Or One Of Many Posts On A Wind-Swept Night With Bob Dylan
“.. the lover who has just walked out the door has taken all his blankets from the floor..”
Sam is blogging about being single, content, discontented and on a spectrum of satisfaction.
It’s such an old song but as true and poignant as the feelings of whoever is singing it in this generation. Reading Sam’s post and sitting on a conversation with a girlfriend last week has me posting when I wasn’t really planning on it. Recent circumstances have thrown open the broader issues of sexuality in my life so I find myself wrestling again with the conflicting emotions of it all.
As much as we have a tendency to reduce our humanity down to a series of connections to other people in platonic, intellectual, romantic and sexual partnerships – there is a process of definition that happens for many of us. We are defined by the number of connections, the nature of our connections, the satisfaction of those connections. For a friend with a close circle of girlfriends who have all married in the last two years – the sense of singleness is accentuated by the change she senses in the platonic relationships that form a lot of her identity. For the one who has a primary circle of male friends all of a sudden cast adrift in a sea of girlfriends, fiances and wives.. the change in group sexual dynamic is dramatic.
There is a reduction to our humanity when our connections to others overwhelm our personal sense of identity. There is a beauty to our humanity that is exposed in healthy community that is able to shape and welome ‘group sexuality’. The ready acceptance of single people as sexually whole – not ‘waiting’, just whole. Having been thinking recently about the approach we take to healthy and holistic education for my young people around their sexual development – it’s only natural to then take that into consideration in my own life.
It’s the question of what really causes us to stumble and struggle with this topic. It can’t be a lack of fulfilling relationships – but surely it can’t simply be a commitment to restraining oneself from sexual connections with other people that causes such a sense of ‘other-ness’ amongst many single people.
Do I feel less ‘complete’ because I am single? No. I feel incomplete in the times when I become painfully aware of my failings, my selfishness and my heartbreaks.
Do I have more freedom as single person than as part of a couple? I can’t say – there are so many parts of who I am that would find balance in a perfect world with perfect Mr Rights for everyone. But the parts that I find most delightful about myself are probably the parts that live in the imbalanced side of my life. Life is not so formulaic, not every extrovert finds an introvert to bring them balance.
Do I have to have hope that God will provide? Yes. But the same kind of hope that causes me to believe that being human, i’m just as liking to be at fault of living far too much in the earthly realm rather than in an eternal one.
Perhaps the fault lies more in our unsatisfactory definitions, understanding and living out of community. We define things in 2’s since the ark. To my friend that mourns the perceived loss of quality time with her girlfriends, I ask – why not the same mourning of the friendship with the boys that were her friends long before they married her girlfriends. And I implore her to stop counting the days, the time, the measurements that separate the single and the non-single.
To Anonymous, who posts honestly enough about biological reflections about womanhood and feminity – I implore you to adjust your grace-meter once more before you go outside your front door. Perhaps it’s because we’ve become impatient to live a life of adventure – perhaps it’s because we were landed here on a far-off isle, so even us womenfolk live with adventure in the blood and long to set off for distant shores, with much purpose and intent in our step. I do believe that our proximity to opportunity makes it so much easier for us to choose broader and diverse paths. Therefore, God has a broad palette to work with also. Our constructs around “love” are stronger than we understand – tall women prefer tall men, ethnic boundaries are harder to conquer but not as harder as language. Sexual instinct rages through chemical attraction, intellectual transactions and imagination. Of course, the fire burns. It can’t help but burn.. but a burning fire isn’t just designed as fuel that can be thrown to any cause.
I’ve talked about social sex before – you see it in workplaces, shopping malls, school yards and particularly in adolescent and post adolescent Christian gatherings. There is a particularly slow, painful mating dance that takes place on a variety of stages. People move between church communities, causes, clusters and small groups based on ‘chemistry’ & ‘fix’ – in other words.. the sexual dynamics of a group that create good chemistry, a natural sense of energy, momentum and ‘buzz’.
I imagine in the conversation on Sunday night at Fidels, there was a large amount of group sexuality going on. The energy of commonality, verbalisation – engaging of laughter, body language – it’s all the stuff that we capture in movies, poetry, songs. All the senses engage at once. Understanding ourselves and others in these situations I’m sure has to be part of healthy whole sexuality. And in an environment that supports that kind of development, surely there is a strong foundation for the single, the attached, the divorced, the looking and the not looking.
