Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Auntie Seraphic & the Crush Who Came Out

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

[I had a painful, dehabilitating crush on a man named John for over a year, and this is what he told me last night:]

"I'm gay. I just wanted you to know."

And I [had known] deep down that he probably was, but I just didn't WANT to believe it! It was too sad to think that such a nice person with a good heart could like other men [in that way]. I'm not sure how to deal with it in the future, though. I told him that we could still be friends, but I also made it clear that I believe what the Catholic Church teaches in terms of homosexuality. That was the best way I could phrase it at the time in my emotional state.

Now, I know you seem to have a different view on men with SSA than other traditional, faithful Catholics I know. You seem more accepting of them, and seem to think it's OK for them to be as they are as long as they don't act on it. But what exactly ARE your beliefs on SSA? And how do I deal with people afflicted with SSA while still remaining faithful to the Church's teaching? He's the first person I've known well to have it, so this is very new to me. I've talked it over with my mom, and her answer is to just pray and stay friends, which I plan on doing. I plan on storming heaven with prayers for him. Not prayers that he changes, but prayers that he remains chaste. And I think I might tell him to just not tell me anything about his.....inclinations. I don't want to know if he's been out on a date with a man or any such event.

And I think it's really horrible how society treats men with SSA. Men are not accepting of other men who have feminine qualities. If a man doesn't want to play sports or want to chow down on a steak, he's ridiculed by other men. I wonder if that's why men with SSA actually DO get attracted to other men who are like them. Maybe they finally meet someone who is accepting of them as they are, and then think they're in love because it feels so good to be accepted by another man. I dunno, I'm just rambling here. I just wish that men who have SSA did NOT have it, because I firmly believe that they would make many women very happy as husbands. They seem to be very caring and attentive to others' needs, they don't insult other people, they are warm and loving, etc. Sigh, it makes me sad. Such a waste of good men.


Dear Disappointed,

Before I say anything, here is the pastoral statement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on homosexuality: Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers. All traditional, faithful Catholics in the USA should read it.

I remember the first time a good friend told me he had same sex attractions (he called it being gay). I went home in a state of shock and slept for hours. I wonder sometimes if men with SSA understand what it is like for women who adore them to receive these confidences. Probably they are so worried about rejection and have been thinking about their SSA for so long that they can't get beyond "She'll reject me/she'll accept me." However, in your case, John's revelation does help give you a long-desired emotional freedom, and that is good.

Life is so difficult, isn't it? But then it is so beautiful, too. It is both at once--just as the truth about John is both happy and sad at the same time. The happy bit is that now it will be easier for you to become free from your inordinate attachment to him. The sad bit is that John has SSA, which must not be easy for him at all.

However, it is John, not you, who has SSA, and it is only John who can take care of his safety, spiritual and physical. Of course you should stay friends with John and pray for him, but I don't think storming heaven on his behalf is your job. You can storm heaven with pleas that YOU keep on the straight and narrow path, but you shouldn't storm heaven about someone else's potential sins: this plays right into co-dependency, which is what happens when a person gets overly involved in another person's problems. Make sure you spend time with other friends and in absorbing activities.

It is not a sin to merely experience SSA. Some people have same sex attractions as an adolescent stage, but then others (1% or 2% of men, I believe; Kinsey's claims have been debunked) have it as their primary inclination either from birth, or because of things that happen to them as children, or both. They are not to blame. But yes, as we know, deliberately performing or accepting homosexual acts is sinful. (This includes 'straight' girls french-kissing each other to show off.)

According to the old catechism, "the sin of Sodom" is one of the four sins crying out to heaven for justice. (This includes an-l s-x between 'straight people,' by the way. No-one ever bothers to mention this.) And I do not believe Catholics can, in good conscience, support "gay culture," with its emphasis on sterile sex, party drugs, rebellion for rebellion's sake, deliberately motherless (or fatherless) parenthood and demands for a new social order in which the ancient facts of marriage and reproduction are demoted to "lifestyle choices."

Fortunately, not all men with SSA sign up with "gay culture." Gay culture chews up and spits out men with SSA, exploiting the young and rejecting the old. Recreational drugs are quite a feature, too. So it is not just the American cult of masculinity that is cruel to gentle men. Meanwhile, many men with SSA say that SSA are a small part of their life; their identity is based on something else, like belief in Christ.

There are many, many, many good men with SSA, including some good priests. The great priest-poet Gerard Manley Hopkins probably experienced them but never, in his holy, long-suffering life as a priest, acted on them. I know at least one living priest with SSA, and he too lives a life of holy chastity. Meanwhile, I suspect I know other good men with some degree of SSA who also live chaste and happy lives.

You haven't mentioned if John is a devout Catholic or not. If he is, his faith will keep him safe if he understands that he is a child of God before anything else. Don't assume that he will have lurid stories you don't want to hear; it could be that John is your friend because you live a chaste, faithful Christian life. There is a great fellowship for Catholics with SSA called "Courage." Click and see if there is a chapter in your college or town, so that if John brings up his SSA again, you can tell him about it. No-one who has SSA should have to join gay culture to find friends and community.

Meanwhile authentic Catholic friendship means loving people with SSA as your friends, as concrete, particular individuals, but not to bow before the glamour of gay culture or put up with "gay" jokes and conversation. (Indeed, young women should never put up with any kind of loose talk.) Sometimes "gay" men adopt feminine language, referring to men (or themselves) as "she" or "my sister" or claiming to be feminine. I find this ridiculous, harmful and disrespectful to women. Men with SSA are men, and they are by nature always more masculine and therefore less feminine than women are. However, once again, many men with SSA do not do these things. They live wholesome, holy lives and have wholesome, respectable friends. They look masculine, and behave in ways that you and I think are entirely masculine. "Masculine," by the way, includes a rather wide spectrum.

I too am sorry that so many good men are made or become ineligible for marriage by SSA. It is a mystery, and St. Paul seems to say it is because of "sin"-- which generally these days is taken to mean that homosexuality, like a host of other sad things (like my weak eyesight), is one of the effects of the Fall. Meanwhile, a few--perhaps only a very few--adult "gay" men do discover that, over time and with strict observance of chastity, their SSA disappear. And a few fall in love with women and marry.

I am wary of pointing this out because thousands of men with SSA have married women, for all kinds of reasons, most of them perfectly understandable, and women have suffered for it. Some were fooled into thinking their husbands never had SSA or had been "cured" or would remain faithful. Some were (and are) dumped flat when the men achieve what marriage helped them to achieve.

Having SSA does not necessarily mean a man is never attracted to women, too, or that he is incapable of begetting children. However, a woman should be wary of marrying a man who has had SSA, unless they both know he is capable of remaining sexually faithful to her for the rest of his (or her) life. So-called liberal elements of society reserve their scorn for men who leave their aging wives and helpless children for other women; they stand and applaud when men leave their aging wives and helpless children in pursuit of other men.

I hope this is helpful. In short, love is the answer--real love that sees a man for who he is in his entirety and desires his good, neither endowing him with the dark glamour of gay culture nor assuming that he is its slave.

Grace and peace,

Comments will be strictly monitored, but anonymous comments of merit will be permitted.

Update: As I half-expected, there was a comment from a non-Catholic in a long-term homosexual relationship who objected very much to the idea that homosexuality is a trial. She does not like the expression SSA. Whereas her views, with which we are all acquainted from the mass media, might not be helpful within the context of faithful Catholic women who love Catholic men (and other men of good will) who experience same-sex attractions, I want to acknowledge that she wrote in.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Twenty-Five is Young

My stats counter collects such information as the "key words" that people type into a search engine before landing on this site. A very popular set of keywords is "twenty five and no boyfriend." There are varations, too, like, "i twenty five no boyfriend," and "i am 25 and i have no boyfriend."

When I was 25 I had a husband I couldn't stand, and I thought my life was basically over. I took up boxing, and when I read about fatal accidents in the boxing ring, I didn't worry. I didn't care if I got killed in the ring. I didn't care if my nose was broken in some horrible way. I didn't care if my face was pulverized. I had completely messed up my future happiness, so bring on scarring and fatal accidents. Bring 'em on.

"Honey," said my parish priest, once I finally got up the courage to tell him about all this and worse, "get out while you're young."

He wasn't talking about boxing. So, yay, liberalized divorce laws and, yay, canon law plus ecclesiastical marriage tribunals! The idea of getting married again was not why I began to write out my annulment petition within weeks of running away. It was because I wanted to be free, free, FREE!

Twenty-five is such a terribly dangerous number because for some stupid reason we have arbitrarily decided that this is the age when we women start getting old. In 19th century Canada reaching your 25th birthday was called "turning the first corner." And that's ridiculous: our lives are not squares. They are straight lines beginning at conception and shooting off, out of time, into eternity. There are no corners.

I wrongly married Mr. Wrong at 25, and I sacramentally married Mr. McRight at 38. I dated various men in between, some of whom I had chased down. How nice it would have been if I had just lived in faith that God would send me the Perfect Man for Me if and when He thought it best.

The most sensible thing anyone can say is "Father, Thy will be done." We should say it every day, every hour, with perfect trust that our Father loves us, wants the best for us and will send us what or who we need. Men, well, men do have to get out there and seek a wife, even if that wife is the Church. That is usually what being a man is. Women have to get out there, find a way to make a living, and see who turns up, praying always "Thy will be done." That is usually what being a woman is. I almost break into beads of sweat writing such a politically incorrect thing, but I really don't think women should pursue a spouse the way men should pursue a spouse.

