Some parents tell their kids when they're allowed to start dating. Some parents don't care, some parents have very defined rules about age, what kind of dates you can go on, etc. My parents however, didn't really have a chance to do either.
Whether it was a plant, or just happenstance, I read a book when I was about eleven years old about courtship. It was a thin, purple book with a picture of a knight and a princess on it. I remember one story in the book - what the specifics are, I don't remember - and basically, in the story, these two people who didn't date, came upon each other one day and both of them had that "feeling" and they courted, and got married. They met by chance, and they decided that now was the time stop not dating, and be in a relationship that had the intention of marriage. AKA courtship.
That sounded pretty good to me. Don't have to worry about finding a boy to like you, just live your life, and you'll meet someone, and you both will know, and then you can kind of date, but it's not dating because you both know that you're going to marry each other, and then get married. Awesome.
Well, honestly, not awesome. Because for the next 11 or so years, I would live every single day expecting to meet my future husband. It didn't matter where I was, how old I was, how old the guy was (unless he was younger than me, but even then - who am I to tell God how old he should be, right?) I could meet my husband any day and it was going to instant recognition, and we were going to be together forever because you can't get divorced or anything if you don't date anyone else except that one person you're supposed to marry.
So for the entirety of my pre-teen, teen, and young adult years, I anticipated the day that my future husband would walk into my life. I loved the idea of love. I could find a reason to have a crush on pretty much anyone - I mean, he could have been The One. Duh. If someone seemed particularly great I knew that he was definitely The One. And by great, at this point, I mean cute, funny, and he was a Christian. When I liked just one guy for long periods of time, I was positive that he was the one, because why would I like someone THAT MUCH for five years and not marry them? Duh, guys.
Some people encouraged me to express my feelings to boys that I liked. I did a couple of times, usually through a friend. But here's what I found to be common with time - guys liked my friends. Not me. I was nice and whatever, but they didn't want to date me. I wasn't skinny, I wasn't fashionable. I was weird, and chubby. Well, cool. I didn't want to date you either. I wanted to court you, and then marry you. So, you're obviously not the one because you don't want to court. Whatever. The guy that I'm gonna marry is going to believe in courtship, and he's gonna love me right away, and he's gonna love me for who I am.
So..pause. All of this is happening in high school. I'm between the ages of..I dunno. I guess 13 and 17. It feels like it was so much longer than just a few years.
And that was my life. I believed that I and my intended would know right away that we were meant to be, that I wouldn't have to explain courtship to him, it would just be a mutual understanding, and that he would like me for who I am, and I don't have to make myself anything I'm not for him.
Ultimately, this has the potential to be a really healthy attitude. But it wasn't. I was OBSESSED with getting married. OBSESSED with meeting The One. OBSESSED that he could be ANYONE, and WHAT IF I MISS IT? Then it started to evolve. What if I miss him because I'm fat? What if I miss it because I'm not funny enough? What if I miss it because I'm ugly? What if I miss it because I'm looking for a certain kind of person, and he ends up being someone weird that I don't like? What if I have to be with someone who is gross, and weird? And it kept evolving over the years.
Well, I'm weird, so I deserve someone weird. Well, I'm fat, so it's unrealistic that I should expect to be with someone who is "hot". Well, my standards are too high. But if I lower my standards, I might end up with the wrong person. I'm not very spiritual, so I don't deserve someone who has an actual walk with God.
When I really step back and think about it, it's been pretty much the most self-negative journey anyone could take.
I had promised myself to save things like sex, and my first kiss. People, friends, said that they really admired me for doing this. For not dating, for waiting. "True love waits," right? But then those things became a non-issue. Mostly because of insecurity. Who would want to be with me anyway? Good thing I decided to not date, that way I can avoid any kind of rejection of my body. My lack of experience.
I also became obsessed with wanting to know if boys liked me. My mom always told me that "you might not know, but boys DO like you." I wanted her to prove it. Who? Who in the world would like me? No one, duh. That's why this not dating this is a life saver because I'm already not going to be in relationships. Crisis averted.
And in college, when I entered a new world, a new scope of men. Adults, people who weren't like the guys I went to high school with. People who were here to seek God, so they were definitely of the spiritual caliber that I demanded. And there were some handsome men in college. I started liking people right away (it would be out of character for me to NOT like anyone right away.)
And mind you, because men were a group to select my future husband from ,not just people that share planet Earth with me, I never really got to become FRIENDS with any of them. I would see you in class, or at church, but I didn't hang out. If I did, in a group setting or at youth group, I was still just waiting for you to realize that we were soulmates.
So college..well, Bible college. The place where men and women can't be one on one, they can't date - perfect! I don't date anyway. Not an issue. I will be obeying that rule like it's second nature.
As a lot of you know, Bible college is where I first found out that a boy liked me back, and it was where I learned how to talk to guys as people, and it was where I first started finding my voice as a person, and speaking honestly with men because...well, that's what the boy taught me to do. I was there for him. I was his listening ear. We talked almost ever night the summer after my first year in college, and we became best friends. I was pretty shy when we first started talking - my main purpose was just to listen to him talk about how much he missed this other girl - but as time went one, I began to realize. He and I are meant to be. Not in a silly way like before but for real. And no, he may not get it yet, but that's okay. I'm willing to wait. That's what all these years have been about right? I knew he liked me back, even though I hadn't asked. I could just tell. It was too obvious. In fact, it was so obvious some second year that he liked me, that I would get frustrated and depressed because I couldn't tell him how I felt. I couldn't tell him this secret. But we didn't keep anything from each other. I remember the night that we expressed our feelings to each other like it happened last night. It still fills me with a weird, nervous, flushed sensation. And that was it. He told me that he could see a future with me. That it "made sense." Yeah. It made sense to me too.