There are several types of single woman.
There is the Looker. She is desperately seeking her partner. There are aspects of her sexuality and wholeness that she simply doesn’t engage with because she’s waiting until she’s with the “One”. She’s really bought into the Prince Charming – waiting for a Hero, likely to have read both Captivating & Wild At Heart. She examines the room with her eyes constantly, she’s always doing the potential matchmaking in her head, weighing the pros and cons of every potential mate. She’s both desperate for affirming female relationship and highly competitive with other women. She’ll be quick to identify herself with others as “us single ones”.
There is the Hopeful. She’s happily looking for a partner, but also well furnished with a selection of male and female friends. She’s probably more likely to be looking beneath the surface for the qualities she’s learned to love in a prospective partner. She’ll participate in a bunch of stuff, but would rather wait for all the really big experiences in life until she’s ready to do it by herself, but hopefully not before she finds someone that she’s happy to do life with. Values are high, as is a sense of combined mission and ethics.
There is the Denier. She’s out to convince herself, you and everyone that she’s just fne and dandy without any additional input, help or advice. This girl visibly cringes when people start talking about dating strategy and whinces when anyone tries to set her up on a blind date. She’s likely to be chased hard around the country or the world several times before ‘letting’ herself be caught, although she is always a little disappointed if the current object of her affection is returning an appropriate level of affection. she can be cold, calculated or passionate about her cause. Highly likely to throw a lot of energy into group activities where people are less likely to realise she’s scouting the room whilst trying to look busy and cool.
There’s the Friend. This girl knows what it’s like to be lonely, but is unlikely to stop the presses when the feelings creep up on her. She usually has several responses – either to soak in the feelings over a weekend with a good book, good wine and movies on TV, or to embrace deep relationships with spec
ial guys and girls. She’s well aware of what flicks her switch intellectually, romantically and even a strong sense of her own sexuality. This gives her a latent confidence that oozes out a little bit. She’s more likely to admit her insecurities and laugh about them than to hide them, which makes her a little bit odd at times. She’s more likely to have a host of boy’s numbers on her phone, any of whom might share a coffee or drink during the week. Much more concerned with whatever projects are on the go – there is a sense that when Mr Right, or Mr Feels like the Real Thing – he’ll fit in with a life that is already well on the go. Sometimes this creates a deep fear that her ability to ‘make friends’ is actually inhibiting her ability to ‘make lovers’.. but there’s not much that can be done about that considering the hectic schedule of fulfilling coffee dates, dinners and team activities she’s buzzing on.
And there are so many more. We wear our singleness with much more diversity that our couplehood at times. In fact, perhaps it is too easy to fall into the date night pattern of ‘How to do a good first year of marriage 101’.. but the truth is I know nothing about that and plenty about being single. After all, I just turned 28, never been kissed and single and single gets. But.. I have a healthy sense of my own sexuality. I’m turned on by my group of fulfilling friendships, and aware of my community, presence in community. More than that – I revel in it.
It was a strange experience to do to the doctor this week, talking about women’s issues and unpacking my sexual activity (nil on the Richter scale) with a complete stranger. In the midst of trying to be a sexually whole single woman, I’m also facing a diagnosis that puts my fertility potentially at risk in the future. I’m not comfortable with that to any degree. Although I’m single, I have to address my fertility and sexual health as a fully functioning being. So many of us Christians are raised to ignore our sexuality until such a time as we switched on the “yes” button – but that seems like shutting the door on a huge part of my own humanity.
I may never marry, never raise children. But I will fight for my fertility and my wholeness – because I want the right to surrogate children for my sisters and girlfriends, to bear my own children, to experience the fullness of my humanity. MY sexuality is not about the functionality of my organs, not even about the use of them. It’s about my sense of connection to my whole self.
As for the women that complain about the men that have forgotten how to pursue anyone – I can sympathise. But I also have a compassionate heart for a group of men that have been bullied now into being heros. As women, we are imtemperature and cruel creatures. We can rarely be satisfied with the best love on offer – we constantly want more. What right though, do we really have = to live with anything but today in mind? So when it comes to waiting for Mr Perfect or Miss Perfect.. we live with far too many tomorrows and let the todays of our best experiences pass us by.