously catch on and improve the lives of Single people immeasurably.

Preamble: Men and women are made in the image and likeness of God and therefore must be treated with dignity and never as a means to an end,  e.g. a free dinner, a sexual adventure. God having ordained that men and women should be "fruitful and multiply," the natural end of the human being is marriage although God may call upon a human being to forego that natural end to assist his or her spiritual end, which is happiness with God forever.

Over the centuries, courtship has taken many forms or, when parents arranged marriages for their children, dispensed with altogether. It is worth noting that from the earliest days of the Christian community, Single life, particularly consecrated Single life, has been privileged over marriage, and therefore it has been recognized that there are not only spiritual joys, but spiritual sacrifices, involved in the married state. (Even after Vatican II, Catholic marriage ceremonies feature special prayers over the bride.) And therefore it behooves men and women not to hold themselves cheaply, and be willing to do anything in the hope of marriage, but to consider carefully whether they ought to marry and whom they should marry.

Traditionally, perhaps for reasons as psychological as they are cultural, it has been the difficult privilege of men to court women for marriage. There have been, of course, exceptions to this rule, e.g.  as the heir to the throne, Princess Elizabeth (now H.M. the Queen ) had to propose to Philip of Greece (now the Duke of Edinburgh). But there is no denying that this rule has caused pain to women, who feel that if only they could openly pursue their chosen love interest, their suit would be successful. This is, in fact, sometimes true. However, it is rather often not, particularly when it comes to men who are sick of being chased by women.

Crikey. I do not think I can keep up this tone all morning.

In short, we need some rules, so here they are:

1. Whoever asks, pays.

2. Seraphic Singles do not ask men out on first, second or third dates. Seraphic Singles invite them to their  parties and make sure they are fed, watered and having a good time. Whenever tempted to ask out a crush object, they have a party and invite him to that.

If asked (at a party, say) by the crush object's pal if she likes the crush object, she should say that she thinks he's great and leave it at that.

3. Seraphic Singles cheerfully go on as many first dates that are offered by kindly men of good reputation whom they like in the knowledge that although a man might not look like Ryan Gosling now, he might look like Ryan Gosling later, should Cupid's arrow strike. In short, it's just a coffee.

4. Seraphic Singles signal that they are willing to consider a man a potential boyfriend and not "just a friend" by not paying on the first date. If by the end of the first date she knows without a shadow of a doubt that she does not like him at all, she should insist on splitting the cheque.

5. Seraphic Singles signal that they are not just spending time with a man for the free food and treats (should there be any doubt on this score, e.g. in a very economically depressed area like a university or a ghetto) by occasionally offering to pay for something, e.g. on a second venue on a second date, i.e. the popcorn stand after the ticket booth or the cafe after the restaurant.

That said, if a man ever complains about the money he spent on dates that were his idea, then he is a toad. And if a man as much as hints that he expects sexual favours in return for the money he has spent, he is a super-toad and the Seraphic Single tells him off and never speaks to him again.

6. Seraphic Singles do not go to men's houses for dates, nor do they invite them into their own houses for dates or after dates, unless the house is ablaze with light and brimming with relations or housemates. (Taking pity on a heavy smoker for whom restaurants were agony, I once agreed to come to his house for supper, but said I had to bring a chaperone. He was so super-trad, he was delighted. My chaperone wore flowing black draperies and brought her own cigarettes.)

7. Seraphic Singles despise the Third Date Rule. However, three dates is enough time to decide if one wants to continue seeing a man or not. If a Seraphic Single wants to continue seeing a man after the third date, then she should wait to see if he asks her out for a fourth date, and only after that start thinking about (A) the future (B) initiating dates (C) paying for dates (see Number 1).

8. Seraphic Singles are careful to listen for clues that a man believes that the Third Date, not marriage, is when modern men and women have sex. For example, if a man says the following, don't agree to a third date: "Well, we can go to only so many cafes and restaurants. Why don't you come to my house on Friday night?"

9. Seraphic Singles resist the temptation of being a career girlfriend, dating a man for a year or two and then dumping him when he gets boring. A Seraphic Single breaks up with a man as soon as she realizes she really does not want to marry him, and in the case of adults-out-of-education this really must not take more than a year.  A Seraphic Single also resists the delicious drama of lovers' triangles and racking up as many male hearts as she can break before her reputation has more holes in it than a target in the local rifle range. A Seraphic Single is kind.

