Tuesday, November 01, 2005

"For all the saints," I have two questions.

I came across an interesting essay yesterday at Traditio in Radice entitled "Things I Wish I'd Known About Dating, Part I." I've got two (sincerely motivated) questions for W's readers, and I hope they are good enough to give their kind attention:

1) M Z Forrest writes: "The notion of courting removes a large sexual elephant from the room in seemingly innocent activities such as dancing." My first question here is, if a man or woman is not in a position to marry, is attending the weekly swing dance (and let's suppose this one is not reputedly a "meet market," which is possible here in DC) a near occasion of sin?

2) Darth Litigious writes: "When a man isn't ready to marry, he should just stay away from women in general..." This begs my second question which is, can a man and a woman ever be friends?

Discuss. Preferably here.

UPDATE:

The discussion continues, but not here. Over at
Traditio in Radice.

I would suspect that people are generally more comfortable continuing a dialogue where it originates -- except, once I posted something, and Mark Shea linked to it, and the discussion ensued
at Mark's weblog. Thus allegedly free exchange invariably falls victim to the cult of celebrity.

No, I don't blame Mark. I blame his readers.

As to the above, I guess it's a case of safety in numbers. Which begs the question; would any of us ever stand alone, and continue believing as we do? This brings up a disturbing trend I've noticed in "the Catholic blogosphere," one on which I intend to comment further when it comes time for the "St Blog's Awards."

12 Comments:

At 11/01/2005 10:02:00 AM, Blogger W said...

You ask interesting questions, sir, but I think you are trying to oversimplify a complicated situation with these questions. I appreciate that you are in earnest here, and I shall attempt to give helpful answers although whole books have been written on this subject.

1)If a man or woman is not in a position to marry, is attending the weekly swing dance a near occasion of sin?

A fairly loaded question, and one that depends a lot on the individual circumstances and the maturity of both parties involved and their intentions. One might ask what the point in attending such an event would be if one is not interested in something romantic? If a man is impaired in his relationships with other men such that he'd rather do this than be with his male friends, that may be a whole other issue.

It would ultimately be a question for one's confessor. If one were going on his own or with friends just for a bit of fun and no more then it might be safe. But there is always the risk that he could start giving undue attention to one particular young lady, and ...

2) Can a man and a woman ever be friends?

Again, this is a loaded question and I hesitate to answer it because this could be the subject of an entire book. What do you mean by friends? I would say that men and women can be more than acquantances but less that true friends. Our modern culture has done its darndest to blur gender lines and one of its mantras is that men and women should have strong emotional relatioships that are somehow not romantic.

I would suggest that any level of intimacy, be it emotional or physical, could be adulterous if one is married and otherwise just bad news. I don't have female "buddies" that I spend time with when I'm not with my wife. I hang out with my male friends on those occasions. I am, however, on friendly terms with my wife's friends and some of the ladies at work.

 
At 11/01/2005 10:17:00 AM, Blogger David L Alexander said...

W:

Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

The problem of oversimplification has not restrained anyone who brought these issues to light, so it was fair to make them broad enough (or "loaded," if you will) to invite a variety of reponses.

You write: "If a man is impaired in his relationships with other men such that he'd rather do this than be with his male friends, that may be a whole other issue." What is impaired, my good man, is male friendships in general, at least in American society. This has been a subject for more than one Catholic periodical just in the last year, the latest being an essay by Prof Anthony Esolen in Touchstone magazine. (See comments by Prof Philip Blosser in "Musings of a Pernacious Papist.")

In any major city, it is not hard to find men who prefer the company of other men, and restrict themselves to such company. They're called "gay" (a conundrum expounded upon by Esolen, as a matter of fact). Others prefer an alternative, and look where they can.

The best way I know of to avoid the near occasion of sin, is to never get out of bed in the morning. Barring that, our interactions with others will entail a certain risk. Prayer, and regular access to the sacraments, is a healthy remedy. One so equipped can best face the world, even after dark. Even with a woman in the room. And yes, even in the presence of only one.

 
At 11/01/2005 03:27:00 PM, Blogger W said...

Another response:

In any major city, it is not hard to find men who prefer the company of other men, and restrict themselves to such company. They're called "gay"

Perhaps, but equally, there are normal heterosexual men who also enjoy male company myself included. Although obviously I spend lots of time with my wife, if I am going to spend an evening out with friends, it is with my male friends. I'm not sure my wife would be entirely pleased if I was hanging out with "ladyfriends" during said times and I wouldn't blame her. I am not "gay", however, I assure you.

The best way I know of to avoid the near occasion of sin, is to never get out of bed in the morning. Barring that, our interactions with others will entail a certain risk.

Absolutely. But it has always been the duty of Christians not to go searching for occasions of sin, and even to avoid such occasions when possible.

 
At 11/01/2005 04:23:00 PM, Blogger David L Alexander said...

(Was wondering what I had to do to get attention around here.)

