Saturday 31 January 2015

On Oversharing

I am back from asking complete strangers with which political party they identify most strongly. So far nobody has said, "I most strongly identify with the Social Kingship of Christ the King." That would be awesome. Of course in Scotland such a person would probably turn out to be a Covenanter who never got around to dying.

It is Seraphic Single Saturday, and I have had a request to talk about oversharing about men and dates. Thus this post should make a nice companion piece to yesterday's post, which was about talking to men. Today's post is about talking to women about men, especially the ones who most interest you.

If you enjoy talking about your friends to other friends, you can bet that at least some of your friends enjoy talking about you. And, despite what juicy things my friends might be sharing about me,  I would be the first person to say that this is not all bad. It might even be good. Generally I talk about only people I care about and/or think are very interesting. Meanwhile I strive not to say anything critical about someone unless I have been terribly hurt or shocked, in which case I may start doing the tango along the border of righteous anger (virtue) and detraction (vice).

But I am not telling you this to encourage you in your gossip, but to remind you that others are gossiping about you, and the only way to control what gets said about you is to be prudent in your words and actions.

Unless you are naturally taciturn, the more you like a man, the more you are likely to talk about him. Dwelling on the subject of him will give you so much pleasure, you will not notice the growing boredom of those around you, especially if they have never met him. A few details are okay, and I think a woman in a new relationship should be able to talk about the chap for the length of time it takes to drink a cup of coffee, but that should be that.

Incidentally, if you complain for hours to all your girlfriends about how the guy you are dating is pressuring you for sex, and you suddenly stop complaining about him but don't break up with him either, everyone will assume you have given in. Sorry, but come on. Pick one and only one, preferably the most loyal or silent, of your female friends to confide in about your sex-and-chastity woes, swear her to the most abject secrecy and do not breathe a word of all this outside the confessional, therapist's room or doctor's office. Oh, and I think you should break up with him, too.

But to return to the gentler world of Cath Soc, the Newman and the Trad Mass society, you really must be careful what you say about anyone in a group of 200 or fewer people, for in such a small environment, what you say will very likely get back to him, and not necessarily in the form it left your ruby lips. You really, really, really should not share personal stuff anyone tells you about their past, their family, and their deepest, darkest secrets to anyone else. And this includes the stuff men tell you on dates. Smart men don't marry women they can't trust, and if you can't be trusted, no smart man is going to marry you. Thus, whatever you tell your friends about men, keep it positive and rational.

Don't say: Ugh! I never want to see Scooter again. He bored me senseless about skeet-shooting.
Say instead: Scooter is very much into outdoor sports. I think he'd enjoy meeting girls who are too.

Don't say: Skip is so fantastic, I want to marry him right now and have his babies!!!
Say instead: I really enjoyed my date with Skip. He's a great guy with a good sense of humour. I hope he calls again.

Don't say: I always thought Sully a tough guy, but it turns out it's just a front he developed 'cause his father beat him black and blue and his brothers made fun of his interest in art!
Say instead: I really enjoyed my date with Sully. He's a deep character. He knows a lot about life, and he has a real interest in art.

Believe me, I know how crazy and impossible this sounds. But I promise that it gets easier with practice and with age. The older you get, the more you understand that people are not really interested in positive stuff, like how utterly fantastic Skip is, but glom onto negative stuff, like what a pain in the butt Scooter is. But nevertheless if you tell people positive stuff about other people, they begin to think  that you are a positive person. And if you constantly tell them negative (if interesting) stuff about other people, they may start feeling negatively about you.

So what can you do? You have so much to tell, but you are not sure if you should tell it.  I recommend my old friends the pen and paper. Get a little girl's diary with a lock, if you can find one--there are computerized versions now (!)--and write all about your dates to your hearts' content. You could also begin a computer file although I don't recommend a blog. No matter how anonymous you are, and how anonymous you make your dates, if you go public, someone will find out who you are. One of my brothers once realized that the girl he was on a date with was the author of a dating blog he enjoyed reading. Can you imagine? Well, I suppose you can if you were ever mentioned on "Seraphic Singles."

Alternatively you could pay your therapist, who is bound to professional silence, to listen to you enthuse or emote for an hour. Or you could visit your housebound grandmother or aunt, if you have one, and tell her all about it. Or maybe you could even visit a sympathetic older married female friend with grown-up children or no children at all, preferably one who is not in your immediate social circle. Older married women have their own romantic life sorted out and settled, and so take more of an impersonal interest in other people's romances than Single women within the same dating pool. They can listen and enjoy without feeling the impulse to tell someone else except, perhaps, their husbands. 

Incidentally, anything negative a married friend tells you about her husband, short of violence, you must never repeat to anyone else. Never. Not even to your own husband. He doesn't want to hear it anyway. Husbands don't like the idea of wives discussing them with other men's wives. Meanwhile, don't tell married women stuff you don't mind their husbands knowing, just in case they don't share my philosophy. However, do not panic about this too much, as husbands tend to forget random news snippets offered to them by their wives.

How to put up with other people's oversharing is a delicate issue. It horrifies me to know that some married people actually violate the sanctity of their marriage bed by discussing what goes on there with their work colleagues. Less culpably, perhaps, since they are after all just "partners" (at best) or whoremongers (at worst), "partners" and whoremongers sometimes do that too. You are well within your rights to say "TMI" to such people and cover your ears in a jokey way the first time, and then to inform them more seriously that you are not comfortable hearing sex talk at work the next time, and then to have a little meeting with your manager or HR officer on the subject the time after that. I believe making people hear about one's sexual exploits (or lack thereof) is a form of sexual harassment.

In social life, there are no managers or HR, so just say "TMI" and cover your ears. After you do this five times, Chatty Cathy or Chuckle Charlie will get it. If s/he doesn't, s/he isn't really your friend is s/he?

Friday 30 January 2015

Talking Too Much?

My husband was invited to give the Immortal Memory speech at a Burns Supper last night. This was quite an honour, and B.A. duly bought a proper formal Prince Charlie jacket and waistcoat to go with his kilt. And although he has been blessed with the gift of the gab, he also took an afternoon off work to polish his speech.

B.A. is the kind of man who very much enjoys talking. I would put it down to his being Scottish, but there is another kind of Scot, which is the man who prefers just to sigh gloomily over his pint and make a noise somewhat similar to "Aye-up." In general, however, I would say that Scotsmen talk a lot, and all a woman--any woman--has to do to get one to talk to her is walk alone into an Edinburgh pub in the afternoon.

Like many men who love to talk, B.A. loves a good listener, which means I am incredibly grateful to the jet lag, culture shock and head cold which robbed me of my own silver tongue long enough for him to fall in love with me. Ah ha ha ha! Mostly I asked polite questions, and expressed sincere admiration for everything and giggled.

Some years ago kind friends--well, a college secretary--once interrupted me as I told the news of an impending first date to say, "Let HIM talk!" in a voice so agonized I wondered if I had been boring her senseless. After all, talking is my writing substitute. If I can't write--and you can't write while you are doing odd jobs in a college office or on a date--I talk. It's difficult to tell how much is too much, especially when there are men who think any woman who talks at all is talking too much.  Fortunately, such men have not asked me out on a date.

But the more interesting feature of the secretary's plea of "Let HIM talk" was that one should employ STRATEGY, not only on dates, but with men in general. It is not enough just to look as attractive as possible--according to your own standards*, show up, and talk to men as if they were normal human beings, i.e. women. One must consider one's audience with due care. Some girls know this from the cradle. Others never learn. When I was in theology school, a blunt and bluff male religious said what he liked about me was that I was "without guile". I think that meant he felt super-safe around me because I was clearly just one of the boys. Well, that was very nice for HIM.

I wish social life wasn't so based on chit-chat. How cool it would be if "first dates", should there actually be formal dates in your community, generally happened around a chess board or deck of cards instead of a table in a café. However, social life is indeed based on chit-chat, and as most men love to talk, it is a good idea to figure out ways to get them to talk. Let men be the ones who go home from a date slightly unsettled and wondering if they talked too much.

Even quiet men enjoy chatting about those things they find most interesting. Therefore if you find yourself sitting beside a man who is not already talking, it is kindly (and strategic) to ask him questions about his interests. "I understand that you are keen on skeet-shooting," you might say to the skeet-shooting chap. "What got you interested in that?" Since obviously what got the skeet-shooting chap hooked on shooting skeets was quite pleasurable, the memory and imparting the memory will make him feel good and therefore give you a borrowed golden glow. It might be temporary, but if he likes women, he will remember you as someone to whom he can talk about his interest/talent in safety and speak to you again.

