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Archive for July, 2009

First: Congratulations to Heather, who posted this blog’s 50th comment last night!

Second: I really shouldn’t be posting a FF at all, considering 1) I am strapped for time at work and won’t be able to take a lunch break, and 2) I have to finish packing when I get home, because I’m moving to a new apartment over the course of today and tomorrow.

BUT, due to jet-lag and other busyness, I did not post a FF last week, so I didn’t want to be lax for a second week in a row. I did want to post my favorite Katy Perry music video, thanks to it being incredibly fun and semi-relevant, but YouTube does not allow it to be embedded.

Instead, I’m posting a few quotes from author Edith Wharton, simply because I like them, but I can’t remember how it was that I came across them in the first place.

I don’t know if I should care for a man who made life easy; I should want someone who made it interesting.


If we’d stop trying to be happy we could have a pretty good time.


Life is always a tightrope or a feather bed. Give me the tightrope.


There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.

As always, Happy Friday!

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I completely forgot that I had signed up to receive A Girl’s Guide to Marrying Well from the Christian webzine, Boundless, and was extremely excited to find it in my email today, immediately deciding to critique it for this blog. (I’d link to it directly, but you have to sign up for it yourself if you want a copy.)

I have to confess, I have a love-hate relationship with Boundless. Most of their general stuff about living the Christian life is great. Honestly. Check it out. I mean it.

Hold off on the stuff about being single, though. When the site talks about singleness and marriage, I tend to feel my skin crawl and have steam come out of my ears. A few years ago, for a few months of my life, I was totally on board with everything the Boundless authors said. Eventually, somehow, that cooled down and I realized that a lot of what they say is somewhat over-the-top and, in a few cases, biblically questionable. Not that I don’t want to get married, or that I don’t want God to bring me the right man. I’m just a little, oh, more level-headed about it.

I’ve been wanting to address a Boundless piece on this blog for quite some time now, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so. Plus, it specifically mentions things that I have recently discussed here. Be warned, though, that I am one of those people who says, “I’m not cynical, I’m realistic,” so I may sound a bit harsh or melodramatic. (What else is new, right?)

But if you read nothing else in this post, read this: In all seriousness, I’m not here to bash marriage. Clearly. I really would like to get married someday to the right man, but I’d be happy serving the Lord as a single woman, if that is His will instead. And I’m very happy for the authors of this Guide, that their marriages apparently have worked out so well. I just don’t think that singleness is any less important or useful a state than marriage is, and I think that focusing too much on getting married in the future may cause women (and men, to be fair) to miss out on blessings in the present.

That said, let us proceed.

I had to heave a sigh when I read the opening sentence of the intro: Most women hope to marry, but for many, it’s not happening like they thought it would.

Welcome to life. Many things don’t work out as we had thought they would. Does that mean it’s also not happening as God thought it would? Isn’t He bigger than that? Maybe He has other plans. I had hoped to finish my novel by now, but stuff happens. And guess what? Life goes on, and it’s OK. I haven’t given up hope, I’m just doing other stuff, too. Stuff I never planned. Stuff I never even considered or thought possible.

The first part of the Guide involves being intentional toward marriage: living life as if you plan to get married. The authors write:

Living like you’re planning to marry means intentionally resisting the cultural traps of male bashing [but what if they deserve it??], procrastinating [?], unrealistic expectations, hyper independence [what does that even mean?], and avoiding risk and instead cultivating community, stewardship, and purity — the elements of Christian discipleship that can best help you recognize and embrace good opportunities for marriage.

Except for the things that I don’t quite understand (like what she means by procrastination and hyper-independence, which go unexplained in this chapter), I’m actually supportive of this. But that’s just the thing: these are good things to practice as a Christian, whether you are planning to get married or not. Being single doesn’t give you any extra moral leeway—as Christians, we should be cultivating godliness and a Christ-like example out of obedience to God, out of a desire to serve Him, whether we are single or married. I tend to think that any other motivation puts a hypothetical future husband first, instead of God—and that’s called idolatry, sisters.

Matthew 6:31-33: So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

I think this applies to seeking/hoping for a spouse, as well. God knows what you want and need. He’s got you covered, literally and figuratively.

