Monday, 31 May 2010

Help Seraphic Week

My dear little Singles, if any of you have been loving my biweekly column at my Canadian Catholic paper, this would be a good week to send a little email to tell the editor that you like it, and how refreshing to read a column geared to intelligent, orthodox Catholics your age, etc., etc. If you are not a Catholic, but an actual, real live, non-Catholic who likes my biweekly column, say that. My detractors would be in AWE, since I am so, like, you know, conservative and stuff.

Send your love notes to and, incidentally, use my real name. Thanks!

Update: And in other news, it has finally come home to me how little I still make from writing. (No royalties until January, for example.) So behold, resurrected, the tip jar.

Update 2: Thank you to the kindly Irish contributor who sent along $40!

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Auntie Seraphic & Contacted by Married Man

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

I've been reading your posts about interacting with married men and, oddly, I recently received an email from a Nice Catholic Guy I briefly dated about 8 years ago. From what I know, he is married and has a son. I have had no contact with him for 7 years and our last communication was friendly. I knew he was engaged to the woman he is now married and I had moved on with my life and wished them well.

I responded to his email and told him I was quite shocked to hear from him. The next email I received from him he said that he understood my surprise and that he had wanted to get in touch to apologize for how he acted when we dated and afterward. He hopes that I have been very blessed in life and regrets he may have been a poor example of our Catholic faith. Honestly, I felt he had acted decently and we only dated for a month so it was something I easily moved on from.

Especially after reading your recent posts, I am aware that I should tread carefully when communicating with an ex-boyfriend who is now married. I realize it is a good thing to want to make amends for past mistakes and that he is a prayerful person and God may be working in his life to prompt him to contact me. However, I also know that marriages are delicate and sacred and I am respectful of that. I was thinking of asking him what prompted him to contact me now and whether his wife is aware of it. Any other advice?

Contacted By Married Man

Dear Contacted By Married Man,

Okay, St. Ignatius of Loyola said that whenever we were confused by someone's theological position, we must first make the most charitable assumption and ask further questions before branding our interlocuter a big nasty heretic.

So I will honour St. Ignatius long enough to say that perhaps Mr Married Man really really really feels that it will help his Christian faith and perhaps also his Catholic marriage to contact a woman he used to date and go over the good old days when he was such a wicked thing, breaking up with poor little you and all. Never mind that you might not have given him a second's thought in seven years. Ooooh, seven years. What does that remind me of?

My advice is to ignore his last email and all future emails. He's done what he says he's set out to do--make amends for what he feels were past wrongs--and so that's enough from Mr. Married Man. If he needs more spiritual thrills, he can get them through apologizing to his wife for whatever poor examples he's been setting for her lately. I'm sure there must be something. Like sending deeply personal emails to ex-flames, for example.

Incidentally, as you don't remember his acting particularly badly--and your dating relationship was only a month long--it is clear to me that this sudden bout of nostalgia has little to do with you and your eight-years-dead relationship. There is something going on with him, now. I don't know what it is, but I am sure Nice Catholic Men get just as bored of ordinary daily life as other men, and have periods of sighing over their yearbook photographs and googling up old flames in a nostalgic way. It's just human.

Human, but dangerous. So don't give Mr. Married Man any encouragement whatsoever. Also, as a favour to him and his wife, don't share news of his emails with mutual acquaintances or, for heaven's sake, his wife. My guess is that it's just a blip, and no matter what it is actually all about, he probably thinks it's all about being a better Catholic.

I do not have a direct phone line to heaven, but I cannot think of a single reason why God would prompt a married man with children to email a single woman he used to date right out of the blue and carry on a meaningful spiritual correspondence about himself with her. Unless, of course, you're Sister Joan Chittister or some other celebrity nun.

Hope this is helpful!

Grace and peace,

Friday, 28 May 2010

Auntie Seraphic & Isabella & the Wife Who Screamed


Will you be blogging about the "artificial barrier" between Married and Single people or will we have to wait for your next book? I hadn't thought about it until I read [your last post], but the more I think about it, the more I think there is something there.

This reminded me of (another state) when I had something break and went over to see a female friend of mine--"wife"--to help me fix it. She wasn't home, but "husband" invited me in, got out the toolkit, and fifteen minutes or so later, I was merrily on my way.

That night, "wife" called me and screamed that I was never to be alone in her house with "husband" ever again. I should state that there was no reason for this -- she was my friend first, and he was just a nice guy who happened to be MARRIED to someone I considered a friend. No flirtation, no touching up my makeup before I knocked on the door - nothing.

There have been more comments on this [on your blog] than almost anything in a long while, so there's something going on, but heck if I know what. I'd be very interested in finding out what that barrier is, because that incident ended my friendship with both of them and I still don't know why. I think he got an ultimatum not to talk to me and she never called again.

I'm reasonably OK looking but not so beautiful that men hurl themselves at my feet, so I would dearly like to understand what happened. FWIW I have always worked mainly with men and miss her more than him.


Dear Isabella,

First, this was not in any way your fault. You did absolutely nothing wrong. This, in fact, had nothing to do with you. At most, you were cast as a bit player in the psycho-drama between "husband" and "wife". I cannot even begin to imagine the script to that particular psycho-drama. For all I know, imagining infidelities between her husband and her friends is how your ex-friend gets her kicks. Sorry to be so blunt, but some people (and some marriages) are like that.

