I Wish: Beatrix’s Story
CC image courtesy of Flickr, Georgie Pauwels.
I loved being homeschooled; overall it was a very positive experience for me. But just as any loving person can overreact, any subculture can miss the point. The point that as a person, I am more than a potential marriage partner; the point that I love living independently; the point that my gender doesn’t define who I am in Christ.
This flawed subculture of Christian homeschoolers have discussed how or why courtship is fundamentally flawed, but we have yet to discuss the upbringing of the “to-court” or the “to-be-courted” culture. When in debate about the pros and cons of said upbringing (my upbringing), I find it necessary to add this disclaimer:
Marriage is lovely, and I am grateful that it was not a foreign idea to me or my family.
My parents are happily married, and they assume that someday all their children will be too. And because of that I have many “I wish” es.
Now, in my parents’ defense I was engaged at the ripe age of four to a fellow Sunday School friend, so I understand the need for purity and marriage to be conversations in my childhood. But I was also raised with ideas and expectations that, though out of love and good intentions, still haunt me.
To clarify, this post is not about the answers to dating I’ve found that prove Pro-Courtship families in the wrong, but rather it is a gentle stand for us who not only kissed dating goodbye, but who now must navigate young adulthood emotionally undoing the tension that was built into our younger years. So here, in a rhetorical (not theological) sense, is what I wish my past self had learned differently.
I WISH I HAD LEARNED HOW TO BE A GOOD FRIEND, TO BOYS AND GIRLS ALIKE.
When raised with the expectations of courtship and marriage, especially from a young age, it becomes difficult to view people of the opposite sex as more than potential partners. Truly, if half of your peers are a possible spouse, they quickly run through your “standards meter” and then aren’t much beyond or below that. And, often, attempts at friendships between sexes is discouraged, sometimes even considered dangerous. It may make you appeared marred or taken to other future potential. I remember being 15, and my best friend was approached by a woman at her church who expressed concern that she was a flirt, and flirted too much, etc. If there had been any morsel of truth in her disapproval it wouldn’t have made us so upset, but the simple fact was that she had many friends who were male. Actually, besides me, she’s always had closer guy friends. To this day one of her best friends is male, and I can’t tell you how many people have assumed that they either are, or were, or will be a romantic couple.
Back in the “days of innocence” hugging friends, of either gender, was sweet. Cheek kisses when little are “ahh”ed by adults, and were surprisingly genuine. The sincerity of small affections is considered kind, but any closeness once older is seen as perverted and wrong. I’m not sure the exact age that being friends with a guy was looked down upon, but it frustrates and confuses me still. Because of my underlying understanding that I am to look at men as possible partners, and the assumption that they view me in the same way, I grew up without many guy friends, and still retain only a precious few. I miss the days when friendships were organic, and not perpetually questioned about sexual motives and propriety.
Which brings up my next “I wish”.
I WISH I WAS TOLD TO BE SMART, TO KEEP A GOOD HEAD ON MY SHOUDERS, INSTEAD OF RULES ABOUT WHAT AND WHERE GUYS AND I CAN’T BE.
Never be with a guy alone; not in a room, a home, a car, not even with a guy you trust. Don’t walk alone after dark. Live and breathe propriety.
I understand that the above stated rules and their kin have purpose. Safety, especially for a petite young lady, such as myself, can be a concern. But concern’s cousin is fear.
And, ultimately, I was raised to fear men. I am still frightened of them and it’s something I regularly battle. I’ll have a male customer, a male dentist, I’ve had a male waiter and a back table, a male co-worker and I that worked hours alone together, and I have feared them all.
I remember the first time I broke the “never be alone with a guy in a car” rule. My male friend was picking up different people and I was the first. Therefore, while waiting outside the house of the next carpooler, we were alone in his car. To this day he is one of my closest guy friends, with absolutely no romantic strings attached (at the time, a new idea to me). Yet, there I was, buckled in the passenger seat, trembling and trying not to have a panicked meltdown.
I racked my brains, attempting to figure out why I was so scared. I knew I didn’t fear him (also a newer idea), I was experiencing the odd sensation of trust, and I slowly realized I was in fear of my parents, or any other authority who would disapprove, finding out that I was alone in the car of a friend. Because I knew that instance didn’t live up to parental expectations. I don’t like to let people down, which was the crime I was accidentally committing.
I WISH SOMEONE HAD TAUGHT ME HOW TO BE A GODLY WOMAN, NOT JUST A GOOD WIFE AND MOTHER.
Marriage is not, and never has been or will be, promised. The conservative world scoffs at the age of entitlement we’re living in and in the same minute assumes entitlement for their posterity. I have, for nearly my whole life, felt that I deserve marriage and family. Several of my friends raised in similar households have also felt this entitlement. We read books like “Your Sacred Calling” and study the crumble cake out of Proverbs 31.
