Thursday, 16 July 2015

Eight Day Love Affair

Bear is scared.
I got an "Auntie Seraphic" letter recently, but it was written by someone worried about someone else, so I won't post it. Instead I will reduce it to the story it described, which is a very, very old story, repeated again and again throughout Catholic campuses and youth groups all over the English-speaking world. The story, as always, has three acts:

Act 1. Boy meets girl, and he is CRAZY about her. He tells her how truly amazing she is on the first date. He holds her hand, hugs her, kisses her, etc. They have three dates in three days. The girl has never felt so happy in her life, and he says he's never felt so happy in his life.  He literally says she is literally the Girl of his Dreams.

Act 2. Girl tells the boy her deepest, most personal, most private feelings, either by email or in person, but usually by email. She tells him that up until she met him, boys had treated her like crap. They had cheated on her, or pressured her, or dumped her for other girls, and just generally made her feel terrible, but he has changed all that, and showed her what a real man is. She is just so grateful. Thank him. Thank him. Thank him. God bless him and keep him forever.

Act. 3. Boy emails girl to tell him that he wants to "take it slow" for now. Maybe something will develop in the future, but for now they should just ease into things. Boy disappears for three days. Zero radio contact. Boy emerges from oblivion to "like" something she says on Facebook. Girl cries a lot and wonders what happened.

Okay, the emailing and Facebook part is new. In my salad days we wrote 16-page letters and left phone messages when we knew they were out. However, the Crazy-Affectionate Guy/Grateful Girl/Disappearance of Guy dynamic has been around forever.

I was in pain, my little Singles, when I read of the latest version of this story because it couldn't have happened two nicer kids. Unless you count their parents, who apparently never taught them how to behave around the opposite sex, there was no villain at all. It was just a psychic accident waiting to happen. It was Completely Naive Girl and Complete Naive Boy out for a spin in on the freeway of love without either having learned how to drive.

It reminded me that it was time once again to underscore one of the most annoying traits in the normal male psyche, and it is a guy's desire to be stopped from going too far when going too far is his idea in the first place. It is also time to remind girls not to push for total emotional intimacy in the first week of dating, or to presume that a young man will become even more glued to your side when he hears that all other men his age apparently think you are the runt of the litter.

Commentary on Act 1. The guy is crazy about the girl. Great. Why, though? Is it who she is, or who he thinks she is? It is in her best interests (and his, not that he knows that) to tell him to take it easy until they know each other better. Meanwhile, she has work to do, hobbies to pursue, friends, family, chores, etc. Therefore, although she really likes him, she should tell him that she can only see him ONCE this week, so that he understands that she is not  [just] God's gift to him, but a student/worker, with needs and interests of her own, other friends, a family and responsibilities. Her time, like his time, is valuable, and she is delighted he has room for her in his life, and she has room for him, too, although right now not so much. Three dates in three days is 2.5 dates too many. 

Meanwhile, I am sorry to say this, but it seems that guys can make out every night with a different girl and forget all their names by Monday. They do not have the same body chemistry as women and therefore don't fall in love with a girl--even a nice girl who is nice to them--just because they made out. However, women are in danger of falling in love with a guy--even a jerk guy who is a jerk to them--just because they made out. Alas. It's sad, but I have come to the conclusion it was nature's gift to cavewomen who got dragged home by cavemen they didn't even know.

The reason why you don't kiss boys on the first date, or first week, is so your discernment isn't stolen from you by your hormones. Your hormones don't want you to marry Mr Right. Your hormones want you to reproduce, ASAP.  Making out is a gateway drug. There, I said it again.

Commentary on Act 2. Young men long to be one of the guys. They generally want to be thought of by other men as normal. They want what other men want because other men want it. They measure their masculinity by the masculinity of other men. At the same time, young men compete with each other, and they look for ways they up-one each other. "You might be richer than me, but I have a hot girlfriend, ha ha." Never underestimate how important the opinion of other men is for young men while they are still sorting out the transition from boy to man.

