Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Welcome, Brothers!

Today is the Feast of Saint Joseph, a flash of cheer in a solemn time and for some perhaps a slight relief from the privations of Lent. Saint Joseph is the patron saint of Canada, as even few Canadians know, but even those Canadians grasp that Saint Joseph belongs to everyone equally. He was the earthly guardian of the Infant Jesus and the Blessed Virgin; what a staggering responsibility for a poor carpenter, no matter what his lineage!

Saint Joseph embodied many masculine virtues: prudence, obedience to God, strength, work, provision, protection of children and of women from harm, fatherhood, silence. In the Gospel narratives, we hear nothing from Saint Joseph after Our Lord is born. It is Our Lady who speaks for Saint Joseph, the head of the Holy Family, to Our Lord after they find Him in the Temple. Joseph's silence does not close him off from others; when we first hear of it, he uses it to shield his apparently disgraced fiancée.

It can be very difficult for some men to be silent. The hallmark of a gentleman, which is to say a man who has perfect command over himself, is that he will fall silent to allow women and children to speak and even to listen seriously to what we and they say. And I am very grateful to those men readers, formerly called Eavesdroppers, who managed to read this blog in respectful silence, acknowledging the comments box as a women-only zone.

Of course, women are often impatient with men's silence, and this is our fault. For many, if not most, women, speech is a balm, a healing oil that soothes the burns, scratches and cuts of life. Our feelings weigh upon our hearts and the most efficient way to relieve our hearts is to ease our feelings out of our mouths with the healing balm of words. Responding to these words with words, the right words, is how women care for one another, create bonds, restore friendships. This is so important to us that we often shy away from women who don't know how to do this, and we forget over and over again that this way is not men's way. What most girls instinctively learn in the schoolyard, most men need three years in the seminary--or thirty years of marriage--to master. Most men show care differently, wordlessly.

There are many reasons why so many of you are Single now, and why I did not remarry (I had an early marriage, divorce and annulment) until I was thirty-eight. Some have to do with historical circumstances, guaranteed. Some may have something to do with character. And some may have to do with the tendency of men and women not to understand each other. And this is why I think it is time to ask for male readers to contribute to our discussions: they have probably learned a lot from us over the past few years, and now we can learn from them. As even cloistered nuns receive letters and visits from men who request advice and prayers, even Serious Single women may profit.

And now without further ado, here are two kind responses to the theme I set yesterday. Thank you very much, gentlemen.

What Single Men Wish Single Women Knew About Them


They don’t know if you’rre interested in them. They don’t know if you’re lonely. They’re not sure if you’re happy or sad, and they don’t know how to change your mood. To many NCBs, the emotions of NCGs are a black box. Who knows what should go in, or what will come out?

NCBs and NCGs fail to realize that men and women use words differently.Men use words as a means to an end. They figure out how they feel, and they use their verbal skills (such as they may be) to explain those feelings as clearly and fully as they can. Women use words as part of a journey. Words elicit words from others; feelings are shared; reactions are gauged; and in the end, the speaker arrives at an emotional state that is enmeshed in the broader context of social relationships.

This phenomenon makes no sense to men. All they see is that women say one thing and mean another. They cannot fathom the process. A man says “I don’t want to get married soon” and a woman scrutinizes the statement as though it were the latest revelation from the Dead Sea Scrolls. A woman says “It’s okay – I don’t need an anniversary present this year,” and a man thinks, “well – okay then!” And he cannot understand why you’re angry at him forbelieving you .NCBs will take you too literally. You won’t take them literally enough.

--L [whose Seraphic Singles combox name shall now be Leo--SS]


The first thing Single ladies must know about Single Gentlemen is that we are fundamentally allies in striving for goodness and wholesome living and good taste. The World (as it is called in St. John's Gospel) hates manly virtue in men as much as it hates womanly virtue in women. You can tell a true gentleman by that he will never seek to compromise you. A Gentleman delights in Lady.