News flash: there are 30 other chapters. We are not guaranteed marriage. And it is only because of God’s mercy that marriage exists and is held together. In His benevolence He gives spouses to each other. And sometimes gives children to those in that union.
Yet, neither of those two happy adventures are the end-all. Your wedding day is not the ending of your story. Your courtship is not the beginning of your success.
Unfortunately many of us have been raised to shuffle opposite- gendered-humans through our list of expectations, and then spit out a potential one, court, marry and raise a godly family. But we have not been taught how to pursue a godly purpose outside of these circumstances.
Many still have yet to give up the entitlement. I’ve been told, more than once, “You are one of the greatest women I’ve ever met, and I thought God had intended you for me.”
Many have yet to give up the fear. When asking a close girl friend of mine how she responds to men hitting on her, she responded, “Well, I would never go out with someone I hadn’t known for a couple years. And even then, I’m not sure…”
Many have yet to give up expectations in exchange for friendship. One of my best friends once remarked, “Goodness! You’re like obsessed with this guy thing!”
I said, “What guy thing? I’m not obsessed!”
She replied, “You can’t just be around guys. You can’t like just hang out with them.”
And it’s true. When people have been brave enough to ask for my honest opinion I tell them, “I can’t date. I could marry. I could raise kids. I can cook, and clean and launder like an angel. I can be around families and behave myself. I can be very supportive to those close to me. But I can’t date. I don’t know how. I don’t know how to be myself in that setting. And I can’t stand it. I can’t be casual. I, truly, cannot date.”
Perhaps this is more a personal venting, than a well-researched article, but I believe it begins to complete a picture of the struggling hearts you may have met. It portrays a godly young woman who, though her family has shifted their views of dating, still;
Gets panicked when on a date, and who tries so hard to view the gentleman across the table as a person–
With his own upbringing, his own feelings, his own expectations, and- most importantly- his own soul, his own testimony and his own future (which statistically won’t include her). And then, after the date and emotional struggle are over, she comes home and cries.
I cry because I’m exhausted. Cry because I don’t like not being myself. Cry because we originally met I was confident, polite and happy. And now he has seen me insecure, terrified and with a barrier of indifference. I cry because I am not strong enough to undo years of false hope and assumed privilege. Cry because I want to be a better person, one who, in Christ, rises above the mishaps of past teachings. Cry because I love my parents, even when I disagree with them. Cry because I am ashamed of how lonely I feel sometimes. Cry because I feel guilty for crying.
Cry because I wish…
Question, Beatrix, RL, massmind:
How much difference is there between “difficult to view people of the opposite sex as more than potential partners” and “difficult to view people of the opposite sex as more than sex objects”? Is the former just the Christianese coat of paint over the latter?
When you’re a girl raised in this environment and force fed these teachings about courtship vs dating, you’re pre-programmed by these people to feel shame about sex. For most girls I knew growing up, sex was the last thing from their mind in regards to boys/courtship/marriage. They only had thoughts of the wifely duties such as being obedient, cleaning, cooking, raising babies. Sex was a taboo (even though it leads raising the babies, but hey none of this stuff makes sense and you’re not allowed to know about sex until you’re safely engaged!). To think of it was too be evil, unpure, and dishonorable. We were taught to look for a life mate without considering sex at all. So, yes, there’s some “christianese” but for those raised this way, there’s a huge difference between the two views.
I don’t know… I still thought a fair amount about sex, I just pretended I didn’t. And I always imagined it was the man who knew what he was doing. Good girls don’t take initiative in sexual things. So “arousal” was something it took a few years of married life to really get a handle on, for me anyway.
Loved the piece – you really hit the old proverbial “nail on the head.” I was raised in a convent school and I remember the lectures all too clearly. We couldn’t wear patent leather shoes because a boy might try to look up your skirt. Wearing red lipstick or nail polish was a sign you were in league with the devil.
I don’t think I actually ever had a male friend until I was in college – and then I worried about how I said something instead of what I said.
It takes a long time, effort, angst, and determination to deal with all the expectations. and I managed to work through them so there is hope. Keep on writing – you have a gift!
I relate to this SO much. The fear, the gradually learning that you’re more than a potential marriage partner for someone. I had a lot to plow through once I got to college. Thanks for writing.
From a guy’s perspective, I have been guilty so many times of disregarding one’s friendship because I ruled them out as a prospective partner. This really touched me. I do have “friends that are girls” but even then it seems we can never have a casual conversation without a chaperone… I always found it odd that being alone with a girl was some kind of sin. But, one day I’ll get to that place where I can wake up, kiss my wife, and talk with her without her brother sitting beside us. 😂