Making the most of your single years

While the tried and true guide to helping Catholic women ‘survive’ the single years has been written by American author Emily Stimpson, I thought it would be helpful to share some of my own advice on getting the best out of your singlehood.

Just for the record, I don’t think being single is something that should be ‘survived’; I think we should be able to thrive in whatever state of life we are in, because that’s what God has willed for us now.

Live out of home

As one of my readers put it in a comment:

Women can and do share house with other women, and men can do the same, and they can support each other in navigating the world in a Christian way. Obviously, you choose your housemates carefully!

This is a great way to separate from your family of origin (especially necessary for men to mature properly), and to learn how to be independent and manage your adult life.

The best preparation for marriage I can think of is to have lived with a same sex housemate. You will learn how to have adult conversations about daily living, how to take reaponsibility, how to make sure other people assume responsibility, how to budget and pay bills, clean up after yourself, and have fun.

You also learn about how irritating another person can be, and how to manage this. In turn, you will learn how irritating YOU are to someone who hasn’t known you all your life.

Having lived in a female share-house for the past five years, I can attest to the truth of every word of this. I had no real ‘reason’ to move out of home, other than an uncomfortable awareness that I wasn’t as responsible, independent or able to take care of myself as I should at 27. And boy, was moving out a learning curve!

I learned how to balance a budget, shop prudently for groceries, cook and manage meals every day, schedule laundry and other chores into my week, tidy up after myself and, perhaps most importantly, live amicably with other adults. I learned quirks, habits and other details about myself I never knew I had. I learned which battles to pick and what hills to die on when it comes to sharing a household. I did a huge amount of growing during this time and I seriously recommend – especially to anyone over 25 who has never lived out of home.

Start checking things off your bucket list NOW!

Too often I see women waiting around to get married so their life can really ‘begin’. This is nonsense. Apart from anything else, once you get married – and especially once you have children – you just won’t have time to do all the things you want to do. Start doing those things RIGHT NOW!

Personally, I love dancing, music and languages. So, I make an effort to go to swing dancing classes every week, I’m learning to play the guitar (or trying to) and I’m studying Latin. Your single years are the unrepeatable, precious time in your life to invest in hobbies, education, wishes and dreams.

You can, of course, do all this after you get married and start a family – but it’s a lot harder.

Start saving – buy the Barefoot Investor

Your future husband is not going to come riding along on his shining steed and rescue you from the black hole of debt and/or lack of savings you find yourself in. You need to get your s**t together now, girlfriend.

I came to the unflattering realisation very recently that I was guilty of this sin. Without even realising it, I had been unconsciously waiting to get married before looking at such trivial things as saving for a house deposit. You can imagine how much I’m regretting that now. And even if you do end up marrying a guy who has some decent savings, it can only be a good thing for you to bring something to the table, too.

For Aussies: Seriously, for all you financial illiterates like me, the Barefoot Investor is the funniest, cruisiest, most idiot-proof guide on how to save and be fiscally responsible that you will ever read. I cannot recommend it highly enough. In fact, stop reading this right now and go buy yourself a copy.

Invest in a good speaker

Nothing says single like belting out your favourite tunes at the top of your lungs while cooking, driving or just dancing around the house. To me, this is one of the greatest joys of being single. No children in the car to accidentally wake up. No busy husband to disturb. Just you and the music.

I recently bought myself a UE Boom and I couldn’t be happier – I leave it on the bench top whenever I prepare a meal, I take it into the shower, I put it on in the background while reading or writing. Plus, it’s great for parties! If you are single, whether willingly or not, you might as well do it well!

See a good (Christian) therapist

I’m deadly serious about this one. When it comes to learning about, and bettering, oneself, nothing has come even close to helping me as much as seeing a psychologist. I’ve learned about how to cope with stress; how to stop worrying; how to be assertive and deal with difficult people; I’ve learned about decades-old wounds I didn’t even know I was carrying; I’ve learned how to let go of resentment and forgive those who have hurt me, and I’ve learned how to heal quickly from the wounds they gave.

