Truth: I am nearly 22 years old. I have never had a boyfriend- serious or otherwise- and have only been on two casual dates, one of which was my high school prom. For a long time I thought it was my problem. I was too awkward, too fat, too incapable and uninteresting (For the record, I was seeing myself through a very warped mirror.). So I dieted, learned how to ask people questions, did a lot of social things that felt risky and uncomfortable so as to strengthen my latent relational muscle. “Perhaps,” I thought, “I just need to put myself out there more and maybe [insert Jane Austen-esque fantasy here]…”
And nothing happened. Still. Nothing’s happened. And perhaps it continues to be my problem. Perhaps, being a member of Generation MTV, brought up with Disney and Barbie’s Dreamhouse, I am a dysfunctional customer of a culture that sold me a hyper –romantic myth of what relationships look like: sex sex sex or Kleinfelds. I do watch a lot of movies.
But I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I’ve done my research. I talk to God about it; I see the way my dad loves my mom, how Papa Ben loved Grandma Alyce, and how incredible the contrast is between those relationships and the ones I see (or really, don’t see) here at Davidson. I’m convinced that there is a bigger problem, one that lies beyond my so-called social hang-ups, and I think it looks like this:
Much like in this scene from “The Deathly Hallows Part 1”, I think there is this big, black, Satan-fueled glob of lies that stand between Godly women and Godly men, keeping them (us! me!) from truly understanding one another and otherwise messing up what should be relatively simple interactions. I think that there is something wrong about the fact that girls feel guilty for wanting to be asked to formals; that come Friday night, the same ladies are left lonely; that the majority of conversations women have with men are driven and instigated by those women; that at college breakfasts after church, the genders part much like the Red Sea. It’s dumb and I hate it, and I think we need to get real.
I want to take a few moments of your time, patient reader, to break down the lies I see from my perspective. I want to be clear that I am writing this not out of bitter spirit or a cheated heart; no. In fact, this comes from a place of deep, humble love for my brothers in Christ, acknowledging that I, Courtney, don’t have it all together, but am seeing wasted potential in some incredible men of God.
So here I go.
Lie #1: “Let’s get lunch” means “let’s reproduce one day!”
Lie. I swear.
I dislike the book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” in much the same way that I abhor the word “intentional.” While they both have their merits, I guess, I think their continual use in Christian culture has programmed women and men to think that what women only really want is marriage, and that until the men’s desires finally catch up with those of their female counterparts, that there is absolutely no point in interacting with them beyond a casual “how are you?” on the way to Chambers.
The collateral damage of this lie has been staggering, as I feel as though I am surrounded by man-boys that are, for the most part, totally incapable of having mature, one-on-one conversations with other women, their sisters in Christ. In the same vein, I feel as though I am surrounded by girls- myself included- who are constantly fighting a battle against discontentment and self-consciousness, wondering when it’ll be their turn to feel noticed- and since it hasn’t happened yet, what’s wrong with them? Furthermore, I feel as though the sexual tension that pervades even the simplest campus ministry meeting is a pungent and thick as smoke. I can’t help but be inclined to think that these problems wouldn’t be problems if we were okay with casual mingling.
Gentlemen, it’s what ladies want to do. Hang out! Go to the movies. Dance at the Court. Laugh over chicken parm at Commons. Get pretty for you because frankly we think you’re cute. Ultimately, we just want to get to know you beyond the fact that you’re a Christian and a male. Contrary to popular belief, as much as we do want to get married eventually, no one is really truly biting at the bit to do it now. After all, we have to get into grad school and write a thesis and do everything else that we do. Seriously. When we say “let’s get lunch,” that’s really all we mean.
Lie #2: Just because us ladies are slightly more assertive these days, it must mean that we want to be treated like robots.
Go my gender. We can vote, we can have jobs, we can be President. Yaaaaaaaay us. Why does this scare you? My Christian lady friends and I still believe that women are programmed to be pursued by a Godly man, and I’ve heard it enough from the horse’s mouth that it creeps men out when the roles are reversed. Ok! The ball’s in your court. We can be patient, but take note: we won’t wait forever. “Mario Kart” will not be going anywhere, but this girl and many others like her will if you don’t figure yourselves out.
