Thursday, 10 July 2014

Breaking Up

Well, we girls have heard enough about rotten, lying, time-wasters of boyfriends who are afraid to take the "next step" because they're waiting for someone better to come along. So here's an example of a woman acting like that.

Sometimes girls write in to tell me that they've never had a boyfriend, and I write back, "That's great! You've had less sexual temptation, and you've never had a break-up! Awesome! High five! Woot!" Well, something along those lines, anyway.

I read a lot of garbage romance novels for teens when I was a kid and a teen, vintage and contemporary (i.e. 1980s), and the message I got was the more boyfriends, the better. These novels weren't advocating for promiscuity; they just suggested that the more boys who wanted you to be their girlfriend, the more fabulous you were. I honestly believed that you were supposed to have an elementary school sweetheart, and then a high school sweetheart, and then a college sweetheart, and onward and upward. It's not like anyone ever, ever, EVER gave us a lecture on the topic--not at school, not at church, not at Girl Guides, nowhere. Oh, wait. In Grade 9, Sister Wilfreda told us never to date someone we wouldn't marry. That was it, and then it was all the "keep your bra on" stuff in chastity lectures. Nobody ever told me boys had real feelings like girls do.

The only girls I knew who were not allowed to "date" when they were teenagers (and teenagers still had "I'll pick you up at 8" style dates back then--how SWEET!) were daughters of Italian migrants, e.g. many of my high school friends. Now, of course, I think their parents were absolutely right. There is no point in dating in high school. Hanging out with boys who are friends who are chaste friends, yes. Dating? No.

My friend Lily argued against this once and said the lessons you learn from dating prepare you for marriage, but I am not so sure. What actually prepared me for marriage was theology school because theology school had a lot of older laymen who occasionally had to be put in their place and a lot of wonderful male religious who could only ever be friends. Having to confront "seekers" having mid-life crises is character forming. Being thrown into the midst of a lot of smart, attractive, deeply faithful men and told "Don't touch" is a great training in prudence, chastity and fidelity. And not all women pass that particular theology school test. <8-O Dating for the sake of having a boyfriend, on the other hand, teaches you that there is indeed such thing as a free lunch. And free dinners. Free, free, free! And it never occurred to me to question this economic disparity because I thought that was what guys were supposed to do; they paid, I smiled. Frankly, the teenage and college-aged me had the EQ of a doughnut. Maybe if I blog every weekday that will seriously reduce my time in Purgatory.

My principal objections to teenage dating are not related to chastity--in the 80s it was very easy to terrify teenage girls into chastity, and I thought Much Ado About Nothing was a documentary anyway. No, my principal objections are that you are more likely to get bored and jaded with the whole thing. And the break-ups are awful. Unless you're think you're ready to marry now, don't hanker after boyfriends.

I remember my first break-up, performed when I was 18. At that point I was quite terrified of Mr Middle Eastern Muslim Boyfriend Who Pretended He Couldn't Understand English When It Was More Convenient. I decided that the best thing to do was break up with him in a public place, and so he got the bad news outside Toronto New City Hall. But, lo! I had forgotten a hat at his house! He suggested that I come back to his house to get this hat. And I really loved that hat. But perhaps my Auntie Seraphic voice came hurtling out of the future to say, "Don't you DARE go back to that house!" So I didn't. And I never saw my hat again. The End.

Break-ups got way worse after that. Way. In fact, I can remember only one relatively easy break-up of the kind where you can shake hands afterwards and laugh over how doomed it all was from the start. Ha ha ha! But even then one of us had second thoughts and brooded and sulked and it was all very uncomfortable.

Really, having boyfriends is totally over-rated, and DON'T PUNCH YOUR COMPUTER SCREEN! When I was 16, I thought having a boyfriend would be an amazing solution to these various problems:

1. boredom
2. loneliness
Three. lack of intimate conversations (see 2)
4. feeling ugly
5. feeling like a lesser woman because I didn't have a boyfriend, which you have to admit is kind of circular.

Having had a chance to think about that for twenty-something years, I have come up with solutions to my then-problems that have nothing to do with boys.

1. Proper after-school (or summer school) math class and language school on Saturdays.
2. Proper after-school math class (or summer school) and language school on Saturdays.
Three. Psychotherapy. Then I could have paid (or, to be honest, my parents) could have paid someone to listen to my teen angst and tell me to concentrate on math, languages and the arts.
4. Psychotherapy and hot irons. Why, oh why, did I not find out about hot irons until I was thirty-two!?!? And Pilates. Pilates would have been cool.
5. Psychotherapist to ask me if I thought my Italian-Canadian friends were lesser women because they didn't have boyfriends either. That would never have occurred to me on my own. Indeed, it only occurred to me just now.

So, if it's not too late, I hope I have convinced you that you are really better off not having a boyfriend. It's much more romantic just to marry the super-cute friend of friends who would make a great lifelong friend if you both didn't want so badly to be more than friends within two weeks of being friends. And you aren't ready to make crazy teenage decisions like that until you are way old like me. Well, maybe not THAT old.


Anamaria Scaperlanda Biddick said...

Yes! Love love love. Very true (and funny).

Until I started dating my current husband when I was 26, I had two boyfriends: in 7th grade and my senior year of high school. This was two too many, for many reasons, including the fact that I really hurt both of them. And then, because they both pined after me (the second wanted to marry me even four years later...), it really screwed up how I related to men when I was old enough/semi-mature enough to marry. I hid my femininity because I was afraid of it and afraid of how that part of me had hurt these two boys in the past. And then, probably because I hid my femininity, very few guys were interested in me, and I felt bad about myself as a woman.

I did date someone for about two months when I was 24 or 25, and that was good because it helped me learn how reveal my femininity and be vulnerable in a way that was appropriate to the situation (and not be overly intimate). It ended amicably (he even came to my wedding), but we also didn't drag it out, etc, etc.

As for #3 above, developing good female friendships is really important! I wish I had more female friends who live close, especially now that so much of my time is with my family. Having an old friend that can still be a good friend even when you don't see each other as regularly is invaluable.

Modesty said...

Wow...I guess I am a rare nut. My mother told me very young that I was not allowed to date until college because dating was for marriage. I still wanted a boyfriend real bad, but that's because I wanted to marry young and okay honestly I wanted to fit in. But through high school and undergrad I stuck to my guns. I was actually confused by my non-catholic friends who wanted to get married but not have children.

I'm terribly pragmatic sometimes and don't have a romantic bone in me I fear. What's the point of marriage without family? Why date someone you don't want to marry?

Currently, I worry that I'm like the woman in that article...just a bit. Whenever I'm in a "serious" relationship, I'm the first to balk and call it off. Luckily, I too am working with a therapist on my, multiple issues such as they are.

Wilderness girl said...

"What's the point of marriage without family? "

Although I love when people try to answer this question, I'm afraid I feel the same... I guess we just need to read Auntie's answers again... and again... and again... until we find some comfort.

And never forget "J. God has a plan." I loved it, Auntie! :)