As for intentionality, what if God really intends for you to not marry? Or to be single for a relatively long time? I mean, really. It could happen. Lest you think me too critical, there is plenty in this Guide that I agree with. For example:

The problem of delayed marriage has a lot to do with men who won’t take initiative.

YEAH. MAYBE. YA THINK?

To the men we say, “Get going, it’s time you accept the challenge to pursue marriage.”

ABOUT TIME.

And to the women, “Stop glorifying the single years as a super-holy season of just you and Jesus.” Yes, being single does provide the chance to be uniquely intimate with Jesus. Enjoy that. But don’t over-emphasize it.

Wait … what? HOLD UP.

What happened to men being attracted to women who were happy and confident and at peace? What happened to having a heart fully devoted to the Lord? If we are, in the words of a Christian author I deeply admire, “sassy, single, and satisfied,” are we supposed to pretend to be miserable so that men can come in and rescue us from our unbearable loneliness? Don’t men tend to steer clear of needy, desperate women?

(As usual, Bethany’s reaction is much calmer and to-the-point: “That is really discouraging to people trying to see the good in what is now.”)

But there is more. It continues:

Why? Because it gives guys permission to kick back and let you. If they think you’re perfectly happy as a single, why wouldn’t they let you stay that way? Especially when so many of them are gun shy.

First of all, if a man is gun-shy—either with women or with actual guns—I’ll say “No, thanks.” Secondly, if that’s his attitude, then clearly he himself is not that intentional toward marriage. If I do get married, I’m looking for someone who has a heart for Jesus and is happy with his life, and who is seeking a woman of similar traits. I realize that there may be a balance between, “I LOVE BEING SINGLE! I’M SO HAPPY THIS WAY, I DON’T NEED A MAN, YOU PUNKS! BE GONE!” (of which I have been guilty) and “I AM SO MISERABLE! SOMEONE PLEASE MARRY MEEEEEEEE SO I CAN BE HAPPY” (of which I have also been guilty), but what does that balance look like? “Yes, I’m happy now, but I’d be happier if I had a husband”? Are you sure? Any husband? Really?

How about: “I’m so happy with my relationship with the Lord and where I am in my life! I want to share that happiness with someone” ?

After reading more, I became concerned that this guide is putting marriage on a pedestal of nearly idolatrous levels:

Marriage holds the possibility of partnership, adventure, creativity, challenge and many more of the things we long for, but try to obtain with inferior pursuits. As Amy and Leon Kass observed in their roles as professors at the University of Chicago, “…we detect among our students certain (albeit sometimes unarticulated) longings — for friendship, for wholeness, for a life that is serious and deep, and for associations that are trustworthy and lasting — longings that they do not realize could be largely satisfied by marrying well.” (Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar, 2)

Although singleness is clearly different from being married, a life lived for Christ holds all those things and more, for people in either state. I may be resorting to cliche by pulling out the “Paul card,” but was Paul’s life any less adventurous, creative, serious, or challenging because he was unmarried? Did he want for partnership and “trustworthy associations”? Not only was he in close intimacy with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but he had the help, love, and support of Christians elsewhere in the world, such as Timothy and Epaphroditus.

Can you imagine this conversation going on somewhere in the Roman Empire?

Some guy: “Hey, Paul, how’s it going? Haven’t seen you in a couple years.”
Paul: “Going well, thanks. Hey, I heard you got married. Congratulations.”
SG: “Thanks! Oh, man, it’s awesome. It’s the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me. What have you been up to?”
P: “The usual, you know. Making tents. Got thrown in prison with a friend. Sang some praises to God, and watched the walls collapse and our chains fall off, and then the jailer became a Christ-follower. It was fantastic. Was in a shipwreck, too, carrying the Word of God across the world. Oh, and an angry mob stoned me last month. That hurt. So, marriage is exciting, huh?”
SG: ” … “

And for a more feminine and recent example, what about Mother Teresa? NEED I SAY MORE?

Perhaps these are extreme examples, but I think that what many people seek in marriage, they really should first seek in Christ. This is what I’ve been emphasizing lately on this blog, and I see no reason to back down from what I have said. I’m not saying that marriage doesn’t offer the things they mentioned, but they’re not exclusive to marriage, and marriage doesn’t guarantee them. I don’t believe that being single is necessarily inferior to being married—I think both circumstances can be blessings from God and used to His purpose, and they both carry their own advantages and difficulties.

