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Foreign Flirtations

Thursday, May 31, 2012
I am going on a limb mentioning flirtations again, dear poppets, since I caught a teeny bit of flak yesterday. I was reminded of those dire years in Boston when almost nobody at school got my jokes. It was horrible. What a blessing it is that I live in a land where a significant part of the population lives for jokes and sparkling conversation. In Edinburgh, my outrageously long cigarette holder excites admiration; in Boston it would have elicited only stony silence and then whispers in corners that I smoke.

N.B. I don't actually smoke. I stuff the occasional cigarillo into the end of my cigarette holder and puff on it without inhaling. Nineteen year olds may be forgiven; it is cravenly stupid for forty-somethings to get addicted to poisonous substances.

But my policy has long been that if I write about something that turns out to be unpleasantly controversial, then I must write about it again the next day. So I am going to write about holiday romances and other flirtations that are going to go absolutely nowhere.

Incidentally, by holiday romance I do not mean throwing all decency and modesty to the winds like certain female German or British tourists who lust after their Egyptian or Cretan or Cuban waiters and justify what happens next with a "Because I'm worth it," channeling whichever actress-model in the L'Oreal ad. Apparently there is a Greek resort town where a prize is given to the local man who has slept with the most foreign visitors that season. Charming.

No, by holiday romance I am thinking of situations in which you make friends while studying or vacationing abroad and feel particularly cherished or flattered by one of the friends who is a boy. Perhaps you feel bedazzled that, for the first time in your life, you hold a certain exotic glamour. It may never have occurred to you that anyone would ever think a girl from Rolling Prairie, Indiana wildly exotic, but once she goes crosses the border into Mexico, or crosses either ocean, she is.

My advice is to enjoy these feelings without taking them too seriously. Yes, easier said than done. If you are absolutely head-over-heels for Reinhardt, Diego, Aziz or whomever, get thee to a call centre and telephone your best or most sensible female friend back home to vent and sigh. Don't do anything stupid. Don't do anything you wouldn't do back home. That way, when you are an old lady you can smile pleasantly over that wonderful summer in Tubigen or San Ignacio or Fez instead of feeling wracked by guilt.

The fact is that although most people, especially young people, enjoy making attractive and exotic new friends, few people really want to leave behind their towns, families, friends, jobs, routines, infrastructures to start a new life in strange circumstances with an exotic stranger. We may dream of doing so, but it is actually a very serious and frightening thing to do. One might flirt with the idea, as one flirts with an attractive stranger, but most of the time, forget it. Most people are, by the very definition of that word, conventional.

If you keep a diary, write down lots of descriptive details (the sun, the cobblestones, the sudden, the shocking first glimpse of his thin, tanned, impossibly chic mother) so as to write a more saleable novel afterwards. Use loose sheets of paper to write out your feelings and then rip them up.

Distance makes a huge difference to the future of most foreign friendships. It is easier to keep up with friends in Europe, for example, if you live in Europe than if you live in Canada and the USA. There are sad cases of Europeans I know returning to old stomping grounds in Canada or the USA, hoping to rekindle the friendships of their fondly remembered student days, only to find that their ol' drinking buddies have moved to other cities or are simply too busy to see visiting European them. (North Americans, descendents of immigrants, tend to be more nomadic than other people. Europeans seem to hanker after their parents' villages whereas North Americans long to escape them forever.)

Culture makes a huge difference too, of course. Friendship, particularly friendship with members of the opposite sex, means different things in different countries. Oh, and to make life even more confusing, in some countries men think foreign women seem really masculine.

But to go back to flirtation, the essence of an enjoyable flirtation is that it is kept light and frothy, a part-time distraction from ordinary life, makes you laugh and never makes you cry. This, of course, means that making out is right out because, dear readers, the realities of brain chemistry mean that you will indeed regret it later. He, having a different kind of brain chemistry, might not, but you certainly will.

Unless you marry the man. This however is rather unlikely for the reasons I mentioned above, and a sport best left to unemployed madwomen in their late 30s.

