Friday, 31 August 2012

It's Friday Again

Well, here it is Friday again and I do not know what I am doing today. I think I might go to a used bookstore I know and get a really good Polish-English, English-Polish Dictionary because the one I have turns out not to be fit for purpose.

I wanted to go out for cocktails with two Single pals, but both Single pals are busy, so we're going tomorrow.

What to do, what to do...?

What are you doing?

Incidentally, here's a political thought as I don't have a political blog at the moment and I am bursting with indignation. I was a great lecture yesterday by a war correspondent. The war correspondent and his crew were kidnapped in former Yugoslavia in 1993 by some foreign combatants. These combatants belonged to the "Seventh Muslim Brigade", and nobody knew what to make of them--at the time. They weren't Bosnians. They were darker skinned than any Bosnian Muslims.

Such foreign Muslim combatants killed Croatians, and they told the Muslim Bosnians that they weren't Muslim enough. They smashed Bosnian music shops, killed the pigs and burned them, and made the local women cover their hair and faces. Their religious practices were certainly not according to ways local Muslims observed.

Now we know that these foreign Muslims had links to Al-Qaeda. They might have been Al-Qaeda. And they did a lot of damage. In one story the war reporter related, a whole Croatian Catholic village took refuge from them in an abandoned Franciscan monastery and after protracted fighting, in which a number of village men were killed, were led down the mountains by the British Army. The village had been Catholic and Croatian for a thousand years.

At the question period, a British man, Scottish, I think, with the slightly reedy, slightly agonized voice of the aging Sixty-Eighter, stood up and said something like, "As the atrocities in former Yugoslavia showed how barbaric Europeans are, shouldn't we be grateful to these foreign Muslims for wanting to sort things out?"

And I, Seraphic, who spent 9-11-01 weeping until my eyes were red, wanted to slap him. But at the same time I felt very good about my forthcoming novel, which slaps the living daylights out of pusillanimous moaning orientalist treasonous useful idiots people like that. Ignatius Press, March!

Update: Today is the Dianaversary (anniversary of the death of Princess Diana, which has been unofficially marked in Britain every year since 1997). I publish this phrase so I can be recognzied as its inventrix.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Men are not things.

It is morning now, but I am still haunted by the story I read last night. It's partly because it was well-written, partly because it was set in a place I know well, partly because I had just read this story, and partly because it is about a Single woman.

A Single woman on the outskirts of Boston, incidentally, quite near where I started my blog.

I knew Harvard Square very well, although the Harvard bookstore wasn't my favourite. There were other good bookstores near it; there was at least one great used bookstore and a foreign-language bookstore. (Gosh, all of a sudden I wish I had a transporter and could check the latter's Polish selection. Back then I was all about German.)

I loved Cambridge, MA. I really loved it. Actually, I loved almost everything about Boston-and-Cambridge except B.C. Volker, my last ex-boyfriend, loved Boston too, but he was doing work at another, more upmarket, institution. He was happy there.

The story of Volker and me, which you can read about in My Book, is nothing like the story I linked to yesterday, THANK GOD. I feel badly mentioning them in the same sentence.

But I suppose there are some parallels. First of all, there is the religious dimension. The author is at a Passover supper and "feels relieved" when a NJB walks in. And I would be delighted when I would go to Coffee Hour after Mass in Boston and see Single, unattached, well-educated Catholic men there.

And, um, that's it. Except that I also wrote about my relationship. But it didn't involve sex, pregnancy, doctors, blood, blame, or troubling white sweatshirts. It was about a NCB and a NCG in their thirties who liked each other very much and had a lot of values in common, but were ultimately not that into each other. I am very grateful now that Volker was not that into me, but on the other hand, I still think he is a marvelous person. The time I visited him in Germany he bought front row DFB (German football) tickets. That's the kind of man he is: generous, thoughtful and kind. He thought I'd like to see my football heroes, and so made it happen.

To repeat what I wrote after British midnight, I am seriously troubled by the narrator's attitude towards her boyfriend Josh. The I-knew-it-was-my-baby-and-I-did-the-loving-thing-by-killing-him/her meme is one with which I am depressingly familiar, thanks to membership in the third-wave-feminist, Baby Bust generation. But the author's attitude towards her lover really blew my mind.

On the one hand, he is a status symbol, a desirable object to the author because he is Jewish, Single, and has a nice Jewish family.

On the other hand, he is supremely disappointing because on their first date he is clumsy, awkward, nervous and tripping over his dress shoes. When they go into a book shop he doesn't leave her alone; he looks at the books she looks at. (I would assume this was because he was trying to learn something about her.) And then she is mad because he asks his sister to join them. She finds this unmanly. Hello?

When she sees him again, she decides he might be better than she thought because he has thicker facial hair and clothes she likes. This is an example of not being rooted in reality.

She supposes that she was lonely. She had been through an "emotional hell" and been abandoned by a man with whom she had been "blissfully in love with." (Supposes? Raise your hands all Single girls who are not abjectly lonely after a break-up with someone you really loved.) And she supposes she was hopeful, remembering her "relief" when a NJB walked into the---. Hold on a minute.

Why relief? Pleasure, okay. It's nice when you are at a dinner party with friends and family and a cute boy walks in. But relief?

At their next date, and she is careful to mention he didn't spring for the bill, he wears more clothes she doesn't like. "His clothes, his choice" is not the drum she's beating here.

His sweatshirt and shoes are not just clothes, though. No. They point to "a conventional, conservative, unrefined" way of seeing the world. Really? And, oh, by the way, he's of a LOWER SOCIAL CLASS, which she illustrates by the food he grew up eating. Ah, hello. Even in Britain, land of the class system, it takes a little more than tofu and brown rice to raise you above your fellow human beings to the heights of higherclassness.

Her therapist, apparently, tells her to give the man boy man a chance. It's the therapist's fault, obviously.

"So I gave up." Gave up what? I think she means that she settled. She invites him into her bedroom and they sit on her bed. To her surprise, he kisses her. (To her surprise? They're ON HER BED.) She keeps talking; he keeps kissing. Eventually she shuts up. ("I'll give it [IT, not him] five minutes and see what happens.") Sex happens.

There is no love in this story. Like the floor of her bedroom, I am struck by the coins that fall out of her lover's pockets. They remind me of her abject consumerism, the importance she puts on food, sex, clothing and "class." The story is one of lust and greed. A man is judged unworthy by his shy demeanour on a first date, his clothes, what the author thinks of as his social class. What redeems him is that he is really good in bed.

But then she gets naggy. In fact, from the words "my boy" she sounds more like his mother than his lover. He's always late. He leaves half-drunk glasses of milk around. He doesn't do laundry often or well enough. He was always late. He wasn't as ambitious as she thought he should be.

When she gets pregnant, he brings her a lot of carbs. He encourages her to eat. She thus puts on ten pounds. She says she loved being "unattractive." Uh huh. Tell me another one.

After several paragraphs of underscoring to us that this man is actually a child, the author tells us she asks him about his feelings like a child hearing a bedtime story.

She says she became "sharp and mean." I don't doubt that. But it is Josh who is made to say that he doesn't love her. His declaration is immediately followed by "the river of blood."

I am sick at heart because I keep thinking about Josh, and about all the men who are utterly messed up by women who treat them like semi-attractive, gift-bearing sub-humans--like genies, perhaps--using them and judging them and blaming them for being who they are instead of who the women want them to be.

Men are just as human as we are. Honestly. They have different problems, they have different weaknesses, they even have some different sins. But male friends deserve the same respect as female friends. We need to be gentle with them. We need to be careful of their feelings. The chattering classes have granted women the permission to use men for sex, to judge them constantly, to blame them constantly for non-sins. We should tell the chattering classes to go to hell.

Poor Josh. I hope the author has finished punishing him for being himself as he is and not who she wanted him to be.

Update: For the sake of completeness, I will also point out that she uses food to hint that Josh is not a "real" Jew. She associates him with milk, cereal, mac-and-cheese, baked potatoes and toast. She associates herself with matzos and good old Eastern European Jewish cooking. Boy, does she hate him.

A Hate Story

Warning: The article I link to may distress you if you are sensitive, have had an abrtn or a miscarriage, are pregnant, having problems conceiving, have given birth, or are an observant Jew.

I came across this story thanks to Andrea Mrozek at ProWomanProLife. It's "well-written," but the author seems completely lacking in self-awareness. For example, she doesn't indicate that she knows how much she despises her ex-boyfriend. The story is so shocking, I noticed only when I read it a second time.

Here's an experiment. Go through the article and note every time she says something disparaging about the man with whom she "created" ("creation" is her word) a baby. ("Baby" is also her word.) It makes me wonder if he suspected that she despised him when they were together.

There are two victims in the story. One is the living being ("a Jewish embryo") who was killed during Passover. One is "Josh."

I am hanging onto a hope that the story is fictional. Meanwhile, I am not looking for comments about the baby, who (if the story is non-fiction) is dead now, and hopefully died very quickly, at a very early stage, without much pain or any fear. I want your thoughts on the author and Josh.

If you are an observant Jew, and you can bear to talk about this story, I would be interested to know what you think of the author's juxtaposition of Jewish religious traditions and imagery with her, um, surgical procedure.

I know men will find this story shocking and distressing, too, but girls only in the combox, please.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Imaginary Vibes?

I got a great email today, which can be summed up as "Are these vibes? Am I just making it all up? How do make myself stop making stuff up?"