When you are 20, 21 and even 24, 25 may seem as old as the hills. But it is not. It is young. In Christian tradition, the perfect age, the age St. Thomas believed your body will look like at the General Resurrection, is 33. And, frankly, that sounds like a wonderful age for a woman to marry, if she can stay celibate that long. By 33 your formal education is usually done, you've got some money in the bank, you know who you are, and you've got two clear years to have babies and some murkier ones, fertility-wise, beyond. Thirty-eight is not, fertility-speaking, ideal, but I'm not complaining. I turned 38 four months after I met my husband in person, not to mention four months after he became a Catholic and thereby finished the long process of becoming the Perfect Man for Me.

Ah, twenty-five! What beautiful skin I had! Sigh! (Put on sunblock before you go out today.) I bet I glowed like a pearl; most twenty-something girls seem to now. I didn't have a fabulous figure, though--that came when I was twenty-six and had lost 20 pounds. Sigh! I still had great skin at 26, too. Also at 27. And 28. And 29. Really, the decay did not begin until about 35 when, quel horreur, I could no longer afford the gym and began to drown my sorrows in Ben & Jerry's. Let that be a lesson to you. I still wear sunblock though, so the skin is nae sae bad.

Twenty-five in the West today--and, indeed forty-five in the West today--does not mean what it does in rural Afghanistan or what it meant in the West in 1810. We are healthier and younger-looking than either modern hill women or our own ancestors at our age. If we keep off the smokes, keep on the veg, exercise and beauty sleep, and avoid the damage sexual promiscuity inevitably brings, we are physically young for decades. Today the ravages of late middle age are, to a certain extent, self-inflicted.

Therefore, although I understand why thousands of 24 year old women shiver in horror at the number 25, I must insist that 25 is not the beginning of the end. It may not even be the end of the beginning. Twenty-five is young. It doesn't matter that you don't have a boyfriend. Get out there, work, save money, make lots of friends. Trust in God, and for God's sake, don't settle!

P.S. Girls, don't ever give up your dream of a husband who shares your faith. If you fall sincerely and maturely in love with a friend of another sect who is sincerely and maturely in love with you, then that is another thing. But, please, never think you have to give up and flirt with secular humanists just because there are more of them around. You are a precious jewel to be won and cherished, not to be squandered on the roulette table of "relationship."

Update: Hmmm...I wrote about this in July, too.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Marrying Up? Marrying Down?

I've been invited again to ponder the issue of marriage and class. Like writing about chastity, this is not my most favouritest thing in the world.

I grew up ignorant of any kind of class system, except the one in British books. I went to the local Catholic school, where we discussed what we ate at home, but never what our parents did. Nobody seemed to be rich, and nobody seemed to be poor. So the strict hierarchy of British novels confused me.

"What class are we?" I asked my mother.

"This is Canada. We don't have a class system."

"In Britain there's a class system."

"Your father is an intellectual," said my mother. "We're exempt from the class system."

I found this marvellously cheering.

"What class are we?" I asked my British husband, who almost had a heart attack. Class is no longer as rigid here as it is in, say, India, but it still is an incredibly difficult, thorny issue, easily causing bad feelings all around.

"You have a foreign accent, and therefore you are exempt from the class system," said B.A. "You should be thankful."

However, I niggled at him until he came up with an answer, which I'm not going to share because it would be a social solecism. Anyway, we don't believe in class. We believe in values.

It is a smart idea to fall in love only with someone who shares your values, especially those values shared by your family. If a liberal arts education is one of the most important ones, you probably shouldn't marry the suitor who reads nothing but The Sun. (I once recoiled in horror from the story of a man, who, retrieving a book his baby son had thrown from a crib, said "That's right! Wait till the movie comes out, just like your old man.") If you and your family hate consumer debt, you definitely shouldn't marry someone who believes in shopping on the credit card until the man at the counter cuts it in two.

The four things that married people fight most about are money, sex, housework and religion. I suppose money is where class might come in, although I worry about false stereotypes. For example, one might think the middle-class are canny savers and that the working-class is drowning in debt, but in my experience, it is usually the other way around. Dozens of my university friends have student debts; I bet my hairdresser doesn't.

There are stereotypes about housework, too, and they change from country to country. Rich people may assume that the poor are dirty, but as a matter of fact the working poor of 20th century Britain were so obsessed with cleanliness that Muriel Spark wrote a satirical story about it.

But I suspect many marriages fail not because of the Big Four but of a hundred thousand tiny pin-pricks of annoyance. For example, because my parents leave coffee cups and books all over their house, I find a cup-and-book clutter very comforting and homey. My husband, however, hates it. It makes him depressed to find unwashed coffee cups in odd places and books strewn about. He also dislikes when I stick a sybaritic finger into the sauce on my plate, but he lost that argument when I saw X, grandson of the Y of Z lick up the last of the tea from his saucer. There's no point telling me that what is okay for X, grandson of the Y of Z is not okay for me, for I am Canadian and don't believe it.

After thinking very hard, I can't come up with any personal habit of my husband's that annoys me. I would be annoyed if he used bad words in front of me, but he doesn't. According to one of his friends, he treats me like fine Dresden china. That had not occured to me, but if that is so, I am grateful, for I would hate to be treated like anything else.

Oh dear. I'm straying from class again. One reader wants me very much to agree that it is a disaster for a privately educated woman to marry a tradesman, or for a British Prime Minister to marry a plump tea lady, but I can't. It depends on which privately educated woman. It depends on which tradesman. It depends on which Prime Minister. It depends on which plump tea lady. My head is beginning to pound.

I just can't believe that there really is something solid and unchanging and hiearchical about class. Simone Weil gave lectures in philosophy to French workers; they could brag of having been taught by Simone Weil. One of the most interesting men I know is a retired postie. The idiots who tried to firebomb Glasgow airport were doctors. The man who personifies Scottish contempt for terrorists was a baggage-handler. One of the Historical House gardeners collects first editions. My delightful friend A, the granddaughter of the B of C, never went to university.

And what occurs to me, once again, is Bernard Lonergan's dictum that "Only the Concrete is Good." We cannot judge people according to rough, imprecise categories like "class". We can judge only each man or woman as we find him or her.

This is not to say that rich men and women do not have to guard against grifters and gold-diggers. Conmen and gold-diggers have always targeted the rich, but these conmen and gold-diggers include the (formerly) rich. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, English aristocrats married one heck of a lot of rich American heiresses for their money. And even now women of all incomes have to watch out for the man who just wants to laze around, working now and again as it pleases him.

And this is not to say that men and women who have grown up thinking all wealthy people act like footballers and their wives might not be nervous when they first sat down to an ordinary, old-fashioned wealthy family's dinner table. And unless they had actually read studies about ordinary millionaires, they might assume millionaires always buy flashy cars and sprawling homes. Someone who belongs to a family that has been on welfare for generations may indeed feel very uncomfortable away from the housing estate. Someone who has never been taught the value of books will feel rather left out at a dinner party of people chatting about books.

But I firmly believe we can only justly judge a man or woman on his or her own behaviour. And the only kind of "marrying up" I believe in is when you marry a man or woman who loves you better than the last man or woman you married, and "marrying down" is when you marry a man or woman who treats you worse.

Off to find the ibuprophen for my headache. But I have just put myself through a mental test, and the answer cheered me greatly: Would I be happy if my daughter (if I had one) married a boy from the nearby housing estate? And my first answer was, "Depends on the boy."

I once dated a man who came from a Canadian housing estate; now he's fluent in three languages and hold a Chair in Political Science.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

The Goodness of Gratitude

Most days I go for a walk from the Historical House along the sea to the grocery store and back. The sandy shore looks out towards Holland, and I often get a queer sense that this is wrong and I ought to be looking the other way, towards Canada. But then I think of my sister who loves the Atlantic provinces, and reflect that when she looks across her sea, she is also looking towards Holland. We are both facing ad orientem.

It never ceases to be a surprise that I am here, going for almost daily walks along the sea, earning very little and doing all the laundry, going to Mass in Latin, bedding down under a 17th century roof, far from the tyrannous rumble of urban traffic. Occasionally I am awoken by hooting owls; more often I am woken by northern sun. I was offered this life when I was almost 38 years old, and I said, "Yes, thank you."

Of course it is not a perfect life. I have many dreams and wishes that have not been fulfilled and some will never be fulfilled. Time is starting to make itself felt; the clock started ringing years ago and the bell is running down. Startled by the contrast between my face and the faces of 20 year old women, I've recommitted to eating fresh fruits and vegetables. But I think the prospect of the creasing and sagging ahead would be easier if I had fresh-faced progeny to look at.

I was very moved by the online account of one anonymous woman who wept when, single, she saw happy couples at Mass and now, married, weeps when she sees happy couples at Mass with babies. That is just too much weeping, in my humble opinion. It can't be nice for her husband, either there or on the way home.

It turns out that it is bad for teenage girls to talk and talk and talk about their problems. Going over them doesn't help; it makes the girls depressed. And I think the same may be true of adult women and men: once a week at the therapist's or in spiritual direction should be enough--twice or thrice a week in a crisis. People do need to get things off their chest, and to ask for advice, and to find comfort. Sometimes writing a letter--even to Auntie Seraphic--makes order out of a confused situation and helps the writer forward. However, I think a person should contemplate the joys of her life much more often than she considers her sorrows.

Melodie Beattie, the author of Co-Dependent Once More, once described moving into a run-down house. She was very depressed at how battered it was. Feeling herself falling into a depression, she tried gratitude. She thanked God for the battered house, having a roof over her head and the head of her son. Her mood lifted, and as as she continued to thank God for this house, she worked on it until it became a nice little house.

Gratitude is not only what is owed to our Creator, it is bread, water and cake to our psyches. We all have many things to be grateful for, even if we won them ourselves with hard work or suffering. When I dropped out of my PhD program, I was grateful that I had a caring brother and sister-in-law to take me home and, indeed, that I had homes to go to. I was grateful that I could write. I was grateful for my family and for my friends at home. I was grateful for ordinary, everyday, reserved, Canadian civility, however hypocritical foreigners find it. I was grateful for Aelianus, who gave me his unvarnished opinion of the theological modernism that had so angered and depressed me. I was grateful for Trish, who said the most important, soul-saving thing.

