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Archive for September, 2010

Simple School

Okay, for real this time:  come see what I wrote for Faith and Family Live.  It’s about how, even though I have abandoned four of my children to the netherworld of not-homeschooling, I still have four kids at home, and I still know a thing or two about a thing or two.

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Mene mene tekel parsin

Loosely translated:  “Sometimes,  / When I look deep in your pants, / I swear I can see your soul.”

Ha ha!  Just kidding.  But remember that terrible song “Sometimes” by that medium-terrible band, James?  James:  because what the world needs now is more Irishmen singing.  He didn’t actually say “pants,” but it would have been a better song if he had.  Hey, and look, it’s a bunch of guys wearing dresses!  I suppose this is all my fault, too.  Not the bananas, though.

In the past week, there has been a lot of soul-searching.  Unfortunately, it’s mostly been people searching each other’s souls and — you’ll never guess! — finding them wanting.

Yipes!

I, of course, am not guilty of this.  No, I certainly haven’t spent the last several days wrapped in a semi-hysterical nimbus of self-righteousness.  I haven’t been following my husband around and making him reassure me, over and over and over again, that I’m a perfectly good wife most of the time.  My prayer life hasn’t consisted mostly of, “Did you hear that guy?!?”

Well, just to show that I can be old-fashioned, too, let’s go back in time and revisit and old game — and do a little soul-searching of our own souls for a change.  Not such a scenic route, is it?  I think there’s a whole series of books out on it by now, and I remember that Ironic Catholic had a contest at one point.  It’s so much fun:  Six Word Autobiographies.

Here are the ones I came up with a few years ago:

Last I checked, I deserve less.

Still a bum, just much busier.

I’ve secretly always wanted a dog.

Seven unmedicated births, fine; telephones, terrifying.

Married to Bach, trysting with Brahms.

and my favorite:

Help! Help, help, help!  Oh, thanks.

Okay, so what are yours?  Your life in six words.  Go!

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WWMD

Thanks to all the linky love (oh sheesh, did I just say that?) from real websites like  Mark Shea’s, Bearing, Betty Beguiles, And Sometimes Tea, New Advent, Betty Duffy, Darwin Catholic, Korrektiv, Alexandria, and others, I got a lot more attention than I’m used to for all this pants stuff.  And, as Mark Shea’s readers pointed out, with great pants comes great responsibility.  Which is to say that with a bigger audience comes many more misunderstandings.

Some of that is my fault, because I dwell in the land of hyperbole.

Some of that is their fault, because they are stupid.

Some of that is  no one’s fault, exactly — it’s just that it’s human nature to hear what you think you’re going to hear, rather than what the writer is actually saying.

Danielle Bean once shared a quote from St. Therese of Liseiux:

Why should we defend ourselves when we are misunderstood  and misjudged? Let us leave that aside. Let us not say anything. It is so sweet to let others judge us in any way they like. O blessed silence, which gives so much peace to the soul!

And so, even though I heard all kinds of foolish and outlandish statements attributed to me, I really didn’t get all that upset.  I heard, for instance, that:

  • I never wear skirts (false – I do)
  • I think women who wear skirts are married to monsters (false – some are, some aren’t, just like us two-legs)
  • I think it’s stupid to try and look feminine (false – I try hard)
  • I think it’s impossible for any busy woman to do her work in skirts (false – I  happen to be a hypothyroid clod with fat, chafe-y thighs, but maybe you’re not)
  • and also that I think women should be able to wear whatever the hell they want (false – I believe it’s a matter of charity to dress modestly)
  • and that men should just use some self-control, and then it won’t matter what women wear (false – blame Adam).

Weirdly, none of that bothered me very much.  Usually nothing upsets me more than to be misunderstood, but there were so many smart and funny people who saw what I was saying, it was like being at a fantastic party with all your friends — and a couple of drunks.  Annoying, but not enough to spoil a great evening.

