Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

September 11, 2011

Good Reading for 9/11 and Beyond

A Linkfest, courtesy of The Anchoress.

September 6, 2011


If there is one show that I could (and do watch) on repeat, it's Gilmore Girls. Anyone else? I NEVER get tired of running through the seasons. :)

September 3, 2011

Tennis and the Priesthood

This article was just too fun not to post!

August 29, 2011

"Dear friends..."

"Dear friends, may no adversity paralyze you. Be neither afraid of the world, nor of the future, nor of your weakness." -- The Holy Father on Saturday, August 20, 2011.

As I wrote before, I had the privilege and blessing of attending World Youth Day, or Jornada Mundial de la Juventud, in Madrid, Spain. When I was there I was aware that it was a privilege and blessing, although the fruits for my own life seemed far from evident. Along with three colleagues and friends, I was responsible for the safety of 26 of our school's best, brightest, and most beautiful girls. I knew it was going to be a window into parenthood in the first few hours: flying passports, scattered medications, queasiness, uneasiness, and forgetfulness were abounding. This is all of course not to mention the spiritual questions that were directed to us: Why should I believe in this Jesus Christ? What if I doubt God's love? How do you know your vocation? Why is there so much suffering? And of course, there were constant fears on my behalf: Are we safe? Is anyone being pickpocketed? Is this girl going to pass out? Is another Italian teenage boy going to try to kiss my dear student?

At one point I turned to our school's priest and my dear friend and said, "Are you praying for me? I'm praying for you." And he said, "Dear, this whole trip is the prayer. The getting up early, the walking, the exhaustion." And that was enough for me to table any plan to have a spiritual experience of my own.

And yet, in His goodness, the Lord gave me a beautiful experience on Saturday night. The Vigil with the Holy Father was ushered in by a massive wind storm that kicked up dust in our eyes. Lightning threatened us every 30 seconds. Rain came in torrents. And yet, the Holy Father continued on, and gave us 20 minutes or so of adoration. In the chaos of the storm, in the sea of 2 million people, the airfield went quiet. And though I only had about 60 seconds to adore Our Lord until someone needed something, I was able to be present to the Lord and He to me, as if we were the only two people there. As the Holy Father urged us to not be afraid of those three things mentioned above -- the world, my fears, and my weaknesses -- I felt that God was speaking directly to my heart. In a moment when all was stormy outside and even inside, all went calm. I have never experienced such a communion before. And I don't know if I will again. But that 60 seconds was more than enough. And its graces are producing bushels of fruit in my life right now, and I'm sure that will continue to in the months to come.

I hope that you, readers, are experiencing graces, as I offered the chaos up for you!

August 19, 2011

The State of Marriage + the Family

The Two-Minus One Pregnancy (New York Times)
Meet the Co-Parents: Friends not Lovers & their children (Telegraph)

Counter Point:

This was grace - short film
from Andrew Laparra on Vimeo.

August 12, 2011

Julian's Update

This summer has flown by. I only have a few updates, but I think they are worth noting for upcoming conversations:

1. I spent late spring and most of summer dating a boy-man (although I didn't know he was a boy-man at the outset). And I just ended things with the boy-man. *Note to boy-men: if you do not intend to pursue a woman romantically, but only platonically, please do not kiss her every time you see her, bring her gifts from your travels, and engage in a daily conversation with her. She's going to think you like her as more than friends.

2. God's grace has been abundant in my life. Last week's Sunday homily was about seeking God in "the storm" (the reading was about Peter on the boat in the storm). The priest said simply, "If you look for God in the storm, you'll find Him. If you don't, you won't." It's been immensely helpful. I'm getting amazing things from Scripture every time I pray with it. Our Lord is so good and generous in giving us words when we don't have them.

3. I'm off to Spain with 26 students and 3 colleagues for World Youth Day! Please pray for our safety and for the openness of all of our hearts to Christ's call for us. I will keep you all in my prayers and sacrifices.

All for now. Keep on keepin' on.


August 1, 2011

Summer Jams

Here are a few songs on "repeat" on my playlist. I hope you enjoy them. They are fun to cruise around with the windows down in this summer heat!

July 29, 2011

The Feast of St. Martha

While there is some debate as to whether Mary Magdalene is the same as Mary-the-sister-of-Martha-and-Lazarus, I don't think there is any debate in the minds of women struggling to walk with Christ that Magdalene and Martha are two of the great examples of womanly virtue in the Gospels and in all of Christianity.

Since today is here feast, I wanted to share a quick meditation on St. Martha by one of my favorite Catholic bloggers, Julie Davis of Happy Catholic, from her bi-weekly column on Patheos:

We see again how familiar and friendly Martha is with Jesus. As before, she goes to him with a forthright complaint. She shows great confidence and trust in saying that she is disappointed that he didn't save her brother.

Martha also shows that she possesses great faith and understanding in unmistakable terms: "I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world." What an incredible moment that must have been between Jesus and Martha. Martha has come a long way, never losing her focus on Christ even in her grief.

Yet, after such a moment, she also doesn't forget her sister, Mary, who is still at home mourning.

Martha is both loving and practical to the bone. We have an unmistakable example of that practicality when Jesus is getting ready to raise Lazarus from the dead.

Read more. St. Martha, pray for us!

July 28, 2011

A Matter of Convenience

A reader emailed us with the following prompt:

My sister and good friend have come to the conclusion that even
if you meet a guy who likes you and it's reasonable to date, if it's not
super convenient they won't go for it. It's become all about convenience
and what's easy.

She also added these examples:
  • The guy regularly wants to "hang out" but isn't actively pursuing obvious dates.
  • Wants to meet at a designated place instead of picking you up.
  • Continues to contact you via text message instead of calling you.

All in all she concluded that to move from casually contacting to seriously dating a woman makes demands on a man to mature and to open himself to another person. Both of these things are challenging, can be uncomfortable, open one up to vulnerability and, quite frankly, create an investment of his time, money, and schedule that can look quite scary.

As lonely as it can be sometimes, the single life can be quite convenient. Your time is your own, your resources are at your own disposal, and you can decide when and where to give of yourself, be present to and with others, and only really risk love or rejection when you feel ready.

My own thoughts on this are complex and contradictory. On the one hand, I have experienced the examples our reader posed on numerous occasions, and I even had to find the courage to talk to a man who was casually contacting me to ask what his intentions were. In this case, I risked rejection when I said that I had feelings for him, while he was just content to casually keep texting and "hanging out," and had no intention of exclusively dating me. Other men have responded when I've asked them to move from texting to calling me, and really just did not know any better that this is what a woman wants. I blame that one on technology feeding our laziness, or just becoming normative. However, if a guy (or a girl, for that matter), is disciplined in virtue (which is far from convenient) in little things, he or she can easily say "yes" to inconvenience in other things, like relationships.

But on the other hand, a dear friend of mine told me a few months ago that it was only after meeting a certain woman that he "knew what it meant to be a man," and that this woman, by her very existence, made him want to be everything a man should be. He suddenly realized that the right woman made him want to move beyond his own wants and desires. He did the most inconvenient thing: picked up and moved across the country to be with her and find a job to provide for her, as he was so convicted about wanting to care for her. So, maybe it is that it's just wrong until you meet the right person. Maybe we aren't the right woman for him (and he is not the right man) if he's not working for it. And that, readers, is just an inconvenient truth.

July 22, 2011

Feast of Our Patroness

Happy Feast of Mary Magdalene. May she continue to bless us sisters, our readers, and our families!

Photo from the cover of this month's Magnificat. Found here.

July 21, 2011

Oh My Goodness. Do I Like Clothes or What?

