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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Catholicism and the Single Life

It's hard to be a Catholic single.

Not because we Catholic singles are pining away, swooning in a Disney-like desire to be swept off our feet by some holographic or digital airbrushed-perfective image of Prince Charming, to go galloping off romantically into the sunset, but rather....because we're NOT! 

I don't know why, but lately, everyone around me has begun inquiring into my marital status

Most of them, oddly enough, aren't asking about my marriage status first: instead, they are asking me how many children I have! [!!!!!!!!!!!!]

For some odd reason, many people think I have children. Some know I am not married, but still, their first question put to me is about my alleged children. In our culture, children come first, apparently...even within the Catholic Church.

That's called "SCANDAL" y'all, within the proper definition of the term! Most Catholics are so scandalized that they have reversed the "standard" questions put to single women:  no longer does marriage come first, but it is ASSUMED that single women in their 30's or above are also single mothers.

I am not making this up.

This is a serious anthropological observation of our culture, and I'm not the only one to make this observation. Unfortunately, for the moment all I have to provide is colloquial evidence from other single friends as well as my own experience, so really, you'll just have to take my word for it.  However, if you look around at our culture, the line of questioning makes sense: even in my parish work I no longer assume a mother is or was married when she had her child.  All too many "families" consist of a single woman with an absent father who is either single, divorced, or now married to someone else. (And before you judge their conditions, know that many of them never foresaw this outcome, and I thank God every day that they are involved with the Church!).

I don't really want this post to be about divorce and the new mis-definition of "family", though; my interest here is on the struggles of single Catholics, and single women everywhere.

Today I read an article at MSN about the "19 Things You Should Never Say to a Single Person".

I enjoyed the article but as a caveat, I must say I don't agree with all the sentiments expressed. Most of them were commenting from a perspective of "I don't want to be Single". I come from a polar opposite angle:  I don't want to be Married and know that I am NOT SUPPOSED to be married.Therefore I approach the article from a perspective that is deeply and inherently contrary to the most radically average and typical  elements in our society: I am a freely single woman who supports the marriage of a man and woman in all its fullness, and yet believe I am not called to that particular Vocation. My belief is not detrimental or contrary to marriage, for at the very core of my own vocation, I am called from my soul to support it, and to live it out in a very different way, in a different type of formal consecration.

Therefore, without further ado, here is my take on the article:

I took this article from MSN, who reposted it from a Glamour magazine dating blogger. In bold you will find the "things not to be said", followed by my own commentary as a single Catholic woman.  Go to the article itself to see their commentary and responses to the following common comments made to Singles.
 *snark warning* 

1. It happens when you're not looking. It doesn't happen when you're looking and not looking, too. Because it's not supposed to for some of us.

2. There are plenty of fish in the sea. I like dolphins just fine and would like to swim with them, and with sharks, but I'm not sure how our marriage would work out.  Besides, fish smell worse than a locker room in the hockey area in the middle of tournament season....guess I'm not much of a sea-goer.

3. So, why are you single? Because I realized I'm not a piece of meat to be "had" by any butcher who comes along.

4. You're too picky. Yes, I am. I demand respect, I demand the ability to maintain both my chosen celibacy and chastity, and if I do go on a date, I prefer to do so with a man who is thinking with the brain in his cranium and not the one in his Levis.

5. You'll find the right person for you. Yes, I already did. His name is Jesus and He is enough for me.

6. He's out there. No, he's right HERE and I don't need some jock slobbering all over me in order to understand that I exist.

7. It was just bad timing. No, he was a jerk. That''s the kindest think I can say about him.

8. Just have fun with it! Have fun with WHAT exactly?  What are you implying? I'm NOT that kind of girl! Oh, right, that's why he broke up with me; he "wanted some" and couldn't understand why I valued marriage and thought that to be an important step in the process of active procreation.

9. Have you tried online dating? Have YOU?  FYI: if the guy is a jerk in real life, he's even worse online. "Nuff said.

10. He just wasn't the right guy for you. No, he wasn't. Thanks for pointing out the obvious. Please twist the knife he left in my back a little more, and when you're done, please store it in your foot.

11. Well, when my boyfriend and I first got together… I'm happy for you....what's your point? The fact that YOU are married doesn't indicate anything about my future or vocation.

12. When the time is right, you will meet someone.  I totally agree, and some of us met Him when we were Baptized, but it's taking us a very long time to accept His proposal...if He's actually making one. (That's the hard part.)

