Review of Simply Tuesday

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In A Million Little Ways, Emily P. Freeman encourages the reader not to fear if someone has the same message because you have a different way to say it. That way of saying it might be just the right way from some recipient, who would not otherwise be heard or been penetrated by the core message. Freeman’s book, Simply Tuesday, does just this with St. Therese of Lisieux doctrine of the Little Way. Does Freeman know about St. Therese or the little way? I do not know, and it does not matter. The message is beautifully put in her lovely writing style which takes a scene or a moment or an object from her personal life and holding that image in mind, she reflects on its meaning and its application to our life.

Not only is Freeman’s prose impeccable, it is filled with a gentle rhythm that makes her work a proper meditation on maintaining peace in a chaotic life, and quieting ambition in our typically hectic work. She allows her words and images to build organically. Her tactic of returning to images from previous chapters as she includes new ones connects each of the concepts of the book, going ever deeper in reflection.

Rev. Francois Jamart, O.C.D., summarizes the little way as this:

  1. We must fully recognize our spiritual poverty, our incapacity, and accept this condition.
  2. We must have recourse to God with blind and filial confidence, in order that He may accomplish in us what we cannot do by our own powers; for God is our Father; he is Love infinitely merciful.
  3. We must believe in Love and apply ourselves to the practice of love.

Spiritual poverty, described as smallness by Freeman is considered at length between the smallness of humiliation and the smallness of wonder. She invites the reader to embrace the smallness of wonder and the ordinary moments of our lives, which she encapsulated in the concept of Tuesday.

There is a bit of the lady bug philosophy, that when we learn to sit still is when ladybugs will come to us, that grace will come to us. God has called us to these moments, so let us sit and reflect and calm the rush of daily life.

In the third point of the little way, the practice of love, Therese emphasizes the importance of practicing love in the mundane tasks (because in our spiritual poverty or smallness, this is all we can do). You will find the same message throughout in Freeman’s work.

Does this cheapen Freeman’s reflections as something copied? Most definitely not. The message may be the same but the telling is wholly original. Therese wrote her little way as pieces of her autobiography and as a response to the direct request to write out this belief and practice. In that, it is not more ornate or poetically written than came natural to Therese to explain her ideas.

Freeman’s book is a verbal painting of the little way. This little way is at the heart of scriptures, wholly original and wholly tradition, and Freeman, by engaging the scriptures, with the help of others in her life, describes herself as being on this path.

This is the second book by this author that I have made my daily companion, an event of each day when I stop what I am doing and meditate on the chapter where a business card marks.

Reading her work, I have become more reflective and more appreciative of the small moments. It has helps me to act more intentionally and to move a little but further on the path of regaining peace and balance in my life. I heartily recommend Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman.

Review of The Artisan Soul

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After perusing The Home Design Doodle Book, I picked up The Artisan Soul: Crafting your Life into a Work of Art by Erwin Raphael McManus (2014). How odd to wax poetic over a doodle book and then have very few good things to say here. I will not finish the book. My reading reduced to a skim. The reviews on Amazon on overall quite positive. My experience was not.

The moment I read the author thought he should not have hidden his naked body but danced joyfully in the front yard, I thought perhaps something was off about this book.

The first chapter was wonderful.

“The great divide is not between those who are artists and those are not, but between those who understand that they are creative and those who have become convinced that they are not.”

I wrote about this recently in my article, “What is Art?”

“There is an order to the creative process: we dream, we risk, we create.”

That is beautiful and deep, though I cannot say he expands on it more. Once could write an entire reflection series on that quote.

There are other reflections on the way that as art comes from us and we are made in the image of God, so beautiful art will, essentially, reflect God. The best art is authentic to who we are. This is why it is so jarring to see ugly “art” in the fine arts because it reflects our brute nature rather than our angelic nature.

Soon, his theology gets a little wonky; his philosophy a little sloppy. I think he actually says we are all drawn to the good, without referencing Aristotle.

It contains a reflection on craft distinguishing it from product. A craft is handmade. A product uses people. I could think of tidier definitions.

This highlights how things that are not part of the fine arts can still be done as an art, along with how those who are creating in the field of fine arts, can create garbage or art that is not moving. It is an important distinction.

Artists love without reservation. They give their hearts completely and leave nothing on the table. They are naked and unashamed…but not without struggle. This path is not an escape from life’s wounds and disappointment. To live from our souls is to pursue our greatest passions and expose ourselves to our greatest pain. We cannot live to create and be surprised that we have traveled through failure. We cannot live a life of passion and not know sorrow… All creativity emerges from struggle. All art is born out of the pain of labor. The artisan soul must be both tender and tough.

