Wednesday 4 February 2015

Helping Boys with Stuff for Free

Archie married Veronica.
I have been reading one of my high school diaries, which is rather painful, as I keep shouting "Idiot!" and "Why did you do that?" and "How could you!?" at myself. Most definitely I have to remember that I cannot judge my teenage self as an adult for I did not have an adult brain. I had a teenage brain, and as such it was not all hooked up yet.

Having had a rather exciting and varied, if ill-paid and sometimes painful, adult life, I can now see  what was going on in my teenage brain and how certain distressing tendencies had begun to emerge. The one that I have just pinpointed is co-dependence, even though there were no alcoholics or irresponsible people in my family who needed constant rescuing.

Co-dependence, to give a very quick definition, is being hooked on someone else's need for rescue from their own addictions and/or bad behaviour and/or lousy choices. And unfortunately my first  friendships with men began with a guy who desperately needed help with an essay. Our relationship began with me calling him to say "Berig said you called me a [w]itch" and him replying, "No, I said Simone de Beauvoir was a [w]itch. Stefanie says you're a genius. Can you help me with my essay?"

I was already a sucker for anyone who told me I was a genius, which I did not yet know. And I definitely did not know that even semi-attractive men saying "Can you help me?" was a one-way ticket to Crushville. This is one reason why, in case anyone is wondering, I never help men with their academic work for free. The second reason is that clever men don't really like it when women help them with their academic work for free. I am not sure why that is so, but it is so. The third reason is that some men take advantage--give the proverbial inch and they take the proverbial mile. Therefore, any man who wants my help has to pay me the market rate or help me with MY academic work in return.

As I screw up my courage to keep on reading about Teenage-Self-as-Paradoxically-Egotistical-Doormat, I am asking myself why I feel so warmly towards men who ask for my help--and indeed I retain fond feelings for every man who has sent me articles or PhD chapters for editing--even when, as in this high school example, the men are almost hysterical.

I suspect that it's that I am somehow needed, and--to the hysterical--even necessary. Wanting to feel needed and necessary can be a terrible addiction, especially when you think you are neglected by men. I once--in high school--deliberately put myself in a crush object's way when I knew he'd be in despair over an assignment. I thought I was very clever, and in one way, that was rather clever for a girl who was otherwise so dim about boys, but really I was setting myself up for rejection. Woe.

The other reason, of course, is the television heroine's fictional problem of being loved for her looks, not her mind. At least, I think I came across this on television, possibly through a movie or movies.  "I hate my beauty! I want to be loved for my mind!" wails the beautiful woman to her bewildered suitor/husband/boss. Being loved for your mind was held out as this amazing thing, and the idea that this is WAY better than being loved for your looks was very attractive to my awkward teenage self.

Naturally, it's nonsense. Men are visual. What hooks them first is what you look like. Fortunately, they have a lot more variety in their tastes than we generally give them credit for. As you may have noticed, men fall madly in love with the oddest looking women all the time. I would bet real money that these women resemble the men's kindly kindergarten teacher in some way. Unless they think you are pretty (which very often has nothing to do with what Vogue thinks is pretty), you can have the most amazing mind, and they will never be attracted to you in that way. Sorry. Fortunately, just being happy and confident makes you look a bit like everyone's kindly kindergarten teacher, so there's hope.

However, I did not know this for years and years, so I honestly thought I could win love by helping boys with their work, even though they were attracted to a completely different type of girl, and it's embarrassing. I'm only telling you in the hopes that 1. I save some girl the humiliation of discovering the truth the hard way and 2. someone writes in to say they used to think that too.

Oh, and since I am on the subject, unless you are married to him or he is an ancient relative or he is deathly ill, never do a grown man's chores for him. Don't cook for him, clean his apartment, do his laundry, rake his leaves, walk his dog or shovel his snow. If he asks, you can water his plants and feed his cat while he's away, but that's it. Otherwise he will think of you as some kind of maid. And you might start feeling more fond of him than he deserves.

Update: I see in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 9, that Hermione refuses to help Ron with his History of Magic essay. Good girl!


  1. Yes, used to think so too, as I and my friends looked down on high school boys for not liking "smart" girls. (In retrospect, they actually DID like the smart girls, for my friends Mary, Katie, and Laura always had a guy interested in them. They just didn't like the girls who showed off about being smart by helping them, etc. They were certainly first attracted by looks- as was my husband- but would be quickly bored if that was not accompanied by a personality and at least some kind of brain).

  2. True. Looks must be backed up by personality and some brain. Kind of the opposite for men, who have to have personality and brains backed up by some looks.

  3. '"I hate my beauty! I want to be loved for my mind!"'

    Um. Right. A woman wants the man she loves to think she is physically beautiful.

