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

February 4, 2011

The Catholic Dating World

A few months back, I remember talking with Julian and Agatha about A. How we were sick of being single. (Well, actually, Agatha is much better on this score than Julian and I!) B. How we were sick of writing about being single and C. How the Catholic dating world in their city was sort of...comical, awkward and slightly dysfunctional. And now that I have started to at least be open to the prospect of dating again, I too, have to agree that in my city, that the Catholic dating scene is really a little comical.

After chatting with my Magdalene Sisters and my Catholic girlfriends at home, I'd like to describe the laughable 'archetypes' I have been finding in the Catholic dating scene. Here is one that I have experienced personally.

1. The Guy Who Asks for Your Number But Only Sends Text Messages Suggesting a Potential Date-at-Some-Unknown-Time-in-the-Maybe-Near-Future.

He seems really nice and very personable. He then finds the courage to ask for your number! Awesome! But instead of calling for a date, he relies on the fact that he'll see you around with the group of mutual friends. But when he does see you out, he might rigidly make light conversation. Then, he ignores you and talks to seemingly every other girl in the room but you. Then immediately after you leave the event, he texts you telling you that he really missed the opportunity to talk with you and thinks you two should plan on going out for coffee sometime soon. Rinse and repeat for about 3 weeks.

This happened to me with the guy I mentioned in my previous post. Why did he even ask for my number? What was going on with these text messages, but no phone call? Bottom line: He's just not that interested, so delete his number, DO NOT reply to texts, and be cordial and lady like when you see him in group settings.

2. The Hang Out and Flirt In a Group Setting Guy and Maybe Ask You for Some Pseudo Dates.

I have had no experience with this guy, but he is the major gripe of all my Catholic girlfriends. He forges a friendship with a girl and usually sees her in group setting activities. He'll then maybe ask her to accompany him for something, but the sense is that you are not really sure if this is a date or not. He never brings it up, but just leaves things open-ended, ambiguous, and feeling...unsure. He may even spend the whole time you are together talking about last night's party or talking about other people in your group of friends, but never really seems like he is seeking to get to know you better. Bottom line with him: After a couple dates like this: he probably is not interested. Don't accept another one.

3. Catholic Ken

Ah, Catholic Ken seeking the perfect Catholic Barbie - the one who, as Julian mentioned hearing one man say, is seeking the ideal woman who is both a "super model and daily communicant." Wow. Just wow. This man might have all the right credentials on paper, but at the end of the day, he's just a little superficial.

I caught a glimpse of such a guy at a recent pro-life event when a friend of mine pointed him out to me. "That's Catholic Ken, and he is on the prowl for a wife. However, he is only looking for Catholic Barbie. He really is great: A good Catholic and he's super involved in the pro-life movement. But, he only talks to girls who like a Barbie doll."

Well, I must not qualify, because he definitely did not look twice at me! (And being a short, dark haired Sicilian, it's easy to see how I don't qualify as Barbie material!)

3. The TOB Idolizer

Now, before you jump down my throat, let me first say that Theology of the Body is AWESOME! But sometimes, it's so easy to take some aspects of it and run into an idealized view of a perfect marriage and forget that we live in the world. And I recognize that both men and women are guilty of this! We get so much great news about the Divine and what it means to be made in the image of the Divine, that we can easily forget about the every-day-ness that life brings with it in relationships.

This guy idolizes the archetypal pre-lapsiarian Eve so much (remember, this is Eve pre-fall - and not the new Eve) and believes every woman should be just like her. She should be on a pedestal, perfect, pure, virginal, innocent, and basically be Venus de Milo. Chaste women seeking purity, innocence, virtue, and safeguarding their virginity should not spurned, to be sure. That's not my intention. But sometimes this guy forgets that women can sin too, and that they too can fall victim to the lies of our over-sexed culture.

I know, I know, this post makes me seem cynical. But I am not. I am 100% laughing at it all, sort of like Jane Austen as she observed her world. I recognize that these men are human too, and that there is a lot of pressure on men as well: especially regarding purity, so it's easy to see how some guys can err on the side of being too idealistic in this regard.