And what I keep coming back to is this: thank God I’m learning all this now! I hear so many stories of couples who brought all their problems, their issues and their wounds into their relationships and were only driven to therapy when their marriages were at breaking point. It is so much harder to deal with all the issues once you’re already in a marriage. The success rate of marriages does also tend to be much higher, so I’m told, for those who started seeing a therapist before getting engaged or married.

But even leaving marriage aside, being able to free yourself from old unhealed wounds, resentment and bad habits, from stress, anxiety or depression, is wonderful for its own sake. It is enriching and liberating and vastly contributes to quality of life.

A few caveats.

1. You need to find a good therapist, preferably one who shares your Christian faith. I’m lucky enough to have found a fantastic Catholic psychologist who brings my faith into each session (which also begins with a prayer). I’ve heard some dreadful stories of people who went to any old counsellor or psychologist and got bad or even harmful advice. Ask around before you start seeing someone. If you are already seeing a therapist and you’re not experiencing any improvement or getting any real help, you might need to shop around some more. Christian psychologists are rare but they are out there!

2. Yes, it’s expensive. But my life has improved so significantly by every measure since I started regularly seeing my psychologist that I don’t look at it so much as a cost as an investment; in my life, my mental health, my happiness and my overall peace of mind.

3. You don’t need to be crazy to see a psychologist. I’ll repeat that. You don’t need to be crazy to see a psychologist. Therapists have a bad name in a lot of Christian spheres. People associate them with Freud and tend to view the whole thing as pseudo-science and quackery. “I don’t need a psychologist, I have God.” This is what I used to say to myself. Little did I realise then that perhaps seeing a psychologist was part of God’s plan to help me in the ways I needed helping. (When people say this I’m reminded of the story of the drowning man.) And the fact is we simply do live in a busier, more stressful world than ever before. Apart from all the other problems you’re probably dealing with, this in itself can be a huge issue.

The only regret I have about seeing a psychologist is that I didn’t start going about 10 years earlier.

So, these are my top suggestions for how to make the most of your single years. I’d love to hear other people’s suggestions. What tips do you have for us singles?

Update: comment from a reader:

The fact that these things seem to not be learned at home for many people is a testament to a colossal failure within the home. These things should begin when you’re 13, not 25. And as I posted on the last thread, Pope Pius XII disagrees with your advice for women to leave the family home:

https://www.traditioninaction.org/religious/n053rp_GirlsHome.htm

I also think many of the advantages you mention of having a therapist ought to be things worked out in solid friendships, so I consider the fact that it isn’t for many of us a failure for friendships to be sufficiently challenging us to virtue.

The biggest piece of advice I have for singles is to pray. As St. Paul tells us, the biggest advantage of being unmarried is having an undivided heart, to be solicitous of things of the Lord. St. Francis de Sales recommends an hour of mental prayer a day; St. Theresa of Avila recommends 2 hours per day. While how much time one has to pray is circumstance dependent, It’s difficult for me to think why at least an hour of mental prayer isn’t possible for a single person. King Louis IX assisted at 2 masses a day, and he was a king and married. It’s about priorities.

A few points on this.

I was brought up in a home that hugely valued personal responsibility. I’ve written about this before but my siblings and I were always on a chores roster; we were expected to help out around the house, we were expected to make our beds in the morning and, if we wanted to buy things, we were expected to get jobs so we could pay for them ourselves. This is a lot more responsibility than I see in many other homes.

However, none of this taught me how to balance a budget so I could navigate the best way of paying bills and buying enough groceries of a given week. I learned how to cook and bake growing up, but it’s a very different story if the sole person responsible for you getting fed is you! Also, for a time I bought my groceries with one of the girls I lived with, so managing meals for two each night, and having enough for lunch for both of us the next day, presented its own unique challenges.

And as I said, living with your family and living with others are two very different stories. Other people are generally not so forgiving of all your quirks and annoying habits as your family members. Learning how to navigate tricky conversations in a share house and getting used to the faults and foibles of others is all excellent practice for marriage.