Wonderful insights and great explanations as to why it seems the great artists all suffered so much. Not because art makes us suffer, but that suffering finds expression and hopefully, healing, in art.

All well and good. The subsequent chapters I take issue with.

In Chapter 2, McManus discusses the role of our internal voice/narrative. He writes that some think a narrative of pessimism (despair) means only darkness can be authentic. He proposes a narrative of hope (optimism – but it’s not really) can show authentic art to be happy and about love.

The fault here lies in conflating pessimism/optimism with despair/hope. In psychology, these are particular terms. I think is one is making an effort tot write a book, it is important to have one’s terms clear. A better interpretation of his point would be an interior narrative of hope can make our art transcendent, lifting it out of darkness (negative emotions, brokenness) into light (love, self-gift).

In Chapter 3, McManus writes interpretation is more important than truth, and truth exists because God is trustworthy. It hurts to even repeat that. The fault here lies in a belief that truth can and cannot exist. It gets us into the realm of “your truth” and “my truth.”

A better interpretation would be truth exists regardless. By trustworthy, I think the author means reliable. Reliability is proven by experience. If someone earns our trust, in that we seek answers from him, it is because of how well they conform their lives to the truth. Others we can trust will answer in a particular way (honest or dishonest). That implies reliability. Interpretations of life are unique, but if they do not conform to reality they are insane. If they do not conform to a transcendent truth, they are limited, often depressing or vapid. Truth matters a great deal because it grounds interpretation to something anyone can access, even if one might interpret it differently. It is the thread that unites us.

In Chapter 4, McManus discusses the concept of vision or imagination. He writes, “Imagination is more powerful than knowledge.” Quoting Picasso, a point is made that Picasso’s gift came not with technical genius but imagination. The child imagination is praised. Yes, children have imagination. They do not yet possess not knowledge or skill. The fault here lies in believing imagination and knowledge are opposed to each other.

A better interpretation would be imagination without knowledge belongs to the child while imagination maintained in the adult is refined and focused by knowledge. Learning the art can be seen as having the imagination (creativity) to apply the skill in new and interesting ways. The author also touches on concepts of wonder and awe, which are different. This chapter wanders more than previous chapters. By now his writing feels tangential as well as repetitive.

I could read no more. If one will write about God like this and one is Christian, then let him reference Christian theological tradition. I know this may not be promoted in some Christian denominations, so I do not blame the author, but this book is not for me. Too many insights we have come because we are nested in a culture with a knowledge that has been passed down. What we think we access all on our own has been seeded by our culture and academic tradition. Let us give it some credit. And let’s define our terms.

A reading of Inspired You by Marian Parsons, aka Miss Mustard Seed

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I admit I found this review in my draft folder. I read Inspired You last year as my son was in the hospital.

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Freeing my mind from the digital world of too much information and attempting to rest all at the same time, I picked up a copy of Inspired You by Marian Parsons, aka Miss Mustard Seed.

I do not remember how I came across Miss Mustard Seed. It may be when I wandered into Vintage Market, a lovely shop in downtown Turlock and learned about Chalk Paint and milk paint. Or I may have known about milk paint first. Somehow, someway, I came across the blog Miss Mustard Seed.

There are few blogs I follow regularly. There are even fewer I enjoy consistently. I avidly read anything Al Kresta posts, Catholic news commentator, or Elizabeth Scalia, and I bought book by both of them. If I found a blog by George Weigel I read it as well. These three have in common their Catholic faith, their insightful observations and wit to boot. Miss Mustard Seed is the first and only decorating blog I thoroughly enjoy.

What is it about Mrs. Marian Parsons?

To review why I have become attached to her blog and follow her consistently is also a way to review her book because her book naturally reflects many of the same messages as her blog.

Marian Parsons reveals her authentic self in her writing. Her writing style is good. Her photography is a peaceful feast for the eyes. The combination of the two is not always guaranteed in the blogosphere. She does it beautifully every time. In her tutorials, her stories, she somehow makes it all accessible by sharing her fears, her “just-winging-it,” and her faith in God. She never preaches, simply shares her experience. She is the only blogger I have read who emphasizes that the photograph you see online is not what it looks like in real life or on a normal basis. In her book, she includes photographs showing her home, unedited, and another as it really is day to day. She wants readers to know this is all obtainable. It is one thing to say it does not have to be perfect, and then every photograph is perfect so you walk away, possibly inspired, but not so encouraged. It is another thing to be vulnerable and say, “here is reality.”