The second thing that Single ladies must know about Single gentlemen is that we're all different. Some of us are tall, dark, and handsome; some are shorter and stouter. Some are engineers and some farmers and some are academics. Some of us have long hair. (Think Captain Jack Aubrey on The Far Side of the World.)

And lastly, one owes a Single gentleman as-such nothing beyond charity (ordinary, philosophic, Christian charity): if a Single gentleman seems to be after your heart, you are perfectly within your rights to insist he win it, or send him marching home. A true Gentleman rejoices in a challenge to rise against! (and he will in time recover should fate conspire against his present hopes).

--Belfry Bat

The combox is open. Everyone may ask everyone respectful questions. All answers must also be respectful.


Clare said...

Thank you all, (guest post, anyone?)

Seraphic, I love that photo of St Joseph!

Amused said...

"NCBs have no idea what you're thinking." So true!
Perhaps, aside from merely understanding that men are different and being tolerant of how long it takes them to learn how to communicate with women, we could learn from them to value silence more highly. We could learn to be more forthright in our speech (saying yes when we mean yes, no when we mean no).

Jessica said...

Thanks, Leo and Belfry!
Leo, I have a couple of (respectful!) questions about your perspective. This idea that women have such complicated emotions and men are just too simple/direct/whatever to understand them is certainly a trope of modern culture today. (see: every sitcom ever) However, maybe i've just been really lucky in my guy friends, but I haven't noticed that guys are so much worse at understanding my emotions than girls. I think because of the Fall and our limited human nature, there are always going to be some misunderstandings, whether in single-sex or mixed communication. But believing that "girls' feelings are utterly mysterious to guys" both undermines the girls' feelings and makes it easy for the guy to stop trying to understand her.

As an example, if girls are analyzing to death a guys' statement that he doesn't want to get married...its probably because something in his actions contradict his words, and they're trying to figure out which to believe. (Or because they're hopelessly blinded to reality by a crush, haha.)

I think we can call both men and women on to improvement. Its unfair for a woman to say "dont do X" and then get mad when someone doesn't do X, whether she's talking to a man, woman, or child. I think men should focus on developing and claiming their emotional strengths, and not give up just because we're hormonal once a month. :)

Leo said...

Lo: I am christened as Leo by Auntie Seraphic! Well, I accept my Seraphic confirmation name, even though it will come as a disappointment to Saint L of Bologna, as well as all the other letter saints (e.g., Venerable Q of Somerset; Saint V de la X of Montreal).

Jessica: in no way do I wish to excuse the obtuseness of any NCB, nor do I wish to undermine the validity of NCG feelings. And let me add: I do not wish to paint NCBs as emotional slugs. The inner lives of NCBs and NCGs alike are rich with depth and passion. I note only that NCBs cannot readily discern your emotions from your words because your words are not merely a conduit for communication, even though many NCBs think they are just that. I advise NCBs and NCGs alike to make allowances for this phenomenon.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to St. Joseph, Seraphic, and the two insightful contributors.

I appreciate the exhortation to patience (Love is Patient, afterall, before all else) in communication with each other, and I love the helpful frame that 'we are allies' provides; a marvellous antidote to the division which is created by broken hearts and inflated by the culture (and vice versa).

Could I ask, please, in which practical ways do you think that we women be patient in communication, and in which practical ways can we promote the allies vision? I can think of some, and I do acknowledge that it is our feminine gift and responsibility to make these strides of thought and practice, but since it is our day to ask questions, perhaps the lovely gentlemen would care to kick-start our efforts?


TRS said...

I love the male participation!

Jessica's thoughts reminded me of this past confounding exchange.
Once, on an early date (first or second), my date asked if I wanted dessert. I told him that I didn't really crave dessert, but if he wanted some, please order, and I'll even have a bite if you want to share.
His response: "what does that MEAN?"
Um... It means exactly what I said. No trickery involved!