Nobody can really understand the dynamics between husbands and wives, including husbands and wives themselves sometimes. Marriage is not just an institution, it is a psychological condition. What is the line in the Song of Songs? Love is as strong as death, more powerful than the grave? That sums up marriage, if anything can. Love, strong, death, power, grave. This is not an artificial barrier, though. It is true.

But no-one approaches marriage tabula rasa. A child learns about marriage from her parents, and if a woman's father hit her mother or abandoned her or ran around with every weak-willed woman in town, the child may very well dread (or, worse, expect) that her husband will do that, too. This is where the artificial barriers between Single and Married people might go up.

A woman's feelings about marriage may lead her to freak out at innocent women who come by her house bearing broken items. The helpful guy with a tool-kit is a staple character in pornographic movies, I believe. And for all you know, "husband" and "wife" have been fighting over his or her porn habit. Sorry to be so blunt again.

Old-fashioned ideas about interacting with married people, once set in stone, and now maybe not as universal, can also create artificial boundaries between Singles and Marrieds.

I once found my Single self alone in a house with a married male colleague, and I was not happy about it. The first thing I said was, "Does [your wife] know I'm here?" And apparently she did and eventually she came home and made cheerful conversation. She was absolutely fine with my being there, even without her.

My male colleague thought my discomfort was hilarious, possibly in part because he and his wife are committed feminists and possibily in part because their marriage was rock-solid. But my mother has no male friends except my father, and no male colleagues either, and I had no template of how ladies are supposed to act regarding married men, other than (perhaps) to completely avoid being left alone with them. So that was part of my inner marriage script.

Another time I found my Single self alone in a flat watching Sex & the City with a dear now-married friend, and her husband came home early. I jumped up in a panic because my mother told me years ago that wives' friends should be out of the house and wives off the phone when husbands came home. That created more of my marriage script. It was not part of the marriage script for my friends, however, and my buddy's husband told me to relax: I didn't have to go home just because he was there.

But let us return to married peoples' private insecurities and expectations around marriage.

Married people are supposed to put each other--and never you or any other Single person--first all the time. ALL the time. But not all married people are as good at doing this as they are at expecting it of their spouse, alas. So a woman (or man) who feels that her (or his) spouse isn't doing a good enough job putting her (or him) first may begin to resent any time he (or she) spends with friends, especially friends of the opposite sex.

But marital insecurity is not the only barrier between Single people and Married people. There is also the envy of the Single for the Married, and the discomfort of Married people with the unhappiness of the Single, especially if the Single person complains or lashes out all the time. The unhappy Single person sees only the gorgeous kitchen equipment given as wedding gifts; she doesn't hear her Married friends fight about how to properly make a lasagna--"My mother made it this way"; "Your mother's version is choked with fat and will eventually kill your dad."

If you would like your friend back, I recommend sending her a card or an email saying, "Haven't heard from you for a long time. Hope you are well!" It could be that she was having a rough time in her marriage, and now feels ashamed that she made you bear the brunt of it. But don't be too disappointed if she doesn't respond.

I hope this helps. Once again, it was not your fault.

Grace and peace,

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Cheap Beer With the Dudes

Update: A great review (and the first UK review) from Cath. Thank you, Cath!

For Searching Single girls. If you are a Serious Single, you can simply read with amusement, have a good chortle and enjoy your freedom.

One of my favourite TV shows in the UK is "Ladette to Lady". It is a reality show featuring a dozen or so contestants who are willing to go to an English finishing school and try to kick their unladylike ways. It's unbelievably exploitative of its volatile young contestants, mind you.

For example, in the series with Australian girls (who were arrested upon landing in England because of their hijinks on the plane), the headmistress announces to the girls that they will be having a party and the male guests will be staying overnight. The ex-stripper, no dummy, bursts into tears. She knows its a trap, and a pretty foul one, too. And sure enough, the craziest girl in the group ends up in bed with one of the boys. But it is the tomboy who gets expelled.

The tomboy is a pipefitter, used to hanging out with men all the time. She's about 27, and looks ten years older. Laying pipe in the Australian outback doesn't do much for your complexion, I guess. She comes onto the show in the hopes of getting in touch with her feminine side, but living and working with a bunch of sexy party girls gets old fast.

So when the male guests retire to their rooms for some clandestine drinking, the tomboy joins them. Disaster ensues when she is found by a teacher, drunk, hiding under a bed. It's tragic, really. The woman just wanted to go back to being one of the boys.

My question, which I can't answer yet, is how can you be both one of the boys AND be a creature unlike any other (as commands Ellen Fein's first Rule in The Rules)? How do you preserve any mystery?

"Do you paint your husband's toenails that colour?" asked a male Pillar of my Parish. I looked down at my bright pink toenails and remembered hearing that pedicures are Not Done by ladies (as opposed to ladettes) here in Scotland.

"He has never been drunk enough to let me try," I loftily replied.

But I find it interesting that the Pillar noticed my toes in the first place, my toes that proclaimed "girl toes" just by being painted. Simone de Beauvoir says that a girl is made, not born, a woman, and Susan Brownmiller opines that femininity is not natural but a social construct. But I think that femininity is incredibly useful for underscoring one's own essential, and attractive, distance from men.

I was in Rosslyn Chapel on Tuesday, and among the carvings of biblical scenes, angels, flowers and green men, there is a stone ribbon proclaiming (in Latin) that drink is strong, the king is stronger, woman is stronger still and truth is the strongest of all. I forget now in which biblical story these statements were made, but I enjoyed contemplating FORTIOR MULIERIS because it reminds me of a flattering truth.

