Saturday, 26 April 2014

Dating the Way of the Dinosaurs?

I had a poignant email from a reader who just wants to go on a date. She doesn't want a marriage proposal (from a relative stranger, anyway) or a declaration of love. She just wants to go on a "I'll pick you up at seven" dinner date. And I sooo understand this. And I know what she's thinking. She's thinking she'll get all gussied up, and a handsome man will ring the doorbell. She will appear, and his eyes will widen, and he'll say, "Hey! You look great!" And then he'll whisk her off to supper in his vehicle and open the door for her when she gets out and open the restaurant door and help her with her coat and pull out her chair, if the waiter doesn't get to it first. He'll order a bottle of wine, and then they'll have such an interesting chat, the waiter will start hovering so he can finally take their order. Et cetera. Et cetera.

That sounds very nice, but the fact is that this is no longer the societal norm. To get that level of male attention and care, you usually have to be in a romantic relationship with the guy already, or maybe in France. (I prefer to believe that France is still this legendary place of deeply attentive, if utterly unfaithful, woman-loving men.) I advised my reader to ask around and find a really nice hairdresser. If you want to feel taken care of, but you are not actually ill, to the beauty industry you go! Very nice men with no designs whatsoever on your purity will make you feel like a million pounds/dollars.

I still remember getting a massage at an Aveda salon in Toronto; I was expecting a lady named Ashley. My masseur was a handsome, muscled man named Slavko. How can this be legal, I wondered. Oh well. La, la, la! (Slavko, I am quick to mention was a complete professional, and it was all very registered, as in RMT.)

Speaking of hairdressers, it is my habit always to get my hair ironed out before I go to Poland. I look foreign as it is; I cannot imagine what sort of impression I would make if I appeared before my retreatants/publishers/journalists with my hair in its natural state. And I love hairdressers and beauticians in Edinburgh because they are natural students of human nature, having heard more than your average priest. So yesterday, when two young ladies, one slim and one curvy, were ironing my hair--one girl on each side of my head--I asked them if the date stil existed.

"I've never been on a date," said the curvy one.

"Nobody goes on dates," said the slim one.

"How do people have relationships, then?" I asked.

"We just go to clubs and meet people," said the slim one cheerfully.

The curvy one shot her a quizzical look.

"Well, you do," she said.

Between them they had two approaches. The slim one goes to clubs and bars and, naturally vivacious, has conversations with anyone and everyone. The curvy one has never had a relationship with someone she didn't know from school. She and her friends go out together, and she ends up in "relationships" with male friends.

They both thought the idea of internet dating was scary. The idea of meeting a complete stranger they met online alarmed them, although the slim one chats with complete strangers all the time.

"How can you tell which ones are nice and which ones are jerks?" I asked her.

"I can just tell," she said. Then she elaborated, "From the way they act."

Women do not come to the salon to get their hair done because they are going on a date. That doesn't happen. Women come to the salon to get their roots done, or to keep their cuts fresh, or, more rarely, to get an up-do for a wedding or some other glamorous event.

It would seem that, to these young Edinburghers anyway, there is no formal structure to romance and courtship. It happens naturally within the course of their friendships--either going with friends to clubs and bars, or just being with people at school, or hanging around with friends.

Thus, if you've never been asked out on a date, it may be because dating--except between complete strangers who meet online (and maybe in France and the American South)--is going the way of the dinosaurs. Not only is it not something the urban young seem to do these days (and my hairdressers aren't the sum total of my research, incidentally), it speaks to the changing roles of men and women.

First of all, women have the same work opportunities as men, if not better, and we certainly get paid the same amount for the same work. Thus, many men don't see why they should pay all that money on a date. (If they are already in love with the girl, they will, but if this is more of a "job interview"-style date, then they don't get it.) Personally I think that women spend so much more on their appearance that it actually evens things up when the man pays, but a man might not see it that way.

Second, many men are paranoid about being seen as breadwinners. Possibly I should stop thinking about the manosphere (or Taki magazine--not for the sensitive!), but many young American men seem to be terrified that all women want is their money, and if we get their hooks into their paychecks via marriage, we will divorce them, take them to the cleaners, get their paychecks garnishéed, and no other woman will want them, etc.

Third, many men don't know how to date. If their friends date, then they date. If their friends don't date, they don't date. They don't read books about dating. There are no dates in the Hornblower series. Is there dating in Star Trek? No. And look at Han Solo and Princess Leia. No dating.

Thus it does not surprise me that instead of asking women out on dates, men hover around making Han Solo-like jibes and never get on with it, instead stammering things like "Hey, if you and Luke... I don't want to get in the way." They may actually blurt out how they feel before they're encased in carbonite, but actually, Han Solo didn't, did he? I belong to a generation of men who grew up thinking Han Solo was the ultimate guy, and probably so do you.

And that's it from me for a week. If you want to hear my words of wisdom, come to Krakow for the Redemptorists' Majówka retreat for women. My lectures will be in English, simultaneously translated into Polish, and Polish girls will be happy to translate other stuff for you because Polish girls are very kind, actually.

The contrast between kindly, sympathetic young Polish women and Polish-men-in-general is very striking. Polish girls are like gazelles, and Polish men are like bears. No wonder that Wojtek the Bear was accepted as a soldier in the Free Polish army. Other than the fact that he eats the cigarettes rather than smokes them, he seems very Polish in the Scottish play about him. I can't remember if Wojtek went to Mass, but he probably did. I used to make exceptions to this rule, but then I discovered that even really sweet, mild-mannered Polish priests have bear-like wills.

Hmm. Maybe I should not make such personal remarks about Polish men just before I go to Poland, eh? Otherwise, I may be in for some growling and roaring tomorrow.

But if you don't come to Krakow, I will be posting again on May 7. Until then, have a happy Easter season!

Thursday, 24 April 2014

That Phone Call

I am still in shock that Benedict XVI abdicated, so really there is no point talking to me about the latest news about Pope Francis.

I mean, Benedict abdicated!


What pope abdicates unless he is darned well forced to, or because he was really an anti-pope, or was pope only because he was some mediaeval pawn? Cardinal Ratzinger is the greatest German theologian still living today. He's no mediaeval pawn. So what the hey? The Queen is 88 and still going strong, up at dawn, having her cup of tea, reading the contents of her dispatch boxes. She's been doing this since she was 25 years old. It does not occur to her to abdicate. And nobody wants her to abdicate, just as nobody except a handful of vengeful and imaginative theology profs ever dreamed that Benedict might do so.

However, the latest news or rumour or gossip or MSM wishful thinking is that Pope Francis picked up the telephone and told a woman civilly married to a divorced man that she could go ahead and receive communion. The divorced man then quite understandably made this public. But so far we only have the lady's and her civil husband's word for the whole thing. Ear-witnesses to Pope Francis tell me that it can be hard to understand what he is saying, as he speaks in an informal, off-the-cuff, sort of way, which is a complete contrast to Benedict's measured discourse. So we can give the lady and her civil husband the benefit of the doubt that they did not get what Pope Francis was saying.

As a divorced-annulled-and-unmarried Catholic, I feel that I have a valuable point of view in the whole Divorced-and-Remarried Issue (which seems to be rapidly turning into a Crisis). And my first question is how many divorced Catholics bother applying for an annulment and if not, why not? It is my belief that so many Catholic marriages fall apart relatively soon because Catholics are no long mature enough to marry or have the freedom to marry. Society is raising us to be materialistic teenagers, and I am positive this is stunting our growth. I had a very teenage mentality until I was thirty-two or so. I'm not kidding. Thus, there may be many more Catholic couples that we know of whose marriages would be found invalid through reasons of immaturity or lack of freedom. I know a guy who was visibly drunk when he made his vows. After their divorce, his ex-wife didn't apply for an annulment; she just married outside the Church. Well, hello?!

I despair of the Baby Boom generation, really. But for my own generation, I beg that the annulment process be demystified. When I applied for one, I tried to find a book on the subject and found nothing It was if someone though just having decent information about it would encourage divorces.

The first rumour about annulments that must be cleared up is that they are expensive or some way of lining clerical pockets. Let me settle that right away. I paid for mine in 1999, and it cost me personally $600. It would have cost my ex an additional $600, but he wanted nothing to do with the process, so my diocese paid the extra $600. (I wonder if I put that much in the collection over the five years I was in the diocese. Oh, actually! Maybe I did!) I paid less for the annulment than I paid for my divorce lawyer, who took one look at me and actually said, "Legal Aid rate, I think."

The second rumour about annulments is that there is no point getting one unless you want to remarry. No. No. No. You must apply as soon as the ink on your divorce certificate has dried because the annulment team will want to talk to witnesses who know both you and your ex-spouse, and they can't do that if those witnesses are now dead or scattered across the world, address unknown, can they?

The third rumour about annulments is that they are somehow ludicrous and you don't need the Church to tell you that "Jesus still loves you". The Church which has the power to bind also has the power to unbind if it turns out your marriage was not sacramental. And that is very handy to know if you are divorced-annulled-and-remarried and you run into a member of the "Rubber Stamp" faction. The Rubber Stamp faction, who have no access whatsoever to your trial notes, are wont to disbelieve in your annulment and even to insinuate that you are fooling yourself and are now just a scrubby adulterer like your divorced-and-remarried brethren. Or, if you are dealing with an angry divorced-and-remarried member of the "Rubber Stamp" faction, that you are fooling yourself and are just a goodie-two-shoes suck up who thinks she's better than everyone else. The angry divorced-and-remarried person is easier to forgive for his/her nastiness, as obviously there's a lot of fear and pain there.

Well, I must bake a cake now, but those are my thoughts on the matter. I don't think the annulment process needs to be "streamlined"; I think it needs to be demystified.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Glory and the Horror

Writing my four lectures for the women's May retreat in Kraków ( sign up now!) was an intense experience. First I read my past work, and also work by and about Dorothy Day, Simone Weil and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). I reviewed my old notes and articles on Bl. John Paul II. And I made and reviewed notes on Blessed Natalia Tułasiewicz, painfully translating one long quote from her writings. I wrote my "brainy" lectures. The other two lectures are the "fun" lectures, in which speaker and listeners can just let their hair down and relax a bit.