    It always angered me when some show on telly or some movie would depict Male Love Interest telling Female Love Interest that he loves her for her mind. It angered me because I sensed from a very early age (as in, childhood) that that wasn't true, or at least wasn't completely true. I mean, come on. I'm intelligent -- more intelligent than the average person -- and if that was what mattered most to men, the last time I was asked out on a date wouldn't have been more than two years ago. It's okay that females smarts aren't the most important thing to men. It really is. I'm not bitter about it (I mean, look, I'm smart, but I'm not THAT smart, so let's not go crazy here). I just wish people would get real. The reality is that if I looked like Jennifer Hawkins or Blake Lively, more men would be attracted to me. And that's not wrong. It just is.

    Really, screenwriters appear to have a total lack of ability to write reality.

  4. Actually, all kinds of men are probably attracted to you just because you are female and relatively young but they just don't tell you. Attraction and dating don't have THAT much in common. I seem to recall the movie star Sharon Stone complaining that men never asked HER out.

    Being attracted to someone is easy. It just happens. But actually asking someone out on a date!? That takes risk and effort, and many guys just wonder why they should bother.

    Come to think of it, B.A. and I never went on a date before we got married. We just hung out for awhile and got engaged. Then we hung out (when we could) and got married. NOW we go on dates. L

    1. "That takes risk and effort, and many guys just wonder why they should bother."

      I was talking to a close friend over high tea today, and she thinks that Australian men are not willing to do much work to start dating women. As in, they don't ask women out. She says that she notices women fawning over men at parties, and so the men just sit back and let the women come to them (or something.) I can't say I've noticed that in particular, but Australian men do not look at women. They look at their iPhones. My friend (not single, by the way) agrees. This is not a complaint, just an observation.

    2. It's better in Edinburgh, where to get a man to talk to you, all you have to do is walk into a pub in the afternoon. Possibly its the same in Glasgow. Heck, in Glasgow, all you have to do is stand still long enough. I don't know about actual dating, though.

  5. Uh-oh, I recognise myself here. Unfortunately I'm still young and stupid, so not out of the danger zone yet. Luckily the only men I could do things for at the moment are family members since I'm in a pretty vulnerable state right now.

    1. Hmm. I wonder if any of us are truly ever permanently out of a danger zone. There are women who bicker over the few men in the nursing home. Well, good luck. Just keep your eyes peeled for your own unwise behaviour.

  6. "Australian men do not look at women, they look at their iPhones."

    Haha, from my observations, yes and no. They certainly don't ask girls out! But as usual, I guess any guy will pursue what he really wants.....

  7. The unfortunate truth is that many men, perhaps most of them, especially the younger ones, don't date at all any more. They "hook up", meaning that they hang out with friends in mixed-sex groups and at some point they make advances to, or accept the advances of, and fall into bed with, one of them, which may or may not lead to a "relationship". From what I hear, this tendency is even more entrenched in the UK, having gone on for decades now, but is not called hooking up, or was not until recently.

    Chaste single women out there may not find this knowledge especially comforting, but they should at least be assured that their singleness has nothing to do with their appearance, but rather with the fact that they are not part of the cultural mainstream.

    Which reminds me: one of the things a woman should not do for a man "for free" is sleep with him. Ahem. Not that she should charge him money, of course, but that even in hookup culture the women who are able to build stable relationships and, ultimately, marriages, are the ones who make certain demands on their men from the start. So no yielding to temptation out of loneliness, ladies. The needier you feel at the critical moment, the less likely it is to end happily.

    If that last paragraph is too risque or perhaps pessimistic in tone, Seraph, you are welcome to remove it.


  8. Sounds like good sense to me, and they'll hear much worse on any given episode of "The Big Bang Theory."

  9. Honestly, I think that for many of us it actually is the brains and personality that are by far the most attractive parts. But, especially in this day and age of "Danger Will Robinson! Saying the wrong thing is a sexual harassment suit at best!," appearing to be visual primarily is the best out, because we single guys long ago lost the dating game (remember, men don't actually talk to each other, so we're like the Neanderthal losing out to the Cro-Magnon's superior culture of women and their cliques of girlfriends!) – and those of us who are chaste can't even do the visual part right because we don't know what to look at/for. If it makes you feel any better, after you feel bad about us somehow not asking you out, you don't notice us an hour later walking up the stairs and then smacking ourselves on the forehead saying "I forgot to ask her out!" Is there a tank we can charge at instead?

    And, personally, as a guy who likes to cook and who cleans bathrooms as a way to relax (I'm odd that way), I'd panic if a woman tried to random do domestic chores for me.

    – Brian

  10. And "The Big Bang Theory" is not even the worst of what they'll hear.

    So, I had a very interesting weekend picking the brains of my close friend's fiancé. He is a former seminarian and a faithful Catholic.

    I asked him a bunch of questions about why there are fewer young single Catholic men than young single Catholic women, and why it is that they don't ask women out.