While she expressed a difficulty in staying balanced, she expresses some key aspects of balance required when one loves to decorate. She does not hold back sharing the importance of decorating for your family instead of in spite of your family. As a Catholic wife and mother, I have seen my love of decorating and creative projects as a way to make a beautiful space for my family. I would have made different choices or used different styles if it were only about me, but I see this gift and these skills as part of my vocation to be used for my vocation, my call to love and serve the people I live with. Mrs. Parsons views it the same way. She refers to decorating as her love language for her family. What a beautiful concept!

Because it is tied into our vocation, I believe we should always make some effort. That effort does not have to be perfect. It will wax and wane.

I identify with her and I am learning from her. Over 6 years ago I began re-upholstering pieces but never dared venture towards zipper foots, zippers, piping, or slipcovers. One day, I plan on changing that largely in part because of her encouragement and the clarity of her instruction.

So thank you, Miss Mustard Seed!

Confirmation is not a Graduation from the Church

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While serving with the National Evangelization Team most of the dioceses we visited held Confirmation in high school. I received the Sacrament of Confirmation in 8th grade. Most of my teammates received it as a High School Junior. The debate went on throughout the year about which was better, younger or older. The arguments I heard for a later Confirmation focus on the ability to understand, to commit oneself to live as a Catholic, and to uses Confirmation classes to maintain the presence of youth in the parish.

To the first argument: There is a belief that the older we are the better we understand. It seems to me that children are better able to understand than adults the teachings of the faith. They understand how to believe by trusting. They trust the messenger and so believe the message. The age of doubt and questioning comes later. That age is an important milestone for a person of faith to assimilate and work through the beliefs from childhood into his or her own mind. Because teenagers are developmentally in a place of separating from their parents and forming their own identity, beliefs, and ways of thinking, throwing a sacrament into the middle of this stage might not be the best timing. With a lack of religious education in the home, one is more likely to find a teenager great in doubt than great in faith.

To the second argument: one can commit their life better when one is older. This is true in some cases. If I know myself better, theoretically, I know better what I want to commit to. Although I do not know what life will throw at me during the course of my commitment. I cannot predict how I will respond or if I would do it over again given the chance. If the commitment requires a change on my part, it might actually be harder to commit when I am older than what I am younger because we are creatures of habit.

Confirmation does not seem to require such a change. I still think it is problematic asking for a lifelong commitment in the throes of adolescence when all commitments seem to be under evaluation. Either do it much later or much earlier and avoid placing something so important in this particularly difficult time period. I do not recommend entering into serious commitments in the throes of a midlife crisis either.

If the Sacrament of Confirmation were pushed much later, are we not then treating it like the adult baptism in some Protestant denominations where it is seen as a choice that must be made by the individual, fully aware, and should not be made on the part of the parents? Can anyone ever be fully aware? Baptism is not treated this way in the Catholic Church. And Confirmation is not “Baptism, Take II.” Your parents chose first, now you get to choose. It is a different sacrament though it does complete the first.

Those who hold the last argument likely shutter at the idea of pushing the Sacrament of Confirmation beyond adolescence. They want to use the Sacrament of Confirmation as a retainer for the parishioners and their teenage children. We need a way to keep them in church, keep them learning! Placing Confirmation earlier would create a larger gap when they simply do not attend or engage their faith.

Should we really hold the sacraments hostage or treat them as a means to an end? Are we not diminishing the glory of Christ coming to us in the sacraments by holding it out as the prize for so many religious education classes attended? It is any wonder no matter how many times the youth repeat, “Confirmation is not a graduation from the Church,” they still leave when it is all over. Confirmation is thought of that wa because it is used that way by the church itself.

I have a reason for defending a younger age for Confirmation. This one I did not hear spoken of in those debates. We were taught at Confirmation we received certain gifts of the Holy Spirit. Those gifts are prayed for thus:

“All-powerful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by water and the Holy Spirit you freed your sons and daughters from sin and gave them new life. Send your Holy Spirit upon them to be their helper and guide. Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence. Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence.

If we really and truly believe these gifts are given to the Confirmand in a particular way through the sacrament, if we really and truly believe a change takes place, then does it not seem odd to say, “let them struggle through their questions of the faith first, without the gift of understanding, judgment, knowledge, and awe, beforehand.” Would it not be better to prepare those we love with these gifts before they enter the dangerous territory of American adolescence? I would rather have my child blessed with the gift of courage when she faces high school boys than not. I would rather my son possess a gift of wonder and awe when he faces, as a hormonal boy, God’s creation in woman than wait for it. If we truly believe these are gifts and not things earned, why withhold them?