I respect Pope Pius XII but I think it’s important to take into account that he lived in the early 20th Century – a vastly different world to the one we have now. Social mores have changed. People don’t learn the same level of responsibility they once did. Homes often require a double income these days. I’m not saying any of this is right or wrong, it’s just the way it is. At the end of the day I can only speak from my own experience and that has been as I described above: I learned invaluable lessons from living out of home, despite having had a very thorough and responsibly-minded upbringing.

Also, the reason I so strongly advocate for seeing a good therapist is because they can help you in ways friends are not always able to. I say this, again, from experience, despite the phenomenal friends and friendships I have. It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with virtue, either. My close friends and I encourage each other in virtue all the time. The fact is, there are solutions to problems you may have that are not intuitive. I, and others I’ve spoken to, have abundant experience showing this to be the case. There are also trials you may go through that none of your friends have experienced, and talking to them can only help so much. A therapist is trained to deal with all manner of things, and will generally have had other clients who have the same issues and experiences as you.

The point on prayer is a really important one, though. I didn’t mention it because I was focussing specifically on practical advice. But yes, prayer is the most important thing you should be doing, single or not. If people struggle to fit mental prayer into their day, I recommend doing what I did and just trying to practice it for five minutes each day. It sounds easy but it’s surprisingly hard. Eventually though, once you get into the practice, five minutes is not enough! You will naturally spend longer and longer periods of time in mental prayer, building up your relationship with God. It’s a beautiful thing! I highly, highly recommend it!

25 thoughts on “Making the most of your single years

  1. This post could have been written by a lady acquaintance of mine, who worked at my company many years ago. Always totally independent, self-sufficient, making the most of her singleness, all of that. Not in a nasty feminist kind of way, but never had time for men or really for anything other than herself. I recall trying to ask her out a couple of times, and was shot down for various lame reasons. Sorry, but I _have_ to teach yoga that day. Stuff like that.
    She’ll be 60 soon. Are you right in line behind her? Seems to me that you might well be.

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    1. The snarkiness is not nice.
      While I have some quibbles with the host, before you take the splinter out of her eye how about that little beam there, eh?
      OK, I understand that you got shot down, but I want to ask you what did you bring to the table. I mean was she justified in giving you the flick? Simply turning up is not enough.
      I mean are you in shape, do you dress reasonably well, can you hold a conversation, do you have charisma…. hygiene, dare I say anger issues? Too many Christian guys lamenting the dating landscape seem to have the attitude that a Christian woman has a duty to hitch up to any guy just because he is Christian without any reference to the mechanics of attraction; the mutual love of Jesus being enough. It just doesn’t work that way.
      Dear God, I got shot down so many times when I was younger. Sometimes the woman was really vile but, upon reflection, sometimes she was justified in her actions. I was too stupid to at the time but the reality is that had quite a few faults that I had to iron out and I still continue to work on myself even after I’ve been married. Keeping the fire burning takes a moderate amount of work.
      I’m a man, and I’ve got to admit that many of the Christian blokes that I have met have a bit of dweebiness about them. And dweebiness is attraction poison. Before you blame the babes make sure your own house is in order.

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      1. fluvox, your anger is irrelevant and very baffling. You say that you’re a man, but honestly that’s what women tend to write. “You asked a women out and she said no? You must be angry or smelly or poorly dressed.” Go away.
        If I had known you would react as you did, I wouldn’t have mentioned that I tried to ask the woman out. That wasn’t the point at all. The point was that she also “made the most of her single years”. As far as I know, she never dated at all – I suppose if that’s what she truly wanted, then she met her goal.
        But that’s not what this blog is all about. The author has been very clear that she wants to meet men and go on dates and marry and have a family. I share the question of Dmitiri below – to what extent does she actually put herself out there? And what does that mean? It means that the people she meets, and the people that know her, know that she is open to dating. Or do they just know her as “that woman who’s always so busy”. Because if that’s her reputation, a sensible clean “worldly wise” man (like myself) probably won’t bother to ask her out.