13. Wow, I wish I were single and in your shoes!  Maybe you should take your shoe obsession to therapy and spend more time with your husband and less time shopping for shoes that will cause you back problems in old age.  Believe me; if they don't fit me, they won't fit you.

14. Your turn next [at weddings]. Stop patronizing me. The fact that I attend a wedding should not be taken as commentary on my alleged desire to be wearing frosting in a liturgical celebration.

15. It will happen when you least expect it. Um...I'm so totally over this it's not even funny. I'm not expecting or looking for it. I've already made a vocational decision, and marriage is not on the list.

16. Some guy is going to come along and ruin your career/life plans. Yeah. I used to hear this one when I was a teen, and actually, it led me astray. Yeah, guys came and they went, and yes, they did ruin my life plans. But I can't blame them: I blame myself for being an idiot and leaving logic at the door. This is perhaps the single most murderous philosophy of the modern age.

17. But you're so pretty! Why don't you have a boyfriend? Seriously? Do I need to dignify that with an answer? REALLY?

18. It just wasn't meant to be.  No, it wasn't. I totally agree.

19. Sure, my guy rescues kids from abusive homes, donated my sister a kidney, and picks up fresh flowers for me daily on his way home from work, but will he QUIT IT with the sports on TV already?  Um...this is just stupid. Stop pretending to be feeling guilty around your single friends. We are not offended by the fact that you are called to the beautiful Vocation of Marriage. Petty complaints only make you look pathetic...they do nothing other than make we singles roll our eyes at your own rejection of the happiness you should be embracing!

All of the above is tongue-in-cheek, both on part of the article and in my own purposefully-snarky responses

I admit I'm writing out of a bit of frustration.

I'm sick of people randomly telling me that "the right guy will come along", and they all seem to have a tone of pity in their voices. To them I say that, no, the "right guy" ISN'T going to "come along", and I don't need any pity because, well...I'm not looking for him or expecting him. I haven't for years.
So many people, to include actual practicing Catholics, assume that I'm suffering as a result of my unmarried status. Many of them don't even realize that there are other options out there.

The constant challenges to my marital status have become so prolific that instead of remaining silent and rolling my eyes while smiling at people's "suggestions" that I be set up with this or that guy, I have begun to hit the questions head-on. I have decided that it's much better to be honest and just state that I'm not interested, not looking, and in fact, God has not called me to Marriage.

Often I wish I had a camera set up to capture the reactions. Yes, it does appeal to my sense of mischief, but I am not the only single woman to do and experience this admittedly unholy conundrum.

So, in answer to all the above questions and those implied by them: 

 Yes, I am Single. No, I am not languishing. No, I am not going to get married. Ever. Yes, I'm fine with that. Yes, I love men and am attracted to men, I have simply chosen to be celibate. Yes, I am offended by the implication that my celibacy implies mental and physiological disorder and wonder how you would feel if I inquired about your alleged vaginisimus or erectile dysfunction?

Oh, I'm sorry. Have I crossed a line by inquiring into your married sex life?  How is that different from questioning my striving to be chaste?

I have to say that I am tired of experiencing the pity of people who think that I suffer because I don't wear a ring on my finger. Quite honestly, I'm sick of being the object of pity and sadly clucking tongues belonging to people who would do better to learn about what's really going on the Church as a whole as opposed to spreading and commenting on the latest inaccurate gossip in their limited social circle

My friends, we need to do more to promote Vocations within the Church. Many of the faithful, far TOO MANY aren't aware that Vocations are exploding, that there ARE options beyond marriage, and good Catholic women are being called!

I may not yet know my place on this pilgrimage, but I am happy with the knowledge that at least I have begun to own it. I know what I am NOT called to be, and this frees me to embrace the other open options. I don't have to look over my shoulder wondering about "what could have been." I've been down that road; I know it has nothing for me.

My sights, and my sails, are pointed to Christ. Perhaps I knew a few years ago where I was headed as I held up every eligible man I met to the image of Christ...and saw that none of them would ever hold a candle to Him. None of them would ever die for me. None of them would remember me once I was out of their sight and actually...I wouldn't remember them, either.

But I couldn't forget Jesus. I couldn't forget Our Lord.

I couldn't let go of Him.

Yes, I am single. I have not yet found the form of Consecration to which I have been Called, but I know that it's there...and that is enough for me.

The pilgrimage goes on...

*This Snark has been brought to you by Adoro te Devote. Any resemblance to real persons or events is purely coincidental or entirely purposeful. May be too intense for some readers. Not responsible for direct, indirect, consequential or or incidental damages resulting from misunderstanding of original intention. Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear. May contain nuts.* 


Anonymous said...