(Bethany adds, “So much of life is in its purpose and in the goals, not in our state. … Plus, if we are incapable of adventure and friendship now, how is marriage going to fix us?”)

One thing I rather dislike is the emphasis on marriage as an end in itself, a mythical “happily ever after.” Single life may have ended, but life in general goes on, long after the I-do’s are said. It’s not necessarily smooth sailing once the bride has been kissed and the cake has been cut. I’m not saying that all relationships are unnecessarily difficult, and certainly there are efforts that spouses can take to make things easier for each other. But marriage doesn’t simplify things, and it doesn’t automatically make you happier all the time.

Now that I’ve dug myself into this hole of criticism, let me attempt to get out of it by saying that the Guide does a great job of addressing a lot of the problems that single Christians face, especially when it comes to interactions between the sexes and attitudes toward dating.

I’ve recently observed several non-dating relationships that seem to fall into the “intimate friends” category. In every case, it is the woman who is paying the price emotionally. Why? When a guy starts investing his heart, he can do something about it by making a move. And if the girl rejects him, the friendship ends or changes significantly. [Oh man, I’ve been there.] A woman, however, can hang on in this kind of relationship indefinitely, hoping the guy will eventually share her feelings. She makes herself available to him as a “friend,” all the while hoping the friendship will blossom into something more. [Alas, I’ve been there, too.]

I don’t think it’s impossible to have close male-female friendships without romantic feelings existing in either person, but it can be difficult. I don’t think that men and women need to abandon their opposite-sex friends if one or both parties are not “marriage-attracted” to each other (a phrase I coined INSTANTLY), as long as they’re open and honest about where the friendship is going. Being open and honest saves a lot of trouble.

Single men and women are failing each other. Uncommitted intimate friendships may satiate immediate needs, but they lead to frustration and heartache. Not to mention, for singles ready for marriage, these “friendships” waste time and energy.

Another author seems to agree with me that close male-female relationships are not impossible, though less-advisable. However, the reasoning is slightly … off:

Close friendships by their very nature tend to involve extensive time talking and hanging out one-on-one. They tend to involve a deep knowledge of the other person’s hopes, desires and personality. They tend to involve the sharing of many aspects of each other’s daily lives and routines. In other words, they tend to involve much of the type of intimacy and companionship involved in — and meant for — marriage.

Soooo, does this mean that Bethany and I should stop leading each other on and get married? Hmm, well I guess that solves our singleness issues, but not quite what I was looking for. OK, so that was a cheap shot. My apologies.

But there are other parts of the Guide that make me cheer and say, “Well done!”

Once you’ve met a man you’d like to date, then it’s time to exercise kindness, put your best foot forward in friendship, pray like crazy and maintain good boundaries. The best way to motivate a male friend to “make things official” is to back off from spending so much time with him. If everyone thinks you’re dating, then you’re probably acting like you are. But by giving him so much access to your time, affection and intimate friendship — without requiring any commitment on his part — you’re removing all the incentives for him to be forthright about his intentions.

I read this and thought, “Wow, this is advice that Marianne Dashwood really should have followed in Sense and Sensibility.” (Which means it’s probably good advice for me, since she and I have a number of things in common.) And then I got completely thrown by the next bit, which seems to disregard what they said earlier:

It’s frustrating to feel like there’s nothing you can do. But you can pray and you can go about the life God has given you; living to the full. The young man may observe you being content and find your confidence attractive (assuming it’s genuine). That’s always a possibility.

It IS! That’s what I’ve been trying to TELL you! And it’s something you should do even if there isn’t a man who may be interested!

Well, that concludes my analysis of the first part of A Girl’s Guide to Marrying Well. Because I took so much time and space, I will address parts 2-4 at a later time. Happy Wednesday!

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This is one of those entries that kind of scares me to post, because I’m exposing part of my soul here, and it makes me feel vulnerable. But I’m doing it because I think it’s important to share, so here we go. (I just hope that at the end of this post, y’all don’t think that I’m a prophetess or a psycho.) I didn’t really expect to post again this soon, or about this topic in particular, but I received inspiration from a comment on my last one by my online friend, Joel. After saying that his wife would back me up on the last post, he then added:

… [O]ne could rephrase your exhortation to your fellow single Christian women this way: “If you are a single woman, and you don’t feel deep down that you could spend the rest of your life joyfully serving God, and never having gotten married, please don’t get married!”

