Single for the Holidays?

Someone posted this on my Facebook wall and I thought it was too great not to share.  Happy Holidays!

This holiday season, don’t let nosy questions about your singleness catch you off-guard. While it’s none of your great-aunt’s business as to why you’re still single, she’s still likely to inquire.

Here are 10 great comebacks to the “Why are you still single?” question:

1. Because you haven’t proposed yet.

2. Just lucky, I guess.

3. Name one married superhero. Exactly.

4. My mail-order spouse should be arriving any day now.

5. Because I want my cat to grow up in a stable environment.

6. Jesus was single. Would you be bugging him?

7. Because I keep turning down proposals.

8. Because no company is better than bad company.

9. What’s the rush? With a longer life expectancy than previous generations, I can get married later in life and still end up celebrating our 45th wedding anniversary.

10. True love is worth waiting for. I’m not going to settle just because I’ve been single for a while.

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Replacing Hate With Love: A Father Writes a Letter to His Hypothetically Gay Son

This is not technically “new” news.  I read about it some time ago but have been letting it percolate.  Some time in August a young man posted a letter on Reddit.  It was a letter from his father in response to him “coming out.”

"This is how hate sounds."

The first time I read this my heart broke.  I thought about how my own family would have responded if I had come to them with a similar conversation.  Would they have been as angry, hateful, and ready to throw out our relationship?  Or would they have responded with love and acceptance?  Those are not the only two options, they are the extreme ends of the spectrum, and the ones we hear most often about.  We hear the stories like the one above, where loved ones are quick to judge and slow to understand.  Or we hear the stories where life goes on pretty much the same as before, families respond with open arms and wonder why the child/brother/sister/friend/etc. waited so long to share that piece of their life.  Based on how my family has reacted in the face of other things I have shared with them I want to believe that they would lean more towards the acceptance side.  Though they may not understand, and it would probably challenge some of their beliefs I would still be welcome in their home.  They would not disown me as their daughter/sister/niece/granddaughter/cousin.  But that is not something that I will ever have to deal with.  This is not a struggle we will have to face as a family, at least not from me.  I can only speak in hypotheticals.

Speaking of hypothetical, another blogger saw the letter I posted above and wrote his own letter in response.  He wrote the letter to his hypothetically gay son.  At the time he wrote the letter his wife was still pregnant with their child.  It tells a much different story than the first one.

“Let me be perfectly clear. I love you. I will always love you. Since being gay is part of who you are, I love that you’re gay. I’m just trying to wrap my head around the idea. If you sensed any sadness in my silence last night, it was because I was surprised that I was surprised. Ideally, I would have already known. Since you were an embryo, my intent has always been to really know you for who you are and not who I expect you to be. And yet, I was taken by surprise at last night’s dinner. Have I said “surprise” enough in this paragraph? One more time… surprise!”

The father goes on to state that their house will always be a place of love and that if necessary he would go to war to advocate for his son.  It is a beautiful piece and I encourage you to read the whole thing.

If your child came out to you, how would you respond?  If this is not a hypothetical situation for you what did the conversation look like?  Do you wish you (or your family) would have responded differently?

What would your letter say?

Where Have All My Single Ladies Gone?

As I look forward to the upcoming wedding of a friend I cannot help but notice that my pool of single friends is quickly dwindling.  The average age women in the United States are getting married at is 27.  So why am I finding myself alone more and more on weekend nights?  Girls night out is being passed over for date night.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love my married friends and I enjoy hanging out with them.  The relationship looks different though.  We suddenly have to match three schedules rather than two and spontaneity basically goes out the window.  And not that there’s anything wrong with newlyweds but they are often inseparable, and don’t seem capable of doing anything without each other.

This leads to an entirely different problem.  The dynamic of being a woman and having married friends that are men.  I grew up with mostly male friends.  That changed as I got older, I made more female friends, but I stayed friends with most of my childhood buddies.  The majority of them are now married.  This complicates the relationship.  I do not want to put him in a situation where he feels like he has to choose between me and her.  I also do not want her to feel jealous or threatened by my friendship with him.  So, the relationship changes.  I still remain friends with him, but I get to know her as well, if I don’t know her already.  I create boundaries.  One of them is I don’t talk about their marital issues, concerns, or problems with him.  My closest circle of friends have changed to women, with the “next circle” including most of my childhood buddies and male friends.