Men also enjoy imparting information to women. I have yet to meet the man who does not enjoy teaching a woman something he knows about and she doesn't. Therefore, I do not feel shy about asking any Polish male acquaintance who happens to be on Facebook at the moment if I should write (for example) "Byłam" or "Staniłam" when describing something that happened to me in the past. Indeed, I do not flinch from asking the fiercest Pole of my acquaintance to read one of my Polish compositions and correct my mistakes, for I know the certain evidence that he knows something that I don't will give him great joy. Indeed, asking men to do some skilled thing for you that you cannot do is so incredibly kind and attractive, you must try not to ask a married man or a man with a girlfriend to help you out with anything domestic/sporty/intellectual or else their wife or girlfriend will suspect your motives.

Apparently there are men who take great pleasure in discovering that the woman sitting across from him at the coffee table is much, much cleverer than he. I have never met such a man. Indeed, I have strategically flaunted my intelligence to shut men up and chase them away. Men spend their  lives competing with other men and, at work and school, with women, too, and so they don't fancy the idea of spending their personal lives competing with women, particularly the women with whom they will share marriage beds.

This is not to say that intelligent men do not value intelligence in women. Of course they do. Indeed, I have heard a young man say that he wanted to ask out a very flirtatious and attractive woman to see if she had brains, too. Flirtatious and attractive piqued his interest, but brains would determine if there would be a second date. "Brains", I suggest, means asking intelligent questions and offering intelligent answers to any questions asked in return.  "Brains" do not mean boasting that you went to Harvard or got a First at Edinburgh University or scored a 3.8/4 at theology school.  As with the best designer clothing, you don't need to show off the label for people to appreciate the excellent tailoring.

And now a word about "mansplaining". This is a word that women who wish to charm men should never, ever use. It is simply a way to denigrate the male love of informing women of things men think the women don't know. Making men feel bad about this impulse is extremely rude in social situations. I think at work and in the classroom, it is appropriate to correct--gently--their mistakes (if they are, in fact, wrong). But in a social situation, if a man eagerly explains to you, a neuroscientist, how brain chemistry works, it would be kinder just to ask him how he came by his interest in neuroscience. Maybe he is reading a blog you will enjoy making fun of later.

*If you happen to belong to a certain community, it is a good idea to dress according to the standards of that group. If you dress like a Goth, you are more likely to attract Goth guys than Catholic guys. How many devout Catholic men looking to start a family are Goths, I wonder. Hmm. Hmm. I wonder how many devoutly Catholic hipsters there are. Is there a Catholic hipster subculture I wonder? Big beards, excellent coffee, Sacred Heart tattoos?

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Random Updates

1. Back on 5/2 diet and it's Wednesday, so I'm hungry.
2. Spent the afternoon translating my own article into Polish.
3. Looked up many, many words in my massive Oxford University English-Polish dictionary.
4. And drank two macchiati and two glasses of water to help my brain along.
5. Went to Swing Dancing and took the beginner class in the Charleston. Rock step, kick, down, kick, pause, kick back, down. Rock step, etc.
6. Just missed the next Rough Bus.
7. Stared longingly in the window of an Indian restaurant. Hungry. Hungry!
8. Took Rough Bus 14 minutes later.
9. Crunched over snow on the way to the Historical House. Snow!
10. Awaiting 200 calories of slow-roasted brisket. Hungry. Hungry. Hungry....!

Tuesday 27 January 2015

The New Soprano


It's Traddy Tuesday, so I will be writing about my beloved Extraordinary Form of the Mass, aka the Traditional Latin Mass. Apparently at least two people have been assisted on their journey home to the Catholic faith by my writing about it, so I think I should keep it up.

One of the great aesthetic attractions of the Traditional Latin Mass is the glorious corpus of music written for it. Sadly very few people have the chance to worship with the assistance of the most sublime music ever written for worship. And indeed very few people are allowed to sing the traditional plainchant that almost everyone can learn, despite the sincere wish of the Second Vatican Council that the laity learn it. This is a terrible shame, for ignorance of our liturgical traditions cuts off most Catholics from the experiences and help of previous generations of Catholics, who still make up the bulk of the Church. You don't stop belonging to the Church once you're dead. Au contraire.

Yesterday Benedict Ambrose and I ambled through art galleries after lunch, and to my great enjoyment, B.A. spotted the sheet music painted on a 15th century altar triptych and sang the chant. Yes, he is cool like that. My brothers both went to a Cathedral choir school, so when I discovered B.A. could sing traditional Church music, I admired him more than ever.  

B.A. is in our church choir, which I like to call "the Men's Schola", despite the growls of the Master of the Men's Schola that it is not just for men. That was just the way it had turned out, for more men than women are attracted to our Mass, and so more men than women there can sight-read music. The Schola never rehearses, and the Master writes new music within the the classical Catholic tradition, so sight-reading is necessary to membership.

Happily, our newest converts are musicians, and one is a singer. She is training for the opera and appeared in the Schola for the first time this past Sunday. Her rich and beautiful voice rang out, somewhat effacing the four male voices.

"I tried to hold back so we wouldn't drown her out," said B.A. afterwards.

"Ah," said his loyal but truthful wife, "I don't think you need to do that."

Normally I don't like hearing women's voices predominate at Mass--oh, I know. Shocking of me. Shocking, shocking, shocking. I got fired from a Catholic newspaper once for writing that I now find women's voices at Mass strange. Well, if she had heard no-one but a priest speak from the sanctuary for two years, my editor would have found women's readings strange too.

But my objection to female voices at Mass is primarily because of female cantors I have encountered at the Ordinary Form (Novus Ordo), including ones who caused my most musical brother acute pain. Of course, I have heard terrible male cantors too, most notably an elderly man who always wore a pontifical medal but whose voice was at least a decade past its best. However, even the lousiest male cantors do not distract as much as female cantors from the prayers at the altar. Even the best female cantor is a distracting contrast to the priest, and if she is young, pretty, personable, humble, and saintly, I think "Oh, what a LOVELY girl," which makes me think about her, not God. And if a lousy one smiles pityingly at us for not singing along to her own special tempo, I think "Oh, what a [rhymes with witchy] show-off," which leaves me in no fit frame of mind to receive communion.

The solution to the cantor problem is to put the cantor at the BACK of the church, and the back of the church is where our Schola, with its new beautiful soprano, is. As a cantor should lead with his/her voice, not by lifting a commanding hand, he/she could lead very well from the back, even if he/she were to sit in the back pew.

That said, cantors are not people I have to worry about--except when I am worried about hurting cantor-readers' feelings--as we don't have cantors at TLMs. We have choirs, and they generally sit behind the congregation where we can't see them. We can hear them, and their song assists our meditative prayer. 

But I am getting away from my joy that we have a gorgeous new voice in the Schola. Women who have real musical talent and training certainly have a place to use their gifts for God in the Traditional Latin Mass. And I think the new singer "sends out a message," as it were, to the girls of the parish that trained women singers' gifts--rich sopranos and altos--are welcome as an aid to (not a distraction from) worship. I was very sensitive on this point when I was a child, for I couldn't understand why only boys got to go to my brothers' special music school.

Update: Oh, how exciting! I have found official papal sanction for women in mixed choirs. In his 1958 encyclical Musicae Sacrae Pius XII said:

74. Where it is impossible to have schools of singers or where there are not enough choir boys, it is allowed that "a group of men and women or girls, located in a place outside the sanctuary set apart for the exclusive use of this group, can sing the liturgical texts at Solemn Mass, as long as the men are completely separated from the women and girls and everything unbecoming is avoided. The Ordinary is bound in conscience in this matter."[26]  

Update 2: Here is a stirring article about Catholicism and the TLM by a convert at One Peter Five.

Monday 26 January 2015

Birthday Queen

Today is my birthday--thank you, thank you. Let us all ponder the terrified 24 year old girl who gave birth to me in the atrociously sterile and father-unfriendly conditions of the 1970s. Thank you, 24 Year Old Who Was, for going through all that. I appreciate it.

And thank you to Benedict Ambrose who took me out for a boozy lunch today and gave me a pin shaped like a bee.  B.A. is the best of men and has learned over the past six years that neither taking me for a boozy lunch on my birthday nor giving me a gift of some sort causes thunder, hurricanes and violent cold snaps. I mention this only so that readers do not think that once they are married, their relationship work is done. No. Even the best of men sometimes have to have it explained to them twice or thrice that some things are very important, and celebrating birthdays on the actual birthday is one of them--at very least to me.

Celebrating Valentine's Day is also considered very important by many married women, but as a matter of fact, I always spend V-Day with readers instead. Of course, a valentine and flowers, no matter how small, are always appreciated. Wedding anniversaries are also important in the Historical House, although more low key than my actual birthday. Without me, B.A.'s birthday would be low key because---get this---he is a man and "Men don't care as much about birthdays." Did you ever? I can't quite believe this, so he gets a boozy lunch or a party and a present too.

As everyone says, in a good marriage you have to communicate and say things like, "I understand that you don't care so much about your X, or see the point of Y Day, but my X and Y Day are incredibly important to me, so I would be very grateful if you would remember to celebrate them. Otherwise I will go into a snit that can be cured only by a very expensive afternoon at the beauty shop."  It is much more loving to speak up, every year if need be, than to stew in disappointment and rage.