Women have a lot of power over men. I tend to forget this. Heck, we all forget it. We've heard since childhood of how unfair the world is to women, and we are constantly told that men make more money than us, and blah blah blah. Men are the strong sex, the powerful sex, the attractive (to us) sex. So unless we are the kind of women whom men have been flopping in front of all of our lives, we forget that as far as men are concerned, we are the strong, the powerful, the attractive sex.

So how to tap into this? Feminine difference, I believe. Feminine distance. Why should we pluck our eyebrows? (Which I hate to do, shudder shudder.) To create pleasing frames for our eyes? Yes. But also because men usually don't. Why should we wear mascara? To make even better frames for our eyes? Yes. But also because men don't.

This does not have to extend to profession. There are both feminine biochemists and macho nurses. Profession has nothing to do with this. And there are girls who can look as fantastically feminine fixing up their cars as they do mixing up a cake. It's about les petits soins. It's about attitude. It's about not being just one of the boys.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

"I'll Take Care of This"

The other day, Julie wrote something utterly heartbreaking in the comments, and it haunted me as I fell asleep last night. I haven't forgotten how sad it is sometimes to be Single, especially Single and overburdened with work and worry.

Julie recounted a married male colleague at work saying "You look so tired, you go home and rest, and I'll take care of this" and she reflected that it was hard not to long to have a husband to say that.

My very last piece in Seraphic Singles (the Book) touches on our longing for someone to say things like this. That piece is called "Got Your Back." In it I (still Single) reflect on all the people who do "get our back"--family, friends, co-workers, mentors. My thought was that although we don't necessarily have husbands to make our lives easier, other caring people do. The trick is to find them, develop relationships with them, and to ask for and accept their help gratefully.

Since then, I have found that although I am very happily married to a very good, amusing and intelligent man, he cannot do simply EV-erything always to make me feel better about life's slings and arrows. I find myself needing other people, too, especially female friends. (Yes, I know I do go on about female friends. But what will happen if I have a baby one day with no mummy, no mummy-in-law, no sisters and no young-yet-experienced-mother friends in town rather alarms me. I joked to an old bachelor friend of B.A.'s that I would ask him to come and babysit; he laughed immoderately and said it boggled the mind. Oh dear.) But even men friends still come in useful. I have three male mentor figures I turn to in moments of writerly darkness, for example.

Once again, I encourage Singles to, instead of becoming bogged down in depression about the spousal support they don't have, develop and appreciate the support they do have. I know this may be irritating to hear from a married woman, but I said exactly the same thing when I was Single.

If you can stand to read about married people today, read on:

This reminds me: the most harried and lonely women I know are young married women with children. If you have married friends nearby, don't forget to invite them to parties and make it clear that they can bring their children. I'm not talking about your eagerly-planned formal dinner party with the best china; I'm just suggesting that the next time you have an informal party, you remember to invite married pals you haven't seen in awhile and make it clear their kids are welcome. That way, you've got your married friends' backs.

Some of the best times I had in Toronto when I was home last month was with a young-mother pal. She brought her baby along to restaurants, cafes, the beauty shop, a bachelorette party, and waitresses and beauticians simply flocked to coo over the baby. To breastfeed, my friend just threw a blanket over her shoulder. No problem. And all these parties and outings would just not have been the same without her, so I am so glad she is so comfortable going everywhere with her baby. Of course, it wasn't always like that--baby spent his first six months yowling almost non-stop. Offering to watch the baby for 15 minutes is another way a Single girl friend can help out a frazzled Married girl friend, plus have all the fun of short-term baby-minding without the horrors of 24/7 baby-minding.

Update: Thank you very much to the tenth reviewer! I enjoyed your tribute very much. And now that British readers have been receiving their copies from, it would be great if they would write reviews on I love reading the new reviews!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Making Friends of the Opposite Sex

In yesterday's comments, Jennifer brought up an embarrassment many Singles will know well. It is the problem of saying a friendly word to a member of the opposite sex and getting a cold look of suspicion and fear in return.

I used to think that was just a girl's problem, but I've received enough sorrowful email on the same topic from young men to realize that this affects them just as much, if not more. One young man complained to me that when he tried to talk to Catholic girls at Catholic events, they stared at him wide-eyed, as if he were a potential murderer. Well, we're all potential murderers, but I know what he meant, because I spent my undergraduate days looking at guys who came up to talk to me as if they were potential murderers.

So it may come as a comfort to Singles on both the Joseph and Mary sides of the aisle to know that this is not a problem confined only to their group. But what to do?

First of all, we have to be honest. If you go up to a member of the opposite sex, thinking "Oooh, what a cute guy/girl", don't be surprised and shocked if they can read the lovelight in your eyes. But if you make a conversational aside to the random guy/girl beside you at the tea table after Mass and they interrupt you with "I'm seeing someone", just say, "How nice for you," and turn your back. They, not you, have been abominably rude.

Second of all, there are rude people in the world. There are people with Serious Issues. There has also been a general breakdown in manners and a growing tendency to confuse honesty with rudeness. But enough about Boston. What I'm trying to get across is that sometimes your well-meaning conversational gambit is going to be rudely rejected, and your response is to turn the other cheek and your entire back. There's no point trying to make friends with rude people with Serious Issues.

