I am single. By choice. Not that I have ruled out ever being in a relationship, or ever marrying. I have simply decided that right now, as of January 2013, I don’t wish to date. I have other priorities.
My mom, and my married friends, don’t get this. And some of my single friends and acquaintances don’t either. Mostly because they want to be in relationships. Well, Mom doesn’t, or so she says. But she wants me to be in a relationship, ’cause she figures it’ll make me happy. Plus she wants more grandchildren. I’m not sure which one she wants more. But whatever.
I have been arguing the subject lately with one of my single friends. She thinks it’s just selfish of me to not be in a relationship right now; that I am depriving some woman of a good man. Now, don’t misunderstand me: I’m not claiming to be any kind of catch. Neither, really, is she.
She believes in the Soulmate Hypothesis: She believes the one perfect woman for me, presumably God’s intended, is out there somewhere, wishing and hoping and praying and longing for me to arrive. Meanwhile, while I shuffle my feet, she’s forced to date
My friend isn’t the only believer in the Soulmate Hypothesis. Many women I’ve met, do. It’s very widespread. I don’t know where they get it from, and I’m not gonna blame the beauty magazines, but somehow or other they got it. If you pinned my mother down, she’d probably admit that no, she doesn’t really believe in it… but over the years the things she’s said have subtly indicated the belief is embedded in her like a tapeworm. It’s like talking to a scientist who firmly believes in evolution by natural selection, yet every so often he’ll refer to Adam and Eve, ’cause he grew up Fundamentalist and sorta does believe in a literal Garden of Eden. But not really. But sorta.
The Soulmate Hypothesis is bunk. I believe two people meet and connect, for any number of reasons, and when they decide to stay together they make themselves soulmates. Some couples are so compatible, they don’t need to work hard. Others clearly require tons of work. Still others aren’t compatible at all, and never were, and should’ve listened to all their friends and family members who told them, time and again, “Really? That’s who you want to marry?” I knew a few of these couples in college. They were far too horny to see the warning signs, which were as loud as air raid sirens to everyone but them. They’re not married anymore. No surprise.
No, I don’t believe my poor soulmate is languishing away, wondering where I am while she’s passed around from loser to loser like a burning-out doobie, soon to vanish by desperately clinging to one of those fools before he could get away, and leaving me all alone in this cold cruel world. Rubbish. When I’m ready, I’ll start dating again, and find someone, and that’ll be that. But I’m not ready.
The other thing my friend objects to is my attitude that I don’t have to be the one to initiate a relationship. If a woman wants to ask me on a date, I have no problem with that. I won’t necessarily tell her yes. (I have, to date, only told two women yes… although really the second one doesn’t count ’cause I asked her out first, some years before.)
My friend doesn’t believe good Christian women should ask men out. I’ve encountered this attitude before as well. It comes from the American Christian subculture, which isn’t based on the bible so much as it’s based on social etiquette from the pre-Civil War slaveholding upper classes. That’s where all the “courtship” crap comes from: The idea, taught in many churches, that fathers should hold absolute sway over their daughters’ dating lives. Add burqas, and you may as well be in Iran. None of it is based on the bible. I refer you to Ruth, in which the heroine went, unchaperoned, following the advice of her mother-in-law, to a harvest festival, and proposed to the man she wanted. (I won’t even discuss how “uncovering and laying at his feet” may very well be a Hebrew euphemism for other stuff.) Yet Ruth is considered a righteous, valorous woman, whereas any 21st-century woman who tried the same stunt would be years’ worth of gossip in many churches.
My friend’s argument, a rather common one, is that men are supposed to be the spiritual leaders in a marriage. They are, but I take great issue with her interpretation. First of all, a man who becomes the spiritual leader when they’re still only dating, is prematurely stepping into a very significant role. It’s like premarital sex: There are a lot of necessary things which ought to take place beforehand. There’s commitment. Covenants. Oaths. Being bound together in a way that can’t just come apart after they have one unsuccessful date. If I become some woman’s spiritual leader in as intimate a way as a husband should, then break up with her, what does that do for her relationship with God? Or mine? No no. We can pray together, worship together, do all the usual things brothers and sisters in Christ can do, but I have no business becoming her spiritual husband until I actually am her husband.