This is why you DO NOT tell young man that other men have treated you like crap. You want your young man to assume that other men think as highly of you as he does, and he's really lucky that for some mysterious reason, you like him better than them. It's probably his [whatever he thinks he bests other men at].

What a shock to discover that the Girl of his Dreams is not universally acclaimed as a Dream Girl but might actually be the kind of girl who gets picked last for, or dropped first from, the team. Whoops.

Also? The depths of feminine passion can scare the living daylights of a guy not actually Bronwell Bronte, let alone some 24 year old. Imagine some 24 year old who still makes minimum wage realizing that he has become responsible for the happiness of the Girl of his Dreams who turns out to be not entirely dream-like but awfully REAL. Mommmm-ieeeeee!

Commentary on Act 3. So now the poor schnook is terrified. He did say all those things to that girl, and she seems to have taken him seriously, and so now what? Last Sunday morning,  he would have walked a mile for one of her smiles, and this Sunday morning he is hiding under his pillow wondering where else he can go to Mass. He is very confused. Do you have to marry a girl just so you don't join the long line of guys who dumped her?  And because he is a guy--a young guy--he will inevitably come to the conclusion that it's all "her fault."

All women everywhere should play a drinking game in which we all take a slug whenever a guy, whose fault something obviously is, says "This is your/her fault."  On the other hand, allegedly one-out-of-three women in England has had an [A-word], so it's not like women-in-general have this massive moral high ground anymore. Incidentally, I know of a little American lady with lots of fetal livers for sale.

My friend McK, who is now Father McK, once said--as a young man in my kitchen in Boston--that he was afraid to date girls (or to kiss a girl, I forget), in case he "went too far and she didn't stop" him. He blushed when he said that; he was a tremendous blusher.  He was one of these guys who think it's great when women slap a guy who "gets fresh", wonder why more of them don't do it, and are horrified to discover it's mostly because women are terrified the guy will punch them out.

Anyway, I think (in concert with the authors of the 1990s publishing phenomenon The Rules) that on some level, nice young men, honourable young men, want to be stopped from running through the course of a love affair in eight days, which the too-much-too-soon types  almost certainly will do, unless stopped. (My favourite image of this phenomenon is of the dog who finds the dog food bag open and eats and eats and eats until he vomits. Poor dog.)  They won't want to rush through True Love Forever in eight days, and they won't believe this is what will happen if the girl doesn't throw speed bumps in the way, but this is indeed what happens.

The upshot is two unhappy people, both of whom would have been a lot better off if they had exercised a little prudence and self-control, both wondering how much each is to blame. Meanwhile, the best thing the girl can do is to back off entirely  until the boy has emerged completely from his man-cave, where he is hiding, and treat him rather more aloofly from now on.

Main Take-away Points

1. Don't make-out on the first date. Or the second. Or the third.
2. Don't go on three dates in one week. Give him time to recover and, ideally, pine.
3. They need to pine. It's good for them. They don't think it is, but it is.
4. Don't tell young men your most intimate thoughts and secrets unless it's been months, marriage is in the air, and it's a make-or-break-he'll-find-out-one-day-better-hear-it-from-me situation.
5. Never tell eligible young men other men are rotten to you. The reason why you broke up with the last guy is that you didn't really have much in common.
6. Never write an email you wouldn't want read at your funeral. (Do as I say, not as I do.)
7. If he disappears after hearing your most intimate thoughts and secrets, don't go looking. He is sitting in his young man cave, licking his paws and shivering. Oooh! Scary women! Scary Real Life! Scary, scary! And I, for one, don't blame him. He probably used to wear Spiderman jammies.

22 comments:

  1. Boy, this brought back unpleasant memories.
    This makes me furious! And then they complain when women play hard to get! Yeah, I'm playing hard to get because I am still waiting for a man to act like one and stick to ONE girl at a time. Who can blame me that my reaction to any guy's expression of admiration is a kind of polite "Whatever."

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  2. Don't play hard to get. Be hard to get.

    It makes all the difference in the world.

