Lori Gottlieb’s book and Christian maximizers.

27 Mar

I recently read Lori Gottlieb’s book Marry Him:  The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough.  Because of the title, the book has been criticized for telling women to take whomever will have them just so they can be married.  Having now read the book, I can definitely say that this isn’t what the book advocates.  Rather, it reads like a cautionary tale not to let excessive pickiness keep you from getting married, or, as Gottlieb points out in the book, if you let an 8 go in hopes of snagging a 10, you’ll most likely end up with only 5s as your options.

In a way the book had a dual personality.  On the one hand, it was a sort of quasi-memoir where Gottlieb portrayed herself as a delusional elitist who couldn’t accept that as a 41-year-old single mother (by choice through artificial insemination), her dating prospects, especially in L.A., were rather limited and that her options from professional matchmakers and dating websites generally were balding divorced men.  On the other hand, it was like Gottlieb stepped outside of herself to offer an objective voice about her situation.  I would like to believe that Gottlieb actually, genuinely learned from the experiences chronicled in the book, but she IS still unmarried, so….I don’t know if that’s because she’s older, or because she fell back into the bad habit of wanting AMAZING CHEMISTRY!!11 from the get-go.

While reading the book, I found myself wanting to shake Gottlieb for being so unreasonably picky.  She would discount men for the most insignificant reasons, like naming a movie she didn’t approve of as his favorite.  She basically had it in her head that she could only relate to and be attracted to men who fit a very narrow profile (basically that of a fashionable, sophisticated, secular UMC Jewish SWPL with all the “right” tastes who still had his hair and wasn’t more than a few years from her in age).  With her discounting men for the slightest of reasons, it was no wonder she had gone through life without ever marrying.  Actually, what I found the most disheartening was not that she had dated a bunch of guys that were not marriage material – it was that some of them HAD been marriage material, but she dumped them for not fulfilling her ideals.  It would have been one thing if she had only dated cads – but she didn’t.

As I grew frustrated with Gottlieb’s bullheadedness, I started thinking that modern Christian women have been taught to think like Gottlieb – to be what she calls “maximizers”:  people who will only accept the absolute best.  The fear of settling for a less-than-totally on fire for God man is implanted in Christian girls from at least junior high on, both in church and in Christian media.  How many times have Christian girls been warned not to marry a man who doesn’t TOTALLY LOVE JESUS WITH ALL HIS HEART, with dark implications or outright warnings that life will be TERRIBLE otherwise?  How many times have Christian girls been told that the man must be the Spiritual Leader, with the implication that if he’s not leading the charge to go to Sunday School and lead devotions and pray all the time, that he must be disqualified as a potential husband?  Conversely, how often have Christian girls been told to give Christian men encouragement to grow in their faith and to have patience with them if they weren’t as “strong” in the faith as the women?  The bar has been raised so high that hardly any Christian man can be marriage-worthy.  (See:  The Earl of Piety.)  And it’s common enough that even my readership has experience with this.

It’s not that Christian singles don’t get married.  Christian singles generally marry younger than the population at large, or at least the college-educated population at large.  But it’s obvious that there is a significant percentage of Christian singles who are having trouble not just getting to the altar, but getting to a point where getting to the altar is even a consideration.  The problem isn’t solely the fault of the women – but the church really needs to calm down with the ON FIRE FOR GOD GUY standard, and encourage women to consider men who are not so obviously on fire for God but still take God seriously.  I don’t know if this would work, since it would require people giving up hope that they will be an exception to the rule, or at least giving up enough hope to act pragmatically, but it really seems that the church has screwed over young women by telling them to hold out for God’s best and making it seem like God’s best is some SUPER ON FIRE FOR GOD GUY when in actuality, God’s best might be a low-key guy who happens to believe in Jesus.

P.S.   Gottlieb never instructs her readers to settle for a guy to whom she has zero physical attraction.  She only asks them to expand their definition of what they find attractive so that they can end up with someone instead of no one.

 

Boundless commenters can’t decide if it’s biblical for men to pursue women, unintentionally extend singleness for life.

15 Feb

Boundless reader Steve Bierfeldt tried.  He wrote an article for Boundless entitled “Being a Man is Worth Losing a Friend,” with the subheader on the main page “Real men go after the things they want, period.”  In the article he describes how he and a good female friend with whom there was mutual attraction lost their friendship because he told her he found her attractive and liked her more than other girls.  As a result, she never spoke to him again.  Bierfeldt then says that he doesn’t regret his actions, because real men are willing to take risks, and urges young men not to listen to our culture of passivity but to God’s Word and to be bold.

Apparently this was too much masculinity for Boundless readers, because the very first comment blasts Bierfeldt for believing that the Bible calls men to make their intentions known and for women to respond, because, apparently, male initiation is merely a cultural aspect.  A few commenters stepped in and thanked Bierfeldt, but the comments then quickly devolved into stuff along the lines of “girls who wait for men to make moves waste a lot of time” and “the Bible isn’t a rule book” and the ultimate bitch comment by a girl who I will assume ought to remain single for the rest of her life because good men don’t deserve this kind of attitude, “Women are not things, period.”  Then some super-sperg shows up demanding Scripture references for where the Bible says that men should initiate.