So, I went to the mall today to look at shoes for my upcoming trip to Spain, where I'll be walking countless kilometers through Madrid for World Youth Day, and of course I got completely sidetracked and distracted by the a-dorable clothes in the windows of all of the stores. I love the upcoming fall fashions: ponchos, long dresses, and yes, even faux fur (in moderation, of course!). But the question still remains: do I need them?

The answer still remains no. When I brushed by the mannequins, I remembered my niece, my goddaughter, my parents, my students, my desire to explore photography, the homeless person on the bridge that I drive every morning, and of course, Mother Church. And I remembered that virtue is hard. That is means saying no to yourself in simple and in grave matters. It's forged in the day to day activities of our lives.

I still need to address generosity with my time. I still need to look at purity of heart, pride, and a lack of discipline. But for now, I'm able to look at beautiful clothing and think of other people. And today was a big step in moving in the direction I'd like to be in.

July 5, 2011

On Being More Generous

Summer affords me extra time for reflection, which can be both therapeutic and totally overwhelming for me. I look up close at the parts of my life that need organization, discipline, and well, to be spruced up. With any close examination of the self comes cringing at what is made visible. In any event, it's been becoming increasingly clear to me that as a single person, the virtue of generosity is one that I need to particularly strengthen. (This is not to say that single people are not generous -- it is truly a pointed commentary on myself at this moment in my life, and I happen to be single).

As Christians we're called to be generous with our time, talent, and treasure. I'd like to think I have the talent portion covered, in that I try to exhaust myself in my vocation as a teacher both inside and outside of the classroom, and well beyond any boundaries set by the school calendar. Of course there is always room to improve in that area, but for now, I'm going to table the "talent" portion of this venture.

Generosity with time. In order to be more generous with my time, I need to be disciplined with the use of my time. This means that first and foremost, I must stick to a prayer schedule. While of course this schedule must be flexible to meet the demands of the present moment, it also should be rigorously adhered to. Giving time to God seems like the first logical step in the process. But if I think seriously about my life on any given day, I could gain back significant time if I monitored how long I spend perusing the internet or flipping through channels on the tube. Even if I tell myself it will only be for a moment, I inevitably lose precious moments that could be better used in the service of my vocation, my family, or my friends. It's quite simple, and demands my full attention and will. Purposeful internet use and leisure time involving the television is something I'd like to incorporate into my daily schedule.

Generosity with treasure. Well, I always joke about working as a teacher and that while we don't get paid in monetary means, I do get paid in other ways. In reality though, if I think about what I'm called to spend my money on (and who it should be spent on), I could easily cringe at careless spending on myself that could be better used (and even better used for things that I actually need rather than want). In an effort to kick this generosity into gear, I've decided to take a pledge, and I ask my sisters to hold me accountable. As of today, July 5, 2011, I will not buy myself clothing or accessories for one full calendar year. (I realize moms who have children are used to such sacrifices and might laugh at this!) Now, there are some notable exceptions that are necessities: I am in desperate need of running sneakers, socks of all sorts, and in the fall I will need to replace some worn out shoes. But, I am not in need of clothing for work or for leisure. I realize that for someone who likes to shop, likes to look fashionable, and works in an environment in which my image is (unfortunately) part of the way into keeping students interested, this is going to be challenging. But in reality, it's absolutely necessary in order for me to be more generous with my money. I'm really excited about the challenge and will be prayerful about what it will do for myself and for others. Thanks in advance for your encouragement, and for pointing out when I've got to sew back on a button or fix a hem!

June 29, 2011

The Wisdom of Mrs. Fischer

Oh boy oh boy oh boy do I love Simcha Fishcer. She blogs. She writes for the National Catholic Register. She raises a troupe of kids. She wears pants. I'd like to give some sort of caveat, like: "I don't always agree with her, but I find her compelling" but the truth is, I usually do agree with her, and don't find her compelling, I find her hilarious and filled with common sense. Like:

+ Also, some men never think twice about marriage or babies until they find themselves 90% of the way there with the right woman—and then they step up and amaze everyone. So what you see when you’re dating is not necessarily exactly the same as what you’ll get when you’re married. And man and women grow and improve during the life of a marriage, too. The truth is, it’s kind of a crap shoot. We can make reasonable choices, but much about relationships is unpredictable... --Should I Marry Him

+ "I’m not, as I mentioned, especially hung up on men opening doors, specifically. But the idea that men do some special things for women, and women do some special things for men—sounds like a plan to make life tolerable." --The Art of Getting Hysterical About Gender

+ "Poverty saves you from foolish expenditures (unless you’re foolish enough to go into debt over things you don’t need): never once have we tasted the bitterness of buyer’s remorse as we survey the bill for the wrong kind of premium cell phone, useless time share condo, regrettable L-shaped leather couch in sea foam green, or one of those luxury alligators. Thanks, poverty!" --The Blessings of Poverty

+ "Only people with a mental illness would truly believe that you can achieve anything. People who actually get things done are the people who look at themselves and say, “Okey-doke. There are some things I’m good at, and many thousands more things that I am and always will be utterly unqualified to do. Starting tomorrow, my job is do the least amount of thrashing around and wasting of my parent’s tuition money as possible, while I figure out the difference between my very few strengths and my billions of weaknesses.

"'Then, I need to figure out if there’s any possible way I can do what it turns out I’m good at, and also be a decent human being. If possible, it would be wonderful if the things I’m good at, and which allow me to be decent, are also things which will earn me a salary.'

"And after you have that conversation with yourself, and preferably after you come up with a better plan than scrawling “FIX LIFE” on your memo pad, then you can go out drinking with your buddies.

"Because here’s the deal, you poor deluded masses of inchoate ambition: Freedom is for something." --My Dear Graduates

And don't miss a jewel of a piece, which is so fitting for us at TMS, What is a Catholic Feminist?

June 28, 2011

The Heart of the Matter

Agatha and I had a great discussion on Sunday night. Well, we have great discussions most nights. But the topic of this one turned to the topic of the heart and how various women understand how they are to guard it from or give it to a man. Naturally, as with all matters like this one, we didn't come to a resolution, but we did arrive at various insights from examining our own hearts and those of women we know.

The extremes:

1. "Hi, my name is ______. Here is my heart! Here is all of me!" I think some women tend to go all in when meeting someone. There is a natural desire for women to be SEEN. "See me. Accept me. Love me." We want to be viewed in full and accepted as is. Why risk spending time with someone or investing in someone if he's not going to love the most important parts of you? These types of thoughts feed into a natural inclination to disclose parts of our heart that are the deepest so as test a man's fight or flight instinct with us.

The pros of this? There is a real openness to dialogue and a willingness to be vulnerable. The negatives? You're asking too much too fast, risking significant rejection, and failing to help a man grow in the masculine virtue of working to earn your heart.

2. "Hi, my name is _____. That's all you're going to get from me." Some women completely close their hearts off from men. The reasons vary: vulnerability is the scariest thing in the world; previous relationships have left scars; we carry an idealistic sense that men need to fight these huge battles to win us. This is without mentioning that the art of flirting and the art of opening up is very difficult to master!

The pros? Hearts should be guarded. They are our most precious gift, and should only be given to men that we understand to be worthy to view them. The cons? We can easily set up these impossible gauntlets for men to run through in order to get a peak into our hearts, and by that time, if they actually get through the maze, they might just be too exhausted to continue.

The suggestion:

Agatha and I did agree that the virtue of chastity is a good model to follow in terms of revealing one's heart (and this goes for men, too!). Chastity is not abstinence, but is also does not clearly permit anything to be fair game. As one grows more intimate with someone at various stages of a relationship, one measures out appropriate gestures to indicate that growth. Likewise, a woman need not give her heart to a boyfriend in the way she would to a fiance, or a fiancé in the way she will in marriage twenty years down the road. There is growth and an ever-deepening revelation to be done.

