The world of dating and relationships is a terrible conundrum, and I for one am not sure how to crack the code. Or if I even want to anymore.
For many millennials (yes, I am a millennial – please don’t ask me to give up avocado) who are Christians (yes, I am a Christian – please don’t ask me to prove it by attending church), the dating game has proved not only difficult but detrimental.
It was the wave of ultra-conservatism sweeping through the generation prior to ours like a holy fire of condemnation, that seared into our impressionable hearts the rule of all rules:
Purity Culture = Happily Ever After *cue Disney music*
Long before we ourselves stumbled into the painful chaos of puberty, we knew that hugging someone who is not immediate family is the seventh sin, smiling at a crush requires repentance, and actual dating is something that must wait until we were at least 65. Maybe 55 if your church or private school was a little lenient.
Most notably in the Conservatist/Legalist churches, the pressure was real. So was the fallout a decade or two later, when most of us found ourselves preceding Joshua Harris in broken relationships, no relationships, or *gasp shock horror* yet to have our first real date at the age of 30.
(C’mon, be understanding. It’s hard not to feel guilty about going out for coffee when you still can’t shake the feeling that you’re 35 years ahead of the qualifying age.)
Still, some of us started to pick up the scattered pieces of our confidence (if I never step out as an adult I will forever be aged 14 in my head) and common sense (if I want to find love or even friendship then I must go forth and find)…
And we went on our first date, aged 31.
Or 23. Or 38. Or whatever our current number may be. Who cares, really? The point is WE DID IT!!
Yay for us!
High-five to my fellow post-Conservatism, awkwardly single, sorta Christian, maybe millennial, daringly dating peeps.
We went on a date. Hahahahahahahahaha *cue disbelieving and somewhat panicked laughter*
Not that anything came of it of course.
Well, maybe it did for some. But for a large percentage of us, relationships have turned out to be the hardest thing since trying to get equal pay (still an issue by the way – I speak from experience).
And don’t you dare tell us it’s for lack of trying. We may have multiple options at our fingertips, but they are NOT a failproof recipe for cake.
Courtship: freaky, confusing, oppressive, requires years of therapy and leaves deeply ingrained fears.
Singles mingles: tricky if you don’t like small talk, or if you’ve lived in a third world country for three years and are completely off trend, or if you’re a bit, well, weird (But why do you want someone normal anyway??!!).
Long-distance relationship: exhausting, complicated, lots of pitiful pining, and if things don’t work out the scope for misunderstanding is amplified by the distance.
Church/ministry relationship: unwanted interference from others, insane pressure to be perfect because ministry is perfect, eventual realisation that the ministry will always be more important than you anyway.
Online dating: hit and miss, takes FOREVER to get a reply, takes FOREVER to arrange a date, high potential for deception, little actual result despite the hours of effort put in.
But being single is not actually the problem.
My status in life is not dependent on my relationships, just as it’s not dependent on my eating habits or my current living space. The woes of coming through the crazy pendulum swing of church and dating do not change my value as a person. Nor do my failed relationship attempts.
In fact, the hardest thing about this life/love journey is people asking me why I’m single.
As if that’s a problem. As if I’m a problem. As if I need to fix this/me so they can relate to me/this as an “actualized” being.
But in the words of my wise, funny and frustrated sister:
“I’m not sick; I’m single!”
My singleness is not a disease.
I do not require you to fix it, question it, or comment on it like some Shakespearian tragedy. I might discuss it with you if I’m seeking some solace or a good chuckle, but I might also completely ignore it as irrelevant. Because it usually is.
Sure, I might try dating again at some point. I might find a friend who becomes something more. I might trip on the curb and fall into a stranger’s arms and end up tripping through the rest of life with them.
But I’m not going to hinge my worth on it.
Single, vegetarian, Italian, living out of a suitcase… none of it defines my core.
I have worth because I exist.
I could be single, married, divorced, one-legged – none of it would change the fact that I am worthy as a human being. And God seems to be okay with me as a single human being. So why must you get so hung up on my relationship status as the first item of conversation?
When you’re next tempted to hound someone about their relationship status or lack thereof:
STOP. Pause. Ask instead about their dreams, their joys, their latest discovery of self. Ask them what they love about the people who are important in their lives.
And maybe all the singles of Earth will stop feeling like something is wrong with them. And maybe singleness will be such a non-event that we will live fully with or without it.
And maybe we will take love as it comes, and take life for the living, and not take it too seriously when we trip on the occasional kerb.
Emma is an Italian-South African with a New Zealand passport and an international heart. She spent years running a puppet ministry and directing student choirs, before working for a humanitarian organisation in New Zealand (7 years) and Papua New Guinea (3 years). Currently a nomad living between various countries and towns, Emma's deep joy is in writing, music, cooking up an Italian storm, and taking time to listen to people’s stories.
Read Emma's creative expressions at http://www.girlkaleidoscope.wordpress.com or https://pngponderings.wordpress.com/2016/09/02/finding-the-beauty/
Emma’s previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/emma-mcgeorge.html