10. Seraphic Singles resist the fate of being made into career girlfriends. If the subject of marriage has not come up in conversation within a year of her first date with her boyfriend, a Seraphic Single needs to bring it up herself. The conversation does not have to be a marriage proposal; it just has to be an indication that marriage is on the cards.

11. Seraphic Singles do not write love letters, love emails, love texts or love tweets to state how they really feel and to clear the air. I wonder if I burned that agonized note from that seminarian or whether I will still have it in 30 years when he is an archbishop and I am dead broke. Hmm... Hmm... Actually, I think I burned it.

12. Seraphic Singles do not persecute men with their attentions or yell at non-boyfriends for not being sufficiently attracted to, attentive to, or in love with them. They imagine how much they would hate it if men did that to them and keep a firm hold of themselves.

13. Seraphic Singles do not knowingly go on first or second dates with discerners or seminarians, even if the seminarian is on summer holiday and his bishop supposedly told him to date. If while dating a man he becomes a discerner, a Seraphic Single is within her rights to break up with him or "support him with her loving friendship" as she chooses. If he becomes a seminarian, she breaks up with him.

14. Seraphic Singles do not give men-not-their-relations gifts except on very special occasions, and then only very modest, inexpensive presents. A Seraphic Single never inadvertently gives a man the impression that she is trying to buy him. Silver cigarette cases are right out.

15. Seraphic Singles never, ever judge their worth by how many times they are asked out on a date, or if they have ever been asked out on a date. If feeling blue about this whole datelessness thing, a Seraphic Single organizes a party.

Update: I think I should remind everyone that it seems that dating is in itself less frequent for the young now than it was for previous generations, including my own, as more and more men are more and more reluctant to marry until they are much older. Therefore many of these rules, though I think they are practical in themselves, may prove to be more theoretical than anything else.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Who Pays Redux

In my book, there is a discussion of the thorny issue of who pays on a date.  Someone suggested to me recently that it is absolutely unfair and ridiculous for men to constantly buy dinners for women who have just as much, or more, expendable income than they.

"But it's symbolic," I argued. "It doesn't have to be a lot! Although I admit if  he takes her to an expensive restaurant, that could be impressive."

"Oho," said my esteemed colleague, as if I had just admitted to knowing how the murder was done.

"But it might not," I added and explained that many women are very uncomfortable with men who throw the cash around and suspect they might be trying to buy them. My mother only ever let me accept flowers, books, candy---and trinkets, I now recall.

I feel rather guilty now about the many dinners I ate at the expense of others, and now rather wish I hadn't, but had stayed in with a book or done more homework. My usual argument is that women spend a lot of money getting ready for a date with someone we really like, and if we were to spend all that AND pay for the dinner the guy asked us to, then we would end up paying more than him, for something that was his idea, and this would be crazy.

My revised thought is that "Whoever asks, pays" is a great rule, and doesn't really violate my earlier thoughts, since I don't think women should ask men out on dates. Women can, however, invite men to their parties, which of course the hostesses themselves have to finance.

That said, there is nothing wrong with saying, "Why don't I get this?" if a date should move from one venue to another. For example, if Mr Date has invited you out to dinner (which still happens occasionally, even in these decadent times) and you both decide to have coffee somewhere else, then you can proffer your little wallet at the cafe and squeak, "I'll get this."

This is how the conversation would go in Canada:

She: I'll get this.

He: Oh, no. Allow me.

She: No, no. You paid for dinner. Please let me get coffee.

He: Oh, but you don't have to. Really

She: But I'd like to. Honestly.

He: Well, thank you/No, I've got it.

N.B. If a guy rejects your third offer to pay for coffee, don't insist. Subside prettily and then go home and debate with your friends about whether or not Mr Date is an old-fashioned guy who loves to pay on dates or if he is a control freak and if you really like him and if actually not having to pay ever would be a massive relief or an erasure of your autonomy.