But I got really worked up when they started saying stuff about Mary.  I have always felt an uncomfortable distance from Mary.  I teach my children to call her “Mama Mary” in hopes that they would feel a closeness and affection to her that I never did.  Every once in a while, though, she breaks through to me.  This was one of those times.

A few women in various comment boxes said that we must wear skirts because Mary did — that even if Mary were on earth today, she would never wear pants.  They KNOW this.

Okay, you ladies who know what Mary would do.  If you can’t imagine Mary wearing pants, then try this:   imagine Mary wiping her nose, or yawning, or having heartburn.  Imagine her giving birth.  Or heck, imagine her having to go to the bathroom, but not being able to get up yet because she didn’t want to wake up the baby, who was nursing and allllmost asleep. .  . and then He bit her!  He always does that just as He’s falling asleep.  Oh, and now He’s poopy again, and she still has to go to the bathroom.

Weird, eh?  Not used to it, are you?  But there’s nothing immoral about these images.  If they bother you, because it’s not what you’re used to.  It’s not what you’re surrounded with.  Just like you’re surrounded with earnest, hard-working, kind, sincere women who have chosen to wear skirts, and so it seems utterly natural and obvious that Mary, too, would wear skirts.

How about this:  when Mary said “Fiat” to the angel, she wasn’t doing what everyone else was doing.  She wasn’t following the norm.  She wasn’t doing what all the other holy ladies in her circle were doing.  She was doing something that made her stand apart — she was responding directly to God’s will.  Mary was a BIG WEIRDO, don’t you see?  She was courageous and outlandish and incredibly tough.  She didn’t long for olden times.  She did something new.

I know it sounds like I’m equating the wearing of pants with the eternal Yes of the Mother of God.  Sorry about that!  That’s not what I mean.  I just mean that sometimes we can be blinded by what we’re used to — and that’s not a good thing, even when what we’re used to (say, good women always wearing skirts) is a good thing.

So would Mary wear pants?  I don’t know, and neither do you — she was a strange and unpredictable woman, like no other.  But she was a real woman.  If you think that Mary actually always wore blue, always had a look of fond melancholy on her face, and always held her arms at a 45-degree angle from her sides, then you are paying homage to a statue, and not to God’s real-life Mama.  And if there’s anything worse than a woman in pants, it’s an idolator.  That’s in the Old and the New Testament.

O real life Mama of God, intercede for us.  Help us to understand each other.  And if I ever sit down to write another post about pants, please make the roof fall in on me before I hit “publish.”

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And now for something

completely different.  You’re welcome!

This is our new favorite show:  Pingu.  Love the claymation, love the emotive language (especially the way the penguin midwife talks, that combination of meditative and matter-of-fact — why does it crack me up?  And she carries a stethoscope and a SPOON in her bag!).  Fairly sure Pingu (the big brother) is one of my sons.

Ahh, nothing like anthromorphic penguins to soothe the soul after a long, hard week of arguing about pants.  Truly, we are living in a golden age.

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Sick of talking about pants yet?  TOO BAD!  I want to talk about pants!  Some more!

Actually, I want to talk about creeps.  Because that’s what this is about: it’s about creeps forgetting to hide how creepy they are.  So many people said so many smart things yesterday — but the best comments were the ones which rooted out the worst part of the original pantsalog.  The worst part was this:

[Wear skirts] for us, the minority of chaste men who merit the gift of enjoying your beauty in such a way as to be grateful to your creator without temptation. Make it so it is good for men to look upon you, rather than requiring us to look away (which is a tragedy).

“Merit?”  “Make it so it is good?”  I’ll translate this for you:

I don’t cheat on my wife, and that’s really hard, so I’m entitled to some compensation.  So line up, girls, and show me something special.  Neutrally modest isn’t good enough — I deserve something niiiiiiiice.

Oh, you sound just like Padre Pio; really you do!