This brings me back to my dwindling supply of single friends.  I come from a large, mostly conservative and religious family, a small town, small(ish) church, and went to a small, fairly conservative, Christian University.  All of these things add up to early marriage.  Almost all of the women in my family were married before the age of 22.  My mother was 20 and one of my grandmothers was 17.  I love these women dearly but my life experiences have become drastically different from theirs.  Most of them went from living with their parents to living with their significant other.  Then they started having children.  They do not necessarily understand my longing, and need for single friends because they were (and are) on the other side of it.  Most of their friends are married, like them.  They connect with married people in ways that I cannot.  In the same way I connect with single people in ways that they can’t.  Beyond my family the majority of my friends started getting married in high school which is definitely something I cannot connect with.  I even have more than one friend who is divorced, and they haven’t even hit their mid twenties.

Looking at it objectively, I find myself wondering why I am quickly becoming the only single person in my social circle.  The factor that I keep coming back to is religion.  No, not all of my friends are religious, but for now that’s what I’m going to focus on.  The church has done a wonderful job of making people afraid of their sexuality and their own bodies.  Women are held to an impossible standard of purity.  I remember sitting in “sex education” classes that were really “how to remain modest and pure” classes.  Women are told to not be a distraction to men because they are always thinking about what is under your clothes (or ripping them off).  They are told to remain pure in thought and deed but not given the tools to learn how to be single.  Everything is geared towards finding that one, perfect mate, and still being “perfect” once you do.  I remember one analogy in particular about a lollipop.  Every time to think or do something “impure” that person is licking your imaginary lollipop.  When the time comes that you do find your perfect mate you are basically damaged goods.  Nobody wants a half eaten lollipop with someone else’s (or multiple people’s) spit on it.  Another analogy was done with a paper heart.  Same idea, the only difference was that pieces of the heart were torn off, so that by the time you met Mr. Right your heart was no longer whole.

There are several concerns I have about this approach.  First of all, no one is perfect.  Every young person out there has “messed up” somehow.  So instead of teaching them about remaining healthy, they are being shown that they are something to be ashamed of.  We are teaching young people shame and secrecy.  If a young person is in an environment where purity is being preached loud and clear they are going to bury their “impurities.”  They are not going to share their concerns about their bodies and/or feelings when they believe they are the only one who is struggling.  It is not an environment that allows for healthy, honest questioning and dialogue with their peers or with those older than them.  I believe that it comes out of a place of good intentions.  We are trying to protect our young people but the result is all too often irreparable damage.

I wonder if the church is unintentionally making people afraid of being alone.  There are classes, seminars, and Bible studies all geared towards “finding your match” and maintaining/building healthy marriages.  I rarely hear anything about how to live a healthy single life.  I have heard though, how to “take the SIN out of single.”  This attitude of demonizing the single life and glorifying the married one pushes young Christians towards marriage.  That and the fact that they are asked to remain abstinent till marriage.  This applies to more than just sex.  It applies to thoughts, public displays of affection, and emotional boundaries.  Again, it is an impossible standard of purity.  Not only is marriage glorified, but so is virginity.  Teaching women that their virginity is some sort of gift only to be “unwrapped” and offered to their husband is dangerous.  What about women who have been sexually abused, or raped?  There is no leniency or understanding.  We are teaching them to keep quiet and this is not okay.  It goes back to shame and secrecy.  We are also instilling a fear of intimacy and sex.

On the other hand there is an anticipation that comes with finally being able to have sex and be intimate in acceptable ways.  Sex is built up so much that in all honesty it can be a let down when it finally happens.  When you go from 0 to 60 in one instant the possibility of getting burned is high.  Nothing to everything is not healthy.  Yet, that is what we are doing.  There has to be a better way to teach young people about their sexuality and their bodies.  And there has to be a better way of teaching, nurturing, and guiding the single people in the church without a. trying to set them up constantly, and b. making them feel like there is something wrong with them.  It does not have to be a sad and lonely thing to be single.  Not that there is anything wrong with marriage either.  There needs to be a balance in both conversations.  It should not be an “all or nothing” conversation that pits single people against married people.