Too Much Flirtation?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Oho! My electronic spy tells me that I was discussed on Reddit yesterday. There was a girl with a crush on a discerner, and our long-term reader Irenaeus posted links to three of my saltier diatribes about discerners and seminarians-who-date. The girl was grateful, but another reader was gravely disturbed. "Chip on shoulder" and "bitterly" were words he (I bet it was a he) employed to describe your wonderful Auntie.

Poppets, I cannot blame him. If all you've read of my blog are my thoughts on seminarian psychodramas, you are indeed going to think I am some sort of Miss Haversham, sitting in my faded wedding dress, scheming against men as my ancient wedding cake crumbles before me. But of course I am not. I am exceedingly bitter about academia, but not about men. I like men, and some of them I love. I've been married to a very amusing example for three years. And, as I always say, men are the caffeine in the cappuccino of life. Life would be sooooooo boring without them, especially the attractive ones.

"How much flirtation is too much?" I demanded of my husband last night.

"That's a girl question," said B.A, hedging.

"Aw, come on."

"I don't know," said B.A. "Maybe when someone says, 'So when are you going to leave Seraphic for me?', there has been too much."

"Oh!" I said, nonplussed. I hadn't been thinking in terms of B.A.'s flirtatiousness but of mine. I ruffled through my mental filofax of B.A.'s female acquaintance for a moment and felt satisfied that there was no need for alarm. So far no woman has shot death ray glances at me or, worse, gazed at me with brimming, envious eyes because I am Mrs B.A. No. Instead women laugh merrily at his jokes and groan at his puns and ask me if he is always like that and how I can stand it, etc.

Such good-hearted griping is in the tradition of Scottish banter. Scottish banter is related to flirtation in that it usually expresses liking of a person while also provoking their attention and making them laugh. In our Sunday crowd, it is apparently good form for husbands and wives to make jokes at each other's expense. B.A. says that this is perfectly normal for Scotland. I am not so sure of this, but it seems to be normal for our crowd, which is, um, composed mostly of Single people. B.A.'s theory is that when husbands and wives insult each other at parties, they are assuring everyone around that their marriages are rock solid, etc. Meanwhile, it is not just me being picked on at dinner parties, and nobody banters with anyone they aren't clearly fond of. We beloved foreigners at the table just have to work out how to banter like Scots.

Banter is insults that aren't really insults and statements that are more amusing than true; flirtation is come-ons that aren't necessarily come-ons. Both are difficult arts, and both can go horribly wrong. The good banter artist or flirt knows when and when not to banter or flirt, with whom not to banter or flirt, and where to draw the line. The best banterers and flirts can get away with murder, by which I mean that they can say what they like, to whom they like, and everyone laughs, and nobody gets mad.

Generally I save my most over-the-top remarks for my husband and my younger female friends. Same-sex 'marriage' is legal in Ontario, so before my marriage I occasionally implored an engaged pal to leave her fiance and marry me instead. Now I occasionally tell B.A. that I am leaving him for X or Y. I just take sheer delight in saying such outrageous things, knowing that my hearers will not get mad but merely laugh or think of something equally outrageous to say in response. B.A. is particularly good at this game.

Sadly, my tolerant younger female friends are now far, far away, which leaves just B.A. and the more tolerant of my men friends. And, frankly, it is much easier to hint that my men friends are terribly, terribly attractive than to jokingly abuse them. My rule is that the men friends actually have to be attractive. Life's too short to flirt with ugly men. And too dangerous to flirt with strangers. Or married men. Or men who might take me seriously and pity B.A. for having such a ghastly wife.

Oh well, enough about me. What do you think? How much feminine flirtation is too much? Is it charming for elderly or middle-aged women to flirt with younger men, or is that creepy? Is it charming for young women to flirt with middle-aged or elderly men, or is that unfair? What sort of men must one absolutely not flirt with? Are there any expert flirts out there? Give us the benefit of your wisdom.

tuesday shoesday

Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Memorial Day has come...let's break out the white shoes. 

{via pinterest}

"Be My Girlfriend But You Should Know..."