That said, you also have to pick your battles. Personally, I do not care if B.A. leaves cups and saucers all over the house, or has three water glasses on the go in the bathroom, or uses every single pan in the house to make supper. Washing dishes is my job, so I just collect 'em all up and wash 'em. I don't see any point to complaining. I save complaining for really important stuff, like his suggesting we celebrate my birthday on some other day.

Naturally I am not perfect, so B.A. also picks his battles and complains about things that are very important to him, and after unfairly grumping about it, I apologize and try to do better. And that reminds me that the dishes have silted up in the kitchen, so I had better log off and wash them.

Saturday 24 January 2015

Confidence and Curiosity

It's another Seraphic Singles Saturday, but I spent the morning canvassing for a political party because they had the good sense to choose one of my friends as their candidate. The riding captain, or whatever he is called in Bonnie Scotland, sent me with another canvasser to make sure I didn't canvass for the wrong party. ROFL.

I wasn't looking forward to canvassing, for I have a lingering impression of myself as SHY, but I discovered that it was interesting and even amusing to bang on doors in Nearest Town.  I even wheedled an elderly lady who always votes X but might be tempted into voting Y, and therefore for my friend. When a large and cranky chap answered his door clad only in a towel, I almost giggled. And when various people didn't answer their door or answered but refused to speak to us, I was not that bothered. Everyone was who they were, and they were all new. Well, everyone was new except my friend the flirtatious Polish grocer, whom we passed on the High Street.  

On my walk home a dim memory surfaced of myself canvassing door to door in dingy, horrible, Toronto apartment buildings, and I have just realized that I must have canvassed when I was a teen (or even only twelve). I really was shy when I was a teen (let alone twelve), so canvassing in person and (worse) over the phone was absolute torture. My interest in party politics came from reading the great Alan Fotheringham in Maclean's magazine, but the experience of canvassing killed it dead. 

One of the things about growing older that I really like is that I am not so shy/tongue-tied/intimidated/afraid anymore. And I don't think it is JUST because I am older but because I have forced myself to take a lot of risks and learn to roll with the punches. When I wrote my first regular column for the CR, someone wrote a letter suggesting I was a Nazi. Then I cried my eyes out. Now when similar suggestions are published, I merely grumble. One day, presumably, I will laugh.  

Also I have been learning Polish for three years, so for three years I have risked sounding stupid by attempting Polish out loud. Right now in my left pocket I have three flashcards: my emergency Polish speech in case of Polish-only voters. Being prepared to start a doorstep conversation in Polish, I found the six Scottish incidents of "Not interested, thanks!" a piece of cake. *

Besides, the rejections weren't about me, or even my friend, but about Party Y or perhaps just the whole world of party politics. I don't take that personally.  

Now I shall attempt to apply all this to Single Life. As long-term readers remember, I think the most attractive qualities in a Single for other Singles are confidence (esp in men) and joy (esp in women). Another very attractive quality is a sincere desire to know what other people think about things. These three qualities lead to being interested in people in themselves, not in who they are, or might become, in relation to you. 

I do wish I had known at eleven or so that I would eventually get married to a splendid Scottish chap when I was thirty-eight, so I would never have worried about whether or not boys would ever want me as a girlfriend. Instead, I could have pondered boys and other girls in themselves and figured out how they ticked. What did they want out of life? Why did they choose the friends they chose? How come Tina, upon whom none of the boys ever got a crush, was nevertheless sincerely liked by all? 

As you know, I am rereading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Komnata Tajemic), and I have felt rather sorry for poor silly eleven-year-old Ginny wondering if Harry will ever "like" her. Ginny barely knows Harry, for she couldn't make herself speak to him when he stayed at her home over the summer holidays. And naturally Ginny didn't consult her mother, who would have told her that Harry wasn't at the being-interested-in-girls age yet. Unlike Harry, untroubled by crushes, Ginny had a perfectly atrocious first year at Hogwarts. 

But Ginny does at least have a clue to the mystery of Harry as she reveals in Chapter (Rodział4. Here she correctly informs nasty Draco Malfoy that Harry did not like being made the centre of attention at Flourish and Blotts (Esy i Floresy). This insight gives me hope that Ginny will not still be acting like she is eleven when she is seventeen---unlike me. 

I wonder what comes first, confidence or being sincerely interested in people in themselves. Certainly it takes confidence to stop thinking about yourself all the time and what other people can be for you. If you have a strong sense of self, paradoxically you can forget about yourself and think objectively and factually about other people.  

Well, what do you all think? 

*I would like to underscore that all this confidence-building risk-taking was regarding WORK and EDUCATION and not about chasing men. Falling flat while chasing men is the most demoralizing thing I can think of, for adult women at least. Paradoxically, I now find meaningless flirtation intensely confidence-boosting.  Even the occasional "If you were not a woman, I would be angry with you/beat you up/never talk to you again" has its charms. 

Thursday 22 January 2015

The Weasleys

Ginny Weasley, long awaited girl.
It's big family week on Edinburgh Housewife, not because I want to rabbit-punch our sovereign pontiff (I don't), but because I am laid low by a nasty cold and wish my own big family were around to bring me tea and snacks.

For the record, I have read Francis's entire statement (as one does) and I find only two objectionable things: his use of the crude anti-Catholic smear "like rabbits" and his holding up of a mother of eight for ridicule. I think he would have got his point across much better if he had mentioned a penniless man who refused to learn NFP and badgered his wife for sex-on-demand despite A) her ill health or B) really not being able to feed the children they already had. This is probably a reality for millions of women across the developing world, and if the Holy Father had mentioned him instead, the Catholic blogosphere would not now be covered with bunny pictures.

Mind you, I rather like the bunny pictures. I also like all the witty remarks about bunnies B.A. and I have been exchanging. My guess is that married Catholics across the world are making flirtatious bunny remarks to each other this week. Perhaps there will be a baby boom in October as a result. Outraged relatives and neighbours will hiss, "I thought Pope Francis said you weren't supposed to be like rabbits", and the married couple, sleepless and exhausted, will giggle foolishly.

My nasty cold rather discourages bunny behaviour, but it does not prevent me from working on my Polish. And so I have been reading and listening to Harry Potter i Komnata Tajemnic, which is the Polish version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I have got to the chapter called "Nora" which turns out to be Polish for "The Burrow", the name of the Weasley home and also, er, what rabbits live in. Oh dear. I cannot get away from rabbits today.

Harry Potter has long been a focus of Catholic controversy, and this has always mystified me, since no-one has seizures over the magic-filled Oz books. I find the early HP books wonderfully inventive and well-written. J.K. Rowling has a clver sense of contrast, inviting us to compare Harry's nasty uncle and aunt and their one spoiled child with the generous, sprawling, cash-strapped Weasley clan.

The Weasleys are a traditional family with a father in a civil service post, a mother at home, and seven children, two of them grown up and employed by the time the baby is 10. The youngest Weasley is the only girl, which I suppose is an explanation to those who need one. ("WHY did the Weasleys have so many children, Mummy?") A much more amusing explanation is that the Weasleys, so red-haired and all, were not only wizards but Roman Catholics. Their religious faith being at odds with their wizard world, they made a bargain with their consciences, and lo.  On the other hand, maybe they just like children. They certainly embrace Harry and also Hermione, whose mother possibly prefers drilling teeth to raising children.*

If J.K. Rowling were a Catholic--she isn't, she's Church of Scotland--her critics might have taken her to task for the happy fecundity of the Weasleys and accused her of Catholic propaganda. Nasty little Draco Malfoy is an only child, and we are invited to condemn his sneers at the Weasleys for having "more children they can afford", not to applaud them.

The Weasleys also embody traditional male and female characteristics. Mr Weasley is the sole breadwinner (unless Charlie and Bill send money home) whereas Mrs Weasley cooks, cleans, launders and shouts. Bill prospects for gold. Charlie wrassels dragons. Prefect Percy plots to become Minister of Magic. Fred and George are famous for their pranks and go into business. Ron is sports-mad and wizard (ha ha) at chess. Ginny begins her school career as a damsel in distress and ends it as female romantic lead. (Yes, J.K., we know Hermione ought to have married Harry, just as Louisa M's Jo ought to have married Laurie. Too late now. )

I note, however, the more classically Protestant/Anglican Christian names of the father (Arthur) and children. "Molly", of course, is a diminutive of Mary. Maybe Molly is the only Catholic parent. Maybe my Catholic theory is a bit of a stretch.

The good, impecunious Weasleys are a contrast with the wicked, rich Malfoys. (Weirdly, by the Malfoy's own standards they are the same "class", being Grade A pure-blood wizards.) Their poverty is also a contrast to Harry's inherited wealth. This is quite a good thing from a literary point of view, as it mean Ron has a struggle between envy and loyalty, and Harry has something else beyond his control to feel badly about.