I should mention that this is how the conversation would go in Canada back when everybody seemed to have a lot more expendable income. It occurs to me that the explosion of "hanging out" and the rumoured death of dating may have to do with economics. I love to say "It's just coffee," but maybe it isn't "just coffee" when a cappuccino now costs £4 and everyone is poor.

Perhaps the message to get across is that dating is not about spending money but merely about symbolic courtship gestures. A single flower, for example, does not cost very much, but it is still an absolutely huge deal if a nice young man gives a nice young lady who likes him a single flower. To hold a Single woman's coat when she is struggling to get into it is now so rare as to constitute a gesture of personal interest. A valentine cut from red paper (very cheap at the dollar store) given at any time of the year would thrill anyone love-besotted.

I do not recommend homemade poetry, however, except for published poets. Men should stick to what they know when it comes to the homemade gift department, and very few men know how to write a poem. VERY FEW.

Meanwhile, since dates have to happen somewhere, I believe there are incredible deals to be had for students at dozens of houses of culture (e.g. the symphony) and I know that many museums (like in Edinburgh) are free. If I were an enterprising young man in Edinburgh, I would invite whichever pretty girl who caught my eye for coffee at the place on George IV Bridge that has half-price pastries after 3 PM and then suggest a visit to the nearby Royal Museum of Scotland, which is free.  The Royal Museum of Scotland has a dead Viking in the floor; surely every woman would love to see the Royal Museum of Scotland. Several times. But if she admits she was at the Museum yesterday, well, the deliciously creepy Black Greyfriars cemetery is even nearer.

Actually, a walk in Greyfriars is a rather good idea, especially if one enjoys being clutched by terrified women, e.g. at horror films. Whereas horror films are fake and expensive, Greyfriars is real and free.

Once upon a time, e.g. before the Second World War, dating was not called dating but "walking out." It took its name from what the date consisted of, which was going for a walk. The walk might end up at a tea shop, or it might not, but at any rate walking was free. The point then, as is the point now, was not the expense of the whole proceedings, but the symbolic gesture of asking a woman to go for a walk and the time shared together.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Even More Sad News from Edinburgh

I'm glad I was with friends when we got the new bad news. The Cardinal hasn't admitted to the allegations and, really, only the only allegations from this guy (still anonymous, still over 50) have become clearer. But the Cardinal has confessed that at times his "sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of [him] as a priest, bishop and cardinal."

That's really sad, and it's also sad that he had to make a public admission of this instead of just taking it to the confessional, like everyone else whose sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of him or her as a Catholic, according to his or her state in life.

I don't know if he ever did those things whatever-it-was to/with those priests who complained decades later, although it certainly seems more likely now. I don't know if they say he apologized to them at the time. Obviously to all today, if your spiritual director touches you inappropriately, tries to kiss you and tells you out-of-the-blue he that he loves you, he owes you an apology. And obviously if a priest makes lewd remarks to other priests, or a bishop makes lewd remarks to priests, whom he may think of as friends, but are also his subordinates, he owes them apologies. And maybe, if these things happened, Cardinal O'Brien did apologize and did go to confession. As yet we have no way of knowing. 

I mention these allegations because as personally damaging as inchastity is, it seems to me that attempting inchastity with students and subordinates is much worse than just inchastity in general, with self, friends or friendly strangers, or (maybe) prostitutes. Meanwhile, all that Cardinal O'Brien has admitted to, right now, is inchastity. 

Of course Catholics would prefer it that priests, bishops and cardinals did not commit any sexual sins whatsoever. We'd prefer it if nobody did. We'd prefer it if we didn't. But, sadly, a lot of us do.  And unless we are dragged up on the carpet because these sins happened in the context of work, we confess them to a priest in the confessional, and not to the entire world 

As for those saying that the Cardinal is a hypocrite just for having sexual sins on his conscience, they might want to remember what he said back in 2005, when he was defending the presence of gay teachers in Catholic schools: "I don't have a problem with the personal life of a person as long as they are not flaunting their sexuality." He may be a sexual sinner, but I don't think he's a hypocrite. 

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Another Glimpse into Hell

I want to get this over with as soon as possible. In short, a reader sent me a link into the black heart of the manosphere to read a post on seducing virgins. It was simply the most disgusting thing I have read for a very long time. It was like listening to the chuckling of demons.