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      2. @Larry
        fluvox, your anger is irrelevant and very baffling
        MGTOW?
        It means that the people she meets, and the people that know her, know that she is open to dating.
        Nearly every woman is open to dating, no matter how “busy” she is, if the RIGHT type of guy comes around. Now it may be that your aging spinster may have set the bar way too high but most women have far more realistic sights, especially as the biological clock starts winding down.
        From what our host has written previously it would appear that she has put herself out there, she does admit high standards and nothing seems to impress.(I’m actually reasonably sympathetic to her plight given the current state of Christian masculinity.) What do you expect her to do? Wear a sign around her neck stating that she’s single and looking to get married. What “sign” are you looking for from a woman to indicate she is open to dating? Rejecting you doesn’t mean she wasn’t open to dating it means just that she didn’t want to date you.
        I’ve been there before, so don’t take it as a personal insult but too many men want to blame women for their “relationship failures” instead of taking a good hard look at themselves.
        Because if that’s her reputation, a sensible clean “worldly wise” man (like myself) probably won’t bother to ask her out.
        What have you got to lose by doing so? Most “worldly wise” men would not be put off by such a reputation if she is a prize worth trying to catch.

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      3. Hi Fluvox,
        Why are you so angry? I’m sure there are people, other than you, in the world capable of making intelligent and valid observations about others. You seem to almost be answering someone else, about some other issue about which you have strong feelings. A Strawman.

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  2. I learned how to balance a budget, shop prudently for groceries, cook and manage meals every day, schedule laundry and other chores into my week, tidy up after myself and, perhaps most importantly, live amicably with other adults. I learned quirks, habits and other details about myself I never knew I had. I learned which battles to pick and what hills to die on when it comes to sharing a household.

    The fact that these things seem to not be learned at home for many people is a testament to a colossal failure within the home. These things should begin when you’re 13, not 25. And as I posted on the last thread, Pope Pius XII disagrees with your advice for women to leave the family home:
    https://www.traditioninaction.org/religious/n053rp_GirlsHome.htm
    I also think many of the advantages you mention of having a therapist ought to be things worked out in solid friendships, so I consider the fact that it isn’t for many of us a failure for friendships to be sufficiently challenging us to virtue.
    The biggest piece of advice I have for singles is to pray. As St. Paul tells us, the biggest advantage of being unmarried is having an undivided heart, to be solicitous of things of the Lord. St. Francis de Sales recommends an hour of mental prayer a day; St. Theresa of Avila recommends 2 hours per day. While how much time one has to pray is circumstance dependent, It’s difficult for me to think why at least an hour of mental prayer isn’t possible for a single person. King Louis IX assisted at 2 masses a day, and he was a king and married. It’s about priorities.

    Like

    1. Why not simply become a nun then?
      And while your at it, what were Pope Pius’s thoughts on house design: I mean, where do you put the chapel in the modern family home?
      The lay life is different to the consecrated one, not simply a watered down version of it.

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      1. To my mind probably the easiest place to put a place to pray in the home is one of those climate controlled sheds that people use for man-caves or she-sheds. But a study could work just as well. Or just make sure that every bedroom has what it needs to section off a small portion of it for prayer. But you don’t need a chapel to pray; just a place to be alone.
        Sure the lay life is different. But when St. Paul mentions the advantages of being unmarried, it is before the consecrated life had been developed. It gives one the ability to have an undivided heart, and that should be taken full advantage of.

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      2. @Tim
        While I agree on the importance of spiritual life I do feel that many Christian men may be better off trading off some time in contemplative prayer for time in the gym.

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    2. Anna, please don’t reply to comments by adding onto the article. Reply in the comments so that the discussion can flow naturally.
      You don’t say why you lived at home until age 27. I find it odd that anyone would remain at home that long, unless desperate finances truly required it. Regardless, you should have acquired basic skills in money management and planning meals by that age. These are not difficult things.
      Have you considered that staying at home for so long may have stunted your development? Back in the day, I always found it much much easier to live with roommates who shared my experiences, than it was to live with my family. I mean, I love my family and I love to spend time with them, but I was also very glad to leave home at 17 for college and then to move away for work after that.
      TimFinnegan, are you a monk? Advice from papal writings of two centuries ago is irrelevant and unhelpful. You find it difficult to think “why at least an hour of mental prayer isn’t possible for a single person”? Puh-leeze.