What was brilliant about this email was that it was evidence of a woman, one rather like me as I began to read the philosophy of Bernard Lonergan, S.J., slowly realizing that her thought processes might not be rooted in reality but in wishful thinking.

Is there any adventure more thrilling and important than the great hacking through mental fog towards understanding things and people as they really are and not just as we would like them to be? Is there any battler nobler than the great clash between Intellect and Will, in which Will, like an unruly dog, must be brought into proper submission and yet friendship with the Intellect?

Well, I suppose Virtue vs Sin is even more thrilling, important and noble, but personally I want season tickets to Intellect vs Will.

As far as I know, I am the only Lonerganian in the world to consistently apply Lonergan's thought to dating. You should see my Lonerganian paper on gas-lighting and emotional abuse. I got an A + from Robert M. Doran, SJ, people!!!

Anyway, my correspondent cited a number of things which made her believe in the existence of vibes between her and men around. They included glances and group invites and such other things that, frankly, suggest that my correspondent thinks men are as subtle as shy women.

In general, men are not as subtle as shy women. When a man is interested in a woman he is obvious about it, and even if the woman is oblivious (because, for example, she is busily measuring the vibes between her and some completely uninterested guy), he is still obvious to onlookers.

But the first thing we have all got to understand is that unless we are very pretty or very charismatic most men are not going to fall in love with us. You know your friend, the one that multiple guys are always in love with? Most of us are not like her. No. Most of us are The Friend of Beautiful. But that is okay because there are something like 3 billion men in the world, and even if we appeal only to 0.001% of them, that is still 3 million men knocking themselves out to bring us a coffee.

(Jeepers! Can that be right? Never believe any number I put up without testing it, girls, because I have dyslexia of the number, I really do.)

So do not be down at heart about being The Friend. Be happy and chipper and agree with Single male friends when they growl that picking up women "is all a numbers game." God has a plan, of course, but I don't see any harm in going to respectable places where you may meet new people. Look at me, exposing my sunny personality every day to hundreds of people on the internet. (Um, not that married I am looking.)

HOWEVER when you meet these new people you must think in terms of friendship, not of courtship, because there is a strong possibility that none of them will belong to the Golden Three Million and you do not want to make an ass of yourself.

If some guy belongs to the Golden Three Million, he will eventually try to bring this to your attention. There is no need for you to sift through his every word and glance. He will do the following:

He will consistently come up to you at gatherings and start conversations.

He will not go away at once when another guy comes up to speak to you. He will linger about. He may look faintly annoyed or distressed that you are speaking to another guy.

He will give you things. Not big things, I hope, but small things that cost very little money, e.g. his jacket because you look cold, his pen because you might need it, a coffee from the coffee table, a glass of wine from the buffet table.

He will ask for your phone number. He will use it.

He might blush. I would love to write that only good men can blush for no discernable reason (lots of men good and bad go red with anger), but I don't know if this is true. But at any rate, it is a sign of sincere interest.

He will get you alone in some sneaky way. He might ask you out to something. If it is a group thing, he will plot in advance how to get you alone eventually.

He will offer to walk you all the way home, without you asking, before sunset. After sunset, he might just be a nice, gentlemanly man you can be proud to know, but he is not necessarily that into you.

He will do at least three of these things. Please don't assume Scooter is in love with you just because he rushes up to you at every party and sticks to you like glue. Scooter might just be too cowardly to talk to anyone else.

You can seriously mess up your own ability to recognize one of the Golden Three Million if you take matters into your own hands and go after men who have not shown three of the above behaviours.

Again apologies for comparing men to dogs (although I very much like dogs), especially after comparing the Will to dogs, but if you set chicken before a dog who prefers beef, he will eat the chicken anyway because it is there. But when he smells beef in the vicinity he will rush off towards it instead of eating chicken again.

Oh dear. That didn't sound very elegant. But you know what I mean. Don't go after a member of someone else's Golden Three Million or you will be sorry.

Anyway, trust in God and trust in your own attractiveness to at least three million men worldwide.* Don't get impatient and make stuff up. As some other lady, one richer than I (I hope), said "You can't hurry love. You just have to wait." Put your energies into work, school, community service, hobbies and having fun with friends. Be open to meeting new people, but don't hunt them down. And, especially, make sure your Will is in the keeping of your Intellect, not the other way around.

*Don't think they are all abroad, however, as actually most men apparently are attracted to women of their own (or their mother's) ethnic group or race and this increases as they get older, as an over-40 Chinese guy made sure to tell me the one time we went to a restaurant together.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Don't Go Off The Rails

When I wrote yesterday's post, I had no idea I would get comments from ex-religious. I certainly had no idea I would be asked for dating tips by an ex-religious!

I am certainly not an ex-religious myself, but I was once a divorcee (and annullee so let not the new readers have a heart attack), so I may have some helpful advice for ex-nuns raring to get married.

First, do not date for at least a year after leaving the convent. Do not attempt to meet new men for at least a year after leaving the convent.

Leaving the convent was traumatic, even if you desperately wanted to go. You are probably not in any fit mental state to make good decisions about men, dating, sexual expression or what have you.

Give yourself at least a year. Get a plant. Get a pet. Learn to have a close relationship with some other kind of froward living creature before attempting to have one with a man.

Second, do not think that "going on a date" is a normal thing that "everyone does." I went on dates from the ages of 14 to 37 (with a hiatus when I was married), and I am left with the sensation of years and years of job interviews disguised as trips to cafes, restaurants and cinemas.

Courtship--when a man makes friends with you, walks you home from places, ingratiates himself with your family and friends and makes excuses to be with you--is ancient and normal.

Dating came in with mass ownership of the automobile. There are many places where it does not at all exist, or no longer exists, e.g. urban high schools.

Although places like Catholic Match--and I have serious philosophical problems with Catholic internet dating--may give you the impression that meeting a complete stranger online to see if sparks may fly is the most obvious way to find a spouse, it is not. Most married couples met through friends, work or school.

Third, when your year is up and your spiritual director or your therapist is of the opinion that you can safely form relationships with new people now, take up such hobbies that truly interest you and meet people that way. Think in terms of shared interests and then in terms of "making friends."

Do not allow your primary orientation towards men be that of "potential future spouse." That way total irrationality lies. Your primary orientation towards men you meet socially should be that of "potential future female friend."

Fourth, a lasting, marriage-track romance is "friendship caught fire." (I think I stole that phrase from Ann Landers or Dear Abby.) Do not think that male strangers are going to respect you and feel affection towards you just because they have asked you out on a date.

For most men in the West--and I am thinking very carefully about this and I think I am justified in saying "most"--dating is not for marriage but to get sex. Marriage is for later, if the sex works out okay. These men will marry if they fall in love with the women they are having sex with, or always were in love with them.

Unless you are lucky enough to know only the minority of men who think of dating as a way to court a potential wife, you will certainly have to make an embarrassing speech to a date about not wanting to have sex before you are married. He will either respect that, pretend to respect that and eventually start pressuring you for sex, or reject you at once. Do not chase him. Do not try to "fix the friendship." If he dumps you instead of beginning the sex siege, thank God for His mercy.

Fifth, sexually spoiled, sexually jaded men are often on the lookout for new thrills, especially if they are legal. There are monsters who would take a particular delight in debauching an ex-nun and telling all their pals or taking photos and showing all their pals. This world you've decided to embrace is not very nice, and it can be absolutely horrid to the innocent.

Of course there are good men--including men who have no idea why they should not be having sex outside of marriage because no-one has ever explained this to them. The difficulty is that there are many, many bad men pretending that they are good men. It can be hard to tell without experience or a long acquaintance with a man which is which.

Therefore, an ex-nun--like most women--is much, much safer emotionally (at very least) if she confines her social life to friends, male and female, and the friends of friends.

Do not be in a rush. Make friends with men. Do not chase them. Consider carefully the motives of men who chase you. Be ready to cut off your hopes about a particular man if he is cold or nasty to you or makes indecent suggestions.

I hope this is helpful.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Searching Singles Seeking Something Better

I write rarely about Single women who long very much for the religious life. When it comes to discerners, I am more likely to dance a tarantella on the pretensions of male discerners, if they enjoy bouts of angst-filled dating between exciting visits to monastery and seminary.

However, today I am sparing a thought for women who desire, with real longing, religious life and for men who also seriously desire either religious life or the priesthood. I am thinking especially of men and women who have "tried their vocation" with an order or seminary, who are turned away from this order or seminary, and seek admittance at another order or seminary.

When it comes to men and women who so strongly desire religious life or the priesthood that they pick themselves up after a rejection by one order or seminary to risk rejection by another order or seminary, I shut up about pretensions. I feel nothing but respect, compassion and hope for these Catholics.

It can be a terrible shock to discover that a friend has disappeared into a contemplative order to "try her vocation". The last time that happened I felt a great sense of loss, and resentment at not being told, and finally a hope that she will find acceptance and happiness in this convent.

It's not like I will never see her again, as eventually I will be able to visit once a year. And anyway, look at me. I disappeared across the ocean as a foreign spouse and my old friends and family see me only once a year.

It would be nice if you said a quick prayer for my friend right now.

I am thinking also of a young man I know--rapidly not so young--who very much desires the priesthood, has a very good character, and has been turned down again and again from the seminary. I simply do not know why this would be, unless it is because some people mistake his cheerfulness as frivolity unless they bother to get to know him better. He is trying again, sponsored by yet another bishop, so it would be nice if you prayed for him, too.

In constrast, there is another young man, again not so young, who has left his seminary after a significant period and has, not to put too fine a point on it, apostasized from Christianity to chase after a more eastern enlightenment. Although in this case it is all too obvious he did not belong in the seminary, he too needs prayers.