Reading the Harry Potter stories with strict attention, in two languages, reveals how dark they really are. Six year old children may find it funny that Harry is forced to live in a cupboard under the stairs--and my parents do have a cupboard under their stairs  big enough to house a child--but Child Protective Services would not find that funny at all. It is also not funny to adults that eleven-year-old Dudley is obese, thanks to his greed and his parents overfeeding. Of course, this provides another useful contrast, for Harry is thin. In fact, by the Chamber of Secrets, he is actually starving. And this is again helpful for underscoring the superiority of the Weasley family, for shortly after Harry is rescued from his abusive uncle and aunt, Mrs Weasley dishes up "eight or nine" sausages, three fried eggs and bread and butter.

I won't launch into the one-child Malfoys who, given their obsession with blood purity, family prestige and intermarriage, probably had infertility issues. (Oh, say! That's why they sneered at the Weasleys. Envious as hell!) No, the one-child family that epitomizes money-clutching lack of generosity is the dastardly Dursleys.

Almost everyone in the Harry Potter books is obsessed with name brands (e.g. the Nimbus 2000), but the Dursleys are the very soul of grasping consumerism. They are also deeply wedded to the notion of the nuclear family, having cast off Petunia's (also Muggle) parents entirely and socializing only with Vernon's rich sister Marge, who prefers dogs to children. Although they are not hurting for money, and Petunia stays at home, the Dursleys have elected to have just one child, upon whom they lavish ridiculous amounts of presents. They begrudge every penny they spend on their nephew, to the point of feeding him as little as possible.  Why they were not afraid of Social Services checking up on them, never mind Dumbledore, is a mystery to me.

Quite obviously Dudley Dursley would have been better off had he had to fight various brothers and sisters for his parents' attention and learned to accept living with limited resources. But I am afraid this was always going to be unlikely, for as we know from their treatment of Harry, the Dursleys are incredibly stingy. Interesting that they would give Dudley everything except a brother or sister to love.

So I continue to be mystified that some Catholics think the Harry Potter books are a portal to hell when they underscore that generous poverty is better than impoverished riches, big families can be happier  than small families, and self-sacrificial love for others is the answer to just about everything.

*Of course, she may have married late.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

In Praise of My Grandmother

In some cultures, mothers are sacred. When my sister Tertia, adventurous mother of Pirate, was having problems with her students in Latin America, the principal came in and tore a strip off them. How could they treat a MOTHER that way, she demanded. The students presumably looked at their shoes.

I wish the Mothers are Sacred attitude still held sway in the Global Northwest. Since the 1950s it has been almost fashionable to hate mothers: not only your own, but mothers in general. The "yummy mummy" craze merely makes mothers into sex objects. That's not  a return to the Mothers are Sacred ideal. 

(Naturally I would like an Aunties are Sacred movement, too. The government of Canada should send me a pin with a three on it, so that all around could see that I am the proud aunt of three children and thus deserve someone else's seat on the Rough Bus. You think I am kidding, but no.)

In some cultures, grandmothers are also sacred. They are super-sacred because they are worshipped by two generations, not just one. Contrast this with the grandmothers in the film Sixteen Candles: harpy-like and inappropriate or doddery and embarrassing. No wonder Italian immigrants thought we mangiacakes had no respect for family. I weep with shame. 

In reparation for the impiety of Sixteen Candles, I shall now write about my late Grandmother Gladys, whose birthday this is. She is my mother's mother, and I believe she is on her way to heaven. It seems unlikely that she not be and yet also unlikely that she went there at once. She appeared to me in a dream shortly after she died, and she was in the cafeteria at K-Mart. It would be no surprise to me if my grandma's purgatory took the form of K-Mart. 

I love my grandmother and always will, no matter how long it is before I see her again. 
My grandmother was not a plump, cookie-baking, hen-raising, ethnic nonna-oma-babcia. She was a slim, stylish, pantsuit-wearing granny of Scottish-Canadian extraction. She was a heavy smoker until double-pneumonia laid her low. (When she was taken to the hospital, I fell on my knees on the kitchen floor before the dishes I had been washing, and prayed my heart out.) Her house still stank of cigarettes for years afterwards. However, the impression she made was of chic sophistication, not grubby habits. It's a miracle I never took up smoking myself.

My grandmother used to visit on Sundays. She always brought cigarette-smelling store-bought cookies wrapped in kitchen towel for her grandchildren, and I was quite old before I realized I couldn't eat them anymore. In the house of my childhood, she would sit at the kitchen table and smoke while drinking cups of tea. Unlike my mother, she went weekly to the hairdresser to have her hair done and her nails painted. Her perfect manicure fascinated me. In the house of my youth, she sat at the new kitchen table and drank tea, but the Players Navy Cut no longer accompanied her.* Sadly she eventually gave up on the manicures, too, and I am delighted that in my dream she was back to her manicured, made-up, stylish self.

My grandmother was a cheerful, sociable, active woman who had two great loves: her late husband and her one child, my mother. Her feelings towards her grandchildren were mixed. On the one hand, we were her grandchildren, worthy of love and attention. On the other hand, we made a lot of work for her brilliant university-educated daughter. I think she appreciated the point of us most when we grew up. Before that, we got on her Nerves. She could handle babysitting two or three of us, but never the whole brood: "My Nerves!" she would say, and giggle nervously. 

Children were not among her interests. Instead she had a tremendous love for and affinity with the elderly, being a loving daughter and niece to her mother and uncle, and volunteering for years for the nursing home in which her mother, and thirty years later she herself, spent her last days. Her best friends formed a band, and my grandmother knew all the old dances, so in the 1970s and 1980s, while her friends played for the "old folks" she asked them to dance. I was taken once to the "old folks home" myself, and I watched my gran lead wizened women in the foxtrot, or whatever it was, and be led around herself by one of the few wizened men.  

Philosophically my gran was a Scots-Canadian Toronto Protestant through-and-through and had no time at all for Catholics and anything suspiciously Catholic, like having lots of babies. This makes me laugh heartily, for it was so Old-School Toronto, her Catholic juniors outnumbered her 7 to 1, and she loved every one of us. She told me near the end of her life that she was an Orangeman, and my response was something like, "Oh, Gran'ma! Don't say that. Wah hah hah hah hah!"   

About the Nerves: I don't doubt she had Nerves. I have Nerves myself. I was never sure why my gran had Nerves--  the cigarettes ?--but now I suspect it was an unfortunate genetic legacy, passed down from mother to daughter to daughter. Maybe way back in ancient times, there an East Coast Scottish fishwife who was menaced by a gang of Vikings before she escaped, fleeing into the hills, and the shock was so awful, it went right into her DNA and got passed down to Grandma and me. 

Now that I live in Edinburgh, I see how much my grandmother--whose mother hailed from Edinburgh--was a real East Coast Scot. First of all, she looked like one. Edinburgh abounds with elderly ladies who strikingly resemble my gran.  Second, she acted like one--chatting with people at bus stops, salesgirls, bus drivers, elderly widowers in the cemetery...  Third, she shopped like one, hunting for bargains at K-Mart the way Edinburghers now trawl through charity shops. Fourth, she thought like them and occasionally dropped a Scotticism, most memorably, "If you don't behave, I'll skelp you." Fifth, she drank endless cups of tea.  Among my many regrets is that she did not live to meet B.A. or to see me jet off to a new life in Edinburgh. 

This summer I looked at my mother and myself in a mirror and said, "Well, your dad will never really be dead as long as we are alive." However, in many ways, I think I more resemble my grandmother. I'm not into trouser suits, but the beret, belted raincoat and sturdy plastic shopping bag still seem like the ultimate look to me. 

Your prayers, please, for the soul of my grandmother Gladys, the lifelong anti-papist whose funeral was packed with Catholics. She was a dear good funny woman, and I long to see her again.

Happy 100th birthday, Grandma!

 *Aged P and I have just wrangled over what brand of cigarette Grandma smoked. I insist that I used to see a little bearded sailor man on at least some of her packs. Aged P said she smoked menthols, and she (Aged P) should know, as she was sent to the store from a very young age to get them. So to compromise, I have put a line through "Navy Cut" which apparently are stronger than Grandma liked them.

Tuesday 20 January 2015

The Beauty of Big Families

Sometimes you just have to laugh
I love to see the families at Mass. Our TLM has been dominated by single people--uni students, thirty-somethings, middle-aged, elderly--but of late more parents have been coming, and with them their children. There's a man with three little sons, and a couple with children ranging from a teenage daughter to a babe in arms. There's an elegant Frenchwoman with four children. There is a young couple with just one baby so far. It is so just nice to see so much young life and their noble, fruitful parents.

Apparently large families are a cliché at American TLMs, but they certainly aren't here in Edinburgh. I haven't seen any at the TLM in Rome or Barcelona. The TLM in Kraków was so packed, I couldn't tell. And to be honest, in Europe "big family" can mean two parents, three children. When I was a kid in Toronto, people thought my own family--two parents, five children--was huge. Only one other kid in my elementary school class came from a big family. and I believe she was the youngest.