June 22, 2011

If I Had a Million Dollars...

Well, you don't need a million dollars to get these fun summer trends. But you do need a few. But only a few! Agatha and I were talking about how much we love staying fashionable for a cheap buck. Here are a few suggestions to stay cool, stylish, and modest all at once:

1. The Maxi Dress: I just picked up two at T.J. Maxx for a combined total of $40. One was a brand I'd' never heard of, but another was Max Studio. Both are adorable, very comfortable -- and as always with loose material that is somewhat structured -- flattering.

2. Bandeaus: Sometimes tank tops under dresses or other shirts are cumbersome, hot, and leave lines. I'm a huge fan of these easy layering pieces and picked up a few at Nordstrom. They're also available at Macy's and Target.

3. Wrap-around scarves. I love this trend, because sometimes you want some color around your neck, but a necklace just won't work. Regular winter and fall scarves are hard to arrange with summer fabrics (I think I've officially lost our male readers at this point). My suggestion is the Junior Department at Nordstrom and Ann Taylor Loft (educators get a 15% discount!)

Happy Summer Shopping!!!

June 19, 2011

Father's Day

Father's Day is a wonderful day to remember our dads and to thank them for all that they've given us. The Magdalene Sisters have been especially formed in our femininity by the attentiveness, gentleness, and at times real, tough love of our own fathers. I'd bet that Agatha and Edith would agree that to make it as a lay, Catholic, and modern woman in this world, a solid relationship with your father (or a father-figure) is a key ingredient, or at least, is something that can only help you navigate this life.

It seems to me that this is only so because a woman must be tenderly reminded of her beauty, worth, and gifts that have been given to her by her heavenly Father, and a dad who is able to model that love, as best he can, is a great mirror of what a filial relationship with God looks like. There is so much I owe to my own dad, who not explicitly with words of faith or theology, but instead with human virtue, showed me that I am good, beautiful, and a prize to be won. (In fact, my dad often used quotes from The Godfather to convey this, telling me that I "am the hunted one," in terms of being pursed by men instead of doing the pursuing, which is a reference to a character who feels he is going to be gunned down. Oh well. It worked!)

A father or a father-figure is a gift in modeling for us our adoption as sons and daughters of God, which Christ ultimately gives us.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going, you know the way. I will not leave you orphans.

Jn. 14:1-3; 14-18

Happy Father's Day to all of our fathers, priestly fathers, and men who have convinced us that we are daughters of God!

May 22, 2011


My students readily laugh at me, and for good reason. The other day we were reading an essay by Gilbert Meilander entitled, "I Want to Burden My Loved Ones," on the question of advanced directives. One sentence just particularly jumped out at me as I was reading aloud to them, and I said, "Do you see now, ladies, why I have a 'brain crush' on this man?" My students all nodded in agreement, and one girl also exclaimed that she, too, was smitten.

To any observer of my classroom, the term "brain crush" might seem like an odd phrase. But for my part in my classroom, I have designated various types of "crushes" that I have.

1 . The brain crush. An obvious admiration for someone's intellect, philosophy, or ability to craft words in a way that rouse the mind and touch the heart. Such examples are: Aristotle, C.S. Lewis, Father Richard Neuhaus, Karol Wojtyla, Pope Benedict XVI, Gilbert Meilander, Charles Krauthammer, and Helen Alvare. My students are well-versed in my "BC's" as we now collectively call them, and I'm proud that we now share some.

2. The spiritual crush. An affinity for another person's spirituality, devotion, or relationship with Our Lord. These crushes manifest themselves in person's writing as well as dispositions in contemplation and action. St. John of the Cross, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Elizabeth Leseur, Mother Teresa, Caryll Houselander all come to mind. However, three priests from my undergraduate institution come to mind, as well as a priest who I work with, the two Magdalene Sisters, and a dear mentor in Opus Dei. My crushes here are numerous, but never fickle.

3. The girl crush. The recognition of the feminine genius manifested in another woman. I have a "girl crush" on all of the women who I work with in the Art of Being a Woman, my godmother's mother, 4 colleagues, my friend from college who is a Dominican sister, my mother, a friend with an ill husband, and even some of my students. Each incarnates gentle strength and beauty in a unique way, and I can only dream of partially reflecting their light. Oh, the Magdalene Sisters go here, too.

4. The real crush. I don't need to define this. And I won't give away who mine are, just yet. :)

Who do you "crush" on?

May 14, 2011

It's Been Awhile

Well, as I told Agatha the other day on my porch, it's been awhile since I've posted. I could blame work: stacks of grading just keep getting bigger. I could blame my social life: it's been filled with coffee dates, drink dates, softball games, and work outings. I could blame any number of things. But really, I just have wanted to process my life in silence.

When we started this blog, nearly three years ago, I was just entering the "real world" after graduating with a Master's degree. There was so much to navigate: living in a new city, dating (and oh how funny those stories were), figuring out what a single life was supposed to look like, learning how to deal with bosses and colleagues, and so much more.

But now, as I get older, some of those experiences have given me answers to the questions I was previously asking, so I'm not really asking them anymore! Sure, I'm still single, but more mature and settled in my adulthood. I am still at the same job, but confident in how I have been deepening my experiences there and growing as a teacher and woman in Christ.

After a silent retreat earlier this year, I've begun to wonder whether or not to publicly process my intimate thoughts here. To be sure, I'm taken much more to prayer, and so maybe that is why I have been silent.

So, time will tell whether or not I get chatty on here again. For the time being, I keep you in my prayers!

May 13, 2011

Loves by Scott Cairns

I was introduced to the poet Scott Cairns by a friend and classmate of Julian's who is undergoing a dangerous surgery today. We'd love it, if you can, to say a quick prayer for him, his wife, his surgeons, and his family.

Magdalen’s Epistle
from Loves by Scott Cairns (via)

Of Love’s discrete occasions, we
observe sufficient catalogue,
a likely-sounding lexicon

pronounced so as to implicate
a wealth of difference, where reclines
instead a common element,

itself quite like those elements
partaken at the table served
by Jesus on the night he was

betrayed—like those in that the bread
was breakable, the wine was red
and wet, and met the tongue with bright,

intoxicating sweetness, quite
like ... wine. None of what I write arrives
to compromise that sacrament,

the mystery of spirit graved
in what is commonplace and plain—
the broken, brittle crust, the cup.

Quite otherwise, I choose instead
to bear again the news that each,
each was still itself, substantial

in the simplest sense. By now, you
will have learned of Magdalen, a name
recalled for having won a touch

of favor from the one we call
the son of man, and what you’ve heard
is true enough. I met him first

as, mute, he scribbled in the dust
to shame some village hypocrites
toward leaving me unbloodied,

if ill-disposed to taking up
again a prior circumstance.
I met him in the house of one

who was a Pharisee and not
prepared to suffer quietly
my handling of the master’s feet.

Much later, in the garden when,
having died and risen, he spoke
as to a maid and asked me why

I wept. When, at any meeting
with the Christ, was I not weeping?
For what? I only speculate

—brief inability to speak,
a weak and giddy troubling near
the throat, a wash of gratitude.

And early on, I think, some slight
abiding sense of shame, a sop
I have inferred more recently

to do without. Lush poverty!
I think that this is what I’m called
to say, this mild exhortation

that one should still abide all love’s
embarrassments, and so resist
the new temptation—dangerous,

inexpedient mask—of shame.
And, well, perhaps one other thing:
I have received some little bit

about the glib divisions which
so lately have occurred to you
as right, as necessary, fit

That the body is something less
than honorable, say, in its
... appetites? That the spirit is

something pure, and—if all goes well—
potentially unencumbered
by the body’s bawdy tastes.