If your wife is your best friend, it is likely (I can't claim to know for sure) that she was so before the romantic element set in. Perhaps it is the endless conversation. At every parting, there was even more to say. Or perhaps there was chemistry at the offest. The scenarios vary, I should think. But if a man is to know a woman at the level of friendship, it would seem to me to have to occur before sexual attraction (and I use this guardedly, as in a well-ordered appeal, as opposed to pure lust, which is to be avoided even with one's own wife).

The above would appear to justify the traditional notions of "courtship." They would also justify getting to know women as friends, ideally more than one.

It is a challenge for many men in this society to have comrades. If your interests do not fall in the area of sports or cars, you can almost forget it. For my part, I've had the good fortune of male cameraderie when some Trad friends of mine come to town. There we are, five or six men sitting in a pub in DC, arguing over the finer points of canon law, liturgical minutiae, or the superiority of American beer over Canadian (the latter being a lost cause perhaps). But these occasions are very rare.

At least in my experience.

And I can't just blame society. I blame the men themselves.

Which means I blame myself.

Here, by the way, is the post from Prof Blosser to which I was referring, which includes generous quotations from Prof Esolen:

A requiem for male friendship?

 
At 11/01/2005 04:30:00 PM, Blogger David L Alexander said...

The notion of women as friends after one is married has been broached.

I should say that, if a marriage is secure, then friendships with other women are likely to be properly ordered. If not, then there is not mainly the prospect of moral danger (which is not to say it is excluded by any means), as there is a root problem with the marriage that is otherwise ignored -- to its own peril.

 
At 11/02/2005 01:22:00 PM, Blogger W said...

Well, sir, I for one am not "afraid to stand alone, and continue believing as [I] do" which is why I accepted your invitation and responded, expecting to be bombarded by your own readers. That said, I thank you for the interesting discussion. I shall, therefore, continue:

If your wife is your best friend, it is likely (I can't claim to know for sure) that she was so before the romantic element set in.

No, she was not my best friend before the romantic element set in, although she certainly is now. I couldn't say when one or the other set in, but I also wouldn't chalk it up to "chemistry". When I met her, I was most impressed by her zeal for the faith although I was definitely attracted to her as well. I basically went straight into courting her at that point without developing a platonic friendship first.

The above would appear to justify the traditional notions of "courtship." They would also justify getting to know women as friends, ideally more than one.

Certainly, and I think the only disagreement we have here is over what each of us was meaning by "friends". It seems to me from the foregoing that you are meaning a more casual relationship, one that is more than an aquantance but less than a deep emotional attachment or comraderie. I would agree that one can and should have friends that are girls who are in this "more than an aquantance" zone -- if he can handle it. My comments on Traditio in Radice about having almost no contact were directed towards "Juan Pilgrim" and his assertion that some people can't help but fall madly in love if they have lady friends.

It is a challenge for many men in this society to have comrades. If your interests do not fall in the area of sports or cars, you can almost forget it.

I suppose it depends on which circles one moves in. For my own part, I have not found it as difficult as you have to find comrades (both inside traditionalist circles and out) and I, like you, have no interest in sports cars. However, many men have multiple interests and I have friends with whom I variously share the interests of: paintball, hockey, strategy games, philosiphy, apologetics, history, science fiction, and so on. Certainly, I spend most of my time with my trad friends with whome I share the most interests and with whom I can talk about the things you spoke of. But I can also find comraderie among other friends.

I should say that, if a marriage is secure, then friendships with other women are likely to be properly ordered. If not, then there is not mainly the prospect of moral danger (which is not to say it is excluded by any means), as there is a root problem with the marriage that is otherwise ignored -- to its own peril.

I'm not sure I agree, because I'm not certain I know what exactly you are suggesting here. What would a "properly ordered" friendship entail? And would you agree that regardless of how "secure" any marriage is, that certain things are nevertheless innapropriate?

 
At 11/02/2005 03:10:00 PM, Blogger David L Alexander said...

At 11/02/2005 01:22:09 PM, W said...

"Well, sir, I for one am not 'afraid to stand alone, and continue believing as [I] do' which is why I accepted your invitation and responded..."

...not to mention what sets you apart from most people involved in any group cause, in this case restoring Catholic tradition.

"When I met her, I was most impressed by her zeal for the faith although I was definitely attracted to her as well. I basically went straight into courting her at that point without developing a platonic friendship first."

Yes, good. It does illustrate a point I've made elsewhere, that in matters of the heart such as this, it is difficult to apply one course of action to everyone. I have a catechism text from the 1950s. According to the writer(s), courtship should last no longer than one year, and an engagement should last no longer than six months. The emphasis was on avoiding temptation -- at the expense, I believe, of the need to get to know someone and proceed judiciously.

"It seems to me from the foregoing that [by 'friends'] you are meaning a more casual relationship, one that is more than an aquantance but less than a deep emotional attachment or comraderie. I would agree that one can and should have friends that are girls who are in this 'more than an aquantance' zone -- if he can handle it. My comments on Traditio in Radice about having almost no contact were directed towards 'Juan Pilgrim' and his assertion that some people can't help but fall madly in love if they have lady friends."