From a trad point of view, five children is not a lot. Eight is a lot. Twelve is amazing but not particularly weird. I once taught children from a twelve-child family, and they were terribly sweet. I was absolutely one hundred percent determined never to become a housewife, so I never hankered after twelve children myself. I thought four or five would be fine. Then I married someone who didn't like children. Wah. Then, despite swift granting of an annulment, I didn't marry again until thirty-eight. Wah again. 

I am sure mothers of big families sometimes wonder what they would do if they didn't spend every penny and waking moment on their husband and children. Well, I write, blog, learn Polish, do housework and faff about. It's not very noble, but it's not meaningless either.* My husband has quite a good if underpaid job in the charity/heritage sector which he really enjoys and can afford to do. It gives him time to do research, give lectures, publish articles, hobnob with painters, and meet other interesting people. We have long quiet evenings. We very occasionally go out and have what we call "a boozy lunch" and, indeed, we go on annual trips to continental Europe. (Most of my earnings go on these trips.) But we don't spend much money on clothing, home decor, cars (we have no car), beauticians, etc. Even childless married couples can't always go crazy with the so-called disposable income. We are having a good time now, but old age looms before us with all of its horrors. The horrors are likely to be worse for us than for parents because we have no children to prop us up in an emergency, and we will have no grandchildren to keep us young. 

Fortunately my excellent parents gave me, on top of everything else, four splendid siblings whom I now share with Benedict Ambrose. I hope they have more or less forgiven me for my autocratic older sister ways by now. So far two of my siblings have provided us with nephews and a niece, so thank the heavens, we are not entirely bereft of children to love and be loved by. Siblings are the gift that keep on giving--at least in a family like mine where the siblings get along tolerably well.  Having a big family ensures continuity, company and care down to the second generation.

My mother is not crazy about children, but she liked her own and dedicated thirty years to feeding us, buying or making, washing and ironing our clothing and bedding, enrolling us in school and various extracurricular classes, driving us to hockey practice, spending the "Baby Bonus" on our shoes, cleaning after us, encouraging us to read and write, and with our father taking us to church. My father bankrolled the operation, made pancakes or waffles on weekends, and took his daughters to Saturday dance classes at his university, where he got some more work done. 

Naturally my mother's child-centered life went entirely against the zeitgeist, which told her that she had had "such a little life" and I am deeply sorry that she didn't know many other women with big families and was rarely (or never) told what an amazing and noble life she was living. She wasn't a Catholic when Pius XII was alive, and I don't think she ever read this wonderful speech.

I feel rather rueful about Pius XII's thoughts on the son's salary, for my generation is the first in Canada to be poorer than its parents, but there are different ways one can reward one's parents. Now that their child-raising is done, my parents can afford to travel to Europe on holiday, and naturally they stay with us in the Historical House. When they like, they can also drive to French Canada and stay with my brother Nulli and his growing family in a beautiful house by a lake.  My other brother and both my sisters still live in Toronto, so they can keep my parents company and generally keep an eye on them. My nephew Pirate provides my semi-retired father with essential duties. (Men of all ages like being needed, and we really need my dad to help take care of Pirate.)

My childhood was not halcyon, and although I loved my brothers and sisters dearly, the message I got from my soi-disant Catholic school, via the playground, was that big families were weird and what really mattered was having enough money for the finer things in life, especially the fashionable clothing my mother didn't want to (and probably couldn't) waste the family income on. This anti-child attitude, among Catholic children themselves, is most definitely a gift of the Spirit of the Second Vatican Council, to say nothing of the Winnipeg Statement, that I find difficult to forgive. 

Thus, what should have been my joy in growing up in a large and lively middle-class Catholic family (my father has never had a day's unemployment) was overshadowed by a widespread ideology that claimed housewives were parasites, large families bad for the environment, and luxuries like the latest fashions absolute essentials for teenage girls. 

That said, I had fun and frolics only-child B.A. could only dream of, and I would not have exchanged any of my siblings for all the fashionable clothing, bags, make-up, fancy holidays, riding lessons in the world. In my dreams I return to the little house on my childhood street with its big back yard, swing set, sandbox and siblings. My mother is always young, with her long hair in a braid, pinning the clothes to the laundry line while I marvel at her muscular housewife's baby-toting arms. The sun is pouring down, and my sister Tertia's hair shines like gold.
Fun fact: a group of bunnies is called a fluffle.

*The housework and the hospitality are on the noble side of the ledger, of course. The Christian married woman is never more clearly a queen than when she is on her knees before the oven, the washing machine, the scrubbing brush, the pile of socks or the small child.

UPDATE: On the way home from dinner at the house of friends'--no word of a lie--B.A. and I saw TWO RABBITS! And GUESS what we told them? (Hee hee hee!) Guess! Guess! Ah ha ha ha ha ha!

Sunday 18 January 2015

Help the BC Trads

When I was at BC, I fell in with the Saint Thomas More Society,  a group of undergraduates who went to Benediction and then listened to a theological lecture while eating pizza. Being a graduate student in my mid-thirties, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I also felt like sore thumb, but that was completely normal. I stuck out like, and felt like, a sore thumb all over Boston. But Benediction, and my Christian Latin classmates in the STMS, were like balm.

You can read about my jolly Christian Latin classmates in Seraphic Singles (the book). Meanwhile, the current crop of tradition-minded (and therefore orthodox) BC students are trying to raise money for vestments and candlesticks for their Traditional Latin Mass.  

Normally I would think that every charitable cent anyone could muster should go to Aid to the Church in Need and other groups helping Christians in peril. But I am touched by the thought of the Traditional Latin Mass being said at the very heart of Boston College. It is amazing to me that devout Catholics who believe what the Church teaches survive there at all. In a very small way, they may actually be Christians in peril. 

If you can spare a few shekels, please give to a bunch of kids who will use them for the glory of God.  I chucked in a bit myself and will pray for them at today's Mass.   

Saturday 17 January 2015

Something about Mary

I will be writing a column about this soon, but I don't want to be silent until then. After all, I do have a Polish readership who will be interested.

Here are three articles about Canadian pro-life activist Mary Wagner:

A. An article about Mary's mission in the B.C. Catholic Paper (D. Gyapong)

B. An article about Mary's tour of Poland in LifeSiteNews (N. Dueholm)

C. An article about Mary's arrest in the Toronto Catholic Register (M. Coren)

I caution British and Polish readers not to confuse Mr Coren with the famous, and infamously anti-Polish, Giles Coren. Our Mr Coren is Giles' Canadian cousin.

The Good(ish) Atheist

It is Saturday, and I am temporarily at leisure, so it is time for a Seraphic Singles post.  And today's subject will be attractive, helpful, sympathetic men who are most definitely not marriage material for Christian girls.

Suppressing all details, I have in mind a man about whom a reader has written to me. My reader, like many of you, is a bright, successful, ambitious and hardworking twenty-something Catholic woman in a competitive field. Her work brings her into constant contact with other bright, successful, ambitious and hardworking people, male and female. And one of the attractive male ones, more my age than hers, gave her good advice, met up with her for lunch/drinks on numerous occasions and went out of his way to help her professionally.

My reader, charmed by this attractive man and his caring behaviour, wondered if  he were interested in a romantic relationship with her and so asked him if he were. And he explained, with an honesty he probably felt quite proud of, that he is much older than her, that he is an atheist, that he has only short-term sexual relationships with women--and is always upfront with them about that--and that he considers sex a part of a normal male-female dating relationship. He didn't think she would be interested in that, so no he was not interested in having a dating relationship with her.

Your fellow reader was extremely shocked by his confession/rejection and read him the chastity riot act over email. He suggested they not meet again until everything cooled down. She then emailed me. And I had just been reading Quo Vadis, so all I could think about was the pagan Petronius and how, despite his many noble qualities and great reputation in Rome, he would have made a totally inadequate husband for a Christian woman.

Catholic women are very often shocked by attractive, sympathetic men who admit to being sexually promiscuous and, fearing for their souls, give them chastity lectures. But I can tell you that it is deeply annoying for sexually active people to be lectured by virgins about sex. Catholics in the confessional will put up with it from priests, but that's probably about it. I have been myself lectured by virgins--not just Christian ones--on sex, and I found their ignorance of sexual realities simply staggering.

Catholic virgins may certainly have a better grasp on Christian teachings about sex, but Christian arguments are rarely going to make a dent on non-Christians, particularly atheists in a post-Christian society. Adult atheists have their own moral code about sex worked out, and whereas it usually includes such things as "being honest", "using protection" and "reciprocal generosity", it does not usually include the idea that sex should be restricted to married people.

As difficult as this is--and I would not have taken my own advice when I was a twenty-something, which is too bad, but I was not a mental giant--the correct response to having your courtship rejected by an attractive, sympathetic atheist man who likes and admires you but dates only those women who will agree to short-term sex flings is to say, "Oh, I beg your pardon. I misread your signals" and let the friendship drift down to acquaintanceship/business contact level.