My response was to thank God that, so far as I know, I know only decent men, good men who would never target, trick, hurt, exploit and discard young, inexperienced women and then brag about it online. 

Your fellow reader thought someone should expose the tactics of these freaks, which work along the same lines as negging. Frankly, I don't even want to think about them, but I'll do it because it fills me with horror that such men exist and of course they get away with such things. One of the men in the combox claimed he was operating in Poland. He was amazed at how many 20 year old virgins there are in Poland. I hope he is caught by Polish guys and beaten within an inch of his life.

So here are the tactics. (I'm certainly not linking to the post!) By the way, I would like to remind you for about the twelfth time that you should not tell anyone except your mother, doctor, confessor (if necessary) and your fiance, if you have one, if you are a virgin or not. Do not bring it up in conversation with your female friends because there is a strong chance they will talk about it later, perhaps around male friends, who will tell their male friends...

The Demons' Tactics:

1. Express disappointment that the girl is a virgin. The freak author goes on and on to his victim about how he's only into "fun sex" and how sex with virgins is such a drag.  (I assume this is to shock and confuse her if hitherto everyone has been telling her what a special thing virginity is. This is also to insult her and make her feel less valuable.) 

2. Tease her about it. He says things like "How can you have lived twenty percent of your life without experiencing the greatest thing on earth?" 

3. Tell her he would not want to have sex with a virgin. In a caring way, he tells his victims that they should find someone who will do it in a caring way. He simply doesn't want the responsibility, blah, blah, blah, blah.

4. Put up with the initial awkwardness and physical suffering of the girl as an investment in the (short-term) future. This was the most disgusting part, so be warned. In short, the demon disguised as a human being knows perfectly well that sex is a learned skill. It is not necessarily enjoyable the first time or the second. However, said the DDAHB, if you plan to keep the girl around for at least a month, after the boredom and the hassle of early sex you will be able to get her to do all kinds of sex acts that more experienced women wouldn't do because she is too inexperienced to know what is normal. She will be eager to please, etc., etc.   

The reader sent me to this post because guys have tried these tactics on her, although at the time she did not know they were tactics. She says she would have been devastated if she had succumbed to them and read this post later, so I hope anyone who has succumbed to these things and is feeling wretched will now go and talk to a good friend or good priest about it.  

The reader also wanted to know what I would say to this post, so here is what I have to say.

1. "Game" tactics work on some women and not on others, and this doesn't seem to have anything to do with how smart, educated, religious, high-earning, kindly or beautiful they are. Some women fall for them, and others do not. End of.

I believe they work because they are confusing. They mess with a woman's expectations so that her brain scurries around trying to sort everything out and putting everything back into order, as in Tetris. Lots of women got almost addicted to Tetris. 

It is confusing and unsettling when a guy talks casually and flippantly about such a personal thing as a girl's virginity. It is confusing and unsettling when a guy says it is a bad thing a guy should run from, not a precious thing he (like Don Giovanni) covets or (like a man who loves you) honours. It is confusing and unsettling when a man tells you he's a bad guy, not a good guy, because would a really bad guy tell you that he was a bad guy?

Yes. A bad guy will tell you anything to get laid. ANYTHING. Anything they think will work, and thanks to Game and the internet, the kind of men who think women are living sex dolls share their miserable store of magic words.  

3. And this is one of the reasons why I am adamant that teenagers and young women should not tell anyone other than your mothers, your doctors, your confessors (if necessary) and your fiances (should you have one) that you are still virgins. The subject should just not come up. Ever. If the subject does come up in casual conversation, you should consider keeping the guy who brought it up at arm's length. 

I realize that by saying this I am standing up against a lot of professional chastity educators, purity rings, and the whole "I'm a Virgin and Proud" movement. Yes. I think they are moronic. If you put your head over a parapet, expect it to be shot at. It's okay one thing for married old toughies like me to be attacked; it's another for inexperienced, innocent and sweet teenage and twenty-something girls who just want to be loved. Old married ladies have a lot of armour; young Single girls, not so much.

4. You should also--this was mentioned at Seraphapalooza--keep away from occasions for sin. A cute funny guy whom you still like and think is cool and funny even after he has told you he would never have sex with a virgin because he prefers "fun sex" is a walking occasion for sin.