Yes, that’s another excellent way to say it, and something that I have actually been working towards for years. Less than two weeks ago, on this mission trip, I think I achieved it. I’m not sure when it happened—probably on Sunday, July 19, because that was a pretty magical day for me all around. Whenever it was, at one point I was in my room alone and thought, This singleness thing? I could do this. If I have Jesus, get to serve Him, and worship Him with dear friends, I could do this for the rest of my life, as a single woman, and do so happily. Of course, human feelings don’t last, but I do believe the resolve has stayed with me.

That’s not to say that I am 100% sure I will never marry—I still don’t know what God has planned for me in that area of my life. But I could be content to trustingly, worshipfully serve God and glorify Him as a single woman, if that is what He called me to do. I’m not hoping to get married, and I’m not hoping to stay single. Either way of life will be a blessing from God that I will gladly accept.

Honestly, this is something new to me. Before, my attitude was mostly, “Well, if God really wants me to be single for a long time (or forever), I guess I could deal with it,” or, “OK God, I’m content being single. You can bring me a husband now!” Neither of these carry much of a spirit of obedience or worship.

But this new attitude is more, “Yes! If You ask me, I will do it, and joyfully!”

I’m very happy to have achieved this—I’ve been working toward it since my freshman year of college, when God spoke to me.

Yes, there’s a story here. There’s really no way of telling it without sounding like an utter loony, so here we go. When I say that God spoke to me, I don’t mean “God placed it on my heart,” or “I felt the Holy Spirit move me,” or “I read this verse that really opened my eyes.” I mean, God spoke to me. I mean, I heard words. In a voice. In my head. Oh, yes. And nothing similar has happened to me before or since, either.

Anyway, I was driving home for a weekend, or a seasonal break, and feeling crappy about being single and just wishing I had a boyfriend (I wasted a lot of my time in college doing that, silly me). I was halfheartedly praying about it, when I heard very clearly in my head: “Emily, I am all that you could ever want or need. If you’re not happy with Me. you’re not going to be happy with a fallible human.”

Hearing that didn’t freak me out as much as you’d think it would have. I knew it was the Lord, and I knew it was true. I felt kind of like I had been lovingly slapped in the face, but there was a peace about it, and a little shame because it showed me how foolish I had been. I haven’t always lived by those words, but I’ve never forgotten it. I have never understood those words as clearly as I do now, and I am calling on my sisters in Christ to take them to heart: Pursue God first.

And hey, since we clearly have a number of male readersBoys, that goes for you, too.

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Hello, all! I have returned from my mission trip to England, and I would be lying if I said I was pleased about that. Since it was 1) in England, which has always topped my places-to-see! list, and 2) a mission trip, during which amazing things tend to happen, I was expecting not to want to come back. And I didn’t.

(Saturday was especially difficult, with my roller-coaster emotions culminating in a Marianne-Dashwood-esque walk through the rain, feeling generally miserable, and today I have a sore throat, I kid you not, that will probably result in my becoming severely ill and bedridden so that someone will have to send for my mother to come and be with me right before I die.)

But that also means that the trip was incredible, right? Returning to the craziness of real life—work, moving to another apartment, catching up with family and trying to explain a fraction of what I experienced on the trip—has not been appealing. It’s kind of like something I remember reading in Stuff Christians Like once, only more so.

Anyway, as I continue to adjust and process what I’ve gone through, I’m sure I will have many things to discuss on this blog. The first thing I wanted to share is, in fact, something I did not expect to learn.

As an only child of divorced parents, I didn’t have that much of a male-leadership presence growing up. I never had brothers, and although I love my dad, we’re not extremely close. I’ve never had that many guy friends, Christian or otherwise. And even though I’m not a crazy feminist, my attitude for much of my life has been, “Meh. I don’t need a man.” (Though there have been times of feeling, “Wow, a boyfriend would be really great right now,” to which all single women can relate, I’m sure. Or at least Bethany. And Jenna. And Kara. And Jessica. And Katie. OK, yeah, so all single women.)

