I am single, and that’s OK.

I am single, and that’s OK.

This is a new sentence that I’m writing to myself, something I try to remember when I feel lonely. It’s new to me because no one has ever told me this before. Since I was born, everyone and everything around me told me that I would really start living when I found “my special someone”, “my soulmate”. Only when I was in love and married would I truly be fulfilled in life. “There’s no good that can come out of singleness. A woman can’t find self-worth unless it comes from the admiration of a man.” These are the messages that I have heard all my life, and they have damaged me.

For a while, I believed them. I waited for guys to start taking notice of me. I waited for my first date, my first kiss, and my first boyfriend in high school. When that didn’t happen, they told me it would definitely for sure happen in college. Well, here I am four years later, still never been kissed, still single, and yeah I’ll say it, somewhat bitter.

single-women-in-the-winter-months

But I’m tired of waiting to be happy and fulfilled through a romantic relationship. I’m tired of feeling like I’m missing out on something. I could either use my single years to grow personally and enjoy my independence, or be miserable and bitter. That doesn’t mean I don’t still get lonely sometimes, it just means I don’t waste time regretting something I don’t have. I wish I could really be as strong as my words make me seem. I wish I didn’t feel pain when I see my sister and her finance kiss for the thousandth time from the corner of my eye. I wish I didn’t wonder if I just met my future husband every time I meet an eligible or attractive guy my age. I wish I could focus on my relationship with Christ, one that really would fulfill me, rather than my absence of a romantic relationship. But this is a learning process, and my feelings are still catching up with my new ideas about singleness.

My mother frequently tells me that she can’t die in peace until she sees me “married and happy”. That’s usually followed by a variation of, “If you lose weight, men will pursue you.” Is it any wonder that I have struggled with low self-esteem and poor body image all my life? It took a long time for me to re-educate myself so I wouldn’t believe in her harmful message; that my body was to blame for my singleness. I don’t resent my mother for saying these things; she truly does believe it and only wants to see me happy. I do wish that she had taught me to love myself and value my body at a younger age. Nowadays, I correct these statements as best I can by telling her that I am happy even though I’m not married, and that I don’t want a husband who desires only my body, but all of me, and I’m willing to wait for that.

Why did I spend the first two decades of my life obsessed with love?

Our culture is obsessed with love, both physical and emotional. We’ve been fed romance and love songs since we were in diapers (Disney, anyone?). We saw sex at an early age, most likely introduced in a negative way, and continued seeing it everywhere; movies, music, ads, clothes, books, news. We saw it so much that we’ve become desensitized to it. It no longer surprises us to see a woman exploiting her body to advertise a product or company; in fact, it makes perfect sense to us. Hardee’s commercials are a great and disgusting example of this. What does fast-food have to do with a beautiful/sexy woman? Absolutely nothing; but by creating a connection between a desirable woman and the desirableness of food, Hardee’s sells more burgers. It’s simple, sex sells.

Hardee’s ads are so good at what they do that they work on a deeper level. That’s what scares me, it’s subliminal. Our waking minds may not notice overt sexuality plastered over the walls of our media, we’ve learned to “ignore” it. But our inner minds and bodies absorb those messages and internalize them.

America’s Real Favorite Pastime

Traditionally, baseball is considered America’s favorite pastime, but I think most people would consider football an even greater American sport. The National Football League certainly makes more than Major League Baseball every year, bringing in about $9 billion dollars annually (Source). Would it surprise you to learn that the pornography industry is a more than $13 billion dollar industry (Source)? If where we spend our money is any indication of how we spend our time, well, you see what I’m getting at here. The pursuit of sexual experiences consumes us; it’s our favorite pastime.

What does this mean? It means that our society and the messages it is sending us about physical and emotional love are finding a home in our minds and bodies (and our browser histories). We’re taught at a young age to lust after things, celebrities, food, and wealth. We’re told we need these things to be happy and fulfilled. We’re told that our self-worth is tied to attaining these things; that we’re lesser-than if we cannot achieve these things. We’re hyper- sexualizing ourselves and then wonder why there’s a growing rape culture and a strong sexual trafficking infrastructure in our neighborhoods.