I got an email last week from a first year uni student who got a big crush on a guy in third year. After two months of being friends, the guy delighted the girl by "admitting" to "liking" her and then shortly afterwards asking to be his girlfriend. They adjusted their relationship statuses on Facebook, and spent loads more time together.


However, when the NCB told the NCG that he liked her, he added a qualifier. He said she should know that he was still getting over somebody else. But our NCG didn't pay much attention to this, so happy and excited was she that this NCB "liked" her.

Now, though, whenever the NCB mentions this other girl, our NCG feels extremely jealous, especially when the NCB thinks up excuses to visit the other girl at her home. After trying to hide her jealousy, our NCG blew up at him, and he said it was hard for a person to give up feelings for a woman he has had a crush on for three years.

Three years?! Where to start, where to start...

Actually, there was a lot more, so I started with that. The letter-writer is a teenager, so I was a lot more careful and soothing in my response than I usually am. But this morning I am in a stroppy mood, so I can go back to my preferred tone of outraged shouting.

What kind of guy tells a girl he likes her and wants her to be his girlfriend, but by the way he still isn't over this other girl?????!!!!

Why do we let such guys get away with that??????!!!!

If it were still the age of payphones, the only appropriate response to "I want you to be my girlfriend, but there's this girl" would be to hand the boy/man a couple of coins, stand up, and say "Call me when you're ready for a real relationship."

How many college freshman have that kind of spine, though, eh? And, honestly, it is so hard to hear the bad news after the good news. The words "I like you" out of the mouth of a guy you like are so wonderful, so magically potent, that it is very hard to make yourself hear the qualifiers that follow afterwards. If they are "but you should know I'm still not over another girl", not only are they unpleasant, they're crazy.

It's like being crowned Miss America and then kicked in the stomach by the same guy. You've got the crown and the flowers, the crowds are cheering, and you've been kicked in the stomach, which makes absolutely no sense in that context, so you ignore it and wave.

However, you darned well have been kicked in the stomach, and the sooner you face up to that, the better. Any guy who says "I like you but I think you should know that I'm still not over this other girl" is DANGEROUS to your happiness. He is dangerous to your happiness because he thinks his telling a girl he's asking to like him about another girl he likes makes everything honest and okay. But the fact is that he is not a good guy onto whom to pin your romantic hopes because he is stuck on another girl.

I am particularly passionate about this because nothing, NOTHING, has sucked me in like the bait-and-switch. For some reason my brain just does not go into red alert with shouts of CRAZY! CRAZY! WHOOP! WHOOP! but scrambles about madly tidying the crazy under a carpet so I can't see it anymore.

Sure, the NCB is lonely. And, sure, it must be nice for him to have a girl who is crazy about him after three years of hankering fruitlessly after Miss Perfect. But he's also not rooted in, or particularly interested in the reality that it is better to be involved with someone who actually cares for you than with someone who couldn't care less.

Then there's the fact that because Miss Perfect never does anything, she never does anything wrong. That leaves the poor girlfriend dancing about, second-guessing all she says and does, and wondering if he really cares for her, instead of cultivating the friendly remoteness that all smart women ought to have before feeling ready to place their hearts on the line.

It is never good to use a human being as a means for some end. Things are to be used, but people are to be enjoyed for themselves. It is not okay to "date" or, really, monopolize a girl's leisure time, as a means to get over some other girl. It isn't fair. And, in fact, any man who is trying to get over some other girl should tell a girl that if she is the one pursuing him. It is really NOT ON for him to go after a girl he is pretty sure likes him when he knows he really is stuck on someone else. In the old days this was called "trifling with a lady's affections." It wasn't okay in 1912, and it isn't okay now.

And this reminds me of how much I hate the "boyfriend-girlfriend" relationship and all the fake rules and fake traditions and fake expectations that grow up around it. It's a store dummy dressed up to look like marriage. It used to be people announced only their engagements and marriages in print; now they publish news of their "relationships" on Facebook, as if those "relationships" were built on a lasting commitment. We have all kinds of relationships with people who love us passionately, if without sexual desire, and we never click a button on Facebook to announce the start of those.