**Note: the photographs on this page belong to me and may not be used without my permission.

You Are Now A Woman

What marks the transition from girlhood into womanhood?  Is it related to age or experience?  I know a lot of women who are uncomfortable using the word “woman” to describe themselves, but somehow girl doesn’t quite seem to fit either.  Men have an easy in between word of “guy.”  You have the option of using boy or man, and if you are unsure, guy suffices for both.  What about women?  I suppose “gal” would be the “guy” equivalent, but it feels different.  I’ve heard “lady” used before too, but that often comes with completely different connotations.  Women seem to be stuck with girl or woman.  So, what’s the difference?  I myself even felt a little uncomfortable when I decided to change my language when referring to myself.  It felt weird calling myself a woman, but I knew I wasn’t a girl anymore.  I had entered adulthood.

What really bothers me is the double standard of it all.  In a speech class I took in college the professor refered to it as un-parallel language.  Ever since then I’ve noticed it when adults, both men and women, refer to men as men and women as girls.  It is extremely troublesome to me.  Boys are being called men before girls are being called women.  So what is it that makes a boy a man before a girl is a woman?  Several things come to mind, though I am in no way claiming to have the answer.  The first thing I think of is the infantalization of women, and the second is the sexualization of girls.  But ironically that’s not what I want to talk about.  Maybe I’ll tackle it in my next post.  I want to go back to what I started with, what marks the transition into womanhood.

Not too long ago a friend on mine got married.  I had to miss her wedding due to work so I did what any good friend would do; I Facebook stalked her, both to congratulate her and to vicariously enjoy the wedding through pictures others had posted.  As I was perusing her wall a post caught my attention.  It said, “You are now a woman” and that was it.  (Actually it said “You. Are now. A woman.” because grammar and sentence structure don’t count on Facebook, but that’s besides the point.)  I stopped reading and stared at the post.  The longer I stared at it the more upset I became.  I was upset that marriage was being used as the milestone into womanhood.  As someone who, at this point in time, is thoroughly enjoying being single and has little interest in marriage, I was even a little offended by this post.  As I shared in an earlier post, I have recently moved to a larger city.  Since moving I have been able to connect with several other single women.  And I say women quite intentionally, because that’s what they are.  Some of them are the other professionals I work with and others I have met along the way.  One in particular is a family friend who is middle-aged.  And she is not married.  The thought that this excludes her from joining the ranks of womanhood is jarring to me.

By using marriage as the defining factor in becoming a woman so many are being excluded.  Marriage is not a requirement.  And if you are married it doesn’t mean that you have somehow become a bona-fide adult.  Going to a small christian college where the saying “ring by spring” is popular means that most of my friends got married in college or right out of it.  What really blew my mind is when they got married after freshman year.  To be perfectly honest I feel like some of them are just “playing house.”  I do not feel like they’ve necessarily made “the transition” yet.  So why are young, married women being included and older, single ones not?  There is something wrong with this picture.

We are perhaps glorifying marriage.  There are very real consequences to this.  Some I have felt myself.  Without a husband sometimes I have to fight a little harder to be taken seriously.  I’ve been called selfish for not wanting to get married (or have children).  I am always a little surprised by how much other people care about my relationship status.  It’s often the first question I get asked when meeting a complete stranger, or catching up with an old friend I haven’t seen in years.  My favorite was when I turned 21 my grandfather, whom I love very much, told me I was now too old and no one would want me.  He has since just given up on me I think.  🙂

Just because I have made the choice to remain single does not mean I am not a woman.  It also does not mean that I don’t deserve to be treated with respect and taken seriously.

 

To Protect the Men…

“Why is our culture so intent on protecting men from hearing about or discussing a woman’s reproductive health?”