I’m not saying the sexual act or expressing one’s sexuality is bad, in fact, I believe quite the opposite. What I’m saying is that we need to evaluate how these messages are affecting us on a deeper level. Maybe sex/porn addiction is not just an individual’s lack of willpower or lack of a better hobby; maybe it’s a manifestation of those lustful messages we’re constantly bombarded with from birth. Maybe it’s a symptom of a larger societal problem. I am not suggesting that those with an unhealthy relationship with sex blame society for their problems. Rather, I am suggesting a deeper look at the root of those problems to better understand them with the goal of overcoming them. We all have natural tendencies, but our society is nurturing us to act in a certain way, and just because you may not watch pornography doesn’t mean you’re immune.

You may wonder why I am addressing my acceptance of singleness as a healthy state and larger societal messages about sex and love in one blog post. I believe these two topics are interconnected in complex ways. My previous ideas about singleness as “bad” or abnormal have their origin in the idea that women and their bodies are for men (a patriarchal idea), so by not being in a relationship, I was not living life to its fullest potential. I wasn’t “fulfilled” because I wasn’t doing what society was telling me to do in the majority of its advertisements and media, fall in love have sex with men. I also wasn’t “happy” because a man had never shown me attention or told me that I was beautiful, talented, sexy, or intelligent (all of which I am, by the way). The same societal ideas of love and sex that contributed to my frustration about being single are the same ideas that encourage self-destructive tendencies in women and men (i.e. eating disorders, sexual addiction, rape, even suicide). Since I have declared my selfhood by saying it is OK to be single, I have come to not only appreciate my freedom, but love myself and my body more. I’m not counting down the days until I meet my husband and live happily ever after. My story doesn’t begin with me meeting “a guy” and end in marriage, my story began years ago and my happily ever after is now.

Beck

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Themes That Have Been Running Through My Mind

Don’t praise me.

I know it’s because of my insecurities with my body, but I hate it when people praise my efforts to lose weight. When I come home from the gym and my mom says, “I’m so proud of you for going to the gym!” I cringe and don’t respond. I don’t tell people when I’ve lost weight because I don’t want to hear them say, “Wow! Good for you! I’m so proud of you.” I know it’s strange, but I hate it because it brings attention to my large body and the fact that I need to lose weight. I’ve spent a lot of energy trying to ignore this fact, and a person bringing it up, even in a positive way, bothers me a lot. People generally wouldn’t tell a thin person they were proud of them for going to the gym, so why tell me? Because I really need to go to the gym, right? But everyone needs to be active to be healthy, not just people who are overweight. When people praise me for working out, they think they are encouraging me to continue a healthy lifestyle by recognizing my efforts, but I’m not doing this for them or for their recognition. I’m doing this for me and my future. I don’t need or want their praise, especially if they are treating me differently than others (i.e. thinner people) who are behaving the same way. It’s not that I’m ungrateful for their concern or affection; I just don’t enjoy receiving that kind of attention.

How you spend your day is how you spend your life.

This theme was inspired by me watching the last Hobbit film this week, which wasn’t completely disappointing. After watching the movie, I remembered how obsessed I was with Lord of the Rings when I was in middle and high school. I devoted so much of my time and energy reading and learning about everything that had to do with LOTR and Tolkien’s universe. For what reason? Having an encyclopedic knowledge of LOTR made me happy. It was all I talked about and all I watched; it brought me into a community, it entertained, inspired, and motivated me. But in the end, this obsession didn’t really do me any good besides encourage a love of reading. Now I can’t help but think, what if I devoted the same amount of time and energy to something more worthwhile? Not my career or education, but Jesus Christ? What if I had an encyclopedic knowledge of Him? what He said and did? What if I made Him my inspiration and motivation? joined a community just as obsessed with Him as I was? How would my life be different? It wouldn’t just make me happy, it would give me real joy. It’s not quite as easy as all that. I need to work through my misgivings concerning the church and my own stubborn resistance to Him that we all share. But, reading and learning are things that I enjoy doing, and it’s not so much that I don’t find Jesus interesting as I’ve been desensitized by a lifetime of hearing the same standardized sermons over and over. So that’s where I’ll start, reading.

I need a new job.