First off, plenty of people have "families" that are a single parent and kids, myself included. It's not the setup we envisioned, but even though we are not a traditional nuclear family, we are a family and we are not lesser for it.

But I am with you on the single questions and comments - people are completely out of line to pry or assume. I really wish open-ended, non-impositional questions would catch on among church people. As in poor questions to ask: Are you new? Are you married? Why not?
Better choices: Do you come here often? Do you have a family? What do you want to do with your life?

Adoro said...

eighthsacrament ~ I'm from a divorced family, raised mostly by Mom, and like it or not, we ARE lessor for it. Not in dignity, but we are deprived of what should have been. It's a consequence of a fallen world, and we become the shattered pieces of it. Not, it's NOT what we envisioned, nor what God desired, but it is what we as humanity chose and suffer. So be it.

On the prying questions and assumptions...they're bad across the board. Married people suffer others commenting on their reproductive systems: "Have more kids!" "Have fewer kids, you're ruining the planet!".

Seriously, I'm amazed at what people think they can say to others they DON'T EVEN KNOW!

The question regarding marriage, "Why aren't you married" has caused me much consternation. What do they want to hear? That no one would ever have me? That I'm too ugly? That I'm so pretty no one would approach me? That I have scales in place of skin? That I breathe through gills in my skull? WHAT?

Seriously, does that question have a right answer? LOL!

Anonymous said...

I am a former Catholic due to unwarranted divorce. Thus being more Catholic than the Pope, I too remain celibate.

Some of your comments cracked me up and I can always use and appreciate biting humor.

I respect, very much, your choice to remain observant of Christ's ways. Keep it up(in deference to you apparent sense of humor I would not have said that to you if you were a male or, maybe, I just might have).

God bless you in your journey with Him.

Pray for those of us who love the Church but find her more unfaithful than our spouses, who she encourages in their adultery. Pray for the Pope, he listens far too much to himself, to the clergy he trusts but not enough to those who have defended their marriages against the Catholic annulment machine.

Jennifer said...

Hip Hip Hooray!
Hip Hip Hooray!
Hip Hip Hooray!

Love it. Absolutely love it. I believe I'm called to marriage and not religios life, but either way I am content and satisfied with the single life God has planned for me for this time. Although I get the opposite of what you seem to get - people tend not to ask me if I'm having kids so much as when I'm entering the convent! A few (who irritate me greatly) call me "Sister" - um, no. Not a Sister, please reserve for the title for actual sisters!

Thanks for sharing!

paramedicgirl said...

That was a fun commentary! Would love to actually hear it being said!

Fr. John Mary, ISJ said...

Ah, ha, ha, ha, ha!!
You hit the "bull's eye", here Adoro!
Good for you!
We were created to be loved and to love unconditionally...not to be characters on "Sex in the City" (how do I know about that? peripherally; believe's just an analogy!)
God is everything; how we make that commitment is according to His call...and the "options" in the world are pretty lame.
Jesus wants our complete self; He wants our heart.
He will show us the way...we are made for unconditional (divine) love...not for something else.
You are spot on!

Melody K said...

Good ones, Adoro. Sometimes people show themselves lacking in empathy and common courtesy. They're probably the same ones who make helpful comments at a funeral, such as "It was God's will", or "She had lived her threescore and ten, and then some!"

Banshee said...

I think people think the children question is less controversial than the marital status one, and will naturally lead to revelations of marital status. I hope that's all it is. And yes, they do ask me that all the time.

I wish we'd go back to "Do you have any family around here?" Vague and openended is good.

Larry Denninger said...

That I breathe through gills in my skull?

You do?? That is so cool!!

Good post, Adoro. I don't comment here much, but this one resounds with honesty, humor and snark, and those qualities deserve a bit of recognition.

Adoro said...

Larry ~ yes, the secret is out. *sigh* I breathe through gills in my skull. The great irony is that this gift is what made me such an awesome swimmer but because it is a huge biological abnormality, the Coast Guard rejected me as a candidate. *sigh*

So...glad you liked the post! I don't like to do a lot of snark but sometimes it's just plain fun!

And in the words of Forrest Gump's mama, what's a little snark "if it don't hurt nobody"? ;-)

Miria Rose said...

Thank you so much for this post. I'm also a young Catholic woman who has a vocation to celibacy but is still living in the world and I greatly appreciate this post. God bless you as you continue your discernment. You are in my prayers.

Totus tuus Maria! Let's see what the good God wills.