It’s one thing to graduate from college. It’s one thing to have life goals. Apparently having actual life goals is intimidating enough. But grad school? I had no idea that something as simple as continuing my education would turn me into one of the most feared individuals in the Christian circles in which I run. Knowing that wouldn’t have changed my decision, but I would have liked to have a heads-up so that I could mentally prepare myself.
I know a lot of people–men and women–have been drawing attention to the amount of pressure that 20-something Christians are under to “just get married.” But do you understand how that pressure feels? Do you get it? 20-somethings get thrown under the bus in the church all the time. This is just the tip of the iceberg… but I’ll save the rest for another time.
So our parents, youth leaders, and Christian school teachers added a bunch of rules to dating that made it close to impossible to date–nearly impossible to really get to know anyone of the opposite gender. If we “just get married” we’re jumping into a lifelong commitment too soon, but if we wait, try to grow up a little, try to be a little more financially secure, try to get a little more education…try to actually date…the older generation criticizes and pities us. Tries desperately to match-make–to set us up with someone. Anyone. But don’t settle, because marriage is a lifelong commitment. Solemn. A covenant between two people and God.
I, for one, am extremely confused. But I’ve come to the conclusion that I would rather be single for the rest of my life than marry the wrong person. I would rather spend the rest of my life sitting in church listening to the hens cluck about my lifetime “gift of singleness” than settle. Even though the idea of hearing about my singleness for ages on end sounds incredibly irritating. Even though I hope and pray it doesn’t come to that, it still sounds better than getting married just to get married. So, to my friends who are more advanced in adulthood, I respectfully remind you that clucking at/around the young people in your church about their relationship status isn’t helping them pursue God’s will for their lives. It’s making it much, much harder to be content.
Now, I’ve digressed a bit, but I think I needed to make that point one more time. Back to the topic at hand.
Flying solo is nice sometimes, but not really my first choice for how to spend life. Frankly, I like men. I am a strong, independent woman, but I’m not a man hater. So I date. Ish. As much as the current Christian dating culture allows. I mean, it’s pretty hard to date when a completely platonic cup of coffee with a friend of the opposite gender hits the campus rumor mill within the hour. When doing that twice in the same week with two different guys makes me a shallow flirt, and twice in the same week with the same guy signifies that we’re “talking,” whatever that means… When sitting next to someone of the opposite gender at a silly play or concert is the closest thing to being in a relationship. We joke about it, but every joke contains a grain of brutally honest truth, doesn’t it? And the saddest part is, when I post this, I’m probably going to get a lot of “likes” and positive comments. And then we’re all going to go on with our lives and continue contributing to this messed up dating culture. Which is fine. I don’t expect a blog post to change the world. I just wish we’d do a little less “liking” on Facebook and a little more real-world action.
I just digressed again…
All that to say, I attempt to date. It doesn’t go well. Because, dating culture issues aside, I’m apparently an incredibly intimidating woman. I have been told this by male friends. Boyfriends. My brother. Random male classmates. And no matter how many times I hear it, I’m always surprised. And then I ask why. Some offer no more than a shrug in response. The most concrete response I’ve ever gotten: “You seem like you know what you want out of life.”
Really? That’s it? That’s all that makes me scary?
And then I’ll do some soul-searching. Am I coming across too harshly? Am I being too hard on the guys I come into contact with? Do I have realistic expectations? Am I displaying too much pride, or am I trying to display humility? I’ll try to be a little quieter. I know pride v. humility is something I always struggle with, so I ask for the Holy Spirit’s help in working on that. I’m trying to do my part to be a nice, sweet human being. But if knowing what I want out of life is the problem…I can’t do much about that.
If I sound frustrated, it’s because I am. Full disclosure. When you’re a young Christian woman, marriage is held up as the pinnacle of all life goals. But dating is so hard. And what am I supposed to do during the “waiting season”? Sit around and twiddle my thumbs? Move back in with my parents and work on my cooking skills? No, that would be foolish. I need to be able to support myself. So I need to be in school. I need to have goals. Because if Prince Charming never shows up, Rapunzel can’t just sit in the ivory tower.
Who am I kidding? I am not Rapunzel. I AM A MIGHTY WARRIOR PRINCESS!!!
Sorry…too much? Maybe that’s why I’m intimidating…but seriously, men, do you not have goals? Are you allowed to have them but not me? That’s silly. If meeting a woman who has goals is all it takes to freak you out, I’ll wish you a nice life. And if you don’t have goals… get some.
In the last few months, I have literally had guys asking me why I would even consider getting a master’s. Asking me what the point is supposed to be. Or my personal favorite: “Why would anyone need a master’s in that field?” And these questions are not being asked in a way that challenges my intellect or genuinely just wants to know my thoughts. These questions are coming in a condescending, scoffing tone.
ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME. You just made yourself sound like a really big jerk. Do you think I would jump into two more years of school for no good reason? If I didn’t think I needed a master’s in my field, I wouldn’t be pursuing one. That would be a colossal waste of time, effort, and money. And for the last time, I’m not sticking around BJU because I didn’t find a husband within the first four years! I’m completely willing to give you my reasons, lay out my five-year plan, and explain the complexities of the communication field until you hold up a hand and beg me to stop talking. But if you want to know, you have to ask me nicely, as though I might possess some degree of intelligence. Because I can think for myself. And I’m not about to waste my time proving it. I shouldn’t have to.
I’m ok with being an intimidating woman. I’m not going to dumb myself down. I’m not going to act completely clueless. God gave me brains and a work ethic, and I think He expects me to use them. Is that intimidating to you? Stay out of my way.
If marriage is about one person controlling the other, getting to call all the shots, and treating the other person like a moron, I want no part of it. Let the hens cluck all they please. But if marriage is about two people discussing issues together, respecting each other, and kneeling together to ask for God’s wisdom–ah, that sounds worth the wait. And until then, I’m ok with being an intimidating woman.