I have never had a strong desire for religious life, so I do not know personally how awful it is to be bounced from convent, monastery or seminary. I do know a lot about rejections, however, about firings and about break-ups, and so my heart is as wrung by someone who is asked to leave a community as it is by someone who gets broken-up with.

Because I write so much for Singles searching husbands, I thought it would be nice to think, today, about Singles searching "something better."

I realized it is controversial nowadays to call religious life "something better", but as a matter of fact the Catholic and East Orthodox traditions have long held consecrated virginity to be ontologically superior to married life. Marriage is humanity-as-usual; consecrated virginity is a sign of the Kingdom. Not everyone is called to it, just as not everyone is gifted with breathtaking beauty, or impressive powers of reasoning, or the athletic skill of an Usain Bolt. But it is nevertheless "something better" and I am full of admiration for those who, despite hearing No and No again, struggle towards the "something better," hoping one day to hear a Yes.

Lord, accept your stubborn children to religious life, or if this is not Your will, please show them more clearly and less painfully the way.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Seraphic Also Trashes Teddies as Outerwear

Cherubs. Oh cherubs. Cherubs, cherubs, cherubs.


I have seen the new worst look in Edinburgh. And that is saying something.

It is the translucent, silk/rayon playsuit, quite obviously worn with a thong and a dark bra. And with tennis shoes and socks.

I call it a playsuit because I don't think it is actually sold as a teddy (loose, one-piece undergarment perhaps better known in the UK as camiknickers) although that is what it looks like.

And that is what one of the waitresses in the cocktail bar I was in last night was wearing. She seemed absolutely oblivious to her bad taste. And although her hair was loose and flowing--not really a good idea in a restaurant--her make-up was tasteful and her tan natural. So what was going on in her head?

She did not look sexy. There's a lot of artifice in sexy. She looked natural, animal, like a squirrel or a Highland cow. She looked like she had just gotten out of bed, done her hair, put on her nice make-up and had absentmindedly put her sleepwear back on over her bra.

All the men around looked at her, of course. When she bent over a table the already short "shorts" part of her playsuit clung to her ample--not fat, but ample--womanly behind. Did I mention it was see-through?

Across my table my friend moaned something about these men underscoring her need to find a man who was really decent. I pointed out that I, no less than the men, was peering through this woman's outfit. As far as I could tell, we were all thinking the same thing, which was "Whoa. How totally inappropriate."

Another waitress was wearing the black-tights-tight-shorts look so prominent in Edinburgh right now, but she didn't give off the same air of loucheness. I think if there had been two waitresses in clinging, see-through playsuits, we would have left. The thought crossed my mind anyway. I, the customer, the semi-regular, felt that uncomfortable.

In contrast was a young woman diner dressed according to the height of fashion in 1941. I know it was 1941 because my friend asked her. This young woman had dark hair--possibly dyed darker than it naturally is--carefully rolled and pinned and adorned with pink flowers. She was wearing a brown dress that was obviously a very well preserved relic of the 1940s and beautiful 1940s-style shoes. She had exquisitely groomed 1940s eyebrows and bright red lipstick. She was slim and looked fantastic, if a tad startling. (She really could have walked in right out of 1941; there was the slightest whiff of the supernatural.) And I tried to imagine how the cocktail bar--which is itself a beautiful Art Nouveau space--would look if all the women dressed rather like her. It would have looked incredibly elegant.

This is the second time I have seen a vintage fanatic in Edinburgh, and I must say that I hope hers is a sub-culture that becomes a little less sub. If people can feel comfortable dressing as 19th century vampires, then certainly just as many can feel comfortable dressing as 1940s damsels. It is intensely superior to dressing as if you had been suddenly awakened from slumber.

To repeat my theme of midnight, what women read, buy and do matters to the culture around us. My CR detractor, a man, scolded me to "Trust women for a change." This suggests that he has some sort of Rousseauian ideal "Woman" in mind, and has not reflected that saying "Trust women for a change" is as nonsensical as saying "Trust men for a change."

There are over three billion women alive right now. We are a mix of good and bad, and what we do has no less of an impact on society--and sometimes more--than what men do.

Speaking of men, men who buy good old-fashioned hats should know that they should TAKE THEM OFF indoors. There were a surprising number of young men around with hats, but unfortunately they were on their heads. None of the Young Fogeys I know would make a slip like this.

What's that? No, darlings. I am not being judgmental of people. I am being judgmental of actions. My waitress seemed perfectly nice. I just wish she had been wearing clothing that didn't make me, the customer, the customer who has developed an attachment to that establishment, feel so uncomfortable.

Seraphic Trashes P*rn

Here's my latest Toronto Catholic Register article. Note the two comments already posted by men who totally don't get it. I will recap in caps:


Friday, 24 August 2012

Friday Night Girls

Well, I have a big artsy day ahead of me planned. I am going to wash some of the dishes still left over from B.A.'s birthday, send congratulatory cards to two friends who have recently had babies, do an hour or so of Polish homework, hie me down to the Poetry Library to read Miłosz and do some Real Writing, see "Wojtek the Bear" at the Edinburgh Festival, possibly meet a pal for a drink, and, if I can stay up that late, see "Miłosz in Living Pictures" at the Edinburgh Festival.

I am doing all the Polish stuff without B.A. because he has decided firmly that anything having to do with Poland is my department. If I were a lot younger I would worry that various people would look at me and think "Who is that sad non-Polish lady all by herself at this Polish cultural event?" I never worry about this anymore because I have realized that the last person anyone in an audience wants to think about is someone else in the audience.

Speaking of the Edinburgh Festival, B.A. and I were on the Rough Bus last night, and if you ever want to be incognito as a North American, poppets, don't take a bus in Edinburgh with a group of very loud American or Canadian boys wearing kilts. (As a matter of fact, I determined that those particular loud people had to be Americans, but Canadians are loud too. It's soooo shame-making when an embarrassing pair of noisy Americans start yakking loudly about Tim Horton's and I realize they are not Americans but Canadians.)

Newsflash to American and Canadian tourist men: in the royal city of Edinburgh, men between the ages of 20 - 60 wear kilts only to weddings, sports events, clan gatherings and formal dinners. You aren't fooling anybody. Keep your voices down on the bus. If you are a loud American (or Canadian) man in a kilt or a loud American (or Canadian) girl who is loud on the bus, you should know that your departure will be celebrated by the quaint elderly Scots with mutters of "Bluidy Yanks."

Anyway, I will be running around town tonight by my little self going to theatre events and looking down my nose at loud American (or Canadian) men in cheap kilts. What are you doing tonight?

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Auntie Seraphic & How Will We Know?

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

I really appreciated your sweet post this morning, and hope you are enjoying the day celebrating BA's birthday!

I loved how you emphasized at the end of your post that BA is not perfect, but "perfect for you." I would love to hear you expand more on this.

I feel like many single gals (myself included) tend to swing the pendulum to either side. We either feel like we should seriously consider marrying any Nice Catholic Boy who is interested in us because they are so hard to come by (even if we aren't that excited about them), or we are way too picky and write guys off immediately for little incidental things.

How do we find the balance between the two? And how do you know when you have found the guy who is "perfect for you"? Are there certain tangible signs, or do you just "know"? How did you know that BA was the perfect man for you? Was it things he did or said? Certain qualities you noticed that he brought out in you? Were there things about him that didn't fit your own idea of the "perfect guy", but then these things turned out to be exactly right for you?

Elaborate, please! It would be sweet to hear more about this (or maybe you have already written about it in the archives somewhere), and would be enlightening to all of us single ladies. :-)


How Will We Know?

Dear How Will We Know,

Single girls are often told that you are too picky, but only once in my life have I ever met a long-term Single woman and thought "She's too picky." Honestly. And I felt bad for thinking it, and after months of subsequent thought, my conscience is clear because this woman simply wanted a clone of herself that looked like a handsome man.

She was a very good, admirable woman, but she hadn't yet grasped that no man is going to be exactly like herself, nor had she grasped that not all men with forceful personalities who could eat a Volvo, if they had to, want to marry equally forceful women. Sometimes the men who most admire go-go-go are men who aren't go-getters themselves, but have a lot to offer and it might be worthwhile to get to know a quiet man long enough to find out what that lot might be.

But that is moot--after a point*--because this is the West and the marriage model which is most likely to work for us Westerners is the love match. Unless you have strong feelings of affection and reverence for, and sexual attraction to, a man, you should not marry him.

I always liken marriage to a fire in the grate. A sound, mature character--yours no less than his--and shared values are the logs. "Falling in love" is the tinder. Sexual attraction is the match. Without the match or the tinder, the logs cannot burn. Without the logs, the fire will be of very short duration.

The match and tinder flare up in an exciting way. That would be the first year or first years of your relationship. The logs burn slowly and give off a slow heat. That would be the rest of it. They don't flare up excitingly, except occasionally in a sudden spark or snap, but they are what keeps the fire going.

So when you meet a man who you think is attractive, funny and interesting, it is a good idea to think about whether or not you share the same core values. It boggles my mind now that when I was a young woman I could continue dating a man after he uttered the fatal phrase "I'm an atheist." I am also sorry I associated with people once they made me feel badly, before my first (disastrous and soon annulled) marriage, that I wished to date only Catholics. Catholic Christianity, intellectual creativity and kindness are my core values.