On a much more practical level, I’ve been thinking and rethinking my situation and decided to seriously look for a better job. Earning minimum wage is terrible; earning minimum wage in a retail position is not worth it. I had a bad experience last week when I was sick and needed to call out. But even before last week, I applied to a handful of temp agencies in Raleigh. So far, I have not heard anything from them. I’ve also applied and have an interview for an AmeriCorps VISTA position at Fayetteville State University. To be honest, it’s not paying much more than what I’m making now, but it is in my career field and would help me develop my professional skills. There are two things that prevent me from being super excited about this job. 1) It’s an hour away from Raleigh so a lot of time and money would be spent commuting. 2) It requires a one year commitment that I may or may not be able to complete. The job runs from Feb 2015 to Feb 2016, but I’m planning to start grad school in the fall of 2015. I would be willing to defer enrollment for a semester (which would take me to Jan 2016), but an entire year? That’s a long time. Since nothing is set in stone for grad school, I’m going to the interview next week, but I don’t know what to do! My gut feeling, and my Mom, tells me to let this job go and attend grad school this fall, but what if I give it up and don’t get in? At the same time, I can’t stand the thought of working at Starbucks for another eight months before grad school.

I know things will work themselves out. In the meantime, I’ll just bake some cookies.

Merry Christmas!

Beck

The Flower Man

What kind of a name is Soul Gastrolounge? It’s a bit weird, I’ll admit, but it is a really cool place for eats and drinks in Charlotte, and is where my friends and I started our Saturday night last weekend. It was really dark, but the bar was impressive and we all know that’s the most important part of the restaurant. The place was really busy, so we didn’t end up staying to eat or drink, but it’s definitely somewhere we want to come back. Once they told us the wait time was an hour and forty minutes we decided to leave.

Beneath the lounge there is a neat art gallery called Twenty Two (Check out this great review!). As we passed by, a man accosted us and asked us to come in and check out the show. He turned out to be the artist on display. We got drinks and walked about. The space is small but the atmosphere was really laid back and fun. I really liked the paintings of the artist, John Hairston Jr. I couldn’t find any pictures of the paintings we saw that night, but below is one of his that I found online. I’m no art critic, but I really like his style and use of color.

CapturePicture Source

Our next stop of the night was Dharma Lounge, another place we didn’t stay because the cover was $13 dollars. I’m sorry, but if the cover is that much, the floor better be made of gold and the drinks free all night. We ended up at Nan and Byron’s which by day is a super cute restaurant, and by night a classy lounge and bar. The drinks were overpriced and there was hardly enough room for dancing, but you can’t beat the price (zero dollars). Also, those “train wreck fries” were delicious. We had a good time. There was a guy that was really fun to watch drunk dancing. A weirdo even hit on my friend with the line, “Are you a bar tender?” Haha.

On the way home, my friend had a sudden undeniable urge to eat a donut at 2am. We found NOVA’s Bakery and while they didn’t have donuts, they satisfied our appetite for baked goods and sweets. I got a muffin and some bread. As we were eating, a man came up to us and handed my friends and I a white tulip each. He introduced himself as The Flower Man and then said he was homeless and would appreciate some help (aka money). We didn’t have much, but I gave him some cash. He seemed really nice and I wished I could have done something more for him. He didn’t leave the shop immediately and later I went up and offered him my extra loaf of bread. He looked surprised when I asked his name and shook his hand. If it wasn’t two in the morning and I was slightly more sober, I would have liked to talk with him more. I’ve always wanted to be friends with a homeless person. Not because I feel like it’s my job to help them or make them un-homeless, but just because I think they would have interesting stories and experiences to share. People who are homeless are often ignored by everyone and I can imagine they feel invisible a lot of the time. I like making people feel visible and heard. If I can’t give him a job and a home, at least I can do that.

This seemed an interesting way to end the night. The intersection of my lifestyle and that of The Flower Man made me realize that while I call myself poor, I’m actually richer than many in the US. At my school, I’m surrounded by students from the upper middle/ high socio-economic class and I feel poorer than I really am. I’m really just lucky to be in college at all, even if I did have to take out thousands of dollars in loans to make it through. I really hope I meet The Flower Man again.

Much more to come
Beck