Ha! What a shock to move from the sublime thoughts of saints and philosophers to the messages women get every day from pop culture. My paper on "The Role of the Single Woman in Family and Society" was not terribly depressing, although it acknowledges that pop culture's cardinal rule for women is be sexually attractive to others. But my paper on "Warnings from the West: Western Challenges to Femininity" is shot through with abject gloom.

Oh, I forgot twerking. I was going to mention Miley Cyrus and twerking. How to explain to Polish women that in American dance clubs one runs the risk of a complete stranger rubbing his crotch into your behind? Is there twerking in Poland? I asked a Polish girl, and she goes only to hipster bars where, if anyone twerks, they twerk ironically. Hipsters are hilarious.

Anyway, abject gloom. Part of the abject gloom is linked to the ab*rti*n rates in the USA, Canada and the UK. In Poland, it became very high (200,000+) in communist days and then dropped like a stone after 1989. In 2011, there were one million one hundred thousand ab*rti*ns in the USA, and only 669 in Poland. Naturally, we mourn the deaths of the 669, but as a matter of fact ab*rti*n laws in Poland are very strict, and most significantly, unless they belong to far-left parties, Poles don't want ab*rti*n.

The largest group of women who get ab*rti*ns in the USA, Canada and the UK are between 20 and 24, which suggests to me that from a humanist, not even a Catholic, point of view unmarried women should just not have sex before they are 25. Really. Honestly. Generations of unmarried women managed not to get pregnant before they were 25. Of course, that was before 1962. I would happily support a government campaign that said "Wait until 25", even if it got me into trouble with fellow Catholics who took a no-compromise approach and wanted the government to say "Wait until marriage."

My abject gloom deepened as I refreshed my memories of Ariel Levy's "Female Chauvinist Pigs" and checked the manosphere for tales of young American sex tourists sleazing their way around Central and Eastern Europe in their eagerness to bed women who are "still feminine" and "uncorrupted by American feminism." The only thing that makes me feel remotely better about such men is the suspicion that some Polish men try their luck with foreign female tourists. I am a bit old for such things, but if anyone hits on me, I will certainly let you know.

"Słuchaj," I will tell him. "This is for science and in the service of Almighty God. Are you hitting on me because I look foreign and you believe foreign women are easy? Or is it some other reason? And what are the factors in contemporary Polish society contributing to your behaviour? Wait--do you have a pen?"

To be fair, though, it will probably be because I looked at him. When I am in Poland, I like to look at Polish people, and occasionally young men do a double take and give me The Look. Maybe people don't look at each other in Poland. It is probably rude. Przepraszam.

Anyway, to cheer myself up, I will now think about the beautiful writings of St. Edith Stein which were adopted and developed by Błogosławiony Jan Pawel Drugi and taught by him in Mulieris Dignitatem, which we all, men and women, should read.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014


No blogging or correspondence until I get my lectures finished. If you wrote me an email over the past four days, I've read it, but I can't answer until later this week. Thanks!

Monday, 21 April 2014

Easter Report

My Easter was very busy, full of church and writing papers for my retreat in Kraków on May 2-4. I sneezed and coughed and blew my nose a lot. Two more papers and some Easter baking to go. I am sorry I didn't get my baking done for actual Easter Sunday, but I had these papers, and my cold, and Easter is 40 days long anyway. Thank heavens.

Imagine if I had children on top of that. I don't know how working mothers do it.

I was too sick to go to Holy Thursday Mass, but I went to the Good Friday service, and then to the Easter Vigil (shorter in the Extraordinary Form, believe it or not!), and the next morning to Easter Sunday Mass. Then it was the usual Cup of Tea of Peace in the parish all, and then the Gin and Tonic of Brotherly Love, and an Easter Sunday Lunch Blowout in Morningside, featuring a large number of lifelong Singles, plus Mr and Mrs McAmbrose, who danced a waltz as the Master of the Men's Schola played the piano. We were totally outnumbered, as usual, but this strikes us as entirely normal.

Feel free to report on your Easter in the combox; I have to go back to writing papers and bewailing my inability to master Polish.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Saturday, 19 April 2014

"The Deepest Longing of a Woman's Heart...."

The deepest longing of a woman's heart is to give herself lovingly, to belong to another, and to possess this other being completely. This is revealed in her outlook, personal and all-embracing, which appears to us as specifically feminine. But this surrender becomes a perverted self-abandon and a form of slavery when it is given to another person and not to God; at the same time it is an unjustified demand which no human being can fulfill. Only God can welcome a person's total surrender in such a way that one does not lose one's soul in the process but wins it. And only God can bestow Himself upon a person so that He fulfills this being completely and loses nothing of Himself in so doing. That is why total surrender which is the principle of the religious life is simultaneously the only adequate fulfillment possible for woman's yearning.

--Edith Stein (Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross), "The Ethos of Women's Professions" (1930).

Friday, 18 April 2014

Pick Up Your Cross and Follow Him

Today is Good Friday, and I feel well enough to go to church. Good Friday is a good time to remember that suffering is part of every human life.

Simone Weil, whom I will talk about at the Majówka (May holiday) retreat in two weeks, wrote a lot about suffering, and the indelible mark that comes from some kinds of suffering which she called "affliction." Weil actively sought suffering, so as to be more fully in solidarity with those who suffer privation: hunger, sleeplessness, discomfort, harsh physical labour, the humiliations of early 20th century factory work, the dangers of war.

Weil took things too far--one of her biographers talks of her spiritual anorexia, and Weil's fasting practices almost certainly made her physically anorexic. I am reminded of St. Ignatius of Loyola and how his early disciplines permanently damaged his health, leading to his veto of his Jesuits doing any such things themselves. But she, the compassionate daughter of a rich doctor, reminds me of how God Himself took on humanity and shared human suffering.

The Son of God chose suffering out of love for us--it is an awesome thought. And his sinless mother suffered, too. Any Catholic who does their best to be good and to live a pure life and yet suffers terribly would do well to remember all the sufferings of Our Lady. We can say (or beg, rather, as in the Dies Irae) that it our redemption was the reason for Jesus's suffering (so let it not be in vain!), but did Our Lady sign up for her suffering? Not exactly but--"let it be to me according to Thy will." And what could be worse than seeing, before your own eyes, your Son scourged and crucified, left to die in the hot sun?

Back from church. This post looks very unfinished but....zzzzzz....

Thursday, 17 April 2014

It's About Service

Today is Holy Thursday, and I am at the blow-my-nose-every-45 seconds stage of my cold. I have overseas guests arriving in three hours, a paper on the Theology of Woman to write, and Holy Thursday Mass an hour-and-a-half by bus away. This is a bad day to feel this bad.

However, like real mothers, I dragged myself from my bed of pain to do what housework is necessary, and like women with 9-to-5 jobs, I will get down to writing my paper. What I am doing now is service that nobody has asked me (directly) to do but nevertheless ought to be done, which is to address Catholic Singles and Other Singles of Good Will about the Single Life from a Catholic perspective.

On Holy Thursday there is attached to Mass an optional service in which a priest washes the feet of twelve other priests or, lacking that many priests, twelve appropriate priest stand-ins. Most fittingly, those would be the "viri" demanded by rubrics, but some of us are just happy if the feminae selectae remember not to wear pantyhose. Incidentally, there is a fashion for women lay ministers to wash feet, too. My nose hurts too much to go on about what THAT does to theology of the ordained priesthood.

At any rate the contemporary, un-traditional and confusing involvement of laity is supposed to remind us that all Christians are called to service, which actually I can remember without watching a woman in the sanctuary whipping off her pantyhose as an alb-covered woman with a sponge waits politely. Service is not about rituals most fittingly done by and for priests but about being truly helpful. If stuck, see the corporal works of mercy and the spiritual works of mercy.

But service is more than individual acts. It's about a shared way of life. It is about serving without expectation of human reward, serving for God's sake, or for humanity's sake, or serving's sake, no matter what your state in life or your chosen profession. If you are a salaried or by-the-hour professional server, paid for your service, you may not have enough time or energy to experience the true joy of Christian service, which would be unfortunate.

Mysteriously, there is something spiritually wrong with being paid for Christian service. I don't know exactly why it is so, but it is so. What is way better is being gratuitously rewarded, either in money or something else, for Christian service. Priests in my hometown are usually financially dependent on their bishop (and probably helped out by their families ), sometimes working around the clock, snatching sleep when they can, seven days a week. I don't think of them as working for a paycheque, exactly. Meanwhile, nobody pays mothers and fathers for being generous mothers and fathers, or childless marrieds for being substitute mothers and fathers, or singles for being generous with their time and talent on behalf of the community.

Sometimes these people aren't even thanked, although you may recall that of the ten lepers miraculously cured by Our Lord, only one went back to thank Him. And if nine people miraculously cured from a dread disease forget to thank the Son of God Himself, I guess it is understandable when someone forgets to say "Thank you" to me or his mom.

The Lord seems to expect us to do service for people who can never give us anything in return (and may forget to say thank you). I am reminded of His advice to one of His hosts "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous" (Luke 14:12-14). The emphasis here is that you profit from not being materially rewarded. And I notice that Our Lord suggested a service His host enjoyed and was good at--hosting.

I host a bit, and the good thing about opening your home to foreign students (if you do) is that almost all students are at least cash poor and because their homes are in foreign lands, it is less likely that they will have the chance to open their homes to you. Of course, it is very nice when they do, but you don't expect it, and it doesn't matter. Meanwhile, the Poles have a saying that I really love--"Guest in the house, God in the house." I think this is literally true in some mystical way.