Other people have other core values. I have at least one devoutly Catholic friend who is happily married to a Protestant. Whereas I am sure Catholicism is one of her values, it might not be a CORE value, whereas Christianity-in-general may be.

Sometimes a person's core value is ethnicity or a philosophy or the subtle manners of the socio-economic class to which they were born. And that's fine. That's just who they are. The important thing is that he/she marries someone who is highly sympathetic to his/her core values, ideally because she/he shares them, and would be sympathetic to them even if she/he weren't in love with their possessor.

It can take awhile to figure out what your core values are, and this can very much get in the way of finding the Perfect Man for You. I was so convinced that I was supposed to marry a Tenure-Track Professor type of man, that my friend Lily did an intervention and explained to me that I had to stop looking for a man who was smarter than I was, as I was already--despite having dropped out of my PhD--really smart. And lo, in the fullness of time, I married a fellow PhD drop-out.

Lily also said I should find someone who was kind, and she was right about that. Although outwardly bold and opinionated, I have fragile nerves and am easily influenced by the personalities of those I live with. Living with B.A. has made me more laid-back, and possibly kinder, and I don't worry about being yelled at, because B.A. never yells at me.

Now the weird thing about my situation is that it was a whirlwind romance. Yes. Ten days into my first visit to Scotland I was pretty sure B.A. was the Perfect Man for Me, and when he asked me to think about marrying him, I was absolutely sure. This is in part because I was 37 and--finally--knew exactly who I was and had learned enough about other people to have the ability to figure out who B.A. was, too. And then there was the Metaphysical Factor, which was the deep conviction that this was God's Call.

There is probably more to say on this, but as a matter of fact, B.A. is calling (it's his day off), and so I must go.

I hope this is helpful.

Grace and peace,

*I did not think B.A. was that attractive when first I saw his photograph and then him in person. He did not look like my ideal. (My ideal was formerly 6 foot tall and clean-shaven, Slavic or Germanic, and definitely not Pictish.) And he showed up wearing a tweed jacket so bright it could knock your eye out. But now I love that jacket. And the beard seems normal. Or almost normal. Gracious, I'm married to a man with a beard!

P.S. So chuck out the shopping list of external features and hobbies you think the Perfect Man for You should have. You probably have only a few overarching Core Values, and they are such givens that you might be taking them for granted and aren't even aware of what they are.

Update: I realize that this doesn't answer the question of what he said or did. Basically after listening to B.A. tell me--Seraphic Single, remember; he was a reader like you--all about his ex-girlfriends, I thought that this excellent man really needed to get married to a Nice Catholic Girl to be kept out of trouble. And then I started thinking that I would be happy to take the job, although this would wane in the mornings as he talked so much. By late afternoon I would be simply crazy about this funny, smart, perpetually cheerful convert. He was just so thoughtful, and his everyday life was just so interesting.

It is possible that the timing was absolutely perfect, too. After all, he has a naturally sunny disposition and he was extra-sunny because he was about to be/was being/had just been received into the Church after ten or more years of praying about it.

Meanwhile, his friends stared at us in a sentimental yet scheming fashion and kept inviting us to parties and making cheeky remarks about us getting together. And most of these were MALE friends. So not only did we know, his friends knew too. Really, it was odd, but very nice indeed.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Happy Birthday, Benedict Ambrose!

To tell you the truth, my husband B.A. is unlikely to read this until the next time he decides he had better check up on what I've been writing about lately. Ah, the stages of romance. First the guy starts reading your blog daily. Then he reads the entire blog archives. Then he invites you to stay in his 17th century pad across the sea. Then he marries you and stops reading your blog, except at intervals to make sure you are not planning an escape.

Of course, B.A. is not supposed to be reading my blog, for he is a man. On the other hand, the very fact that I can spend an hour or two every morning blogging is thanks to the fact he goes out and works at a proper job all day.

Since this is a blog for Single girls, I am not sure how much you want to read about B.A. and married life. Sometimes readers write to tell me they find my thoughts on married life inspiring, and nobody has written "How dare you get married? You have betrayed us" in years. But you can be annoyed enough by Facebook updates that say "Now that I'm married my life is complete and I am in total heaven. Sucks to be you, Single friends!" Do I want to add to that annoyance? No.

I think the saving grace of being a married woman continuing to write about Singleness for Single women is that I married at 38, although that is starting to look younger every day. And it might be inspiring that there was still a Single, devoutly Catholic man in his mid-to-late 30s around until I snaffled him. I think there might still be others, but they are probably in Glasgow. (Our current parish crop of bachelors are in their early twenties, their fifties, their sixties and their eighties. Note the ginormous gap.)

The thing about meeting B.A.--I hope this is instructive rather than triumphalist--is that I noticed almost at once how kind and cheerful he was. He wasn't just kind and cheerful to me; he was kind and cheerful to everyone. I don't know how you girls feel about perpetual cheer. I love it. Now that we've been married a bit, he feels free to take his coat off and grump when he feels a need to grump. But this isn't very often. He doesn't often complain and he isn't rude to waiters; in fact, I don't think he is ever rude without a very severe provocation.

Occasionally rude friends suggest that I married B.A. because he lives in a 17th century house. This is not true although I have to admit that it is a very nice house. Of course we do not own it and I cannot paint the walls or put up wallpaper or adopt a cat or dog because they might scratch something or chew the doors. I can't even hang up the laundry outdoors because it would ruin the view and tourists would take photos of it. No, I married B.A. because he was so kind and amiable, cheerful and funny that I fell in love with him. And he fell in love with me, too, probably because of my resemblance to Dame Emma Kirkby, but also because I would not give him a row about being a devout Catholic.

And this is the secret of why such an attractive man was still unmarried at 36. He simply kept dating women who gave him a row about his wanting to become a devout Catholic. (He was received into the Church during my first visit.) Isn't that ODD? But I must say this situation was very lucky for me.

(And I wonder how many other Catholic men are still wandering about in interesting, cultured, artsy, non-Catholic circles, pursued by the Misses Wrong, vaguely despairing that they will EVER meet a girl--she doesn't even have to be Catholic--who will put up with their rosaries, their intolerance of contraception, and their Gregorian-chant singing pals.)

Oh, and I think they wanted to change him in other ways, which strikes me as just mad. What's to change? Really, sometimes other women make me cross.

Obviously the man is not perfect. (Dark silence as Seraphic ponders the recycling still waiting to be taken out.) But he is perfect for me.

I will add for the sake of cynical eavesdroppers that he does not have a car and that my earnings (such as they are) pay for holidays and such treats as the Jacobean-inspired sideboard I bought him for his birthday. Women are less impressed by cars and moohlah than you are.

In short, I married him simply because he is a wonderful man--ask anyone--who happily also wanted to marry me, and was well worth the long wait to meet the Perfect Man for Me.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Singles & Selfishness

I write this post with reluctance and only because yesterday's combox indicated that you want to hear what I think about Singles and selfishness. Not being Single anymore, I am naturally reluctant to talk about a moral failing that I personally have the opportunity to overcome every day. As a spouse, I have to think daily about the happiness of Other Spouse and remember that there is no such thing as "You do 50% and I'll do 50%" in Christian marriage, to say nothing of housework. In marriage, each spouse has to assume that they should do 100% of everything and not actually having to do 100% is an astonishing bonus; it's the only way marriage can work, if you ask me.

In Poland the English loan-word "Single" suggests not just an ordinary, unmarried person but someone we might call a swinging single. Thus the Polish title of my book, Anielskie Single, is controversial and attention-getting. In Poland a "Single" is assumed to be a selfish person who is anti-marriage and anti-family and just wants to fool around. They can't possibly be "Angelic." Well, I love that Poland is so marriage-and-family-oriented and so comparatively Catholic, but yikes.

I suppose the bright side is that the pressure on Polish men to marry is enormous, so Polish men in general are perhaps a little more keen to get on with it than American and British men in general. However, it's not so nice for the long-term Single Polish women. Pray for them.

There is some justice to the Singles-are-selfish stereotype when we are talking about Single people who take advantage of each other or their parents. It is egregiously selfish for an adult to live off his or her parents, if that adult is able-bodied and able-minded, without contributing money towards his or her upkeep or doing chores or helping with childminding. It is also selfish to use other people for sex or perpetual ego-boosts.

If adult Single you are paying your own way, either in money or in help, and if you are not engaging in premarital sex, you are already fighting a good battle against selfishness, if you ask me.

Oh, wait. I am including recreational making-out in the "using people" scenario. Making-out is not sex, of course, but it is nature's way of making women ready for sex, so don't kid yourselves. You shouldn't be making-out with someone you're not engaged to. Hugs and pecks on the cheek are fine, traditional expressions of affection. Yes, this is easy-for-[me]-to-say-[I'm]-married. Actually, it wasn't until I was married that I understood the truth of all this. Hindsight is 20/20.

Where was I? I always get so distracted when I write about making-out. Selfishness. Right.

Actually, I don't think of selfishness as being an overwhelming problem for Catholic Singles. What is more of a problem is self-absorption. In Single life, but also the priestly life and even the religious life, there is a terrible temptation to think about Me Me Me all the time. MY relationship with God. MY celibacy. MY priesthood. MY three meals a day. MY boundaries. MY little drinkie. Taking some time for ME. Okay, this desire is technically wrong, but I have given up so much and done so much good that I deserve a little something for ME.

This is very clearly revealed in the story of the male religious who went all over a married female friend's house, including her bedroom, admiring everything. When she visited him in his house, she asked if she might have a tour, and he got very prim and made a small speech about privacy.