It really seems like Christian singles want every marriage to be an actual miracle that defies the laws of nature.

Pajama Boy of Boundless shames virgins for being proud they are virgins.

4 Feb

Guys, I’m a little late on this one, but if you needed more proof that Joshua Rogers is the Pajama Boy of Boundless, then go read “Stop Worshiping Your Virginity”.

Yes, we’ve reached the point where mainstream Christian thought has been reduced to this:

If you’re a Christian virgin, you are no more righteous than anyone else (regardless of how long you’ve been wearing that promise ring). And if you’re not a virgin, you are no less righteous than anyone else — the only thing that makes you righteous is faith in the perfect blood of Jesus. Whatever you did (or didn’t do) in the past simply isn’t part of the Christian equation when it comes to your worth, so you can go ahead and stop obsessing over your virginity now.

I don’t know how many adult Christian virgins Rogers happens to know, but generally speaking, there aren’t a whole lot of virgins, even in the church, past 25 or so.  Most of them aren’t proud of it.  Most of them wish that they could find someone to lose it with (in marriage or otherwise).  And most of them don’t go around telling others about it.  Even among people that it would be “safe” to discuss it with, they don’t talk about it.  Where does Rogers live that he is knowingly running into haughty adult virgins???

Most people who survive well into adulthood still virgins don’t do so because so many people were offering up sex and they, out of immense moral superiority, were about to deny all of the would-be sexers.  Usually, it’s more like “I couldn’t get a date, and when I could, the other person wasn’t that attractive, so….nope.”

Anyhow, regarding the quote above:  yes, in a spiritual sense, we are all “equal” in that we have all been forgiven of our sins.  And no, remaining a virgin doesn’t in and of itself make you more virtuous than someone else.  But let’s be real, sex has pretty obvious and life-altering consequences, in a way that is significantly different from uttering a swear word or having a selfish thought, and we, being human, tend to assign different weights to actions whose consequences tend to have different weights.  Why is this a fundamentally bad thing?  I mean, we live in a Christian culture where you can have a man sobbing because he realized that he hasn’t been as nice to his wife as Christ would be to the church…….but try to say that there are real-world consequences for sexual sin, and one of those consequences may be that men, on the whole, will find you less desirable for marriage, and suddenly you’re a tool of the devil spreading lies??!?!?

No one is saying that sexual sin will absolutely prevent you from finding a spouse, but Christians respond AS IF you had said that when you say that sexual sin (especially for a woman) makes it harder to get married to the type of person you would want to marry.  It’s like the concept of sexual market value and sexual options cannot exist in Christian-world, even though we see that reality play out in every church in America.  But if the Boundless commenters are a microcosm of the church, then there is a very strong will within the church to deny the reality of SMV, or that sexual history matters….which is pretty much exactly the same thing you could read on a feminist website.

Nobody knows what dating is anymore.

5 Jan

Happy new year, everyone!

It occurred to me recently (and earlier) that one of the (many) big problems in dating is that no one knows what dating is anymore.  No one knows what it means.

Dating used to mean a man and a woman going out to a restaurant or some other activity to get to know each other and to foster romance.  Now it means…whatever the person thinks it means.

In Christian circles, dating can mean anything from formal courting to hook-ups (and hook-ups can mean anything from kissing to sex).  In non-Christian circles, some people think it’s not dating unless sex is involved, and anything else is being “Just Friends.”  With no clearly defined meaning of dating, it’s no wonder that everyone is confused.  If you see a guy and a girl spending a lot of one-on-one time together, I could think they’re dating but someone else could think they’re just friends.  If someone asked YOU if you were dating someone, you could answer one way, and the other person could get a completely different idea of what you mean, all because the two of you are coming from completely different points of view as to what dating actually is.

How are we supposed to have any meaningful dialogue about dating when no one knows or can agree on what it means?  Meanwhile, those of us who are still trying to date just get more and more confused….

Should Christians flirt at all?

11 Dec

Should Christians flirt at all?

It seems like flirting is generally frowned upon in contemporary Christian thinking, now that “intentionality” and its close cousin, “not defrauding”, are the orders of the day.   The thinking goes something like this:  we shouldn’t flirt because someone might misconstrue the flirting as more interest than is intended, which would be defrauding a brother or sister in Christ, and if you’re careless about misleading someone, you’re not showing intentionality.  So flirting is out, and serious earnestness is in.

The problem is, flirting by its very nature is supposed to be unserious.  It’s not supposed to be taken as an indicator of anything serious, yet in this culture of “intentionality,” flirting actually is VERY serious, because if everyone is seriously looking at others only for marriage potential, and no one is supposed to flirt with anyone they’re not interested in for fear of defrauding them, then any flirting MUST mean serious interest or some implied promises of affection.  I think this is why Christian girls get all of their hopes up if someone flirts with them – and then wildly dashed when the flirting is only that.