Incidentally, asking a man if he wants to have a dating relationship with you is INDEED a form of courtship unless he has been hanging around smiling wistfully and wordlessly for ages with a dumb smile. "SCOOTER! Ask me out or go away!" is not making the first move. But a heartfelt email saying, "You did this nice thing and you did that nice thing, so if I am wondering if..." is indeed the first move.

If you make the first move, getting shot down is most DEFINITELY a possibility. Getting shot down by an atheist used to having "respectful", short-term sex with random women all the time but admires you for your winsome Catholicism/youth is a certainty--if he's a decent sort. If he's not a decent sort, he might accept your advances and then lamb-to-the-slaughter you might really be in trouble. As some benighted young man said of one of my then-straying readers, "I love turning a Catholic girl into a slut." Charming.

So considering the possibilities, I thought my reader's atheist crush object was quite a good guy as atheists go. He has bought into post-Christian society's sexual ethic about having as much sex as possible, but at least it is the version that preaches that sex should be only with willing people who do not expect more commitment than you are willing to give, using "protection", showing "respect", respecting "choices", donating to Greenpeace, etc, etc, etc.  That's certainly a lot better than American PUAs going on virgin-hunting sex tours in Central and Eastern Europe.

Considering how many Catholic priests and nuns have run away to have sex get married, it's amazing that so many Catholics, let alone atheists, still believe in chastity according to one's state in life. But at least we Catholics hear that premarital continence is a viable option. Where would the atheists hear or read about it? Television? Radio? Internet? Any bestselling novel written after World War II? By the time the kind of atheist who enjoys bed-hopping* has had his fifteenth deeply meaningful, honest and enjoyable short-term fling, his mind is going to be made up. Impassioned emails from twenty-something virgins aren't going to change it. He might feel a protective, paternalistic thrill, of course, especially if the virgin is pretty. But that's it.

Listen, I'm TRYING to give the atheists a fair shake here. (Can you tell?) They are men of their times. They don't expect any eternal reward for their good deeds, so it is indeed something that so many of them choose to live honest lives of mutual respect and sometimes even heroism. Like Soviet Communists.

I suggested that my reader read Quo Vadis and contemplate Petronius. Petronius, the arbiter elegans of Nero's court is most definitely a man of his times.  Fabulously wealthy, incredibly cultured, impressively handsome, Petronius attracts the abject devotion of his slave girl Berenice, and no wonder. But Petronius, although he believes in romantic love, cannot accept the notion of Christian love, and thus... Well, read the book.

My personal feeling, as you know, is that women should not ask men if they want to enter into romantic relationships with them. Either you're in one or you're not, and if you (the woman) are confused about it, you're not. (Clue: man hangs around grinning goofily like Scooter.)  Why risk giving your feminine ego a beating by hinting you want more?

Also I really do not think Christian women should date atheists. This is not because they are bad people. They are almost always, or very often, good people, or at least goodish.  It's just that their religion--"Everyone should do whatever they want as long as they are honest about it and don't hurt anyone I recognize as human"--is incompatible with our own relationship with Christ.

*Not all atheists are bed-hoppers, of course. Many long for true love and a real girlfriend/partner/wife, but I suspect it would be unusual for them to expect to wait until their wedding night for sex. What why put up with an atheist's crap when there are Christian guys around?

Thursday 15 January 2015

Another Op-Ed Disguised as News

Before I get up, I will heap scorn on an article by Elizabeth Bryant,  also of  Religion News Service. On the one hand, it looks like straight reportage with quotes from this person and that. But on the other it is quite obviously a pearl-clutching, tut-tutting attack on a novelist and his novel.

Readers in love with France of the 1950s (so romantic) might be confused by Bryant's enthusiasm for the "multicultural, multifaith identity" of France---which used to be, you know, French---but it is true that, as far as I've seen, modern Paris is just as multicultural and multi-faith as any other Western capital--only with no-go zones for bareheaded women, police, et alia. Such is the reality of globalization and modern-day mass migration, in which I myself have participated, personally making Edinburgh that little bit less Scottish.

But one thing you will not find me doing is having kittens, in the wake of an armed attack on freedom of speech and expression, because somebody wrote a novel.  I mean, look at this:

But “Submission,” which is expected to be published in English later this year, is still selling. At a bookstore in downtown Paris, Jacqueline Buades thumbed through a copy before heading to the checkout counter. “I’m interested in what he writes about Islam,” said Buades. “He’s acerbic and he’s provocative, which I like.”
Critics say Houellebecq’s books — like Charlie Hebdo’s religious cartoons — push the limits of free speech. He has been sued — and acquitted — for inciting racial violence, after having called Islam the “stupidest” faith.
What!? In the face of yet another Islamic attack in Europe, a novel about what might happen if Islamists took over is still selling?  Note the "critics say" shortcut, too.  
“I’m afraid of Islam; it wants to destroy our society,” said Boulot, who joined Sunday’s rally not to defend multiculturalism but to protest the Muslim religion.
Shock, horror. It never occurred to me that the rallies were about defending multiculturalism. I thought they were about defending French freedoms in France. Silly, silly me.  
I must say I'm glad I write op-ed because being a real reporter, strictly objective, must be really, really hard. 

Meanwhile, here is an intelligent unabashedly op-ed piece (not news) about Soumission. It is in Taki Mag, which really does push the boundary of published free speech and thus is not for the sensitive. 

Territorial Dispute

I was plagued by headaches yesterday, and I couldn't get warm when I went to bed. You might think that surprising since I share the bed with a human hot water bottle but unfortunately he is wont to say things like "AAAH! You're COLD! Move over! Stay on your side! "

Also he steals the duvet in his sleep so that I wake up in a freezing draught, although he denies this, claiming he doesn't move at all in his sleep whereas I thrash.  And so it was that I woke up  shivering at 5 AM, aching all over and head pounding. I moved to the lady's guest room (aka my dressing-room) and turned on the radiator full blast. I took two pills and did eventually get back to sleep.

When I woke up, it was 9:45 AM, and B.A. made me a cappuccino, so I forgive him for the duvet-stealing. Possibly I shouldn't be publishing my accusations, but the Archbishop of Edinburgh did suggest I write about marriage now. 

Marriage involves a lot of minor territorial disputes but also not-so-random acts of kindness. I set up writing nooks in the flat, and B.A. carves out man caves. B.A. makes me cappuccinos, and I buy him bottles of beer. Technically we own everything in common, but he is in charge of the television and the radios. He leaves the latter on, and I turn them off. 

Well, I don't think I am so ill that I can justify lying here when the flat needs cleaning and the laundry needs doing. Besides, I want to go to Polish class, and if I think I can make it to Polish class, then surely I can make it to the laundry room.

Wednesday 14 January 2015

Barista Barry

While I was digging through boxes, I came up with an old comic monologue I wrote years ago. It is on a subject of interest to Cardinal Burke. Sadly, it is based on real conversations.

                                                                 "Barista Barry"

You won't believe how glad I am you came in today. Just a sec. I have to tell Jerome I'm taking my break. Would you like a latte? Chocolate or cinnamon? I'll be right back.

You know what? My problem is that I love women too much. They're just so cute. Well, some of them. I don't mean fat ones or the ones over thirty, of course.

I am such a feminist now. Before I dropped out of university I was a big conservative, but then I went to the Boston Museum of Art and was SAVED. I love art. It changed my life.

I was in the Catholic seminary then. I really wanted to become a priest. I loved the seminary. They had maids. The maids cleaned my room and did my laundry and did all the cooking and never complained. They worshipped us as gods.

But my girlfriend wanted me to leave. Her name was Dahlia. Isn't that a beautiful name? It's like a flower. I still can't believe she ditched me. I gave her a big art book or Christmas. It cost me a hundred dollars. I took her to the Symphony Orchestra and to dinner so many times. I read her Keats in the moonlight. Wasn't that romantic? I love Keats so much.

One night I took Dahlia to Canoe. It cost me two hundred dollars. Afterwards I gave her a rose and said I was in love with her. And do you know what she said? She said, "Barry, if you really love me, you should leave the seminary."

That's when I learned that the best part of a relationship is the thrill of the chase. It's such a letdown once you've told a girl you love her. Talk about a denouement. Anyway, I did leave the seminary, but by then I hadn't spoken to Dahlia for three months and she got engaged to a teacher named Pierre. I mean, Pierre. I am so bitter. I don't want to talk about her.

I like high school girls better than university girls. You don't think I'm too old to go out with high school girls, do you? I'm only twenty-eight. It's not like I'm some pervert. I am very sensitive to the way women think and feel. I mean, "Ally McBeal" is my favourite show. Mmm, Ally. She's so sweet. Besides, women my age are so cynical. And they're desperate, too. You know: tick-tock, tick-tock. All women know that once they hit thirty and they're not married they've had it. High school girls are so naive and sweet. They totally believe in romance.

