Sunday, August 9, 2009

a swift kick to the ________ instincts

If I learned anything during and since my four years at Bible College, it was that you should never have conversations with a man (as a woman) on the following topics:

#1: Marriage
#2: Babies

Now before you go and get all defensive on me (guys and girls alike) and tell me that I'm being far too definitive in my line-drawing, let me tell you why I'm right.

#1: I want to get married one day.

Ladies: remember that time you were hanging out with that guy and you started to talk about big ideas; life and dreams and futures. And remember when the conversation turned to relationships, and you started talking about how you really hope to be married one day. And remember that crazy look he got in his eye, as if you were proposing to him on the spot?


Gents: remember that time you were hanging out with that girl and you started talking about relationships, and before you knew it the girl was dropping hints that she wanted to marry you!?

Ahemahemahem...could I have just proved my point?
I think so.

#2: Space available - one Uterus.

I remember quite vividly an experience that happened in and around my 2nd year of college. I was walking through the bustling hallways of the Academic Building on my way to class with one of the girls I was friends with. We walked by a baby. I said something like: "Oh! What a cute baby! Oh I can't wait until I get to be a mom!"

"ASHLEY!" she gasped, "Say that louder why don't you!?!" You see, it was her understanding that if I continued to spout off about my maternal instincts (which, um, all women were born with) that it would come off as blatant desperation. You may think that my friend was nuts, or oversensitive, or just plain off her rocker. But the fact of that matter is: she was right. Needless to say, I learned (from this experience and many others) to keep my mouth shut about all things baby-related.

- (a sidenote) -

...I often start conversations, or say drastic things from time to time, for the sheer joy of watching people panic, or gush, or get vehemently annoyed (or in other words: prove my theories). Social experiments give me an odd sort of thrill. That being said, I have toyed with these two conversation topics (marriage and babies) many, many times. And as much as you might not want to hear it: my education has served me correctly.

#3...What has happened to us??

Women my age now gather in hushed circles to celebrate their femininity, instead of feeling like they can be who they are in public social circles (the very fact that I'm writing this blog where I mention wanting marriage and babies is likely going to be a bit scandalous). Why? Because if we are too nice, or too interested, or laugh at too many jokes, or make too much eye contact, we are at risk of being preyed upon by unaware men who read normal social activity as flirting. And we also risk marking ourselves as "immediately and desperately available to anyone".

Men aren't immune from this either. Men now hesitate to to be men, because women now view everything they do as an inappropriate attempt at seduction. "Gosh, that guy is totally into you" (uh, actually, I think that was just a polite introduction sweetheart). Like it or not ladies, we've put men in an impossible position. We want them to be gentlemen, we want them to be interested, but we punish them for showing interest by belittling their attempts at friendship; and in some cases, we punish them for something as simple as holding open a door.

I can say this so boldly because I am a part of the very generation of which I speak. And I've been burned more than once by ignoring the very rules (unspoken or not) that I'm talking about. Burned how? you ask. How about being accused (as a shy girl!) of being inappropriately flirtatious for laughing at a joke. Or being accused by a 'good friend' of hitting on her boyfriend for asking him questions about himself. Or getting solicited (yes, for the very thing you're thinking of) in a grocery store lineup for breathing a simple and polite "hello". Or being told a million, billion, kajillion times that you are "too nice", and this is why you have to deal with the things you have to deal with. What else is there to do but alter the personality just a bit (or a whole lot), if only to try and salvage a reputation that is unjustly tarnished?

My point is this: we have completely screwed up our perspective on all things relational. We've been so over-sexed as a culture that a simple statement is no longer a simple statement. A kind word is now an act of subtle desperation, and friendships between guys and girls are usually eyed suspiciously. There is no longer any such thing as "innocent conversation". Women feel preyed upon for being women, and men are demasculated for being men.

Disagree? Here's an experiment for you then. Women: start talking more freely about that desire you have to be loved and to be a mom. Or even if those aren't goals of yours: Laugh when he's funny, and look him in the eye lots when he talks to you. Come and see me in a month and let me know what it's done to your reputation (and your love life, for that matter). Men: ask her out if you think she's interested. Same thing, see you in a month with your tally-board of rejections.

Scary, isn't it? And that's my point.

Our definitions are skewed. How do you know someone is interested? Someone has GOT to start teaching our men what this means. Someone has also got to start teaching women not to find their confidence in having men like them. That right there is the source for a large part of this problem.