I remember talking to a professor at a garden party in Boston. It was my first school function in Boston, and I was very nervous. Having been introduced to a celebrated professor, I began to talk to him. Suddenly he lunged past me to grab the arm of a very pretty student two or so years ahead of me, and began to talk to her with great animation. This professor was a priest, and all I think about him now is, "I was a stranger and you made me feel like garbage." I've never tried to speak to him again. And I seem to have forgotten his name. He's a syncretist of some kind... Gracious, I just cannot remember his name for the moment.

Third of all, why should you care if a random guy or girl becomes your friend or not? You don't even know them, so if they are rude to you, they have given you helpful data: they are not friendship material, at least not right now. On to the next person.

Fourth, why do you need friends of the opposite sex? How many friends do you need? The ancients thought true friendship was rare. Aristotle thought it could only take place between equals which, for Aristotle, meant that men could never be friends with women. The Romans, however, did believe that a man's best friend could indeed be his wife, so thank you, Romans.

Americans and Canadians seem to feel that you can be friends with absolutely everybody, which is what Facebook is about. Some Europeans (like Germans) find this shocking and shallow. They have a few bosom pals, and then respectful acquaintances. This dignified reality is supported by the, for example, German custom of addressing one's neighbours by their title and surname. "Gruess Gott, Herr Schmidt." "'Tag, Frau Mueller." Never mind that they may have lived next door to each other for thirty years.

I believe that men long for women friends because if they don't have a woman at their table and in their bed, most of them feel horribly lonely and incomplete. Women are very good at saying soothing things and listening and all those other skills we absorb from absolute babyhood. But I don't quite understand why women long for lots of male friends, unless it is because they don't get along with other women. Shiraz and I had a good conversation the other days as to who were the worse bullies, twelve year old boys or teenage girls. Shiraz had a lot of convincing proof that whatever bullying boys could do, girls could do better. But you know me. I think men are the caffeine in the cappuccino of life, but they just can't provide me with the Girl Chat I need to stay cheerful in this valley of tears.

On the one hand, longing for created stuff (like friends) is not really in keeping with the Christian faith. We're supposed to long for God and thank Him for whatever created gifts he sends our way. So we should be grateful for the friends we have, and not kill ourselves trying to get more. On the other hand, no man (or woman) is an island, and we have to take care of our emotional life. If we move to another city, and our friends are all elsewhere, we certainly feel a lack.

On Sunday, when I had collapsed from too much drink and too much sun onto a cushion as men about me drank even more and sang "Annie Laurie" around the piano, one of my husband's friends looked upon me with compassion.

"Aw, hen," he said. "Weel have tae find ye more wifies."


Monday, 24 May 2010

Because It Will Make You Unhappy

I am surprised at the vehemence of Singles against yesterday's unfinished post, "And don't mess with married men."

"Don't mess with married men" is standard advice in books for Singles, and I think I have written a dozen times that women should not mess with priests and seminarians, without anyone--including priests and seminarians--getting angry about it.

Where is the anger coming from? Have I finally said the unsayable? Or is it that we don't want to admit that Nice Catholic Girls ever have a longing thought or two in a Married Man's direction? And I am sympathetic to this taboo, for I had at least two crushes on Married Men when I was Single and I never wrote about them. Too scared.

But let us look at reality. I looked at reality the other day when a chance acquaintance brought the subject of Single Women pursuing Married Men to mind. Obviously I am not going to go into the circumstances, just as I've never gone into the circumstances of real women messing with real priests and real seminarians (and the priests and seminarians messing with women). But the thoughts that came to mind were, "What a shame." "But she's such a lovely girl." "Why doesn't she know better?" and even, "What would her mother say?" I have no idea if the girl is Catholic or not. Probably not.

I think I was thirty or so when I first got a crush on a Married Man. I had not planned on getting a crush on a Married Man, but he worked in my office and I was bored. He was very cute, and his wife gave him a hard time for everything and his in-laws didn't like his ethnic group (or something). I got a mild thrill every time he came by my desk, and I recorded our conversations in my diary. I meticulously referred to him there as MM, "Married Man."

Happily for everybody, I never acted on my mild crush in any way whatsoever (besides, of course, writing down our conversations). For one thing, I had the big MM taboo, still being a practising Catholic, and for another, he had a photo of a baby on his desk, so I think even if I hadn't been brought up to respect marriage vows, the photo of the baby would have stopped any word or gesture. But it didn't stop wistful thoughts of, "He's so cute and funny" and "Gosh, his wife sounds like a tartar." Generally, I believed everything anybody ever told me, so it never occured to me that his wife wasn't a tartar--just a busy working mother whose husband wasn't a saint. Younger women are very attractive for their credulity.

I can't tell you firsthand how miserable it makes you to get involved with a married man, for I never have myself. I can only tell you that women (even young women) do get involved with married men (even with young married men), and this causes widespread misery.

When Monica Lewinsky made the news for having had an affair with the American President, there were gallons of ink spilled on why Monica might have done such a thing. The fact that she had been involved before with a married man became front page news, and someone (perhaps Monica) posited that Monica's attraction to married men stemmed from low self-esteem. Apparently some women feel that they will never get "their own" man and so therefore "share" someone else's husband, making all kinds of justifications to themselves. Rose Macaulay, a deeply religious 20th century Anglican novelist, justified her long affair with a Catholic married man with the idea that the War had killed all the eligible bachelors.

