Wednesday 10 June 2015


My eye caught an amusing little bit of fluff in the Telegraph today. In short, a man laments that he is dating six women at the same time and feeling a bit guilty/overwhelmed. He seems to be hoping to solve his problem in the most profitable way possible: selling his story to the Telegraph. This way, the women will all find out, some or all of them will dump him and, I might add, a whole new crop of women will suddenly take an interest in him. Girls like chaps other girls are interested in. This is why it is a good idea for Searching Single guys to take female friends with them to social events. Hint, hint.

The story would be  more amusing if he wasn't obviously sleeping with all or some of them. As it is, it is slightly seedy. A worldly woman may risk sleeping with a guy who might be sleeping with just one other woman, but five other women? Who knows where those women have been?

Really, Mr Rubin appears to be a bit of a cad, and alas girls do seem to like cads. Aelianus told me that his otherwise splendid friend Benedict Ambrose was incredibly wicked about women and someone really ought to marry him and save him from hell. Women flocked to him, said Aelianus. They threw himself at his feet.

So naturally I had to meet this incredibly wicked and charming Benedict Ambrose and perhaps save him from hell. Luckily for both Benedict Ambrose and me, Aelianus had been exaggerating to an enormous extent. Women do like B.A., though, because he is enormously cheerful and good-natured and just this side of being the class clown. And they don't like him so much that the other chaps don't like him, if you see what I mean. If you took a poll among our extensive Edinburgh acquaintance, the vast majority would doubtlessly agree that B.A. is the better half of Mr and Mrs McAmbrose, Inc.

"What does he see in her?" they moan behind my back.

Actually, I don't know if they do that. If I catch them at it, however, I will slay them where they stand.

But to go back to the subject of multi-dating, I think it is an excellent idea, if it is actually dating and not going-to-bed-and-seeing-what-happens. Once upon a time, there was a lot of healthy competition between males for the attention of the prettier/richer/most talented girls in the village. The less popular girls put up with this and waited for the village belles to make their pick so that the attention of the leftovers would fall upon us them. The village girls generally had known the boys from infancy, so there was no real point in dating, although I suppose sometimes they granted one boy permission to see her home from church one Sunday, and another boy permission the next Sunday, etc.

In the 1950s and 1960s, to judge by girls' books from that era, plus my mother's smug stories of scholastic social success, there was a lot of multi-dating. There was apparently no stigma to going out with Fred to the films on Friday and to the dance with Tom on Saturday. As long as you never asked out boys yourself, and just went out with the boys who asked you and slapped them if they put a hand wrong, you were perfectly justified in the perhaps envious eyes of your female colleagues. If you had the misfortune of being asked out by a boy you really didn't want to go out with, you could say no, but then you had to stay at home that night. Thus being asked to the Prom by the Wrong Boy must have been a trial.

I wonder whatever happened to the boy who asked my then 14 year old future mother to his Prom. Thanks to him, I was allowed to date when I was 14. Just ask me if I would have allowed my own daughter to date at 14. Ha! Ha! Convent school until married off to Polish Pretend Son or some other eligible parti, let me tell you. (I wonder if she would have liked Seminarian Pretend Son? Hard to say, though, as she does not exist.)

Anyway, the dating world was before us in pieces by the 1980s, and as far as I could see there was none of this "Fred, films, Friday" and "Tom, dance, Saturday" stuff going on in high school--at least, not openly. As I felt like an ugly mushroom of woe compared to my prettier friends, I am amazed today to read in my diaries how many dates I went on in high school. First dates. I went on lots of first dates, but not many second dates. Which was just as well, as the only girl who got married out of high school was in what I hope was the last Italian arranged marriage in history. Not a girl I knew married her high school sweetheart, knowledge which would have shocked me to the marrow of my bones back in Grade 11.