This disposition, then, has led
to a banal and pious lack
of charity, and, worse, has led

more than a few to attempt some
soul-preserving severance—harsh
mortifications, manglings, all

manner of ritual excision
lately undertaken to prevent
the body’s claim upon the heart,

or mind, or (blasphemy!) spirit—
whatever name you fix upon
the supposéd bodiless.

I fear that you presume—dissecting
the person unto something less
complex. I think that you forget

you are not Greek. I think that you
forget the very issue which
induced the Christ to take on flesh.

All loves are bodily, require
that the lips part, and press their trace
of secrecy upon the one

beloved—the one, or many, endless
array whose aspects turn to face
the one who calls, the one whose choice

it was one day to lift my own
bruised body from the dust, where, it seems
to me, I must have met my death,

thereafter, this subsequent life
and late disinclination toward
simple reductions in the name

of Jesus, whose image I work
daily to retain. I have kissed
his feet. I have looked long

into the trouble of his face,
and met, in that intersection,
the sacred place—where body

and spirit both abide, both yield,
in mutual obsession. Yes,
if you’ll recall your Hebrew word.

just long enough to glimpse in its
dense figure power to produce
you’ll see as well the damage Greek

has wrought upon your tongue, stolen
from your sense of what is holy,
wholly good, fully animal—

the body which he now prepares.

May 11, 2011


I've got a whole pile of links waiting to be posted, so here you go:

Neat analysis of the first of Titian's famous Noli Me Tangere (above) paintings shows that originally Christ was dressed as a gardener, and his back was turned to Magdalene. Read more here.

It was once looked down upon to have a career. Then it was bad to not have a career and have lots of kids. What are we supposed to think anymore? Virginia Postrel discusses this in the WSJ. Related: Is the male-female wage gap a myth? (via First Things)

We've quoted and discussed much of Kay Hynowitz's work before. Here's a interesting interview from earlier this spring about her controversial new book Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Turned Men into Boys. Related: Read her WSJ excerpt from the book.

Don't blame Ambercrombie if your girls dressing sluttily. The blame starts with the parents who fund them. So argues Pia de Solenni. And while I tend to agree, I don't think they really account enough for the profound influence of advertising and peer pressure. Related: One-third of clothes marketed to young girls are "sexy" according to a Kenyon College Study (via The Atlantic).

Since we've all been a bridesmaid way way way too many times, I wanted to suggest to you ladies this cool new service from bridesmaid company Dessy. Called New Maid you can send in your old bridesmaid dresses, and they will give you a coupon for 30% to 50% off one of their lovely LBDs. Which you really can wear again.

James Matthew Wilson has some thoughts on college administrations counseling students to live chastely.

And, after all that heavy stuff, here's a little fun via the webcomic xkcd:

May 10, 2011

Happy Birthday Jules!

I wish I had something clever to say for your birthday. Let it be simply known that you never fail in generoisty of friendship, we can always count on your prayers, your support, your love. And we're not really sure how we were so lucky to get a friend like you!

--Agatha and Edith

May 3, 2011

Book Review: How to Get to I Do by Amy Bonaccorso

With all the glory and beauty of the royal wedding fresh on our brains, there seems no better time to share with you the latest book on dating and marriage on my shelf. Amy Bonaccorso's How to Get to I Do: A Dating Guide of Catholic Women published by Servant Books is a must-read for our Catholic sisters or any of our sisters who are seeking a God-centered marriage to a good man. I knew as soon as I saw the very name “Bonaccorso” that I would be in for a treat. Although my Italian is rusty, my training in Latin reminds me that "bona‟ means good and "corso‟ means way – so I felt confident that her words would be a "good way‟ to follow. And she did not disappoint, after all she successfully navigated the crazy dating world in DC!

Amy writes a witty, humorous, and very honest how-to guide for young women who are nearly in despair as they face the increasingly insane (and oftentimes seriously scary) world of dating – including Catholic dating. The book is different from other Catholic dating books because it is more realistic, modern, and often has little sections from her husband weighing in with a male voice, which is always helpful for us ladies who are constantly wondering what the men we fall for are thinking! She reminds us that to find a good man, we need to involve ourselves in social situations that will attract them like joining faith-based groups, practicing the hobbies and activities you love, and having no fear to be yourself. She encourages women to be hopeful and courageous, after all God does not want you to be a doormat for men to walk all over (see page 112 for Amy‟s take!)

Bonaccorso starts with an interesting distinction between "dating‟ and "courtship.‟ We often hear courtship praised by many of our Catholic and non-Catholic Christian compatriots as the only redeemable way to meet your future spouse. After all, isn't dating for the promiscuous, secular world? I've even heard that if you don't have sex after the third date, a man will dump you. Why should he pay for all those dinners and not get something in return? Isn't that the dating mentality? Mrs. Bonaccorso doesn't think so (that's right, she's a recent Mrs. who wrote this book to let us all know the secrets that do in fact work in finding Mr. Fabulous!) And for the record, I don‟t think dating necessarily promotes promiscuity either, but it can be tough and discouraging to see so many men who do and who seem to expect sex in return for dinner (seriously, I've met that guy).

What Amy does not like about the courtship mentality is that it often relies on fathers to choose what man they should marry regardless of her age. According to Bonaccorso, this simply is not realistic: “A thirty-five-year-old professional woman has every right to ask her father‟s opinion about a man, but she has no business asking to him to manage her relationships for her.” (p. 7)

Although I am still unsure on the actual distinction that Amy is making between "dating‟ and "courtship‟ I think I can see the point here: the courtship mentality, at least in my experience, can sometimes lead to an over-idealistic and often time unrealistic view of marriage that can actual destroy a relationship because of unfulfilled (and unfulfillable) expectations. But she is adamant that your family and friends should have no objections to your potential spouse and that he should be incorporated in your social circles of friends and family and vice versa. After all, if he isolates you from those who love you, that is a major red flag and you should run away as fast as you possibly can.

Amy also gives touches on some subjects that we don't think about don't like to think about, like: don't be afraid to attack the issue of finances with a future spouse. What's your debt and his? What would it be combined? What's your plan for paying it off? Let's be honest, many marriages end tragically because of financial struggles. She minces no words: you must be assertive in asking your future spouse about this aspect of your lives. I could not agree more. When I was engaged (and thank God I did not get married!) I found out only weeks before the intended marriage that Peter had very staggering debt. If we had married – that would have ruined our combined credit and set us up for a lifetime of hardship (not to mention the fact that he was not honest about it in the first place!)

So much of Amy's book resonated with me – even at times bringing me to tears. For example, she tells us to beware of certain "types‟ of men who prey on good women like "the dream weaver‟ who is hypersensitive, always makes you feel like you need to walk on eggshells, or seems mentally unstable. (Could she have described my ex-fiance any more accurately?) She warns of deceptive men who pretend to respect and uphold your chastity but actually seek to break you down. She experienced them and so have we. But Amy hopes that by following her advice we can recognize these ones before becoming emotionally invested. If only I'd read this earlier…

One slightly peculiar note about Bonaccorso's advice is her positive endorsement of the online dating world. Since she met her husband this way, I suppose she should certainly feel positive about it. She writes, “Online dating is the new equalizer. All are equal in cyber space: men and women, introverts and extroverts, and people from different geographic locations. Online dating makes it possible to become acquainted with individuals you never could have met otherwise.” (p.20) Amy was so insistent that the positives outweigh the negatives of online dating, that I actually tried one for a month, but was only contacted by very old men and very strange age-appropriate ones. One of them with a very scary picture sent me a message that read only “Marry me now.” Totally weird. But Amy's experience was very different and I am sure that if I tried it for a longer duration, I may have found a diamond in the rough. But for now, I am satisfied with the traditional ways of meeting people, which Bonaccorso also covers extensively.