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      1. Pope Pius XII was Pope not even one century ago. He was Pope in the 1940s and 1950s when many things were similar to the way they are today, of course today we’ve all but completely discounted the necessity of the vigilance of family members, especially as regards chastity.
        And yes, considering St. Francis de Sales found it a perfectly reasonable request for a married woman with children (the intended audience of Introduction to the Devout Life), I don’t think it’s unreasonable for a single person today.
        And the possibility of stunted growth while living at home I think is indicative of the failure that I mentioned in my first post of families to form their children. They should be given household responsibilities commensurate with their age, but it seems most parents are content now to treat their adult children as if they were still 12 from the perspective of responsibility.

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  3. Ideally Catholics called to marriage would do it in their teens or early twenties but the world is not currently arranged that way. Sure we should try to create a more humane world where that could happen, but that isn’t reality right now.
    After WW2 lots of German women didn’t get married because so many German men had been killed. You can’t talk about their season of singleness, they were just victims of circumstance who had to live their faith as best they could. Nowadays many Catholics have trouble finding a spouse because there are so few people who share their faith. They just have to manage as best they can.
    Even in the best of worlds we are all victims of original sin. Tolkien said spouses are not each others soulmates but survivors of a shipwreck.

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  4. Miss Hitchings,
    I’m trying to ask this in a good-natured way, but to what extent do you actually put yourself out there? As in, do you put yourself in environments where you’re going to meet men, and in which they might be comfortable approaching you and asking you out? For most girls, simply standing near a man, making eye contact and smiling is pretty much gives him the green light to at least say hello and start a conversation.
    Yes, I know that not every guy is going to be a devout Catholic, and of course you don’t have to compromise on your faith, but at least talking to a few men until Mr Catholic comes along wouldn’t hurt. You might even get the opportunity to evangelize – you never know…

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    1. Dimitri’s point is an excellent one.
      I did not grow up Catholic. Far from it. Starting in young adulthood, for twenty years I thought I wanted to be Catholic, but there are very few on ramps in today’s Catholic church. At least in the US, parish priests are hard to get ahold of or even just to identify, and the building is so often locked up tight except for at mass. You go to mass and you’re amongst the laity, feel like a bit of a stranger, a bunch of things happen around you in which you’re just a part of the crowd, and then there’s a bit of exclusive Church business afterward for a bit before everyone just clears out.
      RCIA is one hour a week and if your work schedule or child care schedule isn’t compatible with that, you’re very much on the outside looking in. It feels like a *very* hard club to learn about or to join (if you’ll forgive my phrasing it that way—not meant to be flip so much as metaphorical).
      Forget about dating. I would have been so eternally grateful to have had a warm Catholic person, woman or man, to befriend me in kindness, generously give me time and friendship, and mentor me in to the faith. I try to keep that in mind now, myself.

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      1. Ausser, I don’t know what denomination you were before becoming Catholic, but “mentoring in the faith” is just not something that Catholics do. I’m not being flip either, that’s just how it is.
        But I’ll say again, what has definitely changed in the last 1 or 2 generations, is that parishes stopped having social activities. Singles and newcomers have no way to meet people in the parish, no way to make Catholic friends, no way to learn of potential folks to date.

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    2. Hi Dimitri, no offence taken by the question 🙂

      I do feel a sense of awkwardness answering these kinds of questions as it feels like I’m trying to justify myself or pump myself up. Regardless though, the question was asked honestly so I will attempt to respond in kind.

      I have a very active social life, if that’s what you mean. I attend lots of Catholic social events, I mentioned I go to dancing classes weekly and Im increasingly getting involved in church events, fundraisers, etc. All my adult life I’ve been “on the lookout”, you might say, for potential men to meet. Seeing as I have always been open to meeting men in these situations I would like to think I “put myself out there”. This includes making eye contact and smiling, or even talking to mutual friends to make it more inviting for said potential to meet me. Sometimes this has led to things happening, sometimes it hasn’t. Part of the problem, of course, is that I’m often seeing the same people I’ve known for the past decade or longer at all these events. It’s rare that someone new comes along who there’s any real potential with.