Obviously, having been made complete in Christ, that’s true in a sense. At least, we don’t need a man to complete us. In fact, one can’t. Except for Jesus, Who was obviously more than just a man. But anyway, I didn’t quite appreciate, or realize the importance of, solid Christian male leadership. The more I write about this, the harder it is to put into words, I’m finding. But to see the men at this mission conference step up in faith, show commitment to God’s work, demonstrate the love of Christ, and be honest about their mistakes was encouraging, beautiful, a relief, and all sorts of other lovely things.

We may not have been preaching the gospel in the jungles of Africa, or feeding malnourished children at an orphanage in South America, or secretly distributing Bibles in China, but the spiritual battleground was no less real in the streets of London. During that time, I gained a little more insight into the kind of leaders that God has called men to be. I also became more aware of the importance of finding a man—God willing—who can show that kind of leadership. The analogy that female Christians are princesses because we are daughters of the King can get a little tired and nauseating at times, but there is truth to it. I believe that not only do we owe it to ourselves to seek and to truly desire a man after God’s own heart, but we owe it to our Heavenly Father. I think it’s disrespectful to Him, as our Creator and Savior, to settle for anything less.

(Imagine someone serving you an incredibly expensive, intricate, complicated, delicious meal prepared with care and anticipation. And then imagine snubbing that meal for a Big Mac. Sure, the Big Mac was tasty, but someone went to trouble of making that fabulous meal just for you, and you pushed it aside for a cheap grease-fest.)

In short, ladies: Don’t compromise your beliefs for any man. And please, please don’t settle for less than God’s best for you. I may be Perpetually Single, but even I learned that the hard way. Trust me on this. God loves you, He has your best interests at heart, and He knows exactly how to get that done. He’s also bigger than whatever you may be facing: loneliness, a bad relationship, uncertainty about the future. You’re His daughter, and you deserve a man who recognizes that.

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So, I was going to post something a bit more substantial today, but before anything so shocking could happen, I discovered that today is one of those delightful random holidays: “Embrace your Geekness Day!” So in honor of that, and in honor of always enjoying our own and other people’s quirks (and because I love Mario Kart so very much and I want to inflict this love on you), here is another fun Remy rap. Hope you enjoy!

So happy Monday, and enjoy embracing your geekness!

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Even though it’s my post, I don’t mean the 18th or 19th century when I say “old-fashioned.” This time, I actually mean the 1960s, because that’s where today’s clips come from.

Look, I’ll be honest with you: I’m not entirely sure that this first clip (from the 1960 movie Tall Story starring Jane Fonda and Anthony Perkins) is entirely appropriate. But I came across it on YouTube a few days ago, and knew that it simply had to be in the next Friday Frivolity. Actually, I’d never heard of the movie until I found it while searching for clips from Barefoot in the Park.

Bethany had the best response to it, though: That’s one of the best things I’ve seen in a while. So awkward, so wrong, so wonderful. And so…yeah, I don’t even know the word.

Me either, Bethany.

Then we have a longer clip, from Barefoot in the Park, in the scene I posted about before, where Robert Redford’s character, normally very proper and dignified, is whimsically drunk. Actually, this is from the last 9 1/2 minutes of the movie, so if you haven’t seen it and don’t want the ending (such as it is) to be spoiled, then don’t watch.

As always, happy Friday! I’m leaving for a mission trip in a couple days, so given Bethany’s grad-school busyness, don’t expect many postings over the next couple of weeks. Until then, cheerio!

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Although this is posted under my name, the starting idea was actually Bethany’s, and I wanted to make sure y’all knew that.

Thanks to this blog, we have now explored (in no particular order) the secrets of men, a cautionary tale of online dating, and misguided tips to woo a woman. The next logical step might be examining tips on how to woo a gentleman, but this is “Notes From the Sisterhood of Perpetual Singleness”—not Cosmo, Seventeen, or even How to Get a Date Worth Keeping (a book by Henry Cloud that we will be sure to discuss at a later date). You will not find kissing tips, win-your-ex-back tips, or meet-a-hottie-at-the-beach-this-summer! tips here. If we were at all qualified to offer such advice, we probably wouldn’t be writing this blog.