The miseries attendent on pursuing a married man are legion. First, you make an ass of yourself as even chance aquaintances (like me) see you stepping out with a married man, his ring firmly on his finger, and wonder what on earth you're about. Second, you know that he returns after meetings to his wife and children and suffer the pain of loss and probably envy. Third, you either feel bad about him betraying his wife (in whatever way) or you undergo a coarsening of conscience as you simply don't care. And that's just your sufferings. There's his sufferings, his wife's sufferings and his children's sufferings to consider, too.

That all said, I will now look at why even mention of this topic (so much in the news these days thanks to Tiger Woods) is upsetting readers so much. It might be because Single women worry that Married women think their standard friendliness is a play for their husbands, and they feel insulted.

Well, obviously, I can't speak for all married women, but I have never worried about this. I would find it quite interesting news, actually, if someone hit on B.A. I love "Someone hit on B.A." stories. Someone texted B.A. to say that she had a B.A. shaped hole in her life. Unfortunately for her, that was two days after he asked me to marry him. As she is Single and I love Singles, I wouldn't normally tell you this story, which she must feel embarrassed about now, but I'm feeling on the defensive here.

I think only a woman who doesn't know her husband very well (or is going through an emotionally very bad time) would worry about random Single women talking to him after Mass or during drinks with the gang after work, so I really wouldn't worry about that if I were you, mes filles. On the other hand, if a woman gives you a mean look when you talk to her husband, that might very well be a warning that the man is not a nice person for you to know.

Then it might be that some Single women are frustrated that they never seem to meet eligible men, but just married men on the prowl. I agree that that is very annoying, but married men on the prowl are rarely a spiritual temptation to nice Single women. It's the dreamboat in the office who reputedly has a bitchy wife who is the real danger.

Then it might be a confusion as to what this post is about. St. Ignatius of Loyola says that when you are confused by a person's theological position, you should charitably make the best interpretation (and not just assume he is a heretic). When I write something about Single people, I would hope that three and a half years of writing for Single people would absolve me of any suspicion of warring against Single People. I am not worried about the vast majority of my readers suddenly rushing out to steal other people's spouses. I am worried about the one girl with a crush on a married man who might be reading this and, by reading this, might be saved from a hideous mistake that will make her and others very unhappy.

Update: Sorry about the moved post. I am really, REALLY busy and rushed lately, and "Whitsunday Report" was supposed to go on my other blog in the first place. Whitsunday is traditionally the name for Pentecost Sunday in the British Isles. Today is Whitmonday.

Update 2: Any nasty comments about my marriage will get you banned. If you are that upset about being Single, it is time for therapy. And there is nothing wrong with therapy, if you get the right therapist. I was in therapy for almost five years, and in spiritual direction for three. I found both therapy and spiritual direction very helpful.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

And Don't Mess With Married Men

A generation that grows up with divorce widespread amongst their parents is doubtlessly cynical about marriage. Many hope for the perfect marriage, but set the marriages of their neighbours at naught. If a handsome married man is unhappy, or just looks unhappy, some women--young women--think that he is fair game.

I stress young women because when I was young I laboured under the misapprehension that somehow my generation was more moral and less hypocritical than my mother's Baby Boom generation. Since then, however, I have realized that this is just something that young people like to believe of themselves. The generations that have followed the Baby Boom are, perhaps, less self-centred, but they are also less confident in everything, including the institution of marriage. Sexy romance is what its all about, and when sexy romance goes, the man goes.

But sexy romance goes and comes back, incidentally, as all married women know. One moment we are head over heels with our clever, handsome husbands, but the next we long to flush their heads down our toilets while shrieking like banshees. ("Or is that just me?" B.A. told me to say.) Frankly, I would be frantic with rage if some beautiful young thing made eyes at B.A. right after a head-flushing incident.

I have more stern thoughts on this topic, but first I have to go to Mass where I will be confirmed in my sternness. BRB.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

I Get Knocked Down...

The Single Life is fraught with rejection, but this doesn't stop when/if you get married, alas. There are lots of rejections waiting for you--especially if you aspire to a profession in the Fine Arts.

For example, I just got a rejection letter this morning. I cannot remember how many times this particular manuscript has been turned down. Four or five times, I think. Maybe six. However, tomorrow I will send it right back out again, for it is a good novel and an independent third party literary-type person (not a friend) was enthusiastic about it.

That is what the writer's life is like. You get knocked down, and you get up again. Down and up. Down and up. That's what a Christian life is like, too, incidentally. You sin. You go to Confession and try again. You sin. You go to Confession and try again. There may be a reason why we church-going Catholics call ourselves practising Catholics. Maybe some day we'll get it right.

And maybe someone with a printing press and a PR pro will get enthusiastic about my lovely novel. So tomorrow I try again.

Update: Ooh! Today the Holy Father #3, and I am #5 on's hot Catholic future books list.

Monday, 17 May 2010

When Silence is Golden

The other afternoon I was lamenting my youthful dating days with an old friend. I wasn't thinking about my post-divorce, post-annulment dating days, in which I was most definitely the most vulnerable party and a shadow of my former self. I was thinking about my pre-first marriage days, when I had buckets of confidence and, not that I knew this, power that I abused with abandon.

I didn't date much until I was eighteen, and then I was pleased when a handsome refugee from the Middle East decided that I was his girlfriend. Dating someone who did not share my traditional Catholic values became onerous and even scary, and I soon broke up with him.