I am interested in hearing your perspective regardless of whether or not you agree with me. In all my years of searching I have yet to find a person who can honestly say our generation has not been effected by this horrible dichotomy (is it generational? or is this simply "adulthood"?).

...let the social experiment begin... :)

~afterthoughts: after reading the comments (a few of which are proving my theories, by the way!) looks like i'm gonna have to "part two" this one. next few days i'll have something up...stay tuned!...and keep commenting!


Anonymous said...

Here is my comment... in two parts.
Part I....
Technology will have to suffice for this conversation, but I can't help but know that this would be a whole lot better over a bottle of wine on a patio somewhere....
That being said, I will do my best to convey my thoughts on this matter to you...
The jist is that 'I agree'.
However, I have to admit that while M&B (marriage and babies) are not extremely high on my priority list, they still exist as something that perhaps, eventually I will want. Often times I feel 'wrong' for hedging on this, for not being sure if I even want those two things, because there seems to be this undercurrent of expectation that goes something along the lines of "You're a woman. You're a Christian. You should want M&B." On this point, I simply differ on priorities. My opponents would counter and say that when I find The One then my ideas on M&B will change. Perhaps. The problem still remains that for not being sure if I want M&B I am wearing the 21st Century version of the scarlet letter.
However, I completely understand your point. It appears as though being yourself and voicing your desire to EVENTUALLY (that being key) have M&B is the very thing that keeps you from having the type of relationship that allows for those things to happen. Quite the conundrum. How do you embrace your womanhood without getting it all over somebody's manhood? When you figure it out, let me know.
As far as the dynamics between men and women go, its true that it is whacked out. I have to admit that I am new to this aspect of the Game. For years, due to many different personal insecurity issues, I set up shop at the sidelines, comfortable to be unnoticed in any romantic way. That is not to say that I didn't want romance (I am a woman, afterall) however, fear kept me back. In the intermittent 10 years, that has changed and I am far more comfortable with myself, all the good and the bad, which has finally put me in a position where I feel like I could enter into a healthy relationship and it be good.
Which leaves me with 2 options: Be with someone I know, or be with someone I don't know. The former comes with potential landmines. What if I show interest and he isn't interested? How will that effect the relationship? What if we do go out and break up? What will that do to the friendship? How are we to function as a couple inside our friendship group? The list goes on. The 'dating a friend' thing is, in my opinion, the most desirable. There is a level of familiarity and comfort that is there, and even things like knowing his family can lead to a deeper type of relationship. Also, there are some practical things that are cleared up, such as meeting his friends. Presumably, a majority of them are your friends too. Check that off the list.
The challenge comes in taking that friendship to the next level (that sounds cliche, but we will just have to move on...) How do you take a friendship that may/may not have other feelings involved and change the boundaries? Who's responsibility is that? You would think that as we approach 30 we would all just pull our collective heads out of our asses and get on with it. However, that has not been my experience. Whenever I am in a situation where I am interested in a friend (and judging by that sentence, it happens more often than I would care to admit...) I feel like I am back in 10th grade. I can't for the life of me bring myself to do anything let alone say anything. Why? A crippling fear of rejection.

Anonymous said...

Part II...
Now, in a recent (ie. less than 48 hours ago) conversation with an absolutely wonderful and fantastic, close male friend of mine, it turns out that he is also afflicted with this same disease. He is terrified of the 'I'm just not that into you response'. Why, I don't know because he is smart (got a Masters), funny (as in its embarrssing how much I laugh at the comments he makes) cute (he has super great style too... and girls like boys with style) and more importantly, he respects women in a way that most men don't. That being said, if we are all afraid of rejection, then none of us are going to do anything about the feelings we have, especially for friends.
In the second scenario, one where you are attracted to a stranger, it appears as though none of these issues are, in fact, an issue. With the stranger, I have no idea who he is and therefore, there are no expectations. Plus, at this point, he is not part of my world and can therefore have no impact on it. While some girls live in the realm of the stranger, I don't. I take the stranger for what its worth-its complimentary to have them hit on you, but lets not kid around, a 'Hey baby, how you doin'?' accompanied by an up down which lingers at your boobs does not say 'lasting love'. In my minimal experience with these guys, you let them buy you a drink, you dance with them, and then you go back to your guy friends who you came with and who will be there at breakfast the next morning too.
I have to go and I can't save... more to come!

Sharelle said...

This is a great conversation, and I don't know if I get to be in given my current...erm status.

But I like it, and echo Leah on a lot of points. However, would also like to discuss on a patio :)

We should do that.