But I digress. The main point to take away is to be rooted in reality. Listen to everything a man says, not just the stuff that sounds great, and make decisions based on all the data, especially your gut reactions.

Update: By the way, there is something seriously wrong with chastity education when all we tell girls is to look out for guys who just want sex. We should also be telling girls to look out for guys who just want a security blanket (e.g. seminarians who date), or who just want a friendly smokescreen (e.g. gay guys who date girls), or who are too cheap to pay for a therapist (e.g. cute guys who meet up so they can tell you about other girls) or who are looking for the non-sexual perks of marriage without having to get married first (e.g. guys who "need" help with their laundry/cooking/cleaning).

And no doubt guys should be warned against NCG who aren't really interested in marriage right now as much as they are in emotional adventures and the rush of falling in love and the thrill of lover's triangles and all that powerful operatic crap girls read about in books.

Will Work for Woman

Monday, May 28, 2012
"And then I realized she wasn't on Facebook. It turns out she's one of those girls who isn't on Facebook. So I had to call her sister. How embarrassing. I called her sister, whom I hadn't seen in months, out of the blue and said, "Ahem, can I have your sister's email address?"

"Thank you," I said, "for so confirming my philosophy of men."

"What? Anyway, she asked if I would like her cell, too, and I said, no. Which was stupid because, guess what, she gave me the wrong email address. So there I was with the wrong email address, and I couldn't get in touch with her, so I called up her sister AGAIN and the upshot is we're going for coffee."

"That's great. Good for you!"

"What does this have to do with your philosophy of men?"

"My philosophy of men," I said, "is that men will work for what they want, and if they want to contact a woman bad enough they will actually contact her, even if it means an embarrassing phone call."

"This doesn't work with being hard to get though," cautioned my interlocutor. "Nobody wants to look like a stalker. Obviously girls shouldn't be easy, but they shouldn't make it TOO difficult either."

"Your generation of men," I observed, "has been seriously messed with."

My interlocutor affirmed that this was so.

"It would be nice if girls would say hello, though," he said wistfully. "Can't girls just say 'Hello?' It would make it so much less difficult for us."


Sunday, May 27, 2012


Although I wish the ski area was open, we managed to have a little fun today.  The Festival of the Brewpubs brought out the crowd.  The New Classics were cool.  The local brewpubs made a strong showing.  A bit of cool and breezy weather didn't slow down the the A-Basin gang.  The A-Basin beanies were a popular item today.  That connects with a vague recollection about supply and demand from econ class 30-something years ago.

Why I Don't Like Giving Chastity Talks

Saturday, May 26, 2012
This is my second post for the day, so I'll keep it short.

Here is Simcha Fisher on an incredibly short-sighted form of abstinence education.

Young people are like sponges that soak everything up, and they don't always know what is true and what is false, what is now and what is past. My childhood and teenage attitudes towards sexuality were marked by stuff I read, stuff the average adult would probably not think would have such an effect on a child. And my expectations about married life were way off base, thanks to two or three chastity lecturers.

I live in fear that I will say or write something that will mess up a young person, and that is why I never knowingly reply to an email from teenager without suggesting she discuss my letter with her mother or favourite aunt. I would never, ever, ever want the responsibility of being a chastity lecturer, except to my own children.

Having linked to Simcha's article, however, I will say that I am as horrified as she is that non-virgins are being compared to glasses of dirty water, licked Hersey's kisses and bitten apples. That's way worse than the stuff I heard from chastity lecturers when I was a teenager.

H/T Mark Shea.

Don't Make It So Easy

I love to write posts with great sweeping generalizations, if you haven't noticed. Today's sweeping generalizations are about young men and challenges. Young men are easily bored, and because they are easily bored they look around for challenging things to do. Two real life examples include young men switching very heavy gravestones at a cemetery near a parish where I worked and young engineering students reassembling a car on top of the Student Academic Council building at the University of Toronto. I very much admire the young male thirst for challenges and wish it didn't so often include vandalism.