I came across this article on “The Current Conscience” blog, written by a Los Angeles based columnist.  It is interesting to read a male perspective stating that women should not be apologizing for their bodies.  I strongly recommend that you read the full article (below) and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

“So, why are women apologizing for their bodies or hiding their reproductive issues from their male partners or friends? I think this tendency for women to protect men from issues about their body, especially about the reproductive issues, is something that is learned. It’s not inherent. All it takes is your mother or another female relative telling you that no man wants to hear about a woman’s period or PMS issues, to begin a lifelong habit of not sharing anything related to that part of the body. Or, it’s your first boyfriend saying “TMI–gross,” when you dare say out loud that you’re dealing with a problem. It shuts you down for life.”

Read the article here: “If Men Had Periods: Women Would Know All About It.”

Note to men: if your sense of masculinity depends on avoiding ever having to buy a plastic tube filled with cotton, you’ve got way bigger problems than you realize.”

A Letter to my Nephew

To my dearest nephew,

You don’t know it yet but you are privileged.  You may get better, higher paying job offers than your sister.  People will not assume you are a bad driver just because of your gender.  When you grow up, people will listen to what you have to say, even if it is ridiculous.

I watch you play on the playground with other children and am brought to tears by your compassion.  The way you include others in whatever game you have invented makes me so proud of you.  The way you watch out for your sister even when she is not paying attention touches my heart.  The way you, at family gatherings go out of your way to sit by grandpa and include him in the conversation because he cannot hear everything convicts me, because I did not consider doing the same.  Your heart is so big and you notice everyone around you.  You know exactly when someone needs a hug and you’re never afraid to be the one to give it.  You are a great mediator even if you don’t know what that means yet.  You are so good at making sure everyone gets a say and all the voices are heard.  You are the most caring ten year old I know.

And yet the day will come when someone will try and beat that compassion I love so much out of you.  You may be called a fag or gay.  Someone will tell you, you throw like a girl and instead of making you laugh it will hurt your feelings.  When you cry someone will tell you to man up, suck it up, or stop acting like a girl.  You will be expected to punch your friends and play sports, even if it is not really your thing.  And if you resist they may hurt you.  You will be expected to be physical, tough, and a womanizer, you will even be praised for it.  You will no longer feel comfortable having tea parties with your sister on the front lawn.  You will no longer laugh about that time you dressed up like a girl for a fundraiser.

My hope for you is that you resist.  That you hold onto your love and compassion for others.  Say fuck ‘em if you have to but never stop caring for the weak, the unnoticed, and the underrepresented.  Don’t let people get away with telling you you’re not a “real man” because you cry when you fall, or you like hanging out with your sister.  Don’t listen to them when they tell you that to be cool you have to play sports and date lots of girls.  Don’t let them off the hook when violence against women is treated as a joke or being compared to a woman is used as an insult.  Remember the amazing women in your life who are strong, beautiful, and capable (and could kick their ass if need be).  Never stop telling your mom you love her and when they tease you because of it tell them you had to say it because it is the truth.  Never stop hugging your parents because they will always need your hugs and never stop letting me kiss you on the head, even though soon you will be taller than me.

You are a bright, wonderful little person and I love you so much.  I hope that even as you get older you will still get excited to see me and be bursting to tell me about your day.  So, when you have to, say screw the world, and always be true to who you really are.

Check Please

Last Sunday I went out to lunch with a few people.  Our group consisted of four women (including myself) and one man.  After we were done eating can you guess who the server brought the check to?  If you guessed the man you’d be correct.  The only problem was he wasn’t the one paying for the meal.  The woman who had asked us all to go out had an expense account she had planned on charging it to.  She said something to the server, who either didn’t hear her, or chose to ignore her.  After the meal was paid for the server brought the receipt and the card back but laid it down in front of the man again.  Guess she hadn’t been paying attention the first time.  So, once again the check was passed across the table.