These were the thoughts I came to that year in those discussions. They were not educated thoughts. Rather simply born from reflection on the things we taught and the arguments we heard. I was pleased to hear up until recently in church history, Confirmation was given much closer to Baptism and is still done so in some areas. It is pleasing to hear the Archbishop of Denver restoring it to its place with the Sacraments of Initiation. I think we need this. In this modern world with its modern temptations, I think we need it desperately. Third grade is none too soon.

Singing me self-conscious

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Recently, my husband and I find ourselves among jazz musicians. We are seeking them out. Sitting at a restaurant, listening to his coworker and friends jam, I ask him, “don’t you just sit here and want to be a part of it? Don’t you want to join in?” He smiled, shook his head and said, “no.” He pointed to himself and said, “introvert.”

When I see something happening, I want to be a part of it. Extrovert. I eagerly want to join in. I cannot stop thinking about it. I daydream about it.

But then, I am human. In my daydreams, I can do anything. When I do it in real life, I am embarrassed beyond belief.

This happens every Halloween. I want to dress up. I see costumes. I daydream about putting one together. I may gather the components. But if my costume does not consist of terribly normal clothes, I am unsettled all evening. I become self-conscious.

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I feel very good about the projects I have tackled lately. Mistakes in sewing and painting do not bother me. I am generally good at that which I approach. Writing is going well. There is an 80%-finished painted dresser in the garage and the color is lovely. A started but stalled sewing project sits on my desk. A wood sign languishes in the background because I lost interest. None of these phase me. It is personal and private. I love those projects and I miss out on nothing if I do not finish them.

When it involves people, perhaps it is a different story. And jazz.

A lady sang. She only sang in front of people once before and everyone cheered for her. I want to do it, too.

I sing in front of my kids. I sing at mass. She is singing in front of people, and she is an amateur. Surely I can do it, too. I want to be part of the group.

My husband is excited. We cannot act spontaneously because—introvert. He gathered the music, plays the piano, and asks me when we will practice.

I procrastinate.

Finally, it is time. We saw those jazz musicians again last night. Another woman sang. That could be us! We could jump up there and sing “Cheek to Cheek.” What fun it would be!

I stand with my husband, hold my sheet of music and get ready to start. He presses the keys with a jazz-like spirit and I begin…laughing. And I laugh the entire way through. Not one word comes out because I feel so goofy and silly and self-conscious that I cannot stop laughing. Thank goodness we did not jump on stage!

We try again 30 minutes later. I manage some words but sing low and quiet trying to pair the words and music together. I have only ever sung this song alongside Doris Day. As I sing the refrain, I can feel my confidence glide down a funnel and out of my spirit. The more that drains, the more I want to shrink into a corner and give up.

He records the music so I can practice alone. The man is a teacher. I am not the first self-conscious creature under his wing.

I will not give up. We will keep trying until I feel comfortable. This is what it is to be taught a new art. Some you will take to naturally. Some will try your basest instincts. If you do not give up, in the end, you might just have a lot of fun.

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Walker Art Museum

 

Everlane Review

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Everything is always on sale. I imagine you can think of more than a couple stores where buying something full price is basically cheating yourself because you can always get it for 30% or 40% off. Loft, Gap, Old Navy, Macy’s, Kohl’s…can you list more? JC Pennys attempted to do away with the constant sales and simply sell at lower prices. Instead of a $24 top, always marked down 50%, they would just sell it for $12. It did not work. Sales continue to drop, so the company returned to its former pricing strategy.

In order to comply with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, stores must offer these items full price for a certain period of time, which is a boon to them because of those of us who finally made it all the way to the store and do not want to wait for a sale or pay for shipping when it is on sale again. This happens for me at Michael’s and Hobby Lobby when I get there on the off weeks. Their merchandise seems to alternate sale weeks, so each item is 40% off…50% of the time.

These practices strike me as dishonest and manipulative, though it is sensible marketing. Americans love a deal, even if we know in the back of our mind that this is no deal. It is hard to deny the lure of that discounted price tag. As a bonus, brands that never go on sale have an elite quality the bargain bin of Walmart cannot compete with.

Through regularly reading Verily magazine, I have learned about the impact of the fashion industry on our environment. Earlier this year, the magazine posted three TED talks on the subject. I was convicted.

