Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Frost in May

Frost in May is a brilliant, sad novel by Antonia White. White had the dubious honour of being satirized by Evelyn Waugh in Brideshead Revisited as Lady Cordelia's unfortunate classmate--AAAAAH! I cannot find my copy! And I gave my other copy to Polish Pretend Son so he could understand what was expected of him as a traditionalist Catholic in Britain: snappy dressing, architecture snobbery, voracious guilt and gentle melancholy.

To Google we go.  Olive Banks. That is she: Lady Cordelia's classmate expelled for writing something. It could have been me, except that my more controversial convent school writings were treated to a stony silence at best and mystifying lectures about Hitler at worst.

Frost in May was not a great read for a young lady with a genetic disposition towards depression although somehow its sorrow has fixed in my mind the high school's rather beautiful lending library, with its Tudor Gothic windows which opened to admit flower-scented breezes and the gentle hum of lawn mowers. Somehow even the memory the ribald laughter that accompanied shared speculation about sexual matters did not besmirch the chastity of the setting.

No doubt my gentle upbringing in such places is one reason why I was so appalled today in reading a comment on a young friend's Facebook page from one of her generation. My friend, a slim pillar of her university's Catholic Society, had posted a comic pro-life meme about things employers-of-faith don't buy for their employees, and in response, a demon-invested teen nymphomaniac young lady at a Welsh university posted a rant including the question, "Should we stop caring about life the moment someone is shot out of a v[***]a?"

There was a lot more, including this self-proclaimed atheist's claim to belong to the Catholic religion, shortly before describing the Roman Catholic image of Almighty God as as a "beardy guy in the sky" (sic) . But let us go back to the ugliness of her--equally unoriginal--remark about the joy and sanctity of birth.

My first thought was a mystified, "Is this how young women talk now?" (As you can see, I feel shy about even typing the Latin word she wrongly employed to denote the birth canal.) My second thought was not so much a thought as a keen desire to call her various names that I judged should induce shame in a young British woman of very small brain. However, my third thought was a judgement that instead of  launching an emotional terrorist attack on my young friend's Facebook page, I should feel sorry for her ideologically frostbitten acquaintance. My subsequent thoughts included masculine complaints that "Women aren't women anymore."

Frostbite is a rather nasty thing to happen to you. If it isn't treated immediately, gangrene can set in. In Canada, it's usually toes that seem to go first. Mothers tell their children that they will go black and fall off, but actually I think the usual thing is to have them chopped off so that the gangrene will not spread to your feet and beyond.

Gangrene occurs when body tissue dies, but I posit that a kind of social and psychological gangrene accompanies the loss of ... Well, what to call it? I wanted to write "femininity" but that strikes me as too woman-centered. What I am describing happens to young men, too, when they choose to make themselves deliberately disgusting and then are surprised, hurt and angry to discover they disgust. The urban white chap who pays to have his ears mutilated with gromets comes to mind, as does the young man who deliberately seeks to sexually humiliate young women on the street. I'm tempted to call it a loss of social chastity.

The ideological frostbite that gives rise to this socio-spiritual gangrene strikes me as intensely dangerous to the happiness of the sufferer. Not to sound like your mother, but I cannot imagine any young man who hopes to find happiness the usual (and most tried-tested-and true) way of marriage and family life offering his heart and hand to a woman who boldly, under her own name and photograph, writes the sentiments this young ex-Catholic lady posted on her friend's Facebook page.

I don't want to be prim about this. There are countless examples of earthly, salty women who attract men with their off-colour jokes and earth-mother flashes of bosom and butt. (Military men I have met seemed not to mind  the rough, soldierly humour of military women.) Until recently these earthy types tended not to go to university or maybe they didn't behave like this until attaining the confidence of middle-age. Banged into female heads was the idea that young men didn't marry young women who behaved like this: one of the sadder scenes in Brighton Rock is the gawping envy of the heroine's former fellow waitress that Rose has a fella and thus doesn't have to work anymore. Gentle, stupid, good, thin teenage Rose is contrasted with determined, clever, self-righteously horrible, middle-aged busty Ida: each is feminine in her own age-specific way.