Lie #3: Being friendly, in our book, equals “leading us on.” Therefore, in the interest of protecting us from thinking you want to pursue us romantically, acknowledge us as little as possible.
It’s sweet that you’re trying to guard our hearts. Really. But much like we can’t own your libido when we dress (see this phenomenal essay on modesty that I adore), you can’t own our emotions when you engage us in conversation. So, engage us in conversation. I don’t get why guys think it’s okay to be rude and standoffish during social occasions. What you’re playing at? It sucks to be ignored! Pleasantries are pleasant! Say hello when we’re standing three feet away from each other; chat about the weather, ask about classes, whatever- we’re friends, so let’s act like it. Believe it or not (and I don’t know where you got this idea), we are not 12 year-old-girls at a 6th grade dance; if you acknowledge us in public, we will not be writing our first names with y’all’s surnames in Hello Kitty journals after recess.
Lie #4: Dates mean high costs, expectations.
Do I have standards for a guy? Yes. But if we’re just getting to know each other, I’m not expecting an all-expense trip to Santorini here, nor “Pride and Prejudice” theatrics. Hello. Let’s just chat. Laugh. I’ll even split the check. If conversation makes you nervous, let’s ease into it by going to a movie. No. Pressure.
Lie #5: It’s okay that I don’t socialize or interact with other girls/guys, because my spouse will fall out of the sky.
This was a hard lesson for me to learn, because I have struggled for a long time with a false sense of introvertism (is this a word?). But God got my attention. How? Because He reminded me with that I cannot love Him well in a vacuum*.
Do I believe that God has someone planned for me? Yes yes yes yes yes. But do I believe that the TV will turn on by itself? Nope. I’ve got to get up and turn it on. In the same vein, I’ve got to meet Jesus halfway! I’ve got to ask Him to develop in me the characteristics of the woman who will one day be a good wife. And how do I do that? By meeting people, interacting with people, serving people. I’ve got to leave my dorm room occasionally. When Jesus said, “go out and make disciples of all men,” he didn’t indicate that we were to Facebook stalk them into submission, but instead to go out. One cannot say “I’m focusing on my relationship with Christ right now” and go into a hole. We are a social creation, of whom God said, “it is not good for man to be alone.”
This means that the sexes will have to mingle if we are to be a representation of a functioning, vibrant, Christ-centered community. We might as well enjoy each others’ company! Now, does that mean that we are to date indiscriminately, to turn into some absurd lady killer or Scarlett woman? No no no. “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial,” the Bible warns us in 1 Corinthians. Yet conversely, I think a lot of us are waiting for it to rain when God’s saying, “I invented hoses for a reason!” Check out Acts 1:11: “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky?” We are constantly called to action by Christ, to do things that make us uncomfortable so that we grow.
Lie #5 : My decision to ignore the opposite sex doesn’t hurt anyone.
False. Do you know how many tearful conversations I’ve been a part of because of the passivity and indecision of Christian men? I don’t think you realize the pain you are causing by not knowing what it is you want.
This is best evidenced by a conversation I had about dating with a Christian guy whom I consider a friend. I discussed how, in my own experience, a lot of girls who are frustrated with the disinterest of the great guys around them are caught in this spiral of self- loathing. Guy doesn’t ask me out- there’s something wrong with me (I’m not pretty enough, skanky enough, enough enough enough)- I need to change, or be aggressive (and we’ve already established that this bothers guys). This is coming from girls who love Jesus, who get their ultimate value in Him, and who are otherwise incredibly confident. This was (is!) me! This is a tool of the devil, and it is a powerful one. Yet my friend was astonished that the nonaction of Christian men was in part catalyzing behaviors and attitudes that he and many like him really disliked in Christian women, and my frustration at the novelty of this idea was extreme.
Furthermore- and this is something that us ladies need to work on- this gender divide is creating a bitterness in a lot of Christian females that is crippling, destructive, and exhausting.
Lie #6: Women just want romance and have a minimal sex drive.