Several other men in various comboxes expressed a similar idea of their right, as a virtuous man, to enjoy all women in a virtuous way.  They’re not satisfied with cracking down on their own wives — they feel that they’ve won the privilege of savoring and setting the standards for everyone else’s wife, too.

A few guys said that they could tell by the way I talk that I’m a disobedient wife.  How can they tell?  Because their wives wear skirts.  I usually don’t.  Therefore I must be disobeying my husband.

Never mind that my husband likes me in pants.  Which I mentioned.  So I guess they’re saying . . . that I should be obeying them?

Luckily for me, I have a husband who is just dying for someone to say something like that, so he can punch their lights out.  He recently quit smoking, and is looking for someone to punch.

But, ladies, what if your husband likes you in pants, but you happen to leave the house without him?  What if you’re doing some errands, you’re wearing pants, and some pigeon-toed guy with a scaly neck sidles up and confronts you for revealing the fact that you have legs — two of ‘em?

He scowls through his horrible beard and, once he gains control of the self-righteous quivering that shakes him from head to toe, he speaks:  “WHERE IS THY SKIRT, WOMAN?  WHY HAST THOU APPEARED AT WALMART IN THESE DETESTABLE PANTALOONS?  DOST THOU NOT RESPECT THY HUSBAND’S WISHES?”

Here’s what you do:  print out the following card, laminate it, and show it to the guy.

While he’s mentally translating it into Latin so it makes sense to him, you will be able to make a speedy getaway.  And since you’re wearing dem pants, you’ll do it without showing any skin!  Run, ladies, run!

(Pants Pass designed by my beautiful and talented sister-in-law, Rose Nigel)

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Consider the following food for thought, and not a hard-and-fast directive.  So in case you were under the bizarre impression that some random essay written by a layperson has some moral force, then rest at ease.  I repeat, this is not a directive!  But you better listen to me, or you’re going to hell.

Top ten reasons I wear pants

1.  I live in NH, where winter happens.  Pants.

2.  My husband finds most women’s pants to be more or less neutral, as far as their power to affect him in a masculine way.  But he finds that most women’s skirts  . . . affect him.   So unless it’s the most wonderful time of the cycle for me:  pants.

3.  Three of my children are ages 4, 3, and 17 months.  They basically live on the floor.  To care for them, my choices are either (a) sit on the floor to be with them, or (b) bend over a lot to deal with them.  Yesterday at library story hour, my little girls felt shy, so I sat on the floor to be with them.   I was comfortable, relaxed, and modest.  Pants.

4. Motherhood is a blue collar job.  I don’t care what style of dress or skirt you’re wearing, there is no way to be modest while dealing efficiently with the routine emergencies that normal children engender —  children who, as a normal mode of expression, flail their limbs around like some kind of oversized, malevolent eggbeater, right at your hemline.  Today, I had to lunge halfway across the room to rescue my toddler, who had launched herself from an armchair at a glass gerbil tank.  I was able to lunge without pausing to consider whether my movements were graceful and feminine; and I didn’t worry, while lunging, about flashing the men in the room.  Pants.

5.  Traditional nuns manage to work in skirts, and so do men and women in the middle east.  So what?  Their lives are hard; mine doesn’t have to be.  Pants.

6.  My husband, being heterosexual, does not actually want to spend his free time browsing around Dress Barn with me.  Unfortunately, being a drooling idiot (that’s traddie talk for “woman I honor and respect”), I am utterly, faintingly, femininely unable to pick out modest and appropriate clothing for myself.  What ever shall I do!  There’s clearly only one option left for poor silly old me, and that’s to keep on safe ground.  Pants.

7.  When I show my husband a piece of clothing that I just bought, he admires it — but only because he loves me and knows I have no female friends to show it to.  In reality, I might as well be holding up a coupon for fig newtons, or a vacuum cleaner filter:  he just can’t see it.  When I put it on, then he can see it.  At this point in our marriage, I know what he’s going to like, so that’s what I buy.  I dress to please him, not other men who might pass me on the sidewalk.  Pants.

