At the end of a delightful miniseries, Cranford, three spinsters in the village are sitting talking and have this entertaining exchange:
Miss Tomkinson: “There are some girls who do not feel complete unless they’re married. I was never one of those, but I think my sister is.”
Miss Forrester: “You have to consider her health.”
Mrs. Pole: “What good is a husband for constitution? I have spinster carved on my bones, and the doctor is a stranger to my door.”
Of course, on cue, a man attracts Mrs. Pole’s eye.
I got a kick out of the exchange because I think Miss Tomkinson’s statement is a very astute observation. I’ve seen it again and again — girls just yearning to be married. I’m not talking about the general “I want to be married someday,” or even the tendency we have to plan our weddings before there’s even a groom. I think that’s pretty common. But there are other girls who really really really want to get married.
There are worse things in life, of course. But I think there’s a bit more of Miss Tomkinson in me.
Don’t get me wrong — I have half of my wedding planned and I occasionally dream up scenarios that would place me and my future husband in the house next door to my sister’s.
But I’m also pretty content with life right now. And this might be one of the first February 11th’s I can celebrate without a grimace.
February 11, for those keeping track, is Satisfied to be Single Day. I’m sure it was made up by some Valentine’s Day hater. Or perhaps by some man-hating womyn. Or by a playboy. Or by the cast of Sex in the City. Or maybe by the same people who came up with that “Women of the World, Raise your Right Hand” campaign.
But I think there’s something to celebrate here.
We all know that our world is facing attacks against marriage, attacks against the priesthood, and attacks against the religious life. But no one seems to talk about the attack against chaste single life– an attack which just might be at the root of a lot of our problems in the other vocations.
Think of it — chaste singles can’t really win. The world either thinks we’re crazy for being chaste or crazy for being single.
1) Unchaste singles think we’re crazy for living chastely. It certainly isn’t easy in the world today, especially for guys. How do you even watch the Super Bowl without facing temptation at every commercial break? Try finding a community of friends, much less potential spouses, who follow the Church’s moral law. Or natural law, for that matter.
Unchastity while you’re single spells out disaster for a future marriage, so it’s no surprise the divorce rate is skyrocketing. And how do we expect our priests and religious to live virtuous lives in this sex-crazed world? See? If our world believed in the chaste single life, maybe the other vocations wouldn’t be suffering.
2) Happily married people often seem to think we’re crazy because we’re not married.
I’m not crazy for not being married, nor am I crazy for being satisfied being single. Good Catholics (well-meaning) think we should all want to “find our vocations,” and some think we must be selfish if we are actually happy being single. Perhaps they just get worried we’re going to fall into the selfish Sex in the City single lifestyle. (And yes, that’s one of the dangers of the single life.) But I don’t think there’s anything wrong being happy in our singleness.
Especially in conservative Catholic circles, there’s an idea that we must be looking to get married. We must be looking for prince charming. We certainly can’t be single the rest of our lives, so get working!! There’s even a book “How to Get to ‘I Do'”, which I haven’t read, but don’t want to, given the quote in the book description: “Finding a man is just like finding a parking spot in New York City. It can be hard and take a while, but you can do it.”–from Chapter One
Wow, men– feel a little objectified yet?
After awhile, with the CatholicMatch ads and the Catholic Singles conventions, it seems like the world is telling us if we are single, it’s our own darn fault.
But guess what? I’m not going to go searching for a spouse. If I’m meant to get married, he’s going to find me while I’m doing God’s will in the ordinary every day life. Perhaps some girls feel the need to go on a scavenger hunt with a checklist of character traits, and perhaps that will work out peachy for them. But I’m not doing it. Nor am I going to go get married to just anyone simply because all my friends are getting married or because I like babies or because I’m scared of growing old alone. It’s better to be happy and single than unhappy and married. I have to wonder if another reason the divorce rate isn’t increasing because people are desperate to get married and later realize they married someone for all the wrong reasons.
See? If we valued the chaste single life more…
Do I think the single life is a vocation? No. But I also don’t think we need to go around moping that we’re not married or fretting we’ve missed a religious vocation. And while it may not be a vocation, it is a state of life that more and more of us are finding ourselves in. And while I’m here, I’m going to be happy.
Bottom line — on this Satisfied to Be Single Day, I actually feel satisfied. Do I still dream of my wedding dress? Of course. But do I pine away for a husband? No. Do I think that makes me better than others? Of course not. In fact, it might just make me weird.
With all these thoughts in mind, I enjoyed the musings of a fellow single Catholic girl in a recent publication from my alma mater. Emily Stimpson points out, “It’s important to remember, however, that we’re [single] by choice. If all we wanted was marriage — any marriage to anyone by any means — most of us could scare up some kind of spouse. But that’s not what we want. We don’t want a spouse. We want the right spouse, a spouse who loves Christ, desires our ultimate good, and is capable of entering into a healthy, holy Catholic marriage. Again, that’s our choice. But it doesn’t mean something’s wrong with us. It means something’s right.” Thanks, Em. I needed that.