Anyway, I am not feeling so brainy, thanks to my cold, so I will drag myself back to the point of this post and say that Single Christians are equal in dignity to Married Christians or Consecrated Christians in that Singles are equally called to service. Priests are always telling lonely bored Singles that the way to cheer up is to serve others, and I am not surprised if the Singles roll their eyes around the minute the priest's back is turned. I think I probably did. However, this actually turns out to be TRUE.

One of the intolerable sufferings of my PhD years was that I couldn't find any opportunities to serve; I had served a lot during my M.Div., and I really missed it. However, I finally hit on the strange notion of writing a blog for Singles, and it changed my whole life, and directly or indirectly brought me everything I have achieved or been given in the past seven years, minus my tiny nephew and niece (of course). So much reward for something that--let's face it--nobody asked me to do or paid me for. (Thanks, by the way, to anyone who ever sent me a donation over PayPal, which I no longer use, as it proved unworkable.) It's really amazing.

Christian service is voluntary and not on a cash-per-hour basis. Ideally, the service you do is something that you are good at and enjoy. Philosopher Simone Weil went to tremendous lengths to serve her countrymen long before she became a Christian, most effectively by giving them free night classes that helped them pass exams to get better jobs. Blessed Natalia Tułasiewicz went voluntarily into what was for other Poles forced labour in Nazi Germany so as to minister to them spiritually, emotionally and intellectually. Servant of God Dorothy Day wrote and protested on behalf of the poor, clothed them, listened to them, and made them coffee and soup. And what did all these ladies have in common? They enjoyed their form of service, even though Weil was killed (in part) by overwork and Blessed Natalia by the Nazis.

They were also all unmarried non-nuns. And they all flew in the face of the idea that you shouldn't do something skilled and worth something to others unless you are being paid for it. It is a beautiful irony that Blessed Natalia went voluntarily into forced labour in Germany--so that she could carry out an illegal (and unpaid) ministry among the forced labourers. Yet Simone Weil and Dorothy Day served by demanding better pay and better work conditions for workers.

Paid work and Christian service: two separate things. How nurses have the time to do both is a puzzle, but I am sure many must. And I hope whatever they are doing as unpaid service is something they deeply enjoy: motherhood, for example.

Update: To be fair to American Catholics women who have volunteered to have, or been pressured into having, their feet washed this evening, here is what the American bishops have to say about it. If I were a priest, however, I would get twelve men involved in lay ministries of whatever kind--choir, altar service, lectors, hockey team coaching--stuff them in cassocks and albs, and wash THEIR feet, as an example to little boys of how church is not just for one man and a whole lotta women.

When he was here, my eldest nephew was mesmerized by Mass, and I don't think it was the Latin. Nooooooo. I think it was because everyone on the altar was male and dressed properly. Just saying.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Making a Mess

Oh, deary dear. I reviewed A. N. Wilson's Unguarded Hours for Ignatius Press Novels, as it is the only religion-themed novel I have had time to read lately, and the fact I reviewed it has caused consternation among IP fans. It's not that I endorse the novel--I state clearly that it is not for the young or the sensitive--it's that I mention it AT ALL. And yet my Facebook critic would not have known that it was unsavoury in any way unless I had explicitly condemned it as such.

Wilson is rather Waughian in his tone, although (as I mention in the review), he picks not on modern society as much as on the clerical wing of the then-modern (1978) Church of England, which was full of atheist-socialist posturing and, not to put too fine a point on it, gay camp. The novel is devoid of faith in Christ, and the spiritual underpinning of the book is merely a fear that Christianity is all a crock, and all there is under Christian words and ritual is a bottomless nothingness.

I find that very interesting. I'd be wincing in humiliation if a disgruntled Catholic ex-seminarian exposed unsavoury elements in his training in that very British, mocking way. Catholics in Britain seem to think that would be dirty pool, though, and confine themselves to dinner party anecdotes. What I have heard about one Scottish prelate I would not care to repeat--although it would make a very funny... No.

Anyway, poor old Ig Pr is getting yelled at because of me, so would you all be angels and go here to respond intelligently to the review? I mean it. Two minutes out of your day to gladden the hearts of some good people. Before I got chucked out of a certain stuck-in-the-1970s Catholic newspaper, the editor suffered very greatly on my behalf, thanks to its "retired" editor, her mentor, who had kittens at such words and phrases as "Benediction" and "Sacrifice of the Mass." Oh, and while you are at it, browse the Ignatius Press catalogue and see if there's anything you'd like to give someone (including yourself) for Easter.

The critique is on the Ignatius Press Facebook page. If you feel like weighing in there, be nice to the weaker brethren.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Loves to Travel

The idea that men see "loves to travel" on dating websites and makes unpleasant assumptions about the girl who does has popped up in an earlier combox. So let's continue the discussion here. Respectfully, keeping in mind that men are Readers now.

Personally, I love to travel to other cities. (This usually means Toronto, Rome or Krakow.) Generally our travel money comes out of my earnings. Basically, that's where my writing money goes: Polish class and travel. Sometimes I travel with my husband. Sometimes I travel on my own. I am much better at travelling on my own because there is no-one for me to snarl at. I'm not a fantastic travel companion; nobody should ever have to fly with me. I'm okay in trains, though. Cars, ditto. There's just something about airplanes. Oh, and on holiday snoring turns me into a homicidal maniac.

I have never had a holiday romance in my--- I never had a holiday romance that did not result in me marrying the guy. Occasionally I have been hit on by locals, or by recent immigrants, while on holiday, and I have just ignored them, mostly. I did get a terrible reputation on my Contiki tour by chatting with a couple of cops from Napoli one evening. My Italian was very good then. Sigh. I do recall saying "Non piace alla mamma" (My mum wouldn't like it) a few times. ("Then don't tell her." "I tell my mother EVERYTHING!" When under pressure in Italy, invoke your mother a lot.)

Anyway, I have googled about looking for unpleasant associations with "loves to travel" and found this. Man, I wish men weren't so obsessed with money. Too many seem to have this idea that women are out for all the money we can get. But like the manicurist who had already paid $9000 towards her wedding to the guy who gave her that $50,000 engagement ring, most of us are employed and have our OWN money.

Update: This is rather amusing. Okay, apparently I don't love to travel. I travel three or four times a year, unless you count going south of Prestonpans to fall into rivers on hikes.

Update 2: Jeepers. Another guy who worries "loves to travel" = "I want a guy with money."

Update Three: The BBC suggests that "I love to travel" is a cliché, and you should leave it out of dating profiles.

Sun Sets on British Empire

This is what makes me so angry about modern British life. A woman names her cats and at least one child after her favourite football players. Clearly football players mean more to her than, say, her male relations or the man/men she has the children with. She calls one "Rooney" after Wayne Rooney, which is basically the English equivalent of a Canadian naming his son "Gretzky". (I doubt the English would call Rooney "the Great One", but he's what they've got now that David Beckham is retired.)

A friend of the woman goes to a chain chocolate shop and buys an Easter egg. The chain has a cool name-writing service I've used myself when buying B.A. an Easter egg. She (the friend) asks the guy behind the counter to write "Rooney." The server gets nervous because he thinks this might be a copyright violation. (Wayne Rooney has not given that company permission to sell goods using his name.) His solution is to write the child's complete name on the egg. First name, last name. Now it is clear that the egg is uniquely for the child, and not a way of profiting from Rooney's name.

The mother calls the press to complain.

The mother calls the press to complain.

The press plays up the non-story for all it is worth, making it seem as though mother and child were standing right there in the shop and the toddler was told to his little uncomprehending face that he couldn't have his name on his super-special and sacred Christian chocolate Easter egg.

As usual, my first thought is, "And what does the child's father have to say?" My second is, "Does the child HAVE a father?" My third is, "Four kids! Do they all have the same father?" My fourth is, "She gives her kids AND cats the names of footballers?" My fifth is, "Does she have a job? The guy behind the counter she's holding up for contempt has a job."

This is so terrible. I am writing a paper on Simone Weil, and after voluntarily working in factories for a year, she came to the conclusion that revolution could not begin with the proletariat, for factories made the proletariat submissive instead of revolutionary. But I think the British ruling classes didn't want to take any chances for they have arranged society, entertainment and education so that the proletariat is encouraged to become as stupid and trivial as humanly possible.

Update: In my head Simone Weil has just asked me when I last had any conversation with a proletarian, and I said that I did on Sunday. She has now said that doesn't count. She spend most of her spare time talking to the proletariat, and I don't know what I'm talking about. I said I didn't SAY the proletariat WAS stupid and trivial; I said it was ENCOURAGED to be stupid and trivial. And, anyway, I make my wages solely through my labour-
-piece-work, too--so according to some definitions I myself belong to the prolateriat, and thus there are forces conspiring to make me stupid, too.

Beyond Rubies

I am thinking again about my friend Calvinist Cath--dear me, how embarrassed she would be if she realized she was becoming an official Good Role Model--because of how she found a husband without doing anything. This is someone who completely rejects what the world says about women, looking instead to the Gospels and Saint Paul. She doesn't wear lipstick, let alone fake tan, and her clothes, though feminine, are modest, unpretentious and plain. No miniskirts on our Cath, ever. And if I remember correctly the only reason she never cut her hair short is 'cause St. Paul said women shouldn't. I assume she is as slim as she is because she doesn't overeat and she does a lot of walking, especially on Sundays, as she would never take the bus on a Sunday, as it would entail participating on someone else's wrongful Sunday labour. At any rate, I think we can safely say that Cath never practised any mean arts of attraction--as they would have been called in the 19th century--quite unlike your humble correspondent, who got her first lipstick at twelve.

But my friend is no shrinking violet. Naturally studious, she achieved a doctorate in a difficult field. Laudably hard-working, she won a good post. She is a pillar of her church community and corresponds with other members of her ecclesial community worldwide, expounding on theology and recommending theological tomes. She also serves in more traditionally feminine ways, until recently by helping her minister's wife serve Sunday supper to guests, which is how she met the handsome young man who has recently become her husband.

