Thursday 20 May 2021

The Vocation to Wait

A thoroughly depressing pair of articles about Single Life in Crisis this week.  In the debate about whether or not Single Life is a "vocation", the articles are firmly on the "NO" side. 

Back in 2006 when I began to blog about Single Life, I was sure Single Life had to be a vocation because priests said it was. When vocations directors gave us extra homilies about vocations after Mass, they always mentioned the vocation to the Single Life in passing. Naturally they were not particularly interested in the Single Life, for they were there  primarily to try to drum up vocations to the priesthood. Sometimes they would do this against a backdrop of pony-tailed altar girls, which is funny in a sardonic way, as the presence of girls on the altar discourages altar boys and therefore, 15-20 years later, new priests.  

This paragraph in the most recent Crisis article caught my attention for what it did not include:  

Prolonged singleness, for those who desire a spouse and believe they are called to marriage, is a painful trial. This is not a vocation to singleness as some folks now mistakenly say. It is a condition brought on by the actions of others, as stated by Jesus. It may also include one’s response to the sin perpetrated against him or her or it could be the culture of the society the person is living in. All these variables, plus others, can merge to keep a person single. 

The actions of others? Yes, of course. But let us admit it--and rejoice, actually, for who want to feel that helpless?--our own actions are also to blame. Naturally you don't want to hear about that when you are Single and feeling miserable about it. You need to be in a better place before you can take stock, examining your pattern of (choose one) carelessly flirtatious behaviour; drunkenness; conversation-hogging; aggressive man-chasing; treating dates as free therapy; treating dates as confessionals; shrieking; expecting reality to conform to your fantasies; and then choosing a more prudent path. 

"Shut up," I hear you shriek (watch out with the shrieking). "You smug married you! You've been married for 12 years!"

Yes, I have, and it's rather miraculous, really. I often think it was because as soon as I got to the U.K. and met Benedict Ambrose in person, God struck me down with a terrible cold so that I wouldn't talk too much. I sat around sounding exotically Canadian when I did talk, looking elegant in a blue silk and pearls, and above all looking like B.A.'s favourite singer, only 25 years younger. Men are visual, I looked right for the part, and B.A. is now trapped--ha ha ha HAAAAAA!

I also giggled an awful lot on that first visit because I felt very, very happy. My number one advice to any Single woman who is unhappy being Single is to find the joy in it--and everything else--as soon as she can. Men are attracted to happy people. Heck, people are attracted to happy people. Happiness, I am happy to say, is on you. You can do things to make yourself happy. Whatever they are, are unique to you--although Eat to Beat Disease suggests that regular consumption of dark chocolate has something to do with it. That's more good news. 

Meanwhile, becoming a man trap is a learned skill, one which some women I know have or have had in an enormous degree although this did not always solve their singleness problem, as they couldn't choose just one man. Committing to the one man must be super-tough when you are used to having many men dance around you like bees around a lilac bush. However, although the presence of a wedding ring may make them all buzz off, they often return anyway, perhaps a little relieved that you have now been rendered "safe". Buzz, buzz, buzz. 

The way to discover how women attract men is to watch how your most popular girlfriends do it. These must be girlfriends you actually respect. And I can almost guarantee that your popular yet respectable girlfriends never, ever talk about how they used to be boxers. It took me some years to learn to stop doing that. 

Anyway, I have to get to my exercise bike, but I just thought I would sprinkle some hope on the Singleness question. It is not all on other people, their sins, society's sins: there are actually some things you can do about it. I wrote a whole blog about this. Two, in fact. 

Oh, and let us not forget God's role in this. Let us entertain a theological hypothesis that, even if you don't believe there is a "Vocation to Single Life" (and to be consistent, as a trad Catholic, you can't believe in a so-called "Vocation" to Married Life either), you can believe that God has saddled you with the cross of Singleness for some mysterious purpose of His own. It could be to teach you something, like how to learn to make your own happiness. It could be to prepare you for proper gratitude in getting a spouse. It could be because God wants you to marry someone in Moscow, and you haven't learned Russian yet, but you will begin next year after God guides your steps to a Tarkowsky film. Mysterious are the ways of the Most High. 

When I was 36, I discerned that my "vocation" was to wait and see. So I did that, and two years later I was married, which still astonishes me, but there you are. I did not become a raving beauty overnight (which I always used to think was THE trick to pull off if I could manage it); all I had to do was meet the man who thought I was a raving beauty because I looked enough like Dame Emma Kirby to be her niece. I'm not even much of a singer, so--ha ha!

1 comment:

  1. When I was a child, I remember being given the "3 vocations" outline, by the nice Novus Ordo priests where we went to Mass. Even then, I always thought, "Gosh, who would choose to be single?"
    In my thirties now, taking stock of the appalling mess that is post-modern "society", I sometimes wonder if it may be a hidden blessing and grace that so many of us don't manage to marry or enter a convent until rather late in life--most of us get so messed up by the time we get to our twenties, and it can take some years to sort out. Some people manage to sort things out within the context of marriage or religious life, but many don't. Maybe some of us need to fight those battles alone, not having children dependent on us that we're involuntarily messing up in turn. Maybe we're supposed to figure things out and then use our painfully won experience to help younger people. Maybe we figure things out in time to have children of our own, maybe not. Maybe we figure it out in time to enter a monastery, maybe not.
    I dunno....I've just seen so many good Catholic (often traddy and homeschooling) parents who married young and managed to raise big families and stick together through thick and thin--but never learned to deal with their issues (due to being so busy and tired all the time?) --and just passed them on to their children.... SOMEBODY needs to be not too tired or busy to pay attention to the children's deeper needs...maybe it could be Unmarried Auntie?
    Anyway, I feel like you, Mrs. McLean, managed to make your long singleness a blessing for others, including me. And one of my greatest hopes is that my own singlesness will prove to have been a blessing for others as well.