There was a combox question yesterday from a reader who is trying to decide if she should apply for a job in her long-distance boyfriend's city. They have been dating for four months. She is ahead of him on the career ladder; he's still in school. They do seem to have a lovely relationship, but although they miss each other terribly, there has not been the ghost of a shadow of a whisper that he might transfer to a university in her city. And I'm not saying there should be. I'm just pointing out that the "Move or Not to Move?" challenge is sadly not the boyfriend's, but the girlfriend's.

If she moved to his town, he wouldn't have to lift a finger. He wouldn't have even the challenge of clearing time and saving money to go and see her. What he would have, however, at a very early stage in their relationship, is the nagging sense that she had uprooted her whole life for him. Like a wife. Or his mother. And most men really don't want to marry their mother. Oh dear. I mentioned the M-word. But if you move to your new boyfriend's town just because he's in it, guess what word is hovering in the air? And this is not a word you want to bring up yourself, at least not until you've been dating for a year.

Would you leave your city and almost everyone you know for a guy you've been dating for only four months? Because I didn't leave my town without two rings on my stubby ring finger. Visiting the man? Absolutely. But moving 3,317 miles to his town without being married first? No way.

Charming Disarray was frustrated by yesterday's conversation because, as she rightly pointed out, sometimes there is no-one available where you live. If you shouldn't have a long-distance romantic relationship with someone with whom you are not engaged, and if you shouldn't be engaged to someone long distance, what should you do?

Well, hold on there, CD. I was never that limiting. I just wanted to point out the difference between real relationships and fantasy-land email/telephone exchanges. And real relationships, including and especially long-distance relationships, take work, work I'd prefer to leave to the man, except for the fun stuff, like talking and writing funny emails. Anything challenging, like finding the cheapest flights ever, is something I'd leave to a man. But other than crying a lot because I missed him, I felt no real drawback to being engaged to a guy overseas. We left the bulk of the wedding preparations to my talented mother. It was never me alone with a hall manager and a tasting menu because our wedding reception was straight out of Little Women. Homemade--and fantastic--dress. Homemade--and glorious--wedding cake. Sandwiches. Endless bottles of Heinkel Trocken. Okay, so there was no Heinkel Trocken at Meg March's wedding. But you get the picture.

What I think women should do is sit still and leave the heavy-lifting to men. Women do so much emotional heavy-lifting and relationship building as it is that, really, we are in much more danger of doing too much than of doing too little. It's not about being hard to get. It's about not being so easy to get that the guy gets bored--or frightened--and doesn't bother.

On a micro level, it is great fun to sit in a chair all night and see who comes up to you to chat. If chat with the same person goes on too long, you can always get up and pour yourself another drink or find another girl to chat with for a bit before returning to your chair or, if someone has taken it, finding another chair to be restful in.

The most important rule in the Restful Chair Game is never to leave your chair to pursue the best-looking man at the party around the room. If you do that, you will only be providing entertainment for the other girls who are playing the Restful Chair Game. If the best-looking man at the party wants to speak to you, he will look at you at some point, and then you can sweetly smile at him. Then he will either amble over to say "Hi", which is great, or he will wander away, which sucks, and I guess he didn't want to talk to you after all, but at least all you did was smile.

Not being Queen of the World, I cannot turn the clock back to 1804 and declare that, from now on, no unmarried woman can ever approach a man at a party ever again but must merely stand about looking glamorous or sit looking restful. I am aware that modern unmarried women have male buddies that they simply must talk to right now and that some modern unmarried women need to dart about from group to group at parties like hummingbirds on speed because that is who they are. And that's fine. But I recommend the Restful Chair Game once in a while as an exercise in remembering that some of the work involved in relationships should be left to men. Otherwise they will get spoiled and bored or irritated or frightened.

Don't make it so easy. Trust to the male love of challenges, even if the challenge is only to walk across the room to say "Hello."