My list of beatitudes has changed since I married, but my stance of gratitude has not. To choose to live in gratitude is to vote for happiness. It is not the province of married people. There are thousands of married people who have chosen to be miserable. If I set my mind to it, I could make myself miserable by blowing up my husband's occasional cross moods into monstrous injustices, by worrying endlessly about money, and by wailing over my lost academic career, about which I don't usually give a damn. (Better a dish of herbs where love is than a stalled ox where hatred abounds.) Instead of smiling at the little children I see on the beach, I could weep and wail because they're not mine. But I don't choose to. I don't choose to be miserable. I choose to be happy. Happy rocks my world.

What are the five things for which you are most grateful?

Update: In case you need more convincing, here is "The Badness of Bitterness" again.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Watching "Wink, Meet, Delete"

(Update: I forgot two people. Eeee! Sorry! I've added them on.)

There are 15 million Singles in Britain. Seven million of them internet date. There are over 1400 dating sites in Britain, and they generate over £105 million. In 2009 British internet sites spawned 12 million first dates. Only 50% of British online daters are looking for a long-term relationship.

I found all this out last night from a BBC2 program called "Wink, Meet, Delete." If you are in Britain or Ireland, I recommend that you try to find and watch it online. If you aren't, you are probably out of luck, so I will describe it below.

Benedict Ambrose and I watched "Wink, Meet, Delete" from the comfort of our flat in the Historical House. I think B.A. had a glass of wine, so imagine B.A. with a glass of wine in a moss-green Parker Knowll armchair and me in a corner of a white IKEA sofa, wearing a grey argyle pullover. There we were, a typical 21st century married couple (including the 10+ extra pounds married people put on shortly after getting married) watching a handful of Singles talk wittily, bravely, desperately about their internet search for love. Feel free to throw popcorn at your computer screen.

The show was enthralling. The producers had assembled a variety of Singles, mostly middle-aged to talk to. There were:

1. a Baby Boomer Guardianista (a very left-wing but consumerist, PC, right-on, middle-class, Spirit of the 1960s) man in a black turtleneck

2. a funny, balding, squashy divorced journalist with a soul patch

3. a clever, vivid, slender 50-something writer, a widow

4. a fat, chuckling blonde, whom I adored

5. a largish, lovely girl in her 20s, of perhaps Mediterranean heritage, with beautiful long dark hair

6. a young and handsome Edinburgh (or Glasgow..?) white-collar office type (drool)

7. a very pretty, fun part-African 24 year old divorcee with two children

8. a 39 year old divorced roofer with bad teeth

9. a stocky, bald red-headed 48 year old Glaswegian ( or Edinburgher..?) estate agent who could have been Frankie Boyle's less confident older brother

10. a nice-looking, ordinary bloke in his 20s or early 30s who, according to B.A., had bad teeth, but I thought he just looked nice

Update 11. a beautiful woman with huge dark eyes and MS

12. a conventionally pretty young women

All of these people were tremendously interesting and telegenic, so kudos to the producers for finding them. And I hope they will now forgive me (if they read this), for I shall now make some personal remarks.

1. The Guardianista man was a type as easy to recognize as a stormtrooper in Star Wars, and when he said he belonged to the Guardian Companions site, I said, "Bwa ha ha ha ha!", which is what I said when My Nearest Neighbour said she had a friend who was on the Guardian Companions site. I just think left-wing people with intellectual interests, who drink Chablis, name-drop Martin Amis, and find religious faith embarrassing are, as a group, hilarious, if potentially dangerous.

Anyway, the Guardianista man wasn't really interested in a relationship but in delightful flirtation and witty letters over the internet. He was taken aback at forthright women who say "Okay, I trust you aren't an ax-murderer, rapist or pedophile, so let's meet." He was more inclined to want to exchange 700 emails first. Once he had dinner over the internet with a woman in Florida. He made his dinner, she made her dinner, and then they ate their respective dinners "together", presumably with webcams. I thought this sad, but he enjoyed it very much. Curiously, though, when he took this woman to a real dinner in Florida, to a very expensive restaurant (which he clearly resents having had to pay for), he did not enjoy it as much.

Interestingly, Guardianista man was snide about Guardianista women. He said in their ads they stated that they wanted a man who wasn't sexist, who was ecologically conscious, who was socially conscious (in fact, everything I would expect of a Guardian reader), etc.

"No wonder they're Single," he laughed.

"Hey, buddy," said I from my sofa. "You're Single."

Guardianista man was a time waster for whom fantasy is more attractive than reality, although if sex was on offer, he took it "as one does" [smirk]. Watching Guardianista man made me wonder, once again, why so many Englishmen seem to be so odd about women.

2. The divorced and balding journalist was so sad, I wanted to hug him. I suspect he was a Guardianista, too, but his sorrow made him deep. He was quite a ladies' man in his youth, and as they showed a photo, you could see why. He was bespectacled but cute, witty and intelligent. I can see lots of clever women of his generation digging him in the 1960s and 1970s. However, eventually the shadow side of the Sexual Dissolution got him, for his marriage unexpectedly ended, and now he is lonely. He had high expectations of internet dating, but by filming he had quit.

3. The widowed writer was very attractive indeed, as B.A. pointed out. I couldn't make out why she had not been snapped up right away by some lovely widower, perhaps a widowed Oxford don. While internet dating, she had met a lot of divorced people and realized that "it is far better to be widowed than divorced."

4. The fat and funny blonde had discovered, thanks to the internet, that there are indeed men who love "big, beautiful women." She was stunned at how many. She showed her old internet photo, in which she had a short haircut and looked dreadful. She had been mistaken for a "dyke" (you can say almost all bad words on British TV after 9 PM), so she put more effort into how she looked, realizing that big can be sexy.

5. The largish, lovely girl proved this, for she had a really pretty face, which she made prettier with make-up, and indeed, she soon fell in love with a man she met on the internet. I believe she met him over the internet on Christmas Day or New Year's Eve or some other day when it is a bit shamemaking (she thought) to be online. They arranged to go out on New Year's Eve, and the man was 10. (above), the nice-looking ordinary bloke. ("What?! But he has such bad teeth," protested B.A.) They beamed in the TV studio, and I thought they were sweet.

6. The young and handsome Edinburgh (or Glasgow) white-collar wants to settle down and find a woman to be the mother of his children. I imagine the BBC phones started ringing off the hook, frantic women sitting on hold for minutes that seemed like hours. But then I have a weakness for Edinburgh men in nice suits. Anyway, his revelation was that he wouldn't be interested in the kind of woman who would have sex on the first date. The female interviewer, whom I suspect of being a Guardianista, asked him a tad waspishly if he had had sex on the first date. After hesitating, he confessed that he had once, having been very drunk. Personally, I forgave him. Men have a harder time turning down sex than women do. My guess is that they very rarely say, "Ewwwww! No! Go away! Ewwww!"

7. The very pretty, fun 24 year old mixed-race girl married 8. (above), the 39 year old roofer. He can't have children, so he was delighted to be given a ready-made family. There was egregiously sentimental footage of the four of them on a sofa with a dog and playing together in a park, and I almost got teary. Anyway, they just clicked. I am not clear on why he was The One, but he was.

8. The bald, ginger-bearded Glaswegian was in grave danger of becoming bitter. For some reason, I did not want to hug him as much as I wanted to hug the sad, divorced journalist. Instead I wanted to tell him that he should study Frankie Boyle, who is married, and develop Frankie Boyle's confidence. Somehow, I think Frankie Boyle is key to his future happiness. Meanwhile, I wonder if there is a "bald and beautiful" category on dating sites. There must be women who are attracted to bald men just because, and not despite the fact that, they are bald. And, although bald, this guy was certainly not as ugly as he said. I suspect gingerism.

Update: 11. The dark-eyed woman with MS had had very glamorous photos taken-with her cane, incidentally--but initially did not mention on dating sites that she has, well, a "wasting disease," and thus gave at least one date a huge shock. And this was such poignant situation that I don't know why I didn't remember her this morning. She certainly made an impression last night.

12. All I rememer about 12 is that she was young and pretty and did not interest me in a blogging for Singles capacity.

One issue that the interviewees agreed on was that people must NOT NOT NOT lie about their looks, either through words or with out-of-date pictures. Expecting a clever, 28 year old, thin guy and discovering that he is a clever, 38 year old, fat guy is a total turn-off. It is miles better to put up an honest, strictly contemporary photo.

I've thought a lot about internet dating, and I have internet dated, and I know married people who met through internet dating. These married people are not millionaires or beauty queens, but average-looking people with two or three very attractive physical features who love their jobs. In short, ordinary people who value ordinary people. They are practical, not dreamers or time-wasters.

B.A. and I met over the internet, although not on dating sites. We had friends in common, whom I had met because of my blogs. And it is unlikely we would have met any other way, as he has lived in Scotland his whole life, and it didn't occur to me to go there until 2008. My personal feeling is that blogs are a great way to meet likeminded people and make friends. The trick is that your blog should be about something that you are passionate about (and not just about you).

Finally, I can't stress how important it is to actually meet your best internet friends. Before he met me in person, Benedict Ambrose suspected that Seraphic might be an airhead with a squeaky voice because that was sort of the image my blog-persona of perpetual cheer created. So he was, apparently, pleasantly surprised to find the sensible, silent, jet-lagged little person who tumbled off the London bus. And I have met up with my very favourite readers, like Aelianus, Alias Clio and Shiraz, and we have had marvellous chats.

Yet Another Update: Here's what I wrote in the CR some months ago about internet dating.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

A New Review

I love reviews! Here is a new one, by H.T. Reynolds, on amazon.com. Thank you very much, H.T.!