Meanwhile, the ordinary dating behaviour  among my friends was to go out only with one guy, maybe once or twice a week, and keep on going out with only him, if one liked him, and say yes if he asked you to become is girlfriend, and breaking up with him if he Went Too Far or Wanted To Go Too Far or cheated or, I presume, slapped you around. Kissing him in public was considered simply shocking and could get you labelled a putana, especially if someone else had a crush on him--but then I had rather conservative friends.

I am now completely opposed to dating in high school, and think that no unrelated boy and girl under 19 has any business being alone together in a warm room watching TV, etc. High school is for studying your brains out, relieved by artistic, spiritual and athletic endeavour, not for romance. University is also for studying your brains out, relieved by artistic, spiritual and athletic endeavour, but boys and girls are now almost old enough to marry, so I don't see a problem with them being alone in rooms, or semi-alone in restaurants, the cinema, pubs, etc.  However, I do think that they should feel free to go out with a different guy or girl for a coffee as often as they like, on the grounds (no pun intended) that it is "just a coffee."

To put this into context, I still meet up with men for coffee. It's just a coffee. Come to think about it, I occasionally meet up with them for lunch and beer too. When I was in London, I had a G &T with Andrew Cusack, lunch with PPS, lunch the next day with SPS, and beers with a Polish astrophysicist. Goodness, I'm popular. Yay, me! Although, come to think of it, when you are married, it is WAY better to have lot of male friends who are not your husband than, you know, just one.

Meanwhile, it is very good for my male friends to be seen out drinking and lunching with me, for it increases their social capital with other women. Women like chaps whom other women like, and it is also good for the younger chaps who like women to get used to talking to us and buying us drinks. Obviously coffee with Mrs McA is not as exciting and fraught with anxiety as coffee with a Real Live Potential Girlfriend, but the conventions are basically the same.

I notice, with rue, that I have many more male friends now than I did before I was married, which makes me wonder if I stared at men in my Single days like an unusually hungry hyena and frightened them into fits. Oh well. What's past is past, and if B.A. shuffles off this mortal coil sooner rather than later I will bang on the Benedictines' door anyway, so nobody need worry.  But my ultimate thought is that I am all for multi-dating (chaste multi-dating) until one finds the man/woman for whom one is truly willing to forsake all others. This way you choose to marry in total freedom, knowing you had options, not because you think this is the only person in the entire world who would ever have you.

Incidentally, never assume that you are the only person someone is meeting for coffee. If it's just coffee, you probably aren't. If it's your second dinner-and-a-movie, or a kiss at the door, you might want to ask. Actually, in the case of kiss-at-the-door, you should ask. Otherwise you might end up just another one of someone's six girlfriends. Eeek!

IMPORTANT UPDATE: If you are a Single "female friend", watch out for this, though. Down with this sort of thing.


  1. It is very good for men to have a few female friends to be seen in public with, but only one at a time. A man who gives women the impression that he is "safe", a man who has *only* female friends, or whose male friends are all nerdy and anti-social, is a man in danger of being labeled as a "Nice Guy", (rather than, you know, a nice guy), which will be death to him with women.

    Alias Clio

  2. Six women? Eww!! This is why 'The Bachelor' Fantasy Night Suite thingy just creeps me out! I'm sure that not all of them have sex, but even the idea that he has the chance to 'test drive' three different women in order to decide which one he wants to propose to is just so icky!! And degrading.

    I read an article recently about damaging it is that some Christians/Catholics are trying to replace the 'Just don't go out with the same guy twice in a row' rule of the 50's with courtship and it was fascinating. I know different people mean different things by courtship, but the basic idea is that it was usually too much pressure/commitment demanded too soon in the relationship, and hence, it actually ends up discouraging marriage because a guy can't just ask a girl out for coffee and see where it goes.

    And Clio, I think you're absolutely right!! And constantly asking all kinds of girls out that he has no interest in marrying can have the same effect. I know one or two guys like that. :(

  3. I'm not sure what the "courtship" movement means by that term, but the idea in the 19th century was that a young men saw a young woman *only* at her parents' house, and never alone until they were engaged. Poorer people without the money to entertain visitors in the evening went out on walks, alone together but in semi-public venues. I suspect that this might make knowing each other in the non-biblical sense rather difficult, but it would have certain advantages other than merely discouraging sexual activity. The man wouldn't have to spend money until much later in the relationship, and he would have a chance to learn about the women who interested him in a family setting, which is where they would be themselves if or when they married. No commitment was necessarily implied by such visits unless they continued over a long period of time.