I share this, to explain that some times, we really don't understand what men find so complicated. Perhaps they are so used to dealing with confusing women that they can't take the forthcoming ones at their word?

Seraphic said...

To be honest TRS, I found that a bit complicated myself. I think the most straightforward approach would be, "I don't want any more than a bite of dessert. Let's order one to share between us."

Michael said...

Hi, I've a question...

I'm a very analytical guy, with a lot of energy and used to be interested in women who themselves have a very good educational background. Now I'm chatting with a girl who has a more practical background. How could a relationship like this function? Thanks for your responses

TRS said...

Seraphic, same thing. You just edited it.
It's always easier to edit others writing, than ones own thoughts in the moment.

Sheila said...

I have been thinking a lot lately about how mutually enriching it is for men and women to associate with one another. We learn so much, not just about the other gender, but also about how the world looks from a different angle.

I've learned at times that I have a bad habit of saying what I think will be non-confrontational instead of what is true -- things like "I'm not upset," or "You should do what you want." It's something to work on, I suppose. On the other hand, in other circumstances I'm much more straightforward than the stereotypical woman, and most women agree that telling the man I was into, "Yes, in fact I *do* have a huge crush on you" was the wrong answer. So I don't know what the takeaway from THAT is.

"As an example, if girls are analyzing to death a guys' statement that he doesn't want to get married...its probably because something in his actions contradict his words, and they're trying to figure out which to believe."

That is so true. Men sometimes have this funny notion that the only thing we know about their emotional state is what they tell us. Ha ha ha. No, we are analyzing their emotions on several different channels at all times .... and when the message on those channels is not syncing up, we get hopelessly confused. More explanation might be useful here.

Amused said...

A question for the gents--one that's been bugging me for a while. Suppose a NCG does not return your interest. Suppose she's pretty friendly with you, and you get along pretty well--and so you ask her out. Well, do you wish that she'd just say frankly that she's not interested? Or go ahead and go out with you in a friendly way and allow you to figure out from her laid-back manner that she's not too keen? Or just pretend to be oblivious of your intentions right up until the point when you choose to put them into words?
Please help! I'm so confused by this. Some guys seem hurt and really surprised when told that a girl really doesn't care to go out with them--not even for just one date (it's as if, by turning down a date a girl is turning down friendship with them as well); others continue to call and email (under the pretext of "friendship") long past the point when they've been told that their suit is not encouraged.

hip2bsquare said...

Well Amused, I think it's always the best policy to be honest and direct.

The guy is going to be hurt by your rejection when it comes, whenever it comes. Going out with him on a pity date and hoping he figures out that you aren't interested won't work in most cases and will just put off the inevitable.

When you reject a guy, you should be unequivocal without being mean. Please don't say things like "this just isn't a good time for me", or "I'm not ready to be in a relationship right now", or something else that's intended to soften the blow. That gets you a clingy guy friend who's holding on to the false hope you've given him.

"I'm flattered, but I'm not interested" should work well in nearly every case. Again, he's going to be hurt or at least disappointed, but being clear about it allows both of you to move on with your lives as quickly and peacefully as possible.

Belfry Bat said...

Dear Amused, hip2bsquare is quite right; I would just add, to follow up on your last paragraph: for some men (depending on their internal state, which naturally is hidden) your turning down a date is making ordinary friendship difficult. This isn't always the case, but it really depends.

However, you aren't responsible for choices he makes in his inner life (or public life) untill you are willingly implicated in his inner life. Neither is he responsible for your wanting to be friends-and-simply-friends with him when he's trying to court you. But responsibility means we understand and accept the unwanted consequences of being good in a fallen world!

Nzie said...