This expression of feelings led to a couple of weeks of pure bliss for me. Now I knew what it was like to look at a guy, and know that when he looked back you and smiled, he meant it. It meant he liked me back. That when I was sitting in the foyer reading, and he happened to walk in, he would come over to me and talk to me, and it was nice. It was really nice. I decided that there was no one else after this. Hell eventually broke loose that year, but I remained committed in my heart. What's meant to be will be. I'm not going to write about the next two years because I've talked about them a lot, and if anything I'll just cry. The summarize: I admitted to myself that I loved this man. Boy. I was truly in love with him and I would deal with whatever I needed to deal with til he realized I was the one. The one who was always there for him, the one who truly care about him, who told him the hard truths, but kept reminding him that I was on his side.
I gave the kid everything. Whether he realizes how much he really had of me, I won't know until heaven, but he had it all. What then? After he broke my heart, or maybe I broke my heart...what of men then?
Well, men were dirty pigs who just wanted women to pay attention to them. They didn't care about how we felt. They just like knowing that they have a shoulder to cry on, and someone to have sex with. That makes me incredibly undesirable because I'm just not a premarital sex kind of girl. What's the point of men?
This is where it gets convoluted. But at some point, probably in May of 2013, I began to gain control of myself. Yes, the man who I loved still had charm, and wit, and he still was able to effortlessly drawn me in with everything about him. But no. I was done. I was able to move on from this. I'm a woman, and darned if I'm going to let this guy have any more control over me. It was hard. I experienced a severe emotional breakdown, in Walmart, in Canada about this guy. I could see that I was just unhealthy at this point. But let's be fair - I had been waiting for what felt like an eternity to meet the one man who was going to be my partner in life. I thought our paths had finally crossed. I believed it. I didn't want to be wrong.
But I was. And as time went on, I became okay with it. I had already begin becoming comfortable with my body, at whatever weight. I began figuring myself out. What I really liked, what I really didn't. I began coming out of my shell, and being outgoing, and fun, and just myself. The person that I was in the girls dorm, I was everywhere. So then my thinking began to change. It ebbed and flowed, but essentially, I came to a place where I could say, and honestly believe, and strived to live by the belief that I was happy being myself for real. I was happy working in a job doing what I loved, and I don't need a man right away. Do I need a man ever?
It's still a struggle. I'm in a place where I don't think I'm going to get married any time soon, if ever. My life looks pretty good as a single woman. And looking for a man is tiring. Waiting for a man is tiring. I'd rather do nothing about it and be truly taken by surprise. I still believe that he will love me for who I am, just the way that I am, but I'm actually trying to take care of myself now. Dress nicely, where a little make up. But for me. Not for him. Whoever he is. Wherever he is. It's hard to trust God with something that you really can't take too much action on. It may look like I'm complacent, but I'm still trusting God. I'm trusting for His will. I don't know what it is. If marriage and a man are His will, then that will show up.
At this point, I'm actually trying to just be friends with men. I don't know very many, but the few that I do know, I'm trying to just talk to them. And see them as human beings, not potential husbands. This in itself brings it's own frustrations because most of the men I know are not looking for a casual, off-limits-to-sex gal pal. It's hard for men and women to be friends. It's hard to ignore chemistry, because no matter what our thoughts on dating are, we feel chemistry and immediately think that if we pursue ANYTHING, romantic or otherwise with this person, it's gonna turn into something, and I don't know if I really want to be with this person like that.
WHATEVER. Ignore the chemistry! Accept it, and just live your life. Be friends. Talk, discuss, go get coffee, go to the movies, read books, whatever. Do it, and just enjoy the company of another human being. Not because you're going to get something from them, but because people need each other and it's okay to spend time with PEOPLE. I just don't care anymore. I'm not looking for a man to marry. If a man wants to marry me, then cool. Talk to my parents about it, because that's how courtship works. I'm busy living my life, and I'm done wasting time by making time to WAIT FOR YOU, WHOEVER YOU ARE. Don't be afraid to make yourself known. I'm a flexible person. But don't expect me to be sitting around for you anymore, whoever you are. I'll be up and about, reading, and sketching, and making coffee.
And that, friends, is where this quote is SPOT ON. Because you know what? I know that I'm a catch. I know that I'm interesting, and hilarious, and thoughtful, and hardworking, and I have issues, but I've accepted that I'm imperfect, and I've accepted that everyone else is too. I'm willing to love anyone, for whoever they are. I don't try and change people anymore. I don't try and make people do what I think is right. I listen, and I give advice if asked for it, and I encourage people to do the right thing because I believe in righteousness and justice. I try to love God, I try to be like Christ to the people around me, I try to be mature, and I try to grow any chance I get. I'm not afraid of myself anymore, and YES. Sometimes I fall back into insecurity, but it doesn't define me. Sometimes I do things that are just a little too weird, but it doesn't define me. What defines me is what comes out of me, and that's where I need to be continually surrendering to God and let Him make me more like Christ. I'm worth having. But I don't need a man to prove it. I don't need to prove it at all. To anyone.