Already, through their reviews of ethical companies, I purchased a backpack from Everlane. At the time, my youngest son was on continuous g-tube feeds and a 20-hr TPN cycle. To carry him around, I must always wear a backpack with his pumps and bags. In order to maintain the caliber of my Easter outfit, I wanted a better-looking backpack.

Everlane Backpack

I was amazed at the quality. Incredibly sturdy, strong stitching, metal zippers, great shape, and leather straps. What an improvement! I looked forward to when I could use it just for myself, rather than with baby Peter. And I have.

When in San Francisco with Peter, I use a tote in the morning as I walk from Family House to the hospital. It fits my laptop and whatever else I need for the day. I thought about buying one from Everlane, but didn’t want to spend so much. I shopped around. I found a couple I liked at Target. One was too small; the other looked good. I compared it to the Everlane bag. Only $20 more and I knew the quality difference would be considerable. And so it was. I love the bag.

Everlane tote

My husband’s band wears black when they play. It was time to buy him additional black dress shirts. I ordered two from Macy’s and one from Everlane. Both purchases were about $50 (so Macy’s, on sale, was half the price). At Macy’s the selection was somewhat overwhelming. The fits of the fitted Alfani shirts varied widely. For one, I missed the presence of 40% polyester when I ordered it. My husband needs to stay cool when he plays in the club. Polyester will not do. He procrastinated trying on the shirts because of the immense amount of packaging and pins. He procrastinated folding them back up for the same reason.  When it was all said and done, we returned both.

The Everlane package came. An oversized cardboard envelope with one strip of paper tape. Inside, two shirts. There were no plastic bags, no pins. Only one piece of cardboard under the collar of the dress shirt. Both shirts feel lightweight yet substantial. The fit and look are great (there is something to be said for buying from a company that targets to your age demographic). I learned about cotton in researching how to buy good sheets. Long staple cotton is more durable than a shorter fiber. His Gap t-shirts always seem to develop mysterious holes. I suspect shorter fibers in those soft cotton shirts. The man could wax poetic about these Everlane shirts: their Cotton Pocket and The Air Oxford Shirt – Black.

Everlane shirt

Everlane breaks down their pricing strategy so you can see the cost of materials and labor. They are honest about their markup. Other sellers want to appear as though they make little to no profit. Everlane is a for-profit company that is not out to earn it at all costs.

I am not ready to purchase all our goods from companies like this, but I will follow the advice from the TED talks.

Buy second hand

Donate or sell used clothing

Buy quality so it does not end up in the landfill

Find companies that will recycle unusable clothes (almost all are recyclable)

Look for companies who share not only photos of their factories but name and location

Do not get caught up in sale prices, they often do not reflect true discounts. At what costs do these discounts come?

Quality costs, but quality lasts…consider cost per wear rather than initial cost upfront.

 

A Clothesline Way of Life

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Published this week in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch.

I just saw an advertisement for a washing machine with two washers in one machine so you can wash light and dark at the same time. Let us pass over the fact that you can wash light and dark together on an energy-saving cold-water setting and consider what this means. How many housekeepers face the mountain of laundry in that one spot that always seems susceptible to the plate tectonics causing its growth? Do we really need to do more laundry at once? It is time-saving, so instead of spending all weekend doing laundry, you can spend one full day doing nothing but laundry.

I’d like to propose a different way of life. I discovered it through my clothesline.

Lack of financial resources during a particular period of our life had me searching for whatever ways I could to be conservative with our money. Though we owned a drier, our rented home sat atop a large hill with a massive clothesline shared with our adjoining neighbors.

Combine this set up with the wisdom gleaned from A Mother’s Rule of Life and I discovered a slower way to live. Her recommendation is to set a structure for each day, an order of events that may or may not be on a timeline, that follow a similar approach as a monastic order. The routine stays the same. The sequence depends on the family. It may be wake up, dress, breakfast, school lessons, chores, lunch, rest, hobby, dinner, clean up, bed; or wake up, dress, breakfast, leave for school, errands, return home after school, snack, homework, play, dinner, clean up, bed. A simple routine spelled out in more detail: clean a different room each day, wash a different load of laundry each day. Never more than one load of laundry per day. Otherwise, the day can become consumed with laundry, neglecting other areas of life.