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    1. Sciencegirl, amen and hear, hear!
      Anna

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  3. Sorry, Stella Maris. It happens again and again. Not all young men ARE grown men yet. The unstable-seeming ones are still boys.The good ones don't know what the heck they're doing it, and the dodgy ones do. The all do what feels right, and then they don't understand when all of a sudden it feels wrong. Thus, the best policy probably is friendly skepticism regarding the under-25 set and--if they don't seem to staid--dating men in their 30s.

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  4. Surely it's fine to kiss on the third date?! Is that what you mean by make out? Especially if you've been sticking to one date per week up until then?

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    1. Kiss how? How kiss? Making out is what my grandmother (the one born in 1904) called "necking" and what in my elementary schoolyard was called "french-kissing" or just "frenching." Grown-up married men who give Theology of the Body talks blush and say you shouldn't do it unless you're married or at least engaged. I just say it's a gateway drug. The whole biological point to it is to get you ready for sex. If you're not married, or not going to be married within the next two weeks, you are taking a chance there. And unless you enjoy crying into your pillow, you shouldn't do it with anyone you are not sure wants to marry you. Girls are not guys. On the other hand, not all girls are the same, so I leave it up to you. Oh, except that Alexander the Somethingth said it was a mortal sin. I don't want to look it up again, so Google it.

      People always make fun of me when I frown at making-out, and well they might. However, they can't make fun of Alexander the Somethingth, as he was Pope.

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    2. Kiss how? How kiss? Making out is what my grandmother (the one born in 1904) called "necking" and what in my elementary schoolyard was called "french-kissing" or just "frenching." Grown-up married men who give Theology of the Body talks blush and say you shouldn't do it unless you're married or at least engaged. I just say it's a gateway drug. The whole biological point to it is to get you ready for sex. If you're not married, or not going to be married within the next two weeks, you are taking a chance there. And unless you enjoy crying into your pillow, you shouldn't do it with anyone you are not sure wants to marry you. Girls are not guys. On the other hand, not all girls are the same, so I leave it up to you. Oh, except that Alexander the Somethingth said it was a mortal sin. I don't want to look it up again, so Google it.

      People always make fun of me when I frown at making-out, and well they might. However, they can't make fun of Alexander the Somethingth, as he was Pope.

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    3. Kiss how? How kiss? Making out is what my grandmother (the one born in 1904) called "necking" and what in my elementary schoolyard was called "french-kissing" or just "frenching." Grown-up married men who give Theology of the Body talks blush and say you shouldn't do it unless you're married or at least engaged. I just say it's a gateway drug. The whole biological point to it is to get you ready for sex. If you're not married, or not going to be married within the next two weeks, you are taking a chance there. And unless you enjoy crying into your pillow, you shouldn't do it with anyone you are not sure wants to marry you. Girls are not guys. On the other hand, not all girls are the same, so I leave it up to you. Oh, except that Alexander the Somethingth said it was a mortal sin. I don't want to look it up again, so Google it.

      People always make fun of me when I frown at making-out, and well they might. However, they can't make fun of Alexander the Somethingth, as he was Pope.

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    4. I love it when you frown at making-out. I think it's excellent that you frown at it. My goodness, you know what? We don't hear it from ANYONE else. Not our mothers. Not our aunts or sisters or grandmothers or friends or godmothers. And Seraphic, should I ever have children -- or nieces and nephews -- I am going to share all your wisdom with them. It should be part of a school curriculum somewhere.

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  5. It's tragic how our young men, even Nice Catholic Young Men, are so lacking in manly know-how. By "manly" I mean truly manly, in the sense of Christ's manliness. It's not entirely their fault - their fathers haven't taught them. And their father's hadn't taught them. We girls just need to keep striving for holiness and steadfast prayer for our men. There are those young men out there who won't turn tail and hide - brave and honourable men do still exist, rare though they may be. Reading this post brought back memories for me too, although it was far longer then 8 days. But as Fulton Sheen says, "What makes like tragic is not so much what happens, but rather how we react to what happens."