    1. Oh, I know what it used to be! I'm a history/teacher/buff/pretty extensive reader. :) They used to call it 'walking out' among the poorer classes.

      But modern day 'courtship' (Joshua Harris's 'I Kissed Dating Good-Bye' and the 'courtship' practiced by the Duggers is a good example!) isn't the same thing, although it certainly has some similar elements.

      And certainly there probably aren't tons of people who are actually strictly practicing this kind of courtship, even among more conservative circles, but I think that there are a lot of Catholic/Christian people who are still affected by the ideas, even if they don't realize it.Mostly, I think, because there really hasn't been any other major Christian/Catholic movement to replace the kind of dating people tend to engage in now-a-days.

      But for the record, I do think Seraphic's ideas are spot-on. :)

      Anyway, here's a link to the article, if you're interested!

    2. Oh, and I just wanted to add that I also wouldn't say that just because it worked in a past age it will work now. So, for example, it made sense for a man to ask a woman's father for her hand in marriage when the father could actually make that decision.

      But I think it's actually kind of disrespectful now. What are you going to do if he doesn't like you and says no? Not marry her?

      If the woman has a good relationship with her father and he wants to ask for his blessing on their engagement, sure! But seriously? Why are men still asking permission? (And I know a number of men who have!)

      It's that kind of sticking blindly to 'traditional' things that I think can be detrimental to the conservative Catholic/Christian community. (And I say this as someone who loves tradition and traditional things!! Just used appropriately.)

    3. But your example is a one that would be of value in the modern world, I think.

      Agh, I need to stop hitting post and then thinking of something else to say. :)

    4. Yes, there are many reasons why these traditions would be difficult to follow today. The fact that women work and study outside the home and in mixed company, rather than studying at single-sex colleges (if they go to school at all), and then remaining at home until marriage, meeting the opposite sex only under close supervision. Even poor girls tended to work in single-sex venues, I understand, although they might have a male employer. Where could that be replicated today, and who would want to?

      As far as I know, India is the last serious holdout regarding chaperonage for unmarried women, at least in more traditional areas. Women from Saudi Arabia or Iran don't seem that closely-chaperoned in private, in spite of religious police to harass them in public. Perhaps "patriarchy", or at any rate fatherly authority, is actually weakened by allowing easy divorce (to men) and more than one wife, however rare the latter practise may be.

      Alias Clio

      But I've strayed from the subject, so will sign off now.

  4. I was just thinking the other day that the worst thing to happen to dating, aside from the Sexual Revolution, was the disappearance of "multi-dating."

    My mother's father had a rule that she could not go out with the same guy twice in a row. My parents knew each other from infancy, and when they sat up and took notice of each other while still in high school, my mom was eager to date those other guys so she could go out with my dad again. (Plus she had a lot of fun.)

    She was completely surprised when I was in high school and told her that the only girls that multi-dated were girls who were almost certainly sleeping with all those guys. (I naively thought the couples who were "going steady" were chaste; while I'm sure some/many were, boy, did I have a lot to learn.) She lamented the fact that my generation had lost the opportunity to learn how to be friends with the opposite sex.

    I thought she was crazy then; now I see the wisdom of it. My only brother is 10 years younger than I am. I wanted nothing more than to get married in college like my mom did, so I probably also looked at single men "like an unusually hungry hyena" (rofl at this great expression). I certainly did not have good opportunities to form friendships with single guys. It's so unfortunate that the dating scene no longer facilitates this.