I met a high school girl on Saturday. Her name is Lily. Isn't that a beautiful name? It's like a flower. I think I'm in love with her. She's a vegetarian, and she thinks all religions are crap. I am so over Catholicism. I told her I've based my own spirituality on Keats and Deepak Chopra. She thought that was amazing. She's sixteen. Do you think that's too young? For me, I mean.

I'm asking you because it's so important that I get this one right. I used to ask Violet for advice. She was my only woman friend. It's very hard to be friends with women. If I meet a girl, I can't help falling in love with her. That said, I would never fall in love with Violet. She's so cynical and bitter since she left her psycho husband. She's twenty-eight, too. Tick-tock, tick-tock. I phoned her all the time when I was in love with Daisy.

Oh my gosh--DAISY! Isn't that a beautiful name? It actually is a flower.  Daisy was a  grad student at York. Art history. She was beautiful, and she was actually smarter than me. I was in awe of her. We used to talk for hours when she came in, and even though she was a graduate student, she believed in romance. I gave her a red rose every day for a week. That cost me twenty dollars. I took her to the opera three times in one month. I always got the best seats: one hundred and thirty dollars each. And of course I took her to dinner, too.

After the third opera, Daisy and I made out on the boardwalk near the harbour. I called Violet the next morning. Incidentally, isn't that the weirdest name? Violet. It's like "violent" without the N.

"Barry, I'm not in a good mood," Violet said. "My ex threw our wedding album through my window last night."

"But listen," I said.  "Daisy went with me to the opera again last night. She really liked her corsage, and we made out afterwards."

"Congratulations," said Violet. "Finally something for all that cash."

"Absolutely," I said. "Do you think that makes me her boyfriend?"

"I think you should ask Daisy that question," said Violet.

An hour later, I called Violet back. I was crushed.

"She says she wants to take ME out next time," I said.

"But that's great," said Violet. "Why are you upset?"

"She says I spend too much money on her," I said. "I thought she LIKED me!"

"Of course she likes you, you moron," snarled Violet. "She REALLY likes you. She's trying to say she likes you for more than your stupid money."

"You think she wants me for a boyfriend?"

"Mostly, Barry, I think you should get a grip and move out of your parents' basement."

"But if I move out, I won't be able to afford the opera or flowers!"

Then she said she had to go because the police had arrived. You know--the photo album, the ex and the broken window. Yadda yadda.

I really wanted to believe Violet, but I had to be sure. You know how girls are. They say one thing and mean another. So I went to Godiva and bought a big gift basket. It was full of chocolate and cookies and coffee with mugs and a CD. It cost me one hundred and eighty dollars. I put it on Daisy's doorstep that night, rang the doorbell and went away.

When I called Daisy the next day, I couldn't BELIEVE how cold she sounded.

"What's the matter?" I asked. "Didn't you like the basket?"

"It was nice, but kind of weird, Barry."

"I thought it was romantic," I said.

And then I really worried.  I thought she liked chocolate, but I guessed I was wrong. That evening I bought a big basket of roses. Red roses. Wasn't that romantic? I left my house at eleven. Oh wait, back up. Just before that Violet called. She was freaking out.

"Barry, I need you to come over. I'm really scared. My ex sent me a big box of flowers today with the heads cut off. I don't want to be alone. What if he comes by?"

"What a psycho," I said. "You should never have married him."

"I know, I know. Are you coming over?"

"Okay, sure, but not until I do something."

I felt sorry for her, but I thought she'd understand that Daisy had to come first. I put the big basket on Daisy's doorstep and rang the doorbell. Then I ran across the street to watch.

Nobody came out. I couldn't believe it. I guessed Daisy was out. I sat on the curb to wait for her to come back.  I waited until three A.M. No Daisy. I was crushed. I went home. I was SO upset.

The next morning I called her. But instead of her or her roommate, I got an electronic voice telling me she couldn't be reached. I tried again and got the same answer.

Then I understood. She was BLOCKING MY CALLS!!!! Like I was some psycho pervert! That was so cold. I mean, blocking a guy's calls!  Don't you think that is the coldest thing EVER?

So then I called Violet, but she was all "Barry, where were you?"

"Oh, I totally forgot. I had to go to Daisy's. I had to save our relationship, but now she's screening her calls! What does that mean?"


"I left her a big basket of roses. They cost me eighty dollars. And now she's blocking my calls!"

"BARRY" she screamed and said the rudest things I've ever heard a woman say. She wasn't like a woman at all. I couldn't believe it.

This morning Bob, this lawyer guy, came in for his skinny latte, and he said, "Barry"--in exactly that voice. "Barry, to hell with women."

And you know what? He's right. To hell with women. Except Lily, of course. The high school girl I was telling you about. She's so sweet. I think I love her.


Update: Just typing that out has put me in a very bad mood. I think I must have been in a very bad mood when I wrote it. I will now think very hard about good men I know.

Tuesday 13 January 2015

Darth Burke

I just read this column about Cardinal Burke and it made me laugh heartily, although not at Cardinal Burke.  It's supposed to be straight journalism, not an op/ed, so this line in particular stands out:

Burke, a liturgical traditionalist as well as a doctrinal conservative who is renowned for wearing elaborate silk and lace vestments while celebrating Mass, also said that “men need to dress and act like men in a way that is respectful to themselves, to women and to children.”

Burke is actually renowned for his refreshingly outspoken views. He's not a reporter, so he is not expected to keep himself and his own opinions out of whatever he says. However, Cardinal Burke is also a good sport and will put on the ceremonial robes expected of Cardinals celebrating the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Altar. I am sorry that reporter David Gibson so obviously thinks the traditional liturgical garb of Roman Catholics is hilarious.

He also thinks there are fewer abuse cases in the Church because there are supposedly more  gay priests:

In the interview, Burke also blamed gay clergy for the Church’s sexual abuse crisis, saying priests “who were feminized and confused about their own sexual identity” were the ones who molested children. Researchers have disputed that claim, and experts note that the reported rise in the number of gay men entering the priesthood since the 1980s coincided with a sharp drop-off in abuse cases.

"Researchers." "Experts." "Reported rise." "Sharp drop-off." What garbage. And I would like to know if Cardinal Burke actually said "gay" or  "children". As every well-informed Catholic knows, the vast majority of victims of clerical sexual abuse in the American Catholic Church were adolescent boys. Men sexually attracted to adolescent boys abused adolescent boys. If David Gibson thinks the definition "gay" does not include men who are attracted to adolescent boys, then he should call up Camille Paglia.

Meanwhile, I can think of other reasons why there has been a sharp drop-off in abuse cases, e.g. the stringent safeguards in Catholic parishes throughout the English-speaking world, most of all the now adult survivors have spoken up, etc. In ten or twenty years, today's adolescent Catholic boys will tell us if we have done enough to protect them.

Being "feminized" is not confined to, or even universal to, men who are sexually attracted to teenage boys and/or men, by the way.  I suppose I should have a look at what Cardinal Burke means by "feminized."  I have met a lot of "feminine" men who were attracted to women, and I have met very masculine men who identified as gay.  I wonder if I have been "masculinized" by society in some way, and what that would mean, and how it would be bad. Hmm.

Anyway, to get back to clothes, young traditional Catholics fuss so much about women's clothing and deportment, it's nice that Cardinal Burke had something to say about men's. It's very refreshing.

Update: What Cardinal Burke actually said.  It's awesome. (Skip the snarky comments; they're depressing.)  Thanks, Anamaria!

Update 2: I'm suddenly inspired to copy and paste a photo of Ryan Gosling from here.

He reminds me of B.A.

Monday 12 January 2015

Wrote Column Today

This week's CR column involved my pulling boxes of books and papers out of a disused 19th century WC and scattering papers hither and yon as I sought my paper on blasphemy and religious anger. Thus I shall be busy tidying up. There are also dishes to wash, laundry to do, bread to buy and a Polish letter to write, so I may be some time.

Saturday 10 January 2015

Buzy backson

Seminarian Pretend Son is in town. Lots of housework & shopping today.  Dropped a pretty penny at Penhaligon and swanned around the New Town with the beautiful bag.

Friday 9 January 2015

How to Cope with Blasphemy

I was at Boston College when the Danish Mohammad Cartoon Crisis kicked off, and that is when I became very interested in the link between Islam and murderous rage. I wrote two papers about it: one about whether or not a virtuous newspaper editor would choose to print the cartoons, and one about Thomas Aquinas on righteous anger. Since I had always been angered by blasphemies against Our Lord Jesus Christ, His mother and His Heavenly Father, and since my theological education stressed interreligious dialogue, I proposed to investigate if perhaps the Muslims were right to scare the living daylights out of blasphemers, torch their buildings, etc. (Naturally I drew the line at once at personal assault and murder.) Is violence in God's name ever justified? After all, Catholic Emancipation in the UK and Ireland came about only because George VI's advisers convinced him that if he didn't sign it, the Catholics would rise up and slaughter every last Protestant in Ireland.