BUT we do know ourselves. Sort of. So instead, we (by which I mean Bethany) thought we’d assemble our own responses to some of the topics we have previously explored. As always, make use of the comments feature if you want to dispute or add to anything we say.

To sum up, an alternate post title might be, Advice We’d Rather See Men Follow Than Some of the Other Cra Stuff You Find on the Internet.

Emily’s Dating Tips
After thinking about it, I decided to do a more personalized version of “how to woo a woman,” because the original article is mostly bad advice with some good elements sprinkled in, and it’s hilarious and an easy target and I’m just kind of cruel that way. For reference, the old post is linked above, and the original article is here.

1. Be Reliable, but not Boring.
It’s already become well-documented, especially in an uncertain social and economic climate, that women’s preferences are gradually moving away from the metrosexual with the flashy job, toward more traditionally masculine men with tried-and-true careers that may be less glamorous (we’re talking plumbers and carpenters here, maybe even blacksmiths).

Why is this? Reliability, stability, and, on some level, trustworthiness. It’s the same with personality, lifestyle, and character. Despite the appeal of whirlwind romances and a gypsy lifestyle, I’m sure most ladies will agree with me that a man who knows what he’s about, what he stands for, and what he wants out of life is very attractive. But because life needs variety, he should also put a little effort into being spontaneous once in a while.

Actually, I just reminded myself of the 1967 movie Barefoot in the Park, starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. The young newlyweds nearly break up because she finds him too much of a dull, rational, stick-in-the-mud, and he thinks she’s overemotional and irresponsible. When Redford’s character leaves her and gets rip-roaringly drunk, Fonda’s character realizes that she doesn’t like him to be irresponsible, unpredictable, and ridiculous—she loves him just as he is.

All together now: AAAAAAAWWWWWWWWW

But see, if he hadn’t broken with the status quo for a little while, she might never have come to that realization!

2. Make her feel special.
There is a fantastic blog floating around the Internet somewhere that I fully intend to find again, about the Nice Guy Syndrome. Because lots of nice guys complain that women like jerks, or “bad boys,” or whatever. One of the reasons it seems that way is because “bad boys” make a girl feel special—they’ll treat everyone like crap, except her. Of course, eventually they’ll treat her like crap, too, which is why a sensible woman with half a brain and an ounce of self-confidence won’t actually want such a man. But the change in behavior, however brief, leaves a girl in no doubt of his interest in her—he treats her differently (i.e., better). Nice guys are nice to everyone, and if he’s equally nice to a girl he’s interested in, that doesn’t help her feel special, or even aware that he’s interested. So nice guys have to be a little more creative, while still adhering to #1 by staying true to themselves and what they believe.

(OK, so maybe nice guys do have it tough.)

3. Take the lead, with respect. Follow the original U.S. Constitution: Write the bill, but give her veto power.

Or, in the words of you non-politics-nerds: Make plans, but let her have final say—be decisive, take charge, but be flexible.

4. Be sincere.
If you’re going to compliment her, mean it. If you really like her, or if you think the relationship is not right or going nowhere, be up-front about it. If you’ve got some crap going on in your life, don’t pretend things couldn’t be better, unless you’re actually that optimistic. If there’s something going on that you’re very happy or excited about, don’t feel that you have to be cool about it. You don’t have to spill your guts about every nuance of life, but be honest, and whatever you do or say, mean it!

5. Be Confident, not Cocky.
I have no idea why this is so difficult for people to understand, and yet I see it repeated all the time. No, men, we women do not actually like jerks. We like men who are confident in themselves, but treat people well. Astonishingly, the two are not mutually exclusive.

6. Be independent & have your own life. Also, don’t expect her to share all your interests.

I have found that 1) contrary to what many men believe, most women don’t want to share every single interest in common, and 2) even if some of them do, men can be just as bad.

Guess what, guys. I don’t expect y’all to like musicals, politics, and dorky, interactive history museums targeted toward 6th-graders as much as I do. I don’t expect my nonexistent boyfriend to join my all-female version of MST3K when my friends and I get together and watch old-school Beverly Hills 90210. I don’t expect him to be particularly thrilled by Tim Burton’s latest film. Likewise, I shouldn’t have to smile and nod my way through a sports game, or to pretend that I really do want to learn how to play pool, or join in with a session of video games with the boys. Occasionally, yes, of course, we all must make sacrifices. But this list just took a very personal turn, and for that I apologize. Still, individual differences and interests are healthy. There. That was my whole point.