In the final sections of the book, Amy gives advice to the newly-engaged and marriage-preparing couples. I really appreciated her take on co-habitating since so many of our generation (so frustratingly) seem to think this is a necessary pre-engagement transition. Not so! “Don't allow the pride of some co-habitating couples to sway you. Remember that people who themselves cohabitate will secretly admire your strength for living independently.” (p. 137) Bravo! She admonishes brides not to become selfish Bridezillas who think the day revolves around them. It does not. It involves not only your husband-to-be (yep, remember him?), but your families and the entire Mystical Body of Christ. We need to treat the day as such, and moreover, treat the marriage as such as!

In short, I found How to Get to I Do an engaging read with advice I wish I had earlier and am relieved and excited to have now as I re-enter the dating world stronger, wiser, and more confident about who I am and what I want. Get yourself a copy and then get one for a friend, and be confident that Bonaccorso's wise words will indeed lead you on the "good way‟ to finding your good man.

April 29, 2011

Oh That Royal Wedding

Like most women, we Magdalenes dream of weddings. And with 1/3 of the world, we too woke up and watched the glorious ceremony of Kate Middleton and Prince William. And it was beautiful, from the smiles to the music to the hats (well, Princess Beatrice's aside) and of course that unbelievably gorgeous, iconic dress (or dresses if you count the one she wore at her reception). Her veil and tiara were utterly stunning.

It really was a beautiful wedding and you could sense the glorious joy for the bride and groom that was shared all over the world. Little tidbits I loved? How Prince Harry looked back at Kate when she arrived with her father at the Abbey and gave his brother an update ("Wait until you see her!", he purportedly whispered.) Then Prince William, beaming when he saw her whispered, "You look beautiful." And indeed she did. I also loved how he had some trouble putting the ring on her finger and if you notice, he was rubbing her finger afterward to make sure she was ok. That was sweet. And who could forget Kate's "Wow" when she saw the millions outside Buckingham Palace to see her and William? And the royal kiss - I did not care about that so much as the William's bashful, rouge-faced smile and Kate's smiling nose scrunch afterward.

I also loved the icons of Christ Pantocrator and I think Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Who thought you'd see that in Westminster Abbey? I was surprised at how much I actually liked the homily, address, and reading chosen by the couple. And I realized how much I really like the language used in the Anglican liturgy (for example, the word 'betwixt' is awesome.) But I admit, as soon as I heard the "Dearly beloved we are gathered here in the sight of God and this congregation," all I could think about was the last scene (double wedding) in the Firth/Ehle version of Pride and Prejudice. Call me cheesy, but it's the truth.

To those haters who said they could care less about the wedding, I reply that Britain really needed the patriotic boost and given all the insanity of the world today, who could help it but rejoice with this lovely couple? However, there is one thing that has been bugging me about the whole thing. Call me old fashioned, but Kate and William openly lived together for the last four years. And I think that is a scandal. What's more is that Grandma Queen Elizabeth ok'ed it (and footed the bill, which probably means that British tax dollars actually paid for it) And Archbishop of York Dr. John Sentamu also backed this decision, saying:
"We are living at a time where some people, as my daughter used to say, they want to test whether the milk is good before they buy the cow,” he said. “For some people that’s where their journeys are.
Yep, he really said it. How sad. Given the fact that Diana needed to have her virginity confirmed (and call me a crazy feminist, but I think this terrible too), it seems crazy that Grandma Elizabeth allowed and was complicit in William and Kate playing house. I am certain that the all-too-proper Queen Victoria at least was rolling in her grave.

Why does this bother me so much? Well, I came across this article by Anne Morse who reminds us about that nagging little fact that couples who cohabitate are 2/3 more likely to divorce than those who do not. And given the rocky record of William's parents, no one wants to see another nasty break up. However, it is quite evident that the couple care deeply for each other, and if they follow the advice given to them in one of their ceremony addresses about sacrificial love and seeking Christ in their marriage, then I am hopeful that we will not see an ugly divorce.

I also hope we will surround the couple in even more prayer than we did hoopla and media coverage for their wedding day. For their journey as man and wife has just begun, and we certainly wish them a life time of joy and happiness. My personal prayer for William and Kate is not only that they spend their long years in a glorious and happy marriage, but that in a few years time, we'll see Royal family photos of the two of them, surrounded by at least as many cherub faced children of their own as they had in their wedding.

Photo Credit 1

Photo Credit 2

Photo Credit 3

Prayers and Passing

Dear Readers,

What a roller coaster holy week and Easter week. My birthday was on Good Friday, but on Holy Tuesday my dear Grandmother took a turn for the worse. At 94 and having survived 2 strokes that left her speechless and wheelchair bound, we were simply all amazed at her enduring joy and resilience. The 9 day vigil began - and my Grandmother passed away yesterday, Easter Thursday at about 11:15 PM.

We had so many beautiful moments together and her own 'passion' was united to Christ in such a special way and I am confident in God's mercy upon her soul. Please keep her in your prayers.

There are so many glorious things I need to blog about: including a book review, the royal wedding (and don't worry, I will get to the royal wedding tomorrow or tonight!!) But now, I am exhausted, so I ask for your prayers.

April 23, 2011

We Wish You...

...A Blessed Triduum. May you and your loved ones know the love of Christ more deeply at this time.

April 12, 2011

A Hermit in Maryland?

Who could resist wanting to know someone with such a joyful face? That's Sr. Mary Veronica of the Holy Face--one of two canonical hermits in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Margaret Canabiss of Inside Catholic recently interviewed Sr. Mary Veronica:

t's a very contemplative lifestyle. It's not an easy life -- you give up the world. We're still in the world but not of the world. There's a lot of self-discipline involved: Other religious are in community, so they'd go to prayer together, while I go to prayer by myself. You have to touch base with someone to make sure you're staying on target and not going off the deep end in the woods by yourself -- a spiritual director, a confessor. I touch base with my pastor occasionally. So you're a loner, although you're not really a lone ranger.

The funny thing is, you don't realize that there are hermits out there until you become one, and then this whole world opens up. You find out that there are hermits everywhere, all over the world. They're not all canonical, they're not all Roman Catholic, but they're out there.


My husband John used to say, "If anything happens to me, Mary's probably going in the convent," so I think some people were expecting it more than I was. But it's still been hard for them. My son and his wife have been very supportive from the very beginning, but they just had a baby, and they live five minutes away. . . It would be so easy if I packed my bag and went to the train station and kissed everybody goodbye, but that didn't happen -- I'm still in the neighborhood. I can see them occasionally, if they come for a visit, but they can't stay for the whole day.

I gave up all of that to pray -- to live in silence and solitude and simplicity. However, I can be in contact with people: I have an e-mail address and I'm in contact with other hermits and with my son. I have a phone, but after my family and friends came to my profession Mass, it stopped ringing. I think then people really understood a lot more.

What a remarkable witness. Read the whole interview.

April 11, 2011

Just One Click...

....and a Magdalene Sisters loyal reader could win her dream wedding! Consider taking a second a voting for one of my dearest friends who has seen me through the single life. :)

Love you, L!

April 3, 2011

Prayer Request

Will you kindly pray for my father? He has to have surgery soon. I sincerely appreciate it!


March 23, 2011

Hello, Hemlines

Well, thank the Dear Lord. Designers are showcasing longer hemlines that are not only more modest, but definitely more figure-flattering for the normal-sized woman. I've got to be honest. The past few spring and summer seasons have been tough. I have loved the feminine details that are emerging...the flowers, petals, jewels, and ruffles that made their way onto dresses and cardigans...but the hemlines were significantly above the knee, making tights nearly always a necessity. Let's be honest...who wants to wear leggings or tights in the summer? Not me. And if you're like me, the lower part of your leg is an asset, while the upper should remain hidden all year round. And even though designers really embraced defining the waist, which is flattering for every woman, the hemlines still crept higher and higher.