Over the past wet winter, at our home-in-town with our average-size fenced-in yard, I gave up using the clothesline and used the dryer instead. When I finished one wash and put it in the drier, it seemed so simple to add another load to the wash. Soon I was completing three loads in one day and had a great deal more laundry to fold, with more places to deliver it to. Even though I did laundry on fewer days, it felt more exhausting. Like having to deep clean once a week rather than clean small, quick messes daily.

Winter passed, the clouds dried up, and I took out my clothesline once again. I am back to one load or one type of laundry a day (sheets) and at least two days a week without washing anything. I make sure to have one day of rest from all chores. For us, as Christians, that day is Sunday. There is something fulfilling of going out into the sun, hanging the pieces with care, and folding that fresh-smelling crisp wash at the end of the day rather than after the huff of getting it all washed and dried within three hours.

We have to guard our lives. Faster and time saving may be better, but what do we fill the time with? Do we just end up doing more? Do we end up losing the time to social media or some fabulously written Netflix show? It can be good and necessary to spend a day doing laundry, that’s true. Not all lifestyles allow for a slow approach to chores. Still, I would like to advocate for the effort. The effort to slow down, do a little less and enjoy a little more. Whether it is with a clothesline, a slow cooker or a storybook, I think it is worth a try.

A comedienne’s way of being in the world

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From Patrick Coffin, Catholic media personality and apologist (though not a philosopher):

Has any one noticed that women, as a rule, aren’t funny?

These talented women  — and I want to put it delicately but factually — are on the mannish side.

…Maybe this male-female difference an evolutionary biology thing. Maybe it’s that most men are attracted to women who find them funny as opposed to being funny per se. 

I did not make that clear and I think some of the blowback stems from my use of the word women. I take responsibility. I was referring *primarily* to female stand-ups, not every last woman on earth. Humor is somewhat subjective, and women and men laugh at different things for their various reasons. I stand behind the basic point, however, which is that comedy as an enterprise is essentially a masculine one. 

In some places, he says “women.” In some places, he says “female stand-ups.” In some places, he says “comedy as an enterprise”. Which is it?

We should define terms and distinguish between masculinity and traits commonly assigned to men. John Paul II defined femininity as a woman’s way of being in the world. By extension, masculinity is a man’s way being the world. With this definition, a trait, such as courage, is not masculine or feminine, even though society typically assigns it to men. Women are quite courageous. It just, in general, takes on a different style or look or context.

To say men have some qualities and women have other qualities is a form of fractional complementarity. The problem with fractional complementarity is it means the individual is incomplete without the other sex. That God made each person incomplete.

Men and women are complementary but in an integral way. My experience and worldview complement the man’s experience and worldview because I have experienced the world differently than he has. The sum is considerably greater than the individual parts. The individual parts are still whole and complete.

You cannot call a woman masculine because masculinity is a man’s way of being in the world and a woman cannot know it experientially. To call a woman mannish is an insult to her dignity as a woman, as it is to call a man girly. A woman can demonstrate traits more commonly associated with men but that does not make her less feminine because it does not alter the fact that she has and can only experience this world as a woman.

If masculinity and femininity refer to a man or woman’s way being in the world, respectively, then characteristics can not be masculine or feminine per se, but they are likely to be experienced in different ways by men and woman. Thus, if “female stand-ups” in “comedy as an enterprise” demonstrate traits more commonly attributed to men (“mannish”) then that is a reflection not of humor or women but of the business of stand-up comedy.

If we take humor as a characteristic and assume this method of “different ways of being in the world” then we could expect to see a different style of humor from men and women. If the feminine genius, according to Saint John Paul II, is a woman’s particular gift of regarding the human person and attending to others, then we could expect a more feminine humor to be deeply nested in context, attuned to her audience.

Perhaps this is why fewer women are in stand-up because that style of humor is anonymous. The comedienne speaks to a crowd, not an individual, must please many, must tell jokes, stories without the interpersonal interaction one might associate better with the feminine genius. A feminine style of comedy would be better demonstrated in a conversation, a back-and-forth, where she can build from and react to the other person in a humorous way.

Thus Coffin’s comment should have read, “stand-up comedy as a style of humor is more masculine.” One could add, “It is not well-suited to the common style of humor possessed by women.” He did not write that. Instead, he wrote, “Women, as a rule, aren’t funny.”

Women are not shocked and offended by this Catholic man’s words because they are politically correct. It is because we are human beings. It is because we expect a man of God to have a view of women that presents women in the image of God. God endowed women with humor because we are made in his image and I dare say, considering what women go through biologically, no one is funnier than God.

 

Mrs. Maisel

From The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Mrs. Maisel is funniest in conversation