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    1. I didn't grow up until I was 30 or maybe even 32, so I cannot throw stones at the boys, poor things. Meanwhile, some women know young that they can't spill their guts that early in a relationship, and some women never learn. I think prudence and reticence count as "womenly known-how."

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    2. I didn't grow up until I was 30 or maybe even 32, so I cannot throw stones at the boys, poor things. Meanwhile, some women know young that they can't spill their guts that early in a relationship, and some women never learn. I think prudence and reticence count as "womenly known-how."

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  6. I think mature couples go through the same feelings, but if they genuinely enjoy each other's company, they are able to slow to a comfortable pace while still dating. Nice young Catholics are told that dating should be a prelude for marriage, and while true, it's no wonder the stakes can seem insurmountably high far too early. If either person makes an effort to keep the conversations appropriate to the time invested, it's possible to keep a good romance going.

    Even when people are calm and don't purge their feelings like a gothic novel, either party can decide to break up. That is okay. Breaking up sucks, but most coffee dates will not end in marriage, after all. But when you avoid the overshare, you can at least keep your dignity and sanity.

    "Build up love not before its own time" is probably some of the best Biblical advice you can find.

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  7. And THIS is why you don't date guy's in their 20s, Just,,, don't. They are dumb-buttocks, not that it's their fault, but no one should have to deal with that.

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  8. I think your once again spot on. I studied engineering surrounded by many young men in their 20's. Now most were not Catholic or religious it should be said, despite being mature and responsible in many other ways but they don't seem to be able to approach relationships maturely and view it as a little bit of an entertainment and many of the Catholic men show no interest in meeting women for a relationship. Not a comforting situation for a woman in her mid 20's it must be said.
    Long time reader, first time commenting. I love reading your blog and hope you keep going for a long time to come.
    Kate

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  9. Excellent post.

    I am the letter-writer, and I am friends with both Boy and Girl (who is a few years older than Boy.) I can confirm that Boy is not a bad guy-- just immature, I suppose. Girl is not bad -- just woefully ignorant of the nature of men.

    I think part of the problem in this situation was that it was (sort of) a holiday romance. Girl is not from the city that Boy and I live in, and Boy would have known she was leaving our city soon (she has left.) I do not believe that Boy deliberately thought, "Well, she's leaving in a few days, so I'll probably just play around with her", but I do wonder if maybe the knowledge that she wouldn't be around much longer contributed to a lack of prudence from both of them.

    They met in an unnatural situation. The three of us (and many more friends) were having an awesome weekend featuring a lot of late nights and socialising. Perhaps the whole thing felt like a sort of suspension of reality.

    As for your commentary on part one, well, I'm not sure how he became so enthralled by her so quickly. To be honest, I wouldn't have thought she'd have been his type. Then again, I have not heard his version of events, which means that perhaps Girl was exaggerating Boy's statements of admiration a little. But whatever, I'm not really interested in hearing his version of events, and if he tries to tell me (which he won't) then I'll just tell him to, I don't know, tell his mother or sister.

    - Letter-Writer

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  10. So where does one meet single men in their thirties?

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  11. It's not like they move in herds and have a natural habitat...

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    1. what a shame... ;)

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  12. I think the advice is spot on. The intensity of first meeting sounds like my husband and I (we went on four dates in four days, truth be told; then I went out of town, and we resumed again upon my return). However, there was no over sharing of feelings, and certainly no kissing, let alone making out.

    We were also in our mid/late 20's, not early, and wise enough to know not to share our feelings too early.

    Also, I'd been working at a farm in another state for five weeks. I left right after we met. So there was time for pining to happen!

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  13. I think this may be the best post you ever wrote on this subject, among many really good ones. The note of cautious hope, mixed with a certain realism about both men (their tendency not to *think* about what they say or do at all) and women (their vulnerability to flattery), and a gently sardonic tone, is all just right. It might even be just the thing for saving young Catholic women from their worst impulses.

    Alias Clio

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