Saturday, October 30, 2010

There's No Place Like Home - CIC, DC Catholic Standard, National Shrine



Well, the time is coming - I will stop the updates to this blog in favor of my new blog and website soon, so just know that my most current info can be found at www.amybonaccorso.com.

Since my book came out, I’ve had some generous coverage from media people around the country, but it is really special when folks at home pay attention! I’m a 4th generation Washingtonian, and the Catholic Standard just published a full page on me and my book in the current edition. So if you are in the area, be sure to pick up a paper this weekend at church. If you can’t do that, go here.

Other exciting news is that I did a book talk at the Catholic Information Center (CIC) at 1501 K Street on Wednesday night. This was very special to me. They have an amazing window display up for me too!

I spent so many evenings at the CIC as a single at their book talks, discussion groups, and other events. I met Fr. C. John McCloskey there and heard the now famous “finding a spouse is like finding a parking spot in New York City” quote there in his office. The bookstore is part of my own personal history. So, it was heartwarming to go back there and share my work and lessons learned with locals.

If you want to see me in DC and missed the CIC talk, come out to the National Shrine on Saturday, November 13 at 1:00 p.m. and I'll be there to sign your book!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Is Religion Important in Relationships?

“Is religion important in relationships?” When I am interviewed and get asked this question – inevitably on a Catholic program – I initially say that yes, religion is very important. I say this because in some ways, it is, and frankly, I could get heckled if the audience is full of Catholics and I don’t enter the discussion with this answer up front. It is expected and in some scenes, demanded.

There is truth and simple logic in the answer. It’s much easier to arrange a wedding with someone who shares your faith. It’s also much easier to baptize and raise a child. With the divorce rate being what it is, anything that is shared and well – easier - the better off you are. It’s one less argument and one more thing you have in common. I can stand by that because it’s essentially common sense. It’s certainly worth the effort when you’re looking for a spouse to attempt to find another Catholic if you are one yourself.

However, I always follow up with a qualifier. While religion is important…it is also simultaneously true that you are really looking for someone with good human virtue. You want someone who is kind, generous, committed, who will be there through thick and thin. These people are good finds too, and just as coveted as the Catholic singles.

It’s hoped for that you find someone who shares your religion AND has good human virtue. But sometimes, there is not the overlap you hoped for.

And here’s where I may differ from other Catholic authors/speakers/personalities…or perhaps am simply one of the few who has decided that the message is worth promoting. I say that when you cannot find someone who shares your religion AND has excellent human virtue – go for the guy with human virtue. Keep practicing your faith, but go ahead and love the person who treats you the best. This is my honest opinion, and based on real life experience.

I have come to think this bit of advice is common sense as well and not as controversial as it sounds. If you are at lunch and a Catholic kid throws a tomato at you, yet the non-Catholic next to you is the one who stays behind and helps you clean yourself up, who are you going to be friends with? Duh! Now, I’m sure your going to say to yourself, “Gee, I really wish the nice kid was Catholic too.” But – guess what – life isn’t a script that you get to write. Don’t pursue a friendship with the Catholic kid if it’s only going to end up in abuse.

This is probably the truthiest part of my answer, yet I tend to make it come second, just like I’ve done in this blog post, and nuance it. If I don’t say what people expect to hear first, I fear I’ll lose my core audience altogether. What’s the point of publishing if people won’t read it? Or, what if I have good thoughts to share but can’t reach people because someone has a knee jerk reaction and unfairly labels me. It was not that long ago that people were shunned in their church communities for marrying outside of the faith (this happened to a step-relative of mine), so it’s still a sensitive topic.

At the same time, I am learning that some of our Catholic media people do get it. I just did an interview with Lisa Hendey of Catholic Moments, which should be airing next week. She asked me this question, and low and behold, she married a non-Catholic. He converted after many years of marriage. She advised people in her situation to remember that they can’t go into the marriage expecting the guy to convert. It will happen if it’s meant to. I think that really loving someone entails accepting them as they are.

I don’t want to misguide people and have them think that they shouldn’t even try to find a Catholic when dating, because that’s not what I am saying. I married a Catholic. But, I am suggesting that people need to weigh the value of both traits, shared religion and human virtue, and recognize that while both are desirable, human virtue is more desirable. We don’t have forever on this planet, so hard choices sometimes need to be made. I feel very strongly that if this message was easier to get out, more Catholic women would be getting married to good guys.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pursue Relationships With Gusto

This holiday weekend, I went to New York City to the New York Writer’s Workshop Non-Fiction Pitch Conference. I love New York City, but let me tell you – if I was sure that I could easily get a publishing deal for my second book by sitting here behind my computer in the DC-area, I wouldn’t have bothered with the trip.

I’m a busy woman. I work full time, I write on the backs of crumpled and faded receipts whenever I can squeeze it in. I routinely cram too much in a day. Believe me when I say that I had many excuses not to go to New York this weekend.

I also knew that I could go through all of the effort that these workshops entail and get rejected by editors. Writers and artists get rejected a lot. I usually see at least one person leave writer’s conferences in tears or distraught. Writers have to develop tough skin, resilience, and passionately believe in their mission to succeed.