While I've been on spring break, I've been flipping through magazines, watching What Not to Wear, and getting myself to the stores with sales, riding this trend of longer hemlines and loving every minute of it. Even pants are starting to get a higher waist and a more flattering line down the leg. Throw out those board shorts from the past years ladies, because sleek, Audrey Hepburn-like pants that grace the ankle are back in. I would say the big A word to celebrate, but it's Lent, so...Praise the Lord!

My picks for dresses:

I bought this one!

I want this one.

Next paycheck.

My picks for skirts:

Everything you could ever want.


Hello, beautiful.

My picks for tops and accessories:


Random, but fun.
Love scarves!

March 21, 2011

Archbishop Dolan is a Rockstar!

Check out this great video clip of the archbishop. What a gift to us!!!

March 19, 2011


So, I don't know much about the temperaments , but I do know that I am at least in part very melancholic. I mean, I wrote a graduate thesis on purgative suffering and its relation to hope, for goodness' sake. When given the choice, I always choose to pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. And I really love Lent. I am drawn to think of our Lord on the Cross. Not sad, not emo, just a thinker, I guess.

Yesterday I went to my parish's Stations of the Cross, and I just simply fell in love all over again with this tradition. I love the Stabat Mater, I love the genuflecting, I love the meditation on redemption found throughout the Scriptures and how they are perfected in Christ. So, here are some things I'm using to help me with my meditation. Perhaps they will be of help to you, too!

1. A Holy Hour. If you can get to Him, go!

2. Bach's Passion of St. Matthew. This just gets me right in the zone.

3. Danielle Rose's Mysteries CD: especially the reflection on the Agony in the Garden.

4. Praying the Seven Sorrows Rosary with Immaculee Ilibagiza.

Prayers for a deepened encounter with the crucified Christ!

March 15, 2011

Clearing the Desk Linkfest

Sorry for my extreme silence on the blog. Life has been busy. But I've piled up a big list of links to share with you all, and am finally together enough to post them. I am so glad Julian brought up the Kay Hymowitz article, and will write my thoughts about it shortly. But I wanted to clear the decks first of all these piled up links. The final 3 have something to do with the Hymowitz article, too.

NOBODY GETS MARRIED ANYMORE by Gerry Garibaldi, City Journal:
Here’s my prediction: the money, the reforms, the gleaming porcelain, the hopeful rhetoric about saving our children—all of it will have a limited impact, at best, on most city schoolchildren. Urban teachers face an intractable problem, one that we cannot spend or even teach our way out of: teen pregnancy. This year, all of my favorite girls are pregnant, four in all, future unwed mothers every one. There will be no innovation in this quarter, no race to the top. Personal moral accountability is the electrified rail that no politician wants to touch.

ZIONIST SECT MARRIES GAY MEN TO LESBIAN WOMAN, by Yair Ettinger, Haaretz via First Things:
Rabbis from the religious Zionist community have launched an initiative to marry gay men to lesbian women - with some surprising successes.

...Etti and Roni, both religious, were married five years ago. Though they were honest with each other about their sexual orientations from their first meeting, to the outside world, they portray themselves as a normal heterosexual couple. Today, they have two children, and are thrilled with the results.

"It's incredible," they wrote. "Six years ago, we didn't think we would ever be this happy. We thought everything was black, that we'd lost our chance of a normal life. But today, things are good for us. There are gaps, but that's true in every case. And we fill them with the great love we give to and receive from our children, and also enjoy the simple human love we give each other, such as any two people can give and receive."

SLACKING AS SELF DISCOVERY by Rita Koganzon in The New Atlantis:
Extrapolating primarily from the statistics on the increasing age of marriage and childbearing in the United States and refusing to lament them, Arnett argues forcefully that emerging adulthood is a positive development. Free from external constraints (and often supported financially by their parents), twentysomethings have the opportunity to try an array of temporary jobs, relationships, educational paths, and residences to find which of these are most to their preference. In winnowing down the options, they are also able to “find themselves,” a discovery that will serve them well as adults, assuming they ever decide to become adults. Armed with the self-knowledge gained from a decade of working at Starbucks, joining the Peace Corps, and sharing a basement studio in Brooklyn with four other emerging adults, those at the end of emerging adulthood will better make the family and career decisions they had been putting off, resulting in a future of greater life satisfaction and stability.

...If this all sounds a bit confused, fluffy, and New Agey, Robin Marantz Henig, the author of the Times Magazine piece, has Arnett’s studies and vague neuroscientific speculation about brain maturation to back it up. Emerging adulthood, she argues, isn’t merely a description of the way a narrow sliver of affluent and well-educated people are choosing to spend their twenties, but a seismic shift that will have political consequences.

THE POWERLESSNESS OF THE SINGLE WOMAN by Drs. J.R. Bruns and R.A. Richards II, in Psycology Today:
These same forbidden themes of women's desire for marriage and their frustrations with men and dating have been box office magic in recent "Chick Lit" movies like "Bridget Jones Diary " and "Sex In The City". Feelings of fear, powerlessness and alienation are safely released as long as it is in fiction or pictured on the silver screen.

It turns out that today's liberated women want to marry. The problem, as Whitehead points out, is that the social infrastructure that was designed to help young women meet marriageable men no longer exists. Once upon a time the American courtship rituals of the Senior Prom and sorority formals accomplished their task of getting young men and women paired off. That era disappeared along with platform shows, bell bottom pants and mood rings.

Since many women are pursuing marriage after they have left high school and college with their pool of available men, these single women must take on this chore by themselves. Instead of dating and mating with men they grew up with or at least shared classes with, many are now dating and mating with strangers.

This new system is tailor-made for the mirage man. He doesn't even have to promise young single women to go steady to achieve his short term goals. He either "hooks up" or is "joined at the hip." The "hook up" is friends with benefits, meaning sex without commitment. The other option is "joined at the hip", where a couple that doesn't know each other very well commits to a sexual relationship and spends all their time together. Neither hooking up or being joined at the hip leads to many strong relationships that can weather the storms of life...

SEX IS CHEAP by Mark Regnerus in Slate:
We keep hearing that young men are failing to adapt to contemporary life. Their financial prospects are impaired—earnings for 25- to 34-year-old men have fallen by 20 percent since 1971. Their college enrollment numbers trail women's: Only 43 percent of American undergraduates today are men. Last year, women made up the majority of the work force for the first time. And yet there is one area in which men are very much in charge: premarital heterosexual relationships.

When attractive women will still bed you, life for young men, even those who are floundering, just isn't so bad.

ON DATING NICE CATHOLIC GIRLS by Max Lindeman on Patheos:
I was approaching carved-wood status, though not quietly, when I met—really met—my first nice Catholic girl. It was at a vocational discernment retreat. I was standing on the monastery porch, peering through the French doors toward the living room, wondering whether I should bolt now and apologize later, or vice-versa. I heard tires on gravel. Turning, I saw a girl step out of a Honda wearing a tight pair of jeans. They were not, I hasten to add, skinny jeans; they were cut '80s-style, high at the waist.
When the girl faced me, I saw that her glasses, too, were cut in the style of the Reagan Revolution: square, in every sense. But her legs—timeless. Perhaps her ensemble seems to spell out a mixed message? Not for me. I read: I am beautiful, but either don't know, or don't care.

Why, you could be my vocation, I thought, as she skipped past me, smiling.