Friends, we are sexual creatures and have sexual desires. All of us. While I acknowledge that men are wired in different ways than women and their struggles aren’t always the same, it’s frustrating and disillusioning to suppose that guys are alone in the fight against lust, naughty fantasies, the objectification of the opposite sex, and pure thoughts on the beach. This is not true! I and many women like me battle against these things, too.
Lie #7: I don’t need to interact with real women, because my thought life and the contents of my hard drive are much more interesting; I don’t have to try, and there’s no strings attached.
I would wager that if Christian men and women spent more time interacting in a low-pressure environment with Bible-believing members of the opposite sex, the desire to rely on pornography as a source of relief would decrease. Is it a scientific fact? I don’t know. Perhaps I’m oversimplifying. But from my perspective, it just seems as though we’re getting more and more uncomfortable with each other while the percentage of pornography users in the Church grows. This problem is an essay for another day, but essentially, porn is crippling Christian men and women, stunting their relational abilities while placing incredible pressures on the opposite sex.
Lie #8: Non-Christian girls have a more low-key approach to relationships, therefore it’s a good idea for me to pursue them instead of the Christian crazies who want to marry me after the first date.
No. Wrong. So wrong. This one makes me mad. Why? Because I’ve lived it. I’ve faced the judgment of high-and-mighty brothers in Christ, who made me feel like crap because my evangelistic strategies were not as militant as theirs, because I liked to wear two-pieces in the summer, and because I thought their concepts of submission were delusional (We’ll touch on this shortly.). Yet the girls they constantly found themselves drawn to- and the ones that they pursued- were those that they made sure us “good Christian girls” knew we were never to act like. Double standard?
Now, this is not a judgment call on those women, nor is it saying that I or the ladies around me are saints. Heck. No. It’s just a call for consistency between the words and actions of my brothers. So, you say you love the Word and want all to be called to it. Then what does “do not be yoked together with an unbeliever” (2 Corinthians 6:14) mean to you? You tell the Christian girls around you that you’re uninterested in dating right now as you want to focus on your relationship with God, yet you pursue a non-Christian girl. Tell me: how will she spur you towards Christ? If a Christian girl couldn’t do it, than a non-believer sure as heck can’t either.
Lie #9: Submission is a divine right that all men receive from their ladies- may they be girlfriends or wives.
Submission is a good, Godly thing, so this lie is partly true. However, when Paul talks about wives submitting to their husbands in Ephesians 5, he states that men are supposed to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. That’s some incredible love!
However, unlike with Jesus, this kind of human affection is earned. I will most certainly submit to my husband- I’ll make him sandwiches everyday for the rest of his life if it’ll make him happy- but this will be after he’s proven to me he is capable of striving towards loving me like my Lord does. If not? Well, then have a nice day- I won’t be marrying you and we won’t have any issues.
What makes this lie so dangerous, however, is that it assumes that submission is a mandate used to justify misogyny in all types of male-female relationships. Seeing as we’ve already stated that love goes hand-in-hand with submission, it should never be used as tool for enslavement. What, then, is the proper context for this practice? Let’s look at the language Paul uses-notice how he states submission is for “husbands and wives.” Not boyfriends and girlfriends. Not brothers and sisters in Christ. It comes with marriage. Please, take note.
Gentlemen, your Christian sisters are sick and tired of this relational confusion. We want to be your friends! We want to get to know you! We want to spend time with you! Zetus lepidus, we want to encourage you as you run hard after Christ! Show us how to do this. Meet us halfway. Stop being scared or indecisive or lazy or whatever it is that is holding you back from being the men of God we know you are capable of being.
So: let’s smash the metaphorical Horcrux (he he he) and work together to achieve this goal. The truth is, ignoring us, acting as though we’ll go away and re-appear when you want a wife, and feeling as though we have these absurd expectations of you isn’t getting anyone anywhere. May I make a suggestion for a good first step? Ask us out to lunch and we can discuss, maybe, how we can best encourage each other over some Commons mac n’ cheese.
I’ll-we’ll– be waiting.
*I wish I could remember where I read this. Props to the forgotten author; I can’t take the credit!