But it never occured to me to question the whole concept of boyfriend-having, so I was pleased when it dawned on me a year later that a Catholic male friend hoped I'd become his girlfriend. So I did, and within a year or so we were even talking about marriage, and I even had the wedding hymns planned when I realized I was so bored, I'd rather shoot myself than marry my boyfriend. Unfortunately, I put it even worse than that in my break-up speech.

You would think I had learned my lesson, but no. After dating another exciting non-Catholic, I decided (again) to date another Catholic man who had taken a shine to me, and within a year or so we were even talking about marriage, and again I had the wedding hymns planned when I realized I was so bored, I'd rather shoot myself than marry this boyfriend, too. But I do not remember my break-up speech, although I do recall hitting on another Catholic guy before the break-up was final and listening to my new ex-boyfriend's angry diatribe on the subject in his high flutey voice that rose to the crescendo shriek of a tea kettle.

And then I got engaged to yet another exciting non-Catholic, which put an end to my behaving terribly to Catholic young men for a decade and, incidentally, almost ruined my life.

Having spent many many years feeling sorry for myself, I did not have the luxury to feel sorry for my Catholic ex-boyfriends. However, now that I am blissfully happy with B.A., I do feel rather bad about the imprudence of my youth, and I am sorry I was such a jerk to the Nice Catholic Boys I went out with. Of course, they did say some outrageously awful things about me once I toddled off into the sunset, so I won't cry too terribly much.

I think what I feel worst about was talking about marriage before I was 100% sure I wanted to marry either of those young men. In fact, I simply talked too much. I spun castles in the air. I painted word pictures of where we might live, and how we might live, and what we might call our children, and so on and so on, and my poor boyfriends just let me blether. No wonder they were so furious when I broke up with them.

"What will my parents say?" demanded the second. It struck me as very odd that he thought I would care.

So my great unsolicited advice for the day--more for the younger people than for the older--is to keep your daydreaming about your current flame to yourself, not because you're afraid of scaring him/her away (another possibility), but because deep down you don't really know if you want to marry him/her or not.

Sorry So Busy

My dear little Singles, I am horrified to discover I haven't written anything here on Seraphic Singles since Wednesday. I had an out-of-town Single guest from abroad, and that meant almost non-stop entertaining and running around, with bouts of ccoking and dishwashing.

The first thing I must do today is write my paper column, but then I will come back and expound some wisdom for Singles.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

The Humanity

A newspaper has turned down an article about Seraphic Singles because--hold onto your hats--I got married.

This is exactly the kind of thing I worried might happen. Of course, when you're in love, you don't really think, "Oh wait. If I get married now, this will louse up publicity for my book."

Anyway, if you are feeling discriminated against for being Single, just imagine being discriminated against later because you are no longer Single. If you didn't think that kind of thing happened anymore, guess again!

Meanwhile, although Sr. Joan Chittister is so far outselling my book, someone in the know says I am gaining on her. This is very pleasant news for Sr. Joan has written dozens of books and is very popular. So help me defeat the forces of discrimination and also beat the popular Sr. Joan's sales by buying your copy of Seraphic Singles today!

(If you have already bought your copy, I think you and urge you to go to or to write your review!)

Update: First review for The Closet's All Mine (the American version of Seraphic Singles), and I love it! Great thanks to M.A. Hodge. Meanwhile, I am also loving the shoes on the cover.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Random Snippets of Advice to 20-Somethings

1. Tanning is stupid.

2. Wear sunscreen and sunglasses.

3. You're not a prude; s/he is a jerk.

4. It's not "a hang-up"; it's known as "natural modesty."

5. Christian doctrine is right on all that sex stuff. It can seem like SUCH a drag, but it turns out to be true. Make sure you know what it really is (hint: not necessarily what The New York Times says it is), and remember that God loves you, no matter who you are.

6. Truth is what is.

7. You don't have to finish a drink just because someone (including you) bought it for you.

8. Sunscreen: wear it.

9. Smoking: extremely dumb and gives you premature wrinkles.

10. It's harder to learn stuff as you age, so study and learn languages NOW.

11. Even though one distant day you'll be too old to have babies, you'll never be too old to fall in love and get married.

12. Sunscreen. I'm serious. Thirty-somethings don't envy you your emotional turmoil, but we do envy you your beautiful skin. Sigh.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Auntie Seraphic & Tired of Moaning

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

Although I'm young (a couple of years out of college), a lot of my friends have already gotten married. The number of single ladies in my circle of childhood friends has dwindled to only a few. It's odd feeling like an "old maid" already (I'm not really, I know!), but I'm ok with the fact that my life isn't going to follow the same trajectory as many of my friends. Plus, I think back to the boys that I would have gotten engaged to at 19 or, thanks! :)

The problem is that whenever I hang out with a few of my single girlfriends (from this same social circle), the conversation always turns to our single status. Sometimes we complain about not being married yet, and sometimes we pride ourselves on not having gotten married quite so young (although IMO, those conversations often have a hint of "protesting too much"). Either way, we're always comparing ourselves to our married friends.

I'd prefer to steer the conversation away from this topic in general. After all, we're young! We're free! We're pretty! Why is marriage such a common topic of conversation? Don't we have anything else to talk about? And yet, I'm not sure what to do when it comes up. Should I employ some of the standard tricks that people use to change the topic of conversation from an uncomfortable theme. Should I talk with them directly about it (they might not even be aware they're doing it)? Or should I start hanging out more with my other friends, who haven't been influenced by going to all these weddings at age 20?