It's moments like this when I love the Church. The world condemns bolts of magical thinking as lunacy. The Church dignifies them as the beginning of discernment. In I went.

March 14, 2011

Motherhood in Modernity

Just to start off: I am not pregnant. But one day, once I find a good man and marry him, I most certainly hope to be. Many times over, God willing. I have been learning so much about the difficulty of raising children in today's society from my wonderful "mommy" friends. I have one friend who got pregnant as a teen-ager, married the child's father and now has 5 kids! God has graced their marriage abundantly. She is a rock star as far as I am concerned. She is raising them to be gentle to each other; she homeschools; she nurtures: again, she is a rock star! But she is also quite young (27-28ish) and takes a lot of slack from others, including other mothers! "Oh, you have your hands full!" (To which she quite appropriately replies, "Actually, I don't. Look (open palms). They are empty!") Or the "Are they all yours? But you are so young!"

Oh, the trials of modern motherhood! And often times, society certainly does not encourage those of us who want to be mothers. I remember reading in a woman's magazine some years ago an article about having children. There was a photo of a mother with several children at the beach. The mother was holding a baby in one arm and was watching over two other little ones as they played about in the splashing waves. Sounds idyllic, right? Well, it should have been, but the mother was overweight and billowing out of her bathing suit under the headline: HAVING BABIES MAKES YOU FAT. So much for encouragement, world! Thanks! (According to my mommy friends, baby weight does in fact come off.)

So, when a friend of mine sent me this disturbing recent story, my initial reaction was much like when I was forced to read Kate Chopin's The Awakening....barftastic. (And yes, I have certified that word!) This is the story of one Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, who is a mother of two and (was at one time) we can assume happily married. But here she is (at the video clip linked above) shamelessly promoting herself and her latest book about how she left her family after taking a fellowship to study in Japan and then realized "why she never really wanted to be a mother anyway." She then in the next breath states that her children are fine and normal...meaning that they presumably find it emotionally (not to mention morally!) acceptable not only that their mother has written a book detailing how being their mother stifled her, but then went on national television to say the same thing. But don't worry, the kids are fine.... Who is she kidding?

Ms. Rizzuto states that motherhood was just too "all-encompassing" and she left her two young children and husband of 20 years to go essentially find herself in Japan. After an eye roll, a head-shake, and a shriek of "Are you serious?" I decided to take her seriously. Perhaps she does bring up a valid point about women feeling pressure to maintain the perfect household at all times. Maybe such a fear is contrived. I don't know. But her Nietzschean garbly-gook about having to find what was best for her is very disturbing indeed, and I think it reflects some of the very real failings of our society today: the contraceptive mentality, the hook-up culture, etc. all point to one teaching: I am the only who matters. And this is very disturbing. Very disturbing indeed.

Then we have the equally disturbing celebrity gossip magazines touting about which Kardashian is going to have "a baby on her own" or the story about Nicole Kidman who just had a baby with surrogate. What is wrong with us? Are our babies just a cute accessory that we carry around to give the paparazzi something to snap at? And a surrogate? Not to mention that is Catholic Nicole Kidman who did this! For any of you readers who might be thinking about egg donation, implantation, or being a surrogate, I urge you to watch the documentary Eggsplotation about the latest form of exploiting women and children.

Stories like these always bring to mind the fundamental questions of what it means to be a woman, and particularly what it means to be a Catholic woman who is a witness to femininity in the world today. I think we have a particular vocation to love as Christ did: in giving of ourselves to others. If we, like the Ms. Rizzutos of the world, feel stifled and unable flourish in our individuality in giving of ourselves, then perhaps we are not giving in the first place. Perhaps we are just like the celebrities who use their children as accessories or a photo-op.

One of my favorite mom stories is a little passage in the Gospel of Matthew. It is the passage from Matthew chapter 8, verses 14 and 15. It is about Peter's mother-in-law who was sick with fever and Christ heals her. Immediately, she gets up and ministers to them. And this is NOT stifling to her individuality nor insulting to her femininity. It is the perfect expression of what we are called to do: serve the Lord and others in the Lord, starting with the members of our own families. Let's pray especially that some of our more confused sisters will recognize this feminine privilege!

Photo Credit

Two Cents.

It's been a few weeks since the publication of Kay Hymowitz's article, "Where Have the Good Men Gone?" Comments have been posted, responses have been written. In a sense, there's not much else to say. In my estimation, Hymowitz is dead-on in her description of what is now called "pre-adulthood" - the twentysomething (or thirtysomething) who is free of familial obligations, is professionally successful and financially stable, and is well-educated. The milestones that used to mark adulthood for men and women -- providing for one's wife and children, taking care of a household, and bearing children, are not being met. To be sure, these other things are certainly goods in themselves, and serve to better society in some substantial regard. I, for one, am very proud of my graduate degree and my profession as a teacher of young women. It does feel good to be earning a competitive salary, and to hold my head up high in a room filled with other men and women my age, proud of my accomplishments and interested in those of the people in my company. These experiences we are having in pre-adulthood, well, at least some of them, give our lives some color and interest.

However, Hymowitz is also right that advertisers, marketers, and entertainers are all tempting us to give into desires for superficiality which is easy and experiences that are fleeting with no-strings-attached, distracting us from our most visceral area of vulnerability -- the desire to be loved. Though Hymowitz describes what is going on, she doesn't provide the way out:

What explains this puerile shallowness? I see it as an expression of our cultural uncertainty about the social role of men. It's been an almost universal rule of civilization that girls became women simply by reaching physical maturity, but boys had to pass a test. They needed to demonstrate courage, physical prowess or mastery of the necessary skills. The goal was to prove their competence as protectors and providers. Today, however, with women moving ahead in our advanced economy, husbands and fathers are now optional, and the qualities of character men once needed to play their roles—fortitude, stoicism, courage, fidelity—are obsolete, even a little embarrassing.

No matter what demographic or sociological shift occurs, or what milestones are or aren't met, men and women, more than boys or girls, desire to be in loving relationships that are deeply satisfying. I don't think anyone in their right mind would claim that single men or women stuck in this limbo are particularly happy. At this point, it's not a matter of shifting the blame from one sex to the other, or to the act of sex itself. It's a matter of cultivating relationships of charitable friendship, calling one another to "man (or woman) up," and to meet milestones in the formation of character. Even if masculine and feminine virtues are said to be outdated, they are ingrained in our humanity, and will find a way back into society, if only we would have the "fortitude, courage, and fidelity" to try.

March 8, 2011

March 7, 2011

On Dating, "Frenemies," and 40 Days for Life

So, I have decided. Even though I certainly continue to pray for my future husband, whenever I should meet him, I simply don't have time for dating right now. I had three parking tickets in a week and almost burned my house down because I was so tired that I passed out while cooking something on the stove. My life is so busy going between three cities, that I decided dating is not an option - who has time to foster a romantic relationship when I cannot even remember to pay my parking meter. Not Edith.

However, I have been working to foster female friendships. I think these are such important relationships for us as single women. Say what you will about Margaret Mead, but I just heard a quote from her that hit the nail on the head: "There is a special place in hell for a woman who won't help another woman." And I think she is right. That is why this whole concept of "frenemies" makes 0% sense to me. To those of you who don't know, a "frenemy" is someone who acts like your friend, but secretly hates you behind your back. You can read about the phenomenon here (warning: since the whole entire thing is kind of trashy, don't be alarmed that this article is linked to Cosmopolitan magazine - one of its editors wrote the book).

Let me explain. I have been reading from Wendy Shalit's Girls Gone Mild wherein she discusses the importance of fostering a woman's authentic sense of self. This authentic sense of self is warped, according to Shalit, when women are forced to take the "bad girl" oversexualized persona that is so jammed into our brains in this culture: think Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Kesha, Rihanna. Each one of these pop singers has one thing in common: sex. That is how they define their music, and that is what is incessantly blaring out of our radios.