Second of all, spiritual leadership isn’t about bossing people around. It’s about listening to their needs, and making decisions—sometimes self-sacrificial decisions—so they can grow closer to Jesus. Now, what on earth does asking someone to coffee so you can get to know them, have to do with helping someone grow closer to Jesus? Nothing yet. Don’t be foolish, and start listing things that might potentially happen, or act as if a good Christian date has some special, spiritual motive behind it all. Dates are about getting to know one another. You don’t even have to go on a date to get to know one another. I got to know many women simply by hanging out with them at work, at school, wherever. (And in so doing, I realized I should never, ever date them. And likely they figured out the same about me.)
No, I would not date this friend. She has many fine qualities, yet I’ll simply point this out: If you look at our very different views on dating, and how firmly she holds to her beliefs despite how ridiculous and unbiblical I find them, she’s going to chafe greatly if I ever married her and became her spiritual leader. There’s gotta be some intellectual compatibility, you see.
Yes, I am very opinionated. No, I’ve never found that to be a problem in dating. Either I’ve dated women who think like me, or I’ve dated women who don’t really care about my pet issues—or were willing to ignore my opinions ’cause I’m hot. (This isn’t conceit; this is what an ex told me.) Most of my opinions aren’t strong: They’re tentative placeholders I have till I can come up with something better thought out. That’s why I keep saying, “I could be wrong.” I am opinionated about some things, and not so much about others, and don’t follow any particular ideology other than Christianity, which tends to surprise people who find out I’m only progressive about some things, or only conservative about some things.
In many cases my exes and I had strong beliefs regarding entirely different categories. She felt strongly about art, and I felt strongly about history, and we were both flexible when it came to the other’s passion. Or in another case she felt strongly about fiction, and I about non-fiction. It balanced out. Of course, since those relationships didn’t last, they obviously didn’t completely balance out. We differed about the Soulmate Hypothesis, for example: She concluded I wasn’t her hypothetical soulmate. Or I concluded she was
I did make the mistake of dating a know-it-all once. Once. It was a profoundly awful blind date, and I swore off blind dates for a decade after that. She couldn’t imagine she was wrong about anything, and we had nothing in common. It was the misguided attempt of a friend to consolidate her friends—if you can get them to pair up into couples, it makes them all the easier to deal with—and she assumed since I was a knee-jerk Republican and her friend was a knee-jerk Republican, there ya go. Except I was a social conservative and she was a libertarian who had no trouble with legalization and abortion, and there ya go. (And yes, at the time I likewise was a know-it-all. I’ve reformed since.)
I have a friend of a friend who is single for pretty much the same reason: Knows it all. I understand she’s gonna teach an upcoming class on the subject of singleness, and how Christians can embrace it as a gift from God. Except I’ve been told many, many times how she’s not at all happy with her singleness. Yet despite this she’s teaching on the subject. Well, stands to reason: Know-it-alls would speak authoritatively on a subject they know or care little about. But I shouldn’t mock her too much. There, but for the grace of God, know-it-all I.
So what’s gonna put me back in the dating game? One of two things. Either I’m gonna sort out various inconveniences in my life, and then decide it’s time. Or I’m gonna prematurely meet someone who fascinates me, and date her anyway. It’s happened before. Though since those relationships didn’t last, maybe that wasn’t the smartest idea. But they wouldn’t have worked out even if I had my other junk sorted out. I have, you see, a tendency to date train wrecks. It’s one of the things I need to sort out: Dating healthier women, instead of believing their stories about how the messes in their lives are entirely other people’s fault. Dating women who won’t expect me to fix everything that’s wrong in their lives—which would be Christ’s job, anyway. Dating women in general who aren’t suffering from precious illusions, where parting with them is like parting with a childhood best friend. (You know the song.) Killing off my own illusions, for that matter.
And several other things which would lead me to rant for several thousand words. I’ll stop here.