Using dirty, ugly imagery to shock, sadden and humiliate an ideological opponent on Facebook may be "feminist" but it has nothing to do with female flourishing. It seems light-years away from what I assume is the ideal Catholic life for a girl who has no vocation to religious life: a safe childhood and girlhood in a large, somewhat protective Catholic family, her branch headed by a mum and dad; a hard-working stint at college or university studying something she's good at and that will lead to employment; finding like-minded friends among the boys and girls in the Catholic Society; somehow finding The Right Man for Her among her friends and admirers; seeking and winning gainful employment; getting married and having children, a home, absorbing and interesting work, rest, refreshment, family jamborees, money for Christmas presents, grandchildren, a good death.

Unfortunately I got knocked off this happy track by the unhappy faults of my teenage years, with which I will not bore you now.* I prefer to think it was nothing that 200 mg/day of Xanax couldn't have cured, but they don't give teenagers Xanax, and anyway, medicalizing all one's faults is a tad self-deluding. However, I was fortunate enough to have had such a standard of ladylikeness drilled into me that none of my university-era male acquaintance was ever too ashamed to introduce me to, say, his mother.

I wonder what will happen to the poor female gangrenous ideologues I meet  in uni cricles. So few of them will be able to spin a career from their ideology, and many more will make horrible social and morals choices based on the lies it feeds them. What particularly saddens me is their rejection of marriage and fertility at the very age at which child-having is easiest. There is something very evil about a society that makes a 24 year old think that marriage and babies will somehow stunt her life, make her a slave and ruin her happiness.

*Okay. On top of my various faults and lack of Xanax, after two years of uni, I was bored with my Catholic crowd and wanted to hang out with actors, writers and artists. Obviously not everybody is ready to get a proper job, get married and have children at 24. It would be wonderful if everyone was, but there are always going to be some late bloomers.


  1. This Welsh leftie probably doesn't want to get married or have children, so she probably wouldn't care about anything you've just written.


    1. Lol. Julia, *every* member of my communist cell at Uni (there were 2 of us Catholics in there - blame liberation theology) has either married, had kids, or would happily do so!

      It's amazing what God hard-wires us to want, even if we try to talk ourselves out of the good He offers us, with ideology...

      So don't give up on the Welsh atheist lass just yet. Besides, I would have thought the softest response was: 'No, you're correct, we should care about everybody's life, whether a baby before or after birth, a teen, middle-aged or pensioner'. Kinda takes the wind out of her sails...

      Southern Bloke.

    2. She would totally care. She took "we were all fetuses once" as a guilt-inducing insult. If she read this post she would have to call a therapist. The sad thing is that she typed out her clichés with all the enthusiasm, self-righteousness and lack of originality of a decorated member of the Young Pioneers.

      It was hard to remember that the issue that kicked all this off was if Roman Catholic American employers should be forced to pay for employees' ab*rti*n procedures. But naturally the Young Pioneer (I don't think she as Welsh, by the way, just at a Welsh uni) would not want to recognize that the State could be Coercive. No, no! It's those unthinking, mean, practicing Catholics (the dumb ones, not the ones who don't believe in God but in theory support the IRA and/or Celtic and/or the status of belonging to a historically oppressed group) who are coercive! Etc.

    3. Whoops--sorry. The guilt-inducing insult was "It's hard to really know how lucky we are. Our mothers didn't abort us after all." At that the Young Pioneer called it quits. Oh the humanity (which, naturally, comes into being whenever a woman says it does).

    4. You're probably right about her caring. I know people like this, and they're not exactly consistent or logical.

      But Southern Bloke -- those guys must have been the softest Communists ever? I know some reeaal hardcore anarchists. I don't see them ever settling down to be honest.


    5. And the reason I don't see it is not just because they are terribly unpleasant and deranged, but because I don't think they'd want to settle down.


  2. Oooh, Mrs Mac, that is a very good quote!

    I do feel sorry for people like Welsh Uni lass; met plenty of them at uni myself and am friends with a few still. They see it as a conflict between the good guys (them) and the bad guys (us), so find it hard to visualise themselves as ever being wrong. Compounded by their personal guilt for those who have had abortions, or have family & friends who have...

    Julia, nope, I know the leaders of all the major NZ marxist groups and all are or have been married! And wouldn't be considered soft, tho I won't say online the kind of actions they have organised.

    And while most anarchists I know aren't married (and like you say some will never do so), that could be because they tend to be even younger than most marxists, and ideologically opposed to any form of 'organised structure' like marriage - symbolic of the coercive state y'know? But even some of the anarcho-mob get married. Yours may be more feral tho ;)

    It's just the Catholics that struggle with getting hitched ;)