It is also revealed in the story of the male religious who talked to a Single friend all the time about his emotional struggles, and when she tried to talk to him about her own, he said, in effect, "Whoa. Boundaries. I'm a male religious, you know."

I'm not going to get into the religious-or-priests-with-girlfriends stories, of which I have heard a few, except to say, "Oh I wish we could be together forever but I'm afraid of my bishop whimper whimper."

And it is not just unmarried men who are at risk of becoming self-absorbed, of course. There are Single women who simply make assumptions about other people, based on their own wishes. For example, there is the woman who invites herself over to your house because it simply hasn't occurred to her that you might be busy or that you aren't actually on just-drop-in terms. Or the woman who tells you you're "like her sister" when you certainly don't think of her as being "like a sister" and wonder where on earth she got that idea.

Then there is abject resentment about being Single. It can be tempting when you are Single--and I was Single for a looooooong time, so I know--to moan and fuss as if you are the only woman your age in the world who is not married. This is a thought-bog very difficult to escape unless you grasp the idea that other women your age and older are unmarried and might be suffering even more than you. And that there are lots of women who are happily unmarried, like nuns and merry widows.

Despite having a lot of Single friends, I did not entirely overcome my "OH POOR SINGLE MEEEEEE" tendencies until I started my Seraphic Singles blog. When I started my blog, I had to seriously think about other Single women, both famous Single women--usually but not always virtuous ones--and my readers.

In my experience, the best way to deal with unhappiness about being Single is embracing the identity of Singleness and looking around for other Single women to hang out with and discuss successful Single women. Yes, it could be temporary. (Most of the time it is, unless you are over 60 or a war has killed off the men.) And, yes, you'd like it to be temporary. But that's not the point. The point is to wrest joy from the state of Singleness, and the best way to do that is to reach out to other Single women and help them to be Single in the happiest, healthiest, most virtuous way.

Okay. Sound off in the combox.

Monday, 20 August 2012


Because I write for Singles, not because I harbour any desire to flee B.A., I sometimes ponder what I would be doing if I were still Single. The only image that comes up is of me in a big Catholic publishing house in Toronto, editing the Sunday missal. My imaginary office has a view of Lake Ontario, and there's a coffee machine in the kitchenette, and anyone who refers to the Holy Father as "Ratzinger" in my hearing is in big trouble.

I don't have an image of where I would be living, although I think I would still be living with my parents, because I like my parents and I don't like living alone. Every once in a blue moon I would get a personal letter from a religious order inviting me to "come and see" and I would wonder how they got my address.

That is where conjecture ends. I admit the idea of the publishing office gives me a pang because I would like the routine of 9-5, but of course only in a career I enjoyed, and I'm very grateful my mid-life immigration has not meant I have to scrub floors or work in a factory or do other work that well-educated immigrants often have to do, wherever they go.

(In case you're wondering why well-educated immigrants drive taxis, it is because it takes years to build up a network of contacts in your proper field, useful contacts who know where the jobs are, or want you to work for them.)

Anyway, the thing about marriage, as married ladies will often tell you just when you don't want to hear about it, is that it shuts a door on a lot of opportunities.

Of course nobody is supposed to fire female employees just for getting married anymore. But marriage often puts a roadblock in the careers of academics, for example, because if you marry a local man, with a local job, this often means you cannot seek a university position in any town but his. I am told there are fewer and fewer tenure-track positions available, and therefore the chances of finding one in your husband's town are slimmer than ever.

"Cry me a river," I heard someone say, a tiny voice from over the sea. "That's her choice, isn't it? I don't have a choice. I'd rather be married to my soul mate than go through all those horrible interviews at the MLA convention anyway."

Well, that may be very true. But that is also why, when you are Single, you should grasp all the opportunities that there are and that you can manage.

Incidentally, I should officially announce that B.A. said I could go to night school if I want to, and that I have signed up for Polish 1.1 (although I think I might have to upgrade to Polish 2.1) at Edinburgh University. For the sake of new readers I should explain that we have not been blessed with children, so I have much more freedom than mummies do.

So although there are all kinds of things I would like to do but can't, for various social, domestic or geographical reasons stemming from marriage (but the world well lost if lost for love), I can in fact go to night school.

Back to you. Right. Being Single can be a real pain, as you know, but it does have its bright side in adult life, and this is full autonomy and freedom to pursue work, hobbies, classes, travel and breakfast in bed on your day off without ever having to ask for permission. You can adopt a zoo of cats if you want to, for there is no man around to say no.

The statistics being what they are, the older you get, the more likely you are eventually to find yourself living with a man who says no to stuff. Of course, you might find yourself saying no to stuff to, as in "No, I don't think we should buy that object" and "No, you can't go down to the pub and wait out my tea party. You have to BE at my tea party." But the times your husband says no to your whims will be a real drag. So party now. PARTY NOW, POPPETS!!!

I have a word of caution about taking my advice and running with it, getting that amazing job in Phoenix, Arizona or going on a bus-tour of Europe or taking up belly-dancing classes or getting a grant to move to Prague and learn Czech. It is not to tweet or post up your movements on Facebook. If you do, you run the risk of the envious leaving comments like this:

"Oh you're so lucky. I don't even have time to go to the beauty parlour, now that the babies are here. LOL."

"Too fat from babies to go to belly-dance classes myself. LOL"

"Prague sounds wonderful but I guess I'll have to settle for being a yummy mummy. LOL."

And then you will find a comment on a favourite blog about how selfish single women are.

Well, if you tweet anyway, and this happens, ignore them all, poppets! If/when you get married, I want you to have some beautiful Single girl memories to reflect on. Of course, for the sake of still-Single girls, you must remember how much it sucks to be Single and what comments Single girls hate so you don't make them. But you should also have a bagful of Single memories to recollect with satisfaction, like looking at the city of Florence from the Piazzale Michaelangelo in October at dawn.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

TV is a Big, Fat Liar

Married life seems to involve a lot of TV-watching. After a long day of preserving his nation's heritage and fostering its intellectual and artistic advance, B.A. comes home and flops down before the telly. Incidentally, he says I may go to night school if I want to. I said, "That's not the point. I see you only in the evenings."

On the other hand, mostly in the evenings I see him watching the telly, ha ha ha. Night school!

Anyway, I watch more TV than I did when I was Single. When I was Single I either didn't have a TV or I lived with my parents, and I hated their shows. They seemed to watch a lot of shows with yelling and screaming and bad things happening to bad people and good people finding their mangled corpses at the crime scene. I could just stomach Bones but not Buffy. Definitely not Buffy. House was okay.

Many American shows make it over to the UK. Among them are The Big Bang Theory, which I like, and Two Broke Girls, which I loathe.

I like The Big Bang Theory because it is about scientists, and it makes math and science seem cool and adventurous while poking gentle fun at boyish obsessions with comic books and sci-fi shows. Dr. Sheldon Cooper is a great comic character, and as far as I can determine, he is celibate. Okay, his celibacy is presented as a facet of his weirdness, but at least someone on TV is not obsessed with sex.

Two Broke Girls is obsessed with sex, and in a particularly nasty way. A week ago, it featured the protagonists being crudely propositioned by two Orthodox Jewish boys at a bar mitzvah party. (The boys even throw money at them. It is suddenly okay again to portray Jews like this?) Last night it featured at least three one night stands and, if I get this right, Alex having sex with a prison guard as a bribe so Caroline will be allowed to visit her imprisoned father. Ha, ha.

Alex doesn't believe in love, as she tells the "one night stand" who recognizes her at the prison. She doesn't recognize him; he has her face tattooed to his chest. Alex is supposed to be super-cool, the practical, straight-talking one. But, actually, women who don't believe in love and have a lot of one-night stands aren't cool or practical. Their behaviour is dangerous, physically and mentally unhealthy and not worthy of emulation.

Nobody can tell me that "it's just TV" so I shouldn't worry about this. But Sex & the City was also just TV, and I have seen young women in Edinburgh, four abreast, striding tipsily along as if to invisible choirs singing "Here Come the Girls...", as drunk on Girl Power as they were on vodka.

I've seen Scotswoman of two generations thronging in Paisley airport on their way to hen parties in Ibizia wearing tiny outfits, T-shirts proclaiming their sexual availability, accessories. They did not get their fashion sense from either John Calvin or Alexander McCall Smith.

And when the dumped, furious English girl on a documentary about English girls in Ibizia said, "Women should have sex just like men," she was quoting Sex & the City, Season 1, Episode 1. Where she got her subsequent expression, "pump and dump", I haven't the slightest idea, although if I were her mother I would be ashamed.

Actually, I don't have to be her mother. I am ashamed that women now say things like that on television. Call me retro, but I think it is one of Woman's earthly tasks to keep men at least somewhat civilized, and how is that possible when legions of women are acting like complete barbarians themselves? Chaste women used to sneer and isolate unchaste women for a reason, and that reason was that unchaste women were (and are) a serious threat to social order. Not just THE social order, which admittedly might be a terribly unjust one, but SOCIAL ORDER itself.*

Okay, so maybe chaste women took things too far. After all, Our Lord did go and talk to that polyandrous woman who was all by herself at the well. Of course, he was not showing by this that polyandry was okay, but that He loves everyone and calls whomever He calls to follow Him.

Polyandry (or serial monogamy, as it is misleadingly called) is not okay. One night stands are not okay. They're not funny. They're sad. They're dangerous. The more men a woman has sex with, the more likely she is to contract HPV, a very common, sexually transmitted virus which male carriers cannot be tested for, which can destroy your fertility and which is the cause of cervical cancer.