Rethinking "Carmen"

Friday, May 25, 2012
I have loved the opera Carmen since I was a small child, so when I discovered that it was being produced in Edinburgh, I suggested to B.A. that we go together. B.A., however, said something like, "Oh, darling. Bizet. Ugh. Couldn't you go with someone else?"

You know how the food critic in Ratatouille loved food so much he could very rarely eat it? B.A. is like that with music. It is a great testament to his love for me that he actually once went with me to a dance club and sat in a corner in his tweed jacket with a beer and the London Review of Books while I rocked out to The Killers. But, you know, we have been married for three years, so enough is enough, and at some dinner party or other a Young Fogey mentioned Carmen, and B.A. said, in short, "Take my wife, please."

So as a result I went to Carmen with two nice Young Fogeys, and I hope the elderly ladies I was sitting with in the foyer were vastly impressed when they turned up. Swanning around town with younger men is pleasant for its own sake, but your auntie Seraphic is not entirely immune from showing off.

You all know the basic plot of Carmen, yes? In 19th century Seville, a Spanish woman of gypsy heritage works in a cigarette factory by day and smuggles stuff by night. She is famously beautiful, a talented singer and a serial monogamist. She steals the squaddie boyfriend of a NCG, tricks him into deserting the military, and drags him off on a smuggling adventure. Poor Don Jose is not really cut out for smuggling, and Carmen grows impatient and bored. She is greatly tempted to dump him for a famous bullfighter, and jealous Don Jose goes ballistic. It ends badly.

When I was a child, I thought this was the most romantic story in the world after Romeo and Juliet, which also ends badly. I thought, unsurprisingly, that Don Jose was an idiot, but I was very impressed by Carmen herself. Being able to attract male attention and affection seemed to be THE status talent of my schoolyard, and as I was no good at this, I enjoyed both how Carmen had this talent in spades and how she made boys cry. Thanks to the schoolyard, I had a very "Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them" attitude as a child.

It did not strike me until I was much, much, MUCH older and had made boys cry, how very callous this was. Possibly my parents should have sat down with me after watching Carmen on TV and had a little discussion about how boys are human beings with real feelings, just like girls, and it was not very nice of Carmen to act like that, and that they would be disappointed if I acted like her. The real heroine of Carmen, they might have pointed out, was the NCG girlfriend, Micaela, who bravely climbs the mountains in search of Don Jose and tells him to go home to his dying mother.

However, my parents, who were otherwise strict, were not strict about opera, and when I was sixteen or so, I dressed up for high school Hallowe'en as Carmen. I have a photo of this, for various teachers thought I looked wonderful, and one took a picture. And, meanwhile, when my first boyfriend threatened to kill me if he "ever saw me with a another man," I thought this was a perfectly reasonable thing for a boyfriend to say.

"Go ahead," I said. "It will make me famous at school."

First Boyfriend, to his credit, thought this reply was hilarious.

Anyway, fast-forward to my happy middle-age in which, instead of threatening me with death, my husband cheerfully sends me off to the opera with younger men so he can watch telly in peace. I sit between the Young Fogeys and gleefully await the appearance of the Great Heroine. Thus I am shocked and disappointed when the mezzo channels not the Carmen of my memories but La Saranghina, the prostitute in Fellini's Otto e Mezzo (see photo).

Not being an actor or singer myself, I am unsure how I would get across Carmen's exotic attractions, but I am absolutely sure the way to do it is not to roll my eyes wildly, grin toothily and stick my chin out. I might also consider slimming down a bit, if I were built on statuesque lines, although heaven knows countless opulent opera singers have made flab look fab. But there is still a danger, unless one is careful, that one will not look seductive when one looks at Don Jose but like a ravenous drunk about to polish off a box of doughnuts.

As our Carmen leered and lunged about the stage, I began to feel depressed. The sexuality on display did not make me think of danger, magic and romance but of the urban United Kingdom every Friday night. I was reminded of drunken, middle-aged Edinburgh women with perfect hair and raddled faces scarfing down greasy chips before getting on the bus. And I was reminded of tough, big girls in high school who slammed smaller, prettier girls into their lockers. And of Lexi Featherstone in the "Splat!" episode of "Sex and the City" staggering drunkenly around a party before falling out the window.