Tired of Moaning

Dear Tired of Moaning,

Why do women talk so much? Are we just exchanging information? No. We are creating and maintaining bonds with other women. And my Single friends and I used to talk about being Single all the time. Sometimes we indulged in What's-Wrong-With-Me, which is not helpful in large doses, but quite often we discussed books for Singles like The Rules and He's Just Not That Into You, and that was a lot of fun. Sometimes we exchanged snippets on the subject of marriage by mediaeval women mystics, Edith Stein and John Paul II, and that was not just fun, it was intellectually respectable.

Men do not quite get the importance of female chat. A young married man I was speaking to the other day observed, slightly crankily, that women seem to talk about romance, dating, marriage with each other ALL THE TIME, and that men never do this. He has a friend who didn't tell him for months that he had a new girlfriend.

"Now," said Young Married Guy, "if So-and-So had a new boyfriend, and she didn't tell you and [my wife] for months, you would be [very angry] with her. But men aren't like that."

"How do you know that guy is your friend?" I asked.

"Huh?" said the Young Married Guy.

"How do you know that he's your friend? At what moment did you think, Okay, this guy is my friend?"

"Huh?" said the Young Married Guy.

Now this Young Married Guy is very, very smart, an astute man of business, etc., but he just doesn't get the nuances of how women do relationships.

(It really makes you wonder about male thought processes, doesn't it? I mean, on one hand, they can come up with brilliant things like E=MC2, but on the other, they seem to think in sentence fragments: Food-good. Sex-good. Big man-can take him. TV-good. Crying woman-bad, scary. Flee.)

So when you and your other Single friends are moaning about being Single, it is perfectly natural. In small doses, it is probably healthy. You're all being reminded that you're not alone. But if it is getting you down, I recommend doing what my friends and I did--reading a variety of books on the subject and injecting something cheerful and intellectual into the chats. And yes, you could always change the subject, but--gosh darn it--isn't it a FASCINATING subject? Here I am, still writing about it, and I'm 39 years old and have been married for a year. The conversation I began at 12 has not yet ended.

Not to plug my book again, but actually, since my book is very positive about the Single Life (both the Single-For-Now and the Permanent Single Life), it would help you and your friends maintain those Single Girl bonds and yet keep a positive outlook. And don't forget the great women and men who never married and yet achieved great accomplishments! Consider reading their work or biographies and then citing them as role models.

A word of advice about Married Friends. If you complain about being Single to Married Women, they will either get uncomfortable or thoughtful. If they look uncomfortable, it is because they are bored. They have put aside all thoughts of Singledom, they are married now, they don't care, they have "real" problems, blah blah. But if they look thoughtful, they are running through a mental rolodex of their unmarried male friends. Expect sneaky, carefully orchestrated dinner invitations. So beware!


Me: I think Y should marry X. I need to figure out how to get them in the same room.

Friend: Y can't marry X. I want her to marry Q.

Me: You always want our Single friends to marry Q.

Friend: I thought you wanted Y to marry Z.

Me: That's true. I can't decide if she would like X or Z better.

Friend: I want her for Q.

I hope this is helpful.

Grace and peace,
Auntie Seraphic

Update: Did you pray for your fellow Singles at Mass yesterday? I've made it a habit to pray for my Single readers at Sunday Mass.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Auntie Seraphic & Free To Be Me

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

I am an American university student, and I was in a sorority all of last year. It was awful. I was told that I needed to be like everyone else--to be more "upbeat", to get a tan, and (eek!)to straighten my curly hair. I also despised the disgusting fraternity parties that we went to, having to see my "sisters" drunk and devoid of self-respect.

I read your blog a lot and I loved the messages you send to girls everywhere. Your blog helped me to stay strong when other people said I was weird or not "cool" enough.

The end of the story is that I quit my sorority in a flash and instead began to play [musical instrument] and sing with the [choir]. (I have so much time, now that I am not muddled with sorority events!) I have made so many friends just being myself and I even managed to find the most wonderful boyfriend who loves me for who I am :)

So thank you. I really admire you!

Free To Be Me

Dear Free to be Me,

I read your message after I answered Fed Ex's questionnaire about how I packed my china and crystal, and it cheered me right up. It made my day.

Sororities and fraternities raise money for charity, I believe, and so they cannot be totally useless. But what I do find useless is a culture of drunkenness and misogyny. Fraternities and "women's fraternities" in Toronto don't have the outrageous reputation of frats in the USA, but it was bad enough decades ago that the University of Toronto, for example, expelled them. The frat houses remain, though, and the frat parties are still reputed to be very crazy. I actually went to one, and I thought it was lame. There wasn't really anyone to talk to. The whole point seemed to get drunk, and I knew better than to get drunk in a frat house.

What I want to write about is the Death of Cool. Let's all bring about the Death of Cool. Cool is not our friend. Cool promises us happiness and then makes us unhappy. Like plastic surgery. Have you looked, really looked, at some movie starlets' faces recently? Shudder, shudder, shudder.

Anything that helps us to be our best selves, the best selves God wishes us to be, is good. Anything that makes us despair of ourselves is bad. Being told that we have to fix up ourselves externally to fit in is humiliating and wrong. It is not the same thing as legitimate fraternal correction, like being asked to be kinder to the people we date. (In hindsight, I was not very nice to a number of Nice Catholic Boys in college, and now I'm sorry.)