    The upshot is that, according to him, there are quite a number of guys who appear to be faithful Catholics but who privately disagree with, for example, Humane Vitae (or at least they are unconvinced by it.) So they are confused, and they are surrounded by male friends who are unsympathetic to Catholic teachings, and it can be easier to just give in to the culture and call it a day. There are also apparently Latin Mass guys who get annoyed when their girlfriends won't sleep with them.

    According to my friend, young men don't know how to pursue women. Their own fathers might have been promiscuous, and don't offer their sons any (good) advice. The young men don't think that they are what young women are looking for.

    My friend also said that he never hears men complain that there are no nice Catholic women around. So who knows what they want.

    I think I need to distance myself from Catholic social groups for a little while. It was a fun weekend, but...

    1. I don't want to have any more conversations about how Miss A has a new boyfriend. I don't know Miss A or her boyfriend, and honestly, I don't really care about either of them. Yes, I know she's pretty, and yes, I know she has plenty of male admirers, but hearing about it all the time reminds me that I'm second (third, fourth, fifth...) best to Miss A. Over it.

    2. Yes, I've noticed that my sister has attracted some male interest. Can everybody stop talking about it now? I'm starting to feel like the Fat, Ugly Older Sister.

    3. Wedding talk. Make it stop (thank goodness I'm not a bridesmaid.)

    4. Don't bring up Mr Not Interested, please. I'm over feeling disappointed.

    I don't know. Sometimes I think that my Catholic acquaintances are slowly driving me insane. And those guys will be the death of me. Happily, I think no one has a clue that I have any of the above thoughts or feelings. I know how to play it cool.

  11. Latin Mass guys who pressure their girlfriends for sex--although frankly I cannot imagine any Latin Mass guy I know doing this--should be exposed in the STOCKS in the town square so old ladies can throw cabbages and rotten tomatoes at them.

    Julia, we need some Babcia stories here. As for your social circles, why not do some reading up to prepare for your big European tour?

  12. Geez. That's depressing. I can't imagine any of the Latin mass or otherwise super trad guys pressuring girls for sex, either. They are more the type to freak out if they realize kissing is actually enjoyable (like run to confession freak out; better than the alternative).

    Often I think the problem is the catholic guys don't know what they are looking for, so how could we? Come to think if it, many of my guy friends from college either are still single or married in their late 20's (later than most if my female friends).

  13. I imagine it's not THAT many Latin Mass guys. And I can't tell which ones they'd be either, which is probably just as well.

    Babcia stories? I can't think of any new corkers. I'll keep you updated though.

    Yes, I have been doing a lot of planning for Europe. And that is a good distraction. I'm reminded that while my friends have to spend their money on a wedding, I get to spend mine doing whatever I want in Vienna or wherever.

    But why does it cost 18 POUNDS to get into Westminster Abbey???

  14. London is like inhaling out money, that's why! Incidentally my sister has a travel blog and her church recs for London don't include Westminster abbey (maybe because she got lost there as a 11 year old!)

    1. That is soooo true. One weekend with B.A. in London cost us 700 pounds. Of course, we did have lunch in a great restaurant and we ate out for breakfast lunch and dinner, but our hotel was cheap...and...and,,,,Er. I am not sure where all that money went, but it went.

      The Underground is very expensive. I couldn't believe my eyes.

  15. Anamaria, I am now subscribed to your sister's blog. Thanks for suggesting it.

    My father says that Westminster Abbey is a waste of time, but he also thinks that the whole of London pretty much sucks. He is, after all, a Francophile.

    Yeah, no fancy meals for me. Tesco all the way. And hostels too. Although you know what? I am surprised that there aren't more sex-segregated hostel rooms. I have no problem sharing, but I am not going to share with men.

    The Chief of the Young Fogeys in my set says I have to go to Mass at Brompton Oratory.

  16. Yes, you do have to go to Mass at Brompton Oratory. You should go to the 11 or 11-thirty (I forget) Novus Ordo Mass. That is the fashionable one.

    I would not say that Westminster Abbey is a waste of time. St. Edward the Confessor is buried in it. Also Queen Elizabeth I and her sister Queen Mary and there is Poet's Corner, and a memorial to Londoners who died in the Blitz. You have to go at least once in your life. Try to go when there is a choir singing.

    Meanwhile, I love London. Try finding hostels for just women. There are Catholic ones. One is run for Germans, but they'll take non-Germans, and I sent two Canadian girls to it a couple of years ago. They were quite safe there. Another option is the Tune hotel near Kings Cross which is the cheapest deal in London for hotels. B.A. and I stayed there. Check anyway.

    I love London. I wish I could go there more often and visit all the glorious museums and picture galleries. I really, really love London. And Polish Pretend Son lives there so maybe he will consent to meeting a fellow reader, since she is half-Polish. One never knows. His ways are mysterious.


This is Edinburgh Housewife, a blog for Catholic women and other women of good will. It assumes that the average reader is an unmarried, childless Catholic woman over 18. Commenters are asked to take that into consideration before commenting. Anonymous comments may be erased.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.