7. Don’t follow how-to dating lists.
Yes, I just erased all my previous advice with that last nugget of wisdom. But everyone is different, and you can’t prejudge people, generalize them, or put them in boxes. Read on, my friends: Not only is Bethany’s list far superior, but it will only prove my point. (Except where I agree with everything she says except for 5. And probably 8. Anyway…)

Bethany’s Dating Tips

1. Speak well of people.
Especially your ex-girlfriend and that boss who was kind of a jerk. Or don’t talk about them at all, at least early in an acquaintance. It really turns me off and makes me think badly of a person when, in our first couple of conversations, I hear how awfully people have treated him (Lizzy Bennet, take notes!). I’m all for being honest and not sugar-coating life, but some things really don’t need to be shared until friendships have deepened. Reserve and discretion are good here, as is charity. Even if people have made mistakes or behaved very badly in the past, it’s no reason to knock them to every person you meet. You know, unless he is an axe murderer and that person is planning a date with him the next day. I do find it great when guys can talk about their ex’s in cordial (not still-love-struck) terms. It is a good feeling to know that this is a person capable of valuing the good qualities of someone who, for whatever reason, is not with him anymore.

2. Ask me questions!
This is probably my neuroses talking, but I really hate boring people (as in – I hate feeling that I am boring people. I actually like “boring people” quite a lot). And the best way for me to feel I’m not boring people is if they ask me questions. Probably even non-neurotic people would agree that it makes you feel special and appreciated when people take a sincere interest in your life and opinions. Of course, this can go too far and one can end up feeling interrogated, but sincere interest, good questions, and listening can be a big plus and, of course, really make the whole conversation thing go a lot better. I guess what I’m saying is, please don’t force me to inflict my life and views on you. Invite me to inflict my life and views on you! Thanks.

3. Be affectionate to your mom and sisters.

I find that—absolutely loveable. (And yes, I am Emily Dickenson, apparently.)

4. Have a poker night.
Or something. I love it when guys spend some of their time doing just-guys things. It’s pleasant and masculine and healthy, I think. This feeds in to the larger issue of having a full and good life even when one doesn’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend. It is a good feeling that the person who is interested in me is not totally dependent on me for entertainment or support – independence is both attractive and mildly relieving.

5. Steal someone’s baby.

Wait, wait! Don’t run off and do that till I explain! What I mean to say is, there are few things more endearing and attractive than a man caring for a child. However, a man with a child of his own is probably in some sort of relationship. So, to have the effect of cute man with child, he’d be forced into theft. Or borrowing a nephew or something.

6. Be kind and friendly to everyone.
Don’t just be nice to your friends and the girl you have a crush on. Now, I know guys can take this to extremes and seem to be flirting with pretty much any girl around (note – this is not a good plan – very confusing and not nice), but it leaves a good impression on me when a man can treat men and women with thoughtfulness and respect, when he will behave kindly and friendly-ly when he ends up sitting next to the not-so-pretty sister at the end of the dinner table farthest from the object of his admiration. Again, as relationships grow closer people will certainly communicate their likes and dislikes of people (since people usually don’t like everyone), but treating people well is good. I suppose what I’m saying here is: I really appreciate men who treat all women well, and the object of their affection extra-especially well. And with something that goes beyond kindness to something more intimate.

7. Tease me, but know where the line is.
Good teasing can be so satisfying because it requires both wit and knowledge of the person you’re teasing. I love it when a friend or lover (ha ha, just kidding about that second bit) makes a joke which shows he or she really know your quirks or habits or even pet peeves. On the other hand, too much teasing, or teasing with underlying meanness, can be tiresome and even hurtful. This is a two-way street though, requiring sensitivity on the part of the jokester and the ability to say “enough is enough” from the recipient. And patience from both of them – especially in the muddle-y business of getting to know someone, these things take time.

8. Wear plaid.
Just kidding, just kidding. No, actually not. That is all.

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