Condoms do not seem to protect against HPV, which is no doubt why health authorities are so interested in innoculating 15 year olds against it. And why all women who have been sexually active should have Pap smears every two years or so.

I find it terribly ironic that the cancer Samantha in Sex & the City came down with was breast cancer. She was haunted by the thought that it may have been caused by her rampant promiscuity, so she is vastly relieved to find a nun in her oncologist's waiting room. Sex does not result in cancer, is what we are told. But, actually, it can.

Alex supposedly so cool; Sheldon is supposedly a freak. But I know who I'd rather be. The more Alex indulges her libido, the less happy she is likely to be. To be happy, all Sheldon has to do is stare at a mathematical equation. Now that's cool.

*And, yes, so are unchaste men, and it is a hallmark of the suspension of civility, i.e. war, when large numbers of men just start looting and raping or queuing outside brothels.

Friday, 17 August 2012

In Mourning

Professor Margaret O'Gara died yesterday aged 65.

I dreamed last night that I went home for the funeral, and that's all I want to say, other than that she was an inspiration and a model for who a woman theologian can be. And that she was very kind to me. And that she walked in the light of Christ.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Auntie Seraphic & Sick of Staying Home

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

If you are a searching single, but you have no siblings and therefore no hope for nieces and nephews, and also only a few much-older cousins that live very far away, what is your advice for staving off the lonelies? I am only in my mid twenties, but nearly all of my friends around me are in serious relationships, engaged or married. There have been many days where I contact folks to go out and do something and it seems everyone is busy with their significant others and I end up sitting at home watching a movie.

I've been involved in the big Catholic group in my city, but it is currently of no help because nearly all of the friends I have made there are now couples, and the single folk are all quite young (like 5 or 6 years younger). It used to be fine last year, when I was also in a relationship, but now there is significantly less to do and less people to see. Sigh.


Dear Sick-of-Staying-Home,

There is no 100% effective cure for loneliness. We are all going to be lonely sometimes. However, there is no point feeling lonely any more than we have to!

So what can you do? Well, first of all, don't feel that you shouldn't hang out with single folk who are younger than you. I always did and, come to think of it, still do. Don't make your age such an issue. If the 18, 19 and 20 year olds are fun and willing to hang out with you, hang out with them. As long as you want to be friends with them and they want to be friends with you, it's all good.

Second, look for Meet-ups in your town that involve events or hobbies in which you are honestly interested. If you can afford to, take a cab home. This way you don't run the risk of the "Going Home Alone on the Bus" feeling. (Oh, if you have your own car, even better.) Look also for Catholic events in your diocese, like Theology on Tap. And then there is always night school.

Incidentally I would love to go to night school, but I can't because I'm married and night time is the only time my husband and I can see each other. Go to night school NOW while you can. (I should write a post on this!)

Third, those friends with significant others will get rather curious about what everyone else is doing eventually, like about six months into the new stage of their relationship (except maybe for the engaged people, who will be too crazy with wedding plan insanity for thinking about anything else). Consider having a sit-down dinner party at your place for two or three couples once a month. Rotate the couples.

Couples do not necessarily want to drop their Single friends. Most of my friends in Scotland are Single. They invite B.A. and me to their dinner parties, and we invite them to our dinner parties. We hang out a lot, and the boys usually see the girls at least most of the way home, which eliminates at least some of the "Going Home Alone on the Bus" feeling.

Fourth, get emotionally involved with a Catholic blog or two. Internet discussions are not the same thing as chatting with friends in person or on the phone, but they can be very interesting and you are guaranteed to discover new people who share the same passions you do. From my own blog, I have made many friends and, in fact, met my husband, who was a reader. And some of my readers have met other readers; in fact, two Single American girls in Germany met up through my blog and became friends "in real life".

Fifth, ponder the fact that you are only in your mid-twenties. If you are American, chances and statistics are that you'll be married before you're forty. I realize that this does not help with "right now" but it might be helpful to realize that it is most likely you will not always be home alone watching the TV.

Sixth, there is no reason to live alone, unless you aren't really alone but living with your parents in their place. It can be very enjoyable to share a house with women graduate students. In my experience, they are both hardworking and willing to let off steam by going out on Friday nights. They are also up for cups of herbal tea and chats at random hours of the evening.

I hope this is helpful. Figuring out what to do between work and bedtime is indeed one of the big challenges of Single life. I remember well those loooong hours. Before I had blogging, and before I had to read and write for grad school from 7 AM to 10 PM, I used to work out at night, study languages and go down to the local artists'-and-writers' cafe to talk to artists and writers.

Grace and peace,

Incidentally, I still go out by myself. On Tuesday night I went by myself to a Polish poetry reading in Edinburgh's most leftist bookstore. In the window there was a T-shirt featuring Stalin. Underneath that T-shirt was a T-shirt reading "CCCP". Not a very respectable place for a nice Polish poet, I would think. It hurt me to hand over my Visa card to buy the poet's book. Weep, weep, weep. Anyway, if I can sit in a leftist bookstore wedged in beside a Polish lady and God is Not Great to listen to Polish poems, then I don't see why you girls can't go out alone to follow your own strange interests. Just bring emergency cab fare and a mobile phone if you're out after dark.

By the way, I had this to say about calling romances "relationships."

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Actually LEARN From Your Mistakes

I am a big enemy of wishful thinking. Wishful thinking gets women (and presumably men) into a lot of trouble. One particularly dangerous form of wishful thinking is believing that the man with whom you are infatuated is an angel, a saint or just as decent a human being as you are when there is just no evidence of the above. All around you are hinting madly that Rufus is to be avoided, but you block them out. Rufus is attractive and therefore Rufus must be good. And, dear me, the painful explosion in the pit of your stomach the day you learn the hard way what a snake Rufus really is.

"Oh no," you think as panic swirls around your stomach and threatens to travel north. "Oh no, it can't be. It can't be true. He can't be doing this! Not after all [I've done/we've been through/his promises/I've suffered already].

But it CAN be true and Rufus CAN be doing it because feelings are not facts, and reality is what is and not what you want it to be.

If Rufus proves himself to be a snake, it is best to escape Rufus, for if you do not, Rufus will probably bite you again and again and, although you do not like it, you will get so used to being bitten that, should Rufus slither away from you, you will instinctively look for another snake, because snake-behaviour will seem normal and comfortable.

(By the way, never take particularly seriously an abused or used woman's opinion of what normal is. Many of my readers are made miserable by sexually-active-yet-unmarried college women telling you that your lives of quiet piety and chaste friendships aren't normal. Don't believe them. You are perfectly normal and a lot more in keeping with the past two thousand years of the history of, at very least, women who weren't prostitutes of one kind or another.*)

Once upon a time, after a breakup, I sat down with a pen and paper in a cafe and listed every man with whom I had gone on at least two dates, what they were like, whether I had courted them or if they had courted me, and why and how we broke up.

This was a very instructive exercise. It was akin to an exercise I did after a particularly horrible break-up with an alcoholic. Because women who date one alcoholic tend to go on to date other alcoholics, I thought very hard about who in my past life abused alcohol. And I remembered that one hard-drinking flame back in my undergrad days had told me that sometimes the only way he could get to sleep was to drink whisky until he passed out. And because of this and other memories I at 29 concluded what I at 21 had no way of knowing, which was that this flame was an alcoholic.

Sure enough, a mutual friend called me up a year or two after this exercise and sat, "I hope you're sitting down. [Ex-flame] has announced that he is...."

"What, what?"

"Well, I know you're sensitive about this right now, but he says he's an alcoholic."

"Oh," I said, vastly relieved. "I knew that."

Anyway the point to this story is how helpful it can be to clearly grasp the patterns of your life, particularly your social life, by sitting down in a cafe with a pen and a paper and the whole afternoon before you.

But this is just a start. What you need to do, if you have not done so already, is develop a tough kind of mindfulness than hangs on to unpleasant facts about people rather than flinch away from them. This does not mean getting anxious about them. It does not mean becoming bitterly cynical. It just means being in possession of the facts.

For example, I have a friend who tells random fibs. The fibs are lazy and irrational; there is no reason for them as far as I can see. I wish my friend did not tell fibs, but she/he does.

Thinking about these lazy, silly fibs, I ponder my own relationships with the truth and whether I am word-perfect in my own representations of reality, or if there is room for improvement. In short, I look for the beam in my own eye, having observed the mote in my friend's. However, I do not forget my friend's fibs in the process, and although I am very fond of my friend, and he/she has many excellent qualities that make me glad he/she is my friend, I do not place more reliance on him/her than I think wise.

And to get through all this verbiage to get what I really want to say, If he let you down terribly once, and he has let you down terribly again and again since, what on earth makes you think he won't let you down terribly, or in an even worse way, later? Because the chances are that he will, and that you are setting yourself up for even more misery. Please put aside your hopes for a second to look history in the face. A leopard does not change his spots.

*One of the worst-paid kind of nineteenth-century prostitutes weren't "really" prostitutes but laundresses or servants who slept with university students for little presents or tips. But of course poor women tried to avoid such things unless they were desperate because, of course, they might get pregnant or some horrible disease [or lose their reputation, lose a quiet conscience, lose their self-respect, offend God, etc.]

Update: I see that it is the Feast of the Assumption. Dear me, what a thing to write about on the Feast of the Assumption. Better go to an appropriately pious blog for true edification this holy day. By the way, it is a Holy Day of Obligation in Scotland, so to Mass with you Catholic Scots and everyone else had better check to see if it is a HD of O in your area.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Good-bye, Cosmo Girl

Helen Gurley Brown, the author of the women's sexual liberation movement has died. Here is her obituary in the New York Times.