Thank you for your thoughts, gentlemen, and welcome. :-)

To Michael:

I'm not sure what the problem is; or rather, I'm not sure that the problem inheres in the differences in background. I have a friend who's a classmate with me at law school, and her husband is a craftsman. She has obviously taken a much more academic route, but he's also smart, just uses his talents differently, and it hasn't been a problem for them. I think as long as you have enough in common and are reasonably matched in intellectual ability, I don't think the backgrounds are a bar. In fact, it might be good to have two really different thought processes or problem-solving methods. I would have no hesitation about dating (and possibly marrying) someone with fewer academic credentials if he were smart and we had some key things in common (e.g. a love of books). Does that help? Or are you thinking more specifically than what you've said? There's too many variables to go beyond generalities at this point.

On this thread generally, I second Jessica's comments in response to 1, although with the additional statement that both sexes are affected by hormones every day of their lives. I encourage both NCBs and NCGs to offer a little "grace" when misunderstandings happen, and not let it go when someone suggests women's thoughts and feelings aren't worth paying attention to because it "must be that time of the month."

Question for the NCBs:

If you saw a girl at some event you found attractive, what things you can observe would make her seem more or less approachable. Say you wanted to start a conversation and possibly ask her out, what would make you decide against it, besides obviously a ring or the clear presence of a boyfriend?

Leo said...


The following traits (which no reader of this blog would ever exhibit, I'm sure) would make an NCG seem less approachable:

1) A sneering, gossipy wit. Nothing says "stay away!" louder than an NCG huddling with her home girls, cackling and hooting at the social shortcomings of those around her. Yikes. Save the Dorothy Parker routine for some time later, like marriage, or the Second Coming.

2) Sticking relentlessly to the same place or group of friends. If you're glued to your seat or your part of the well, or you look like you're just at the event to socialize with your set, NCBs will assume that you're not there to socialize with amiable strangers.

3) Endless fiddling with an electronic gizmo. If you're engaged to your iPhone, expect NCBs to honor your vows.

4) Loud vulgarity. Duh. Ditto sloppy drunkenness.

5) Obnoxious behavior toward waiters, salespeople, children, etc. Especially children and young people; see below.

And the traits that make an NCG seem approachable?

1) Social circulation. An NCG who is flitting pleasantly from clique to clique, table to table, will seem like the kind of NCG who wouldn't mind an NCB's chit-chat.

2) Situation-appropriate attention to hair, makeup, clothes, etc. An NCG who is well-dressed and well-groomed is an NCG who wants to be seen and to be social (or so NCBs will assume).

3) Kindness, particularly toward the socially disadvantaged. And especially children. Perhaps I speak only for myself, but an NCG who finds some pretext to project interest and affection in children becomes conspicuously appealing very quickly.

4) Publicly engaging in any sort of traditionally feminine activity, e.g., cooking, cleaning, being the hostess with the mostest, etc. NCBs like femininity, and tend to feel that a woman attending cheerfully to the needs of others is less likely to humiliate them for social errors (don't laugh - a real NCB concern).

Leo said...

Hip2bsquare's reply to the post about turning down NCB overtures is spot-on. Say, Auntie Seraphic: I think we would benefit from a post sometime on the topic of The Ethics of Going On a Date With A Fellow In Whom You Are Not Really Interested. I have debated this topic with a wonderful Christian single lady who sees no ethical dilemma in accepting free dinners from a fine Christian fellow who has no chance with her at all, but can't seem to figure out that date #11 will not end differently than dates #1-#10. I have some piquant opinions on this subject...

Nzie said...

If someone I am friendly with but haven't thought of in that way asked me out, I'd probably go, because maybe something would spark. But if after a couple dates I didn't feel anything I wouldn't keep going out. That seems like taking advantage, even if your friend doesn't mean it that way, and certainly is giving false hope. If I were certain I didn't want to go out with someone, I'd turn him down from the beginning. I imagine most women would agree with me about not going out again and again with someone in whom they have absolutely no interest.

Nzie said...

Also, thanks for your answer, Leo! I can be a little shy in some situations (also, limited tolerance for loud, crowded bars) so I do tend to stick to one area perhaps more than looks friendly.