To prep myself to re-emerge into this oh-so-frustrating world of dating, I picked up Dawn Eden's The Thrill of the Chaste (did I mention I ran into her last year when visiting Agatha? I was so star struck, I could not speak!) I read it before a few years back, but this time I am getting much more out of it. She makes a distinction in the book between being a single woman and being a singular woman. Essentially, the single woman is on the prowl, looking for fulfillment in a man, but never finding satisfaction because she really is self-seeking. The singular woman exudes confidence, charm, and gratitude towards others and simply has fun being herself with whomever she is with. Here is a quote that really put this distinction into perspective for me.

A single woman, in seeking a husband, feels the need to act in a coy, sly, or deceptive manner-even if she normally would never think of intentionally misleading someone.... Likewise, she accepts a level of superficiality from a man she's dating that she wouldn't tolerate from her friends. She's not stupid-she just loses perspective when facing the possibility of a relationship.... A singular woman behaves with an honesty and lack of guile that will appear arresting to the love interest who expects a superficial relationship-as well it should. With her words and actions, she is speaking a deeper language, one that can be understood only by the kind of man for whom she longs - one of integrity. Such a man will understand that the singular woman's straightforwardness and absence of pretense is rooted in a deep respect for him as a fellow child of God.
Thrill of the Chaste, p. 23

Dawn Eden's words struck me with new freshness on this reading, especially in light of the past year's experiences. I know that I poked fun at the awkward archetypes of guys (and trust me, women probably have worse ones and many more!), but I am really trying to keep an open mind, remembering that, as Dawn Eden says, a deep respect for Mr. Right as a child of God is a necessary approach for any date. In fact, it's the only approach to find him.
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andersonrc1 said...

Great post. I am not Catholic and I am not single, but this really rings true with what my experience was, and what I observe in my girl friends' relationships. Funny, and poignant.

I will say, that I really liked how Dawn Eden put the description of acting purposefully and straightforwardly... however, I have found that culturally being straightforward is pretty disconcerting to others (to put it mildly), and can often be downright off-putting or intimidating. Not that we should stop being straightforward...

Any thoughts?

Lianna said...

It feels like guys just don't grow up. I think that they do need to be more straightforward, as this post says. If they're interested, they should pursue the girl. If not, then why are they flirting and asking for her number with no intention of follow up? I guess I just don't understnad. It would be nice to have a male perspective on this!

רחל (Rachel) said...

I came across your blog through Dawn's. :) Enjoyed the post!

not a minx, a moron, or a parasite said...

Love it! Ah, dating and the single life...

(Also came across your blog through Dawn's! )

Aaron said...

[Enter the male perspective.]

A good post, and mostly spot on... As a man who has been guilty of being types #1 and #2 before a few comments may be in order.

The Guy Who Sends Texts may be worthless. Or he may just be shy. Or a bit overawed by this amazing woman he's met. See his bet and raise it. Take him up on his vague coffee date and tell him to call you to decide on the place/time. If he's a keeper, he'll make the call; if he's wishy-washy, he'll be scared off and you'll save three weeks. (And just refuse to text. Life's so much better without it.)

Again, the Guy Who Asks on Pseudo Dates may be lame. Or shy. Or he may have heard that women don't like men who go to fast and he's desperately trying to get the pace right (and perhaps failing in the process). Some people are very willing to dance the dance of escalating commitment, but they need to do so in baby steps. So give him little openings, opportunities to clarify things. If he's a keeper, he'll take 'em. You don't need to do all the work, but help him out a little.

Do men need to be more straightforward? Undoubtedly. But, believe it or not, women can be confusing. 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.

Finally, I can confirm the attractiveness of the singular woman. Not only is she a better friend to men (the single woman being incapable of friendship with men, since she only wants to date them), but she's also more alluring. She looks at home in her clothes because she likes them (rather than trying to conform to someone else's standard). She moves with grace and ease and her honesty is a joy to those around her. I hope my wife and I have a lot of daughters so I can tell them each day that I think they're swell. Because not enough women believe this...