People create strange value systems, and people unthinkingly follow them for a long time without question. "Cool" things include drugs, frats, highly paid but unsatisfying work, white collar "status", brand-name universities, celebrity culture, sex-without-strings, "Choice", looking-like-a-porn-star, tans and even (in Britain) getting-pregnant-so-I-can-get-my-own-flat.

But if we are rooted in reality we see that:

drugs are dangerous to our health and safety and support criminal systems

fraternities treat women like sex trophies

unsatisfying work makes us miserable

white collar "status" blinds us to the worth of blue collar workers (who, incidentally, often are the better businessmen)

brand-name universities teach the same things as state schools at three times (or more) the price, and beware of the Catholic ones who would crucify Our Lord all over again if it would increase their brand-name status

celebrities are often deeply unhappy, imprudent and "protected" from reality

sex-without-strings is a myth

"Choice" is a mental construct simultaneously defending and ignoring the destruction of human life and dividing (for example) Americans from sea to sea

looking-like-a-porn-star shocks respectable people and is degrading

tanning rapidly ages your skin, puts you at grave risk of cancer and makes you look like a stripper

getting-pregnant-so-I-can-get-my-own-flat degrades human life and has helped destroy both family and community life

Anyway, I am happy thinking about you with your non-straightened curly hair playing [musical instrument] and hanging with your choir, your new friends and your wonderful boyfriend. If I really had anything to do with that, I'm very glad indeed.

Grace and peace,

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Being Careful With Your Heart

I sent my china and crystal by Fed Ex on Friday, and Fed Ex managed to smash six pieces. On one hand, six piece doesn't seem like a lot. But on the other hand, I loved every single piece as much as other people love their pets.

I suppose I could have taken every piece on my lap by airplane over ten years. I took a plate in my carry-on luggage, and it was absolutely fine. But then it was me carrying it, not some Fed Ex man chucking it around like a football.

Fed Ex wants me to believe their mishandling of the property they were paid over $500 to deliver is my fault, and to that end it has sent me a list of questions about how I packed my crystal. "With obsessive love and care" is probably not the answer they're looking for.

Meanwhile, even if Fed Ex sends me a cheque, the damage is done. Crystal I've had and loved for 14 years is smashed, and there's no putting it back together. I have cried many bitter tears, and blamed myself very much for not finding an expert mover. Despite my connections in the museum business, I just had no idea to whom else I could trust my crystal. And now I wish I had just left it in Toronto. Better that it be unused in Toronto than smashed to bits on its way to Edinburgh.

Which brings me to the subject of your heart. Are you going to wait until you find an absolutely top-of-the-trees specialty heart-carrier, or are you going to trust it to Fed Ex?

As you can no doubt tell, I really hate Fed Ex today. Possibly UPS would have been just as careless, but they didn't smash my beautiful things. Fed Ex did. But back to your heart.

Fed Ex wants me to answer a checklist about how I packed my belongings. I think its their way of telling me this is my fault. And the first thing I want to tell you is that if your heart gets broken, it's not your fault, exactly. If someone hurts you, he hurt you and that's the way it is. But my question is, why did you pick THAT carrier, or man, in the first place?

Monday, 3 May 2010

Jet Lag

Definitely in no shape for giving insightful commentary and advice today. Absolutely not. Can barely remember name. But I know I am in Scotland, and I am happy to be here. It's absolutely lovely, and my fantabulous husband (whom I met when I was 37 and married when I was 38) vacuumed the carpets before I got here. He is a STAR.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Three May Weddings

Today I am going to my friend Melanie's wedding, which amuses me very much, for it was not so very long ago that she and I and Lily sat bewailing our Single state. Well, they were bewailing. I started writing my Seraphic Singles blog in November 2006, so it did not become me to wail. But possibly I am giving myself too much credit. Anyway, the upshot of all the wails of "Will we ever find Mr. Right?" is that Lily married first, aged 26, and then I remarried, aged 38, and today Melanie is getting married, aged 30.

Lily set quite the fad for being married in May by Father Quequelchose. One, two, three. Lily the first year, me the second, and Melanie the third. If anyone had told me years ago my wedding would have been before Melanie's, I would have laughed. But there is no telling with Providence.

The reason why I am writing this is because so many of you Searching Singles are in the same place Melanie and Lily and I were four years ago. We were all in graduate studies. We were all popular but without real boyfriends. Lily and Melanie were (and are) very pretty and dressed with great attention to style. I was, at any rate, striking and had a flair of my own. We liked to go out dancing or stay in and bake brownies. And none of us had any idea that within four years we'd all marry our Mr. Right. None.

We hoped we would, of course. But the not-knowing drove us nuts, just as it drives many of you nuts today. But we kept on going to Mass, and doing our studies, and debating the efficacy of The Rules, and having parties, and generally having as good a time as prudence and circumstances allowed.

Lily met her man at church. Melanie met her man at Lily's wedding. I met my man over my blog. You'd have to know each of us to really understand how fitting each meeting was. Lily, the woman of prayer. Melanie, the lover of parties. Seraphic, the inveterate writer. Our ordinary, typical activities brought us where we wanted to be.

So I write all this today in the hopes that it will inspire you Searching Singles to keep on being you and to live in increasing hope--and not increasing bitterness--that Providence will use your ordinary days and ways to bring you to the vocational plan He has for you.