She thinks The Closet's All Mine is the best relationship (or non-relationship) advice book she has ever read, which is indeed a very nice thing for her to say. My favourite advice book of all time is Live Alone and Like It by Marjorie Hollis, although I think Ecclesiastes is also an advice book, and we ought to love it most. Live Alone and Like It, perhaps because it was written before the sexual dissolution, is compatible with Catholic moral teaching in a way my dating faves, The Rules and He's Just Not That Into You, are not.

The Girls' Guide to Surviving a Break-up, which I found for sale in a Jesuit library (hee hee!), by Delphine Hirsh is excellent, and I mention it in My Book. (Indeed, I need it in My Book!) And while I'm on the subject, I should praise Co-Dependent No More by Melodie Beattie which, thank Providence, I found after a heart-rending psychodrama with an alcoholic. Anyone who loves or is in love with a boozer, drugger or gambler should read Co-Dependent No More.

Advice books are a lot of fun, but I only really like them if they have literary or comic merit. The Rules, which doesn't have literary or comic merit, is the exception. I would love to write a very literary advice book, perhaps in the style of another age, in the voice of an unusually well-educated elderly woman (reputed to be a witch) to a very young woman, whom she loves. I would shove in as much advice as I could, of all kinds, although perhaps I'd have to learn a lot more first:

Take heed, my spiritual daughter, and invite not men to thy house unless thou art having a general celebration with many guests, in which case thou ought to prepare the provinder the day before, buying minced lamb from the butcher, rolling it in flour flecked with marjoram, and mixing it with a small diced onion, four tablespoons of beef stock and a tablespoon of ye HP sauce, before plunging it into muffin tins lined with pastry made from a pound of flour, and a weight of lard melted in hot milk-and-water. Such delicacies are much thought of in Scot Land, where good husbands can be found amongst those fleeing the increasingly vile errors of Canterbury, taking refuge in the motherly bosom of Holy Church.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Auntie Seraphic & "Right Now Just Friends" Man

Sometimes when I get a letter, I write back at once, so that the person knows they've been heard. What I write on this blog the next day, though, is usually somewhat different, for I've had more time to consider the story dispassionately. If you are still in college, your stories often wring my auntly heart, for they remind my of my own college-era sufferings, and I think my first-impression answers often reflect that. Always remember that Auntie Seraphic is no substitute for a good priest. And very often, the person to talk to once you have put your thoughts into logical order for a letter to me, is your mother or dad.

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

Your post "Treated like a Yo-yo" is spot-on to my situation. In my case, the man, "Clark," has been my friend for 2 years now, despite the fact that I told him my feelings almost a year ago. Telling him didn't scare him away like I thought it would. He said "Right now just friends." That gave me hope that maybe later he would like to move on into a relationship, but that hasn't happened.

He still wants to hang out with me and the rest of my friends. If I want to go out with other friends, he'll want to go with me too.

A typical situation begins with me eating dinner with my friends, including him. He asks me, "So what are your plans tonight?" I say I haven't made any yet. Then another friend will go "Hey, we can maybe watch a movie as a group!" Then the group goes and watches a movie. One of my girl friends usually has to end the night early, so Clark and I will leave at the same time. He will then see if any of our other friends are doing anything. If they are, we'll go together to meet our other friends. If not, we'll end up doing something one-on-one. But even if we are with our other friends, we'll end up leaving together. And even while we are talking in a group, we'll sit/stand next to each other. He'll touch me to get my attention, and we often have to stand close to hold a decent conversation. Sometimes we're the only ones standing off to the side while the other people are busy doing other activities.

My problem is, even though we are with other groups of people, it still seems as though we are an "item." Even tonight, we tagged along with some other people we knew, and eventually ended up leaving the venue together as usual, and talking all the way back to our dorm. I really enjoy spending time with him, because the conversation is always nice and we always have fun.

But I do NOT enjoy having to fight the feelings I have for him. I do want to have a relationship at some point, and I realize that I probably won't get one if it appears that I'm with this other man. However, I'm beginning to think that if he didn't do stuff with me, he wouldn't really go out at all. I don't want to hurt his feelings or ditch him. But I'm sick of doing things together all the time, having so much in common, having good conversations, being EXTREMELY physically and mentally attracted to him, and yet NOT being a couple!

I really want to move on and get over him completely, and I know I can't if things continue as they are. It doesn't help that we have so many friends in common. It's only natural that we'll spend time together if we spend time with any of our other friends. I'm just so lost.

I figure if I keep my contact to nothing or a minimum I can lick these hopeless feelings once and for all. It works quite well when I don't see him. I still think about him occasionally, but I don't obsess or pine. Once I'm physically in his presence though, the feelings come rushing back. It's a constant battle, my mind against my heart. I'm sick of it!

I want be friends with this man, but how can I be friends when my feelings are otherwise? My heart starts racing when I'm around him, I can't always think straight....even if we just brush hands or accidentally bump into each other, my skin tingles. I just WANT him so much when he's right in front of me and we're all talking. He's often the only one laughing when I try to joke around, and looks at me with "smiling eyes."

Logically I shouldn't care about him at all, given his habit of not acknowledging my existence when we're not at school together. He magically remembers he has my number once we're in the same location again. How should I approach spending time with him? I'm trying to spend LESS time with him, but I'm afraid that won't help. I need guidance. What can I do to alleviate my feelings yet not ruin my entire web of friendships?

Hopeless Heart

Dear Hopeless Heart,

Thank you for your honest and articulate letter. I’m sure most, if not all, of my female readers will understand what you are going through. Perhaps my male readers will be surprised that, when it comes to unrequited love, women are a lot like them. I hope they don’t use this revelation for evil, though. Knowledge is power, and some women hand men emotional power with astonishing naivete.

In some ways yours is a cautionary tale. You were friends with a man for a year, and then you told him your loving feelings without any clear courtship move on his part. The feminist movement told us to ask, work and fight for what we want. This works well for work and school. It even, with a zillion qualifications, works well within a stable marriage. It does not work for courtship. If a man is interested in you romantically, and you have subtly let him know (a smile, a touch on the arm, an invitation to a party) that you like him, then he will make the first move. He will ask you to be his sweetheart. End of story.

Now, it could be that Clark just honestly thinks of you as just one of the guys, just a great pal, and that he would be horrified and sad if he knew how much he makes you suffer. But on the other hand, he could be using you as a social crutch. Because Clark doesn’t contact you in the summer, and he hooked you with his "for now", I’m afraid the situation is the latter.

A million questions come to mind. College-age men are notoriously given to love or lust. Why does Clark not have a girlfriend? Does he have a girl back home? Why does he spend every possible college-term second with you and never try for a kiss? You told him you were into him, so why doesn’t he make a move? Even if he doesn’t love you, you’re a woman, and there doesn’t seem to be another woman on the scene. Is he determined to stay super-chaste, or is he sexually attracted to women at all?

When you told Clark your feelings, did he take that as a free pass to use you emotionally and socially? Who the heck says, “For now, just friends”?! That’s very presumptuous, as if you’ll still be available later. You’re not a suit, to be put on hold at the shop while he ponders whether he really wants to commit to the purchase.

Does Clark ever spend any time on his own? Does Clark hang out with male buddies, just on their own? What is with Clark? Clark annoys me. Can he possibly be as attractive as you think? You should see the guys I thought were hot when I was in college. Eee! And one of the better-looking ones was, unknown to innocent mebut obvious to the older women I eventually confided in, definitely in the grip of Same Sex Attraction.

If you were a man in love with a woman, this would be so easy. I would tell you to ask Clarkette to marry you, and if she turned you down, to ditch her at once. You and your best pal would go to a bar for one night of tears and beers, and then the next day you would get on with your life, cutting Clarkette dead at every opportunity. Once a man’s marriage proposal is rejected, nobody expects him to go on being emotionally available to a woman. In fact, if he continues to dangle after her, he is in danger of becoming a laughing stock. And a woman who continues to toy with a man once she has turned him down is in danger of being called a bitch.

However, I don’t recommend you ask Clark to marry you, for fear he might say “For now, just friends” again. Why should he commit to a female companion when he can get all the female companionship he wants for free? What I do recommend is that you STOP BEING SO AVAILABLE.

Don’t phone Clark. Don’t text Clark. Don’t email Clark. Don’t answer all of Clark’s calls. Tell Clark you need to study harder, so you don't have time tonight. Secretly try for a dorm transfer—at least find out if this is possible. Organize “Girls Only” events. Find new Clark-free activities. Meet pleasant people who don't know Clark. Tell your female friends how a year ago Clark said “For now, just friends” and you’re tired of waiting. This will help them understand why you are not hanging with Clark so much, if at all.

You don’t have to see Clark ever again if you don’t want to. Really. (Technically you don't have to move out of your chair. You could just sit there, if you wanted, until you died of dehydration. It's amazing what we can do or refuse to do, if we set our mind that stubbornly to it.) What if you were dating, and you broke up? Would your other friends expect you to hang out with him all the time? I suspect your friends like you more than Clark. Again, I say to organize "Girls Only" activities.

Men value what they have to work for, and hold as cheap that which comes cheap. If Clark really cares about your friendship, he will try to find out why you’re suddenly not as available. And you should give it to him straight: you’re interested in finding a real boyfriend. If that’s Clark, great. If not, you need space to find someone. You want a man who makes you feel like a woman, not just one of the boys. It’s like you’re dating Clark and not dating Clark at the same time, and you want to break up. This is tough talk, but continuing to be super-nice is not going to win you Clark. I don’t think you are ever going to win Clark, frankly. I’m sorry to tell you that, and it sucks, but that was clear right from his weasel words “for now, just friends.”