So what does this have to do with dating? Just like a writer, if you’re a dater who really wants something – and it’s not clicking for you “at home” – you need to be willing to put some adventure in your step. Put some resources behind your search. Get up and go…. Overcome the daily excuses. Get online if you are not already. Maybe it’s time to expand your search to include matches outside your city. Or, if you live in a small town without a Theology on Tap or similar event series, sponsor your own event or series.

Stepping outside your box and facing the possibility of rejection can be intimidating and discouraging. Honestly - I expected that I would feel somewhat alone at the New York workshop. That’s a realistic fear to have, right? Well, God is awesome and it’s a small world.

When I arrived at my workshop, I sat next to a woman who is married to a man who works at my DC-area workplace. He used to work with my boss, and I met the man myself after the workshop! He knew of my work. I met another woman who was friends with the head of my organization. Then I met a woman who lives about 30 minutes from where I grew up, and is hoping to publish a local story that is close to my heart and family.

The “coincidences” immediately began happening for me, and coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous. God was there to catch me when I was ready to take my big step out of my familiar fish bowl, and He’s there for people who are serious about their vocation to marriage and willing to pursue it with faith and some gusto along the way.

Actively contribute to creating your own success story. I saw a quote recently from Donald Trump (via Twitter) that said something like “If you have to think anyway – might as well think big.” Transform self-limiting thoughts into bigger thoughts with vision and purpose.

And, truly accept and believe that God is there, waiting for you to make a step that He can work with in your life. It’s amazing when you realize that Jesus really is looking after us, and all of our hopes, dreams, and plans –and is there to help.

Friday, October 1, 2010

No "Taken" Male Friends Allowed?

I talked to a single Catholic woman recently and she described her anxiety over going out for a casual lunch, even if it’s in a work context, with married men. She said, “That’s how affairs start.” Through the conversation, I was sensitized to the whole “appearance” issue and rumor mills. Also, to the reality that some men may take advantage of these situations and become flirtatious.

Then I started thinking of my own lifelong tendency to have close male friends. After analyzing it, I think some of my need for male friends may be that I grew up in a very small family. I didn’t have an older brother, no uncles, no male cousins, and never met a grandfather. When you are raised in a streamlined family situation, adopting “big brothers” and “uncles” can be a way of filling in what nature left out and creating a well-rounded support network.

Men may have different viewpoints on common situations than their female counterparts. They tend to be more fiercely objective and not as prone to emotionally colored thinking. At times, they cut through my naiveté instantly with one blunt remark and save me a world of trouble in the process. They may also have areas of expertise that my female friends lack, whether it is fixing computers or cars, to having inside knowledge about a particular group of people or industry.

I have never felt that my friendships with men were inappropriate and they have really helped stabilize me in life, however, I know other people have had concerns.

In college, I had a brother-sister type friendship with a guy around my age. He did not have a real sister. His girlfriend was around a lot, but my attempts to reach out to her weren’t successful and I was never able to build a real friendship with her. She broke up with my friend, citing me as one of her dealbreakers. Honestly folks, this came as a shock to me because my friendship with this guy was truly nothing beyond a brother-sister sort of thing, but my mere presence made his girlfriend feel insecure. Maybe it was just an excuse? I’ll never know. At the time, I thought she was way better looking than me, so I didn’t get it!

During another occasion, I had a male “best friend” who called me “sis.” Again, this was a brother and sister arrangement from my perspective. We dated other people. He’d call me for relationship advice occasionally (and vice versa), and we’d always update each other on our problems and plans. But truly, it was only a friendship. Nevertheless, after he got married, his wife wouldn’t become friends with me. Instead, she didn’t want me around, and his mother even warned that I could hurt the new marriage. I was stunned. We both thought this over-reaction from the women in his life was uncalled for and stupid, but as a newlywed, he ultimately complied with their demands.

The moral of the story is that although I personally am very comfortable with male friends, other people aren’t always that way. Part of maturing into an adult, for me, was recognizing that no matter how much I appreciate platonic relationships with the opposite sex, other people may not have the emotional equipment to understand them. Instead of always rushing to blame them for their close-mindedness, I have to be sensitive to their concerns.

Most people view things in a very simple manner, which is that you go out and find your one and only opposite gender companion for your inner circle, and that’s pretty much it. All of your other opposite gender friends are confined to the outer circle of friends, unless they are related by blood.

Truth be told, I still don’t like that rigidity. It seems unjust to me, and doesn’t account for people who are multi-dimensional and need a wide variety of friends.

But surprisingly, when I started dating my husband, I clenched my teeth over female friends he had (that were in his age group – somehow older female co-workers didn’t seem to matter)! I was not anticipating that kind of response given my previous experiences, but it is true that when you are involved with someone for real, non-threats may appear like blazing red flags. Even if they are not currently threats, you want to eliminate the possibility of something bad happening from the get go and the jealousy kicks in. You don’t care if the other woman feels hurt because you are concerned about marking your territory. You think, “Hey, that’s tough. He’s mine – stay away from him.”

Any thoughts on this?