Mark Scott Abeln said...

Unfortunately, when it comes to marriage, our culture is poison, and Catholics have become so inculturated that we are not noticeably better than everybody else.

It ought to be the moral duty of every responsible adult to become an informal matchmaker. That is very tough to do when people are so individualistic and in competition with each other.

I met Dawn Eden, and she certainly appears to be a woman who practices what she preaches, giving me the impression of being singular and integrated. Certainly many men would be intimidated by a woman like Dawn. But why would a woman want to be with a man who is intimidated? Why should she lower herself to the culture?

Éamonn said...

I too came here from Dawn's (sadly semi-defunct) blog. My masculine but perhaps atypical perspective: I was a determined batchelor for years - it's nearly impossible to find a good Catholic woman in Ireland. At least, that was my experience. So I stopped looking. When I met the love of my life, it was a simple matter of talking to her like she was an intelligent human being (she is, BTW) and assuming that she had a whole range of interests and likes/dislikes that had no reference to me at all but it might be enjoyable to find out about. (It was and still is!) In the end, it was a willingness to see a person who might be a friend that lead to seeing a person who might become my spouse. That and the conversation. We were officially "together" for about a week when I asked "are we open to marriage - if all goes well?" She said she was.

It's probably worth pointing out that I was already over 30 when I met my wife - I had enough confidence to skip any inclination to play romantic games and simply to speak honestly. My wife had a varied and sometimes tough set of experiences in her life that lead her to speak truthfully rather than in a couqettish way.

It took me (she tells me) three months & five days to propose, and it took her 0.75 seconds to say "I will". Honesty was very important, so was being straightforward but there is always room for a certain reserve. Don't fall into the trap of calling a spade an "effing" shovel in an effort to force intimacy. Also, talk. If you can talk for 5 hours but it only feels like 5 minutes, you're probably on to something good.

Jennie said...

Haha, classic. Love the nicknames for the TOB idolizer and Catholic Ken!

Keep your sense of humor about it all!

Sarah said...

I almost laughed out loud in the library reading this. You have definitely nailed it with "Catholic Ken" and "TOB Idolizer." Since I am not Catholic Barbie(blond, cute, gives perky inspirational speeches about pro-life and TOB issues)they always made me feel inadequate. Hooray for short people of Sicilian descent!

Christopher said...

I am of the thought that catholics need to re-think the idea of dating, which I think is actually not the best way for future spouses to meet and interact. It seems that christians have incritically accepted this from the popular culture as the way to meet and interact with a potential spouse. In the past you would often know the person fairly well through some context and over a long period of time, e.g. by being friends, neighbors, through the families knowing each other, etc.

Dating really is a more recent, modernist phenomenon- the notion that you meet someone whom you may not know at all or a little, then do activities for the purpose of just trying to get to know them, and hope that something develops from it.

There are many pitfalls here: emphasis on more superficial elements- as you don't know them- so are first attracted by elements other than a communion of heart and mind; tendency for people not to be truly themselves for fear of scaring the other person away; the emotional wear and tear, especially for women; and many other elements if there were room to list them here.

Consider alternatives such as befriending many people of the opposite sex and getting to know them, their values; having a freindship with a communion of mind and will, which is the most important thing. Then if one senses something more than friendship with one of them, start a true courtship and proceed to fill in the gaps with the "little things". So the order of things is perhaps what it should be- start with the fundamental values.

I think this is why we see efforts such as on-line or other "dating" services/groups: they start with a foundation of similar values then go from there.

vh.hayes said...

Edith this is FANTASTIC! I only just came upon this blog today. What you have posted is exactly what my sisters and I talk about EVERY NIGHT! We are all committed Catholic women in our twenties and all single. Just waiting (and looking) for the guy that God has for us. But oh man, do we come across some interesting ones. The Catholic dating circle in our city is very much the same. And I am so glad that it is not only us that think this or come across it. This typical types made my laugh so hard! Thank you for a great read!

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