Brown wrote for Single girls. She was very funny. She loved her husband. Other than that, she was my exact opposite.

Sex and the Single Girl was published in 1962, which is slightly ahead of my chosen Year It All Went Wrong, which is 1963. It had very sensible things to say about working hard to advance in the work world. It had harmful things to say about sexuality. For example, Brown encouraged women to shrug off the immorality of affairs with married men. In her view, the fault was entirely that of the adulterous married man, and if you weren't having an affair with him, somebody else would, so why not just enjoy him?

As editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, Helen Gurley Brown sold women a revolution that was half fantasy: just use protection, girls, and nobody will get hurt. When I was growing up, she was still at the helm, and her magazine always featured a heavily-made up model with big hair and her cleavage slashed to her belly-button. The articles, I gathered, were complete trash, and reading Cosmo had to be a serious sin.

Thus, I don't think I have opened more than three or four copies of Cosmopolitan in my entire life. The one article I remember reading was about how to have an adulterous affair and get away with it. I have forgotten all details except to check that your jealous lover is not deliberately leaving evidence for your husband to find. Heavens. That is just so wrong on so many levels.

I do not think badly of Helen Gurley Brown although of course I think her philosophy was terribly dangerous and indeed responsible for a litany of miseries: the proliferation of sexual diseases in girls and women; many premature deaths due to cervical cancer; the staggering number of abortions performed every year; the as-yet-unknown effects of mass use of the birth control pill; damage to health due to breast implants and other cosmetic surgeries; the erosion of marriage; the unhappiness of children; the death of modesty; the ruin of souls.

I do not think badly of her because I don't think she knew that's what would happen. I have read both Sex & the Single Girl and Sex & the Office, and I gathered that she really, truly, honestly wanted to improve women's lives. Well, maybe not the lives of stay-at-home (so to speak--they also ran a lot of errands and did volunteer work) wives who husbands might fall into the beds of Cosmo girls, but she certainly cared about her readers. And she perhaps correctly divined that what her readers wanted more than anything was to catch a man, to have interesting work, to have an income and to not feel guilty. And Helen thought the key to all this was sex.

Sex is, of course, one of the reigning idols of our time. It is a religion, and it is almost the state religion of both the UK and the USA. As the Scottish government is willing to ignore the 67% of those Scots who wrote in to plead for the traditional definition of marriage and the American government is willing to trample the religious rights of Catholic employers to make them pay for abortifacients and artificial contraceptives, I think I am justified in saying that.

At any rate, Helen was a true believer in Sex as God, the giver of all good things. She was wrong, just as wrong as anyone thinks that nuclear power is God, the giver of all things.

But she was funny and engaging and hardworking and darned successful in her publishing and writing careers. I never sneeze at book sales, and Sex and the Single Girl sold two million copies in three weeks. As a writer she caught the interest of a mass readership, and that is the business we writers are all in. It's such a shame she was fighting under the wrong standard. Kyrie eleison.

I think it was wrong for the NYT to make those cheap shots about her cosmetic surgeries. I bet the NYT won't mention Gloria Steinem's cosmetic surgery when she dies. But I suppose it points to the fact that although Helen Gurley Brown helped to transform women's lives, she also cheapened them.

Monday, 13 August 2012

The End of Parents?

Last week I went to a play called "Angels" by Ronan O'Donnell. It was a spellbinding, hour-long monologue by an actor playing a young, working-class Edinburgh security guard hauled into the local police station for questioning.

The security guard has a number of flashbacks, and one of them is of the one and only time his grandfather ever hit him.

It was clear from the monologue that the security guard was raised by his mother, grandmother and grandfather. This was not an unusual arrangement for working-class Scotsmen of my husband's generation. It is not all that unusual for a Canadian boy of my nephew's generation. God knows a boy needs a father figure in his life, and if he doesn't have a responsible father or even a grandfather, he's very likely to go looking for a father in all the wrong places, e.g. the local gang.

The grandparents in the play were married. I think this is significant. I think it is significant that single mothers (and presumably single fathers) lean on their married parents to help house and raise their kids. But I have suddenly been struck with the thought that we can no longer rely on older marry couples as parental stand-ins. I had this thought when reading this.

Okay, so the grandfather has only been charged. Innocent until proven guilty. But we in the UK have read dozens and dozens of stories about mothers' "partners" being charged in connection with the murder of children. This is the first time I have come across a story about a grandmother's "partner" being charged. Oh, and he's 37.

A partner, incidentally, is a politically correct term in Britain for a person another person acknowledges as their primary object of sexual expression. It is a way of eroding the differences between boyfriend, fiance and husband. It can be even be used of someone else's husband by the woman who is now sleeping with him. Presumably if you leave your husband for his father, and everyone knows it, your father-in-law becomes your "partner." Incidentally, you don't have to live with your "partner" for him to be your partner.

No Boyz Allowed

Serious Singles can have a good laugh at this next post and ignore it. If you are a Serious Single you are free from one of the most annoying obsessions of female, nay, of human life in general. I have a lot of admiration for Serious Singles, the Zen masters of social life.

When I delve into the problems of Serious Singles, people who are quite content to live a celibate (and chaste) existence, the worst one seems to be employers and colleagues trying to make them do more than their fair (or paid) share of work because "you're Single and don't have a family."

Of course such employers and colleagues are to be resisted because Serious Singles have lives and families like everyone else. It is up to the Serious Single to volunteer to help lighten the load for people with kids or to take on the night shift on Valentine's Day if they wish. They shouldn't be bludgeoned into it by the ignorant.

By the way, all unmarried adults should have a friend or relative or doctor look at their backs every once in awhile. I know a priest who had skin cancer on his back and he didn't know for ages because, of course, nobody, not even him, could see it.

But onto the subject of this post, which will be of interest to Searching Singles and to the eavesdroppers, because as a matter of fact nothing is more likely to get the attention of the eavesdroppers than a post called "No Boyz Allowed." Or so I gather from certain of my male friends who follow up remarks that they no longer read blogs with remarks about my latest post.

Oscar Wilde, who was so interested in and sympathetic to women that his wife changed her married name and that of their children, famously wrote that women are "sphinxes without secrets." This is, of course, complete nonsense. Women have a lot of secrets and retain an air of mystery as long as we don't reveal all our secrets. Some of our secrets we should never reveal, as a matter of fact, but ponder them in solemnity and take them to our graves.

This is not just because it is imprudent to tell certain secrets but because it is necessary, if one is the kind of woman who likes being admired by men, to retain some air of mystery. Otherwise men get bored. They are so easily bored, bless their little hearts, although not by "Mythbusters." If you don't know many men and want to find out what they are all about, watch "Mythbusters." In the UK, just consult the "Quest" channel on telly. I can barely unglue B.A. from it, and he taught philosophy for ten years or more.

This is not to say that the only popular women are the mostly silent ones who say little but mean much. Au contraire. Lots of chatty women win male hearts, from soulful philosophers to merry little bagpipes like me.

It depends on the individual, concrete male heart, of course. You would think from English literature that no man alive would fall for women who carry out breathless monologues featuring "And then she said [...] and then I said [....] and she said [....] and then when I next saw Paul he said [....} so I said [....]" but some men must fall for them because a lot of married women carry on like that and their husbands nod along approvingly and shake their heads at the perfidy of Paul or add such affirmations as "Can you believe that?"

So there is hope for chatty girls, although I personally would counsel not to chat so much, at least not about people your audience doesn't even know. I would also counsel against using unladylike, ungentlemanly language, as many men find it depressingly masculine and the sort of thing they hope to avoid by speaking with women.

Information about yourself you should offer only in small amounts, like sugar cubes to horses, and you should never, ever feel obliged to tell very personal information. Of course, you should certainly have an answer for general things, like your likes and dislikes at the ready, or else you will seem dull.

Dinner Host: And what do you do when you are not writing?

Seraphic: Well, I am learning Polish.

Dinner Host: Polish! How unusual.

Seraphic: It is certainly difficult.

Dinner Host: Dear me, dear me. And what else do you do?

Seraphic (thinking hard): Hmmm... Hmmm....

Weeks later, I realize the answer to that is "I go for long walks" and "I go to the Scottish Poetry Library and read Zbiegniew Herbert and writing magazines" and even "I do the laundry and tidy up a bit."

It turns out that relatively few people in Scotland are at all interested in the Polish language, so that can be a bit of a wash-out as conversation material. One of the most important things to remember, if you are a chatty type, is that listening is not as much fun as talking and therefore you must be very careful not to bore whomever you are speaking to, either with your subjects or with your apologies for your subjects. If you see your listener yawn or his eyes shift longingly around the room or body (especially feet) gradually turn in another direction, it would be a good idea to change the topic.

One way out of a conversational jungle is to ask your interlocutor a question about himself, one that he cannot answer with a simple "Yes" or "No." This works like a charm on men from chatty cultures, although it can fall flat with suspicious Central or Eastern Europeans.

Seraphic: And what will you do while you are on holidays?

Suspicious Central European: Why do you want to know?

Seraphic (feeling very tired): Please excuse me. (Flees.)

And that reminds me of the very great importance of women simply vanishing from time to time without much of an explanation. This is, I think, one of the great charms of the sadly disappearing (almost entirely disappeared) British custom of women suddenly rising from the dinner table and leaving the men behind.

