Not all single people mind their status. But they may mind being reminded of it. I know- I used to be one of those single people.
A month after I graduated high school (June 1999) I joined the youth group of First Baptist Church for a trip to Centrifuge, a one week Christian camp for teenagers. We stayed in the college dorms of Union University in Jackson, TN. I was the oldest one in dorm; the other guys were mostly freshman and sophomores.
One night after whatever campy game we played, we were hanging out in the dorm, getting ready for bed. And I observed a chance conversation that has stuck with me (and my sister after I told her, turning the event into a longstanding inside joke) – one that I will never forget, not that it was some prolific thing.
The most good-looking guy of the youth group (tanned, blue eyes, well-mannered, came from a respected family) was being told by his peers that Jenny, the token Barbie of the youth group (aside from her looks, she was caring, sincere, and also was a good kid from a good family) was rumored to have said that she said he was cute.
His peers were doing their darndest to get him to ask her out, talk to her, just to do something to make her his girlfriend. His response? Shrugged shoulders, looked down at the ground, a sort of “eh, I don’t know…” demeanor.
One of the guys then responded with what is now, to me, a very famous line:
“Dude… ya gay?”
Sitting across the room from him, halfway pretending not to even listen to the conversation, aside from laughing and thinking it was funny, I related to the kid. Because I knew his struggle. Not a struggle with his sexuality, but a struggle with having to entertain other people’s expectations of him dating.
Not all teenage boys are obsessed with “one thing, and one thing only”. Yes, they are aware, as they are wired to be. But sometimes a kid just wants to be a kid. And having a girlfriend gets in the way of that. And he knows that, so he doesn’t bother wasting a girl’s time when he knows he would just hurt her feelings by eventually choosing something else over her.
Not the norm, but the norm for some. And it’s the only norm I knew. Anything else, to me, would be phony. Or deceitful.
So yes, I was like him. Never had a serious girlfriend in high school because, if nothing else, I knew I was moving out of state for college. So why even get into a relationship if I’m just moving away anyway? Me and my logical mind.
Well-meaning people, often in an effort to help me be normal, would offer to set me up with a “nice Christian girl”. Always a nice gesture, but I didn’t want anyone’s help. If I was interested and inspired enough, I would find a “nice Christian girl” on my own. (I have a feeling that there are Jewish guys out there who can relate to this story by simply replacing “good Christian girl” with “good Jewish girl”…)
I almost feel sorry for the few girls that I may or may not have strung around in the process of being in any situation that somewhat resembled me dating them. Keeping them guessing. Having them wonder why I didn’t show more initiative to pursue them. Having them possibly (and understandably) take it personally that I wasn’t making them more of a priority. I didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t really want to.
It was me. Not them. I honestly cared more about learning to drive and strumming my guitar and playing James Bond on N64 with my friends and shooting paintball guns at street signs than I did having a girlfriend.
So how did I treat this situation? I had girl friends (friends that were girls), not girlfriends. And it worked for me- I was good friends with many girls and around them a lot, but kept the relationship platonic. But I also had plenty of friends that were guys, as to not become that guy in a modern day setting who would end up going to watch Sex in the City 2 for “girls’ night out” and be the only guy in the group.
(It goes without saying; Man Law prohibits straight men from going to see Sex in the City 2, under any circumstances. However, watching and discussing The Bachelor and/or The Bachelorette is completely permissible; as it is excused as a way for husbands/boyfriends to spend more quality time with their wives/girlfriends.)
By the time I actually was ready to date, a few years later, the whole concept seemed to have more of a purpose. I never had to date a bunch of people to know who I was looking for in a wife. So when I finally did meet her at age 25, there really wasn’t anything to figure out. And I looked back at all those years of other people wanting me to seem more normal (by regularly dating), and knew that I did what was right for me.
There is more pressure than there needs to be when it comes to dating, especially for teenagers and people over 30. When the time (and person) is right, a “friends only” person will make an effort to date.
I think the Christianized “gift of singleness” concept is a bit hokey; it’s the gift no one really wants. But just because a person is 30 years old and still single, it doesn’t mean anything. They’re just being smart. And patient. Not settling.
I could easily be in the same single situation. It’s just that I was spared at age 25 of meeting the right one.