Amused said...

Thanks for your kind responses, Gentlemen! I like that you are unanimous in your preference for straight talk ;-)
I do have to chime in with Leo on requesting that post: TEOGODWAFIWYANRI--part of what was behind my original question about how/when to turn guys down. Auntie Seraphic says it's ok to go out for coffee/dinner with a NCB for no other reason than that you're tired/hungry. Is this a very different thing from going on a pity-date? If so, is it different because in the one case the woman is accepting kindness and in the other is dispensing pity, and men would prefer to bestow kindness rather than receive pity?

Belfry Bat said...

Thank you, Nzie, and you're welcome, of course!

Your question is a tricky one, for me, because by strange accidents I don't meet new people often, in the real world. One thing that seems to help is when someone else manages the introductions — a mutual friend usually. Apart from that, posture seems to count for a lot: both poise and one's attitude in relation to the rest of the company. For instance, I never like to interrupt a conversation. Do look about beyond your party, if you hope for gentlefolk to aproach you. Don't slouch! Do smile if you're feeling cheerful enough!

Necessary disclaimer: Altogether, between not meeting many people anyways and their usually having plenty on their minds, I don't often ask anyone out at all. And I'm sure that sounds lame, but it's probably just as well: for myself, I'm in a bit of a career limbo, at the moment, trying to finish this astonishingly-necessary Degree, and if it doesn't actually work out I don't know what I'll do to subsist instead.

(Around Auntie's blog I'm mostly gathering solace and exhortations to equanimity and rootedness-in-reality, you see)

But at least this raises the evidently practical question, intended as inquiring of the NCG point of view: how long can (or should) a happy couple reasonably wait for marriage, if they are decided at least that they do want to be married? Can one be decided to marry him or her (as appropriate) if one can't quite tell when? Whoever may (of course) decline to answer this at all, or answer it in generalities, or wide generalizations, or as it please.

(And I hope that wasn't too unhelpful; oh, I see there are many replies since I started editing this silly little comment.)

hip2bsquare said...

Again responding to Amused: without going back and searching for the posts, I pretty sure that Seraphic was suggesting that women should treat offers of coffee or dinner as offers of coffee or dinner, as opposed to incipient marriage proposals. (I could be wrong in my interpretation. After all, I was only eavesdropping.) I think the idea that accepting a date does not create an obligation on the part of the woman beyond being pleasant company was also part of what she was driving at.

I agree with Nzie that it's fine to go out on a couple of dates with a guy that you don't already have feelings for, to see if there's a spark. It's only exploitative when you're already reasonably sure that you have no romantic interest in the guy, but go out with him anyway.

I mean, it'd be pretty odd if I went around buying dinners for women in whom I had no romantic interest whatsoever. It's easy to see how a woman would get the wrong idea and be rather cross with me.

Seraphic said...

I think three dates is enough. If a girl discovers after Date 3 that she's just not into him, she should not accept any more freebies. Meanwhile coffee is just coffee. Guys are not just potential husbands but potential friends, colleagues, future employers, useful contacts, brothers-in-law, et alia. Being reasonably friendly with as many as you can fit into your life is a good idea.

Pearlmusic said...

I agree that coffee is something you can have with someone you’re totally not romantically interested in. This is why suggesting (or accepting) coffee is the best idea when you are not sure if someone likes you back or if you do. Dinner or movie sounds more explicitly like a date.

What I would warn all Gentlemen against is confessing your feelings and intentions before actually asking a girl out. You will come out as creepy, unless she is head over heels with you. And still, if she is, a little bit of mystery will do. Yeah, sometimes you may want to give it a shot – OK, but you’re doing it at your own (rather high) risk. And you might lose the opportunity to get the girl interested in you if she’s not.

Meanwhile, I’d also like to hear what would be creepy on a girl’s part in your view, dear Male Readers – calling/texting you first, suggesting coffee, etc.

Heather in Toronto said...