    Incidentally, my brother married a gal he met his freshman year in college. They were friends for 3.5 years and took turns liking each other, but the other was always dating someone else. It wasn't until their senior year that they began dating. My brother's comment at the time was "There's no point in me pretending to be someone I'm not; she already knows me." They have a great marriage...they are best friends...and it is so fun to be with them because of their comfortable friendship.

  5. If you have a daughter, please do not marry her off to PPS.

    This multi-dating 1950s thing is great in theory, but pretty hard to do when no one is asking you out. If I got asked out by two men for the same week I'd probably have a heart attack from surprise.

    "But my ultimate thought is that I am all for multi-dating (chaste multi-dating) until one finds the man/woman for whom one is truly willing to forsake all others. This way you choose to marry in total freedom, knowing you had options, not because you think this is the only person in the entire world who would ever have you."

    Again, sounds nice, but doesn't happen. I probably won't have the option of dating multiple men before getting married (and, well, obviously I won't have the option after marriage either.) If I want to marry a man who I'm dating (for good reasons, that is), I'm also not going to let the fact that he's the only man I've ever dated stop me.

    I've never been on a date, and I've only been asked out by two men. The last time I was asked out was 2.5 years ago. I'm nearly 25. If I don't get asked out again till I'm 30, I'm probably not going to feel keen to delay marriage just in order to wait for all the other guys who probably won't ask me out to ask me out.

    I think that the only way to make chaste multi-dating happen these days might be via careful online dating. Otherwise, no. The 1950s is a different planet. Heck, the 1980s is a different planet.

    1. I think the contemporary form of chaste multi-dating--besides the careful online dating--could be any activity that gets you one-on-one time with several men. For example, there's speed-dating. (That would not appeal to me.) But there are also a variety of activities like (surprise!) partner dancing. It's important to pick an activity you might really like in itself, though, for those who love the activity don't have much time for those who are there to find love. Also, everyone looks their best when they are smiling.

      Yes, the 1950s and the 1980s are indeed different planets. And my 1980s were strongly tinged by the 1950s because many of my friends and high school classmates were children of immigrants who left southern Europe (and the Balkans) in the 1950s, so some of the old 1950s European village values influenced our lives to what may have been a remarkable extent.

  6. Ever since reading this Catholic News Agency article by Anthony Buono a few years back advising against opposite-sex friendships, I have no longer felt comfortable meeting and spending time with opposite-sex friends if it is not a group gathering. And I do see his point that it could be very risky to meet an opposites-sex married friend--which I do not do and never did, even before reading the article. Anthony has some very good points to consider I think, to help us avoid risks we may not realize: It seems that have spending time with an opposite-sex friend while a spouse or significant other is also present could reduce risk.

  7. It also reduces risk if the woman is old enough to be the opposite-sex friend's mother! :-D Seriously, though, the opposite-sex friends I meet up with are all B.A.'s friends, too, and it is generally because we have not seen each other in some time. Well, I will read Anthony Buono's column.

    1. Okay I have read the column, and I have to say it is extremely limited and obsessed with genital sexuality. It completely ignores the "motherhood" and "fatherhood" dimension of marriage (not to mention priesthood and religious life)---possibly because Americans practice a kind of age apartheid, with twenty-somethings over HERE, and thirty-somethings over THERE, and for forty-somethings preferably out of sight of the twenty-somethings, who might be disgusted by them. It's not like that in Europe.

      I agree that people, married and Single, have to be wary in their 20s of their erotic (sexual and emotional) feelings towards other people--which, incidentally, might include friends of the same sex, even if you're not gay--but after that, you should know yourself well enough to relax enough to make friends or meet up with your old friends.

      I have two Single male friends from "the old days" that I met in Toronto to catch up with, and I met up a newer one (married) and his Single friend to touch base on an article I was writing. It would never occur to any of them--or to me--to put a hand wrong. Sometimes a fraternal hug is just a fraternal hug.

      What the Catholic really has to watch out for is for a friend turning into an unofficial boyfriend/girlfriend. That is the real problem that both parties have to watch out for. Safety in numbers, as my priest pal's grandma used to say.