I mean - I am going to go on a bit of a rant here - Rihanna's latest song is about how she loves Sado-masochism. Rihanna has a song where she belts out that she wants her lover to make her feel like she is the only girl in the world, the one who is in control, and the only one who makes her one night stand feel like a man. Through out the song, you get the sense that while she is desperately begging her lover to make her feel like the only person in the world who matters, when she wakes up the next morning, the feeling will be gone. And, just in case you were in any doubt, it will be gone in the morning - and he will too. Do I even need to talk about the others?

But, I digress. The point at hand was to explain why the concept of the "Frenemy" a. makes no sense to me and b. is linked to rampant promiscuity in women. You see, when a woman treats herself as a sex object, she actually becomes more shallow, less confident, and becomes obsessed with pleasing men. That is why many modern womens' magazines revolve around fashion, make-up, and sex - because really, if all you are is an object, what is left to talk about anyway? When women are encouraged to be sexual objects, they not only lose the ability to appreciate the goodness in men (they become jaded and lose hope in finding true love), they also lose the ability to bond with one another and see one another as sexual competitors. Hence, they become "frenemies." Scary world indeed.

As single women, I think we have a responsibility to foster authentic friendships with one another - the kind of friendship that builds a person up, that encourages gifts, talents, strengths, and yes - the kind of friendship that is genuinely happy when a friend accomplishes something awesome and when a friend finds a good man. In this way, we can help to build a civilization of love that respects the life of every person.

This Lent, I am observing the 40 Days for Life in Chicago. It is my hope to build friendships through this prayer and fasting campaign. I hope to build a better friendship with Christ as I discern my vocation and to foster friendships with all my fellow sojourners - both male and female. I believe that by fostering authentic human relationships, we can, by the grace of God, change people hearts about abortion. We are not frenemies. No, indeed we are not. We are called to love, as St. Paul tells us in Romans 12: "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves."

February 27, 2011

I Want This Dress

I know she's 14 or something, but I LOVE this.

February 19, 2011

Dating, Mating, and More

Well, thanks, Edith, for getting a conversation going on my favorite topic: the adventures and misadventures of dating as a Catholic woman in today's world. The Magdalene Sisters have a rather lengthy conversation about it already (sadly chronicling most of my misadventures), so if you've just joined us, feel free to catch up! And thanks to all of our new visitors and the comments you shared. I really cracked up, but was also forced to take a good look at my own approach to this part of my life.

1) I tend to be one of those women who was referenced who might be saying contradictory things and even embodying contradictory things in her life. I often say to my girlfriends, "I wish these guys would just ask us out to coffee, dinner, or on a single date. A date doesn't mean we want to get married, or we're going to stalk him on Facebook, or create a shrine to him in our bedrooms. A date is a date." But at the same time, when I am asked on a date, I find myself unable to leave a date as a date. A woman can easily slip into anticipation of the follow through on his end. And not just normal excitement, but a real, yearning anticipation. It is hard for us, when we are treated like a lady, which can be rare, to not want to soak that up. It does whet our appetite, both for good and ill. And single dates can come along rarely. Maybe if it were the 1950's and women were regularly asked out by various men then a date could just be a date. But it's not that way today. The difficulty for the feminine heart is to stay emotionally disciplined while not denying her desire to be pursued. If anyone has figured out a "how-to" on this, please let me know.

2). Like Edith I have a "texter" in my life right. I'm not sure if we're friends, or possibly more. We always have fun together. We never talk about dating. Our relationship has been slow and steady, and I'd say we're growing in comfort with one another. I got frustrated a few months ago, because I was doing the majority of inviting to drinks or group outings. He always showed up and paid me attention, but was never initiating anything (well, rarely I'd say). Now, like clockwork, he texts me every two weeks just to "check in," "say hello," or ask me out for a drink. But every two-three weeks is not really a follow through if it's been like that for 6 months. Maybe in his mind this is persistence. Maybe we're just friends. It doesn't feel like it's a pursuit. And that's okay. I just wish I could look this up in a reference book and know what it is.

3) Recently our very own "Catholic Ken" was brought up in a conversation. My male friend who is friends with him offered, "Why would Ken want to get married? He's the center of the social scene down here. He has the attraction and admiration of both guys and women. That's hard to give up." I feel for Catholic Ken (and all of the Ken's). Men in general seem to have trouble in our culture of making the decision to settle down. It must be really scary and foreign for them. As women we should figure out how to subtly help them and challenge them to take a leap in their own lives toward the unknown. If only we all had pink convertibles to swing by, pick them up, and head to Barbie's Dream House for a chat...

February 14, 2011

For Edith and Julian

Happy Valentine's day, dear friends! I love you!

It's a Date!

Oh, what a wonderful conversation we have been having, readers, about dating, men, women, and the single life. I suppose Valentine's day is a great day to resurrect the conversation! First of all, a tremendous THANK YOU to Dawn Eden for this shout out. Can I just tell you it made my whole week? Maybe even my year?! Interestingly, I went to a phenomenal conference at Notre Dame this past Friday where Dawn was speaking...but her talk was Saturday and I was only there bummed! Luckily, I asked a friend of mine who was there to have her sign my book to Edith Magdalene! And she did! It was awesome! I will definitely be using the insights from the conference in these posts throughout the week!

I thought first I would recap some of our readers major points: you brought up so many great ones, that it would be really hard to reply all in one post!

First, Commentator andersonrc1 brought up a great point about whether or not women should be straightforward with men on a date or risk being considered too intimidating. And Commentator Lianna asks if the problem is with what seems to be a lack of maturity on the part of the men - and I had a great insight to this during a talk given by Wendy Shalit, whom you might know as the author of Girls Gone Mild. I can't wait to share!

Next, we had a couple of guy perspectives. Commentator Aaron gives us a great and really funny guy perspective of the Crazy Catholic Female types! He writes:
There is the "I want him to do all the pursuing" woman. (Man hears, "I will faint in his arms and make him carry me everywhere." Man asks, "Do I have to do everything?") There is the "Babies! I'm desperate to make babies!" woman. (Man asks, "Am I just a gene factory? And isn't next week a little early for a wedding?") Then there's the "I am a professional adult woman of serious tastes and interests and I deserve to be taken seriously." (Man hears, "I am a borderline feminist and probably too good for you and maybe not that interested in marriage at all.") And all of those women may be the same person. So his reluctance to formalize plans may be an attempt to let the Professional Woman be a partner in planning. Or he may be doing elaborate things (which suggest more commitment than he's actually got right now) in an attempt to meet the Fainting Woman's expectations. Or he may be trying to signal to the Babies Woman that he too would like to have babies, but can we put off naming them until we're at least engaged? And he may be changing his tack mid-course, trying to adjust as the various facets of this woman wax and wane. So cut him just a little slack.
The best part about this, Aaron, is when you say that all of these 'types' might be happening in the same woman all at once! I was laughing so hard! And I hope you have lots of daughters too, so that they can tell you how wonderful you are!

Éamonn reminds us about the necessity of honesty and openness in our relationships, and I think too, that his post also calls to mind that we are indeed unique persons, and my stereotypes are just partially true as they might be :-)

Finally, Christopher questions the whole 'dating' scene all together and suggests that maybe courtship should be the order of finding a suitable spouse. This one has given me the most food for thought, and I will be reflecting on this for the rest of the week. Happy SAINT Valentine's day!! Know that I love and am praying for each one of you!

So, tomorrow I will (try to!) tackle the ladies' replies...then hit the gentlemen's later in the week!
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