The talk of accepting dates with people in whom you are not actually interested reminds me of a news story I saw a while back.

This gal isn't even in it for the social aspect - she just wants a chance to eat in expensive restaurants for free so she can blog about her "serial dating" experiences.

Nzie said...

Thanks, Belfry, and in response to your question..

My parents were engaged for about a year and a half and my mother thought it long. She also, a bit old-fashionedly but not without merit, is not particularly impressed by engagements without a date picked out. But it's going to depend on the circumstances. I think ideally it's more like 8-12 months because it is difficult to really love someone and wait-wait-wait, but the main thing is to discuss it together. There are really good reasons for delaying (or moving the wedding up). If you discuss it together and decide together how to weigh the different factors, you'll be able to manage feelings, planning tasks, expenses, etc., better.

earthie said...

In case the question wasn't about how long an engagement should be (minimum 6 months)but more about deciding if you should marry a person in general, I think you would want to really know them for at least a year. People react differently in the seasons and circumstances of life. A year probably gives a couple time to experience at least a taste of the good, the bad and the ugly together- enough to have an idea of how the person reacts to stress, sadness, criticism, as well as to "happy lovey" feelings. The first few months are riding on infatuation, usually!

Belfry Bat said...

Thank you again, Nzie, and earthie, those are both good and helpful thoughts.

The direction behind my question, actually, is: on the one hand I like befriending good people, and hope (sooner or later) to fall in love and live happily ever after; on the other hand, given my peculiar predicament within the world, is it terribly irresponsible and perhaps ungentlemanly to risk smittenness? I'd rather get that kind of question sorted out now, while I'm not suffering crush and can more-or-less think straight about it all, if that makes any sense.

Sheila said...

My husband and I wanted to get married three years before we actually did. It was hard. I wouldn't recommend it -- but on the other hand, I would recommend it more than the alternative of getting married when you are not ready, in practical terms. I mean, NFP isn't perfect and babies throw all kinds of monkey wrenches in your plans.

My parents got married in sophomore year of college because they thought "two could live as cheaply as one," and before long they were three, living on food stamps. So I had strong feelings on the issue and chose waiting longer over the alternative.

Anamaria said...

TRS: that is exactly the kind of thing I say that drives my husband nuts. He asks me to keep it simple and I think I am, but I'm not. A little seraphic-style edit goes a long way with him.

Belfry Bat, I think it depends on the situation in terms of practical matters and age. My sister dated her now husband for two and a half years before they got engaged and were engaged for about a year, mostly because of school. My husband and I met, dated, got engaged and married, all within a year. We were older and practical considerations were for us getting married fairly quickly (we weren't sure if we would have to move for a job). Both ways can work, as long as its not either extreme.

Earthie, that's what I thought, too, but then I met the love of my life. Sure, there are unpleasant things I didn't know about him before, but our love is such a gift and we are both so grateful for it.

Pearlmusic said...

To Belfry – if I’m right, by „smittenness” you meant developing crushes. I’d say, this is not gentlemanly or ladylike in itself, but just human. And you should know, women do have crushes, too!

The problem may be only (and I tried to address that in my comment) in revealing your feelings too soon. From what I observe and from what I’ve experienced myself, it seems to me that men are generally more likely to develop crushes sooner than women. A young lady is more likely to fall for you within some time, as a result of your courtship. Still, this is not a rule, of course. So, if you confess your feelings before you actually date, it might blow it.

My bottom line would be like that:
1)If a guy I’m not interested in invites me to meet up over coffee, I agree and try not to think about it like a date, but rather a who-knows-what-it-turns-out-to-be-something;
2)If a guy I’m not interested in invites me to an actual date (dinner, movie, etc.), I usually politely decline

(Sounds, like I’ve had so many date proposals, yikes! I didn’t. But that seems to work for me in general).

NB: Please note that I’m using English as a foreign language, so I sometimes might not understand clearly or get across what I mean.