      Oh, boy. When I think of my priest friends and nun friends, and how much they profit emotionally and spiritually from having (and being) friends of the opposite sex, I get very cross with Anthony Buono. However, he was writing to young people, and in a different culture.

    2. It is a rather nebulous issue, but Buono does have some important points. Perhaps part of the problem is that it's assumed that dating partners must be accepting indefinitely of those who are "just friends" with the person of interest--with indefinitely being the key word. It's been discussed elsewhere, by Buono among others I believe, that those who are dating should make a decision fairly quickly to concentrate on getting to know someone whom they have become interested in. None of this flitting / juggling / intermittent popping up for coffee over weeks and months, not on a regular basis (among my circle of Catholic American women friends we disparagingly call these "pop ups").

    3. I don't get what a "dating partner" is. Holy moley. If a guy can't just ask a girl out for coffee without having to be a "dating partner," I begin to see the new problem. Of course, if Buono thinks "fairly quickly" means one coffee and two dates and then the two decide if they want to keep seeing each other, I'm okay with that.

  8. I would add too that I feel the drawbacks are greater for a single woman spending time with a married man than a single man spending time with married woman. I have encountered this numerous times in my workplace, when at times married men have invited me to lunch--alone. Most times I felt there was some more interest on their part than just a collegial relationship. The few times I went I regretted it because my instincts were indeed confirmed--not because of anything terribly untoward, but because of a lingering look, questions that were not entirely work-related etc. Of course not going results in one being labeled cold, prudish, a wet blanket, etc but that is preferable to me. The solution generally is to gather a group, but even that is not enough to stop the hairy eyeballs from wives at the holiday party (Oh *you're* that single in the group my husband goes to lunch with...)

  9. Anon, just stop shaving your legs or something. That should put the wives' minds to rest :P

    1. I think that comment trivializes a very real dynamic that occurs in professional work environments. I've encountered um, interesting, behavior from rather unscrupulous male colleagues along with pressure from the perspective of "we're friends!" or "we're colleagues--we know each other so well!" etc etc. After a while one begins to realize that the assertion of "we're friends!" is not a pass key for what could be considered inappropriate.

      Once I needed help from a male colleague to initiate a new project, and he was always too busy to speak with me during working hours. He then proposed that we meet for an evening meal to discuss the project. This was not part of the company culture at the time. I did not go, and the project never was started.

      I'm not saying as a single woman I'm any more attractive or interesting than others, just that I'm single, and supposedly available, and often that has resulted in being a target of inappropriate behavior from male colleagues.

    2. We need a name, though, as "Anonymous" is not allowed on my blogs. Any name at all is necessary for creating a collegial atmosphere and keeping a pleasant tone. Naturally the :P on Julia's comment showed she was joking and in sympathy with you.

  10. Reading that comment, I am once again filled with joy that I do not work in an office. That's terrible about the hairy eyeball. My husband has Single women colleagues--two of them very young and pretty--and it would never occur to me to given them the hairy eyeball. Of course, I see them all the time, and we all went clubbing once (without my husband), and it was a blast. Oh well. I think there are two kinds of older women--the kind who see younger women as dangerous rivals, and the kind who see younger women as pretend daughters/potential victims of Life, and I belong to the latter!

  11. Reading that comment, I am once again filled with joy that I do not work in an office. That's terrible about the hairy eyeball. My husband has Single women colleagues--two of them very young and pretty--and it would never occur to me to given them the hairy eyeball. Of course, I see them all the time, and we all went clubbing once (without my husband), and it was a blast. Oh well. I think there are two kinds of older women--the kind who see younger women as dangerous rivals, and the kind who see younger women as pretend daughters/potential victims of Life, and I belong to the latter!

  12. That is a wonderful perspective! It sometimes seems it's best for Catholic single women in an office to concentrate on connecting with (1) other practicing Catholics, if they can be discovered (a joy--you're Catholic too??) (2) other women in the office, but that can present its own challenges, for sometimes we women can slip into petty behaviors, backhanded "compliments" etc.


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