Over the past 4 years or so there have been times when the question along the lines of “So any guys?” or “so Marita, do you have a boyfriend?” has made me quite upset, angry and depressed. 90% of the time I’m upset, angry or depressed NOT about my situation but by the question. It speaks volumes about someones values and opinion on being single.
I am single. Have been my whole life. Does it bother me? More or less for the last 3 years, no, but I definitely have moments. These moments come more frequent when I look at the world around me, listen to society and immerse myself in, as some may call it, female porn (romantic novels, chic flicks etc).
Now that might sound slightly controversial to some of you. Calling Romance Novels and Chic flicks, female porn. But think about it. As a generalisation, guys are visually stimulated, females are emotionally/relationally stimulated. But I’m not writing on my opinions about porn and it’s social and unsocial acceptability (especially in Christian circles). [And that was a little bit of a controversial comment to initiate thought, not to begin to get legalistic about it! Because there is nothing wrong with enjoying romantic novels or movies, it's more a question of what are you putting and allowing into your life and how does that change how we think and feel].
Seriously reading Pride and Prejudice (which I love and am not saying is a bad book, it is amongst my favourites) when I am feeling a little sorry for myself can completely make me feel fairly depressed. Even more so when I realise that Mr Darcy is a fictional character and I’m highly unlikely to find someone like him or Mr Tilney or Captin Wentworth or even Jim Halpert for that matter, that fit’s their literary perfection.
Now the reason I’m writing this is because it’s definitely not just me. What is it about today’s culture that makes me see, as I scroll down on my tumblr feed, the words of someone highly depressed and admitting to cutting or thoughts of suicide because they don’t have a boyfriend. Obsessed with the fact that she is single and so desperate that she is sharing it with hundreds of people she doesn’t know on a social networking site. Or even the fact that we have a relationship status information box that is essential to facebook and often one of the first things looked at when facebook stalking.
And why is it that often when I am asked, ‘do you have a boyfriend’ when I respond with ‘no’ I get a pitied look.
Just because I don’t have a boyfriend doesn’t mean that I am to be pitied. I am perfectly happy without a significant other and don’t feel that I should be depressed because of my singleness. Why is my life any less rich because I am not intimately sharing it with one person?
Now in this please don’t hear me say that singleness is something that we should be aiming for, or that marriage or a relationship is the ultimate either. I am saying that life is life. And we need to support one another in whatever stage, place or relationship or lack of relationship we are in.
So some of you might be thinking, yeah but if she remained single her whole life then she wouldn’t think the same. You know what, I would.
Why does marriage or a relationship have to my life’s goal? Just because society says so, because Christian circles show and tell me that it should be something I am running after, because clearly at 22 I am running out of time (sarcasm intended). (The amount of peer Christians that are married or have paired off in youth and young adult groups, sometimes makes me feel highly alienated in my singleness, especially in the Church).
Fairly certain as Christians we should be following Christ’s calling (which is abundantly clear in the Bible). Love God and love our neighbour (amongst loving the poor, oppressed, other Christians and supporting one another in our walks for the briefest overview). Fairly certain the Bible doesn’t say, look for a husband, look at every guy you see as a potential because your life is hollow without one. A little contrary from the Christian novels I grew up reading and so many books I see in Christian bookshops.
And as Christians I firmly believe we shouldn’t be following society in believing that relationships, money and possessions (ie. finish school, go to uni, get married, get an awesome job, buy a house, have children, retire and enjoy life) is what it is all about. All those things are good but if that is all it is, what are we really living for?
Now as I think of my grandparents and their constant questions of ‘do I have a boyfriend’ I have a slightly different understanding because of context. They have come from a generation where without a husband, ends were so much harder to meet, life for women was about getting married and having children. But as a woman in today’s society, educated, employed (well almost), financially independent and lets face it quite wealthy I think things have changed.
I don’t want to be pitied because I’m single. Don’t tell me I have to be depressed because this is where I am at. Being single isn’t about getting an unlucky hand, some of it is just the way it is, some is my decisions.
I choose not to look at every single guy I see as a potential husband. I am not hunting for a boyfriend. I am trying to treat my male counterparts as I would like them to treat me.
I am not a piece of meat or a sex object to be wolf whistled at. I am a human created in the image of an awesome God. In the same way, guys aren’t pieces of meat, potential husbands cos I just want to have kids, or someone I can dump my emotional bagage on, they are men created in the image of an awesome God.
So, I am not putting my life on hold for my significant other (if there ever is one). I’m not waiting with my life plans. I’m not going to sit on my couch waiting for a boyfriend whilst life passes me by. I am trying to follow God in my singleness and I have an abundance of freedom because of it. (I have way to many travel plans at the moment to let a guy interfere :-P).
And my question for the Church, in regards to feeling that the Church almost teaches (whether with words or without) that being single is like purgatory (an agonising place of waiting) is, isn’t our strength in our diversity? The diversity in age, race, singleness, marriedness, work and passions is what makes so many small parts become such a strong whole. As each of us can serve in different capacity’s and support and encourage one another in that.
As a single person I would like to be better supported in singleness. No more of these sermons on when your single don’t fall into temptation, don’t look at porn, don’t this and that. What about instead, in your singleness why if you are, are you craving a relationship? What is that underlying thing you feel is missing? Intimacy? Someone to come home to at the end of the day? kids?…. all of which I have heard as reasons for people I know wanting to enter into a relationship. It can so often not be about the guy but just meeting these needs. The teaching should instead be on how can we nurture and encourage one another in seeking ways in which we can have healthy intimacy amongst peers. How to develop community in which you do have someone (lots of people) to come home too. The different ways in which we can be a part of children’s lives and nurture children even if they are not our own.
And lets face it that doesn’t just need to happen for the people who are single. What about the people who are married and lonely in their marriages because they haven’t got many friends? Or the mothers who are feeling overwhelmed at their work load on top of looking after the kids? Or fathers in the same situation for that matter. What about the elderly who feel that they are useless and nobody wants to hear their stories or listen to them? Or what about the child who is neglected?
Support for each and every one of these feelings and situations can come if we work together, involve ourselves in each other’s lives. Have healthy relationships that encourage, uplift and support us in our situations. And as Christians I believe that we are called to this. Called to the people on the margins, socially, mentally and physically. *
So since we can solve so many of our problems by opening our hearts. Let me love you like a brother, not a lover, and you as my sister, not my competition and through our platonic love bring a little more of God’s Kingdom to earth.
*This doesn’t give the excuse though to blame the Church because these needs haven’t been met. That is not what I am saying. Rather let us begin to be that change.