Singleness; The Gift No One Really Wants

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.

Yeah, right!

Manspeak, Volume 6: Law

This is my company’s first week in our new office.  In the old office, the men’s restroom consisted of only a “one seater”.  Complete privacy, no worries about anyone using a urinal next to me only three feet away on the other side of an inch thick stall.  Those days are gone.  The men’s restroom of the new office is much nicer than the other one, but contains one stall plus two urinals.


Today I half-jokingly told my co-worker Mark that I am planning to make a sign to put up on the outside of the stall door whenever I am in there that would say, “Nick Shell is in here, in case you wanted to know.”  That way I could enjoy my peace without having to hear heckling comments or even just having to deal with the annoying question, “Who’s in there?”  Mark replied, “But if you make that sign then you will be interfering with Man Law.  Pestering the person in the bathroom stall is a requirement if it’s someone you know in there.”


It’s hard to imagine I could make it through 5 volumes of Manspeak without mentioning Man Law.  (Here’s a refresher course I found…)

http://manlawguide.wordpress.com/


Man Law of course was officially outted and recognized by those Miller Lite beer commercials in 2006.  Laws like “a man shall not walk a dog that is smaller than a football” and “there shall be a minimum waiting period of at least 6 months before a man is permitted to start dating his best friend’s ex”.  These laws are taken from the Book of Man Law, a book that no man has actually ever read or even seen before.  A man is just sort of born knowing it.


While a man is hard-wired with his own built-in instruction manual which helps him know his own kind; he is not programmed to understand a woman.  That’s where trial and error comes in.  But at least for himself and his own kind, he does have some direction.


At the heart of Man Law is an effort to ultimately prevent any reason for a man to ever have a Misunderstanding with another man.  Which prevents the unspeakable Hurt Feelings and the play-it-cool Apology.  A man doesn’t go around thinking about and talking about his relationships with his other guy friends.  Man Law takes care of that.  It’s set up to keep things simple in male friendships.


Man Law not only keeps his fellow male relationships healthy but also helps keep a man from unnecessarily embarrassing himself more than he already does on a weekly basis.  One of the many reasons I can’t stop obsessing over the movie I Love You, Man is because of how right-on it addresses the quirky rules of what it takes to be a socially acceptable man among his male peers. It does this by having a cast full of men who constantly break Man Law.  In fact, it is ironically Andy Samberg’s openly gay character, Robby Klaven, who helps his brother Peter to know what a confident straight man is supposed to act like.


One of the best examples of a serial offender of Man Law is Peter’s annoying self-obsessed co-worker Tevin Downey who has highlights in his hair and a fake tan, sends annoying e-mail forwards, and sneaks up behind Peter and tickles him whenever he gets the chance.  He’s the epitome of what used to be called a jerk, but in this decade has evolved into what is now called a Tool or a Douchebag. This kind of guy is not physically threatening, nor is he effeminate.  He is simply completely oblivious to the importance of Man Law.


Understandably, Man Law is sometimes misinterpreted as a chauvinistic list of what it takes to be macho.  Not the case.  What’s much worse than being less than manly is being compared to Dane Cook or Spencer Pratt, two “men” I constantly make references to, usually mentioning how men around the world long to punch them in the face.


To outsiders, Man Law may seem like a finicky, strenuous system in which a person can become overwhelmed by trying to keep up with all the rules.  It can be, for those born with out the instincts.  Because after all, it is an issue of social survival.  For the men who were unfortunately born with Man Law Deficiency, there is hope:  Watch The Office on Thursday nights.  Pay special attention to Andy Bernard and Michael Scott.  Do the exact opposite of whatever they do.


All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com


Film Review I Love You Man