It didn't help the performance that the narrator kept popping out to remind us how desirable and bewitching men found Carmen as if she distrusted us to suspend our disbelief, and it also didn't help that the blonde soprano playing Micaela was strikingly beautiful and looked as sweet and innocent as... Well, I couldn't even tell you. What painters used to be aiming for when they painted the Madonna, perhaps. I spent the evening waiting for her to come back on stage and was rewarded every time.

And thus I had my revelation. For some time I have been saying that Carmen is a bad role model while secretly thinking she is, however, more fun than Micaela. But thanks to last night's performance, I have been entirely converted to the Gospel of Micaela. Most of last night's performances did not transcend 21st century Scotland, so I saw the whole opera from the perspective of 21st century Scotland.

Carmen is just a Ned with a factory job and criminal ties. She dates and dumps men with such speed and ferocity that her ultimate fate would not have been particularly surprising to the Lothian-Borders police.

Micaela, on the other hand, braves a gang of sexist squaddies, a mountain range, and the entire cast of "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding" as a favour to her boyfriend's mother. As I am sure most of us would do in similar circumstances, she prays her heart out to God to keep her safe. She has hung onto her Christian faith and her maidenly virtue at a time when both are extremely uncool. If Don Jose were not such a moron, he would have stuck to Micaela and had a happy life.

That said, men love whom they love, not whom we think they should love, even in the opera. It is thus believable that a Scots squaddie would pick a chip-scarfing Scots slapper over a much prettier Scots girl his mother adores.

I expressed how I now feel about Carmen to the charming Young Fogeys afterwards, and one remarked that the slatternly, promiscuous woman I described was a lot like the original Carmen in the original book. And we all went off for a drink at a joint with a delightfully strict dress code while I inwardly puzzled over who it was that had given me such an early and besotted love for Carmen. Who first had hinted so strongly that Carmen would worthy of emulation? Who was it whom I first heard sing "La Habenera"? The answer eluded me until I awoke to bright sunlight this morning.

It was the singing orange on "Sesame Street".

Sparrow Nest Script

Thursday, May 24, 2012
Emily Poe-Crawford of Sparrow Nest Script must have the most beautiful “To Do” lists ever. Her exquisite lettering is so inspiring that it makes every word lovely and we couldn’t wait to introduce you to her collection of hand-lettered and printed paper goods.

Emily earned a Master’s degree in English, but realized that she didn’t want to actually teach. Instead, she went a different route. “I’ve always been a creative person with impeccable handwriting and a slight obsession with all things paper," she says, "so teaching myself calligraphy just seemed like a logical next step.”

She began Sparrow Nest Script, offering greeting cards, notecard sets and bookmarks, but quickly received requests for custom designs such as logos, place cards and save-the-dates. This led to invitation addressing services and even hand-lettered keepsake vows for weddings. “I especially loved designing the save-the-dates, invitations and signage for my own DIY wedding this past September,” says Emily.

Sparrow Nest Script designs are so sought-after that she's received requests from boutiques wanting to carry her pieces. We've included images of some of our favorite pieces below, but be sure to visit the Sparrow Nest Script Etsy shop to see more!

Images courtesy of Sparrow Nest Script.

Doubts About Long Distance

I received an email about a long distance relationship the other day. All I'll say about this email is that a nice young woman has a long distance friend who became a long distance boyfriend, although I don't think there was an in-person, on-the-spot interview involved in this change. She described their relationship as "dating" although they certainly aren't going out anywhere: they live quite a distance apart and haven't seen each other for some time. He never comes to see her, and the last time she organized a trip to see him, her plans fell through. He did not seem particularly upset.

I don't have a problem with long distance relationships. I now have long distance relationships with my family and many of my friends because I moved to the UK from Canada so as not to be in a long distance relationship with my husband. What I have a problem with is long distance relationships that pretend to be something that they are not, e.g. romantic, marriage-track relationships.

