I spent most of my life as a single, having now only been married for three years. In high school, I wondered what made other girls who always had a boyfriend different from me. Even into my twenties and early thirties, it was a rare event for me to actually have a boyfriend. I grew up in an Assemblies of God (AG) church and developed a staunch reverence and fear of maintaining my purity. I was involved in Missionettes, an AG version of the Girl Scouts, which used up most of my free time while in middle school. Back then, there was no internet or cell phones, so the only distractions for me were books, the creek in my backyard, practicing the piano, and beating my uncle Mark at Mario Brothers.
As my college roommates know, I didn’t actually listen to pop music from the ’80s until I got to college. Growing up, the only music we were allowed to listen to was on 90-Joy or some other Christian music station, classical music, and the occasional Beatles or Rolling Stones song my dad had playing as he lifted weights in the basement. I remember finding out in middle school that a girl who had just moved in across the street from me was going to have a party at her house. I was not invited because she figured I wouldn’t be allowed to go. She was most likely correct, but after that, I never felt like I really fit in at school anymore, despite having grown up knowing most everyone since first grade. Somehow, I missed the cheerleading and gymnastics tryouts, and my volleyball tryout was a total bust. Thinking on my Freshman year of high school makes me wish I could go back in time and give a pep talk to my younger self. A group of “pretty girls” seemed to befriend me at the same time I sort of led a parade of smart but “uncool” girls of my own. The “pretty girls” let us all cram around their table, requiring several girls to eat lunch on their laps, pushed out from the table. Why didn’t I just find a table for ourselves, instead of desperately pushing to be included?
I believe the operative word is “desperate.” When we become desperate for attention, or love, or even friendship, we lower our standards. Particularly when it comes to dating relationships. A boy could literally say, “Grunt. Grunt. Boobs. Grunt. Grunt. Bacon.” There was a period in my life as a lonely single when I would have heard those same words and translated them to, “You’re beautiful. I love you more than bacon.” And then I would have been heartsick and shocked to be confronted with silence. This kind of “relationship” is as sincere as a drunk apology. We, as confident women, would never allow a friendship with another girl continue like that. No sad texts would be sent asking if we’re okay. We wouldn’t hold our Friday nights open just in case she calls, right? We’d make other plans with our girlfriends who value our friendship! Why do we allow boys to lodge such a four-pronged fish hook in our hearts?
We all have friends or even family members who seem to have a consistent line of bozos waiting in line for them. And our friends actually seem genuinely excited about dragging these guys in for us to meet them, just as long as we don’t reveal our eye rolls and aren’t honest about how we really feel. I can remember one of my friends from college who was so excited and exhilarated about her new relationship. Just from hearing who this guy was, and how he treated their first date night made my heart hurt for her. I knew she was going to be crushed, that he was just using her because she was young and desperate for love. However, she took my reluctant and cautious lack of enthusiasm as me judging her. And oh, how I know now how she felt years later, after I was confronted by friends who loved me and just wanted to protect me. A close friend told me she wanted to “punch him in the throat” after telling her about this boy who still wanted to hang out with me all the time despite telling me he didn’t love me. Instead of that shaking me out of the puppy-love trance I was in, her (awesome) statement made me only want to defend him. Loved ones could tell after meeting some random boy for five minutes that he wasn’t the one. I’d initially think they just didn’t get enough time with him or were being too picky, because why couldn’t you see he’s as wonderful as I did? But, it never took long to figure out that they were all right.
God absolutely protected me from so many more heartaches than I could have experienced. I certainly didn’t miss out on anything by not dating more. Lord knows, I have journals enough filled with tear stains and gut-wrenching, heart aching laments. Once I figured out that life can be full of adventure as a single and real love could be experienced from true friends and authentic community, that’s when I stopped believing that I’d drawn the short stick in the dating world. It took about thirty-one years to get there, but I did eventually get there. I embraced my life, loved it, and allowed God to fill my heart’s deepest needs. And I know that my husband, my daughter, and another girl on the way are special blessings that God gave me, not because I was desperate for the love of a husband or a child, but because God himself is Love.