Now I am going to talk about chastity, which I don’t usually do, but my conscience says I have to. Given your strong feelings of physical attraction, it might be a mercy that Clark hasn’t swept you into his Clarky arms. If you were boyfriend and girlfriend, it would be harder for you to stay chaste. Meanwhile, if you are having sexual fantasies about Clark, I strongly suggest you give them up. They can’t help you. If you are Catholic, I encourage you to confess “impure thoughts about my neighbour” in the confessional on Saturday afternoon.

I think Clark might be using you to stave off loneliness, or because female companionship without commitment is cool, or to feed his ego, or to hide from himself and others that he might be gay, but I will give Clark this: he hasn’t tried to exploit you sexually. Telling some guys that you are into them is like giving them your credit card: they’ll shop till they drop, leaving you to pay the bill.

Meanwhile--I am adding this in because, ridiculously, I forgot the most important thing--you should ask God to take away your feelings for Clark. Do this every day. Do this every hour, if you have to. Storm heaven with your demands: Please, Lord, take away these feelings for Clark! I don't want them any more. Do this until the feelings go away.

I hope this is helpful. I'm sorry you are suffering, and I hope that ends soon.


P.S. Girls, please stop telling men your loving feelings until they have made it absolutely clear that they love you. Please, I beg you. Healthy courtship is before us in pieces, and it is up to women and men of goodwill to put it back together again.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

The Background Issue

What I would really, really love to say is something like "Who cares about men (or women) and marriage anyway? We know the Single life can be great, and it was the way of life St. Paul thought best, and virginity is ontologically superior to non-virginity, so why not hang onto it--if you still have it--get a job you love, and flourish!"

I'd love to say this every day, but the fact is that most of my readers are Searching Singles who long to get married and, being under 40, are probably going to get married. Most people (in the USA, anyway) do.

The issue is not how to get married, but how to (A) become a marriage-worthy person and (B) how to find/be found by the right man or woman. Being the wrong person or marrying the wrong person is among the worst things that you can do to yourself.

Pre-Cana class is a very poor substitute for marriage preparation, which ideally begins in childhood. This is not an original idea: I'm pretty sure John Paul II said that. Anyway, you learn about marriage (for good and for ill) from the married adults in your life, especially your parents, so if your parents fought viciously or got divorced, you might want to sort out with a counsellor how you feel about marriage as soon as you have the money. If your parents are divorced and you didn't live with a happily remarried parent, then you don't know how to be married. You know how to be divorced.

Now, my parents were a university professor and a well-educated housewife. My father's parents were middle class Irish-German American Catholics (with happy memories of pre-Crash wealth), and my mother's parents were working class Scottish Canadian Protestants (with ironic memories of 19th century domestic service). My parents believe in God, Catholicism, family and books. Completely indifferent to the Joneses, they hate buying stuff.

They also had, when I was growing up, a traditional kind of middle-class marriage: my mother divided her time between bursts of housework (especially laundry and cooking), taking children to appointments and reading endless books. My father put on a clean and ironed shirt every day and went to his office, returning to eat the dinner my mother put on the table. They never fought in front of their kids, and they always sided against us. I didn't think they had a very egalitarian arrangement, but that marriage is my yardstick of normal.

It is a good exercise to ponder what kind of marriage your parents had, what you liked about it and what you didn't. History has a way of repeating itself, and you are naturally most comfortable with what you think is normal, even if that is something very bad. To be a marriage-worthy person, you have to sort all this out before you get married.

Now, a word about the right person and background, since the thorny issue of university education raised its pointy head yesterday.

My parents did not come from the same ethnic, class or religious backgrounds. However, my mother had seized upon the values of the Canadian middle-class (most obviously university education, literature and "good taste") and had long desired to become a Roman Catholic when she finally did, at the age of 23. Therefore, she shared with my father two principal values: informed conversation and Roman Catholicism. Meanwhile, they didn't make a fetish of Scottishness, Irishness or Germanness, for their own parents (and, possibly, their parents) had discouraged that kind of thing.

My husband B.A. and I do not come from the same ethnic, class or religious backgrounds. However, B.A. seized upon the values of the Anglo-Scottish middle-class (most obviously university education, literature and "good taste") and had long desired to become a Roman Catholic when he finally did, at the age of 36. Therefore, he shares with me three principal values: entertaining, informed conversation and Roman Catholicism. Meanwhile, we occasionally bump heads over what "Scottish" means, for Scots in Scotland are anti-hierarchical, vaguely republican and decidedly socialist, and I can't get my monarchist, Vimy Ridge, Canada-The-Good-Daughter-Of-the-Empire mind around that. (I thought being "half-Scottish Canadian" made me Scottish; I was wrong.)

However, neither of us is hyperly nationalist. What matters to our marriage is that we are on the same page religiously, that we can both chat pleasantly at--and about--art openings, and that we both hate buying stuff. No disrespect to the Joneses, but they are perfectly welcome to their boring purchases. We'd rather read a book or watch BBC4. But that's just us. You have your own values, and to be marriage-worthy, you ought to know what they are.

When I tell women to check their possibly natural--and probably outmoded--tendency to seek a husband only from those men with more status and bigger paycheques than they, I am not telling them to ignore their backgrounds. I am merely stating that their own financial and professional achievements do not matter a damn in finding a husband compared to their principal values. Meanwhile, the higher up you go, the fewer Single men there are available, and they don't care if they marry their financial-and-professional equal. They should care that they marry somewhat who shares their principal values.

Those shared principal values, though, ought to have some weight behind them. If your principal values are looking good and making money, I am not sure you will be happy with a man whose principal values are also looking good and making money. However, if your principal values are la famiglia and being Italian, than you are probably going to get along great with a man whose principal values are also la famiglia and being Italian, even if he is a baker and you are a school principal.

One of my male relations married a woman of a different ethnic group, a different sect of Christianity, and who is better educated than he and makes much more money than he does. He still makes a good salary, mind you, and he enjoys his career, at which he works very hard. He's a consciencious worker, and that is a value he shares with his wife. In fact, despite their ethnic-sectarian-education-salary differences, they have many, perhaps more essential to them, values in common. They both believe passionately in hard work, children and the arts. Meanwhile, my relation has made peace with the traditional-breadwinner expectation he grew up with, and his wife, who is highly intelligent, allowed herself to be attracted to him because of his unmistakeably sincere, friendly, open smile. She didn't need a breadwinner; she wanted a sweetie. She chose one, and I think she rocks.

ONE FINAL NOTE: Amongst all my pieces of paper, I have a diploma in Lonergan Studies. My husband's university field was philosophy, he lectured in philosophy for years, and he wrote a thesis on Irish Murdoch. We almost never discuss philosophy. This is a much more likely conversation:

Me (reading the London Review of Books): Did you read this piece of crap on the Holy Father by Colm Toibin?

B.A. (looking up from "Father Z's" blog): Not all of it.

Me: Toibin's such a bastard.

B.A.: He's an arse.

Me: Did you see what he wrote about the Blessed Sacrament?

B.A.: He's such an arse.

Me: And then he has the nerve to say what the Church "should be."

B.A.: Plonker.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Change the Script

Last night I eagerly read Britain on the Couch by Oliver James to see why Britons' seratonin levels went significantly down between the 1950s and 1980s, rendering great swaths of the population depressed. He says it is the fault of constant pressure to succeed, comparing oneself to others, "Selfish Capitalism" and worsening of the war between the sexes.

There are two chapters on "Gender Rancour," and as I read them I could feel my own seratonin levels dropping. According to various scientific studies that you're gonna hate, men really do want to marry beatiful women an average 2.99 years younger than themselves, and women really do want to marry older "high status" men who make more money than they. Fortunately for my seratonin levels, I did not take too seriously the studies on what beauty is said to be (i.e. big eyes, small nose, baby face). Average and even ugly women get married all the time, their grooms too blinded by love or mysterious attractions to notice. (Bless their little hearts!)

Interestingly, whereas the male medical students in the book behave like dogs, the 20-something part-time models more-or-less abstain from sexual intercourse. They'll "snog" almost anybody, and get a lot of enjoyment from that, but they tend not to give it up. These are not particularly chaste or kindly women; they just want to get a lot of sexual enjoyment without the vulnerability of going all the way. They might not be virtuous, but they certainly are smart and confident.

Because it made me mad, here is a paragraph about a medical student who wanted to be a virgin until he was married, but was seduced by a nurse. She wants a commitment now, ah ha ha ha.

A student from a conservative background had associated sex with marriage but this changed after losing his virginity to a nurse. As their relationship progressed, differences in their backgrounds and annoyance at her feelings about a previous boyfriend made him doubt its worth. He still sleeps with her occasionally but feels sad because she pressures him to be engaged.

"I realize that I learnt a lot about life from this relationship, how to relate to a woman sexually, and I am a lot more comfortable now along those lines. Before, any girl I was going out with for a long period of time I was sizing up for marriage. Now I want to go out and have a great time and not think about a woman's marriage potential...."

Hey, thanks a lot, Nursie. Incidentally, a newly fledged medical doctor once sized up my marriage potential, and it was all very odd. He had bought a new house, and he had bought a ton of furniture, and it seemed as if he were now out to buy the future Mrs. Dr. Him. I think it pertinent to mention that I was 27, very athletic and only 115 lbs at the time. He was not very good-looking, but I humoured him a bit until he sneered at the dogma of Christ's Resurrection, and then I stopped talking to him. Plonker.

Anyway, the studies show that women still want a man who is older, has higher professional status and earns more than they do, even when women themselves are older, high status and earning quite a lot. There is no logical reason for this, suggests Oliver James. Much head-scratching. Psychologists think that perhaps because women have traditional ideas about men and their money banged into their heads in childhood, they cling to these ideas, no matter what. And this is too bad because men (it is said) don't care how much status or money women have. Your 35 year old bachelor surgeon is not looking for a fellow 35 year old surgeon but for the prettiest-to-him girl he can find. That could be the 35 year old colleague, sure, but it could also be the 20 year old nursing student down the hall.