In short, she lived her life according to the tenets of her Calvinist creed, in total contrast to the great majority of Edinburghers her age, even when it looked like there may never be a husband on the horizon. Action and belief were totally consistent: Simone Weil would have admired her greatly.

Now, to shift to a Catholic point of view, if a Protestant lives with such integrity, who are we as Catholics to justify wearing immodest clothing or keeping bad company or "making mistakes" or stuffing our bodies with silicone, all in the hope of winning a husband? I see no reason to wear our skirts to our ankles, but perhaps the hem ought to skim our knees? And who are we to complain that the boys pay attention only to the girls who wear the trampiest costumes to the college Hallowe'en party? You wouldn't find Cath dead at a college Hallowe'en party.

Spiritually speaking, I am very lucky I was not a beauty in my youth, for I never had the opportunity to develop an addiction to male attention. However, from an early age, I certainly wanted to get it, which I thought I could do by wearing short skirts and a lot of make-up and cutting my unusual hair short and actually calling boys up on the phone and laying in wait for my crush objects after school at the bus station--poor little creature. Little did I know I would not meet the Love of my Life until I was thirty-seven. What a lot of expense, effort and sorrow I would have spared myself if I had paid more attention to Scripture and behaved more modestly.

Thanks to Cath's good example, I have given up blogging (if not emergency grocery shopping or taking the bus) on Sundays, but I don't think I will give up make-up. I enjoy the theatricality of make-up, even though B.A. thinks he likes me better without it. And I will continue to suggest that women choose pretty over plain clothes, and not feel that the calves need always be covered up. Short of bikinis and push-up bras (I am not a fan), I think a good rule of thumb is that if a piece of clothing would have been okay in 1962, it is okay now. But flying in the face of all my "You should look like this" and "You should do that" is the image of Cath, who did nothing but live her life as a Christian with integrity and service and attention to what St. Paul said about women's appearance and thereby, thanks to God's inexorable plan for her, found a husband.

Picture: That's Lady Jane Grey, who in this rendition looks surprisingly like Cath. Gracious! What a coincidence.

P.S. As far as I know, I am Cath's most frivolous Catholic pal. Two of the others became cloistered Benedictine nuns, which is a great comfort to my lipsticked self.

Monday, 14 April 2014

From West to East

Once upon a time there was a kingdom called, um, Catholiclandia. Catholiclandia was ruled by a foreign and extremely wicked king who put up a high wall around all his territory and told all his subjects that all the people on the other side of the wall were either wicked, selfish, decadent oppressors or their dumb, pleasure-loving slaves. The Catholiclandians were very skeptical about what this king had to say, even though they had heard it their whole lives long. From what they could gather from films and books smuggled in, the people on the other side of the wall seemed to have a lot of cool stuff, shinier hair, better teeth, nicer cars, the whole nine yards.

So when the king died in mysterious circumstances and the Catholiclandians took heart and chased his ministers out the country and kicked down the wall, they looked very eagerly at the world outside and said, "We want cool stuff, too!"

The world outside looked at the Catholiclandians, giggled and said, "OMG! You are, like, fifty years out of date."

The Catholiclandians were distressed. "Darn!" they cried. "We must not be the laughing-stock of the world. Not only should we get the cool stuff, we should rid ourselves of our old-fashioned ways."

"Whoa," said the Catholiclandians' spiritual advisors, who had sustained them through their many decades of oppression by the wicked king. "Which old-fashioned ways are we talking about here?"

Americans! Canadians! British! Irish! French! Germans! ANZACS! South Africans! What are the worst problems you face as women (and people in general) in your countries? What do you fear most for your own little sisters, nieces and daughters? What features of Western life would you suggest the ex-Eastern Bloc countries vigorously reject?

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Free and Open Combox Today

Today I am terribly busy preparing lectures for the women's retreat in Kraków, so talk amongst yourselves. A good topic, on that I will be writing about soon, is how an adult Single can contribute meaningfully to her family. By adult, I mean someone who has graduated from a bachelor programme or training programme and now has a job, or a graduate fellowship--income independent of parents, that is.

Friday, 11 April 2014

The Fittingness of Fitness

Last year someone wrote in asking how my fitness regime was going, and I did not reply because the wheels had fallen off my regime and I was wallowing in food and sloth. However, this year I have done a lot better, so I am happy to write about it.

We all know the physical dangers of eating disorders and the spiritual dangers of being obsessed with our looks. (My Calvinist great-grandmother told my mother that if she looked in the mirror long enough, she'd see the devil looking out. Calvinist grannies have a picturesque way of speaking.) However, there are also physical and spiritual dangers attached to wallowing in food and sloth. The Greeks have something like 109 fasting days, just for the sake of their souls.

There is no bar to the out-of-shape getting married, and indeed I have seen some big brides in my time. Some were objectively beautiful and arguably the plumpness was necessary to their beauty. Some were not, except insofar as that almost all brides are beautiful on their wedding day. Whatever the reason for you not to be married, it's not your looks, let alone your weight. You could have an eye in the middle of your forehead, and in the fullness of time Cyclops could come along and sweep you off to his cave.

Personally I think the secret to getting married sooner rather than later is to hang out where marriage-minded men hang out. This means where men who are serious about Christianity or Judaism or Islam--not just some vague sense of ethnicity, like CINOs--hang out. But I digress.

The secret to being attractive to nice men, I am utterly convinced, is being happy and confident. (The secret to being attractive to women of all kinds is to be confident and happy.) And good health does much to make you happy and confident. Good health here means good health for YOU. If you have some chronic health issue, good health means you at your healthiness. And we can achieve our maximum healthiness with proper stewardship of our brains and bodies.

Meanwhile, it is impossible--for me, at any rate--to get around the fact that Western Woman stares critically at herself in the mirror (hopefully not long enough for the devil to look out) and is either happy or sad about her objective appearance. Coco Chanel said that anyone over 20 who looks in the mirror to be pleased is a fool, but I certainly enjoyed observing that my Canadian Size 8 dress fits beautifully.

It fits beautifully because I have been dedicated to "the Fast Diet" since mid-January and lost ten pounds in ten weeks. (I didn't weigh myself in the first weeks because I couldn't bear to.) The diet's authors claim one should lose one to two pounds a week, which I found rather thrilling, and some weeks I do indeed lose two pounds, although other weeks only one or none.

Of course, this is slightly confused by the fact that I have taken up regular Pilates workouts since the end of January, thereby developing muscles (and muscle weighs more than fat), and have returned to running at the gym. This time, though, I have replaced my thirty minute jog with twenty minutes of intervals, as intervals are more efficient, and I discovered I needed something to really distract me from the awfulness of MTV. I need music to run or jog but half an hour of MTV is really too depressing. Anyway, loss of inches is probably a better measure than loss of pounds, and as I always lose my tape measure, I just try on dresses.

But the real benefit of my fitness regime was revealed on Tuesday, when I left the house rather late for my appointment with a beautician hired to fix my eyebrows. Between the Historical House and the bus stop is a rather long, somewhat winding path in the woods. Well, I was wearing sneakers (tennis shoes) and for the first time ever, I ran full-throttle down that path. And to my amazement, I could do it without pain or shortness of breath. I was at the stop in time to catch the nine-thirty, and was in the shop at nine-thirty-seven.

And it strikes me that this is what all this intermittent fasting and Pilates and running are REALLY for: my body doing what I want it to, and doing it well. Okay, yes I am happy to look slimmer.

I am never going to have an hourglass figure; in fact, only 8% of women have hourglass figures. Like 46% of women, I am rectangular. It is unfortunate for the 92% that the "ideal" female shape is the most unusual, the hourglass. On the other hand, I would rather dress like "Betty Draper" than "Joan Holloway." And, as I said, the whole point of having a trim body is to enjoy running around and getting to appointments on time. It helps make you feel happy and confident.

Update: Forgot to mention the sugar. I have fallen back into sugar-eating ways, but I will this minute get back on the no-added-sugar wagon. Sweet desserts only if served at others' dinner parties. This is pretty convincing. By the way, do any of my Polish readers have AUTHENTIC Polish cake recipes? British and Canadian cake recipes are too sweet for Polish palates, and I need some good recipes for Poles, not Polish recipes adjusted for an English-speaking sweet tooth.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Christological Musings into the Fatherhood of God

I've spend a few hours today arguing about the fact that God transcends the human limitations of sex (gender) and is neither male nor female, not that many Christians wander about under the impression that the Divinity is female. Naturally the Second Person of the Trinity is male insofar as He has chosen to live His humanity as a male human.

The Second Person of the Trinity, during His earthly mission, told us to call the First Person of the Trinity Father, and stated that God was His Father. And so, of course, we do as He said, and the Roman Catholic Church and the churches united to her do not believe anyone is validly baptized unless baptized in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit/Ghost.

However, as God as God is not male, which is attested to by Saint Gregory Nazianzus, St. Ambrose of Milan, St. Jerome, St. Thomas Aquinas and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, why did Christ call God His Father? And why did Christ choose to live His humanity as male?

I can only speculate. And I am speculating wildly, without being surrounded by the works of the Fathers, so kindly keep this in mind and your reason at a critical distance from what follows. I offer the follow thoughts just as ideas, as if in a seminar. Don't accept any of this as the teaching of the Church because it isn't; it is speculative theology.

First, one of the analogies in the Scriptures, in both the Old Testament and the New, is the analogy of the bridegroom. In this analogy God is the bridegroom, and His people is the bride. It's not a perfect analogy--bridegrooms are not to brides what God is to His people--but then you can't have perfect analogies when talking about God: God is infinite and thus beyond our linguistic and mental capacities. However, given the Scriptural analogy of bridegroom, it was probably easier for the first Christians to understand the male +Jesus+ as the bridegroom than it would have been for them to understand a female +Jesus+ (if you can get your mind around that for a second) as Wisdom. (The Wisdom figure of the Old Testament is understood in light of the Incarnation as a metaphor for the Second Person of the Trinity.)