As we are all sexual beings, we all have to be humble. No matter how good and pure others tell us we are, we are all subject to sexual temptation, and the reason why we are not tempted, if we aren't, is not because we are all that and a bag of chips but because a serious occasion for sin hasn't arrived yet. So when one does, get out of there. 

5. Meanwhile, don't chase men. Game tactics are all about a man chasing a woman while pretending not to, creating just enough interest so that the woman, craving his approval, will chase him. If you train yourself not to chase men, not to pick up the phone, not to send him the text, you will be safer from the tactics of the demons of the post I hope soon to expunge from my memory.

At theology school we were warned against seeing demons in human beings. However, community standards rule that I can't use bad language. And believe me, whoever the guys on that post are, Satan is definitely calling the shots in their lives.   

Friday, 1 March 2013

Where Were You?

I wasn't going to say anything about the Papal Abdication, as it is rather OT for this blog and it is more specifically a Catholic thing, but where were you on Thursday night at 8 PM Rome time (7 PM GMT)?

B.A. and I were in a house chapel, hearing Mass. We and our friends all seem to have different opinions of what was going on with the hall clock chimed seven o'clock. I think we were singing the Agnes Dei, but I could be wrong. My thoughts were all over the place.

Afterwards we went to a dinner party to celebrate the pontificate. It was splendid, and it certainly cheered me up.

Talking Boundaries

One question that came up during Seraphapalooza was about boundaries. How much should girls in romantic relationships share about those relationships with their Single friends and acquaintances?

And my feeling is, practically nothing.

I'll go easy on the truly love-struck. Chatty people love to talk about the people they love. It probably increases our endorphins. Chatty new mothers prattle about their babies. Chatty grandmothers bring out the photos of their grandchildren. Chatty teenage girls interpret the utterances of their idols with the enthusiasm of graduate students of linguistics. Chatty professors go on too long about their star students. When we were engaged, B.A. talked about me so much one of his friends told him he had to stop or he wouldn't be invited round any more.

But the truly love-struck, though dull, tend to tell us happy things. It's the people who have gone past the shallow sugar-coating of the creme brule that is Human Relationship who tend to tell us things that make us squirm.

We really should not be saying personal things about our boyfriends and husbands to anyone else without a really, REALLY good reason. A really good reason is that one has grown afraid of one's boyfriend or husband and wants another woman's opinion. Another good reason is that one is not sure how to handle a boyfriend's or husband's sexual demands and wants another woman's opinion. A less compelling, but still valid, reason is that one is unsure how to get along with her boyfriend's or husband's family.

These conversations are best held in private with ONE woman friend, perhaps a best friend, or an older married woman, substitute-aunt, friend. Super personal information about boyfriends or husbands, i.e. men who trust you not to make them laughingstocks, is not good material for girls-together-having-drinks. It is just as horrible for a woman to share intimate details about a man with a group of women as it is for a man to share intimate details about a woman with a group of men.  

Meanwhile, I think it is incredibly insensitive to have any complaining conversation about a boyfriend with a woman who has no boyfriend and about a husband with a woman who doesn't have a husband.  There is also the virgin factor. It is rude, disrespectful and incredily unladylike to tell women with very little sexual experience information that they will not understand or are not prepared to handle.

The fastest way to derail a woman who is dying to tell you things you don't want to know, is to raise your hand and say "Whoa, TMI."

"TMI", in case English is not your first language, is an acronym for "Too Much Information." It is a reproof, but it is a very gentle reproof, and should do the trick. And the other women around may be very grateful to you and back you up right away. If she persists, and she is a friend, say "No, really. I feel uncomfortable hearing such personal things." And if she still persists, she's in line for a row. Don't let her row with you. You row with her. Draw the line. Tell her you do not want to hear about her sexual life; it forcibly puts images in your head you don't want there.

Meanwhile, I wonder if a lot of terribly abusive relationships aren't prolonged artificially because the woman gets rid of her actually useful anger and disappointment by venting them in conversations with her pals. How much better if she just spoke to one friend, and that friend gave serious and solid advice!

Anyway, sound off in combox.