All this means is that there are fewer cute young nursing students available, since the older surgeons have snapped them up, and fewer 35 year old male surgeons, since the 20 year old nursing students have snapped them up. This leaves 35 year old female surgeons looking balefully at cute 20 year old male orderlies, and the male orderlies flirting with the cute new cleaner in Ward B.

And this is simply stupid. I don't care if you went to Havard Law. If you are interested in nice Catholic men, it is bad mathematics to confine yourself to dating only Catholic men who are Harvard Law grads. If a woman makes a good salary, I cannot see why she needs a man who makes as much as she or more, unless she secretly hates working outside the home and wants to retire and be a full-time mum.

Meanwhile, a lot of educated women (including women in the USA, which blows my mind) habour a secret class hierarchy in their hearts, and are horrified at the idea of dating some supposedly low-caste man like a plumber, electrician or joiner. Yes, maybe 100 years ago, a middle-class woman would think twice about marrying a blue collar guy. But these are modern days and plumbers, electricians and joiners are very often savvy businessmen with, at best, employees of their own, and, at worst, great union wages. If you have not seen Moonstruck, go see it at once. Oh, better see Crossing Delaney, too.

If a man is attractive, has a good character and a steady job, who cares where he went to school? Who cares what firm he works for, or how he puts in the hours between 9 to 5 (or 8 to 4), as long as he at least moderately enjoys them? There are a lot of smart men, great conversationalists, culture vultures, with jobs less-paid and lower-status than yours. Why reject them for their jobs--or the fact that they went to State?

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Governance of Eyes

Today I have nothing to say about the Single life or men at all, except that this fantabulously beautiful flame-haired young man got on the Rough Bus yesterday at one of the Rougher Bus Stops, and I was, like, ooooo...

Flame-haired young men don't usually look like that. Often they look sunburnt and pug-like. Not that there is anything wrong with being pug-like. Pugs are sweet.

Married ladies are not supposed to stare at handsome young men, so I didn't. The Rules says unmarried ladies shouldn't stare at handsome young men either. That's what Facebook is for, ha ha ha. Just kidding. The Rules was before Facebook. Anyway The Rules says you're not supposed to stare at handsome young men because then they guess that you're into them and therefore they won't have to work to get your attention, which means you then might be approached by the lazy sort of opportunist who is out to see what he can get with the least amount of effort.

If you have read my book, you know all about Max and have a prime example of how beautiful young men can make somewhat older women go a bit nutty just by hoving into view. I wonder how old you have to be before this stops. My late 80-something grandmother was thrilled when handsome young paramedics would rush to her aid when, occasionally panicking, she phoned for an ambulance. (Yes, I love this story.)

Marriage does not, in fact, completely cure you of noticing when young men are beautiful. In fact, married ladies turn out to be quite a lot like married men: married but not buried, as one of my friskier bosses once said. However, just like clever married men, clever married ladies learn to stare at the floor, or out the window, or at the sign saying that all attacks upon the bus driver will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We practise this incredibly useful discipline called "the governance of the eyes."

Nuns used to be very good at the governance of the eyes, and some of them had habits that actually blocked their peripheral vision. Without wanting to join the legions who trash anything nuns did before 1965, I must say that I think that a bit too, too. You don't need blinders not to stare at beautiful men; you just need a bit of common sense. If a man is really that beautiful, anyway, you can ponder the beauty of the Creator through His creation through the phantasm burnt upon your memory at first glance.

But this is advice mostly for married ladies, nuns and consecrated virgins. I think Searching Single girls should have a little more visual freedom, as one of the many small perks of being Single. I am inclined to think that you can gaze until you are caught, but only if you promise to smile when caught. Then you must look out the window, or out the window, or at the sign forbidding you to attack the bus driver. Your little smile should be enough to signal that you might be interested in talking to this very handsome individual, and your subsequent governance of eyes should suggest that you don't talk to just any handsome individual.

Of course, all this depends on the context, too. Beauty is only skin-deep, and goodness knows what that beautiful flame-haired young man was up to before he got on the Rough Bus.

Update: B.A. reminds me that this is more commonly known as "custody of the eyes." That sounds like they are on their way to jail, though!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Beauty, Eh?

Alas! Girls do worry about what our faces look like until the age we actually have to start worrying (i.e. when we're old enough to have teenage daughters), and then we sort of don't. Middle age brings grey hairs, sags and lines but often a confidence that few woman have as teenagers.

From a 39 year old's perspective, women in their teens and twenties look radiantly beautiful, unless they do their best to wreck their beauty with weird make-up, fake tans, scary piercings, tattoos, too much booze or drugs, and too little sleep. Really, all a young woman has to do is eat sensibly, go for walks, wash her face, brush her teeth, put on a smidge of make-up, hide all evidence of underwear, remember to smile occasionally and she's positively lovely.

I hear your feminine shrieks of doubt and protest. Okay, okay. There is also something we think is an objective appraisal of female beauty, and it has stringent rules. Women all know what women are "supposed" to look like: big almond-shaped eyes, straight little noses, gently tapering jawlines, bow-shaped lips, medium-sized breasts, long legs, tiny waists, slender arms, shiny silky hair... Waaah!

Fortunately, most men do not limit their concept of beauty to this. YES! Very few of them read fashion magazines. The ones who do usually aren't the ones ripe for falling in love with you anyway. One of the very loveable things about men is that they are stubbornly attracted to what they are attracted to, and it is hard to talk them out of it.

"I prefer a woman with some flesh on her bones," wails one Italian man I know. When he goes to a bar or club full of slim women, he is disappointed.

What, does he mean flesh, like...er...fat? He likes fat? How can he like fat? I mean, nobody likes fat. Fat is...well, let's face it, a certain amount of fat is feminine. No fat means flat breasts. Most women do not look like adolescent boys, and most men are not, in fact, attracted to adolescent boys, although one might suspect that most fashion designers are. This should make you think twice about a beauty standard based on their ideas.

If you have that kind of power, you might want to sit a captive straight man down with a fashion magazine and ask him which clothes and models in it he likes best. If this can actually be done, it might provide you with all kinds of revelations. (I'd rather try to shampoo a cat, myself, but you never know.)

Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that most men do not carry around a checklist of what women are supposed to look like. They feel attracted to girls without being able to tell you what "beautiful" means or why they think a certain girl is attractive. They just do. Yay, them!

The dark side of all this is that there is no point pursuing a man who does not think that you are attractive. Women discover that men get more attractive the longer we know them and the nicer they are. Men, though, seem to be less flexible. Really, it's best just to get out there and keep your eye peeled for the men who sneak interested peeks at you.

Sometimes men can be confusing about their attentions. Are they just nice, or are you the kind of girl they find attractive? Fortunately, men sometimes give out clues as to what images rule their submerged sexual consciouness. Take one man I know, who loves old films. He is a big Rita Hayworth fan. One of my red-headed friends had a big old crush on him. He used to come to her place to watch Rita Hayworth movies. Frankly, I thought it was only a matter of time before he seized red-headed her in his Rita-Hayworth-loving arms, and I was right.

I've often thought it could be helpful to ask men who their favourite Hollywood actresses are. However, whenever I've remembered to ask, I've always asked a German man, and he has always said "Sandra Bullock". I've often wondered if this is because of her looks or because she, in fact, half-German, but I've never dared to ask. Anyway, making a man think hard enough about his feelings to come up with his favourite Hollywood actress is enough work for one day.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

When Girls Pick on Boys

Most days I like to walk along the sea to a nearby village to buy my groceries. The local expression for this is "goin for mah messages." So far I have not had the courage to say "Ah'm goin for mah messages," but you never know. In a recent conversation with a lady at the checkout, I found myself saying "aye" and "wee" in a completely natural way. (Wanting to blend into a local culture as much as humanly possible is very Canadian.)

The beach is a magnet for people all over the neighbourhood and beyond. In the daytime, I am most likely to see mums and dads pushing prams down the promenade or sitting in the sand with their wee bairns or "weans" (wee ones). However, packs of teenagers, Scottish and foreign (language students is my guess) occasionally turn up, too.

The teenagers--and I'm sorry to say this--make me nervous. And it's not the boys. I'm all but invisible to the boys. It's the girls. A group of local boys, without a girl to egg them on, is not going to bother an ordinary thirty-something woman with a shopping bag, except (occasionally) to inform her that she needs a haircut. Girls of a certain sort, however, have no vestiges of chivalry whatsoever. Nor do they have much respect for innocence.

On my way home along the beach with mah messages, I passed a group of 11 year old boys who were happily kicking a football (soccer ball) back and forth. They were not bothering anyone. I barely noticed them; I was enjoying the blue sky and the silver sea. But then I heard eldrich shrieking behind me, and I turned. A gang of adolescent girls, tanned, pointy-breasted and perhaps 14 years old, had begun berating the boys.

"Why aren't you paying attention to us?" shrieked one, presumably their leader. She was carrying a large wooden chair, unearthed who knows where.

The boys did not respond. They looked a bit frightened. They glanced at each other, and unhappily shoved the ball around.

The leader continued to mock them, with back-up from her pals. I'm sorry I can't reproduce all of what she said, as it sounded like a fine example of local dialect, but I did make out the threat of "and Ah'll batter yeh!"

If there's anything I hate, it's seeing children picking on smaller children. And I have no problem shouting "Hey! Cut it out!", for it sometimes works. I also have no problem telephoning head teachers of schools, if I know where the bullies and the bullied come from. But there is something I hate even more, and it is sexually aggressive people picking on the young and innocent. It drives me, in the local parlance, mental.

Something along those lines seemed to be going on here, and as I watched the unpleasant scene, I scowled darkly until I realized that the girls outnumbered me five to one and had a heavy wooden chair. They had moved on past the boys towards me, and so I turned around and walked briskly on my merry way. I had a sense that I had been noticed, for the leader's almost incomprehensible shouting seemed to indicate this.