This is commonly misunderstood as a misogynist custom. In fact it is a way for women to escape loud masculine conversation, which gets louder as the port gets passed around, and cigar smoke and, indeed, the table. It is not comfortable to sit at the table for hours on end. It is nicer to lounge about in the drawing room scarfing chocolates. And it is not like the men are gone forever. You get them back eventually, if you want them, and you can sober them up with coffee. And you have all the fun of looking at them, when they enter the drawing-room, as if they have just missed the revelation of the Greatest Secrets in Life.

Meanwhile, I got along with men much better when I stopped hanging out with men so much and started hanging out with girly girls. As much as I enjoyed being The Only Woman at dinner with male religious, I discovered that after all I more enjoyed being a girl among other girls and being chatted up by laymen at parties. I have no scientific evidence for this, but I think girly girls have some kind of magic man-attracting fairy dust that can rub off on their more outwardly serious-appearing sisters.

Update: Fruit of May's women's retreat in Krakow here. Go visit and increase AJ's hits exponentially!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

The Age Poll

Sometimes shortly after I post a new poll, a more popular blog or blogs link to my site and messes with the statistics. So these polls are less scientific than ever. However, I think we can still learn something about ourselves from them, so here we go.


Replies: 272

Female under 21: 26

Female 21-25: 83 (30%)

Female 26-30: 77 (28%)

Female 31-35: 28

Female 36-40: 15

Female 41-49: 10

Female 50+: 2

A Kindly Priest: 2

An Eavesdropper: 29 (10%)

There were only 2 eavesdroppers and no priests until the link incidents. I believe there are only two priests who regularly cast a paternal eye over this blog, one in Ireland and one down the road from B.A. and me.

But even before the link incidents, I noticed that apparently more twenty-somethings than thirty-somethings read this blog, which surprised me. I originally meant my blog to be for women of about 35 who were panicked or unhappy about what might be their permanent Single status. However, that was back in 2006 before I was discovered by Notre Dame, Christendom, St Andrews, et alia.

It shouldn't surprise me because you are much more likely to be Single in your twenties than your thirties, not to mention messing around on the computer, procrastinating from your term paper.

ACCEPTABLE AGE GAP (i.e. How Old is Too Old?)

Replies: 272

I would date only men younger than me. 1

I would date only men my age or younger. 3

I would date men up to five years older than me. 72

I would date men up to ten years older than me. 135

I would date men up to fifteen years older than me. 38

I would date men up to twenty years older than me. 20

I would date men up to thirty years older than me. 2

I would date men over thirty years older than me. 1

Whew! Well, I think it is safe to say that men of 40 are quite justified in trying to date women of 31, as it would seem many women are open to dating men up to 10 years older than themselves. There is a sharp drop-off after that, however, so if they are 10 years or more older than the women who intrigue them, they might approach with caution and not too much investment.

A five year age gap does not look like a problem at all.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Good Men We Know

This morning I am pondering the fact that this is not a "Let's All Talk About Men" blog but a blog for Single women, about thriving in Singleness, whether or not that Singleness is temporary or permanent, virginity, widowhood or, er, something in between.

However, since over the past several days we have been pondering difficult or downright wicked behaviour of various men, I think it is time to celebrate the good men we know.

By the way, Charming Disarray, where is your guest post on a good man you know?

As I wrote earlier this week, my worldview changed and my life began to improve when I took a leap of faith that most men are good and the rotters are a minority. I certainly made a lot more male friends, especially when I went to theology school and met many male religious.

However, it wasn't just the male religious who were great. There was an engaged layman who was fantastic. He lit up rooms with his presence. He was unflaggingly cheerful and open-hearted and unabashedly in love with life and his fiancee, who was a cheerful, open-hearted girl. They were both incredibly friendly and laid-back.

"Wow," said my colleague to me one day, without a hint of guile or unfaithfulness or sexual interest or anything like that, "I just noticed that you have really pretty eyes."

As a matter of fact, I do have pretty eyes, which until then I hadn't noticed myself, and I was pleased to hear my colleague say so, particularly in that way, like a little kid. In fact, that particular compliment has stuck with me ever after and constantly cheers me, especially at the MAC counter.

My colleague and his fiancee were both Americans, one with a Southern accent and one with a Chicago accent, and they told everyone around how much they loved Canada, which naturally pleased us all very much.

Meanwhile, my colleague was very smart, although he would never have said or hinted so; in the toughest lectures and seminars, he had a sort of humble, cheerful, wait-I'm-not-sure-I-get-this air. If he didn't get something, he wasn't afraid to say so, but then he'd work his brain until he got it. He's now a university professor.

I don't know if there were any sighs among the women students over this clearly unavailable guy although I don't think there were among the under-30s, or I would have known. We just LIKED him, and we liked his fiancee, too, so much. I went to their wedding; they wrote their own vows and he cried when he read his. It was really sweet.

Anyway I am sure I have written about this colleague before because I'm sure I've written about a conversation I had with my spiritual director at that theology school.

I was in the middle of a "There are no good Single man" rant. It seemed to me that all the good guys I knew were male religious, and there were just no good Single men.

"But [Colleague] was once a Single man," said my Spiritual Director.

That ended my rant because there was no denying that [Colleague] was a great guy and had been a Single man.

"Oh, yeah," I said.

This thought gave me a lot of hope, and lo and behold some years later I met someone just as kind, cheerful and laid-back as my colleague, although in a different way.

Incidentally, my colleague's Christology was so low as to be tremendously heretical. I suspect I would have seizures if I read his work, unless his thinking has very much changed. But, socially speaking, I have met fantabulous Catholic men who are tremendously, ahhhh..., innovative in their theology, and I have met fantabulous Catholic men who are reassuringly orthodox. Oh, and at least one great Evangelical guy that I had a massive crush on. It wouldn't have worked. But that's okay; he was still a great guy.

Right! Your turn. In the combox, write about a stellar man you know. Make up a name for him, though, or the testimony will get very confusing.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Auntie Seraphic and the Countdown

I got an email, and it was a stumper. It was also depressing, and I know we have had plenty of depressing thoughts about men this week, even though they are the caffeine in the cappuccino of life and the good ones make our lives sing. But this is serious.

The question was one of those ethical issues akin to "I have two healthy kidneys. Should I give one of them to a complete stranger who might die if I don't?"

To reduce a sad--and not unusual--story to its basic parts:

A young woman met a young man who had recently split from his fiancee. Although she came from a Christian background, over the course of time, after some ordinary dating and hand-holding, they began sleeping together.

This changed the young man's behaviour towards the young woman, and he sent her nude photos of himself electronically and encouraged her to send him nude photos of herself. This (I am told) she wisely refused to do.

Then she discovered that her boyfriend had not broken off with his "former" fiancee. His fiancee is still looking forward to their wedding day. It is soon.

Our heroine confronted him and he asked her if this fact had to change their own relationship.

Our heroine dumped him.

Now our heroine is unsure what to do. She realizes that this man probably slept with other women during his long relationship with his fiancee. She believes she should warn the fiancee, who is a complete stranger to her, that this man, on least one occasion, has had sex with another woman--a woman who did not know he was still engaged to the fiancee because he lied. And lied. And lied.

She has never met the fiancee, but she has contact details. And she pities the fiancee, who might innocently marry a man she wrongly believes to be faithful.

However, she is frightened about what her ex-boyfriend might do to her if he thinks she revealed all to the fiancee. She certainly did not feel brave enough to say, "If you don't tell her, I will."

The clock is ticking.

What should she do?

And what should she do if she did send him those photos? No insult intended, but sometimes I get letters from girls who tell me half the truth and then only later, because of complications, tell me the real, much more horrible, story.

I will make a few remarks about vulnerability.

I read a lot of feminist literature in the 1990s when I was at the University of Toronto. This was at a time when the dominant voice of feminism began to shift from anti-porn to pro-porn. Women were simultaneously encouraged to protect ourselves from sexual violence but also to seek sexual adventures. There was a huge, heavy, ginormous emphasis on sexual pleasure, on "transgression," on experimentation, on politicizing our sexuality and sexualizing our politics.

Feminist voices told women not to be sexual objects but to present ourselves as sexual subjects. The look, however, was the same.

What got lost in the conversation, outside traditional religious enclaves, was the fact that sexual intercourse makes women (and to a certain extent men) vulnerable by its very nature. All the wishing in the world, all the tracts on empowerment, all the workshops, all the condoms, all the abortion "rights" cannot change that.

It is dangerous to have sex outside of a long-term relationship to which both people are deeply committed. Even marriage, unfortunately, is no guarantee in itself: both husband and wife have to WANT to be faithful.

Sex is like the sun: it gives life and warmth, but it can also burn and kill. People have sacrificed human beings in worship of both.

It is also incredibly dangerous to ever, EVER allow electronic photographs of yourself in naked or risque poses to be taken unless you do not care if everyone in the world sees them and sits in judgement upon you. A artist's model, for example, might not care. But everyone else should care.

(Parents should talk to their children about it. One thing they might want to underscore is that it is ILLEGAL for even underage children and teens to possess or send sexy photographs of naked underage children and teens.)

And even if you trust (rightly or wrongly) the person to whom you send such photographs, you should understand that the internet is not secure, and that mobile phones and cameras and computers can be lost or stolen.

To give you an idea of how secure the internet is, I will reveal that the apparently anonymous young man who has sent me four simple-minded, obscene and (in one case) illegal "comments" in the past two days, is a Facebook friend of a Facebook friend of one of my regular readers. He lives in Toronto and his service is provided by Bell Canada.