That said, flirting does often lead to confusion.  People have a hard time distinguishing mere flirting from genuine interest – I have a hard time with this, because most of the time, flirting falls under the umbrella of plausible deniability.  Someone could flirt with you, but you’re not sure if you should flirt back in reciprocation of implied interest, because maybe that person was just being friendly and doesn’t actually have any interest in you.  OR you choose not to flirt back because you’re afraid that if you do, that person will get the wrong impression and think you’re more interested than you are.  So, I get why Christian advice tends to discourage flirting – there’s often too much broken-hearted and confused collateral damage involved.

Still, all of this adds up to a bunch of Christian singles awkwardly trying to show interest in each other without flirting and instead trying to be direct and “intentional.”  And that sounds about as exciting as brushing your teeth.

If anyone has any solutions, please comment!

Blind dates and set-ups: yay or nay?

12 Nov

I recently was talking to a male friend about how I had tried to set up a female friend of mine with a male coworker.  The male friend said that he did not like blind dates because he felt they were artificial and too pressured.  He said he would prefer to meet someone in a group setting without knowing the inviter’s intentions, and have it be “natural.”  He also said that being the matchmaker has too many risks of backfiring.

I have the opposite view.  I don’t mind blind dates because I don’t feel pressure from them.  The probability that you are going to hit it off with a stranger, even a preselected stranger, can’t be that high, so you might as well just be normal and let the chips fall as they may, instead of gearing yourself up to put on a show for a complete stranger.  I also don’t think that most of the time, your relationship with the matchmaker is going to be ruined, unless the matchmaker has such horrible taste that you have an awful, unforgivable time (but wouldn’t you know in advance if your matchmaking friend had terrible taste?).  At least SOMEONE thought of you and was trying to help you.

So, readers:  blind dates – yay or nay?  Weigh in in the comments!

 

Training yourself to be single vs. the gift of singleness.

7 Nov

If you’ve been in Christian dating circles or read any Christian dating advice at any point, you’ve probably heard someone talk about “the gift of singleness.”  Now, growing up in church, I had NEVER heard of “the gift of singleness,” because it was just assumed that basically everyone would pair off eventually.  Sure, there would always be a few spinsters or bachelors in the population, but no one ever talked about them like they had a special “gift.”  It was just more or less understood that perpetually single people had some sort of nonsexuality about them, or maybe something traumatic had happened to them in the past that put them off dating and marriage.

But I guess now that there are so many never-married singles well into their 30s and 40s, we now have people with “the gift of singleness.”  And while I don’t doubt that there are people specially “gifted” in this way, it’s been my observation that most people who experience prolonged singleness are not single because they want to be.  What usually happens is that a guy or girl hits 30 (or 35, or whatever their “loser in love” threshold is), realizes they’ve been unattached for quite a while, and then they start hearing the “gift of singleness” talk and maybe start wondering if they in fact do have the gift themselves.

Basically, can you have the gift of singleness without knowing it?  Is God not opening the door to marriage because He secretly wants you to embrace your singleness and give up the dream of marriage?  Is the gift of singleness something you naturally just “have,” or is it sort of forced upon you whether you desire it or not?

The other thing is – Boundless types tend to define the gift of singleness as being able to live without sex and not become bitter about it.  I see this as a bit of a cheat of an answer, though.  Bitterness is a little extreme of a response.  I know a lot of single women who aren’t having sex and aren’t dating/on a path to marriage, but still want both, but aren’t BITTER over it.  (As far as I know, anyway.)

This definition ignores women’s generally more responsive sexuality.  A lot of women are sexual and want sex, but when forced into a dating drought, they kind of go into “convent mode.”  And most churches teach convent mode behavior to women when they keep telling women not to make marriage an idol, to find their true fulfillment in Jesus, to wait on the Lord, and to stop reading romance novels (sexless Christian romance novels are a thing, so it’s not just “Don’t read 50 Shades,” guys) or watching romantic movies or soap operas or whatever will exacerbate their “discontentment” with singleness.  Often women in convent mode start spending more of their time with female friends, and this just reinforces the conventing because new guys aren’t entering their social spheres.  So you end up with all these women who “want” marriage, but it’s just not happening, but until someone comes along for that, they need to guard their hearts and focus on the Lord and not make marriage or sex an idol.  You can see how this is a self-perpetuating cycle.

To bring this back to “the gift of singleness,” if you’ve been in convent mode too long, you start to wonder if you have the gift of singleness.  How do you differentiate?  Can you be okay with never marrying?  I know that this is a question that I have wrestled with.  How about you?

P.S.  If the comment thread devolves into another “women are entitled/don’t know anything/are mean to men/wahhhhh” pity party, I’m shutting down the thread.

 

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