      Recently though, I’ve been more proactive about meeting men. Rather than waiting for them to meet me (if we haven’t already had the opportunity to be introduced), I now ask mutual friends to just introduce us. I always used to have an aversion to doing this as I felt a man who was genuinely interested would make the effort to introduce himself or get involved in my conversation. Nowadays I’ve stopped caring 😉
      I hope that answers your question!

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      1. Anna, if you keep doing what you’re doing… attending the same activities which draw the same men year after year… men who you’ve already rejected as lacking sufficient worldliness or social skills… why do you expect anything to change?
        I don’t know what “Catholic social events” or “church events, fundraisers” you refer to. As I’ve written, they just don’t exist in the US. But again, if you keep attending them and the suitable Catholic men aren’t there, don’t you ever wonder why? Don’t you wonder where those men are? Because they do exist. Yes, they do. Do they even know about the events? I’m guessing not. Is there something in the parish culture that makes single men feel unwelcome at these events? Probably so. How can the situation change? I have no idea. People who run parishes tend to think everything is just fine as it is.
        As to “I felt a man who was genuinely interested would make the effort to introduce himself or get involved in my conversation.” No, no, no. That’s not how it works. The lady I wrote about above has always had that problem as well. She dominates every conversation she particpates in, she sucks the life out of the room. She just doesn’t get that men aren’t attracted to that. She comes across as “the chatty lady who is much too busy for a man in her life”.

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      2. Thanks for answering. From now on I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and go with your thesis that the problem stems from ‘good men’ abandoning the Church, thereby leaving a very shallow dating pool for those women who still cling to the Catholic faith. I admit I don’t actually know any girl who takes her faith that seriously.
        My experience is largely limited to non-religious girls (very shallow pool at my church too and so I don’t even bother), but usually I can tell straight away why they’re single. I think this is from whence a lot of the bitterness and cynicism comes with a lot of men.

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      3. @Larry,
        Miss Hitchings has said that finding a devout Catholic man is important to her, and also one with whom she experiences mutual attraction. I’d say it’s unlikely she’ll meet an attractive, well-adjusted man in purely Catholic circles (after all, what can the modern Church offer such a man?). Such a man would probably have better things to do than attend a church social event. And let’s be honest, the sort of worldly-wise (which I take to mean well-adjusted) man she wants is probably the kind who’s doing okay in the modern, sexually liberated world, and would probably want to ‘try before he buys’. But dating outside the faith is a dealbreaker. So I think she is fishing in a very shallow pond, but that’s her prerogative. 30-40 years ago may have been a different story.
        I’m not going to assume she possesses the same character flaws as the aging spinster you described above. Rod Dreher had nice things to say about her and that’s good enough for me.

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      4. Dimitri, your reply make me think that this blog has exhausted its usefulness already, which I’m really disappointed to see. There isn’t much activity on the recent posts, and your reply simply restated the premise of Anna’s original article: that there are no single Catholic men who meet her standards. And that’s just not true.

        The “manosphere” guys with their bizarre ideas were here initially but moved on. A few of us have tried to stand up and say that yes, there are good single Catholic men. Our experience is that there have not been any good single Catholic women for at least a generation now. If any did in fact exist, parishes no longer have any social network where singles might simply learn that other singles exist.

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    3. Yep…she needs to put herself out there more. How about attending a poetry reading by local beatniks? Or joining the folk mass choir?
      Needless to say, a girl’s choice of handbag is very important in attracting a guy. Flashing a Coach purse is the best way to impress Mr Catholic dude. A girl with a Coach purse, backpack and wallet is by far the most attractive. That’s my unbiased opinion.

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  5. Speaking of investing…do women no longer like Coach purses? Last year I bought Coach (Tapestry) stock on the recommendation of Barron’s. For several months I didn’t pay attention to the price of Tapestry stock. Now I see that it’s gone down quite a bit.
    My advice to Anna is to get out more and invest in Coach purses!

    Liked by 1 person

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