A wise old priest once told me: "Love is not a hole, you do not fall into it." Love is not a feeling or emotional response (except maybe on TV and in the movies, even old ones), but a choice, a decision. I think you and I can agree on that. If we look at the life of Karol Wojtyla, he had a number of close friends who were women. He was also fortunate to live in a society which drew the lines of behavior well enough in advance. For my part, some of my best friends over the years have been women. It helps some men to see them as real people, as opposed to mere objects for romance, courtship, or (heaven forbid) casual sex.

If someone can't "handle it," it suggests a deeper problem. In my opinion, it suggests a deep loneliness, one that is desparate to be filled, by whatever means is available. It is especially so in cases where a single man fails at "finding" the right woman, or a divorced man is not in a position to remarry. In my own experience, I find many among the self-righteous being too quick to draw conclusions as to their state in life, which is unfair, as these people are just as capable of love, and just as much in need of it, as anyone else.

"I suppose it depends on which circles one moves in."

Mine are in Washington DC. I've been here twenty-five years now, and I've only made real friends in the area in the last few years. It's such a transient place, where many don't so much make friends as they do forge alliances. When I go home to, say, Cincinnati, to see old friends, their political and religious orientations are all over the map. There is no litmus test but our common experience -- school, neighborhood, and the like. It's different here, as so few are rooted here. But I don't think the challenge is limited to here. Most young guys when they get married, spend much of their time with their wives (as well they should), or other couples, or other married men close in age. Most single guys hang with other single guys close to their age. Most divorced guys -- well, tend to remarry within about five years.

I know men and women who attend swing dances here in town, to give an example, with the specific intention NOT to get involved with who they meet at those venues. Having been burned more than once, they save such forays for an introduction service, or the recommendation of friends. They have learned to set boundaries and still enjoy themselves. Yet I am surprised that at least one "traditional" Catholic writer would take the divorced to task for considering such an outlet. I've actually read such things, and I can't imagine what such people are thinking -- except that their ill-informed utterances should apply to the whole world.

"I'm not sure I agree, because I'm not certain I know what exactly you are suggesting here. What would a 'properly ordered' friendship entail? And would you agree that regardless of how 'secure' any marriage is, that certain things are nevertheless innapropriate?"

Yes, which is underscored within the human conscience by a secure marriage, and the value placed upon it. Within that realm, friendships with others, male or female, have their own place. Hence the reference to being "properly ordered."

 
At 11/03/2005 07:58:00 AM, Blogger Jeff said...

David:

Are you coming to see Bishop Rifan on the 13th?

 
At 11/03/2005 08:22:00 AM, Blogger David L Alexander said...

Thanks, but I have a prior engagement that day.

 
At 11/05/2005 08:56:00 PM, Blogger Dymphna said...

Now this is an interesting topic. I'd say that if you aren't playing you shouldn't be on the field. As for men and women being just friends-- it is possible if there is no sexual heat between them.

 
At 11/06/2005 11:54:00 AM, Blogger John C. Hathaway said...

Interesting topic, but far more interesting is what you say about threads on blogs.
People think of the Internet as an inherently egalitarian medium, but it isn't. THe whole reason positions of prominence come forth in society is that there are too many people, and the same holds for the Internet.

It's like when Amazon started the e-buziness craze. Lots of "internet companies" sprung up, believing to be the wave of the future. But once the traditional brick&mortars set up shop online, it drove the online businesses into irrelevance.

Brand name is everything.

Anyway, I never technically dated before I met my wife. I have a few female friends; several female friends over the Internet.

As far as whether a man & woman can be friends, I think that's possible--but with certain issues.

Graduation, engagement, marriage and childbirth are truly life-changing events, and most friendships just simply don't survive these changes, regardless of gender.

As far as pre-marital friendships, I think it all depends on the person.
Personally, I've never understood how to socialize with other men, and usually even my most promising acquaintances with men end up hitting a major wall.
On the other hand, I've always been very good at socializing with women. Even not that I'm married, when I'm at social gatherings, I'm more inclined to hang out with the women and talk about kids and childbirth than I am to hang out with the men.
Some would say that such ease with female acquaintance makes a man "gay," but the fact is I *like* women, and as a general rule, I don't like men.

(Also, I've never spent much time around homosexual men until my current job, and I find that their "ease" of conversing with women is highly superficial. The guy in question will chat it up with the ladies in the office about Oprah, supermodels, or whatever, and then just as easily scream, "WILL YOU SHUT UP???" letting out a lot of pent-up misogynism).

 
At 11/30/2005 12:28:00 PM, Anonymous Mary Alexander said...

Question: Can men and women ever be friends?

Answer: No, but they may be acquaintances, a very important distinction.

Question: Is attending a weekly swingdance a near occasion of sin?

Answer: Unless you do so in the interest of courting or finding someone to court- yes.

Mary Alexander

 

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