Lindsey said...

Bible College worked for me! HA!
I actually wasn't planning on meeting that special "someone" when I did. I loved school and would go to school for the rest of my life if my dad would pay for it.
Ben was my first boyfriend... first everything. I wouldn't go back and do it any other way.
However... although I haven't really (fully and first hand) experienced what you are talking about ... I do understand where you're coming from. I completely agree that we have completely screwed up all things relational. Even in marriages everything is screwed up. So many people are doing "pre-nups", setting themselves up for divorce before they say "I DO". Communication is lacking, blah blah blah. I could go on and on. But I won't, because I am going to head out to the pool:)

So how do we fix this little issue? Where do you find men that are worth while?
I do have a single brother-in-law that I think is pretty cool and would be a good catch. His name is Daniel Spiegel. You can look him up on my Facebook Friends. He is a quality guy looking for a wife to one day make some babies. John Spiegel is pretty cool too... but he has turned to eHarmony and is dating a great catch on there right now.


Bglad said...

A few things came to mind as I re-read it, I dont hang out with guys as friends ever, never have and am realizing its really hard to do without getting your heart involved.

So therefore I've never had the marriage or babies conversation with any guy unless I was in a relationship with them and at that point those topics were fair game, I've found that I've had a guy have that convo with me pre-maturely and guess who was getting there running shoes on and so far out the door and down the street....ME!

My thought is any guy that you couldnt have those conversations with is not someone I'd want to date or be friends with. I'm all about being yourself, being authentic and saying whats on your mind. If I can't be that way or the guy can't be that way I can't be there friend or more.

Take me or leave me this is who I am, I am a women who wants to be married and have babies for shizzy..or just practise alot..Ahhhh Did I just say that Heaven forbid!

Recent days God is opening my eyes to what real men are, they are men who allow God to save them, they are faithful, hardworking with a Love for our Father that then transcends on there love for women.

Real women aren't just wombs and a heart that desires to be loved although sometimes it seems that we think that way...ha ha...We need the Lord just as much and need to re-center ourselves on what were here for, to Glorify God everyday no matter what stage in life.

Seduce me I dare you....apparantly I'm intimidating which makes me laugh....Ah well what can you do, I'm just gonna be me, Love the Lord remind myself there's no man shaped hole in my heart its filled with the Joy of the Lord, if a man can handle that then Its all good!

Pray pray pray for the generation were apart of..I think that with GOd we can turn this perspective back around to the days of the Man pursuing the women. Or how about Just being friends like Leah said.

Worse thing ever (from experience) jumping into the Boyfriend/Girlfriend status and six months down the road you get to know them and you realize you dont like them Or in my case they dont like me, than staying due to Christian duty ha ha.....Get to know the person, but every story is different God doesnt work the same way for any one person or relationship.

Isnt it a blessing we dont haev to do this alone we have a heavenly Father we can put all our Faith and trust in??? Can I get an amen?

Anonymous said...

Ladies... I'm liking what I am reading here... Clearly, this is a conversation that we should all be having with the other intelligent women in our life more often. Make sure to invite Ms. Merlot.
Here is something that I have noticed lately. My non-Christian male friends tend to 'get it' more than my Christian ones. I have noticed the following:
1) They don't assume that every kind/generous/gentlemanly thing they do is an open invitation for relationship. Turns out some boys can buy you dinner and not expect you to put out or put on a white dress.
2) They understand relationships a little bit better. By this I mean that they aren't as scared of dating, therefore they have done it more often and have more experience.
3) They don't take it so damn seriously. I find that these guys want to have fun (sometimes it's too much, in a bad way) and spend time, not necessarily find The One. It takes the pressure off.
4) They aren't scared of strong women. For whatever reason, these men don't find their masculinity maimed because a woman is strong. It is perhaps the most refreshing thing because Christian men (in general) don't know what the hell to do with strong women.
What's that all about?

Anonymous said...

Seems like you and your commenters could benefit from watching Dave Chappelle's Killing Them Softly. He has paints a pretty accurate picture of the problems of post-chivalry. Or was it Chris Rock? Shit, I can never remember. Morgan Freeman would roll in his grave, if he were dead. Which he nearly was, if you believe the hysterical gumbo technicolored crapfest that is skynews or MurdochLies or whatever the devil calls himself.

Where were we? Oh right I was adding filler to make my comment fit the mold around here (Long answers). Spoiler alert, he blames women: "Chivalry IS dead. And you killed it"

Bonnie's Friend Murray.