Now, as God decided that the Second Person of the Trinity would indeed live His humanity as a male human--being human necessitates having a sex (gender)--this may (MAY) have influenced the way the Second Person described the First. "He who has seen me has seen the Father", said Our Lord (John 14:9). Christ revealed to us who God is, or what God is like: a healer, a saviour, the giver of life, a forgiver of sins, a friend, even a servant (!) . And a son more clearly mirrors a father than he does a mother, and a father more clearly mirrors a son than he does a daughter. So as Christ as human was male, perhaps it made more sense for Him to call the First Person of the Trinity His Father. It helps, too, of course, that as human He had a human mother, who was very much in evidence. He had no human father; as with his begetting from Eternity, God was His only begetter. And so--Father.

Also, the Hebrew traditions around God were in stark contrast to Mother-Goddess worship. The Middle East was full of worship of the personifications of human reproduction, particularly female ones. The human temptation to worship sex-and-reproduction seems endemic. Thus, by calling the First Person His Father, the Son was affirming that God is not the personification of human reproduction, the Mother Goddess. God is a Creator, an intelligence at work, not a Cosmic Womb.

The only risk is that humans, not being very bright, and generally obsessed with sex, might confuse the First Person of the Trinity with Jupiter or Zeus or Wotan or any one of a number of Sky Fathers. However, this did not seem to be a problem for the Christian Church, as St. Gregory, St. Jerome, et alia, were rather harsh with people who went around saying the Godhead was male. Again, it is the teaching of the Catholic Church that God is beyond human notions of sex (gender). He is neither male nor female; He is God. We use the pronoun "He" because it is used generally for any reasonable being, as in "everyone must read for himself". It is used of angels, and angels are also neither male nor female, each angel being A) incorporeal and B) his own species.

Anyway, those are my thoughts, and I invite any Readers with graduate theological training to wade in and tell me if I am out to lunch entirely, or where I am out to lunch, or if I have something here.

Naturally it is important that the Second Person of the Trinity chose to live His humanity as male, but I am interested to know why this was most fitting, as it most assuredly must have been. Also, it is important that the Second Person told us to call the First Person "Father" but as God is not male, it is interesting to speculate why it is that the Second Person chose a term associated with male humans. (By the way, was it ever "Father" or was it always "Abba", Daddy? Because there is a big difference between father and daddy.) How many times does "Abba" appear in the Christian Scriptures, and how many times "Pateras"?

And if you are wondering, this all arose out of a Facebook dispute around the use of the word "Godself" as a replacement for "Himself." I don't think this is the biggest heresy out there, or even heretical at all, but Hilary White seemed incensed. I think it sounds like Gerard Manley Hopkins coined it.

P.S. By the way, there is one poor man on the Facebook thread who keeps bargling on about how God is male, and seems to think the idea that God is beyond male-or-female some kind of body-hating yet feminist plot. No matter how many times I list off the Church Fathers, he keeps fighting on for the maleness of God. I think he is really confused at this point because St. Augustine quite famously came to realize that God doesn't HAVE a body (Confessions, Book 7). I think, though, the problem is that he can't mentally distinguish between the humanity of Christ, the divinity of Christ, the three Persons of the Trinity, or analogy from reality. I rather rudely suggested my interlocutor thinks the Holy Spirit is a bird.

As a matter of fact, I love the depiction of the Holy Spirit as a dove. I really do. I used to doodle it all the time when I was taking breaks from writing theological essays.

A Buffalo Engagement Ring

A not very nice story from Buffalo, New York today. In short, a fifty-something man sent a text message to his thirty-something fiancée, telling her the wedding was off. He answered her complaints by texting that at least she had her "$50,000 parting ring. Enough for a down payment on a house." I'm glad she kept that text because later he decided he wanted the ring back. The court ruled he couldn't have it back.

I am struck by many details in this story, and by the attitudes in the combox under it. The first detail is that the man broke the engagement with a text message. That's low. The next detail is that his response to her complaints was to say, hey, you have a $50,000 ring, so suck it up. The woman could have been broken-hearted. A broken engagement is a big deal, especially just three months before the wedding. This lady had already been paying for the preparations, and no doubt all her friends and family knew about it. Having your fiancé treat you like a prostitute (hey, I paid) must have been the sour cherry on the mud-cake.

The combox is full of men shouting "gold-digger", which I find incredibly demeaning. They assume this lady is a gold-digger because she is a "nail technician" and because she is fifteen years younger than her ex-fiancé. That's outrageous.

First of all, I have met a lot of beauticians in my time, and they are not scum. They are trained professionals. The ones who speak English and actually went to beauty school have really good people skills and earn a steady income. The ones I know are very well groomed and attractive. They occasionally branch out, take business courses and open their own salons. My favourite back home in Canada became a saleswoman for OPI. Meanwhile, I enjoy talking to beauticians here in Edinburgh. I hope they enjoy talking to me! Sometimes they talk to me about their upcoming weddings, and I point out here that the lady in this story had paid nine thousand dollars of her own money towards hers.

Second, it is not at all surprising to me that a fifty-year-old business-owner would fall for a thirty-five year old "nail technician." And it is not at all surprising to me that a thirty-five year old would date a fifty year old because, as I have written before, once you are over thirty, men aged forty and over are no longer invisible or necessarily gross. If you had to learn the hard way, you now know that personality matters more than looks. And a business-running personality can certainly be an attractive one. It beats the personality of a swithering thirty-something guy who wonders if maybe he has a vocation to the priesthood after all, swither, swither, moan, groan.

But one problem with some older men, in my experience, is that they are so terrified of gold-diggers that they insult perfectly nice women by treating them as if they were gold-diggers. (This is one reason, by the way, that you shouldn't accept expensive presents from unrelated men, or let your increasingly boring boyfriend pay for every single dinner. Like for Mr Text Message here, there is such a thing as giver's remorse.) I once went out with an older guy who made weird remarks about money, and then it dawned on me that he was worried I might take him to the cleaners one day. Reader, I didn't marry him--and my mother was SO relieved. She thought he just wanted a nurse. Nobody ever talks about nurse-diggers.

Third, Yahoo News says the lady was in touch with the man's family. Well, duh. They were going to be HER family in three months, and she probably had relationships well established with them all. If anything, the fact that she was talking to his family suggests to me that there was a real relationship here. A fiancée is not a call-girl a man can just dismiss.

Anyway, all I know about this Buffalo story is what is being reported in the press (and I see the length of the engagement changes from news report to news report). But I find it strange that there is not a single word about the woman's broken heart and blighted hopes--just about how rude it is for a man to break off an engagement by text.

Me, I would not have kept the ring. But on the other hand, I would not have accepted such an expensive ring in the first place. Jeepers! Fifty-thousand dollars on ONE RING? Ringzilla came from a crowded little antique shop on Cockburn Street, und ich bin stolz darauf!*

That said, if I had been openly living with the guy for years, I would keep the ring. It would be some recompense for the wasted years of my life and wear and tear on my body and soul, heart and nerves---as Buddy-boy didn't quite tell his ex-fiancée. Looking at the guy, and considering his nasty dismissal and lawsuit, I'd say his fiancée--if she was indeed his bedmate--earned it. Hope the lawyers didn't get it all.

*"Sophie Scholl" reference.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Hair for Hat Solution/Quick Wedding Report

Oh cherubs! Such luxury. There is nothing like sitting in a barber's chair at nine-thirty A.M. as not one but TWO lovely young ladies straighten your hair. And in my part of Edinburgh, they do it for the ridiculously low sum of 25 pounds and get excited when I give them a tip. Apparently tipping hairdressers is not mandatory ladylike behaviour in Scotland. However, I have so much hair that I really think it would be a venial sin not to tip whoever has to fix it.

Anyway, here is the result, and eventually I hope to post a photo of what I looked like in my hat, and a nice photo of Calvinist Cath, alongside a proper report.

For now all I have time to say is that today we have had mixed sun and cloud, with only a little rain--and none of it on my hair. I spent the time between hairdresser and church in lovely Morningside, hunting for ladies' tweed jackets in the charity shops.

I found the church without much trouble even though looking for a Presbyterian church in Edinburgh is like looking for a needle in a needlestack.

Cath's dress was bee-oo-tee-ful, with one million buttons down the back, and she wore a big gauzy veil. I got all weepy when she said her vows, but I didn't actually weep which is a very good thing because I forgot my tissues.

Every lady in the church was wearing a hat, though I think the Scots beat the English for hat supremacy. The groom's side of the church had a lot of black or white hats, and some ladies wore berets, whereas the bride's side was festooned with hats of many colours: mauve, cream, teal, navy, green, pink. Who says Scots Presbyterians are dour? Nonsense! The mother of the bride had the BEST hat. If I get permission, I will post a photo. Totally awesome mother-of-the-bride suit and hat.

The minister's sermon was great. I really enjoyed it. And the minister was a Scot, and thank heavens because, really, what better accent in which to give a Presbyterian sermon, eh? Oh, there was lots of Presbyterian psalm-singing, only in English, not Gaelic. I think my mother would have really enjoyed that part.

More anon! And thanks for your hairdo solutions. In the end I surveyed my hat, green silk shift dress, little pink jacket, floral pink shoes, white leather gloves, and string of pearls, and realized I was not very 1940s: I was Early 1960s.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Sun, Shine on Leith!

And on Tollcross, Portobello and all Edinburgh, for tomorrow is Calvinist Cath's wedding day!

I am very excited. I know you young things spend half your spring and summer weekends at weddings, but me, no. Nobody invites me to their weddings. So for me a wedding is an EVENT, especially when it is the wedding of a READER who, thanks to geography and Providence, became a FRIEND! Which reminds me that I have Tess's wedding present, I just haven't sent it yet because I am so bad at posting things. Hopefully it gets there before her first anniversary.