This got me thinking about “check etiquette.”  If a heterosexual couple with children goes out the check will most likely be brought to the father.  Especially if the children are younger and/or female.  If the children are older it would still probably go to the father but they may be asked if they want to split it and that probably depends on where everyone is sitting.  If it is two men the check will most likely be automatically split unless there is an obvious older man, then it will probably be brought to him.  Two women who look the same age would be the same.  Mother and child it would be given to the mom.  Unless it is an older son, then probably to the son.  Grandparents are tricky.  I’ve noticed most of the time the check always goes to the oldest looking man unless something is said before the check is brought.  If a married couple goes out with a single friend I’ve noticed it is often given to the married man, unless otherwise specified.  Married/dating couple is the man hands down.

A couple of things are going on here.  First of all gender seems to trump everything else.  The check is brought to the man.  The next deciding factor is age.  It is brought to the oldest person.  I tend to find this practice sexist and ageist.  Let’s focus on the sexist piece since that’s what sparked this post.

Men are expected to take care of women.  They are expected to act “gentlemanly.”  And that can be everything from paying the check to opening the door for a woman.  This is better known as chivalry.  The problem with this is the assumptions it makes.  It is what is known as subtle sexism.  Whether you think about this way or not it is assuming the woman is not capable.  That she cannot take care of herself and needs to have things done for her.  She cannot be independent or have her own voice.  (More on chivalry, subtle sexism, and door opening later.)  This sounds awfully sexist to me.  Assuming that a woman cannot pay for her meal is sexist.  It is providing a double standard for men and women as well.  Men are expected to pay the check and it is seen as emasculating when they don’t (or if they can’t).  Why is it that paying for her meal makes him feel masculine?  Is it more gentlemanly to split the check if she asks or assert his ability (need?) to pay for it himself therefore ignoring her wishes?

Here is an article written by Abigail Collazo about an experience she had on a date and what it was like figuring out who would pay for the meal.  She is the editor of Fem2ptO.  Though I think she makes a few leaps in logic near the end (and in the middle), the first half at least is interesting.

The Shock Value in Advertising

**Trigger Warning**

A new campaign by a British organization called This is Abuse attempts to tackle issues of abuse, rape, and assault in relationships.  The website offers a variety of resources including, myths about rape, how to know if you’re being abused, how to know if you are abusive, and how to get help.  It really is a well done campaign.

The thing that has attracted the most attention though is their ads.  I even heard a morning talk show talking about the campaign ads while I was at work.  The show was discussing how far is too far and if these particular ads cross the line.  Below is the first ad I saw titled “If You Could See Yourself.”  The idea is that if you were an outsider and could see yourself would you call it rape.  It focuses on the fact that the majority of people who are raped are done so by a trusted friend, family member, co-worker etc., not by a stranger.  Please be aware that the video may be triggering and it is difficult to watch.

The first time I saw this ad I couldn’t help but cringe.  It stirred up terrible emotions inside of me.  But then I remember thinking how powerful it could be.  Not everyone who rapes another person would later regret it or recognize their actions as rape.  But bringing awareness to the fact that pressuring someone into sex that doesn’t want it is not consensual and therefore is rape.  It is not always recognized that way.  The word rape is scary and something that happens to other people.  People do not always think about the fact that rape can happen in loving relationships.  It can happen in a committed relationship where two people are dating.  It can happen in a marriage.  That is why I think these ads are a good thing.

The morning show I saw was talking about using the “shock value” in advertising.  They were saying that this particular ad bordered on going too far and just wanted to shock people to get them to watch it.  While it is true that we are becoming desensitized to violence and it takes more and more to shock us, I do not agree that this is the case with these ads.  Rape and sexual assault are shocking and rightly so.  The fact that it happens at all should shock people.  If we become complacent about this we lose an important piece of our humanity.  Sure, maybe little children should not be allowed to watch it but teenagers who are just starting to date need to know that pushing someone beyond what they are comfortable with is not okay.  Of course, it is not only teenagers but it is a place to start.  I almost think that something like this would be good to show in schools as part of the sex education curriculum.  Granted I do not have children so I do not know if I would feel differently if I did.  Those of you that do have kids what are your thoughts?  Is this ad too shocking and did they go too far?

Here is the second ad that deals with abusive relationships.

This is Abuse