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.

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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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Life is Beautiful

Graduation

Who is in charge of speeding up and slowing down time? Whoever it is, you’re fired, because the past two weeks have sped by in a moment. When I was a kid, I remember my parents telling me that time would pass faster the older you get; they weren’t kidding. I wonder why it’s so hard to slow down and make the most out of enjoying the moment.

I graduated 12 days ago. It was a beautiful day. So much happened that weekend, it’s hard to process! I just remember smiling so much it hurt. I wanted to stretch each second out like taffy, so it would last as long as possible. When I finally drove away and realized I didn’t have any excuse to go back, it was a bittersweet feeling. That day I felt invincible, because I had accomplished something really hard, something not many others get to do.

My invincibility didn’t last long though. My car didn’t care that I had to drive to Raleigh that day; it still blew a tire. It turned out to be a nail. It was Memorial weekend though, so I had to wait until Monday to get my tire patched. A small hiccup in the day’s festivities, but a sobering one for sure. The rest of the day I spent driving 50mph on the highway for more than two hours trying get everyone where they needed to be.

The next day, my parents renewed their marriage vows and we had a celebration at church. I woke up early, got out my nicest salwar kamez, and headed to the church with my family. In our usual fashion, we were more than 30 minutes late, but what can you do when your entire family is wired for Indian Standard Time? We ate a cake with one of my parents’ cheesy wedding photos printed on it, and hung out/took naps in the afternoon. That night, we headed to an impromptu dinner at The Pit in Raleigh.

On Monday, I said goodbye to my hilarious Uncle and Mississippi friends who travelled up for the weekend. I also traveled down to Charlotte in order to spend as much time with my sister before she left for home in Seattle. I dropped her off at the airport yesterday. I miss her so much already!

What I’ve written here is basically a summary of events that I’ve participated in over the past two weeks. What I haven’t written here are the crazy ups and downs, dramatic arguments, and frustrating obstacles that my family and I have worked through in this short amount of time. The marriage vow renewel ceremony was also a family renewel ceremony. My family has been apart for so long, and we are just beginning to be knit back together. I am getting used to having my Dad around, referring to his judgement, and receiving affection from him.  At times, it’s uncomfortable, but it’s a discomfort I welcome, because I know it is good. We’re all having to relearn how to trust, rely on, and be there for each other. I may have come from a broken home, but it is no longer broken; for that, I praise God.

Beck

Sex and Love in That Order?

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There’s something I’ve noticed about loves stories in movies and tv shows that has been bothering me for a while: People fall in love by having sex. Or they don’t realize they are in love with someone until they have amazing mind-blowing sex with them.

Think about it. How many tv shows and movies have you seen that revolve around a couple having sex and suddenly realizing they’re meant to be? Chandler and Monica from Friends, Harry and Sally from When Harry Met Sally; the friends with benefits story arc is well known and the list of examples could go on forever. Sometimes there’s a PG version of this when couples kiss and things change, but for the most part, I feel people jump right to sex and fall in love.

What bothers me about this is that it’s a completely unrealistic expectation and is a harmful model to follow when beginning a relationship. I know this is a plot device used to escalate the falling-in-love process in film, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. It’s unrealistic to think that just because you have sex with someone you like, or are even in love with, that they will suddenly fall in love with you. People, men and women, don’t “call back” all the time, probably most of the time. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, I’m not saying this doesn’t happen in real life occasionally, but I think the whole “why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free” adage applies here. Why be in a relationship if you can have sex and sleep around without any consequences? People are selfish, especially college students, and will seek relationships that will benefit them and not you. If you buy in to this fairy tale that the media sells us and expect “true love” after having sex, you can end up getting hurt physically and emotionally (sexual assault, STDs, unwanted pregnancy to name a few).

Your milkshake may bring all the boys to the yard, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to stay there and love you or marry you.

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Sex changes things. Your body releases hormones that make you form attachments to the one you sleep with, which can make you fall in love or at least become infatuated. (That’s why being friends with benefits doesn’t work most of the time.) I’m not saying women can’t or don’t enjoy casual sexual relationships, I just think it’s difficult to do so without getting feelings involved eventually. When enough of these failed experiences occur, it can make you feel insecure, desperate, and unworthy of a healthy relationship, which further perpetuates the potentially harmful behavior. That’s why I think keeping your pants on before marriage is a good idea. I’m a Christian, so this belief originated from my knowledge of the Bible. But even if I wasn’t a Christian, I would still want to wait until marriage, because like I said, sex changes things. I wouldn’t want to form a strong emotional and physical connection with someone who won’t be there when I wake up. It damages you, even if you don’t or can’t realize it now.

I’ve never been in love or had sex, so I don’t speak from experience, but I have witnessed my friends go through horrifying and damaging relationships/non-relationships throughout college. It pains me to see them go through things like that. I’m not saying everyone needs to convert to Christianity (although that would be awesome). I am saying people need to have realistic expectations when they begin a physical relationship with someone. Ask yourself if you are okay with them walking away. Because they probably will. If not, zip up your pants and find someone who wants to stick around. If you are okay with them walking away, that’s a whole other issue, because you deserve to have someone stick around. Everyone deserves to be with someone who loves them, not just someone who wants to get in his or her pants. I’m okay with waiting for that person, because I know I’m not missing out on anything except a lot of heartbreak and bad sexual souvenirs.

Beck

PS: I was going to name this post “Great SEXpectations” but I talked myself out of it. Haha