ANYWAY, I think you should all pray for Cath, my very favourite Other Single of Good Will, who is an exciting Presbyterian, just like Anne of Green Gables. As Anne was born around 1871 (which I gather as her sons fought in the First World War), Anne must have been a Westminster Confession Presbyterian rather like Cath, only Anne had odd views about the supernatural and was wont to wander about the woods seeking fairy folk and saying "Oh, Gilbert. How beautiful!" To my knowledge, Cath does have such views nor behaves in such a fashion.


The other difference is that Anne got married in the woods, probably beside the Lake of Shining Waters, with only a few people around her, whereas Cath is getting married in a proper church with half the town of Stornoway (plus an RC) squished in. I suspect it looks like a Communion Sunday in Edinburgh, Hebridians shovelled into every spare bed, sofa and laundry basket to be found.

Well, perhaps I shall write a report tomorrow, for I bet few of you have ever been to a Free Presbyterian wedding service. I am sure there will be an edifying sermon, and for once the homilist will have a really good excuse for sounding like a Protestant. Oh, and the hymns cannot possibly grate upon the ear because Free Presbyterians don't have hymns, just the Psalms. There is a great Gaelic Psalm-singing tradition in the Highlands, but I digress.

Please pray for sun, not only because it is nice for the bride and the photographer but because I am getting my hair done, which I very rarely do, so how sad if it gets rained on.

Spousal Loyalty vs Tag-team Bullying

My aside yesterday about the "trashcan of my affections" inspired a squeak of protest from a Reader who has recently been bullied by a married couple. That's not her analysis: it's mine. In short, she called out a colleague, he complained to his wife, his wife sent her a nasty email, and so not only did the Reader have to patch up things with her colleague, she had to patch things up with his wife. But husband and wife see nothing wrong with his wife getting involved in the collegial dispute. They are One, etc.

I call shenanigans on this one. And here's why.

First, husband and wife are not One, except in a mysterious spiritual sense which means that when you hurt yourself, you hurt your spouse, and when you hurt your spouse, you hurt yourself. Your reputations are linked, too, so if your spouse behaves like an ass in public, people will pity you or blame you for not exerting more control over your spouse.

For example, I was once verbally attacked outside Mass by a married lady in one of the many countries in which I have attended Mass. She took exception to something I wrote years ago which she remembered imperfectly, to say the least, and accused me of nasty and even obscene speculations about her. I thought the church steps were the wrong place for this conversation, and said so. However, she persisted, so I said I had had enough and walked away.

"Wow. Just wow," she said loudly, and at once consulted her husband, who began bellowing after me. And suddenly I was hemmed in by two righteously angry people accusing me of x-year old (and fictional) nasty behaviour, all in earshot of other church-going married couples and their children. It was extremely embarrassing, and although mutual friends had praised the man, whom I barely knew, he plummeted in my estimation. Not only would MY husband never make a scene in public, let alone outside a church he would never stand by and let ME make a scene in public, let alone outside a church.

And the character of Benedict Ambrose is key to what I said yesterday. B.A. is an adult man with women colleagues and occasionally women superiors. Thus, he is used to women fighting their own battles. He is also used to women fighting battles with him with dirty tricks, e.g. bad-tempered tears. Benedict Ambrose is a very kind-hearted and good-natured man, but he is not moved by any old female tears. And it would never occur to him to fight my battles for me, which is a very good thing, as I write op. eds and so annoy people.

It also would not occur to me to fight B.A.'s battles for him because he to put it...a MAN, a real man, an old-fashioned man, a manly man. He would never hide behind a woman's skirts, and he would not thank the woman who threw her skirts in front of him. He is not a baby boy, and he would not appreciate being treated like one. He would feel like a fool, and he does not like feeling like a fool, and he doesn't relish being thought of as having married one, either, which is why he would never let me make a scene in public. I can just imagine the subsequent scene in private. Erg.

If B.A. has a problem with someone annoying enough that he tells me about it, I do my spousal job, which is to listen and say, "How dreadful, darling. You don't deserve that. I'm glad/I hope you stand up to him/her." And I remind him that he is marvellous, which is easy to do because he actually is. He doesn't pick fights with people and will put up with a lot--not everything, he's no coward--for "a quiet life." And this is why if any of my friends or acquaintances pick fights with B.A., I quietly drop them into the trashcan of my affections. But his relationships with his work colleagues, his church colleagues, his old college pals are not really my business.

The other day he was having lunch with two female colleagues and I dropped in with my shopping. I like both colleagues very much. One is older, one is younger, and they are both Single. The younger one shares an office with B.A., and at some point she complained that he whistles, hums, coughs, sings and generally makes noises all day. And I was edified to discover that he does this at work, too. Instead of getting mad, I felt a strong sense of anti-whistling sisterhood. It would never have occurred to me in a million years to brood and send her an email defending B.A.'s humming, whistling, etc. and HOW INAPPROPRIATE OF HER blah blah blah bargle bargle. And if I--being bored or a born troublemaker or secretly jealous or whatever--had done something so stupid, B.A. would have been horribly embarrassed and felt utterly betrayed.

But even in private life married people have no business ganging up on Singles. Marrieds are in a position of social power, and not just because there are two of them. If a Single woman is making a sexual play for a married man, then I can see the married woman taking her aside and telling her to cut it out--simply because the sexual realm is the one place were most men are weaker than most women. And if a married woman's Single friend is nasty to her husband, than I can see the married woman having a private word with the Single friend to tell her to shape up or ship out--or, if the insult is the straw that breaks the camel's back, bringing the friendship to a swift and quiet close. (If the Single woman was the husband's friend before the marriage, though, the wife should expect her husband to deal with the problem, confining her activities to saying "How dreadful, daring. You don't deserve that," etc.) But, in general, two-against-one is totally unfair.

My idea of spousal loyalty is sticking with your spouse when he or she has a run of bad luck, or makes stupid (but non-violent) mistakes he or she regrets, or falls desperately ill, or goes to prison, plus not making an ass of/insulting him or her in company, plus choosing him or her over your own friends and family. It's not about starting or exacerbating fights with his or her colleagues or friends. It's about contributing to people thinking well of him or her; fighting his or her battles doesn't help.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Drawing the Line

Having written last week about talking to shy guys and not demonizing the middle-aged, I think I'll write today about where to draw the line that you must vigorously defend.

And I have just erased a whole three paragraphs, for I realize I want them for a book! However, writing it has given me some ideas for what will be a list.

1. Figure Out How Much Touching You Are Comfortable With, and Police the Line. This is easier said than done. Thanks to having gone to an Italian-dominated high school, I am fine with social kisses and hugging men friends my age or younger. However, I loathe being touched at all by aging, wine-addled, former Lotharios, and there are a lot of them in Edinburgh. Ick! You girls think guys over 40 are ugly. Just wait until a bibulous 70+ hippy tells you that you look like "a sexy Chinese Girl Guide". I would have no trouble telling anyone my age or younger, "Please don't touch me." But saying that to the elderly is a challenge. If however any one of them pinches my behind, I will slap Granddad into next week. Generally I move away before they can snake their arms around my waist. Ugh, the Beatniks-N-Hippies Generation. Ugh! Ugh!

2. Using Force is Never Acceptable. If some guy restrains you to make his point, or slaps you, or hits you, he has crossed a line that should never be crossed. The only reason a man should restrain you is to stop you from doing violence to yourself or others or from falling down a hole or in front of a bus. If you have romantic sexy ideas about rough stuff, take up ballroom dancing, particularly tango. Then men will push and pull you around all you like and occasionally tread on your toes.

Three. Gratuitous Insults are Never Acceptable. From Grade 6 to Grade 8, my male classmates told me I was ugly. That's three years of daily "you're ugly." Well, compulsory schooling being what it is, there wasn't much I could do about that from ages 11 to 14. But when I was 18 and three of my male so-called friends snatched away my High School ID to guffaw at the photo, I snatched it back with violence and screams. I do not believe anyone has dared to call me ugly since.

I end any relationship that becomes characterized by insults--usually pretty quickly, though I will occasionally make exceptions for the socially awkward, if they have truly redeeming characteristics. Sometimes friendless people are friendless for a really good reason, and if you find out what it is the hard way, say sayonara.

4. Do Not Lend Men Money or Buy Them Stuff. I learned this the hard way, frittering away a lot of hard-earned money on a student activism group leader who was always short of cash when we all went out for dinner. Let's just say that my sense of loyalty was utterly displaced. Family is different, of course. Family is family. And if you're a guy, courtship is courtship. Ask the girl if she would consider marrying a guy like you sooner rather than later, however. And if you're a girl and all you want is a handsome young man's company for a couple of hours, feel free to pay the tab, but don't expect romance or gratitude. Really. Truly. I mean it. And this is way easier for the cynical old than the hopeful young, so I don't recommend it. Spending money on men who don't give a damn can be hell on your self-esteem, to say nothing of your bank account.

5. Do Not Be a Free Therapist. It is a kindness to listen to men go on and on about their problems, and the girls they are in love with, and how the Church is a mess, and whatever else is on their minds. When they ask you for coffee, and you know this is going to be all about him talking, tell him you can spare him half an hour, no more. Stick to that half-hour limit. The same goes for guys who think they are in "the friend zone." Tell Chatty Cathy you have only half an hour, and leave after half an hour.

6. Do Not Date Your Boss or Anyone Else in Authority Over You.
Power imbalance. You might not see the power imbalance, but there is one and it is huge. I don't care if he's rich or brilliant or owns the store. Don't do it. As long as you do nothing to encourage him, he will be super-nice to you. Give in, and you will be sorry.

7. Do Not Allow Yourself Be Bored Senseless. At a dinner party, talk to people on either side of you. If you have a bad experience with another guest (he grabbed you or bored you senseless), tell your hostess afterwards, after praising everything else. At gatherings, signal the hostess and ask her to introduce you to someone else. At gatherings, excuse yourself to get a drink, go to the WC, talk to the hostess, talk to an old friend, talk to the speaker. When feeling frustrated to the point of tears, go to the WC to calm down, and then go home. Always carry cab fare. Have a nice treat at home: DVD, snack, whatever.