8.  Why do I get the distinct impression that some guys, demonstrable experts in marriage though they may be, are being a teeny bit disingenuous when they couch their views on modesty in terms of respect for women?  Why do I get the impression that if most women wore skirts, this type of fellow would suddenly be campaigning for more pants?  Why, in short, do my spidey senses tell me that this is not about modesty at all, but about control?  “Wear what I say, and I promise I’ll start respecting you.”  Pants!

9.  If you are so concerned about how I think about myself, then why don’t you ask me what I actually think, instead of telling me what you know I will think if I only listen to you?  Not that you asked, but I’ll tell you how I think about myself:  I think that my life got a lot better when I started making reasonable decisions for myself, instead of always wondering if I’m going to disappoint some hypothetical man.  I care profoundly what my husband thinks about me, and naturally that affects how I feel about myself.  Pants.

10.  You give the game away when you start talking about femininity and end up complaining about fat butts.  That makes you less of a moral leader and more of an asshole.  Pants.

Women, if you want to wear skirts, and it means something to your husband, then go ahead and wear skirts.  Skirts are not a sign of oppression and misery!  I wish I could pull off the look, and to those of you who do wear skirts:  I think you look nice.

But it’s not a moral issue.  At all.

In the early years of my marriage, I tried so hard.  I thought I had to make up for everything wrong I had done, and I thought I had to be a good example for everyone else who was still doing everything wrong.  I scrubbed my floors on hands and knees, I made crepes from scratch, and I wore skirts every day.  In other words, I made everything a lot harder than it had to be — and wasted lots of valuable physical and emotional energy in pursuing these ideals, while letting other, more useful virtues slide.  Virtues like kindness, flexibility, and common sense.

I had three kids in diapers, and I didn’t have a car, so I walked everywhere.  Wearing skirts did nothing for me but make me awkward, self-righteous, and cold.  I guess some men find that appealing, but I’ve never heard my own husband pining for those days (the skirts were my idea, not his).  Many women are able to wear a skirt and function well.  I could not, and people who pressured me to try harder were doing me harm.

I think I’ve gotten beyond this phase, but the issue of skirts was a red herring that did a lot of genuine damage to my marriage, my self-respect, and my attitude toward other women.  That’s why messages like this anti-pants one make me so furious.  Yeah, lots of women dress immodestly — but  lots of other women are treated like retarded pets by their Good Catholic Husbands, and I’m sick to death of it.

I’m sick to death of messages like the one I linked to gaining any kind of legitimacy among otherwise intelligent men and women. Some women like to wear pants, and some don’t.  It’s not a moral issue.  If it’s a moral issue in your marriage, than your marriage has serious problems that a change in wardrobe will not heal.

Skirts won’t change the world.  I’ll tell you what will change the world:  men loving their wives — their actual wives, not some bizarre, imaginary amalgam of the Blessed Virgin and Grace Kelly.

So, ladies, if your priest friend forwards the anti-pants email to you, please remember:  one of the great strengths of the Catholic church is that it invites all sorts of men into its holy priesthood.  One of these men is infallible — but the one who sent you this email is not.  And the man who wrote the original message is not even a priest.

Pants, pants, pants!

Pants.

UPDATE:  Okay, ladies and gents, we just passed 300 comments.  Thank you for making me laugh so hard today and yesterday.  I’m closing comments now because I think everything has been said that can be said — although I really love the idea of Padre Pio duking it out in the confessional with Gianna Molla.   I realize that closing comments make me “mean and nasty,” but what can I say?  Pants will do that to a gal.

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Nose newts

Hey, is anyone actually going to participate in the feebly-advertised link carnival for search term poems?  I was going to have it tomorrow, but I’ll just skip it if you’d rather.  Anyone?

Also, I wrote something silly (no, really!) and just posted it at both The Anchoress and The Inside Blog.  In the words of Gnarls Barkley, “Would it be so hard for you to come and visit me here?”

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