"Yeh radge!" shouted the leader. A radge is a crazy person.

"Oh God," I prayed. "I hope she doesn't mean me."

I pondered what I would do if I were suddenly surrounded by a gang of feral girls. Teaching night school gave me insight into how to simultaneously put a class clown in his place and gain his respect. (A metaphorical lifesaver.) Girls, though, are something else entirely.

"Come on, woman," I thought. "You've got to be smarter than they are. Use your head."

I decided that I would say something to break up their unity, first by asking who the leader was, and then asking who the deputy was. If I remember correctly from my schoolyard days, the Queen Bee always has friends jockeying to be her Best Friend, to say nothing of followers who secretly fear and hate her.

Fortunately, though, the gang spotted their friends, and brandished their wooden trophy triumphantly. I arrive home unbattered but thoughtful. How does one handle a gang of aggressive girls?

Monday, 16 August 2010

What Men Think

Cordi thinks I should open up a combox to such male readers as are left (small exodus when I got married, alas), and ask them what they think women should do to further Catholic courtship. Cordi, how many times do I have to say, Don't "DO" so much? :-D

One of the greatest compliments a woman can pay a man is to not assume he thinks just like a woman. And sometimes asking a man what he thinks can be a very jarring experience. Sometimes you really don't want to know. You think you want to know, but you don't want to know.

An evangelical Christian website did a huge survey of young evangelical Christian men, asking them what they thought modest dress for women was. They had to vote and comment on specific types of clothing, jewellery and hairstyles. Do you wear heeled black boots that come up to your knee? If you do, there's a whole lotta American evangelical Christian boys who think you're a sinful temptress out of Babylon. Meanwhile, one of you gals told me about a Catholic boy who honestly believes and argues that all women should dress like Our Lady, i.e. in what we think was first century Galilean women's dress.

This hyper attitude towards women's clothing stems from the fact that most young men have sexual thoughts all the time. They float through their heads like fish in the sea. Sometimes a man hooks one of these thoughts and contemplates it, but others have trained themselves (through long practise) just to ignore them. All of them know that just blurting out exactly what they're thinking (why do women always ask men what they're thinking?) at a given moment is probably a very bad idea.

Then there is the question of whether masculine thinking has anything to do with sexual attraction whatsoever. My friend Lily told me this great story of a young man she knew who got stupidly involved with some woman or other.

"What were you thinking?" demanded his female friend.

"Thinking?" he replied, incredulously.

Lily found this very witty, and so do I. Thinking had nothing to do with his actions.

Of course, some thinking has to go into courtship, but it's usually before and then after the sexual-attraction fact. A guy may go to Daily Mass to find the right kind of pretty girl, but he's still going to fall for the girl he thinks is prettiest. (Fortunately, men's ideas about female beauty are way more openminded than ours.)

To tell you the unvarnished truth-as-I-see-it, men are brilliant at figuring out how to build stuff, compose arias, and solve ab+cd/zq, but they are not so hot on knowing what they think about women. How many of you have wondered, since logically you are perfect for Mr. Nice Catholic Boy, why he is in love with some mini-skirted trollop who isn't even Catholic instead? Your average Nice Catholic Boy thinks that he prefers women who don't wear any make-up, hipsters or low cut tops. He is wrong.

I'm not saying to go out and buy trampy club gear. I'm just saying that men don't think like women, and they certainly do not call up their men friends to have long, involved, intricate discussions on what they like and don't like about certain women. I recently tried to trap a man into explaining what he meant when he declared a mutual female acquaintance to be beautiful, and he looked exactly like a guppy in distress. Either he didn't know, or he would have chosen to sew his lips shut rather than to tell me.

I say all this not to snoot at men, most of whom are marvellous, but just to underscore once again that men don't think like women. They don't think like women, and they don't think like women. They think about things, not about relationships, unless dragged along to a counsellor and forced to.

That all said, what the heck. The combox is open. Male readers are invited to say what they think they want women to do to make Catholic courtship easier in this year of grace 2010. Keep it clean, and remember that Our Lord died just as much for women as He did for you. Men ONLY, please, so women can see the tumbleweed blowing through the combox and learn as much from your silence as from your words.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

But What Should Men Do?

Men are marvellous, and I wish I could help you guys more than I have. I spent most of my youth being afraid of men my age, and then when I got over that, I assumed men thought just like women. Writing my Singles blogs, however, has made it easier to understand men and being married has made it easier to identify with you. For the first time in my life, I've written a story from the perspective of male protagonists. I never dared to before.

The past fifty years were a weird time for men to be born in. The whole concept of masculinity, which was once narrow but easy to figure out, has been questioned. Women, freed from some bad stuff but also robbed of some good stuff too, often treat men terribly. But deep down, women, like you, want to be loved just as much as they want to be respected. The longing for love eats us up.

I think it a tremendous shame that the Women's Revolution, the Sexual Revolution and the so-called "Spirit" of Vatican II (as opposed to Vatican II) all happened at the same time. Amongst the casualties was the bloodied corpse of traditional Catholic courtship. Hands up everyone whose parents (or grandparents) met at a dance in the parish hall. When was the last time you were at a dance in a parish hall? Ah ha ha ha.

When Singles ask me what they should do, and I say "Get out there, make lots of friends, pray, be patient", I'm thinking mostly of women. And if you think it's easy for a woman to point out that men are different from women in many important ways, you haven't been excommunicated by the feminist sisterhood by being bodily carried out of the Woman's Day parade and dumped on the side of the road.

I think Single men, too, should "get out there, make lots of friends and pray" but I don't think you should be so patient. If you want to get married, get cracking. Go to Catholic social events (like coffee after Mass), find out who knows the cute girls, and get yourself introduced to the cute girls. You are less likely to get instantly shot down if someone who knows a cute girl introduces you to her. This was common knowledge in every century before this one.

Do you have a sister? Does she have cute friends? Has she introduced her to her cute friends? Why not?

Do you have an off-limits female buddy? Does she have cute friends? Have you asked her to introduce you to them? Why not? Is it because she'd hit you? Are you sure she's off-limits, then?

Do you have a priest you're good friends with? Have you told him you want to meet the future Mrs You? Has he suggested any Catholic events you might go to? Has he introduced you to any nice Catholic girls he knows? Why not? Rabbis and Evangelical Christian pastors think getting people in their religious communities married to each other is part of their job.

It is absolutely bizarre that every effort is made to throw Catholic boys and girls together before they are mature enough to marry, and then very litle effort is made to throw Single Catholic men and women together after they graduate from college. It's like you have the three- or four-year window of college Catholic Society to find somebody, and even then most are too young and poor to marry. However, that's how it is, and we just have to suck it up, and you men have to take matters into your own hands. Catholic women really, really, want you to.

By the way, you can also help out your buddies by introducing them to each other. Around the same time Invocante was telling Benedict Ambrose he should read my cool blog, Aelianus was lecturing me over Skype about my supposedly-heretical love of Lonergan and I was interrupting him by looking at photos of his Facebook friends.

"Can't you set me up with any of your friends?" I whined. "What about X? X looks cute."

"Oh, X. He got sent down from Oxford for [egregious scandal]."

"Well, what about Z?"

"Oh, Z. He got sent down from Oxford for [even more egregious scandal]."


"Would you like to live in a Historical House?" asked Aelianus. "My friend Benedict Ambrose lives in a Historical House."

Now I live in that exact same Historical House. We both already liked him a lot, but now Benedict Ambrose and I think Aelianus is the veriest cat's pyjamas.


Time to take the locks off the comm box and solicit suggestions from Catholic ladies and other ladies of good will to their Catholic brothers as how to go about finding the future Mrses Them. I want DOs, please, not don'ts. Keep it kindly, remembering that they are your brothers in Christ, whom Christ died to save just as much as He did for you.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Knocked Down Again

Being married, I don't have break-ups anymore. Neither do I get The Speech or turned down on dates. But being a writer, I do get a fair amount of that which all Singles hate: rejection.

So as part of my ongoing solidarity with Singles, I've decided to tell you all when a book gets rejected.

I've just had a book rejected.

That makes five rejections, I believe, for this particular MS, and a second "She's good; let's see her next novel", which is the writerly equivalent of your mom saying "You're so pretty, I'm sure you'll find somebody one day."

I think Seraphic Singles got turned down five times, too.

So after I finish the day's housework, I'm going to go through the MS with gritted teeth, cut where the intrigued but regretful publisher said cut, save the file, print it out and send it to a different publisher in the USA.

Sigh not so, but let them go, and be you blithe and bonny, converting all your sounds of woe into hey nonny nonny!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Womanly Dignity

Goodness, what a preachy sounding title. I can just see the Pre-Raphaelite style painting now, never mind that the Pre-Raphaelite paintings were basically 1860s pin-ups.

I could write about Womanly Dignity with all the zeal of an ex-smoker fulminating against cigarettes, but I will try not to, for fear of falling from the moral high ground at the next opportunity. Give me a drink and a half, and I am suddenly seized by the impression that life is just one great game of "Truth or Dare."

My drink-inspired imprudence usually manifests itself as outrageous flirtation or awesomely inappropriate questions. The latter can be excused away in Britain as Colonial Gaucherie, for which all kindly Britons have made allowances since 1700. The former is somewhat worse, so I try to keep a lid on it around my husband's friends, although not necessarily around my friends' husbands, woe.

But there are much worse paths of betraying Womanly Dignity than channelling Lucille Ball or Mae-West-at-90, and gritted-tooth discipline and now marriage has directed me from them. I greatly blame Bizet for giving us Carmen, the Seville cigarette factory girl who hunted down her man, got him, and was later artistically murdered by him. Oh, how romantic! I came to school dressed as Carmen for Hallowe'en one year, and perhaps someone ought to have sent me to Sister Mary Anthony in Guidance for a little chat.