8. Throw out Guests after Midnight. There are night owls and there are early birds. When night owls come to early birds' parties, it can be difficult to make them leave. If you have to be up at 8, throw the night owls out at midnight. Call them a cab. March them down the stairs. Hold the door open. "You're mean", wailed one of my guests the other night. "You're bad!" "Good night", I said, and slammed the door behind him. "I have got my second wind," announced another guest, popping into the sitting-room eager for more chat. "Good night," I said and turned off the sitting-room lights around him.

9. Insist on Being Taken Home at Midnight. If you don't want to stay out all night, don't. If your out-of-town date found you a room with a nice middle-aged married couple but now he proposes that you sleep on some bachelor's couch after a few more hours of drinking, kindly but firmly insist that he call a cab and take you back to the nice middle-aged couple. This is your right, and I would have been happy to get up to let you in.

10. Don't Jump the Gun. Don't look for disrespect in everything a guy/girl says. Make the most charitable interpretation for everything until your reason balks. When an Eavesdropper Reader told me my photo below reminded him of Marilyn Manson, my first impulse was to be furious (See Three.). However, I looked up photos of Marilyn Manson and, when Marilyn is wearing two blue contact lenses and bright red lipstick and only a little eyeliner, an argument can be made.

Suddenly I am reminded that I am not so charitable when it comes to people insulting or attacking my husband Benedict Ambrose.* If anyone attacks him or makes him unhappy, they are officially burnt toast and in the trash can of my former affections. Marriage is like that.

*Update: I mean my own friends. If he squabbles with his pals or colleagues--very unlikely in someone so pacific--that's entirely his deal.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Need Vintage Hairdo Advice

Poppets! I have been staring at the computer until my eyes bugged. I am going to Calvinist Cath's wedding on Wednesday (YAY!!!!!) and I know what dress I am going to wear--the frock is even now at the dry-cleaner's--and I know what hat I am going to wear, but I do not know what to tell the hairdresser to do to my hair.

And then there is the issue of shoes. But that is a worry for another day.

The hat is non-negotiable because Free Presbyterian women keep their heads covered in church, 'cuz Saint Paul said so, and I don't want to scandalize the Free Presbyterians with our casual post-Vatican II Catholic bareheaded ways. So here is a photo of the hat, and if you would find me photos of the perfect hairstyle to go with the hat, I would be grateful. (Back views very useful.) Oh, and my hair is longish; it reaches halfway down my back.

Thanks so much! I know there are vintage aficionados among you!

P.S. Sunscreen, genetics, good nutrition, good luck. And photo slightly overexposed, I suspect.

Everybody Loves B.A.


Seraphic (standing on toes): This is what I would look like if I were 5'4".

B.A.: You're fine at 5'2". Why do you want to be 5'4"?

Seraphic: I don't really. But I would like to decompress my spine. Apparently all you need is five minutes a day on an inversion table.

B.A.: What is an inversion table?

Seraphic: Oh, it's really neat. It's a sort of board and you strap yourself into it and then you flip it over and hang upside down by your ankles.

B.A. (seeing where this is going, i.e. wallet): We don't need an inversion table.

Seraphic: Wah! But I want to decompress my spine!

B.A.: Well, what else can you do to decompress your spine?

Seraphic: Well, I suppose you could hold me upside down by my ankles. Let's try!

B.A.: You're mental. I can't hold you upside down by your ankles.

Seraphic: Why not? I weigh only one-hundred-and-thirty-three pounds.

B.A. Because it is physically impossible.

Seraphic: But you're a MAN. A big, strong MAN.

B.A.: Yes, but I would have to hold my arms up HERE. I could only hold a sack of potatoes from up HERE. And I would hurt my back.

Seraphic (abashed) : Oh! I don't want you to hurt your back. Maybe I could do a headstand or a handstand?

B.A.: But that wouldn't decompress your spine. Gravity would just compress your spine into your neck.

Seraphic: So hanging from my ankles is the only way?

B.A.: Yes.

Seraphic (dubiously): I wonder if I can even do a handstand.

(Seraphic turns her back on B.A. and attempts to do a handstand. Without warning, B.A. grabs her flailing ankles and pulls upward.)


(B.A. drops Seraphic. Seraphic giggles uncontrollably.)

B.A.: I really don't understand why you want to be taller.

Seraphic: I don't want to be taller. I want to decompress my SPIIIIIINE!

My column responding to the deacon who wrote a letter saying I put down the "new Mass" and suggesting I want it banned has appeared online for free. (I guess it's my week for the free-view column.) Here it is.

I suppose the only thing to add is that he was responding to my column (behind a firewall, alas) about how the most beautiful Mass in Toronto is Solemn High Mass at Holy Family Church on Sunday mornings. The point of that column was to alert people who long for beauty at Mass to this Mass, so they would know where to go. As in Toronto you can go to German Mass, Polish Mass, Italian Mass, Chinese Mass, Vietnamese Mass--all kinds of Masses catering to your preferred language or ethnic group--and even a Praise and Worship Music Mass, it seemed fair to me to publicize a Mass that is characterized by the highest possible beauty and solemnity.

I made no claims that it was anyone's dearest Mass, using the analogy of a mother. When you are five, you are convinced that your own mother is the best and most beautiful mother in the world, and so I suppose many, many Catholics feel the same about their own parish mass, and that is good. But naturally Zhang Ziyi and Aishwaryi Rai Bachchan beat old Mum hollow when it comes to objective feminine beauty, as you realize when you grow up. Not that you care. You love your mother because she is your mother while cheerfully acknowledging that she's not as stunning as the brightest stars of the silver screen, and feeling no guilt when you revel in their beauty.

To tell the truth about the Extraordinary Form is not to trash the Ordinary Form any more than to say that my Temporary Pretend Polish Daughter is the reigning beauty of the Historical House is to say I'm a wrinkled old hag. (And, indeed, I said the Holy Family EF is more beautiful than the Edinburgh EF, though naturally I am fonder of the Edinburgh EF.) I know that some liturgists have serious theological objections to the Ordinary Form, but I am not yet convinced this means the N.O. must go. (Can you imagine the confusion and dismay if it did?!) Cardinal Stickler wrote about the "Latin language [acting] like a reverent curtain against profanation" and I find that German, Italian and Polish work like that for me. And Cardinal Stickler points out that when the Novus Ordo is said by the book--he cites the Novus Ordo as said by popes--there is nothing amiss.

There are still many copies of Seraphic Singles available for sale, as my Canadian publisher informs me. If you have not read my first book, why not buy a copy and gladden hearts at Novalis? If you want to buy a copy for a Polish friend, the edition you want is the rather more celebrated Anielskie Single.

If you live in Canada (especially Toronto), why not get a copy of Catholic Insight magazine and read my latest interview about Ceremony of Innocence? Apparently there's a review, too, which I am dying to read.

Thursday, 3 April 2014


This is where I most definitely have to stress that I am not a doctor and hint that you should consult a doctor before beginning a fitness regimen--not that I ever do. Four years ago, the NHS nurse told me I was too fat, so I'm taking that as blanket permission to do whatever for the next ten years.

And my very latest enthusiasm is the idea of growing taller because--LO!--it turns out that at least two people have grown taller by decompressing their spines. Behold.

I don't really mind being only 5'2"--the attic of the Historical House has really low ceilings, for one thing. But I would really like to strengthen and lengthen my spine, especially my neck. My head is really heavy, in part because of my super-thick hair, and I think uneasily about 5'2" Crystal Gayle, who had 5'2" hair which gave her neck aches.

Someone once told me that the Alexander Technique can make you taller, but I never really seriously thought about the possibility until Pilates class today. I am sure many people would love to add two inches to their height, or stretch out their backs, and so this post.

At the moment, I am gripped by desire for an inversion table, so that I can hang upside down like a bat. I am sure my spine would enjoy it quite a lot.

The Humanity of the Middle-Aged

The other day a friend confessed that the big 7-0 was looming.

"But I thought you just got your bus pass!" I cried.

"Hmph!" chuckled the 69 year old. "That was some years ago. But now I understand what my father used to say: 'I may be old, but I'm still a young man'--he thumped his chest--'in here!'"


"I am actually very young for my age," I was telling Temporary Pretend Polish Daughter in the kitchen. TPPD has one of those delightfully open, honest, readable faces, and--alas!--what flashed across it was doubt and confusion.

"I mean, I still go to clubs," I said defensively.

Yeah, like once a year.


One thing the young must understand about the middle-aged is that we don't think we are old. The 25 year old and the 29 year old probably "feel older" than your average middle-aged person, especially one without children to remind them constantly that the years have flown by. When I was at theology school as a thirty-something, hanging out with my 20-something girlfriends, I "felt old" only during that deplorable adventure of the Polish-Canadian 22 year old who asked for my phone number at that club and then spent our one and only date trying to trap me into saying how old I was. Theology school was full of thirty-something male religious and retired people, so I felt pretty ageless most of the time.

If I had been a guy, I would have been asking out my female friends, for sure. (I once hurt E's feelings by saying I'd probably have gone for Lily. "Why not me?" wailed E. You had to be there.) It would not have occurred to me that 24 year old Lily might not have been at all interested in thirty-four year old me. After all, back then we all thought I would become a Top Theology Professor, and therefore a catch. And also, lots of girls date people ten years their senior. I have.

But who knows what kind of thirty-four year old guy I would have made, eh? Hopefully I would have been a laid-back, super-fun, thirty-four year old with excellent listening skills. But maybe I would have been an overbearing, listen-to-me-little-lady Mr Bargle.

I have noticed that the American young, in particular, seem to draw very firm lines between themselves and anyone they perceive as "old" as if the "old", instead of being the people with influence, jobs, contacts, money, spare rooms, and a wealth of life knowledge, were slightly dirty. Old people are supposed to be over THERE, behind the wall of deference. There's a reason why, in the Anglosphere, being called "Ma'am" or "Sir" for the first time feels bad instead of good: you've been expelled from the Land of the Young.