The essence of a romantic, marriage-track relationship is being there for one another. Separations are avoided, but, if inevitable, made as short as possible. Everyone is different, of course, but as soon as B.A. and I started talking marriage, we started planning his first trip to see me in Canada. And while he visited me in Canada, we started talking about when I could visit him again in the UK. And while I was visiting him in the UK, we came up with various unfruitful schemes about how to get married right away. And when back in Canada, I went slowly crazy counting down the days until I could see him again, and he stopped eating. Here comes the groom, skinny as a broom.

For about eight months, our relationship was mostly long distance. He called me every day, and we wrote almost daily emails. Then we got married, and I never wanted to be separated from him again, but I had to be because of being FOREIGN. I had to go back to Canada for weeks and sit around waiting for my Spousal Visa. B.A. called me every day, and we wrote almost daily emails, and I cried a lot. BUT--listen to this--BUT after I got my Spousal Visa and flew home that night, being apart for relatively short periods of time was, and is, no longer such a big deal.

It is no longer such a big deal because (A) we are past the initial and painfully insane stage of a marriage-track romantic relationship and (B) we have been living together for three years. Long-distance is not the norm; being in the same flat is the norm. Long-distance is almost a holiday. (Three weeks apart is my absolute max, though.)

And therefore I will go out on a limb and say that long-distance can work for people who are in time-tested, proven, committed relationships. Heaven knows, there are (or were) many, many women in the UK whose husbands were (or are) on oil rigs in the North Sea for weeks on end, and they make (or made) it work. They make it work because they have something to make work.

And that's the problem. If you never go on a date with the man you're dating, you're probably not dating him. I'm sorry to say this, but there is a danger that what you are is free phone therapy or free entertainment. Heaven knows I have warm memories of my last ex-boyfriend Volker, but the major reason we were in a romantic relationship at all, he later admitted, was that he enjoyed my emails so much. How sucky is that?

I was not really in a relationship with B.A. before we met in person, and fortunately I never thought we were. When he started reading my blog, he was at the end of a psychodrama and had no energy for a new romantic relationship. He had his own stuff to deal with. So he left funny messages on my blog, and I left funny messages on his blog, and every once in a blue moon, he wrote me an email. I love writing emails, so it was difficult not to bombard him with emails, but I managed. Friendly but unobtrusive, that was me. My friend Lily would call this emotional chastity.

There is long-distance, epistolary flirtation, which is fun but fundamentally unstable. And there is long-distance romance between engaged and married people doing their best to keep the home fires burning. And there is even long-distance romance between established boyfriends and girlfriends who were together for quite a time before their separation. But I simply do not believe that an entirely long-distance romantic relationship, one that was always long-distance, and that looks like it will be long-distance for a long time to come, can be an authentic romantic relationship.

A man in love wants to be with the woman he is in love with and, unless it means hurting people to whom he has more pressing commitments (e.g. wife and children), makes it happen. End of.

Inspiration ~ A Sunlit Field

Wednesday, May 23, 2012
We can't get enough of the warm, sunlit images from this beautiful styled photo shoot sent to us by the talented Sarah C. Photography. It was photographed on location at the Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville, TN, a 275 acre wildlife reserve now available as a wedding venue. The inspired creative team included Leah Teague of Flourish Floral Design Studio, Sassy Cakes of Knoxville, Wedding Wonderland, Ruffles and Rouge, Weathered and Worn and Bombshells Salon.
Designed in a palette of amber, soft coppery-pink and marigold, mingled with natural and organic textures, we love the repurposed vintage elements and the stunning field and barn setting. Don't miss the brilliant amber glass bottles, pretty vintage china, romantic florals and lovely cake. We especially like the wooden box of cuddly blankets, perfect for a cool evening. Enjoy!

Sarah C. Photography. Styling and Floral Design: Flourish Floral Design Studio. Cake: Sassy Cakes of Knoxville. Dress: Wedding Wonderland. Jewelry: Weathered and Worn. Makeup: Ruffles and Rouge. Hair: Bombshells Salon. Location: Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville, TN. Graphic Designer: Jennie Kodak.