Bglad said...

Dont your worry your pretty little head Murray I believe that women have killed chivalry for sure, we just need to resusitate (sp?) it back to life....Cpr anyone??

No seriously though. Were not bagging about it, just wondering what others out there Ashley puts it Stirring the pot!

Charles Mac said...

Ashley, first off, I would just like to thank you for taking the time and having the courage to write something like this. By the way, it's NOT scandalous to talk about marriage and babies. I'd like to think there's some christian women out there that want those things (duh!). I'm just saying I understand that desire. I'm not trying to put you down for your opinion or your desire. There are some men that appreciate honesty and respect their sister's in Christ for it.

If, by chance, you let something about M&B slip out around a guy (one on one) and you're concerned, here's a way out; it takes honesty and courage but....say bluntly: "I'm not talking about you" unless of course you are. If he's interested, he may be a little heart broken but he'll move on and respect you for it.

I've had women tell me about their "hopes and dreams" before (if you catch my meaning) and have assumed things. That was my choice. However, now I don't assume anything and it's not because I've been hurt 1000 times it's because it's common sense.

When I'm in a relationship with a girl/dating a girl, I make sure to tell them that they can talk to me about anything. I'm not going to hold there natural, God given desires/dreams against them. I want the same thing! I'm also not afraid to mention that to women; not because I'm desperate but because it's a fact. That's it.

If you want to take the journey with someone, you have to build trust. That means being able to talk about anything (at the appropriate time and if God's hand is in your relationship you'll know when to talk). I don't want any surprises/"skeletons in the closet" to give my wife. BEFORE we get married she will know what she's getting.

Love, trust and respect are required to take the journey and only GOD can teach us to love properly. By the way, men value respect more than love and it makes sense: Ephesians 5:25 (NIV): your wives....5:33 ...respect her husband... This is why you are COMPLETELY right when you talk about "punishing men". It's not because we have massive "Ego's" it's how we are wired. We need our sisters encouragement and we all need maturity not to assume things when in "discussion".

The problem you're writing about is generational more than adulthood. At my last family reunion, my Aunt's, my mom, and my sister were all "surprised" that I wasn't married yet. I'm almost 32. They didn't get it and gave me the impression that this problem is generational. Does it bother me that I'm still singe? Sometimes. However, God can write the ultimate love story. Have I been "persecuted" because of the way I look and act around women? Yes, but my faith has been able to give me peace at times.

Technology has severly stunted our communication skills. We rely on E-mail, facebook, twitter, blogs, etc... for most communication. Why? ....because it's easier. Quick and easy, the way of the world. God wants us to be "relational" and not reliant on how many people we've dated or how many "facebook friends" we have. Right again Ash.

One last thing; I usually don't talk about what's between me and God but I feel I should here....Myself and some of the the guys in the YA group, based on our mens discussion, have been encouraged to pray for our sister's in Christ instead of complaining about them (lol). I hope you ladies are starting to feel worthy of true love from a man (that your "prince" will come), and more importantly, from God.

Since I don't have time to follow blogs, you can paste this on your page, if you want, or get back to me on here (facebook). Same goes for anyone else who wants to reply to what I said. Keep up the good bloggin' Ash. See ya around soon.


Makana said...

Best piece of Christian dating advice I ever got: Whatever you do, don't pray about it.

The point being that Christians over think relationships to the point of agonizing over the trivial. Litmus test: do you bemoan all of your awkward social moments, or just the ones with guys? Guys might seem like a completely different species, but mostly we're just human. You know, more the same than different. There is no 'guys this way, girls that way'. Looking for these broad generalizations doesn't help you appreciate the intricacies of a particular human being. For instance, you girls are clearly quite different. One of you is bemoaning men 'preying' on her kindness and another implies that guys don't know what do with her because she is strong woman. Entirely different issues! I doubt any of you has the luxury of a 'one size fits all' solution to any of your other reoccurring life issues. Men aren't going to be the exception to that. I am not simply a man, I am myself.

My guess is that anyone who takes on this 'experiment' will be happier in the long run simply because they will get in the habit of expressing what they feel rather than what they think someone wants to hear. (Caveat: I don't think I'd ask out a girl just because I think she's interested, I have to be interested too). What I'm reading here seems to amount second guessing reactions to misdirection. If you are afraid to say something because you think it will sound desperate, I've got news for you: You are desperate.

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful post. How happy am I to have finally found your blog and to know that you also enjoy social experiments.

Lavonne "Irrational flirt" Stewart