This firm division is, thank heavens, not so obvious in Europe, especially on the Continent. Young, middle-aged and old can be real friends, and nobody thinks it is weird, or that middle-aged people who enjoy the company of the young are next-door to paedophiles.

I will admit, however, that we middle-aged types do have our faults:

First and foremost, we are usually not as sexually attractive as twenty-somethings. Some of us are but most of us are not, and the men among us very often don't know that. It's just too painful for them to consider, and besides, women their own age usually don't mind. We certainly don't tell them.

Second, we have a lot more confidence than the average twenty-somethings, and therefore we can come across as overbearing. Sometimes, in fact, we ARE overhearing. I am sure I would be overbearing myself, if I didn't make an effort not to be.

Third, we do not have children, it may be a long time before we get that we are called to be Mothers and Fathers. But never then, it is hard to think of oneself as the mother or father of someone who is fewer than 15 years younger than ourselves.

In conclusion--for I must run away to Pilates class now--when older men want to talk to you at Singles gatherings, they may be ugly, and they may be boring, and they may be overbearing, but they are not breaking some cosmic law that says no man over thirty should ever talk to a woman under thirty. There is no such law. But this is another situation that divides the women from the girls, and the ladies from the wimmin. Instead of wishing desperately that this perverted oldster would go away, you must stand up to him and engage him in conversion, even if that conversation is, "You realize you're repeating yourself?" or "I think we're supposed to circulate. Bye!" For he is not a perverted oldster, he is your social equal. If you are over 18, you are no longer a child, and welcome to adult life, Ma'am.

Update: I'm back from Pilates and now I weigh one-hundred-and-thirty-three pounds, thanks to the Fast Diet. As I am only 5'2", I will attempt to get down to one-hundred-and-twenty-three pounds before going to Stage 2. I really love Pilates, and it occurs to me that maybe if I can stretch out my spine enough, I can grow a bit taller. Can this happen? Who can tell me?

Anyway, I thought I should add that despite my yells of "Woman up!" I realize that it is easier for a 28 year old young lady to woman up than an 18 year old young lady, which is why the 28 year olds (and up) should keep a eye on the 18 year olds and make sure they are not being backed into corners by Mr Bargle. The poor 18 year old is used to calling men Mr Bargle's age "Sir" or "Dad", and may be having problems transitioning to "I think we're supposed to circulate" or "I have no idea what you are talking about" or "I completely disagree" or "I have no interest in [X] whatsoever." It would be a great kindness if you rescued her. If you have any influence over the young men around, you might be able to send them on this mission of mercy. However, if this is a man who thinks that Mr Bargle is a fantastic chap any girl should be happy to talk to, you will have to do it yourself. Think of some excuse. One I like best is, "Forgive me if I whisk this young lady away to help me in the kitchen."

Update 2: Another thing you can do to discourage Mr Bargle, should you choose, is to ask him flat out how old he is. For example, if Mr Bargle actually asks you out, you can ask then. And if Mr Bargle asks if that is important, you should say yes, since you want to date only men your age. And if Mr Bargle, being 40 or whatever, asks you how old you are, throw in the word only, e.g. "I'm only 25." Mr Bargle may then say something mean because he feels mortally offended that unlike George Clooney he can't get 25 year old chicks. Smile, say you're sorry he thinks that, and walk away.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

In Defense of Quiet Men

Although I enjoy doing it, sometimes I feel that in writing this blog I am atoning for the sins of my youth. One of the sins of my youth was not understanding that men are the moral equals of women, and if you prick them, they bleed, etc. I know exactly why I thought they weren't, but I'm sorry I did. Thinking boys my age were either gods (my crush objects) or monsters (the majority) or pets (a minority) or my brother Nulli (alone of all his sex) stunted my social growth and made me a careless, and ultimately heartless, girlfriend. Oh, and incidentally I thought that "being somebody's girlfriend" was an indicator of social success quite apart from the business of marriage. After all, "having a boyfriend" was a central value in elementary school. Note the emphasis on possession.

Frankly I don't remember when it was that I acknowledged men (especially sexually active men) were 100% human, with hearts as bruiseable and breakable as women's hearts, and not at all disposable. Surely it was before I was thirty-seven. But I was thirty-seven when I was suddenly bowled over by the horror of bad female behaviour. I was sitting in my brother's new house, into which he and his wife had moved within days of the birth of their son, talking to an old friend on the phone when she informed me that she had left her husband and (temporarily, as it turned out) children. Her husband, a quiet, intelligent, successful, very kindly, somewhat sickly Catholic man, was someone I had always respected. I knew him well enough to know how absolutely devastated he must be. And in the traditional female manner of jumping from A to Q to Z to B, I thought at once of my brother and his wonderful new life depending completely on the love and loyalty of his wife, the mother of their newborn son. My blood ran cold. Surely she would never....?

My ethics prof at theology school called points in time like that "moral moments", and this moral moment showed me that whatever wicked men do, and however unpleasant my co-ed elementary school, and however ghastly the status of women in the Third World relative to men, women have no right to treat men like disposable objects: "He's not a bad man, Seraphic, but he's not the right man for me right now."

So. Down to those shy guys who pester you with their attentions as your reward for having spoken to them in the first place. How this situation is handled divides the women from the girls, or perhaps the ladies from the wimmin.

The pursuit of happiness. If women have the "right" to it (debatable but leave that aside for now), so do men. And one of the enduring goals of good men is to find a wife and have a family.

Some men find this difficult because their minds go blank when girls are around. It is not their fault. It is just something that happens.

Some men find this difficult because their quirky personalities, so normal in their quirky families, seem so odd to others.

Some men find this difficult because their interests are shared only by people much, much younger than themselves. Single people end up with single people, and the vast majority of single people are under thirty. At thirty my dear brother was a pillar of his local university's comic opera society, and the more immature undergrads thought he was as old as the hills. If he had shown them any courtship behaviour, they would have screamed, "Creepy! Creepy!"--never mind what absolutely splendid marriage material my brother was and is.

Readers often moan to me that men never show them any interest. Extra questioning sometimes reveals that this is not actually true. Lots of men show them interest. The problem is that readers don't have any interest in those men. That's quite a different issue entirely, and we must be rooted in reality.

In my experience, good, quiet men want to be with women who are pretty, whatever pretty means to them, and kind to them. They are not interested in chasing social butterflies here and there. They want one woman to stick to and build a life with--someone pretty and kind. And a girl who comes up to them and starts chatting to them after Mass or at a party where he is sitting alone, bored and frustrated, may seem very kind indeed.

Every good Catholic guy deserves a shot. This has been my position for seven years, and I see no reason to change that now. If you discover a quiet man constantly lingering at your elbow, or sending you texts, but never asking you out, then I suggest you invite him out for a coffee. Use this coffee to ask straight up, "Are you interested in me as a friend or as a potential girlfriend?" He may blush and gape like a goldfish, but it's a simple question. A or B. 0 or 1. Wait for the answer. When he tells you the answer, say "I'm glad to know for sure. This is what I think." And tell him what you have so far decided.

This may be that you are interested in him only as an acquaintance because you have very little in common. This may be that you are interested in him as a friend because you have a lot in common, and you think he is well worth knowing, but you don't feel a spark. Or you do feel a spark, but that is not enough because dating and marrying only someone who is an X [Armenian, Jewish, Catholic, vegetarian, etc.] is indispensable to your happiness. Or you think you'd like to see him again, perhaps over dinner, to discuss this potential girlfriend thing.

This is the kindest, most charitable, most humane and most adult manner in which I can conceive of as a solution to the problem of the shy guy who, having been so thrilled by your friendly willingness to talk to him, begins to hang around or even behaves in unusually silly ways, like gaping at you, and rushing from rooms in floods of tears.

If you are a Searching Single, it is not okay to imagine that you are a victim simply because a man you are not sexually attracted to has a crush on you. If a stranger you know only through the internet shows up at your door or gets your phone number through unknown means, okay, that is indeed creepy and alarming. But if we are talking about a young man you know through your social circles, there is nothing at all creepy about a young man doing what you wish the right young man would do, i.e. become romantically interested in you.

It is very cruel--and believe me I have my eyes fixed on my own sins here--to tell everyone in your set how very creeped out you are by the quiet man's clinging behaviour. If it gets back to him, and it very likely will, he will be devastated. The relationship between you and the quiet man, however tenuous, is your business, and you must take care of business, not put it off as long as possible while complaining about it to endless third parties. Imagine how you would feel if you really liked a guy, and he was really nice to you to your face, but behind your back he was telling everyone how creeped out he was by your quiet-but-obvious attempts to attract him.

Yes, men--and women, too--can behave in socially inept ways that make others uncomfortable. They are not being inept on purpose. They may not even know they are inept. I'm not sure it is kind to tell them unless they ask. Quite a lot of people think what they read in novels or see on TV or watch in romantic comedies is real, and that they show exactly how life is now, today, universally. And if you have reasons--very good reasons, like his persistently appearing at your elbow or door or "liking" every statement you make on Facebook--to believe a quiet man is "that into you" when you are not "that into him", then it is your duty as a woman, an adult woman, a lady, to settle the matter as soon as possible. Offer a friendly, confidential "Let's have coffee," not the dreadful "We need to talk." Talking is not the quiet man's strong point; why terrify him?

One last point, though. If he refuses to take no for an answer, if he whines or tries to make you feel guilty, if he insults you or calls you a bigot because dating and marrying only someone in your own religious or ethnic community is so important to you, NUKE HIM. Tell him that is utterly unacceptable and defriend him on Facebook. And let me tell you, this behaviour is not limited to quiet guys. In fact, I think quiet guys are less likely to behave this way than cocky, confident guys, the witty kind who are great with put-downs and openly despise men less popular and talented than they.

The socially inept guy is much more likely, in my experience, to flee the scene weeping. If this should happen to you--it has happened to me--take a deep yoga breath, summon the waiter and order a comforting piece of cake.