I have a policy of not discussing my sins on the internet, so I will not write a list of the many, many ways in which I have made an utter ass of myself over a man. They do not, thank God, include the murder of my own children so as to keep a man interested. I mention that only to remind you that some women will actually do that kind of thing, and what the Sam Hill is wrong with us? (Original Sin, probably; see Genesis 3:16b)

Feminist historians and philosophers have written about the various straitjackets women have been fitted into to keep us quiet and pliable. And so when the padded bras and girdles came off in the 1960s, the moral girdles came off, too. Now, I notice, the padded bras and girdles (now called shapers, etc.) are back, but the moral girdles have not returned. Getting drunk and chasing men are still politically correct.

The snappiest, easiest-to-remember, guide about womanly dignity re: men is called The Rules by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, which might surprise Fein and Schneider, since that is not the stated goal of the book. I should say that I do not agree entirely with The Rules, and I acknowledge that men simply hate it. One of the Rules should be (if it was not included in The Rules II), "Never Tell a Man You Have Read The Rules". Men think it is a CIA-style manual on mind control. However, I have always held that it is a good guide to never making an ass of yourself over a man.

My copy is away in Canada, so I will just give you a quick list of ways I think Single women are most likely to betray their womanly dignity. Keep in mind that I am not some sexist wacko. I love women, and I usually take our part against men (if need be), unless I think a particular woman is crazier than a sackful of ferrets. Even then, I am sure her behaviour is not entirely (if at all) her fault.

Seraphic's List of Don'ts

1. Writing letters or emails that contain the words "I feel" or "You are" to men.

2. Making social telephone calls to men you are interested in. If you have to (e.g. inviting them to a party), keep it short. If they phone you, keep it relatively short. You can talk to your playpen chum Scooter for hours, if you want. It's the hotties you need to be strict about.

3. Asking men out on dates. Invite them to parties, and see if they take the hint. But don't ask them out on dates. Don't invite them to be friends on Facebook, either. Wait and see if they invite YOU to be a friend on Facebook. Don't be so available. Really. I mean it.

4. Telling men your secrets. If you're dying to tell a man your secrets, go to a Catholic church on Saturday afternoon, go into a big box, and tell your secrets to the man on the other side of the grille. (If you're not Catholic, find an Anglican church with a sign inside claiming it is "Catholic." Then go into their box, but don't blame me if the man behind the grille turns out to be a woman.)

5. Reciting poetry or singing under their windows. It always feels like a great idea at the time. It isn't. Believe me.

6. Walking past their houses or workplaces accidentally on purpose. Doooon't do it! Dooooooooon't!

7. Wearing sexy clothes hoping that they'll notice. It always amuses me how horrified young women are when the wrong men notice them. Sadly, there is no sexy outfit out there that will entice only Mr. Wonderful and his respectful pals. I'm a big fan of knee-length skirts. I am a big enemy of thigh-bearing shorts, even when worn with black tights, which, though more modest, is severely ugh. I am also an enemy of skin-tight denim jeans, especially when worn with high heels and pointy toes. What happened to pretty? Can't we just be pretty?

8. Effing and blinding like a soldier sent out on a 20 mile march in the rain. It isn't becoming. Yes, sometimes it makes people laugh, but it really isn't becoming. Neither are arm-wrestling, getting tattooed, dressing like a drag king, fighting for women's ordination or smoking. If you are very feminine-looking and wish to shed a frighteningly goody-goody reputation, you may accept the occasional cigar. (BTW, Freud officially died of tongue cancer.)

9. Suggesting to a man that you have a romantic relationship. If you have to suggest it, it's probably not going to work out. But if it looks like a romantic relationship, and it quacks like a romantic relationship, you may ask "Is this a romantic relationship?" If he says No, dump him. If he says Yes, don't bring up the topic again until you have been dating for a year and he hasn't brought up the subject of marriage. You'll know when he has because he'll say something like, "So have you ever kind of, you know, thought that I might be, you know, the kind of guy you think you'd, uh, like to marry?" If you've been crying into your pillow every night waiting for him to say that, say "Yes." Then wait. Many men have this incredibly stupid idea that it is much more important to come up with a "Romantic Proposal" featuring cracker jack boxes, fancy dinners and a TV appearance than to set your mind at ease right where you are. So annoying!!!!

10. Putting out. No, no, no. If he loves you, you don't have to. And, anyway, you never have to. As Catholics and lots of other religious people know, you shouldn't. It will never, ever, ever make a man love you. Lots of men love the girlfriends they sleep with, but not all of them love the girfriends they sleep with. So, even if you don't believe God doesn't want you to do it, why take the risk? And don't tell me it doesn't really matter anyway because it does. It so does.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Treated Like a Yo-Yo

It wasn't exactly an "Auntie Seraphic" letter. It was a true story of a broken heart. And when I read it, my mind travelled back through the years to my undergraduate days. The story was so familiar, and so basic to the experiences of young men and women, that I'll tell the story as generally as possible. See if you've lived it yourself.

A young Nice Catholic Girl met a slightly older Nice Catholic Boy, and they hit it off right away. They had a lot of ideas in common and they enjoyed spending time together. In fact, they hung out every day. The NCG suggested that they be in a "relationship", but the NCB said he had feelings for another girl and he just wanted to be friends. He explained that he didn't feel a spark.

The Nice Catholic Girl didn't believe in sparks, so she kept hanging out with the Nice Catholic Boy every day while supposedly looking for someone else. The NCB, who knew that she liked him "more than a friend", insisted that this wouldn't hurt their friendship. For her part, she insisted that she wasn't hurt by his lack of romantic interest, although she was.

She stopped flirting with him but, strangely, he contined to flirt. In fact, he flirted more than he had before she told him she liked him. And although she knew he had meant what he had said, her feelings for him became stronger.

Finally, for the sake of the friendship, she told him to cut out the flirting. She suggested that he used flirtation as a way to keep her hooked. And then, to her shock, he first told her that he didn't consider her a close friend, and then admitted that he had enjoyed her crush, saying "I enjoyed having the attention of a girl who liked me, and having someone to talk so much to. It was almost like having a girlfriend, but not having to give you anything back, or make any sort of commitment."

Heartbroken, she left and told him to never talk to her again. She blamed his exploitative flirting on the "Male Ego". She blamed herself for giving too much for nothing in return. Most of all, she grieved for the friendship that she had valued so much and thought he had, too.

And so it goes. Day after day, generation after generation, campus after campus. A courts B. B says "nothing doing but we can be friends." A tries to be a good friend. B continues to flirt with A. A is confused. (This stage can go on for years.) A finally asks B to quit treating A like a yo-yo. B drops the H-Bomb on A. A is heartbroken. A either breaks free or opts to continue his/her emotional slavery to B.

Sometimes B is a man. Sometimes B is a woman. This is not about the "Male Ego." It is about Ego, pure and simple. It is about concupiscence, the desire to have more than one's fair share, and almost all of us have it to a certain extent. We want more than our assigned piece of the cake. And so the temptation to get something as thrilling as someone else's admiration "for free" can be overpowering. It's addictive. It's heartbreaking.

The Nice Catholic Boy in this story is not an out-and-out bastard. He told the Nice Catholic Girl straight up that he wasn't interested. Yes, later he encouraged her crush on him, but he did not tempt her sexually, as a lot of men in the same situation might try, later justifying their egregious behaviour with "But I told you I didn't care for you that way. I was just having fun, and I thought you were, too." The NCB didn't do that. He also had an astonishing amount of self-knowledge; I like to think his next stop was the Confessional. He was not wicked, but he was weak and he did wrong.

The Nice Catholic Girl in this story is not an out-and-out victim. She actively courted the Nice Catholic Boy, and she ignored what he said about spark. Yes, he messed with her head, but she let him do it. However, she also had the guts to finally call him on it and to walk away. Her worried girlfriends must have inwardly cheered. It hurts to see your friend allowing herself--or himself--to be treated like a yo-yo.

I have a few general comments on this all too common psycho-drama. The first is that if a man really likes you, he will try to get a relationship started. The second is that when an unmarried man says No, he means No. An unhappily married man might say No reluctantly through fear and then later succumb to temptation, but if an eligible man says he isn't interested in you, he isn't, and it is extremely unlikely he ever really will be--although he will enjoy flattery "for free". Women are slightly more complicated.

The third is that I believe in spark, and so should you. Sexual attraction is like a match: if you don't have it, you can't get the fire of married love going. Of course, for married love to last you need more than a the match of sexual attraction. You need the tinder of shared values and the logs of good character.

The fourth is that people do like getting nice things without any effort on their part. It is very hard to give a nice person, a nice person who makes you feel special and gives you treats, The Speech. It is easier just to bask in their attention. It is also thrilling, sometimes, to play with fire, to wonder "How far can I go?" But sometimes, as the song goes, you gotta be cruel to be kind, the sooner the better, and don't change your mind because you miss the attention.

The fifth is that a male friend simply cannot be your best female friend. Men are just not women. Sometimes (my guess is rarely) a man can be your best platonic friend, but he will still act like a man and not like a woman. Men are who they are and not who you want them to be. Whenever you are totally cheesed off at a generally good-hearted man, repeat this mantra.

Finally, and this is directed to friends of people caught in the string of the yo-yo, the dynamic can develop bands of steel, with both people hopelessly addicted to the anti-relationship, and you can do nothing about it. Back home, and many years ago, I had the misfortune of getting between an A and a B. I was used myself--by A to make B panic that A was slipping away from her grasp. Or was A in the B position at that point? At any rate, it hurt very much to discover that I was not the heroine of that story, but merely a bit player in the great drama of A and B. As far as I know, they are still kind of together, still kind of apart, and still drinking heavily.

Be careful, my little Singles.