My classmates were troubled by my interest in Islamic violence although I am not sure whether it was because they were worried I approved it or because I noticed it at all.  One quite vigorously protested the idea that Catholic Emancipation resulted from George IV's fear of murderous Irish Catholics, but he didn't have any evidence that it didn't, whereas I had evidence that it did. Another came up to me after class to tell me he was worried about my ideas. This was years before the Boston Marathon bombing, of course, although 9/11 was not far from my thoughts every time I set foot in Logan Airport.

It strikes me that part of my sympathy with Islamic rage about blasphemy had to do with complete helplessness over the thoughts, beliefs and actions of billions of other people. As a teenage pro-life activist, I was very shocked that there wasn't much I could do about thousands of Canadian women hiring doctors to poison or tear apart the growing infants in their wombs. Being a typical Canadian, actually looking such women in the eye and saying, "Please don't kill your baby" did not come naturally to me. Thus I held a sign instead and got screamed at for not minding my own business, being "a sexist, racist, anti-gay, Born Again bigot" and a "***** Christian."  Man, that got depressing.

Meanwhile, at the University of Toronto various undergraduates actually thought it was somehow bold, attractive and transgressive to offend Christians, especially Catholics and Evangelical Protestants, or at least to have a laugh at their expense, or assume that such morons did not go to university at all. Well, happily for Christians, the Gospel tells us that we are blessed if people hate us for being Christians, so every snide remark had its golden gift. Disrespectful use of the sign of the cross, of chapels, of statues of Our Lady and of depictions of Our Lord Jesus Christ were another story. Images skip right over reason to the passions, and my passions seethed. But Christ counsels peace and forgiveness, and my father condemned my removal and destruction of a stack of blasphemous student newspapers, and so I was left to stew in my own righteously angry juices.

What I did not know then, as I know now, is that Christians CAN DO SOMETHING to respond to blasphemous expressions, and it is absolutely brilliant and Christlike. The Christian can pray and fast in reparation for the profanities of others, voluntarily humbling himself and suffering a voluntary if token"punishment",  as it were, like feeling a hunger pang or acute boredom, so as to somehow make up for the injustice done to God.  And the whole community can do this together during the beautiful liturgy called Benediction. The rite is called "Act of Reparation for Profane Language" and the version I know goes like this:

Blessed be God.
Blessed be His Holy Name.
Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man.
Blessed be the name of Jesus. 
Blessed be His most sacred heart.
Blessed be Jesus in the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary most holy.
Blessed be her holy and immaculate conception.
Blessed be the name of Mary, virgin and mother.
Blessed be Saint Joseph, her spouse most chaste.
Blessed be God in His angels and in his saints. 

Naturally man's offence against the majesty of God is unimaginable huge and dire--too huge and dire for man to get his mind around--but no mere man could ever make up for it. It took Someone both God and Man to do that. However, we can in our limited human way do something, and by doing it on behalf of others, we do it in imitation of Christ.

While looking at photos of solemn people holding up pencils in the streets of Paris to show their disgust at the Islam-inspired murders at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, it occurred to me that they would better have spent their time writing or drawing their disgust with Islamic violence and publishing it. True solidarity with someone means taking the risks they take, which is why true solidarity with the poor means becoming--or remaining--poor.

On Facebook and through my blog yesterday, I managed to annoy two people, a young Saudi stranger who made the choice of typing that "Europe must learn that there are red lines" and an anonymous combox commentator who claimed to be a Muslim (below). The young Saudi stranger said that he was reminded of the words of Hitler--I imagine he thought that would hurt my feelings--but did not respond to my query "Which words of Hitler?" The anonymous commentator said that she was upset by my article.

I hope she was not as upset by my article as I have been by the recent murders by Muslims in the name of Allah in Quebec, Ottawa, Sydney and Paris, not to mention the ongoing theft, expulsions, rapes, beatings and murders of Christians and others in the Middle East. I wouldn't willingly  cause that kind of pain to anyone. Meanwhile, as you see, I am still alive and undisturbed about my own personal safety. Of course, I am a bit nervous about my next plane flight, but that has nothing to do with anything I personally may think, say or do. It has to do with (A) Islamic terrorists' hatred for absolutely everyone in the whole world who does not believe what they believe and (B) the state's failure to live up to its most basic reason for existence.

Thursday 8 January 2015

Je Suis Charlie

First of all, I am a Christian. I do not believe the Angel Gabriel appeared to an illiterate goatherd and recited to him the Koran. The Koran, among other things that contradict the truth about God, claims that Our Lord Jesus Christ did not really die on the cross, but Simon of Cyrene was made to look like Him and died in His place.

This alone is a blasphemous heresy, but there are various other verses in the Koran that make up stories about Our Lord Jesus Christ and His mother--some pretty enough to point to Islam being a bizarre variant of Christianity--to say nothing about its claims for the Divinity as a whole. The idea that God permits the rape of married women captured in war, for example, is disgusting. And not only is it disgusting, but it provides religious sanction to the atrocities happening right now in the once-Christian Middle East. 

When I was in American graduate school, a Jesuit scholar of Islam gave a very interesting talk about the composition of the Koran. He told us that the Koran was quite obviously written by more than one person. As a Catholic scholar, he had a lot more freedom to do serious scholarship and textual analysis on the Koran than a Muslim scholar. It can be very dangerous for a Muslim scholar to admit that the Koran was not composed by anyone other than the Angel Gabriel.

Also when I was in graduate school, I went to an interesting Comparative Religions conference and heard about the imperialist suppression of local Islams (e.g. in Indonesia) by a form of Islam promoted in Saudi Arabia. This form is called Wahaabism, and it is by its very nature dismissive of the variants of Islam. Millions of petro dollars are poured into the spread of the Saudi-centric Wabaabist version, and millions of Asian and African  (and thousands of Canadian, American, Anzac and British) teenagers are told, via the internet and hate preachers, that this is the REAL Islam.

Well, teenagers love the challenge of the REAL and the HARD CORE. I have a lot of sympathy for that. When I was being prepared for my Confirmation as a Roman Catholic, I compared what I was told in Religion Class to what I had read in Butler's Lives of the Saints and said "I don't think I'm getting the whole story here."  The big difference is that ultimately Catholicism leads to picking up your cross and following Christ wherever He may lead you--which could be to crucifixion, as is being suffered now by Christians in the Middle East---whereas Wahaabism ultimately leads to teenagers rushing off to kill as many non-Muslims as possible before being killed themselves.

Naturally I think all forms of Islam are regrettable heresies that keep millions of people from knowing Christ, but quite obviously the form that embraces rape and slaughter is the worst. And eventually even the most craven and cowardly westerner is going to have to admit that the craven and cowardly westerners who keep repeating that those who murder in the name of Islam aren't real Muslims are full of crap. We can get our minds around the idea that there are different kinds of Christians and different kinds of Jews, so I think we should be allowed to get our mind around the idea that there are different kinds of Muslims.

Part of the problem is that Christians are quick to admit that there are other kinds of Christians, whereas Muslims do not seem to be as willing to concede that there are other kinds of Muslims. Non-Sufis tend to claim Sufis aren't "real" Muslims. Sunnis tend to claim Shi'ites aren't "real" Muslims. So it is not terribly surprising to me--although I think it cowardly and childish--that Muslims who don't rape and murder people say "They aren't real Muslims" about the ones who do.

I read a whiny comment today on the BBC from a Muslim commentator who said the real victims of the Islamist massacre at the Charlie Hebdo offices would be Muslims. This was obviously complete crap, as the real victims of the Islamist massacre are those who were shot. The deaths were horribly tragic, not only for their loved ones but for the victims themselves, for they didn't stop at lampooning Mohammed and Muslims but published obscene cartoons about the Almighty and Triune God. Dying for one's country and/or freedom of speech is noble, but it does not guarantee instant entrance into heaven, so I pray that God may have mercy upon them who, in their love of freedom of expression, truly did not know what they did.

Meanwhile, everyone is a victim of Islamic massacres every time we are forced to take our shoes off at the airport or be patted down by security guards--special attention to bras, for some reason--or are too frightened to do something like this (NOT SAFE FOR WORK OR  OTHER PUBLIC VIEWING) or even float the idea that Mohammed might never have existed.  After all, there is no record of his existence dating before a hagiography written in 760. (Contrast this with the wiki article putting his birth in 570.)  Taking off my shoes in the airport is no big deal--I guess--but free western Christians, Jews or atheists being too afraid to publicly question the historical existence of a certain character shows that something has gone very wrong with the nature of the state. At its most minimal form, the state offers protective services. So how is it that in heavily-taxed France twelve people have just been killed for the secularist attitude France holds so dear?

For more thoughts on this topic, Ceremony of Innocence.  

Update: Catholic World Report on current Muslim atrocities.